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One Sinner Who Repents

Date: Jan. 31, 2010

Author: Michael Mark

Luke 15:1-10

Key Verse: Luke 15:10

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The beginning of the previous chapter (ch. 14) started with Jesus teaching at the Pharisee’s house, and gradually moved to him traveling around and teaching. Here we see that as he was traveling, Luke specifically mentions that tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. It’s interesting that he points this out, maybe it could mean that earlier, Jesus was probably among Pharisees, teachers of the law, and normal people – but now we see the outcasts of society – tax collectors and people labeled as “sinners” come to hear Jesus. Sinners might have referred to those whose sins were not hidden, well known gluttons, drunkards, adulterers, and perhaps even prostitutes.

Seeing that Jesus welcomed them, and did not turn them away, they muttered amongst themselves “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The Pharisees were careful not to associate with such sinners, or else they believed they would become defiled and unclean. The Pharisees believed that by their own rituals and laws, they would receive salvation, but sinners such as those that gathered were hopeless and not to be dealt with. In contrast, even one sinner who repents is of supreme significance to Jesus – so much so that heaven rejoices.

In studying the next two parables the common object of joy is the sinner who repents. Let us examine ourselves for a moment to see what we know about repentance. In the recent past here at IIT UBF, we have had to deal with a diminishing spirit and enthusiasm among members. Our testimonies also seem to indicate that we repeatedly struggle with the same sins, some have stopped writing testimonies altogether. The question is then, have we truly repented, and how do we know? Through this study, we’ll learn more about repentance in three parts: 1. All Men are Lost – this will show why we need to repent, and turn back to God. 2. The Lord Comes to the Rescue – we learn how to repent by understanding what God has done for us, and 3. All Heaven Rejoices, and learn about joy in heaven, which is the outcome of our repentance.

Part I: All Men Are Lost

Look at verse 4a: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.” A lost sheep is a most helpless animal – a sheep that is lost cannot find its way back home, and naturally they have nothing to defend themselves with. They make easy prey for predators, as they are slow and weak. Wolves and wild dogs would not have a hard time capturing one, and have read that some ravens know to pluck a sheep’s eye out, making it easier to catch and kill. In this world too, are predators waiting to pounce on helpless souls. Vices like money, drugs and alcohol tempt a victim and have ruined and destroyed countless lives.

We make easy targets for such evil because we were born with sin, which the Bible compares to darkness. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” We like being in sin, being in the dark because we can hide in it, no one can know how evil we really are because it is never exposed by the light. Also, sin is enticing and alluring and we would rather indulge in sin instead of coming into the light. The light makes us uncomfortable because it reveals the truth about us, so in order to continue to sin we like sheep just go astray.

Look at verse 8a now: “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.” Like the silver coin, which has value, our lives also have value, and are stamped with the image of God, but when we are lost, like the coin, we can get trampled on, kicked around, scratched up, broken and covered in dust – and over time the image becomes faded and worn out. God has made us in his image, he made us in his glory, but our sin has marred that image. There’s a hymn that goes, “Stamp thine own image, onto my heart,” but the lost who do not know God cannot have his image stamped onto their hearts. They suffer the same fate as the lost coin. God’s original image for man included life, love, holiness, righteousness and glory, but in our sin that image becomes tainted with anger, discord, jealousy, hatred and the like.

Unlike the sheep and the coin which cannot choose to become unlost, when we are lost sometimes we choose to stay lost, and this is where we will be judged by God at the end of our lives. I have had some friends come to church and study the Bible, and then decided it was not for them and never continued on in the faith elsewhere. I know another person whom I have had deep conversations with about God, yet he was continually hindered by his lust and immoral relationships with women – never fully able to commit himself to God so that he could pursue a relationship which was and continues to be damaging to his life. For them, they have made a stand to stay outside the faith, but how about us inside the church?

It is far worse for us to remain in the church, and remain lost at the same time. While those who made a stand outside the faith indulge freely in their sin, those inside the church not only are more miserable because of a hypocritical double-life, but also will have more judgment incurred on them because they receive the knowledge of God but still continue to live as lost within the church. It is not my place to judge, but my responsibility to tell the truth, so that on judgment day you will not be taken by surprise but rather be found blameless. Let your conscience be your guide as to whether or not you need to repent of these things: from Gal 5:19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Perhaps we are free from these, so now consider this: from John 15:1-2, 5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We were worried about stagnating in this ministry for a little while, so let us examine ourselves to see if we are bearing fruit, and I don’t mean more sheep or bible students – the fruit I am talking about are qualities in the virtues of Christ, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Also, are we growing in our love for God? Are we growing in our love for others?

I hope I am not sounding harsh, but rather I hope to give you words that will give you life and life to the full. Jesus said that he has come to give us life, and life to the full. Let your own conscience be the judge of whether or not you are continuing to live as one lost, and whether you need to repent.

