R. C. Sproul was not a Lutheran, but this sounds quite a bit like Martin Luther’s First Thesis, doesn’t it?
R. C. Sproul was not a Lutheran, but this sounds quite a bit like Martin Luther’s First Thesis, doesn’t it?
As sinners our natural response to biblical instructions is to say “no”. It is our default position if you will. God tells us how to behave, and we say no. God says that our thoughts are to be about Him and our goal is to be His glory. And we say no. God says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And we say no. We must repent of that behavior. We must repent of those thoughts. We must repent of those emotional responses. And we must repent of those times when we say “yes” but live no.
Repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life. When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the town church in Wittenberg he wrote this, “When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” And true repentance has to be more than simply saying some words on Sunday morning. It must be heartfelt and life changing.
True repentance is a willingness to let God change us in any way He so chooses—no limits and no exceptions. And maybe that’s why we resist so hard. It’s scary, isn’t it? It’s scary to think that God would take me and make me something other than I am when I’m perfectly comfortable this way. Most of you know the difficulties Joan and I have been going through with our home. It is not easy to be constantly moving about from one place to another—sleeping here, eating there. Wondering when we’ll be able to return to our place and get back that sense of normal life. Believe me, we’re so looking forward to that day.
That day will come fairly soon and things Joan and Terry will return to normal. But when you and I repent of our sins, truly and completely, when we let God change us, there will be no going back. There will be a new normal and a new level of comfort. Things which we have long clutched to our chests will no longer be there for us. Instead we will be Kingdom people—which is what we are meant to be. Mark tells us that when Jesus began His earthly ministry He went into Galilee preaching Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. And citizens of the Kingdom are different.
But friends, what a great day that will be for us because we do indeed bear a burden when we sin. We know what our sin is and it weighs us down, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. But that burden will be lifted when you truly repent and allow God to do as He wills with you. Instead of the yoke of sin we will bear the yoke of Christ, and it is light and easy. Instead of the dimness of our natural vision we will see with a new light, the light of Christ Himself. Instead of the confusion which so often rules our lives, we will have complete clarity, because it is God’s clarity, His gracious giving of His wisdom to the people of His calling.
This is from a sermon on repentance delivered by my husband and reprinted with his permission.
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. Psalm 139:1
The 139th psalm is one of the best known parts of the Psalter. It is a psalm of thanks and praise to God and it contains memorable passages that lots of us carry around in our heads. The psalmist says, for example, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And indeed that is, as Luther would have put it, most certainly true. Our bodies are composed of billions of cells and trillions of molecules, they function so very perfectly that they must have been designed by One who is greater than any man or any creation of man. Our eyes blink so they can stay moist. Our brains take electricity and turn it into thoughts. Our teeth are designed for biting and chewing a wide variety of foods, unlike most animals. We are without any doubt fearfully and wonderfully made by One who saw us when we were intricately woven in our mother’s wombs.
But the phrase I want to focus on this morning is in the very first verse, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” Searched me and known me.
God has searched you out. He has not only made you, but He has paid attention to every detail of your life. He knows not only who you are, but He knows what you are. Jesus tells us God knows even the number of hairs on our heads. The psalmist goes through the many ways we might try to avoid the God who knows everything about us: if you go to sleep He knows not only that but what your dreams are; He knows all the words you will say when you speak next; His presence surrounds you. Not even in death can we escape Him—He is in heaven and, He is also in hell. There is nowhere that we can go that God is not present. He knows our movements and He knows our motives Death can’t hide us from God, distance can’t hide us from God, darkness cannot hide us from God. He is ever present and ever vigilant in the ways of His creation.
I rather think this is one of the reasons so many people want nothing to do with God—they can’t hide anything from Him so they think if they ignore Him, if they deny His existence, if they pretend they are without divine constraint, they can do whatever they want without impunity. I’ve told this story before so bear with me if you remember it. But I knew a fellow who was a member of the Frederick City police department. He told me that he noticed some teenagers sitting in front of a closed warehouse one day and went over to see what they were doing. They saw him coming and then wouldn’t look at him, as if their refusal to recognize him meant that he wasn’t really there. That is what unbelievers do with respect to God. As R. C. Sproul says, atheists aren’t people who don’t believe in God, they’re people who just don’t like Him.
But don’t we often behave as if God doesn’t see what we’re doing, hear what we’re saying, know what we’re thinking? We go right along in our lives sinning away thinking that God isn’t paying attention. We think we’re going to get away with something with God because the guy who lives next door or the spouse who sleeps next to you doesn’t know about it. Yet the psalmist here tells us that God has searched us and known us—and that means in every single moment of our lives, from conception to death.
to be continued ….
