A Study of 2 Corinthians
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2005|
|Rejoicing in Repentance (2 Cor 7:12-16)|
The Importance of Right Relationships – Part 4:
Rejoicing in Repentance
- Text: 2 Corinthians 7:12-16
Turn to 2 Corinthians 7 and we’re going to actually finish a chapter again. We’re going to be looking at verses 12-16 tonight. We want to talk about the rejoicing in repentance. Now, if you’ve ever had to do the hard thing in telling someone that they are the cause of your relationship being broken, and if you had to go a long time before you have heard whether or not how they have responded, whether or not they have repented, and if you topped it all off with the fact that there was great distance between you, then you can understand why Paul was so emotionally and mentally flat when he arrived in Macedonia.
Now Paul was the one who had to tell them the hard things. He had sent a third letter, a very difficult letter, to the church of Corinth, knowing that it would bring a lot of pain to them when they received it. He had chosen to believe that Christ lived in them, would bring them around and cause them to do the right thing. Now he sent this letter by the man who he called his child in a like and a common faith, over in Titus. His name was Titus.
He sent the letter with him; he was a co-worker to Paul and he could hardly wait to see what he believed would be the response of that church. Paul wanted to hear, so he went down to Troas to meet Titus, and Titus wasn’t there. And this concerned Paul because he should have been there, so Paul set sail over to Macedonia. He made his way quickly because he was so overwhelmed with not understanding how they had responded to that letter. The situation of not knowing caused Paul to be mentally and as I said earlier, emotionally, flat by the time that he got to Macedonia.
Verses 5 and 6 of chapter 7 say, “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side; conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Now the word depressed as we saw last time means flat. In this case, mentally and emotionally flat. Any of you ever been there in your walk with the Lord at times? I have too. But God comforts the depressed.
And it’s amazing; I’ve learned a little bit about this thing in my walk with Him. He’s slow sometimes, in my estimation, but He’s just never late. Have you ever noticed that? He never shows up when I think He ought to show up, but He shows up when it’s the right time to show up. And He shows up in Titus, and Titus brings good news from the Corinthian believers.
By the way, I told you last week about being out camping and hunting with a bunch of the guys and how God just comforted my heart and sent that mountain pigeon, that dove. He jumped over on my foot as if to say, “Do you get the message?” And I got it. I’ve been basking in that. That does not happen by the way. You don’t see these birds very often. They’re only found at high altitudes. They look like a dove that somebody has taken a bicycle pump and pumped it up about 4 times the size and they’re not people friendly. They don’t do this.
That wasn’t Titus, but that was my Titus. How God just comforted my heart by what took place in that. Titus came bouncing into Macedonia thrilled as he could possibly be at the repentance of the Corinthian believers and just couldn’t wait to tell the apostle Paul. Verse 7 says, “and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.”
That word “rejoice” is used four times in the verb and two times as a noun from verse 7 on, so it’s a real theme of what Paul is talking about right here. The Corinthians had gone from suspecting Paul, they had turned all the way around, and this suspicion was based on wrong information to start with, to longing to see him, to sorrowing over how they had hurt him and wanting to emulate him in their lives. Wow, what a picture of repentance. All the pain that Paul went through to write that third letter and it hurt him to write it, and all the pain they went through when they got the letter and realized what God was trying to say to them was worth it all.
God had broken through to the hearts of the believers there in Corinth and they were filled with His sorrow, God’s sorrow, to the point of repentance which leads, as he says, to salvation. Now Paul, in our last message, shows us the difference in godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow only cries, it sheds bitter tears, there’s a lot of pain in it, but it gets worse, not better. There’s no change. There will never be any change because true repentance is of God. Godly sorrow works repentance which is a complete change in the mind, that’s part of it, but it’s also a change of the heart, and it’s also a total change, a radical change, in one’s actions, in the individual.
Now listen, if there’s no change of life then there has been no repentance. Verse 10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret,” you never regret this, even though the pain is deep, “leading to salvation.” God delivers you from the problem, just like He had delivered the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian believers. “But the sorrow of the world produces death.” There’s nothing in it.
