October 11, 2020 Sin and Repentance

Sin and Repentance

 

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.

 

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. [1]

 

The apostle was intending on visiting Corinth for a third time. The reason for his visit would be to correct the believers there. He had already corrected them in his first letter. They had repented of their sins to a great extent. But there were still some in Corinth who needed correction. You must know that God’s people, even in the age of grace, are a sorry lot. Since Corinth was a Gentile city, many of the church members were not raised in a home where the Scriptures were known and practiced. It is the same today. There are fewer and fewer Christian homes (in relation to the population at large) than there were a generation or two ago. Therefore, sin is predominant in the lives of many before they place their faith in Christ. These sins, even after conversion, continue to tempt the follower of Christ.

 

The two matters which needed correction were the Corinthians disloyalty to Paul (by listening to the false apostles that had come there) and there were some who had not dealt with the practice of sin in their lives.

 

Christ’s church must be pure. This means that we must be on guard against sin in our own lives first. We must also address sin in the congregation as Paul did.

 

Paul lists the sins of which he has become aware. Quarreling is going on among the Christians there. Paul does not mean disagreements. We may disagree without becoming disagreeable. Ideally, it is best for two or more people to agree on matters. Because this is the ideal it is perfectly fine to discuss whatever matter they do not see in the same way, as we seek to realize the ideal. Each party gives reasons why they think they hold to the truth on a certain matter. This is called dialogue. It can and should be peaceable. The best outcome is that the two parties end up agreeing. But, even if they do not, each can be at peace knowing that they have good reasons for their position and that the Lord may bring the other person around one day.

 

Paul refers to quarreling. This is not simply disagreement. Rather, it is disagreement with emotions raised and an insistence that the other party agree. It is disagreement without an end. Bad feelings attend. Since we are called to love one another and be at peace with one another, quarreling is a sin.

 

Paul lists jealousy as a sin that afflicted some. While Christians seek to avoid the so-called big sins, like fornication, adultery, and drunkenness, they are often blind to some of the most destructive sins, like jealousy.

 

I have been reading to Genevieve the stories of Horatio Alger in the evenings. We have been reading these stories for about a year. We are presently on Alger’s tenth book. He has written well over 100, so we are in no danger of ending our enjoyable enterprise. Alger is famous for writing “rags to riches” stories. This is the theme to all the books that we have read thus far. Each book is about a child, anywhere from ten to fifteen years of age, who is either homeless or living in squalid conditions with a guardian who is neither his parent nor seeking his welfare. Through hard work and the providence of God, the child gets ahead in life and eventually becomes successful. These are very encouraging and uplifting stories that give hope to those who are downtrodden. And, we all feel downtrodden at times, do we not?

 

But there is another theme that runs through these books. In fact, it is in every one so far. There is a character in each book who becomes jealous of the main character. The jealousy grows and they seek to bring disrepute upon the hero of the story.

 

Horatio Alger’s books were extremely popular when they were first published 150 years ago.[2] They are still popular today after all these years and are especially appreciated by Christian families because of the virtues that are highlighted and encouraged in the stories. I think another reason that they were popular is because they reflect the sins of those who would bring harm to those who seek good. Although some have criticized Alger for being overly optimistic about the American Dream, no one ever criticized him for portraying the vices of some of the characters in his books. Why? I think because they are so true to life. Jealousy and envy are in the hearts of many!

 

Jealousy is ever present in his stories because jealousy is ever present among us! It afflicts the follower of Christ just as much as it does the unbeliever. We must be ever on guard against it!

 

My experience is that women are more prone to this sin than men. That is not to say that men do not experience it. Of course they do. (And, decidedly, there are sins that afflict men moreso than women.) Yet, I have heard many, many negative comments over the years from women about other women in the church that I can only attribute to jealousy. In fact, jealousy can kill you! If it doesn’t kill you physically, it will kill your spirit.

 

Jealousy harms the one to whom the jealousy is directed against. This is so because, often, the one who is jealous speaks against that person and tarnishes their reputation. It harms the one who is jealous because it makes a person unhappy and miserable. It can lead to depression. The apostle James says that jealousy leads to other sins:

 

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.[3]

 

Jealousy leads to disorder and even sinful practices.

 

One cannot only be jealous of a person, but one can be jealous of an activity!

There was a paid announcement in the newspaper in which the husband advertises he will not be responsible for his wife’s debt. The ad added that his wife “having left my bed and board—and absconded with my flute …” Yes, she ran away with the family piccolo.

The husband John Oresky was a musician, having played with the greatest bands and orchestras. But there was no harmony at home. When his wife left him she never even took a dress from her closets full of clothes—she left only with a small suitcase and the flute. Explained the husband: “It’s because she is jealous, jealous of that flute.”

 

Jealousy can dissolve a marriage, cause disorder in the church, and even kill a person! Be on guard against jealousy!

 

Paul lists anger as a sin that he has heard about among the Christians at Corinth. This is a sin that afflicts men moreso than women. But, of course, women are not immune.

 

Hostility is merely the expression of anger. In a civilized society, people generally keep their anger to themselves. Those that are mean spirited give free expression to their anger. We have been seeing hostility expressed in some of our major cities as riots are out of control. What is amazing is that those that express their hostility are the same ones that keep talking about “love and acceptance.” These perpetrators of violence have no moral foundation to check themselves because they reject God’s word. When you reject God’s word, you reject God. When you reject God, your internal compass is defiled and becomes weak, allowing for all manner of sins. The final end of this rejection is an eternity in the lake of fire where the suffering will have no end.

 

But Christians may exhibit hostility too. I tell you, every sin that predominates in society the Christian is subject to as well as the lost.