Part II: The Lord Comes to the Rescue

Look at verse 4b: “Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Some people might have suggested that the ninety-nine could be the Pharisees that he left, but it makes more sense to me that the 99 were the angels in heaven that Jesus left to go after the lost sheep. In any case, this account parallels Jesus’ coming into the world to go after his sheep. He gave up his heavenly glory and his heavenly throne and was born into the world as a vulnerable baby, with flesh and blood to experience all that a man experienced. He came vulnerable to wicked men, and he was met by demons and even by Satan himself, but courageously he came so that he could seek and save the lost.

Verse 8b says, “Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” Those 10 little coins were of supreme value to the woman – it is not stated in the parable, but imagine that those 10 coins were all that she had. Her heart would go out for the coin and she would not rest until she found it. They were of immeasurable worth to the woman, just as we are of immeasurable worth to Jesus.

Have you ever wanted something so much you would go through great lengths to get it? This happened to me twice, and it’s whenever McDonalds has those happy meal promotions. The first time was with the Finding Nemo toys from the movie. There was a collection of 8 that I wanted to get, but not every one was at every restaurant – so I did everything I can to get a whole set. I drove to every McDonalds I passed by to ask for a specific toy, and searched on Ebay for the missing pieces, and eventually I got them all. Then, it happened all over again when they had a collection of stuffed dogs. I was not satisfied until I got every one of them. When you really want something, you go after it with all your heart. And Jesus went through great lengths to go seek us and to save us.

Take a look at verse 5: And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders. Notice 2 things: 1: joyfully, and 2, shoulders. First – after finding the sheep, the shepherd was not angry that the sheep had strayed, and even if he became weary from the search, all that melted away at finding the sheep, and joy overcame the shepherd’s heart. So it is, when Jesus finds us, not looking at us with a face of stern judgment, but a face of joy and compassion. Second – he placed the sheep on his shoulders. The sheep might have been tired, frightened and weak from being lost, but the shepherd didn’t make the sheep walk back, the shepherd picked the sheep up onto his shoulders, and carried it all the way back home. We have a shepherd that has broad strong shoulders, we have a mighty shepherd, a shepherd who is mighty to save! Our shepherd is Jesus.

Our God was mighty to save. The price for sin was high – the price for sin was death and eternal punishment. The righteousness of God demands this. Just as the sheep cannot save itself, nor can the coin jump to the woman, we cannot save ourselves. If God is righteous and just, a price had to be paid for the sin of the world – he had to satisfy his justice because grievous wrongs had been committed, grievous sins had been committed. His creation became corrupt, and it needed to be destroyed or crushed. Yet, instead of crushing us, he crushed his one and only Son on the cross, so that his justice may be met, and that we might live.

From the beginning Jesus was ordained to die for us. God knew, if he made man in his image, a man with free will, there was a chance they would rebel. So he ordained his son to die, should this creation need redemption – and his Son, Jesus, who so loved God’s creation, agreed to lay down his life for us. He went through great lengths to save us, because he loved us and wanted us – so he gave up his heavenly glory and submitted himself to God, becoming like a man and exposed to pain, suffering, anguish, agony, torment and death. Ultimately he was led to the cross, and there he was slain for our sins. The cross is extremely important to God, because on it Jesus had paid that high price so that our lives would be saved, so that we may become the reward for his suffering.

It is also the cross which is the key to our repentance. So what is repentance? It is often easily misunderstood, so let us look at 3 common misconceptions that have become like false substitutes for repentance (sourced from Harry Ironside’s book on repentance: Except Ye Repent). First, repentance is not penitence – that is, feeling sorry for our sins. Repentance does include sorrow, but often even when we feel bad for our sins we go right back to doing them. For example, we could say we feel guilty for getting drunk last week, but have a party scheduled to go to the upcoming weekend. Second, repentance is not penance – that is, paying a penalty to have the sins removed. In the 1500s, the Catholic church used to sell indulgences that would supposedly give you a pardon for any sins you have committed. This is nothing short of a license to sin, and does not absolve or resolve any sin problems. Third, repentance is not reformation, which means a change of behavior. Repentance does involve a change of behavior, but it starts internally. Reformation in this context is simply an external behavior change, or change based solely on our human effort. They are like New Year’s resolutions, which usually get broken after a few weeks. Also note that the Pharisees obeyed every law to the letter, and followed every commandment, but inwardly they were still proud and self-righteous.

So what is repentance? Repentance is a change of mind and attitude. It is a complete reversal of one’s inner attitude toward self, toward sin, toward God and toward Christ. It is a reversal of the self-will, the self-righteousness, the self-centeredness, the sin-loving and the pride of man, into the selfless, sacrificial, God-centered, God-fearing, sin-hating, humble submissive servant to the Lord. The changes in external behavior are the result, not the cause of repentance. Our outward changes are valid only if our inside attitudes change first. Repentance is not a work of the flesh, but a work of the Spirit.

So how can we truly repent?