The pattern of their repentance when God broke their hearts and showed them their sin is found in verse 11, and it’s a beautiful picture of what happens when God gets involved. You see, God is the One who grants repentance, as we saw the last time. God’s the One who helps you realize that you didn’t just sin against your brother; you sinned against a Holy God. And you see it for what it’s worth and you feel it in your spirit. He says in verse 11, “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”
The word “vindicate” is the word apologea. Their willingness to repent showed really who they were. They weren’t guilty for what they had done; they were guilty for what they hadn’t done. There were certain people in that church that was causing the problem, but the repentance of the Corinthian believers truly bright forth to everybody that they were who they said that they were. Their answer was to repent.
First of all, they were indignant toward their sin, which means they were repulsed by it. And they immediately wanted it out of their life. They moved quickly to deal with it. They did this with fear, he said, out of an alarm for the seriousness of what they had done. They had a longing in their heart and God does this, to be with Paul and to make things right. They were filled with zeal which is a burning desire to get this behind them and to move on. They sought to avenge the evil they had done by doing what was right. And the word avenge is the word ekdikesis, which means to execute justice, to see to it that it’s done. And it was dealt with the right way.
And this proved them to be innocent. And again, they had sinned, yes, because they hadn’t done what Paul expected them to do. But other people in the church had been the cause of the problem, but the church wouldn’t deal with it, whether it be the man in 1 Corinthians 5 that was sleeping with his father’s wife, or whether it be the false teachers that had gotten in and the wrong information, whatever it was, they hadn’t dealt with it.
You see, we can learn something from this. When wrong is wrong, it’s wrong. When God’s people don’t say a thing, when God’s people don’t do what is right, they’re just as guilty as the one who has done it. And Paul so loved the believers of Corinth that he rejoiced in their repentance. And that’s really where we’re headed. I want to talk about this joy that comes when God’s people repent; when they deal with that which God has convicted their hearts about. It is this joy that so comforted Paul. And you’re going to see the word “comfort” and the word “rejoice” almost used interchangeably. It was something that he was so rejoicing that it was such a comfort to him to hear that the Corinthian church truly ended up being exactly what he thought they were. They came forth; they dealt with those men who had caused the problem. And Paul is so rejoicing in their repentance.
- Paul rejoiced because their repentance was a testimony to the whole church as to who they were
There are three things that I think he rejoices about in these last several verses. First of all, he rejoiced because their repentance was a testimony to the whole church as to who they were. It was a testimony to the whole church, a believer who is walking with the Lord Jesus, allowing Jesus to be Jesus in his life, that’s what we call living grace around here, will be motivated by the Spirit of God living in him to make every effort to win back the relationship that has been broken with his fellow believers.
If you’re walking in the spirit you cannot stand a broken relationship. People that are deceived and hard-headed and will not yield to Christ, they can better deal with it than the person that lives in the purity of relationship with God. And this was true of Paul and as we said the last time, the most spiritual person in a broken relationship is the first one to drop anchor. When he wrote that third, tough letter it was out of love and concern for them. Now, in the worldly way of thinking he had every right to be vindictive and to call names because of how these individuals within the church had treated him. But God’s love, this is what God’s love does.
I hear people talk about being filled with the Spirit and they do miracles and see people healed. Good grief, the true miracle of being filled with the Spirit of God is a love that nobody can dismiss. That’s what God does. He floods your heart with a love that’s God’s love in us; that’s the fruit of God’s Spirit. And that love manifested in Paul wrapped itself around every word that he wrote to them in that third letter. Actually, if you’ve studied Paul’s epistles you see this through every one of them, even Galatians, because you have to really love somebody to tell them those difficult things.
Paul showed so much love and sensitivity to them that he did not even expose the name of the individual who had caused him so much hard. He says in verse 12, “it was not for the sake of the offender.” That was not the purpose of his letter. Paul obviously knew the offender’s name and obviously knew the offender, but he chose not to identify him in the letter. You see, since this letter was sent to the whole church he knew that to expose this man in this particular situation was not what God would have him to do. So out of love and respect for the man, this is Christ in us, he was not caustic and he was not vindictive whatsoever.
He also says, “nor for the sake of the one offended.” There is so much discussion as to who the offended is in this text. I personally believe it is Paul himself. And he almost dismisses himself and puts it in such a third person nobody would even identify it as him. Paul didn’t mention his own name; Paul didn’t mention the name of the one he knew very well that had caused him the problem because that was not the intent of the letter. Again, Paul didn’t write this letter, and I want to make sure you’re hearing that, out of a vindictive spirit whatsoever because he had been hurt. That’s not why he wrote the letter. His intension in writing that third tough letter to the Corinthians was because he only wanted their relationship to be healed once again and he knew they had to repent and make it right with God first, then the group of them could walk together. He knew that for it to be healed they would have to repent and their repentance would be a testimony to the whole church. They had to deal with these people that had caused the problem.
