All right. Good morning, everyone.
So grateful to be together here this morning. As I got up this morning, I was thinking to myself, yeah, we could have been outside at a park. I would have been trying to muscle my way through preaching when it’s 34 degrees outside. So I’m very grateful that I get to be in the warm comforts. And if you notice behind me, I’m so grateful to share. Thank you for all the prayers, but our family has officially moved back into our house in Apopka.
We’re back on the north side finally. There’s so much more I can share about that. There’s so much. But God has been doing some awesome things to get us here. But today I want to shift our focus here because the sermon today has been one that I’ve been talking about.
I was talking about the last time I preached. I’ve been working on this, thinking about it, praying about it for about a month now. And I’m so grateful that we even get to talk about this together. And I thought Brian did a great job a few weeks ago, digging into the Holy Spirit as we’re kind of going into this new year. We’re talking about what it means to be living water, to drink living water, to share living water with the world and what Brian preached about a couple of weeks ago, , to refresh your memory for those of us that were there, for those that weren’t, is that really the source of living water, the theme scripture for our Church right now in John seven, the source of that living water comes from the Holy Spirit and our connection to the Holy Spirit.
And there’s so much there. If you haven’t watched it, I think I uploaded it to YouTube, so you can go back and watch it another time. But today, this is almost like a companion piece. The Holy Spirit kind of worked it out. The sermon that I was thinking about for about a month is a great companion piece to this because we’re going to be talking primarily about the topic of repentance today and specifically how repentance really the picture we want to have in our mind right now is that repentance is what clears the path for the Holy Spirit to flow through us.
And the title for my sermon today, for those of you guys that are taking notes, is called Make Way. I want to say a prayer and refocus our mind, read the the Scriptures. My presentation here is going to be really short because I want us to be able to be in the Bible together and just engage with me here to get in the work here. Let’s say a word of prayer as we jump into this. Father, I just want to thank you so much for the incredible blessing that we get to be here together like this.
And I know God that most of us, I know we don’t really want to be on Zoom in the big picture. We always want to be together. But I’m so grateful that when times like this happen where we need to adjust, that we still have the ability to be together like this, even from our own homes. And I really pray, God, for all of us to clear out the distractions to be present here. I pray especially for those families with kids running around right now that you’ll help us to be able to be present with you in the word as we get into your scriptures.
God, I pray that for those of us that maybe are hurting or going through things right now, that this will really Minister to their hearts, but really just all of us to see our constant need for repentance and our constant need to connect with you in this transforming way. We love you so much. Thank you, God, for choosing us to be your children. We love you in Jesus name we pray, amen.
So I want you to go ahead and turn in your bible over to Matthew three. This is our whole scripture for today is out of Matthew three. But I’m going to take a minute here. The whole reason why I decided to even keep my presentation, at least for a little bit, is that I want to set the stage of this.
We’re going to be examining John the Baptist and his initial Ministry leading up to Jesus here. But there’s so much about the world at that time and what was going on with the Romans, with the Jews as God’s people, that is so significant. I want to take a minute to give us a brief history here to set the stage. So before John was born, God sent an angel to his father, Zacharias is kind of part of the Christmas story is God sent an angel to Zachariah. So basically share before John was ever even conceived, that his son was going to have a mission.
And he’s going to have a mission in life. In Luke one seventeen it says, and he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the parents to their children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. And the key part here for us right now is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Think about this. Before John was ever born, God had a mission for him that said, I want you to get people ready for my son, to get people ready for Jesus.
And some of you what this suggests that even before John was in the picture here that God knew as his people, they weren’t going to be ready for Jesus. They weren’t ready for the Lord yet. So he needed to send somebody that was going to get their hearts to a place where they would be ready for the message that Jesus was going to share once he got there. Now at this time in the world and in Jewish history, God’s people were kind of in an interesting crossroads, I would say. And they are trying to figure out how to function in their current world, that there have been no profit for hundreds of years.
