The Red Carpet of Repentance
Study in Gospel of Mark
By Todd Stiles
Bible Text: Mark 1:1-8
Preached on: Sunday, February 3, 2019
First Family Church
317 SE Magazine Road
Ankeny, IA 50021
Online Sermons: www.sermonaudio.com/firstfamilychurch
Let me ask you a question: how many of you have wasted some of your time by watching those self-grandizing shows such as the Oscars, the Grammys, maybe the Golden Globes? I think you know my opinion on those now, don’t you? You know, where you see someone kind of stroll out on the red carpet, they stand there for pictures for a while and then they make their way, you know, to whatever’s next? I know that most people like me, you’re indicating if you have watched that, if you’re thinking you’ve watched that, you’ve just seen the news clips of it, right, you haven’t really watched the show, right? I’m sure that’s true. Here’s what I think is interesting: the red carpet is kind of the way to introduce someone important is here. This is kind of the way of introduction, isn’t it? Well, there’s a red carpet moment in the book of Mark at the very beginning and it’s the way that Jesus comes onto the scene at the beginning of his ministry. I want us to look at that this morning in Mark 1, so you have your Bibles, and I’m sure you do, open them to Mark 1 and let’s begin a new series through this Gospel.
While you’re locating the Gospel of Mark, just a few words about this new series. It will take us through next Easter which will be Easter of 2020. We’ll have a few breaks along the way, holidays and a few topical series, but for the most part we’ll kind of root ourselves right here in the Gospel according to Mark and the goal is to really see how Jesus served and how we can follow in his footsteps. Now I’m not gonna spend hardly any time at all this morning on trying to update you on the book as a whole. We’ve done that offline, so to speak, in other words, away from here but we’ve made it available for you. So a couple of reminders for you as you leave today, on our info wall there is just a number of introductory materials about the Gospel of Mark. In addition to that, there’s a podcast being released today. It will kind of walk your through kind of some things about it that are interesting, maybe perhaps controversial, where we land on some of those, and we’ve got a few more podcasts to deliver as we walk our way through this book, but there’s a podcast available today. There’s also a lot of interesting materials on the info wall. I would encourage you to make good use of all those things. You can go to my blog, toddstiles.net. I put a number of articles there on this first topic of repentance. That’ll help you as well with understanding how Mark opens.
So there’s just a number of materials in your small group guide on our website, the podcast, our Facebook page, that’ll kind of give you more of an overview, kind of a preview, and the reason I’m not spending a lot of time on that is because Martin is gonna spend a lot of time on it. In fact, Mark’s favorite word in his book is the word “immediately,” so I’m immediately going to jump right into chapter 1, verses 1 through 8. Can we do that? Dig around on your own, check our Facebook page or the website, my blog, different things on the info wall. Get up to speed on the book of Mark. Talk about it in your group. But now I want to dive right in immediately, straightway to this first set of verses in chapter 1 that talk about the beginning of Christ’s ministry.
Look with me, Mark 1:1. Let’s read the first eight verses. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And notice how Mark here combines two important names. He uses the New Testament name of Jesus which is Jesus, it’s the name he was given when he was born, his earthly name, but he also uses the name Christ which is the Old Testament reference to the Messiah. So he’s saying within the first few words, “The Jesus who was born is the Messiah promised of old in the Old Testament.” It’s beautiful. So here’s the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, clear reference to deity and we do believe here doctrinally Jesus Christ was 100% man, 100% God. Two natures in one person. This book is about that one, Jesus. That’s why it’s not the Gospel of Mark, it’s the Gospel of Jesus but it’s the Gospel according to Mark.
This is how Mark saw it unfold. He begins by saying that this Jesus Christ, the promised one, the Son of God, he has been promised and here’s what he says about that, verse 2, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,” and here’s some verses that really are a compilation of not only Isaiah but also Malachi, and often New Testament writers would pull a number of Old Testament Scriptures and kind of formulate how they applied in the current time, so you find that this is out of Isaiah, also Malachi and he says this, here’s how the Old Testament described the coming of Jesus and the announcement that he was going to arrive on the scene.