Spurgeon defined two type of repentance, one desirable and the other undesirable. The undesirable one he called a legalistic repentance. This repentance is where one is afraid of the wrath of God and afraid of hell. This is the wrong type of repentance because it promotes a fear in the wrong thing and does not produce much love or gratitude. It is also a selfish type of repentance, because our basis for repenting is because we fear the eternal burning of hell, which is a natural fear all creatures have. The other type of repentance is an evangelistic repentance, and that is where the fear is placed on the source of the wrath of God – which is sin. The fear is placed on sin because that is the reason why Jesus was crucified.

We can repent when we come to Calvary, when we come to the cross, and fix our eyes on Jesus. Turn the eyes of your mind to Jesus, and look at the blood dripping down from the cross. Realize that it could have been your blood dripping down there, but the Lord came down and bore all the pain, all the suffering, all the agony, all the anguish, and all the torment for you, so that you might live. It was the price for my sin, and he paid it. And then think – think to yourself, who am I, that my King should come down and die for me? And here our attitude towards Christ changes – to know that I am unworthy, but he is worthy. I am not worthy – but he is worthy of all honor, of all praise and of all glory. He is worthy of me, and he is worthy of my life.

And then we can look at sin, and realize that every time we sin, it is a lash on Jesus’ back. It was because of our sin he was stricken, it was because of our sin he was crucified – and so to repent – we fear sinning, because it caused our Lord agony. We hate it, because our Lord loved us that he bore it’s awful price. Repent, turn your eyes upon Jesus and when you forget, continue to look upon that cross. Submit yourself to the Lord, and He will work repentance in you.

Part III: Rejoicing in Heaven

Verse 7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Whatever interpretation we accept – whether the 99 are the Pharisees or angels, there is still an emphasis on the one sinner who repents.

Let’s read verse 10 together: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Again, there is an emphasis on the individual sinner.

Every single sinner, including you, are very very valuable to God, because he came and offered his life to save you. There is not one life or soul that is more valuable than another, but all are valuable to Jesus. Unlike the Pharisees, he does not say “I like this guy, but not that guy,” no, Jesus says “I gave my LIFE for you, and you and you and you, I gave my life for EVERYONE, and I want every one of the souls which cost me my life!” Remember that our Lord is mighty to save!   He can do it – has done it! And if any doubt – remember what he said on the sermon on the mount: God cares for living thing on this earth – he feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, how much more does he love and care for you! Every soul saved is an eternal soul, able to enjoy an eternity with a God who has proven his love by laying down his life for us. We all belong to Jesus Christ, and we are the reward for his suffering – we are his treasure and prized possession, it is no wonder heaven rejoices for every soul saved.

And this joy is multiplied through and through – just as the shepherd or the woman calls all her friends and neighbors to rejoice, so God multiplies his joy by calling all of heaven, all angels, and all of his children on the earth to rejoice. For example, we all remember those in our ministry that have gone out – Mike Staats, Ison Hong, Sarah Leingang, Peter Mugisa – we rejoice that they are now blessings to other ministries and continue to pray for them. And for those that have come recently to our ministry – Simon, Moses, Immanuel, Ping, Tom, Emily, Yomala, and just recently Joe, Jason and Jessica, we rejoice over every soul that joins us, we pray for each one continually that they may come into the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. We remember Tom, who came faithfully to the Bible club every week last year – but never said a word, yet he came, week after week. And I saw his changed heart toward God, and toward sin, and told him one night, “You know, heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents, and now heaven is rejoicing over you…” So this past Thursday, in our first Bible Study for the Bible club, Tom spoke out, and made a great contribution to our discussion. It was a great encouragement to me, and we take joy in watching students grow like that.

We were lost souls in need of a Savior, and a Savior mighty to save was given to us. When we repent, and believe in Jesus, all heaven rejoices that a new soul has entered into the kingdom. Just as the spirit of joy is contagious, so is the effect of repentance. Examine yourself to see if your repentance is effective by asking yourself these things:

  1. Is your relationship and love for God growing and deepening every day? Do you have a thirst and desire for him and his word?
  1. Have you become more sensitive to his leading in your life, that you may know and approve of his will?

I would like to share something from Ezekiel 18:30-32, and as you think about your sensitivity to the word and leading of God, see also if you can hear these words come to life in your heart, as if God is speaking them to you now, as they were written thousands of years ago:

“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

As we all grow in faith, we begin to have the same heart as God, and can ask that same question of others, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” And plead for others, “Why will you die?” God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desire that all repent and come to into life!

And 3. Is your hatred of sin in your life intensifying as you grow?

Repentance is not a destination, but a journey. We must fix the eyes of our minds on Jesus, and to fix our eyes means to keep them on Jesus – all day, every day. When we humbly come to the cross, and submit ourselves to the Lord, He will do a great work of repentance within us. Repentance leads us to Jesus, and into salvation, into the fullness of life and everlasting life. This is the only life, this is the true life, it is the only real life to have. The angels know the guilt and fate of man, and when man comes to realize that, and turn from it, coming into life, God himself and all the heavenly hosts rejoice with a noise that reverberates through the heavens.

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