There was no scriptural Prophet for hundreds of years. The silent years is what this often gets referred to between the Old and New Testament. So there was nobody that was coming in kind of directly giving a prophetic voice of God. There were leaders and their priests and all that stuff, but they were kind of in some ways missing that. So there’s a longing for what does God want from us right now?
And historically, before this, a couple of hundred years before this, the Greek Empire had taken over the world and there was this huge push worldwide with Alexander the Great to instill Hellenism in the world everywhere. That everybody needs to take on these Greek ideals. And there’s a lot I could say about this. For the history buffs out there, I’m sure you guys can give a much better lecture on Hellenism than me. But one of the core themes of Helenism was a philosophy that everything in our world, our existence, is about us as people, not gods.
So it was like this shift from the polytheistic worship of the gods to now maybe even the gods are here to serve us as people. As you can imagine, that comes with a lot of things. And in about BC, 184, 185, the Saleucids had come into Judea and were trying to instill this worldview of Hellenism with force on God’s people. And this is where you get the Maccabean revolt.
This is the story of Hanukkah, where all that came from was God’s people rebelling and fighting against this Greek ideology that wanted to push it on God’s people. And they actually won that battle. It’s a whole crazy story. But then the Greeks are no longer the major power in the world. It’s the Romans.
And the whole New Testament really is in the backdrop of the Roman Empire. And the Romans, one of the things I used to say in College when I was studying them out and especially even their philosophy, is they basically just kind of took all the good ideas from the Greek and just kind of rubber stamped their name on the top of it. They took all their gods and changed their names and they took the Hellenistic ideas and just kind of reinforced it and added a little bit more money and kind of better military might behind it and stuff. But the Romans were known for a lot of different things, but they were very oppressive to people, but they also had an ideology that was very attractive because again, they were very Hellenistic too. So with Hellenism comes theater and performances and entertainment.
It came academics and schools and philosophy. It came athletics and the arena and continuing on the Olympics and things like that. And then also came health care. There were these amazing things that the Romans brought to the world, but at the same time, very much like you’re going to pay us for, they enforce their ideology. You don’t agree with the Romans and you can get crucified all this stuff.
So in this world, I’m going to turn it to John’s audience here. In this world, in this culture that was around them, the Jews were very divided about how they were supposed to engage the world around them. They had very different ideologies about how were they supposed to live among the Romans? How are they supposed to live in this world of Hellenism? They might sound a little familiar to us, right. Even just thinking about the last couple of years that there’s this as Christians, as followers of Jesus, how do we engage this world that we are in right now?
And I think even this year is kind of unique, too, as we’re kind of carefully and hopefully coming out of COVID, but kind of adjusting to what the big culture shifts have been over the last couple of years. But 2000 years ago, God’s people responded to Hellenism and the Romans in five really main ways. I’m going to introduce these people groups to us. They’re the Essenes and the Essenes were a group that were like, we have to be about the text. We have to be about the Old Testament and getting back to this and copying it down so that there’s copies of the Old Testament.
But what they did is they kind of retreated and became essentially monks. They pulled away from society, pulled away from culture, kind of stopped engaging with the world around them and just became totally engrossed in the text and copying it. Now the good thing for us is that because of the Essenes, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls and we have so many ancient texts because they were so about copying the text, but they were completely disengaged with people. It was only about what their world view was. Then you also have the Zealots.
And the Zealots were basically Jewish nationalists. These guys hated the Romans. They hated Helenism. They believed that God wanted them to have their world back. And so they were very violent and killed people and staged attacks against anybody that even sympathized with the Romans is where we get one of Jesus disciples was Simon the Zealot.
Barabbas, the guy that the Jews picked over Jesus, was a Zealot, but they were very violent and aggressive. But it was all about God wants us to have our country back. Then the third group was the Herodians and the Herodians, historically, we might have a case to make that Herod the Great was the richest person who ever lived. And a group of Jewish priests decided when the Romans were taking over, hey, we should probably do something really politically smart here.
