I listened to a very good sermon on Sunday afternoon. Don Green is the pastor of the Grace Life section of the Grace Community Church of John MacArthur. His preaching Sunday on the "The Call to Repentance" was an eye opener. The verses were from the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5 and also Matthew 4:17.
His theme was not what you might expect. Repent, yes, but the call to repentance always has with it another part to the message, one that is often forgotten. When Jesus calls people to repent, there is always a blessing associated with it.
Pastor Green's point was that we of course should call people to repent, yes, but do not forget to tell them they are blessed if they do! Matthew 4:17 says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the summary statement of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon, He is explaining what repentance means. The verse from Matthew 4 is the summation, but the Sermon is Jesus explicitly teaching what He meant regarding repentance. Matthew 5:3-9, for example, is linked to the Matthew 4:17 verse in that Jesus now gets specific about what happens to a person on the inside when they repent.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Look how many blessings come when a person repents and allows the Holy Spirit to change them on the inside! Jesus ended His sermon with reminding us that it IS an internal change. He said in verse 20:
"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." The scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day, but they were only righteous on the outside, with what they wore and what they said and how they acted. Their internal state was not one of humble repentance, and as a result they were cursed, not blessed. (Matthew 23:13).
The call to repentance is to:
--turn away from sin toward biblical righteousness
--in order to give irrevocable allegiance to Jesus
--and to receive divine blessing
Pastor Green's sermon focused on understanding the third point, that with repentance comes blessing, and this shapes the way we explain the Gospel to people.
I'll explain it this way. I watch a television show on TNT called "The Closer." It is a police procedural starring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. She is known as The Closer because she can elicit a confession from the worst criminal that will stick in court. She closes cases. As such, she is also known as a savant, brilliant in her detective capabilities. Because of her fearlessness, ability to close cases, and strong commitment to justice, she gets the bad guy almost every week. Justice is served.
This is the last season of the show. This season's theme is love. Viewers have come to adore Brenda with all her foibles and dysfunctions in home life and in her professional relationships. Her almost total focus is on justice. There is little love in her life. Though her long-suffering husband loves her dearly and accepts her for who she is, the show is written in such a way that you long for him to receive the same amount of love that he gives her. This final season will be a reckoning of sorts for Brenda, that life is not only justice. There must be love, too. And of course we agree to the reverse, that there is no love without justice. A mother or father who loves their child will punish them when they do wrong. (Hebrews 12:6). Brenda's fierce adherence to justice unhitched from love eventually becomes harsh, consuming her and leading her rather than her leading it. This week's show gave us an insight into how a person devolves when there is too much emphasis on justice and not enough balance in love.
That is the same as the Gospel. We call for repentance and warn of the justice from the Highest Court in the universe, from the most perfect Judge. Punishment for sins is real and must be declared to the unbeliever. This is our duty. But don't leave it there, Pastor Green urged. Because love is part of the equation, too. Jesus blesses His children. He bought us with His blood as pardon from the justice they would likewise receive but instead blesses them when they do repent.
Nine times in Matthew 5 (NASB) Jesus used the word "blessed". Nine blessings are pronounced! Also in Matthew 11, Matthew 13, Matthew 24, more blessedness is offered to those who do not take offense at Jesus, to those upon those who see and hear the message, and on those slaves who are doing the Father's will. The change brought about at repentance comes with is blessings that start there and continue on the growing believer.
When you share the Gospel, love them enough to tell them of the justice for the sins, but also love them enough to tell them of the Lord's blessings waiting upon them if they do repent. This is a good lesson for me, too.
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