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 Pergamum - Repentance

John Hoole April 15, 2007


Would you like to hear a little good news for a change? How about this: Every mistake you ever made, every wrong thing you ever did, will be forgotten-never again remembered. It is possible! But there's a condition. First, you must repent. Now stay with me - Don't go away. Another part of the good news-you can repent!

Everyone of us were on the eternal "death row," waiting for execution. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned. That makes us candidates for the death penalty (Romans 6:23).

The best news you can hear is that a way exists to escape the eternal-death penalty all humans are under. Jesus Christ gave His life for you so that through repentance and forgiveness of sin you can lead a happier, more fulfilled, blessed life now and forever. Repentance is an integral part of the gospel message. It is part of God's good news for mankind. Repentance is not a doom-and-gloom concept. It is one of the greatest gifts and blessings that can be bestowed on anyone.

Let's look closely at this subject so we can understand our need to repent, and see how repentance works in our lives and value it for the blessing it is.

Much of the book of Revelation depicts the outpouring of God's judgment on the earth. But, before ever mentioning the coming judgments in the Book of Revelation, Christ first calls the churches to repentance. 1 Peter 4:17 tells us that judgment must first begin in the house of God.

If the local churches are not a proper expression of God's truth and righteousness, how can they influence the world for Christ? In these letters, we find the Lord of the Church lovingly but firmly speaking to His church.

We have been studying the letter written to the congregation in Pergamum. It is the third of 7 letters Christ dictates to the apostle John in the book of Revelation. Christ tells 5 of the 7 churches to repent. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia are without a single rebuke.

With regard to the church at Pergamum, Christ tells them He sees their works, and where they live, And He adds that where they live is the same place where Satan has his throne. He commends them for several things:

o They held strongly to the name of Christ.

o They did not deny the faith.

He also tells them He is aware that one - Antipas - had lost his life in their midst because he was a faithful witness of Christ.

But although there are many things that are good in this church, Christ had some rebukes to give. They had compromised by allowing some teachers of false doctrine to infiltrate their congregation.

Because of compromise, Christ instructs them to repent. But He adds a two-word phrase that makes one sit up and take careful notice. He says, "Repent, or else...". That "or else" phrase adds some sense of urgency.

Last week, we noted that defection from the faith is usually due to a series of compromises over a period of time. But I also mentioned that when a backslider returns to God, the road back is never long. Like the father of the prodigal son, who ran to meet his returning son, God will be right there if the backslider turns to Him.

Hosea 14:4 NKJV

4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely,...

While falling asleep is a gradual process, waking is often sudden. Recovery from a backslidden condition is no different. The LORD, through the prophet Isaiah, calls Judah to repentance. Notice the language He uses to describe their backslidden condition.

Isaiah 1:5-6 NKJV

5 Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.

God is describing the backslidden condition to a disease. But, God through Jeremiah says He has a cure for that illness.

Jeremiah 3:22 NKJV

22 "Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings."

God promises to receive those who return with repentant hearts.

While we are looking at the church in Pergamum and their compromising with ungodly factions, which precipitated the stern warning of Christ to repent, I want to look at its broader importance.

Let's first look at the importance the Bible places on the subject of repentance. The main theme of John the Baptist was repentance.

Matthew 3:1-2 NKJV

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

With that message, he prepared the way of the Lord.

And when Jesus begins His ministry, His first recorded words are found in Matthew 4:17. "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Jesus declared that the purpose of his coming and ministry was to "call sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).

When Jesus sent out his disciples to take the gospel, what did they preach?

Mark 6:12 NKJV

12 So they went out and preached that people should repent.

After the death of Christ, and following His resurrection, Christ says this:

Luke 24:46-47 NKJV

46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise* from the dead the third day,
47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Jesus declared that unless people repented they would perish (Luke 13:3).

There are two sermons of Peter recorded early in the book of Acts. On the day the Church began, in Acts 2, Peter stands up to speak, and says:

Acts 2:38 NKJV

38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

In the following chapter, Peter and John is at Solomon's Portico, at the Gate Beautiful. There is a lame man sitting at the gate, asking for alms. Peter says to the man, "Silver and Gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

The people around there marvel, and Peter preaches another sermon.