And let’s bring this guy Herod, who is not a Jew, and let’s kind of fold him into our group, have him marry one of our daughters, and we can call him the King of the Jews to protect us politically. And the Herodians and the people who sympathize with the Herodians, the Jews who did, they loved Helenism. They fully embraced the Romans. Like man, let’s figure out how we can be partners with them, how we can take this amazing culture and theater and all these things and let’s bring it into our world and our faith. Then you had another group we’re all very familiar with, the Pharisees.
And the Pharisees were kind of like the Essenes, but not quite as extreme that they were all about getting back to the text and discipleship and teaching people how to follow and think about God correctly. This is where synagogues came from. Synagogues aren’t temples. They’re kind of more like colleges to teach the Old Testament. But this also bred self righteousness.
And “we know more than you” kind the spirit and the show of righteousness. Then you have the last group, which can oftentimes and for most of my life I confused. I thought the Pharisees and the Sadducees were kind of the same group of people, but they weren’t. The Sadducees were the priests, the chief priests, where you could see that in your Bible, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They were a corrupted priesthood and they were all about using their places in the temple for all kinds of shadiness and really in large part to make money. If you listen to Bema podcast, he describes the Sadducees as a Jewish mafia.
There are seven families that were like this corrupted mafia that had people killed and just crazy things that you wouldn’t think of as priests of God’s people, but they were also embracing the Roman world and Hellenism, all while it’s like kind of practicing in the show of their priestly duties. So this is the worldview of God’s people at this time. This is the audience that God sends John to come and preach to to get ready for Jesus. Now, why is this history significant for us? Well, our culture has made some incredibly significant shifts in the last couple of years.
I mean, there’s all kinds of even sociology pieces that are out there now about what the last two years have done across the world, not just in the US. And we are kind of wrestling, I think, as God’s people with a lot of the same questions that they were 2000 years ago. How do we live as people of God in our current world? And man, if we polled our Church, we polled just the north region of the Orlando Church of Christ here, we would have a lot of thoughts and opinions about how are we supposed to live as God’s people?
How are we supposed to deal with our culture around us. And honestly, what’s kind of interesting is if you kind of break down at its core, a lot of our philosophical approaches, it’d probably be very similar to these five groups 2000 years ago. Maybe like, no, we’re all about the Bible. Let’s just be in the Bible together and teaching the Bible. And maybe we need to just pull ourselves away from the world around us. Hopefully, prayerfully, none of us are getting violent like the zealots.
But I know that there’s even been a lot of this stuff about, okay, well, what does it mean for us to be an American Christian in this last two years and our feelings about politics and all those different things. And so we actually have a very familiar thread to this group 2000 years ago. In some ways kind of want to put ourselves in their shoes or maybe in the reverse is let’s imagine that John is preaching to us. John the Baptist is preaching to us, and he’s trying to get us ready as God’s people here in the north region to be living water. He wants us to be living water in the world.
Let’s look at what his message would be for us.
There we go. Let’s look over in Matthew three, verse one, it says, in those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near. This is he who has spoken up to the Prophet Isaiah, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. John’s clothes were made of camel hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
People went out from him from Jerusalem and Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan, went out to him, sorry. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, you brood of Vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. I do not think you can say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the Chaff in unquenchable fire.
John is a preacher, just getting at it with people. But his message is very simple, really. His message is the Kingdom is near. God’s world, God’s people, we are supposed to be of God’s world in heaven, here on Earth. It is near, it’s coming. Jesus is coming. He’s going to bring the Holy Spirit. But you know what? We’re not quite ready yet.
We’re not quite ready. We need to repent. We need to be transformed to be ready for what God wants to do in us when Jesus gets here. And not Ironically, there’s a lot to this, but this is the same message after Jesus gets baptized, goes into the wilderness and is tempted, and he starts preaching.
He says the same thing he says, but the Kingdom is near. It’s time to repent. It’s the same message. And so we got to explore for a minute. And I want us to think about this question.
What is repentance? Okay. And for those of us that have been Christians for a long time, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. Like, oh, yeah, I’ve been teaching that’s not the point is I want you just to consider for a second not the academic. Well, maybe here.