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” So the first thing we see here is that God had actually prophesied, verses 1, 2, 3 here, that John the Baptist was coming to make preparation for Jesus. That’s what he’s talking about here, that there is one coming who will kind of clear the path, who will kind of roll out the red carpet, we’ll call it, because someone more important than him is on the way. So John the Baptist is introduced as one who is prophesied about and he’s the one who’s gonna introduce Jesus.
Notice the word “prepare” in verse 2. Notice the word “prepare” in verse 3. So John the Baptist’s role was to prepare people for Jesus. How did he do that? Well, that’s what the next few verses show us. Beginning in verse 4 we see here now the fulfillment of what was foretold. “John appeared.” This is what I love about Mark, Mark wastes no time in getting to the facts. “John appeared.” So God said it in the Old Testament that someone’s coming whose voice would be like one crying in the wilderness, “Get ready for Jesus! Prepare the way!”
Well, guess what? John appears. He’s the fulfillment of that prophesy and here’s how he’s preparing people for Jesus, for the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He says here he’s “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Now let’s just mark, first of all, that notice the word “for” in verse 4. It doesn’t mean that he’s baptizing in order to receive forgiveness, it means that he’s baptizing because there is forgiveness. It would like if I were to bring Bob into my courtroom, let’s say I was a judge, and I said, “Bob, you’ve been brought in here for drinking.” He says to me, “Great, let’s get to it!” That’s a misunderstanding of what I’m saying. I didn’t say he is being brought here for drinking. It would be like saying you’ve been brought in here because of drinking? Are you with me? That’s what’s happening here.
He’s baptizing because of the forgiveness of sins. This baptism is one that’s called a baptism of repentance. It shows the heart of the person, what they are believing, what they’re committing to, what they’re saying. Now understand that John appeared before Jesus and so he’s getting people ready for Jesus and so his baptism, though it was indicative of someone’s belief, remember their baptism didn’t come before their belief, their baptism came after their belief so it’s very just like what we do today, but theirs looked kind of forward to Jesus coming, we are baptized after belief and look back to Jesus. In fact, let me just say this to you: John the Baptist, though he’s in the New Testament portion of your Bible, he’s actually the last of the Old Testament prophets. This is still we might call it the end of the old covenant era. Christ is still on the way. He’s not yet died. So John’s really, though it’s 400 years after Malachi and those people, he’s still in that kind of time frame. There’s been a lot of silent years but here he is now in kind of the same vein and lifestyle of these guys like Elijah, you know, the camel’s hair and the belt and the loud preaching and the calls to repentance. So here John is saying, “Jesus is on the way. My job is to get you ready and here’s who we get ready, we come and we confess our sins and we believe he’s the Messiah and then we’re baptized to show that we believe that.” That’s what John did, it’s a baptism of repentance because of the forgiveness of sins.
Verse 5 tells us how folks responded, “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan,” look at this next phrase, “confessing their sins.” So if you’re wondering what repentance is, here’s a good description. You see the word in verse 4, right, repentance? I would draw a line from that word down to the phrase “confessing their sins.” That really is what repentance is, it’s confessing your sins to God. So these folks were coming into the wilderness, they were confessing their sins saying, “We’re wrong. God’s right.” And they were getting baptized to show, “Yes, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the one promised from the Old Testament and we will believe in him.” In fact, let me just give you some linguistics about the word “confess.” When it says “confessing their sins,” the word there is homolegeo. I don’t tell you Greek words a lot but I did on that one because here’s why: the word “homo” means “same,” the word “legeo” is the word we get “to speak or to talk.” It means to say the same thing as, and when you repent, when you confess, you say the same thing about your sin that God does. So you don’t use the word “but, I know God but.” That doesn’t work. That’s not repentance. Are you with me? You don’t use the word “and,” like, “I know God and by the way, that person too.” You see, repentance is not pointing or blaming or defending, repentance is, “Oh, okay God, you’re right. Period.” It’s saying the same thing as God does. That’s repentance.