Acts 3:19 NKJV

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,...

When the apostle Paul spoke at Mars Hill (the Areopagus), in Athens, in Acts 17:30, he said that God "...commands all men everywhere to repent." And Peter, in his second letter - 2 Peter 3:9, says God: "...is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance."

Do you see the importance of repentance? If Jesus and those he trained preached repentance, then none will have a meaningful relationship with God unless we do what the Bible calls "repent." That being the case, it is important to find out what it means.

WHAT DOES THE WORD "REPENT" MEAN?

The Old Testament Hebrew word for "repent" has a slightly different meaning from the New Testament word for "repent." The Hebrew word for "repent" is SHUWB. It literally means to turn. Take Psalm 80:3 (ASV) for instance.

3 Turn us again (SHUWB), O God; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.

So, to repent is to turn away from your sin. Young's Literal Translation Bible translates the first phrase of this verse as:

3. Oh God, cause us to turn back,...

In the same Psalm, verses 7 & 19 also use this Hebrew word, translating it as, "Turn us back."

Jeremiah 25:5 NKJV

5 They said, 'Repent (SHUWB) now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings,...

Isaiah 55:7 NKJV

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return (Shuwb) to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

Many of you are familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV.

14 If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn (Shuwb) from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

So, the Old Testament picture of repentance is that of turning. But it is a turning in two parts.

1. Turning from our sins.

2. Turning to God for His help.

Ezekiel 14:6 NIV

6 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices

Notice it says "Repent & turn..." Both words have the same root word, with slight variation. Another translation could be, "Return and turn..." That is: "Return to God and turn away from your sin."

In the New Testament, you have the Greek word, METANOIA. "Metanoia" means "to change our thinking." That's the basic meaning of the word "repent." The basic message of the gospel is change - A change for the better. To be forgiven of sins, you and I need to change. To please God, you need to change. To receive eternal life you need to change. This emphasis on change is focused in the word "repent." People do wrong because they chose to do wrong. In order to start doing right, they must change their mind and decide to do right. That change is the focus of repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind. It is a decision, a choice, a determination of the heart, a deliberate exercise of the will, in which one determines to act differently in the future than he has in the past.

Metanoia and its derivatives is found 56 times in the New Testament. Metanoia is translated "repentance." Metanoéo is translated "repent."

This is the word used in connection with the churches in Revelation. It means changing your way of thinking from the previous way to the proper way. There must be a changing of the mind that brings about a change of direction. But the changing of the mind results in a changing of one's behavior.

The word, "repent," speaks of a revolutionary change in our thinking. It results in a change of our understanding of reality, a change of values, a change of goals, a change of purpose.

WHAT IS IT THEY AND WE ARE CALLED TO REPENT OF?

They (we) are to repent of their (our) sins. The change of mind required by the gospel is repentance of sin. This involves changing ones mind about sin, making up one's mind to cease practicing sin and to become obedient to God.

One of the buzzwords in our society today is the word "tolerance." To be politically correct, one must be tolerant of other beliefs and lifestyles. How can we dare criticize what another person espouses, if he thinks it is right for him. Everything is relative. And you and I are a bigot if we try to persuade him differently. "How dare we put a guilt trip on him," they scold.

I'm sorry to break this news to them and us. Sin is not what they or us think it is. Sin is what GOD thinks it is. If we or they break His laws - it's called sin.

FROM SCRIPTURE WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE ARE TOLD ABOUT REPENTANCE OR THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH REPENTANCE?

From the Scriptures, let me give you a list of things pertaining to repentance.

1. Repentance is commanded to all by God. God wants "all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Ezekiel 18:30-32 NKJV

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.
31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!"

2. It is commanded by Christ. (Revelation 2:5, 16)

Such is the case with both the churches at Ephesus and Pergamum in Revelation.

3. Christ came to call sinners to repentance.

In Matthew 9:13, Christ says, "I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

4. Repentance is necessary for the pardon of sins. (Acts 3:19; 8:22)

Acts 2:38 says, "Repent...everyone of you for the remission of sins." No one can be saved without repentance.