What I’m saying is, if you’ve been a Christian for a while, this word has been around us so much, it can kind of have a lullaby effect where you don’t really think about its significance and what it really looks like in our lives. So I want you to think about what this word means. How would you describe it? How would you teach it to other people? Because this is a consistent message throughout the Bible.
It doesn’t matter how long people have been God’s people. There’s this message of repentance through the Old Testament and the New. In the dictionary, I was just curious what the dictionary had to say about this. The dictionary says that repentance is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. What’s interesting about this definition is it kind of makes repentance more about how you’re supposed to feel.
You know what I’m saying? That when you sin, you’re supposed to see it, you identify it, and then you feel really bad about it. That’s kind of the point. I know when I was studying the Bible, this was something I really struggled with. It was kind of this idea of I’m supposed to like it’s like when you take Communion, you’re supposed to look really sour and sad and somber, like I’m such a sinner, I feel so bad. And I remember one of the guys that was studying the Bible with me, he said, look, repentance is not about it’s not measured by your tears. It’s not measured by how emotional you feel. That God is not interested in as much as how you feel or feeling really bad and then nothing happens. If you’ve been around for a long time, you’ve probably heard the military definition of repentance, right?
The about face, the 180. It’s you’re marching in one direction and repentance and you turn around and you turn the other way. For years and years growing up, I heard that a lot. So just don’t do the bad things. Do the good things.
Much of my early life as a Christian, I thought about repentance in this way. Don’t be a bad boy. Be good boy. Don’t do bad things, do good things. Just stop doing the bad things.
Do the right thing. That’s what repentance is. It’s all about the action.
Don’t do the things you know that are wrong. But the Greek word that John uses here for repentance, and I’m sure some of you guys know this scripture, this word very well. When I think of, like, top ten Greek words in the New Testament that we probably need to know this is one of them. The Greek word here is Metanoia, and it comes from two different words, meta, which means after a nuous, which means mind. So a literal translation of repentance means to have an after mind.
It’s not just a change of action and lifestyle. It’s to completely abandon an old way of thinking for a brand new thought process. But a thought process is not just the way you think about it. It’s not academic. It’s a thought process that produces a fruit of change in your life.
I’ll say more about that word picture later, but in Romans twelve, verse two, the NLT version of this. Listen to this. It says, don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way that you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good, pleasing and perfect. There’s a fourth century Christian theologist, Lactantius in 3 or 4 Ad.
He has this quote. I think I will show this to you guys real quick. I got to show this to you on my keynote because this is just such a cool quote. For he who repents of that which he has done, understands his former error and on this account, the Greeks better and more significantly, speak of Metanoia, which we may speak of in Latin as a return to a right understanding. For he returns to a right understanding and recovers his mind as if it were from madness.
I read that, and that just kind of blew my mind, not pun intended or whatever it may be. But just think of being in a state, repentance describes being in a state of thinking, a state of living that would be described as madness and to be completely transformed into a Godly mindset.
Now, there’s so much more we’re going to say about this here in just a minute, but I want us to go back to the story here with John the Baptist. When he’s preaching, when he starts off preaching, we don’t know exactly who his audience was. The Luke account says that he was preaching all over the country of the Jordan. You see that later in Matthew three that he’s just kind of in and around the Jordan River. Whoever is nearby, the idea is like, look, whoever has ears to hear that’s who I’m preaching to.
He’s just kind of just traveling along the river, baptizing along the way, traveling Baptist. But later in the Luke account, it actually tells us that his audience included soldiers, Roman soldiers, Hellenistic soldiers. It included tax collectors, Jews who were very Hellenistic in their thinking. Eventually it says that he did preach to Herod. He preached to a King of the Jews.
King is kind of a relative concept for him. But still to this very influential, very rich man, that his message got even to this group. So the idea is Jews and Gentiles alike are all getting this same exact message. No matter how long they’ve been in God’s people or not, the message is still the same. We all need repentance. Now, when they started, even in the Luke account, they even started asking, for example, I hear you. I hear we got to change. We got to change your thinking. But what do we do? And he even throws out practicals.