We must see this. I want to say it as much as I can possibly say it. A believer who is filled with the Spirit of God is never caustic or is never vindictive or competitive when he has to confront the people that he loves. Let me ask you a question to be sure you’re with me tonight. How many of you have ever made the mistake of being that way, vindictive or caustic in how you confronted someone who has hurt you? Anyone besides me?
We were in Mississippi for quite awhile and I was in youth and recreation work. The newspaper made a mistake in their accounting and they thought that we had not paid a bill. Now you know when you’ve paid a bill. I wrote the check. I knew we’d paid the bill. And we get a letter one day that says “You have not sent your payment, it is late.” It’s really interesting how they write you these very nice letters. The first one was actually pretty nice. The second one, they change colors. Have you ever noticed that? If you’re late on a payment it goes from white to another color. Of course the blood red is what you don’t want to see.
And they wrote us that third letter. I kept saying, “Oh, don’t worry about it. These are good people, they’ve made a mistake and they’ll figure it out.” Wrong. As a matter of fact, they called one night collect to my house. My wife was there and she answered the phone thinking it was one of our children calling and they just raked her over the coals for this bill. Well, I came home and found out about it, the Christian that I was, and I completely lost it. I went up in the attic and I looked and I looked until I found that receipt of that check. I found it. Buddy, I had a photocopy made of that check. I was going to keep it in case they came after me again and I wrote a letter on our church stationary and you talk about vindictive and caustic! I’m embarrassed that I would write that kind of letter. And I signed it and I sent it to them.
We were building a brand new activities building and I had ordered all the stuff in it, coordinated the colors, everything. That was the gym, the bowling lanes, the whole thing, I was running that thing. And we had a big celebration one day because we built the new auditorium at the same time. And we were having an open house for the whole community. I’m standing over here and this lady walks into the room with me and she says, “Wayne, did you write a letter to somebody at the newspaper?” Now, how would she know that? And I said, “Well, yeah.” She said, “Do you see the man standing over there by the punchbowl? That’s one of the finest Christians to ever come out of this church. Wayne, he works at that newspaper. It was his desk that your letter fell on and I think you would probably want to walk over and say something to him.” It wasn’t but 20 steps, but that’s the longest walk I’ve ever walked in my life. That was about a five mile walk to get over there. And I felt so stupid.
Isn’t it interesting that when you’re walking after the flesh you’ve got to defend what the flesh comes up with? But when you’re tenderized by the Spirit of God, you’re not caustic, you’re not vindictive, you’re not competitive, there’s a love in what you do that is absolutely tremendous. God filled him with His love. He makes every effort to restore the relationship, even though he had to do the hard thing, and telling the church what they hadn’t done to correct these people in the church that had caused Paul so much harm.
Well, they repented. And, you know, when God’s people see sin and God’s people see their own flesh and God is the only One who can reveal it to them, it sends a clear testimony to the whole church. First of all, who God is, but secondly who they are. Yes, these are really believers. These are people that want to walk with God. It vindicates them as he said earlier. This is what he meant when he said he approved you to be innocent. Not in the fact that they hadn’t done anything wrong, but in the fact that these are the ones repenting. The ones that they had to deal with should have been the ones doing it, but the church themselves saw that they had done wrong and they were willing to repent.
So he says in verse 12, “So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.” Now this is the New American Standard rendering. It reads it and tells us that Paul is saying “I wrote to you so that you would repent and turn back to me and that your earnestness on our behalf would be seen by the whole church in the sight of God.”
Now let’s take that real slow because I want to make sure you’re seeing what he’s saying here: “but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you.” The word “you” is plural, “you all.” The whole church. “I want to be vindicated in front of the whole church. I want the people to be able to look at the church and to see that you really are what you say you are.” And then he adds, “in the sight of God.” That’s a beautiful picture of what exactly happened and it fits the text in a most marvelous way.
You see, the people that are true and genuine are the ones who always make the greatest concession. And they were willing to repent. They saw that they didn’t cause this thing to happen, but they didn’t do anything about it and they should have. And that’s sin. And they repented. Now it’s interesting that there are two different translations here. From the New American Standard and then from the King James and the New King James. They don’t render it that way. They change it and let me show you what they do. I’m going to read from the New King James version which is an updated version of the King James. It just changes the language and makes it a little more modern. I want you to see the difference.