5. Conviction of sin is necessary to repentance. (1 Kings 8:38; Acts 2:37, 38; 19:18)

Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who covers his sins will not prosper. But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."

6. The present time is the season for repentance. (Psalm 95:7,8; Heb. 3:7,8; 4:7)

2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, "Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation." I will say more about the urgency later in the lesson.

7. There is joy in heaven over one sinner brought to repentance.

Luke 15:7 NKJV

7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Verse 10 of that chapter adds: "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

8. Repentance should be evidenced by fruits. (Isaiah 1:16-17).

In Matthew 3:8, Jesus speaks of "bearing fruit worthy of repentance."

The prophet Daniel gives some advice to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:27. He said: Break off your sins (how?)...by being righteous. Break off your iniquities (how?)...by showing mercy to the poor. Daniel was indicating there must be some evidence of repentance.

9. Neglect of repentance is followed by judgment. (Revelation 2:5, 16)

Luke 13:3 NKJV

3 I tell you…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) adds:

"God is not willing for anyone to perish but wants all to come to repentance."

These two verses tell us that the alternative to repentance is perishing.

10. Repentance should be accompanied by:

a) Humility (2 Chron. 7:14; James 4:9-10)

If we will humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways then He says He will hear from heaven and forgive our sins. But humbling ourselves is not, on its own, repentance. The Passage we just read says we are to "humble ourselves" and "turn from our wicked ways." They go together.

b) Shame (Ezra 9:6-15; Jer. 31:19; Ezek. 16:61, 63; Daniel 9:7-8)

Ezra 9:6 NKJV

6 And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities (sins) have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.

The prophet Daniel speaks for all Israel, when he says, in Daniel 9:7-8 (NIV):

7 Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.
8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.

Let me give you an illustration of shame with repentance.

Perhaps the quaintest letter in the whole White House collection is one which came from a youth, addressed to President Cleveland in September, 1885.

"Dear President. I am in a dreadful state of mind, and I thought I would write and tell you all. About two years ago, I used two postage stamps that had been used before on letters; perhaps it was more than two stamps, but I can only remember of doing it twice. I did not realize the seriousness of what I had done until lately. My mind is constantly turned on that subject, and I think about it night and day. Now dear President, will you please forgive me, and I will promise you that I will never do it again. Enclosed find the cost of three stamps, and please forgive me, for I was then but thirteen years old. I am heartily sorry for what I have done. From one of your subject."

One of the misfortunes of our time is that in trying to get rid of false shame, we have killed off so much real shame as well. The world has lost is ability to blush over its sins. And, in some ways, the church has lost her power to weep over sin. To be humbly ashamed is to be plunged into the cleansing bath of truth.

c) Deep Godly Sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

True godly repentance produces a deep grief from a sense of having offended God.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 NKJV

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, so you were not harmed in any way by us..
10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

It is possible to be sorrow, yet not be led to repentance. At the end of this Passage, Paul calls that "sorrow of the world."

Godly sorrow is nothing less than white-hot fire of the Holy Spirit conviction of sins, where we realize, as David did, "against you, you only have I sinned" (Psalm 51:4).

Joel 2:12-13 NIV

12 'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'

13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Godly sorrow is exactly that - godly. It is seeing our sins as He sees them. It is the desire to draw nigh to God, yet knowing your sin prohibits it. It is to see the moral ugliness of our sin.

Psalms 51:16-17 RSV

16 For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Even in Old Testament times, where they strictly observed the offering of sacrifices to God, He says that above sacrifices and burnt offerings, the acceptable sacrifice is a "broken spirit…and a contrite heart."

d) Confession (Leviticus 26:40)

If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Christ has been raise from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Proverbs 28:13 says: "Whosoever confesseth his sin and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

While confession is absolutely necessary for salvation, it is not the only thing. The verse we just read says confession must be followed by forsaking our sins. It's those who confess and forsake that will receive the mercy of God. This is made clear by several biblical example where a person repented, without forsaking their sin. For instance: In Exodus 9:27, Pharaoh says to Moses and Aaron, "I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteousness and my people and I are wicked." But, when God tells him to let His people go, he throws the command of the Lord to the wind. He confessed, but there wasn't a changed character. There were no fruits of repentance.