There’s something for everyone. For those of you guys that have two shirts, you should give one away to somebody in need. You need to have a thinking, a mindset about, man, I don’t need more. I need to figure out what I can give.
I need to figure out who are the people around me that are in need. To the soldiers are like, well, what do we do? Okay, well, be fair. Don’t enforce your will on people. Don’t take more than you need, to the tax collectors and say, look, stop taking money from people.
Take what you need to take. And that’s it. Which, that was their income. That was their way of doing things in that world. But he was calling them not just to a change of action, but no, you got to change your thinking about the way that you do this.
But in verse seven, as you saw there, it says that John’s preaching drew the attention of the religious leaders. The Pharisees and the Sadducees, their ears are buzzing about all these people traveling down to this wild man wearing camel hair that looks like Elijah. He’s preaching like Elijah. And they’re trying to figure out what this is all about. So the Saducees and the Pharisees gang up and decide to come on down there.
And we’re not really sure why they’re there. Maybe it’s just they’re curious about the crowds and how he’s getting so much attention. Maybe they’re there for the baptism. When we read this passage, we can’t associate this with Christian baptism in the way that we understand baptism. This was a Jewish baptism.
This was something you did as a pledge of repentance. This was a part of your life. This is an act that says, Man, I’m serious about this and I want to change and I want to repent, but it’s not a baptism of Salvation that was going to come later with Jesus. But baptism is a very common thing in their world. Nicva washing was a thing.
So maybe they’re there for the baptism and just kind of put on the show to like, okay, everybody else is getting baptized. But we know this is good. So we’re going to come down and we’re going to put on the show for everybody. The religious people, we’re going to do what’s right. We’re going to make sure everybody around us sees us getting baptized as well.
Little did they know John was not having it. So they get down to the water and John just goes after them. I mean, some of the most intense calling out that happens in the Bible here, right, especially the New Testament. So what John does here with these religious leaders is like the equivalent of somebody coming to one of our staff meetings on Tuesday and goes, you’re all a brood of Vipers. All you leaders in the Orlando Church of Christ.
You guys are Vipers. You’re just here for the show. Nobody would dare talk to the Pharisees and Sadducees like this. And everything john seems to tell them in this message to the religious leaders, is he says, look, you guys don’t seem to see your need for repentance.
You’re here to put on the right face maybe, but you don’t see that you need to keep changing. And it even goes into he says, look, you can’t just stand by the fact that you’re Jewish people or you’re Jewish leaders. Just because you say that you’re Abraham’s children, that doesn’t cover you. God can turn rocks into followers and praisers if he wants to. You being Jewish people with Abraham and your bloodline means nothing. You can’t rely on your past, who your family is, your position, how long you’ve been God’s people.
You need to be a tree that produces the fruit of repentance. This word picture a tree that produces fruit. Jesus ends up using this a lot, too. It’s so cool because you think about Jesus uses the phrase he said, you’ll know a tree by its fruit. You can look from a distance, see a tree and go, man, that’s an Orange tree.
The idea is, look, if you were still about being God’s people, then not for show, but people should be able to see in your life that repentance is taking place, that you are having a mind change that is being produced in your life that is being seen clearly by people.
I think it can be really easy to condemn the corrupted Sadducees, the self righteous Pharisees, right. I think as we look at the New Testament story or the crucifixion story, it can be easy to make them the villains in this. They were the prideful ones and whatever it may be. But John is highlighting something that is very challenging for me about repentance. Very challenging.
Repentance doesn’t stop. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be in a state of perpetual transformation.
Part of what it seems like John is addressing in the Pharisees and Sadducees is if they were just kind of like they reached the plane of righteousness or they had reached the plane of good enough. And I have a very, very hard time with this. When I think of repentance, and this is something I’ve wrestled with in the last year or so, but through the course of my life as a disciple of Jesus, I look at repentance as I want to be able to say, I repented.
