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"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses
and forsakes them will find compassion." (NASB)
Last week we marveled in God's promise in 1 John 1:9 that he will forgive
us and cleanse us if we'll confess our sins. I hope that you've been practicing
the discipline of confession this week and enjoying God's cleansing and
forgiveness. Today by focusing on repentance, we continue along the same
path that we began last week. Notice the emphasis of Proverbs 28:13-it
is on confessing and FORSAKING our sins. Confession will result in forgiveness
and cleansing on God's part and repentance on our part. We are not supposed
to sin, confess, and then return to the same sin. We're to confess our
sins, then forsake them. Because when we view our sins in the same way
God does-a vital component of confession--we will become disgusted by our
sins and forsake them.
Is that happening in your life? Are you finding that your confession
is leading to repulsion for your sins and a desire to forsake them and
walk closer to God?
So how is your walk with the Lord? No, really?
Do you yearn for a closer walk? This week I spent quite a bit of time
reading what the prophets had to say about repentance. One of the passages
that I read was Isaiah 44:22 NASB
It says, "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud, And
your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." I
know that I've read that verse before, but living on the Monterey Peninsula,
it takes on a new meaning for me. What would you describe as the perfect
Monterey day? For me, it would begin with a thick, soupy fog and marine
layer. I don't like sustained fog, like the Tule fog in Central California,
but the early morning fog that we get here is the primary reason our weather
is so moderate, and I love it. But by about 9:00 or 10:00, the sun has
burned it off and we're left with blue sky, warm sunshine and shirtsleeve
weather. Doesn't this verse remind you of a perfect Monterey Day? God comes
along and wipes out our transgressions like a thick cloud, and our sins
like a heavy mist.
Do you yearn for that kind of relationship with God? One without pretense
or secrets. One without dark clouds or thick fog. One that is earthy and
honest. Jeremiah summed it up in Jeremiah 24:7 NASB, "And I will give them
a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and
I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart."
Don't you yearn for a heart like that? A heart that compels you to know
God, to forsake your sins and return to Him wholeheartedly?
I think that's what Ezekiel had in mind in Ezekiel 11:18_20 "When they
come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations
from it.  And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit
within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and
give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in My statutes and
keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall
be their God." (NASB)
How is your heart? Do you have a passion for God? Would you say that
you have a pure heart? Don't you want to have that kind of relationship
to God? Not the relationship of a wicked servant cowering in fear of the
inevitable judgment day when an angry God will surely punish, but of a
faithful servant walking daily in the sunshine of God's grace fully prepared
to meet her maker on the judgment day. Not because of any merit you have,
but because of the shed blood of Jesus and the new heart that God has transplanted
in your chest. Isaiah wrote, "For thus says the high and exalted One who
lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, And
also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit
of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15 NASB)
So how do you get that close walk with the Lord that you yearn for?
Every year on the Friday before Easter, Philippine young men volunteer
to have their hands and feet nailed to a wooden cross for a brief time
to imitate the crucifixion of Jesus. These men, known as kristos, express
repentance of their sins by torturing themselves. The yearly reenactment
of the Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) features the mock crucifixion of at
least ten men and the flagellation of another 500 Filipinos. Local church
leaders strongly discourage the practices, which began in the 1950s. Others
question the intentions of the kristos, because the annual event now attracts
large numbers of tourists and journalists to the small village. Reports
persist that participants receive cash from tourists and event sponsors,
though locals deny the rumors.
Is this kind of self-mutilation necessary for forgiveness of sins? No!
No one needs to be crucified to experience the forgiveness Jesus offers.
Besides, the agony of the kristos experience is only a fraction of the
pain Jesus experienced. Then, Jesus went beyond human experience when He
experienced the agony of being separated from God completely. Jesus cried
out, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" When he had endured the
full measure of God's judgment against the depraved actions of the human
race, Jesus said, "It is finished." And it was! (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
God does not ask us to pay for our sins or prove our sincerity by hurting
ourselves. Christ has paid the penalty for our sins, I Corinthians 15:
3_4 says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He
was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures."
Jesus has paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain,
but He made it white as snow.
He doesn't want us to hurt ourselves, but He does want us to repent.
In Matthew 4:17 Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
And in Luke 5:32, He said, "I have not come to call the righteous but
sinners to repentance." (NASB)
That's us. We're the sinners He is calling. That's not up for debate.
All that's left to decide is will we respond to his call-will we repent?
Will we choose to continue to walk in the cloud of our transgressions and
the mist of our sins, or shall we repent and walk in the sunshine of His
Ezekiel wrote, "Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness
which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will
save his life." (Ezekiel 18:27 NASB)
Repentance results from a repulsion with our condition and a desire
to turn from our sins and live for God. It saves us from a life of selfishness
Jesus taught the church to preach a message of repentance in Luke 24:47
when He said, "With my authority, take this message of repentance to all
the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for
all who turn to me.'" (NIV)
It was the message that the church preached in Acts 3:19 "Repent therefore
and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing
may come from the presence of the Lord;" (NASB) And it is the message that
I bring today. Repent! Return to the Lord. And if you will, you will enjoy
a renewed walk with God. He will fulfill His promise in Proverbs 1:23 when
He said, "Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you." (NIV)
Yes! That's our prayer; pour out Your spirit upon us! And when we return,
we will walk with Him. The scripture says, "They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of
water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's
father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son." (Jeremiah 31:9 NASB)
So what will your response to the call to repentance be today?