Earlier in our study of the letter to Pergamum, one of the things Christ had against this church was that they allowed the false doctrines of the Balaam to infiltrate their church. We briefly discussed the actions of Balaam which is recorded in Numbers 22 - 24. God spoke to Balaam through his donkey. And in Numbers 22:34, Balaam says, "I have sinned." But Balaam didn't change his ways. He continued to help Balak, the king of Moab, to set a trap against Israel. Confession alone is not enough.

I could tell you of others in the Bible who confessed their sins, yet it wasn't true repentance.

o King Saul to Samuel - "I have sinned." 1 Samuel 15:24

o Achan to Joshua - "I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel." Joshua 7:20

o Judas to the chief priest - "I have sinned and betrayed innocent blood." Matthew 27:4

It seems to be second nature to all of us deny or minimize our sins, or to make excuses for them. That is exactly what Adam and Eve did. Adam said, "It was the fault of this woman that you, God, gave me."

But, Proverbs 28:13 says, "He that covers his sins will not prosper." Rather, we must confess our sins and no longer practice them.

e) Faith (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21) We are instructed to repent and believe the gospel.

Mark 1:15 NIV

15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

To believe in something is to put your faith in it.

Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace are you saved, through faith,..."

Our faith is never so complete that we get to the place where the heart is no more harassed by doubting. And our repentance is never so pure that it altogether frees us from the potential of hardening our hearts in the future. Because of that, repentance is a lifelong commitment. Repentance should becomes a lifestyle.

f) Turning from sin. (2 Chronicles 6:26)

Jeremiah 25:5 NIV

5 They said, "Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever.

There is a temptation in our society to look good without being good. No, we must turn from our sins…and turn towards God. Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable sinning is not biblical grace. God's grace never encourages us to live in sin. On the contrary, it empowers us to say "no" to sin and "yes" to truth.

Repentance must be perpetual

Repentance is not a one-time thing. It is an ongoing experience in a Christian's life. Every Christian must continue to battle sin in their life. Repentance should be a lifestyle for all believers. The believer who wants to please our Lord will continuously evaluate their life and compare it to God's Word, and seek to conform to the image of Christ. As they see areas that are drawing my focus away from God's plan, they reset their focus on Christ and align their life with His will.

This doesn't mean that I beat myself over the head and live in misery. Instead, I choose to keep myself aligned to God's plan. It is to make Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith.

In the process of growing, there will be times we don't do what God wants, and times when I follow my plan rather than His. And when we recognize this, we need to repent. Godly repentance is to recognize that God's plan is good and my path has no lasting benefit. But we must also recognize that I have not power to follow His plan without His help. I can tell you from my own life that resistance based on my own strength does not work for long. Satan will keep pounding at my weaknesses until I give in. I can hold out for a while, but in time, I will succumb.

The key to resisting temptation is not resistance, but submission. When I submit to God, I am turning from temptation and toward God. No longer am I dependent on my own strength, but, rather, I am depending on His strength. And His strength can help my weaknesses.

Yes, repentance should be a lifestyle. It is the forsaking of our sins throughout the entire course of our lives.

The urgency of repentance

Thomas Fuller said: "You cannot repent too soon, because you do not know how soon it may be too late."

No man or woman can know, with certainty, whether they will still be alive another hour. But, supposing the allowance of time, we still have no assurance that we will have the power to repent. It is possible that the continued sin will harden one's heart to the place where they will have neither power nor will to repent.

Though a person has time and opportunity to repent, the longer the heart and sin converse together, the more familiar they will grow, and the stronger the familiarity, the harder the separation. At one time, the person was strong and his sin weak. At that moment, he could break the neck of sin by godly repentance. But so many have deluded themselves by saying, "I'll repent later," except that later they are weaker and the sin is invincibly strong. The longer the debt of sin remains unpaid, the more it grows.

I don't know who made this statement, but it is good. "If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in."

   
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