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Jun 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 16, 2019

Matthew 3:1-2 and 4:17

Intro: These were the first public announcement of both John and Jesus

This is the “short form” of the message they brought
– their “elevator speech” that contained three points:
• the kingdom of heaven is finally arriving
• you are not ready for it
• get ready
– the world Jesus entered was not ready for HIM
• many people in Israel were waiting for a Messiah
◦ but their concept of a savior was imperialistic and nationalistic
◦ certainly not a Savior who would suffer and die for the world
• they looked for a Messiah who would change things
◦ Jesus came as a Messiah who would change them

In his parables, Jesus talked about the last part of this message:
the kingdom of heaven
– but in the Sermon On Mount, he elaborated on the first part: Repent
• in his sermon, he turned their world inside out
You have heard that it was said of old . . . . But I say to you . . . (Mt. 5:21, 27, etc.)
• it was as if he said,
“What you have thought about the Messiah is only partially true. What you have thought about God is only partially true. And what you have thought about religion is only partially true. You have lived with these illusions, but I have come to show you what is true. The reality of God and the truth about yourselves.”
– it is not easy for us to see why this was so difficult for them to hear
• but this is not the sort of message we want to hear either

I am not very fond of the word “repent”

Like most of my dysfunctional thinking, this has to do with upbringing
– to repent was to see myself as the worst sinner who ever lived
• to wallow in guilt, to be ashamed and disgusted with myself
• to feel hopeless, because a holy God could never love someone like you
– every Sunday night there would be an “altar call”
• I would beg and beg for forgiveness, but never felt forgiven
◦ because I knew following week I’d be back there again observing the same ritual of failure and shame
• I never felt the guilt leave me
◦ never felt God’s full acceptance or unconditional love
– I’ve learned that always feeling bad about the person I am does not change me
• never being released of guilt sabotages repentance
◦ instead of making progress, you get stuck
• all my angst was based on a faulty conception of repentance

Repentance isn’t a psychological collapse into self-loathing

It isn’t about punishing yourself for your sins
– or groveling before God to win his forgiveness
• very simply, it is about change
• I believe Jesus prefers having calm and rational discussions with us
◦ about where we go wrong
◦ and what he wants from us
– in the Old Testament, another way to talk about repent is turn or return
• when Israel returned from exile, the heard law read and wept
◦ it was a natural response to realizing what their sins had cost them
◦ but their priests and leaders wouldn’t let them get stuck in sorrow
. . . this day is holy to our LORD. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10)

I think this is one of those times when a Greek word is important
– repent is metanoeite – a compound word
meta: a preposition “with” or “after”
noeo: – think, understand, perceive
◦ so repent is to think after think after,
◦ to have second thoughts, to change your mind
– in classical Greek, repentance engaged not only intellect
• it was coupled with a feeling – regret
◦ regret is not wallowing in guilt and shame
◦ and regret without change is not repentance

The first word we hear Jesus tell us is the command, “Change”

Maybe there’s someone here, so satisfied with life, they wouldn’t change a thing
– for the rest of us, we can think of a few healthy changes
• typically: better diet, more exercise, learn more
◦ be a better spouse or parent, have more self-control
◦ be less anxious, be a happier person
• Jesus’ command to change doesn’t have to be bad news
– but start moving toward change and we discover our inner rebel
• we have more resistance than motivation
◦ we want to change, but we drag our feet when it’s time to begin
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mt. 28:41)
• I don’t think we’re convinced we want all the changes Jesus does
◦ “Change my life, but leave me the same”

Psychologists have observed,
– people don’t enter therapy unless problem drives them to it
• we wait until the pain of staying same is greater than the pain of change
– imagine residents in neighborhood petitioning a city for a stop sign
◦ they have seen several collisions at one of their intersections
◦ but stop signs are expensive and require traffic control studies
◦ so the city drags its feet–until there’s a fatality at the intersection
• many married couples avoid therapy at the first realization of trouble
◦ by the time they arrive in counselor’s office, it’s too late

The Psalms describe the wicked as people who
do not change
and do not fear God
(Ps. 55:19)
– Jeremiah described the sin of the nation of Moab like this:
Moab has been at ease from his youth
and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed (Jer. 48:11)
– usually we resist change not because we are content,
• but because we are complacent

Repentance begins with a change in perception, thought, and attitude

What we know about the human person today tells us,
– repentance means making changes to our brains
• it wasn’t always believed this was possible
◦ it was thought that once a person became an adult,
◦ the old dog could not learn new tricks
• now we know it is possible for the adult human brain to be changed
◦ and that changes are ongoing
– but the sort of changes we want to make are not easy

Every human brain writes an “owners manual”
– this is written by experience and education
• everything we experience traces a path across brain cells
◦ a single thought travels from one cell to another,
◦ connecting tens of thousands of them in a single cluster
• the owner’s manual is written through repetition
◦ always thinking same thoughts and feeling the same feelings,
◦ cement the connections between the same brain cells
◦ this becomes the brain’s default setting
– our nervous system runs our body according to this owner’s manual
• our brains do not judge if our thoughts and feelings are healthy
◦ the just recognizes triggers and send signals down the same path
• this results in repeatedly reproducing the same psychological and physiological state
◦ perhaps the same negative thoughts and emotions
◦ and yet we wonder,
“Why do I keep making the same mistakes?”
“Why can’t I control my temper?”
“Why do my anxieties always get the best of me?”

To repent is to rewrite the owner’s manual
– that’s what we’re going to venture into this summer

Conclusion: When Israel returned from Babylon to Jerusalem,

They delayed rebuilding God’s temple
– the project seemed overwhelming for their meager resources
• God sent the prophet Haggai to challenge them to get to work on his house
◦ his message to them was, Consider your ways (1:5, 7)
• the first thing they needed to do was practice self-observation
◦ watch themselves – what they were doing and what they were thinking
The philosopher Adam Smith had this to say about self-observation, “When I endeavor to examine my own conduct . . . I divide myself as it were into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represent a different character from the other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of. The first is the spectator. . . . The second is the agent, the person whom I properly call myself . . . .”
– I have found this happens naturally in contemplative prayer
• it’s as if God’s Spirit reveals to my flawed thinking and illusions
• I become aware of what was written in my owner’s manual
◦ these insights show me what needs to be changed
◦ and those changes usually begins with slowing down and deep breathing
– repent is an invitation to get unstuck – an invitation to freedom

This week, I would like for you to consider your ways
– take some time to sit in quiet with God
• be still and listen for what he wants you to see about yourself
◦ what you’ve been accepting as “normal” or putting up with
◦ what you’ve done over and over without purpose or benefit
• and begin your quiet time with the following prayer:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting
Psalm 139:23-24

One Comment

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  1. Valentina karpenko / Jun 23 2019

    Chuck, can you please post the questions that you passed out in Reflexion today for those of us that are watching on line. Thank you kindly for including us in your weekly service. You are a real blessing!

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