Repentance – The Second Step To Happiness
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Today we continue looking at the “BE” attitudes, found in chapter five of Matthew. Remember that “Blessed” is used nine times and is another word for happy. When a person is blessed – they are happy. Last time: first step to happiness – Humility, and today: the second step to happiness – Repentance. We focus in on verse four.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)
If we substitute happy for the word blessed this verse would read: “Happy are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Doesn’t sound quite right – does it?
- How can someone be happy when they are mourning?
- How can someone be happy when they are crying?
- How can there be happiness when there is sadness?
There is a key: Happiness depends on what you are CRYING ABOUT. I use the word CRYING both literally and figuratively, because sometimes we shed tears and sometimes it will be an attitude in our heart, as we cry out to God for His mercy, forgiveness, grace, cleansing or restoration. If I am crying about the sin in my life – I should be happy. Why? Because I am taking sin in my life seriously – I am concerned about it.
What are my options?
- If I laugh about sin in my life I am not taking it seriously.
- If I ignore sin in my life – I don’t want to deal with it.
- If I excuse away the sin in my life I am refusing to take responsibility for it.
But if I cry, that means I have looked at it, and I see the seriousness of the situation. If I cry about it that means I realise how much it affects me, my relationship with God, my relationship with others and that I need to do something about it. I need to repent, and repentance is the second step to happiness.
Do you remember the first step to happiness? HUMILITY? Humility is realising that you can’t fix everything, realising you don’t have all the answers. Humility is realising you need God in your life, it is putting God in charge. It is becoming totally dependant on God, realising that God is God and I am not. But we were talking about REPENTANCE!
Repentance is realising that I have a problem in my life that I can’t fix. It is realising that I have a problem in my life that God is not pleased with.
Repentance is realising that I have done some things – that I am doing some things – that are hurting my relationship with my Heavenly Father. It is weeping and mourning over the sin in my life. No wonder the scripture says: “Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!” Matthew 5:4 (GNB)
Here is truth we don’t really like to face: if there is sin in your life – and you’re not concerned about it – you should be! If you are a Christian and you have sinned and you feel guilty about it – GOOD! If you don’t feel guilty about it – be very concerned!
How so? It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sinfulness. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to make us feel guilty when we’ve done something wrong in God’s eyes. When we feel guilty because we have done something wrong – it is a good thing because it means three things – the Holy Spirit is living in us, He is fulfilling His purpose, and, we are being sensitive enough to listen to the Him.
Before I continue with my theme of repentance, let me first say that there is of course, a strong dual meaning in this beatitude, concerning mourning. We mourn loved ones who have died, we mourn the loss of our health, or the health of those we care about. We mourn the loss of things we used to have or used to be able to do. As our faith and confidence and strength is placed in God, we find the strength, and thus the happiness that comes to us when we mourn such things.
The alternative, is bitterness or anger, or lack of forgiveness. (Pension in Zimbabwe). Back to looking at this verse in the context of repentance. Now, it can be very easy for me to over sermonise, when I am really aiming to provide helpful understanding of biblical truth, but when we sin, we ought to feel sorry about it.
When we sin – we ought to feel guilty, to feel sorrow, to mourn over our sin. We ought to repent, ought to come to God and ask for forgiveness. So let’s look at three elements of repentance.
Repentance involves a U-TURN.
The first step to repentance is not a change of behaviour – it is a change in the way you think. In the New Testament, the word repentance means “to think differently, to change your mind”. Here is a fact – before you can change your behaviour you must change your MIND. In other words, repentance is a change in the way you think.
I change my mind about something. Once I did not see it as wrong before God, but now I have changed my mind about it and agree with God that it is wrong, so I make a change in my behaviour. U-turn. In other words, I can change my behaviour but unless that is the result of first changing my thinking, it probably will not last. When obeying or disobeying God is the behaviour we are considering, we sin because we have bad thinking. Ouch, that’s hard to say and harder to
Imagine you are in a speedboat going across a lake on a sunny day, the wind in your hair. The boat is on autopilot, an onboard computer has been programmed to navigate to a specific location on the other side, at a certain speed. Half way across you realise you have left your phone at the hotel, and because life is not worth living with your mobile phone, you decide to go back and get it. So you step up to the wheel, and turn 180 degrees. It’s a bit of a struggle because the autopilot is trying to correct back to its course, but you manage the turn. Yahoo! And your hands come off the wheel … And the boat swiftly turns back to its course. Curses! You wrestle again, but realise eventually this boat is just going to keep trying to go its own way. Just like the apostle Paul mentioned in Romans chapter seven. What, a speed boat on autopilot in the Bible?
“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate…For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Romans 7:15, 19, 24 (HCSB)
Paul is doing things he had been programmed to do. Like every human being, he was programmed to sin – and so he sinned! Sin affected his way of thinking – it was just the way he lived. It was the way he had always behaved. It was the way he thought he should behave. Then he became a Christian and he realised that many of the ways he was living were wrong before the Lord, and that God called it sin.
Here is another verse from scripture – it is found further on in Romans:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
What needs to be transformed? “Your mind.” Simple truth – repentance begins with changing your thinking. It is thinking about sin in the same way that God thinks about sin. Repentance begins with seeing sin as God sees sin. It is coming into agreement with God. It is making a U-turn in your thinking. God views sin as sin, and evil as evil, and wickedness as wickedness. We need to come in agreement with God – we need to change our way of thinking and adapt to God’s way of thinking. We need to change our minds and put on “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Repentance involves making a U-turn in our minds – that will eventually affect our behavior.
Remember what we read a minute ago – Paul calling himself a “wretched man” – let’s read it again:
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God.” Romans 7:24–25 (NKJV)
Paul says, “with the MIND” I serve the law of God. He had made a mental shift. He had come into agreement with God. A U-turn, or repentance. Paul had changed his mind. His mind and God’s mind were in agreement. Paul could now serve God with his mind. He had made a U-turn in his thinking, which is where repentance begins.
Repentance involves a CONFESSION.
Do you remember how King David had greatly sinned? He had an affair with Bathsheba – wrong in the first place – but to cover it up he went to great do you remember what great lengths he went to in order to cover up this affair? The affair happened and Bathsheba became pregnant. Her husband Uriah was away fighting in a war, for his King. David devised a plan to cover up the affair. He called for Uriah to come home using the excuse that Uriah could bring a report on how the war was going.
The clever plan was that David expected that once he had rushed to the palace he would drop in home and spend a night with his lovely wife. Later, when the pregnancy was announced everyone would think that the child was Uriah’s and not David’s because Uriah had come home and been with his wife. But David’s plan was foiled.
Uriah didn’t go home that night, and so David called him in the next day and asked, “What’s going on? How come you didn’t home?” Nod, nod, wink,wink, slap on his shoulder. Uriah answered, “How can I go home and enjoy myself when the soldiers are living in tents out in field? It just is not right and I won’t do it.” David said, “Ok. Get it. Pretty noble of you.”
David had to come up with another plan to cover up his sin. He invited Uriah to dinner – plenty of food – plenty of wine – and Uriah got drunk. David imagined that tipsy Uriah would go home, sleep with Bathsheba, and the affair could be covered up. But even a drunk Uriah refused to go home – so David had to do something else to cover up his sin.
He sent Uriah back to battle. But David also sent a letter with Uriah for Joab – the commander of the troops: “Put Uriah in the front lines where the fighting is the fiercest. Then pull back the rest of the soldiers and leave Uriah alone – exposed to the enemy – so that he’s sure to be killed.” (2 Samuel 11:15)
Joab was faithful to King David’s orders, and put Uriah on the front lines. But the plan had collateral damage as we like to say in war these days – for David’s plan to cover up his sin caused eighteen soldiers to be killed that day – including Uriah.
Here is a truth – many people were affected by the sin of David. Many people are affected by our sins as well. But the King may have thought he had finally solved his dilemma.
But Second Samuel chapter eleven says, “God was not at all pleased with what David had done.” 2 Samuel 11:27 (MSG)
God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin. When confronted – do you know what he did? He repented! He agreed he had sinned. He agreed that what he had done was evil. He agreed he had messed up big time. He repented – He confessed. David felt sorrow, remorse, guilt, and shame for what he had done. He mourned over his sin. He confessed his sin. In fact Psalm 51 is a psalm of David and how he felt about his sin:
“(God) you’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.” Psalms 51:4 (MSG)
When we’ve sinned we should feel guilty, should feel shame, should mourn over our sin, should confess our sin. And we should take it to God for scripture: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (HCSB)
When we sin – we need an attitude of repentance. Repentance involves depending on the GOODNESS OF GOD. Our salvation is based on the Goodness of God: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8–9 (HCSB)
The goodness of God leads us to repentance. Paul discovered this and is telling the Christians in Rome that nature of God when he says: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NKJV)
God’s goodness and patience is to lead us to repentance. The Bible says that God even gives us extra time so that we might repent: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
That is simply incredible. All. Through human history, people who fear God have fallen into sin. Even ministers. Let me tell you the story of one:
Here in Britain, about 100 years ago, was a very capable evangelist whom God used in a significant way across the UK. But for a number of months this evangelist lost interest in spiritual things and drifted into a life of secret sin, living a life that was not pleasing to God. Finally he turned around – he repented. He realised what a fool he had been, and he came back to God like the prodigal son, but the thoughts of his sin still haunted him. When he returned to God he discovered the same thing the prodigal son did. The Lord welcomed him with open arms and began to strengthen and bless him. That’s because God is more forgiving than we are. God forgives us even more than we forgive ourselves. After a period of time, that minister felt pressed back into a public ministry for the Lord. Certainly, he was afraid his past would be exposed, but as time passed he felt sure his sin was hidden and tucked away. No one seemed to know the extent of his sinfulness. So he rejoiced in the forgiveness of God and that his sin had not been found out. Then one night, just before he was to preach, he was given a sealed letter. The letter described in detail the shameful sins the preacher had engaged in. His stomach churned as he read it. The un-signed letter said, “If you have the gall to preach tonight, I’ll stand up and expose you. I’ll tell it all.”
What would you have done? Would you have run away? Would you deny everything that the letter spoke of? Would you have sought out the author of the letter and begged him or her not to expose you? Here is what that evangelist did. He took the letter and went to his knees in prayer.
A few minutes later, he was in the pulpit. He began his message by reading the letter, from start to finish – word for word – not leaving out any details. When he finished he said, “I want to make it clear that this letter is perfectly true. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I have sinned and fallen short. I have taken my sins to God and He has forgiven me. I come tonight, not as one who is perfect, but as one who is forgiven. As one who depends on the goodness of God for my salvation.”
That night many people came to know the Lord as their saviour – because they too came to depend on the goodness of God.
No one is perfect – all of us have sinned: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8–9 (HCSB)
Repentance involves a U-Turn, a confession, and depending on the goodness of God. “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)