So these folks were coming out to John, getting baptized, confessing their sins and what a sight that must have been. Look at verse 6. I’m not always sure why he inserts some of these descriptive qualifiers of the moment but I love this. He “was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.” So imagine that picture of folks coming to John the Baptist, quite the character that he was, confessing their sins and we don’t know all that they were but I imagine that was kind of interesting, an interesting situation, and he’s baptizing them and he’s saying, “There’s one still to come. Believe in him. Confess your sins. He’s the Son of God. He’s Jesus Christ.” He’s getting them ready for the arrival, the coming, the ministry, the work of Jesus Christ.
So he does that not only by his actions but in verse 7 it says he does this also by his words. Here’s what he preached while he’s baptizing people, he’s in the wilderness and he’s preparing them for Christ, here’s what he preaches, “After me,” and those are important words there because it’s showing that John is a preparatory kind of guy. He’s not saying, “You’ve all gathered here. It’s all about me. Look this way.” He said, “Hey guys, I’m just the preparer. I think you should look to the one who’s coming after me. After me comes he who is mightier than I.” So what makes Jesus mightier than John the Baptist? It says here he’s so mighty that “the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” That’s an amazing phrase because if I were to say to Dave Nelson, “Hey, Dave, you think you’re up to par with John the Baptist?” Dave would say, “No way.” I wouldn’t either. We’d say, “Ah.” Now he’s kind of like a hero. He’s a little odd, wouldn’t you say, but if you talk about John the Baptist most folks are like it’s one of those really great guys in the Bible. He’s saying, “Listen, I am not even worthy to stoop down and loosen the shoestring of Jesus.” And John the Baptist is a pretty high ranking dude, where do we fall on that, right? So suddenly he’s realizing, “Hey, this preparation I’m making, it’s not about me. I’m not the one to focus on. I’m not even worthy to loosen his sandals. Here’s why, because I’m baptizing you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” So the water baptism is symbolic, it’s evidentiary, we’ll call it, of repentance and confession, of belief, but guess what? It didn’t save.
So here’s what I want to say to you about the baptism part first. Some folks make a really big deal about the distinction between their baptism and ours. I’m probably not in that camp. I think there are some distinctive markers. It is a transitional time right here, but we don’t know that in some ways this is very similar. They were baptized after their belief. It was evidential of their belief and it didn’t save them. That sounds a lot like your baptism, doesn’t it? But theirs was looking forward to Christ coming, ours looks back at Christ coming. What I think is interesting is though John admitted, “I’m just baptizing you with water. It’s a symbol, it’s a sign of what you’re believing but when he comes, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. In other words, he’ll actually forgive your sins.”
This is just a reference to regeneration. It’s a reference to Christ saving people. You see, the Bible teaches that when you are born again, the Holy Spirit – watch this now – the Holy Spirit places you into the body of Christ. You could use the word “immerses” you into the body of Christ. You could use the word “baptizes” you into the body of Christ. That’s what happens. So when you’re born again, when Christ regenerates your heart and you confess he’s Lord, that God has raised him from the dead and you’re saved, at that moment God places you into his church, his universal body. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. It’s an immersive work. He seals you. He stamps you as his own. That’s replaced you. So that’s what this is talking about. The work of God through Jesus in saving people and placing them in his body, that’s what he means when he says he’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit. He will give you his Holy Spirit. He’ll place you in his church. He’ll stamp his mark on you. He’ll seal you. John the Baptist couldn’t do that, only Jesus could do that. So do you see why John now is making sure that he’s deferring everything to Jesus? Do you see why John is saying, “I’ve gotta get you ready because, man, there’s one coming who can do something no one else can do. He can forgive sins. He can save people.” It’s amazing.