 

Paul names slander and gossip. These sins, sadly, are common. Yet, because they are common does not mean that they are not serious. Do you know why they are common? Because they are both rooted in pride. The reason we speak poorly of others is because it creates the impression that we are above the kind of behavior of which we accuse them. We think it builds us up. It may even do so in the eyes of others. But, not in the eyes of God! It lowers us in the eyes of God. Flee gossip! One way to refrain from gossip is, when you are about to say something about another person, ask yourself, “If they were in the next room and could hear what I am saying, would I still say it?” If the answer is no, then don’t say it!

 

What do you do when you hear gossip? Be bold. Ask the person who is telling it to you if they have sat down with the person they are talking about and explained to them that their behavior is outside the will of God. Most often, they have not. Your reply should be, “Then, dear friend, you should not be telling me.”

 

I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. [4]

 

If Paul comes to them and discovers that there are those who are still living in sin, he will be humbled. “Humbled” (ESV) is probably not the best translation. A better rendering is “humiliated” (NASB, NET). Paul would be humiliated if there are those who are engaging in sex outside of marriage because they had rejected his persistent call to holiness. Their sin reflects upon his guidance for their lives.

 

Repentance is necessary when there is sin. Both the lost and those who belong to Christ need repentance. Repentance accomplishes different things in the life of each, but it is the same resolution of the mind and heart in each.

 

What is repentance? You must know that there is heresy afoot in the church. (Heresy is an abandonment of established, “cardinal” doctrines of the church [Lexham Bible Dictionary].) There is a heresy called the “free grace” doctrine that teaches one does not need to repent in order to receive salvation. One only needs to “accept” Jesus as Savior. The proponents of this false teaching run into a problem because there are so many passages of Scripture that tell us we must repent. How do they get around them?

 

They redefine repentance. They say that repentance is nothing more than a change of mind about who Jesus is. While the literal rendering of the Greek word for repentance, metanoeo, does mean “to change the mind,” in biblical context it has to do with sin. Repentance is a change of mind about our own sin which results in a change of living.

 

The passage before us makes this clear. Paul is calling upon those who have sinned to repent of their sin.

 

Consider the words of our Lord:

 

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” [5]

 

See the context of our Lord’s words. Repentance has to do with “sinners.” It has to do with “offenders.” Just because bad things happen to some people it isn’t because they are so much worse than we are. We all must repent of our sins. This is the great and devilish misunderstanding of most people: they do not take sin seriously enough. Sin is rebellion against a holy God. We must turn away from it in order to receive mercy. This is the predominant theme throughout the entire Bible.

 

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,

but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. [6]

 

We must forsake our sin (repent) in order to receive forgiveness.

 

if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them[7]

 

See, again, that there is a condition that Solomon reveals. “If they repent…” How do they repent? They say, “we have sinned and acted perversely.” If they repent, then God will hear and forgive.

 

(See also 2 Chronicles 7:14; Acts 8:22; I John 3:9.)

 

How may we apply these words of the apostle Paul to ourselves?

 

Be on guard against sin in your life. We are all on different levels of progression in our journey to the celestial city. Some are more mature in the faith and some are not. There are some among us that struggle with sin in greater measure than others. Some may think, “I have so many problems that I don’t know where to start.”

 

Do not be discouraged if that is you! You may have several sins that afflict you. Let me offer this counsel: Although you ought to confess all the sins of which you are aware, as you seek to overcome them just focus upon one.

 

The Spirit seems to lay upon our conscience a certain sin. You will know what it is by the bothering that you experience within yourself. This has been the experience of so many men and women of God throughout the ages. That is the sin with which you must deal. Confess them all, but center your battle upon one.

 

The Lord has promised you the victory over every sin, including the one that besets you the most. The reason that you will have the victory is that it does not depend solely upon you. It depends most fully upon the Spirit, which you possess if you belong to Christ.

 

The Lord is asking your cooperation, though. You will need a strategy to overcome sin. The strategy will differ according to the sin. Allow me to give you an example.

 

Many years ago, when I worked for a government agency, I became aware of the sin of slothfulness in my life. I was involved in doing investigations and I did excellent work. In fact, I received awards for my work almost every year that I worked for this agency. But, the only reason I was able to get awards was that I did outstanding work in the mornings. From the first hour until lunchtime, I did my investigations and wrote my reports. After lunch, a great feeling of laziness came over me. I struggled to do anything!

 

My conscience bothered me, because I knew that I was not putting in as productive a day as I should. I prayed about it often but to no avail. In fact, year after year this sin afflicted me. There seemed to be no change in me. My conscience began to bother me so much that I knew I had to do something. Here is what I did. I read a chapter in a book entitled Pleasing God by R C Sproul. The chapter, although short, was on the sin of slothfulness. I then fasted and prayed for three days. I prayed over the chapter, praying many of the paragraphs back to God. After these three days, I noticed a great difference! The Lord answered! I could work more diligently in the afternoons. I was still tempted to skate instead of work. But, there was victory in my life!

 

These are the tools in your toolbox: confession, repentance, and a strategy. Use the tools that the Lord has given you. I promise you that, if you use these tools, you will receive the victory! The victory is coming because it is through the Spirit! God will deliver you!

 

When you experience the freedom from one sin it will be time to move on to another. You will be transformed! Remember to thank the Lord for every victory. You will also experience greater blessings in your life because they accompany your transformation!

 

God is gracious. God is merciful. God is good.

 

See it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 12:20–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] His first and most well known book, Ragged Dick, was published in 1868.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jas 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 12:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 13:2–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 28:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 8:47–50). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.