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
These verses are taken from Psalm 51. The inscription attached to this Psalm tells us that it is a Psalm of David, written after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba. David knew he had done things that were very wrong. He had sinned against Bathsheba by leading her into adultery; he had betrayed the trust of her husband and then had him killed; he had disgraced his people by abusing his power as King and setting a poor example for others. He tried to get away with his sin, and he thought he had, but he was wrong. God knew, and ultimately the sin was about his disobedience to God. That’s what stands out for me in this Psalm.
We can hide our sins from others and sometimes we even hide them from ourselves. We ignore them, cover them up or deny them. We tell ourselves that in the great scheme of things, our sins are petty and not worth worrying about. This is what a Pastor I knew once called “stinkin’ thinkin’.” ALL sins affect our relationship with God, and we need to repent and make things right with the people we have injured and with Him. Whenever we sin, we sin against God.
Fortunately for David, and for us, God is forgiving. 1 John 1:9 tell us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In order to lead a life of repentance, we must first, like David, recognize our sin– we must repent daily. Then God is His lovingkindness will restore us. He forgave David, and He will forgive you and me.
We first started with learning how Jesus commanded us to go out into the world and spread the gospel to all parts of the world, but I wasn’t even ready to do it in my own little town. We need to know the scriptures so that we can explain things to people who want to know more of Jesus’ words and how they can help them.
We studied prayer and its overwhelming power and ability to help you and others who need help with their lives. We all realized how important it is to include prayer in your everyday life and to live by its power. Prayer is a very important part of my daily life and I can’t imagine going without praying.
We learned about the history of our church and why that’s so important to know our heritage. Our forefathers of this church sacrificed everything to build this building that we worship in every week. Sometimes I wonder what they would think of us now and our failed efforts to spread the word around the world.
We’re learning how to be good teachers of the word, to be good leaders for the church, to keep the right priorities focused on God at all times. We discuss so many facets of how we should dedicate our lives to Christ and his church. It’s not that Pastor hasn’t talked with us about some of these subjects in bible study or church but it’s just more intense with Mr. Weatherly from F.T.F.
He has walked us through some very important ways in which we can learn to begin a whole new way of dedicating our lives to Jesus Christ and our church.
In the world we live in now, it’s very different than our founders experienced. People were eager to come to church then but now we have to go out and find the lonely, the hurting, the hungry and those people who think that they don’t need any change like I did.
If you have a big splinter and it hurts, just tell God, because I promise you, He has the answer.
George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets. He is known as “one of the foremost British devotional lyricists. Even if you’re not an English major you enjoy reading his poem, Repentance.
Lord, I confess my sin is great; Great is my sin. Oh! gently treat With thy quick flow'r, thy momentary bloom; Whose life still pressing Is one undressing, A steady aiming at a tomb. Man's age is two hours' work, or three: Each day doth round about us see. Thus are we to delights: but we are all To sorrows old, If life be told From what life feeleth, Adam's fall. O let thy height of mercy then Compassionate short-breathed men. Cut me not off for my most foul transgression: I do confess My foolishness; My God, accept of my confession. Sweeten at length this bitter bowl, Which thou hast pour'd into my soul; Thy wormwood turn to health, winds to fair weather: For if thou stay, I and this day, As we did rise, we die together. When thou for sin rebukest man, Forthwith he waxeth woe and wan: Bitterness fills our bowels; all our hearts Pine, and decay, And dropp away, And carry with them th'other parts. But thou wilt sin and grief destroy; That so the broken bones may joy, And tune together in a well-set song, Full of his praises, Who dead men raises; Fractures well cur'd make us more strong.
Most of us know the story. On October 31, 1517: Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This act became the spark that led to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. We know that the theses criticized the selling of indulgences (a grant by the Pope of remission of punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution); but did you know that Luther’s very first thesis dealt with repentance? (see the quote above)
Luther put it first because it is first. Once God plants faith in our hearts, our first reaction is to repent, because we see how unworthy we are and how badly we need a Savior. According to Luther it also comes last, because we need to keep our need before us constantly; as soon as we forget that we are sinners, we fall into the worst sin of all — believing we are able to be our own God and save ourselves through our own accomplishments.
What does it mean to live our entire life in repentance? I think that could be the topic of another post. Lutheran ladies, what do you think?