Part 3

Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

  1. If Christ had not died for us, each of us would be in an extremely awkward (impossible) position.
    1. Speaking for myself, life would be running out quickly.
      1. What I was capable of doing would lie primarily in my past.
      2. When your past 65, what you have to offer society diminishes very quickly.
      3. For many of us, opportunity begins to vanish rather quickly long before 65.
      4. No matter what you think of yourself or your abilities, there would not be many options for using yourself.
    2. If for some reason I believed in God but Jesus Christ had not died for me, I could not be in a relationship of peace with God.
      1. As I saw the physical realities of life coming to a close, I would be filled with anxiety rather an expectation.
      2. There would not be a way to make my life longer.
      3. Yet, there would be a certain understanding that my life was mostly over and I could not productively expand it.
      4. Even if I were confident God existed, the prospect of meeting Him would increase my anxiety instead of giving me hope.

  2. Because Jesus Christ died for me, I can repent and through repentance let God redirect my life.
    1. However, there is a problem with repenting we have never faced and rarely discuss.
      1. There are at least six situations that confront repentance [and I have no doubt that some of these could be properly subdivided].
        1. There is the adult who knowingly lived a wicked life and brings that wicked life to God in repentance.
        2. There is the adult who has lived a good moral life, but has never been a Christian.
        3. There is the child who is growing up in a home that never worships and is in no way religious.
        4. There is the child who is growing up in an abusive situation--physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect abuse--and knows evil at a very early age.
        5. There is the child who is growing up in a home that goes through the religious motions, but has little relationship with God.
        6. There is the child who grows up in a genuinely godly home with a mother and father who in genuine honesty is devoted to God.
      2. Those are radically different situations.
        1. Repenting means something quite different in each situation.
          1. The situation of the person who lived a wicked life and the person who lived a good moral life have little in common. Both need Jesus, but their repentance needs are quite different.
          2. The situation of the child who develops in a home that "goes through the religious motions" and the child who has been abused is quite different--their repentance needs are quite different.
          3. The repentance needs of a child who is blessed with a godly environment and examples is different in significant ways from all the other situations.
        2. They all need Jesus, but their needs are quite different.
          1. God loves everyone of them, and none more than the other.
          2. God wants a relationship with each of them.
          3. Yet, their repentance needs are distinctly different in becoming a Christian [I am discussing conversion repentance].
          4. The same [identical] repentance message will not fit all those situations.
          5. For every person in every situation, repentance needs to be real life and personally meaningful, not merely hypothetical or theologically based in abstract concepts that are not meaningful to the person.
    2. To me, the situation becomes more complex as we look at scripture.
      1. Every case of conversion in the New Testament is a first generation conversion.
        1. Whether Jew or gentile, the people who came to Christ were the first people in their families to be Christian.
        2. All the New Testament congregations, as far as we know, were composed of first generation Christians.
        3. The New Testament says nothing about people who became Christians in the second or third generations--we cannot give book, chapter, and verse because there are none.
        4. What happened when a person who grew up in a godly home with devoutly Christian parents chose to become a Christian? How did he or she repent?
      2. There are some situations that we understand what needs to happen when a person repents.
        1. We understand what needs to happen when a person turns from a Christless religion to a Christ centered life and community of Christians.
        2. We understand what needs to happen when a person turns from an evil lifestyle to a godly lifestyle.
      3. However, some situations that are not so clear.
        1. For example, if a child grows up in a godly environment as a sincere, God focused child, what needs to happen when that child repents?
        2. How is there to be a redirection of life when you grow up in a home that is focused on godly living?
        3. When a person needs to continue his or her past focus, what is involved in conversion repentance?
      4. We might be tempted to ignore the situation by saying, "It does not matter--it is not something to be concerned about."
        1. Yet, it does matter, and it is something to be concerned about.
        2. There is an existing segment in most Christ centered congregations who have never knowingly or willingly repented but declare themselves Christians.
          1. Some in that situation are filled with guilt and do not consider God's promises concerning forgiveness and its blessings as applying to them.
          2. Some in that situation are totally apathetic and are quite content to go through the motions of coming to church as they "play religion."
          3. Most any preacher or any eldership will acknowledge that much of the church's time and ministry focuses [in some way] on those two groups.
          4. I am not saying ministering to such people is a meaningless effort; I am saying that is an unnecessary problem.

  3. It seems to me that biblical repentance must involve (1) a redirection of life for those who need redirection and (2) a commitment to redirection as the person lives in Christ.
    1. Surely we do not want to redirect the lives of people who are moving to God.
      1. Such people need encouragement to continue living for godly values and purposes.
        1. We do not wish to discourage such focus.
        2. We want to encourage such focus.
      2. Just as certainly we want to encourage those who need to redirect life to do so.
        1. People who need to change focus need to be challenged to change focus!
        2. Those who do not understand that belonging to Christ includes allowing Christ to define our purpose of life and the lifestyle we need must clearly understand that.
        3. Being a Christian does not involve living as you please.
    2. We need to do a much improved job of helping people understand what repentance is.
      1. It is NOT a one time act that only occurs in conversion.
      2. It IS a lifetime commitment to a constant redirection of life toward God and His purposes and ways.
      3. Repentance begins as a part of conversion, but it continues throughout the life of the person in Christ.
    3. We need to do a much improved job of making repentance relevant to each person's need or situation.
      1. We all need to repent.
      2. Repentance should be at the core of who we are in Christ.
      3. However, the focus of repentance for the person who has behaved in a manner that cooperates with evil and repentance for a person who is the product of a godly environment may take very different forms.
        1. If what we call repentance makes us arrogant because "I don't do that," then what we call repentance defeats the Christian attitude.
        2. Repentance should increase our humility, not make us judges.
    4. Allow me to call your attention to some biblical illustrations.
      1. Consider Luke 1:5, 6 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. [This was John the Baptist's parents.]
      2. Consider Luke 2:25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
      3. Consider Luke 2:36,37 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
      4. Can you image people like these four righteous individuals rejecting Jesus as the Christ? I cannot!
        1. I realize the four mentioned in the passages I read might have been dead by Acts 2.
        2. There were others who were righteous, blameless, devout in Israel--those four were not the only four.
        3. Consider Luke 2:38 and Matthew 9:13.
      5. When such people became Christians, of what did they repent? What form did their repentance take?

The ultimate contrast in belonging to God through Christ is the contrast between self and God. It is from this contrast between the unholiness of self and the holiness of God that repentance arises.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 16 April 2006

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell