Repentance #2

August 23, 2020 | Don Horban
References: Luke 3:3-14Matthew 3:1-2Psalm 19:12-14
Topics: ForgivenessRepentancePrideCompassionIntegrity

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Repentance #2


Luke 3:3-14 - "And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [4] As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.[5] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, [6] and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" [So John predicts something still in the future - "shall see"] [7] He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' [So with the coming of God's salvation the nature of repentance will change. In the Old Testament repentance meant returning to their covenant status as Abraham's descendants. With the coming of the Redeemer, repentance will mean refusing to rely on their Old Testament heredity for their standing with God.] For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. [9] Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

[10] "And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" [And the fruit must be good in the sense that it can't be rooted in Old Testament law or mere outward moral reform. In a way John the Baptist couldn't fully see, the people's repentance and righteousness needed to be rooted in the coming "salvation of God"(6).] [11] And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." [12] Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." [14] Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."

We spent last Sunday night looking at what repentance is. We said that repentance is two things. First, it's a radical recognition of the true nature of the human will. Repentance isn't just for that first time you and I come to Jesus for salvation. Repentance is the ongoing pathway into kingdom life. It is never something left behind. Second, repentance isn't just feeling sorry for your sins. It starts with deep regret, to be sure. But it never ends there. Repentance is primarily what I do when I come to understand the directing, correcting voice of the Spirit of God in my heart.

That's where we ended up last Sunday. But we need to get more specific then that. What are the kinds of things repentant people do? What does Monday repentance do with Sunday learned truth? That's the theme of tonight's study.


Luke 3:10-11 - "And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" [11] And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise."

This is something spiritual people will always have to confront in themselves with ongoing repentance. As kind and as loving as I would like to be, I find I must constantly confront, and confront recurringly, the Ame first" tendency deep in the core of my heart.

Matthew records this same event. We'll look at his account later on in this series. Matthew introduces John's sermon with these words: Matthew 3:1-2 - "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, [2] "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. What happens when the kingdom is "at hand?" Luke says people have to change the way they think about material things. People have to scrap old values and replace them with new ones. People have to realign themselves with the power and rule of the kingdom. The kingdom doesn't just come to bless people. It comes to transform people.

And the first thing John tells the people, when they come and ask "What must we do?" is this - they must see the needs of others with kingdom compassion. And this change had to be a radical change.

We all know we'd have to repent if we robbed the needy person. That's just obvious common decency. But the kingdom presses for deeper change. I must repent for not giving up my luxuries for the needs of others.

As the kingdom draws near - as the King draws near - I am called to a cruciform lifestyle - a cross shaped discipleship. I am not only going to flee theft and dishonesty. I will be compelled to repent of the degree of selfishness that will keep two coats when my brother has none.

And we never get beyond the need to repent of the kind of turned-inwardness that constantly claims the control of our hearts. Only Monday repentance can free us and form us in the likeness of Christ Jesus Himself. Imagine if John had lived to see Jesus laying down his own life fully and freely for rebellious sinners. Imagine what he might have said then.


Luke 3:12-13 - "Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do."

The interchange with these tax collectors isn't just highlighted accidentally or randomly by Luke as he records his gospel account. Their words are recorded because they typify a very specific and real danger in the walk of repentance. They expose the issues of depth and motive in kingdom repentance.

These tax collectors were employees of the Roman Empire. Sometimes they were Roman citizens, but sometimes they were actually Jews, trusted and paid by the Roman government. If they were Jews they would be particularly hated because, in addition to being tax collectors (goodness knows how much we all love paying taxes) they were also seen as traitors to their own Jewish nation because they worked for the Roman oppressors.

Now, while all this may have made these tax collectors unpopular, it certainly wasn't immoral. But the story goes further than that. Because, for the most part, as long as Rome got its share of revenue, these tax collectors worked largely unsupervised by the Roman authorities. And they would collect more than the proper tax from the people. After all, most of the people wouldn't know the difference. They weren't part of a democracy. Rome, they probably speculated, could collect however much money it wanted. Who could argue?