I want to be finished. I want to be able to check the box and say, I’m done with this part of me. I don’t want to embrace my humanity and my perpetual brokenness. I don’t want to embrace my constant need for God and change. What’s deeper than this, too, is that repentance is a partnership. It’s something we have to engage in with God while God does the transforming.
But I want to be done with my struggles with lust. I want to be able to say, man. I want to be able to say, Look, I stopped that five years ago. That part of me doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t wrestle with that sin.
I want to not struggle with anxiety over my money. I want that to be the immature version of Jake. I want that to be to be five years ago, Jake. That doesn’t struggle with my fear of the unknown in my fear of what’s going to happen. And am I going to be able to support my family?
I want to be finished being selfish and unloving. I’ve reached that place where I’m so much more like Jesus, and I can just love people selflessly.
About five or six years ago, my wife was challenging me about something. She said, Look, I think you really need to spend some time working on having a Godly view of anger and growing in repentance in your anger and how you’re reacting to things. So I was humble at that time. Okay? Amen I’m sorry.
I went after it. I started studying out memory scriptures about anger. I was reading books on it. I was praying about it for like a year straight was just putting my energy into it. Like, man, okay, I need to grow in anger. My wife feels like I need to grow in anger. I see it. I can’t remember if we only had Peyton at the time, but still, man, I don’t want to be a dad that’s reactive and angry. So I’m going to go after it.
And I remember at the end of that year, my wife was like, Man, I’ve totally seen you grow. You’ve been changing in this. The thing about struggles with anger and things and stuff like, it’s not necessarily super measurable as much maybe. You just kind of go, Well, I see that you’re doing better at being patient. See that you’re doing better not responding.
But I really went after that. And then last year, all of a sudden, not all of a sudden, but last year, I started realizing, man, I’m really struggling with anger again, but I thought I was done with this. I spent a whole year studying out how to repent and change in my thinking and do better at anger. Why am I still struggling with this like this? And it was this reminder of something, that I’m not done. I’m not done being in a state of change and repentance.
Something can happen when we’ve been disciples of Jesus, when we’ve been Christians for a while, I think where we can, a lot like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, settle into a place of good enough, where maybe especially for those that kind of came out of a lifestyle where maybe you had some dramatic things, you were very sexually active or drugs or whatever, you don’t do that anymore. You can go, well, yeah, definitely. That part of me is gone. Where you can just kind of go sometimes I can struggle with feeling like, man, I’m tired, I’m tired. I got three kids.
I got a Ministry to take care of. Do I really have to put so much effort and prayer and energy into continuing to grow and change? Can’t this just kind of be enough?
God is calling us. We’re going to continue to explore this, that God wants us to be living water in this world, but without repentance, it kind of just turns the tap off in our life.
One of the best stories about this to me is back in the book of Joshua, when the Hebrews are marching into the promised land, they’re finally coming in and they’re starting to win battles and take over the promised land that God told them they were going to have. But then Aiken, one of the people stole something that he wasn’t supposed to, and he hid it. He was in sin. And the whole nation lost battles after that. They got put on pause.
I was like, no, you’re not getting any more victories until you deal with this. Until there is repentance in this camp and there is change, I’m not going to let you have any more victories. To think that we can continue to be God’s people in this world, to be a source of living water in this world without repentance is like that.
God is going to turn the faucet off and go, no, you need to deal with you. You need to deal with those parts of your character that sin that maybe is at home that other people don’t see, but your spouse, your kids, they see it. You got to deal with those parts of you. You’re not done yet. And John’s mission here again was to get people ready for walking with Jesus, for being living water.
And this message was for the soldiers and the tax collectors. It was for Kings, it was for Pharisees and Sadducees. The same thing goes with us. This message is for Wallins Cadet, who is a young teen baby Christian, and Mama and Papa Nelson that have been disciples for decades. The message is the same.
Repentance is a part of who we are.
We need to take a look at our own lives and be willing and humble enough to see our need for transformation still.
And like I said earlier, repentance is something that we have to engage in with God. We have to be a part of this with God, to take ownership of it with God so that he will do the transformation in us. We don’t transform ourselves. I don’t have that power to change my own mind that significantly. God is the one that does that, but I’ve got to be willing to embrace it, to own it, to see it, and to start making changes that will help me to engage in that.