Now on the New American Standard, “so that your earnestness might be seen and made manifest in the sight of God.” But look at verse 12 here in the King James, “Therefore although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.” You say, “What do you do in a situation like that?” You’ve got two different Greek texts and you’ve got two different translations that come out of it. The word for “care” in the last part of the verse is the Greek word spoude, which means “earnest effort in your behalf.” I think that both translations tell us the story. I like the NAS better because it show that the church itself by their repentance proved to be who they said they were. But at the same time, it was because of the earnest effort on Paul’s part that God used that to bring conviction to their hearts.
Their response was such a testimony to the whole church, and it was so genuine, and Paul says it was in the sight of God it was so genuine. This true repentance caused Paul to be comforted and to rejoice. Again, “So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. For this reason we have been comforted.”
So Paul’s rejoicing was the result of God’s using the earnest effort on his part, led by the Spirit of God. We’re talking about a person who walks with God to bring them to a repentance which became a testimony to the whole church in the area, that they were genuine, that they were actually who Paul knew all along that they were. “So although I wrote to you it was not for the sake of the offender, nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. For this reason we have been comforted.”
I want you to think on something. There are a lot of things we could say about this. I want you to think about something that was on my heart while I studied this. Do you realize that every major revival that has ever taken place in church history started when God revealed to people’s heart their sin and that they were willing to repent of that sin and that repentance spread and the whole church rejoiced and others then became honest with God. And it’s that willingness to repent. They really hadn’t caused the wrong; they just hadn’t done anything to right it. And yet they repented. It is so important for us to understand this in the vocabulary of the believer in the US.
It seems like what I run into so often is people are saying, “I want Jesus to be good to me and I want to feel blessed and I want to feel good.” And God says, “You can, but you’ve got to repent first. There’s sin in your life and for you to have a witness to people as to who you really are, if you’re not willing to deal with the sin, then you have no testimony to anybody. But when you’re willing to deal with sin and repent it gives room for revival to start within God’s people.”
I went to Asbury Seminary for a term. I was at Southern Seminary at the time and I went over there during the Christmas months, the winter months. And you get credit for it just like if you were going to your own seminary for that. And while I was there the man who was a part of the Asbury Revival was my teacher. And he wrote the book, One Divine Moment, and he said it all started in a chapel service of all places. And they had the president of their class was to get up and lead in prayer and to introduce the speaker and then to sit down. And they said they had such a prayer time before they started chapel that day that he began to get under conviction and God was revealing sin in his life of the grossest kind of immorality and he was supposed to get up and lead in prayer. And they said he walked up to the rostrum and he began to ask the people to bow their heads and the next sound that the people heard was the brokenness of a young man whom God had just revealed to his heart what he had done. And that young man began to break and confess his sins and to plead with God and to ask God to forgive him and to cleanse him of that unrighteous act in his life. And when he was so broken in front of his peers and the faculty that was there, another one stood up and began to confess sin in his life and that chapel period that started in mid-morning at Asbury Seminary lasted either 10-11 weeks. It never stopped.
In fact, Paul Harvey made a journey down there just to find out what in the world was going on. It became nationwide known over night. Why, because God’s people were willing to listen to the hard things and they were willing to let God the Holy Spirit convict them of sin and they were willing to repent of that sin and make it right with God and with man. That’s a part of what Christian life is all about. You know, I’m just standing up here. Sometimes I want to make people laugh; maybe they’ll like me more. Or maybe I can tell funny stories and we can just have a great time. Christianity is so much fun. Oh my friend, it is the most joyful life you could ever have but it’s only to the degree you’re willing to go to the cross and repent of the sin that God reveals in your heart that you’ll ever know what that joy is all about.
There’s a cross standing between us and what we’re looking for and what we know that God has promised to us. So the apostle Paul rejoices. This church has shown themselves to be exactly what they said they were. They were believers. Even though they weren’t the ones causing the problems, they weren’t the ones solving them either. And they hadn’t done what Paul had asked them to do up until that point, but now they have and they’ve come around the bend and now their relationship with Paul can be right. And this spreads like wildfire. It’s contagious to see real people deal with real sin and to see God work in their hearts.