Then these collectors would forward the required amount of tax off to Rome and keep what they could skim off the top for themselves. No one would be the wiser.

But now the kingdom of God is drawing near. Now the King Himself is coming. How does His kingdom change all of this? The tax collectors want to know. "What do we have to do? How does the kingdom relate to us? What kind of repentance is required in the kingdom shaping of our lives?"

John's response is immediate. "The Old Testament priests would never know about any of this stuff. God wants an honest dealing with the whole character. It's the hidden stuff that has to change. It's the part of your life that only you know about. God sees it too, and you have to come to terms with holiness and honesty at a level you're not use to thinking about!"

There are many Christians, perhaps some right here listening to me right now who are trying to figure out why they can't get past first base in their walk with God. There are others who have grown so cold spiritually that they aren't even worried about this whole issue of repentance anymore. And for many the reason for their condition is right here in John's words to these tax collectors. You've grown to live with the parts of your life you feel no external pressure to change.

So there's the second lesson. If repentance doesn't reach everything about my life, then it reaches nothing about my life. Ongoing refinement and growth in the kingdom has everything to do with how quickly and how thoroughly I repent of the things I don't think I have to repent of because nobody else knows. So there is no external pressure to change - except the Holy Spirit of God.

Put it this way. Genuine repentance forces me to distinguish between maintaining my appearance as a godly person and pursuing the substance of godliness at the core of my being. Godly people, like David always recognized this distinction:

Psalm 19:12-14 - "Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. [14] Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."


Luke 3:14 - "Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."

This is a tricky verse. The elements that have to be brought together are the two references to money and the reference to false accusations. Most commentaries thread the message this way: Soldiers were poorly paid people. They lived on lean military daily rations. But they had power. And John addresses soldiers who used their office and their power to make false accusations - threats - extortions - to force innocent people to pay them money to stay out of prison.

In other words, the issue here is the abuse of power - the use of might and office and authority to manipulate others toward your own advantage. Again, the soldiers had the upper hand. The little people had no recourse against them. This was a crime that would never be tried under the Roman system. The Jews had no rights to stand on. And the practice was common. Everyone did it.

John says this is where the axe of repentance has to have a very sharp edge. This is where truth must cut into the old life. John presses this issue of Monday repentance on all who would be tempted to use the power of wealth or office or station in life to be anything other than Christlike in the daily activities with others.

He addresses the need to win every argument, the habit of losing temper or pouting when we don't get our way, the desire to pull others down to make ourselves look good, the taking advantage of others for our own personal benefit or financial gain.

When the kingdom comes near these things must go. Kingdom truth is brought to bear, by the life and witness of the Holy Spirit. I perceive with my mind what kingdom truth is - freeing, life-bestowing truth. Then, after the sermon is over, when Monday comes, the grace of repentance needs to shine.

Repentance isn't a negative experience for the Christian. Listen to these wise words by Philip Yancey: "Guilt, like physical pain, is directional. Just as the body speaks to us in the language of pain so that we will attend to the injury site, the Spirit speaks to us in the language of guilt so that we will take the steps necessary for healing. The goal in both is to restore health....True saints do not get discouraged over their faults, for they recognize that a person who feels no guilt can never find healing. Paradoxically, neither can a person who wallows in guilt. The sense of guilt only serve its designed purpose if it presses us toward the God who promises forgiveness and restoration."

"I once thought Christians went through life burdened by guilt, in contrast to carefree unbelievers. I now realize that Christians are the only persons who do not have to go through life feeling forever guilty. Guilt is only a symptom. We listen to it because it drives us toward the Cure."

God doesn't just wind us up and let us go in the Christian life. He reveals. He speaks. He invites. And these are the kinds of changes ongoing repentance requires - "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me"

I can't think of a better way of expressing the repentant walk of the serious disciple. You can't help but be fruitful when you follow Jesus with an obedient, repentant heart.