But I also want to say this, too, as we wrap up. Repentance is not a burden. It is not a bad thing. Repentance is a gift. In Acts Three, Peter says, with repentance comes times of refreshing.
Repentance is something that frees us. I was going to preach decided to do it in a different sermon, Hebrews Twelve, where it says, Let us throw off everything that hinders in the sin that so easily entangles. Repentance lightens our load. It frees us from the burden of our sin and lightens us up to be able to run the race that God sets out for us to run, to be a source of living water and uninhibited and not broken faucet, but a free flowing spring of living water for people.
A few years ago, I’m going to close with this. Scott Sweeney is an evangelist out in La. We did a sermon getting ready for New Year’s and what he challenged everybody to do is, I struggle with new resolutions. I shared that I think a few weeks back about a month ago, but just kind of having a list of all the things to do with practical resolutions and goals. That’s totally great.
It’s fine if it helps you to be healthy and get on track and Amen. One thing that Scott encourage you to do, he said, I want to encourage you to talk to the people in your life that know you best, your spouse, your kids, your discipling partner, your prayer partner, whatever you call them. Talk to the people in your life that know you best and say, what is one thing you think I need to grow in this year? Not ten things, not a million things. What is one thing in my character that I need to change and focus my attention on?
What is one thing that I want to see God be transforming in me this year. And I really took that on a few years ago and was like, man, this is good. My nature, I’m very goal driven and oriented, and I want to share my faith with 20 people a day or whatever it may be and do all this different stuff. Okay. I need to Hone this in.
And I think this is more at the core of repentance for me that I needed. So I started doing that. I talked to about five people every year. What do you see? And then take those words and pray about it and say, God, what do you want me to focus on for this year?
And I take that one word, attach it out, attach some scriptures to it, and I pray about it and try to put energy into it throughout the year. What that’s reminded me is again, once that year is over, I’m not done. In years past, my words were contentment, delighting in the Lord. Last year I’ve shared this lots of times that my word was joy. My wife went after that, told me I needed to grow in my joy and understanding how to have a better attitude in the face of things being not so great sometimes.
And at the end of every year, I can look back and go, Man, I really have grown in this, and these are the areas how. But man, I’ve got a long way to go. Now, I want to encourage any of you out there. This is an incredibly beneficial practice, especially if you’ve been in a place of stagnation or where you haven’t been growing. I want to encourage you to engage with the people that love you, that know you and say, hey, what is something you see in me that I should be growing in for this year?
Not a million things. One thing, one thing that I can hang on to, pray about, study out, and seek transformation throughout the course of this year. And then watch what God will do with that humility, with the opportunities for growth that he’s going to give you with that one word.
As we take Communion, one of the things that the Bible tells us is that the cross affords us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Second Corinthians four means we get to be renewed every day. That word renewal partners so well with the concept of repentance. That God is doing a transformation, a daily renewal, a daily transformation in us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Like I said, I hope that you don’t leave this going like, Man, I’m such a mess or repentance is going to be so hard. Repentance is a gift.
It’s a gift that we get to have to engage in with God every single day in an even better way with Jesus and because of the cross, because we have the Holy Spirit. So we’re going to say a word of prayer for Communion and then break to take whatever your version of Communion is at home. God, I just want to thank you so much that we have the gift the amazing opportunity to be in repentance with you. Father, I pray that you will tear down any walls of self righteousness or pride or fear or anxiety or whatever it is that might be holding us back from engaging in this transformation with you. And I know that just like John’s message was for his audience, this message is for us here too with all of our different backgrounds made for people that are here that don’t know where they’re at in their relationship with you.
They don’t know if they want to be Christians or are Christians or people that have been Christians for 40 years. God whatever it may be this message of repentance I pray that you will sink deep into our hearts so that we can be free flowing Springs of living water for you. God we love you thank you so much for Jesus, it’s in your son Jesus name Amen.