- Paul rejoiced because their repentance was a mighty witness to Titus
No wonder Paul rejoiced. No wonder Paul rejoiced. But the second thing that he rejoiced over was because their repentance was a mighty witness to Titus. You’ve got to understand that Paul had a bunch of men around him that he mentored and discipled. He calls Timothy his son in the faith. He calls Titus his child in a common faith when he writes the book of Titus. He’s a special guy. Even though Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, it was Titus who took it to them. That’s a tough situation. No one knew how they would receive the letter. Paul had believed that they would, but their right response to the letter, just like Paul had figured, refreshed Titus and this caused Paul to rejoice.
Verse 13, “And besides our comfort, we also rejoice even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” Now you know that Paul loved Titus and certainly he feared for him going into this very difficult situation. I mean it was difficult at best. But how relieved he must have been at the good news of how they responded, not only to the letter but also to Titus. When God works repentance in the hearts of His people, everybody is blessed. He says, “And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus.”
Paul rejoiced to see Titus so full when he got to him. It goes on to say, “because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” You know what the word “refreshed” is? It’s the word anapauo and it means “to give somebody rest.” It’s a beautiful picture. Get the picture: Titus like Paul was as anxious probably as Paul was to how the Corinthians would receive not only the letter, but him. His fears however were put to rest. He was refreshed by the beautiful way in which the church repented.
Now I want to tell you, this is in between the lines, but I think Titus was probably just as concerned not for himself but for Paul. Paul had boasted to him, “I really do believe that they’re going to hear this. I believe in who they really are and I believe they’ll respond rightly.” It says in verse 14, “For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth.” And Titus was so clearly blessed by their repentance and by the way they received him, as Paul says in verse 15, “And his affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.”
The word “affection” is the word that is the deepest word for affection you can get in Scripture. They would go into the internal organs to try to describe the deceit of all emotion and that the word. The memory of how they all obeyed caused his affection to grow for them. Titus just fell in love with them. Titus could have embraced them. The word for “obedience,” he says “the obedience of you all,” is the word hupakoe. That’s a very important word. It’s a word that is never used of a wife to a husband, that’s a different word. It’s a submission that asks no questions. It is used of a child to a parent; it’s also used of us to the Lord. In other words, when we come before Him we ask no questions.
And he says this was the evidence that they were genuine in Corinth. This is such a work of God in a person’s life. If you want to see a person vindicated as to who they are, you want to see a person proven to be a believer, there are many ways. But one of the ways is when God convicts him, his heart is broken and he’s willing to repent and forsake his sin and he’s willing to see that radical change in his life. He’s willing to obey no matter what God tells him to do. That’s the work of God in a person’s heart.
Well, what Paul wrote to them God used to the point that they were willing to obey without question. They received Titus with fear and trembling. What does that tell you? It tells you that God had already gone before Titus and that’s a beautiful principle. They were already expecting Titus somehow. There was fear and trembling when he came to them and God had prepared their hearts. So Paul rejoiced in their testimony of their repentance to the whole church. They proved themselves throughout that they were who they said they were. They were God’s people. But he also rejoiced in their witness to Titus, his disciple, the one he mentored, the one who was a co-worker with him. Paul was so overwhelmed with the joy that he saw in Titus. You know what repentance does? When you see people repent, that’s a work of God beyond anything that a human can understand.
- Paul rejoiced because their repentance was such an encouragement to him
Finally, he rejoiced because of their repentance; it was such an encouragement to him. Remember, he was flat emotionally and flat mentally. He says in verse 16, “I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you. I love that word “rejoice.” It’s the word chairo, and it comes from the root word of a little lamb that is just so full of joy and glee it just bounces around. And what that tells me is that you can’t hide this kind of joy. This is just something that is contagious. When you see God’s people act like God’s people, when you see them not run because they hear the hard things but respond in repentance in their hearts, it just over joys the one, like the apostle Paul here. He couldn’t hide it.
It’s in the present tense which means he was just walking around and he was just filled with gladness because of their repentance. Don’t you know that the Corinthians loved receiving this news from Paul? This letter, 2 Corinthians that we have, we only have two of the letters, this is a response to their response. He’s writing them back. That’s why he has the beautiful things to say to them in this epistle.