So this simple outline that I’ve kind of thrown up here in front of you about John the Baptist and about his work in preparing us for Christ, preparing these folks for Christ, it really kind of follows this pattern: there’s a prophecy, 1-3; there’s a fulfillment, 4-6; and then there’s the reason and that’s 7-8. I also have three other words I’ve kind of used to kind of describe this set of eight verses. I like these words even better. I was a little late to kind of throw them up there but I think in verses 1-3, we see the idea of something being foretold to us, the prophecy that someone’s coming who’s gonna prepare you for Jesus. In verses 4, 5, and 6, we see the fulfillment of what was foretold and that is actually John the Baptist. Then in verses 7 and 8, we see the idea of forgiveness coming – watch this now – not through John the Baptist but through the one that he prepared us for, his name is Jesus Christ the Son of God. So as you look at this set of verses from foretelling to fulfillment to forgiveness, it all is kind of peeking at the work of Jesus on our behalf.
How does one get ready for that work? How does one prepare to meet Jesus? How does one prepare for this final phrase that he’ll baptize us with the Holy Spirit? He’ll forgive us, that’s the moment we need. How does one get ready for the end of verse 8? That was John’s role, to prepare people for this incredible work of Jesus. His simple message was repent. Now remember, his message was not baptism, that’s how they showed they repented. His message was repent, make a clear path for Jesus, roll out the red carpet for the one who’s coming and what is the red carpet in Mark 1:1-8? The red carpet is repentance.
So let’s make sure that we understand something. I won’t go to the take-home truth yet but I was wanting to kind of make sure that you kind of see where we’re headed and I think you do. The flow of these verses, the clear outline of them, the words used, it’s pointing us to realize something that we get ready for Jesus through repentance and there is no one who will experience a work of the Lord, there’s no one who will experience the work of Jesus unless they repent. So some preliminary thoughts about repentance as we kind of make our way to our summary statement. We’ve kind of seen the text, we see John the Baptist’s role, we see it climaxes in Christ. We get all that, what does it tell us about repentance?
First of all, repentance is first in priority. Okay? It is not an extra credit endeavor. It’s not like something of bonus work, like I’ll go to church, I’ll read my Bible, and then you know what? I’ll even really be really good as a Christian, I’ll repent, and you see, sometimes we use the word that way in our churches. That’s kind of a big, we see repentance as a big word, don’t we? But really repentance, it’s fundamental. It’s not extra credit. It’s the beginning thing that we do and I need you to hear this loud and clear: if anyone has told you differently, they’re lying to you. Okay? If anyone has said to you repentance isn’t necessary, they’re lying to you. We must take the posture of confessing our sins and saying the same thing God does, and if anyone has ever told you, “No, you don’t have to say the same thing God does to come to Jesus,” they’re lying to you.
It reminds me of what a high school girl said to me in the mid ’90s when I was in Mississippi. I was visiting there preaching. Believe it or not, I was there preaching on the topic of this was kind of popular in those days, safe sex, and they’d asked me to preach to a public school in Mississippi. Paul Miller was the youth pastor in that area and he had invited me down. A lot of you guys know Paul. And so he said, “Todd, I’ve arranged for you to speak to a public school.” I was like, “Oh, my goodness. That’s gonna be terrible probably, you know?” But he said, “You’ve got 20 minutes kind of assembly. Here’s your topic. You really can’t use the Bible but they want you to at least talk about this subject.” He said, “See if you can kind of weave it in discreetly.” I said, “I’m up for it.”
Here’s how I started. I went before them and I kind of began my story. I said, “Hi, I’m Todd and I’m,” however old I was then. I said, “When I was,” and I began this long story, “When I was 8 years old, my parents introduced me to drugs and at 12 I began to sleep around and at 13,” and I just went through this incredible story of a guy who had just done some massive self-destructive tour and, I mean, I just really embellished it but I was very serious. They’re just listening like, “You don’t look like anybody that would do anything like that.” You know, I’m a pretty boring guy, let’s just be honest, okay? Bald head, big nose, boring guy, like just not a lot to my story, I know that. But I made this huge story up and it just kept getting worse. I moved to cities and I was just strung out, homeless, and then I finally said, “And it got so bad that I contracted AIDS. I had other diseases and then just finally it all culminated and I died.” That’s what I said to them and it was so quiet in that auditorium. They’re like, “You died?” I remember standing there like, “I died,” and just looked at them, and in the middle of that moment, a high school girl stood up and said, “You’re lying to us!” Just like that. I said to her, “You’re exactly right,” and then I proceeded on to talk about the lies of those who propagate the safe sex message.
