Good afternoon. My name is Matt Timmons and I am a pastor here in town. And I would like to talk to you today about the need for repentance.
Now some of you probably do not know what that is. It might be the first time you’ve ever heard the word. Even if you’ve gone to church a lot, you might only be vaguely familiar with the word.
Others of you might be thinking about something completely different than what I’m talking about. When I say the word “repentance” it makes you think about sitting in a box and talking to a priest through a little window.
That’s not what I’m talking about though. What I’m talking about is true repentance—that is, being so sorry for the things you’ve done wrong—for having sinned against God—that you turn away from them to God for forgiveness. That’s what I mean when I talk about repentance.
I think that this is perhaps one of the most important things that I could talk to you about today. Perhaps it is the most important thing you will ever hear. Why do I say that? It is because without true repentance, there is no escaping eternal ruin.
I want you to listen to what Jesus says in the Bible. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
This passage is kind of funny because Jesus was talking to some really religious guys here. These were the kind of guys who went to church every week and were even leaders in the church. And by all outward appearances, they were very ethical people. They were the kind of people you would probably want as neighbors. But Jesus said to them, “If you do not repudiate the sins in your life and turn to God, you are not going to go to heaven. You are going to go to hell.”
Oddly enough, most people today make that same mistake that those people in Jesus’ day make. Most people think they are going to go to heaven when they die. Surveys say that around 80-90% of people think that way. I would assume that if we took a poll here, that would be true of us here today. But I want you to understand that it takes more than simply dying to get into heaven. The Bible says that to avoid going to hell, you must repent.
If you think about it too, you will understand why this is true. If you understand it correctly, you will see the connection between repentance and love.
A number of years ago I was talking to my daughter after she had disobeyed me. At the time she was quite obstinate, and she was even stubbornly resisting my discipline of her. So I began to talk to her about what she had done. I told her, “It hurts me when you disobey me. It really makes me sad.” At that moment her crusty little heart melted. All of a sudden she burst into tears, and she threw herself into my arms.
That was her three year old way of repenting. But what made her do it? It was her love for me. She couldn’t stand to think that she had hurt me because she loved me.
The same is true in regard to the Lord. God will only embrace and eternally comfort those who love him. And those who love him will find themselves deeply grieved that they have in any way offended him.
So I hope you understand that you cannot get to heaven without repentance. And if you think that you are in a state of salvation, but you have never repented, please recognize that you are deceived. And that needs to be corrected. God tells us here that the repentance-less life is the straight track to hell.
Yet, if you turn to him and express regret over your sins, you can be assured that God will be gracious to you. He is tender to those who look to him in faith, and He stands with his arms outstretched, ready to receive you back. He will not turn you away. Neither will he deal abrasively with you for your sins, should you bring them to him. Rather, if you turn to him with repentance in your heart, he will open wide the gates of heaven to you.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.