He says that “in everything.” I want to teach you a word: the word “everything” means “everything.” It’s the word pas, but it’s more than what you think. When he says “that in everything” he means each and every thing as you look at it and then when you turn and look back, the whole of it when you sum it up together. So in every thing: their attitude toward Titus, their response to the hard letter and their willingness to bow down before God and to yield to His fullness in their life. Everything, “that in everything I have confidence in you.” They blessed his socks off and he wants them to know it.
What a difference from the first three letters that he had written to them. This is amazing. This is really a turning point so much in his telling the story of what has happened in Corinth. Their repentance had not only been an example to the whole church, a terrific witness to Titus, but it had restored Paul’s confidence in them as being true believers. The word for “confidence” is the word tharreo, which means “to be full of hope and confidence,” which also means to be full of good cheer because of this. A similar word means to be revived, to have life breathed back into someone. It’s like when somebody has lost their oxygen from under water and somebody gives them artificial respiration and breathes into them and that breath comes back in and they’re able to breathe again. The life is back. It’s the same idea.
Remember that Paul was flat emotionally and mentally because of the situation there at Corinth and this had brought brand new life back into him. They had repented. They had done exactly what he thought they would do. They had dealt with the individuals. Earlier in 2 Corinthians he talks about it. “You’ve gone far enough. Slow down, love the man, and don’t go too far with him.” It’s a beautiful picture of what they had done.
You see, when the church of Corinth was birthed, when Paul when over to Corinth for the Isthmian games. Corinth sets on an isthmus; it connects northern and southern Greece. And they had the Olympic Games in Athens but they had the Isthmian games there on that little piece of land that connected those two major bodies of land. And Corinth set right there in the middle of it. And he went over to make tents, probably for the Isthmian games. That was what he did; that was how he made his money for his ministry. He championed that you ought to pay your pastor but he chose to be the exception to the rule. He didn’t want anybody to ever think that he was out to get people’s money in what he did.
And there when he went were Priscilla and Aquila, and when Timothy and his buddies came down he went over to the synagogue and started teaching and stopped making tents. And the first person that got saved was Crispus, the leader of the synagogue. And when that happened the church of Corinth was birthed. Paul didn’t go to Corinth to start a church; Paul went to Corinth to make tents. But God wanted a church birthed there in Corinth.
And God had done such a work, Paul loved these people so much, they were full of the oppression of the humanism around them and all the false teachers it broke his heart when they bought in to it. It broke his heart when they remained silent and wouldn’t do what they knew to do when this situation occurred there. But now new life had breathed back into him. His confidence was back in the fact that these truly were God’s people. What a testimony their repentance was to the whole church and to Titus and to the apostle Paul.
I don’t like to say these hard things, but right relationships require repentance. Somebody is wrong. Somebody has got to face what they’ve done wrong and you can’t have the two walking together until you have both on both sides willing to go and do whatever is necessary. It rejuvenates the whole church. But I’m going to tell you something sad in my mind. Don’t want to leave you on a downer but I want to leave you thinking. The sad thing is that in Christianity today, people want to take repentance out of their vocabulary. It’s “what’s in it for me,” rather than “am I willing to deal with what God wants me to deal with.”
I want to read you a statement by AW Tozer. Tozer wrote this a long time ago: “There is an evil which in its affect upon the Christian religion may be more distractive than Communism, Romanism, and liberalism combined. It is the glaring disparity between theology, what one believes, and practice among professing Christians. So wide is this gulf which separates theory from practice in the church that an inquiring stranger who changes upon both would scarcely dream that there was any relation between the two of them. An intelligent observer of the human scene, who heard the Sunday morning message and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who heard it would conclude that he had been examining two distinct and contrary religions. It appears to me that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right. And so the divorce between theory and practice becomes permanent in fact. Truth sets forsaken and grieves until her professed followers come home for a brief visit. But she sees them depart when the bills come due.”
And, folks, we’re living in a time when repentance is so needed in the church of Jesus Christ. Let me ask you a question as we close. What is it that God has been convicting you about lately in your life, revealing to you that is wrong? How have you responded to that? Have you seared your conscience so that it doesn’t hurt you as much as it did the first time God revealed it? Be real careful because to walk with God involves dealing with sin, repenting from that sin, in order to enjoy the fullness of what God has on the flip side. I don’t like it, you don’t like it. It’s part of it: we’ve got to put that word back in our vocabulary if we’re going to be the church God wants us to be. And remember, He’s the One who initiates it. He’s the One who brings it about in our lives.