Here’s my point in telling you that: if someone has ever told you you can experience Jesus without repentance, they’re lying to you. The whole reason John came was to prepare us for a work of God, for Jesus, and his first message was, ‘Repent. Say the same thing God does about your sin, that it damns us, it destroys us, it condemns us, and we have no way to solve our internal eternal sin problem, but one is coming who can take care of it. His name is Jesus and if you’ll believe in him, then come and confess your sins and get baptized and when he comes, man, he’ll do what I’m not doing. I’m baptizing with water but he’ll baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He will save you. He’ll forgive your sins.” You see, you don’t get to verse 8 without coming through verse 4.
So the red carpet of repentance is first in priority. One other preliminary observation to make: the red carpet of repentance is first in sequence. These are somewhat repetitive but I think it’s important to make sure we bring these out to you. This is the first thing one does, repent. Now I’ve told you in this message that I don’t see a ton of difference in these two baptisms, speaking of John’s baptism and ours. I could go into that later with you personally if you want. There is some distinction, I get that, but I’m not gonna sit here and make a huge deal about them and try to complicate it and confuse you. That’s not my goal. I don’t want to do that about repentance either and I think sometimes in our churches we complicate repentance, did you know that? In fact, I think we do that by sometimes making repentance to be a word we use when only like big sins are involved, like if we really have a turnaround and say, “Man, it was so drastic. I really repented.” Like, “Oh? Well, did you repent and you just said something to your wife you shouldn’t have said? Or is that not a repenting moment?” And so we kind of create these categories, don’t we, like certain things really deserve repentance, other things just deserve an apology. “On this kind of sin, I just kinda confess, but over here, man, I really got on my knees and repented.” I don’t know that it’s healthy or accurate to use it in that way.
I think everything starts with repentance, did you know that? In fact, the definition of the word “repentance” is “to change your mind.” That’s the most succinct technical definition. The Greek for “repentance” is formed from the word “mind” and it means “to change your mind about something.” Let me show you why I think it’s not just the same as apologizing and confessing, I think repentance is fundamental and prerequisite to apologizing, confessing, and restoring and restitution and all that stuff. Here’s why: because none of you will change your behavior until you change your mind. This is one of the problems with external motivation. We try to move people with long poles, we try to twist their arms. We’re trying to get them to change their behavior but inside their heads they’re like, “Hey, good luck. I’m listening. I’m sitting still. I’m gonna externally comply but in my head, man, ain’t nothing wrong with what I’m doing.” So when they get home, they’ll click away on their porn, they’ll sarcastically just criticize their spouse, name the sin. Until you believe that it’s offensive to God, until you mentally in your mind realize, “I’m saying the same thing as God does about my sin,” you will not repent. You may externally comply, you may look good in the moment to avoid getting in trouble, you may do what you can just so you won’t get caught, but you will not repent. You will not confess. You will not apologize. You’ll not make restitution. Why? Because you don’t think anything is wrong. But when your mind is changed, when suddenly you realize, “Wow, my sin is an affront to God. I’ve hurt the people of God.” When you change your mind and I should say actually when God changes your mind about your sin, do you know what follows? Any confession necessary, any apology necessary, any restitution necessary with no ands, buts or ifs. No defending. No pointing or blaming. Just like, “God, I see it your way. I’m sorry.” You see, there’s a sequence of events and they begin with repentance. It is first in sequence. Apologies, confession, change, restitution, all those things, they begin when our minds are changed by God’s Spirit and we see sin like he sees it.
So these are two preliminary observations I want to make with you about repentance, about the red carpet of repentance, and rolling it out for Jesus so that his work, who he is and what he does, is welcome in your life. It must be your first attitude and it needs to be your priority attitude, and that attitude is one that sees sin just as God does. It’s agreeing with him with no if, ands or buts. That’s repentance.
So let’s summarize things, can we? Let’s take Mark 1:1-8, these preliminary observations. Let’s just kind of summarize this into a simple sentence to kind of take this passage home with us, this beginning message in this Gospel according to Mark about the serving Son of God. How does one get ready for his work? It’s through repentance. It’s the red carpet that paves the way for Christ. Here’s our simple take-home truth today, that repentance is the necessary red carpet that readies a person for the Son of God. I mean, you knew that was coming, didn’t you? We’ve kind of been leading there for the last 20 minutes, 30 minutes. So no surprises, but can we just say it together and let this simple statement blanket us for a bit? The real thrust of Mark 1:1-8, let’s say it together: repentance is the necessary red carpet that readies a person for the Son of God.
Now some things I could have said at the end of this take-home truth, I could have said that it’s the red carpet that readies a person for the work of God but I did not say that on purpose. Do you know why? Because I think sometimes we hear the phrase “the work of God” and we kinda make it static. We kinda make it objective. But I don’t think you need to meet a work of the Son of God, I think you need to meet the Son of God, the dynamic, living, all-powerful, supernatural Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Not some conceptual like, “Well, I want to meet his work. I want him to do something for me.” Maybe we don’t mean it the way it sounds but I think it’s personal, relational, and the only way you’re gonna be ready to meet Jesus, the only way you’re gonna be able to encounter and experience Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is first and foremost in repentance. God granted repentance. Let me tell you why, because you’re talking about meeting someone that even John the Baptist said he wasn’t worthy to loosen his sandals. You don’t know who you’re messing with, church.
So if you’re not willing to repent, you’re not ready to meet Jesus, but you realize he’s all-consuming, he’s terrifying, he’s gloriously superior, he’s perfect and holy, he’s death-defying, sin-crushing, idol-bashing, life-giving, everything glorious and yet everything terrible. You can think of in some ways Jesus is every bit of that. Toward sin, he’s the judge, the master, the solver. He’s the forgiver. He’s the punisher. He’s everything that you think, “Oh man, Jesus will deal with sin in that way, and yet he’s everything loving for every one of the things that you think is gonna strike you dead.” He’s beautiful, amazing, wonderful, but he’s victorious, he’s wrathful, he’s vengeful in a righteous way, he’s patient but he’s dependable. So you pick your adjectives. Put him in the categories you want. I just want you to know whatever you do, don’t neuter or tame Jesus because if you think you’re meeting someone you can kinda control on a leash, put in a box or make your puppet, you’re not ready to meet Jesus and you don’t know what repentance is.
This is why repentance is necessary, because we’re about to meet Jesus and John the Baptist says, “I’m not even worthy to stoop down and undo his sandals. He’s mightier than me.” I think in that phrase John hits upon something that we don’t understand. I don’t think many of us think Jesus is mightier. I think we think he’s friendly, he’s comfortable, he’s casual, he’s a buddy. Yeah, you’re not ready to meet Jesus. This is why you need to repent because if Jesus were to come into your life and you’re not agreeing with him, you’re not saying the same thing he says about your sin, he will mess you up. You’re not ready. You’re standing there with your back up, your spine tall. You think you can take on Jesus. Man, you need the posture of humility. You need to be brought low. You need to be laid flat at the sight of one who is so powerful that he can forgive sins and then say, “That’s actually what I need. Would you, Jesus, forgive me?” And Jesus baptizes you with the Holy Spirit. Yeah, that won’t happen until you’re brought low in repentance.
Do you see why repentance is necessary? Why it’s so crucial? So it’s really not complicated, it’s the beginning thing that God grants so that we can even think about meeting the Son of God. It’s the priority thing God grants and when God grants it and we’re laid low and we agree with him about our sin, then God comes in in the person of Jesus and the power of the Spirit and does what only he can do, he saves, he restores, he forgives, and it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
When you’re in the middle of it, it’s messy. I was there last Sunday night. We were in our prayer gathering here. I came in with Julie just normal. Maybe that’s not good. I don’t know. I just was so excited to pray with our church. By the time we got to the end, we’d been working our way through Psalm 23, man, I was a mess on the front row here. In fact, when everyone dismissed, I couldn’t even move. I just wept and Shawn came over to pray with me and I was so convicted about the first line of Psalm 23. I maybe shared this with Julie but as they were reading Psalm 23 at the end where it says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” I couldn’t even say that because my first thought was this, and I was saying it but I didn’t mean it. I was saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want but I do want.” That’s what was in my heart. I actually do want other things. And all through that prayer gathering I was like, “God, that’s not right. I’m not completely satisfied with you. I preach about you being my treasure and I think in some part of me I do believe that, I want that, but man, that’s a battle in my heart often.” It’s like, “Give me Jesus, oh, and these three things too.”
I was just laid low there Sunday night thinking, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want but I do want.” And it just kept weighing on me and in the moment, man, repentance is messy, isn’t it? Man, you just feel like God’s just bringing you to a posture where you’re like your heart is exposed. That’s where I was. I didn’t even want to get up from the chair with everyone around. It was like, man, I’ve got contentment issues here to wrestle through. I’ve got issues where I want certain things and like, “Lord, forgive me.” So God and I, we had a really good week. Man, he’s wrestled this heart through some things and it surfaces, it surfaced last night a little bit. It’s hard to just battle things that, you know, have a hold on you. Can anybody agree with that? Yeah, thank you. Amen. Grab an oar and row this boat with me, amen?
But here’s what’s beautiful: in that moment, I never felt more like a child of God. Did you hear what I just said? In that moment, I never felt more like a child of God. Why? Because I knew I belonged to Jesus and he had his hands on me, he’s working me over, he’s wringing me out. He’s refining. He’s saying, “Hey, you belong to me and we’re not getting out this easy. Let me show you what’s in that heart of yours.” I’m like, “Yeah, Jesus, I need this.” Oh, it was uncomfortable. I didn’t like it. I felt exposed. But man, that’s what God does to his kids.
Do you know what he’s doing? He’s preparing me for Jesus. Now I’m born again. I was saved when I was 14. I’m not saying that, I’m saying that repentance is our daily posture. It’s our weekly kind of go-to stance so God can continue to put us face-to-face, in touch, close encounters with Jesus so that we don’t grow stale in our relationship and, man, right there in that front row last Sunday night, God is just working me over and this week and it’s been a sweeter week with Jesus, watching him work in my life, increase my patience, develop my contentment, get rid of my idols, crush them, bash them, expose me. Not because he’s against me but because I actually belong to him and he loves me that much to do the hard work in my heart. Yeah. You see, I would not have been ready for all of that if God hadn’t first of all in some moment last Sunday night through his word just said, “You’re not there, Todd,” and he granted me repentance to see the real need of my heart and said, “Now let’s talk about that. Let me work you over. I’ve got some good things in store for you.” Man, he was readying me for the work of Jesus in my life. That comes through repentance and I have a sense that I’m not the only one in that mud pit wrestling match with God. I think you’ve got some heart issues too, don’t you? Maybe you’ve been trying to avoid them, run from them, point, blame, defend, push off, avoid, escape, but you can’t outrun God. His arm is plenty long, his hand plenty strong.
Here’s your best decision: man, just accepting God-given repentance he’s given you and humble yourself, lay flat under him and let him do his work because that’s how we are readied for Jesus, okay? Have you rolled out the red carpet of repentance? Have you unrolled it, so to speak, and said, “Jesus, have your way in my life. Welcome to my heart. Have a seat on the throne. The red carpet of repentance is right in front of you.” If not, I would ask this morning that you do exactly that so that Jesus can do what he needs to do in your life.