Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1335
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus January 28, 2018 Revelation 3.14-22
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
"Repentance and Restoration"
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Repentance – Who Needs It?
My focus today is on two topics, repentance and restoration. These two are connected, of course, because in repentance we are seeking restoration, restoration with God and with one another. I want to start here in Revelation because repentance is written to and for the church in particular. I think that many of us think of repentance as a concept for non-believers who are taking that first step into the Christian faith. We tend to think then about confession as a more Christian term for what Christians do from then on. But I want to encourage us to consider that repentance is for sinners, both believers and non-believers. Now we might think that repentance and confession are one in the same, and certainly they are somewhat synonymous. But, think about these two terms for a moment. Confession, something we do each Sunday in worship is about admitting and professing our sins before God. It is a simple prayer listing sins or admitting that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. Repentance is also a confession of sinfulness, but it also includes a change in direction. Of course, confession should include this as well, but I think we too often separate the two, confessing without real intent to stop sinning. Repentance is the acknowledgment that I am not heading in the right direction. Repentance recognizes that the only direction worth traveling is to God. Repentance notices that living a lie and living with lies is no way to live.
Repentance comes out of our own distress. It is distress over the sins and lies we find dwelling within our own hearts. We are quick to see the sins of others, the lies that prevail in society, but we are slow to see our own. But when we do, our most faithful response is to cry to the Lord in our distress. In fact, God is the only one to whom we can cry, for only God can help us in our distress.
The reason I chose Revelation 3 for today is the emphasis from verse 19, that this letter and this verse is addressed to the church, to believers, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” God is calling those whom He loves to repent!
It’s not that we just take it upon ourselves to repent, yes it is an act we do, but it is also not without God’s grace and discipline. He convicts our sin and we repent. He shows us the error of our ways and we repent. He loves us so deeply that we see our dirty laundry and we repent. This is done in two ways, by the indwelling Spirit and by the integrated Word.
1 Cor 2.12-16 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is the Spirit and the Word that teach us and reprove us. They reveal sin and falsehood and lies. For many there are lies that governments can and will take care of you. For others there are lies that joy is found in possession. For others the lie is tied to addiction. Even believers fall for the fantasy that tells us we do indeed have to earn our salvation. Lies and falsehoods that say keeping busy for God is as good as being with God.
Dallas Willard considers the kingdom message as “a call for us to recognize how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God’s eternal purposes, of taking our life into his life.”1 Maybe we could repent of not taking our life into Jesus’ life! Imagine giving Jesus more and more of our life into his life. He would love that! That kind of gift might require some repentance on our part. We take our life into Jesus’ life by yielding ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit and by committed obedience to His Word.
We begin to see the false claims of the world and we know that only the truth of Jesus Christ can deliver. Repentance comes when we realize that the world feeds us lies and we finally become tired of it. We realize, or God brings us to the realization, that the only truth is Jesus Christ. All of the lies and all of the deception leads to the violence and abuse and crime and turmoil that we see in the world. Repentance is the first step and a continuing step away from the lies of the world and toward the truth of God. Repentance is the turning point.
The Call to Repentance
The Bible has a long record of calling God’s people to repent, beginning with Adam and Eve. It may not be the direct word repent, but it is always implied in a call to come back to God, to get back in a right relationship with God. In the New Testament it was the word from John the Baptist - “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2). It was the word from Jesus himself – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17). It was the word of Peter in Acts 2:38 - “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is even the word in the last book of the Bible and our text for the day, Revelation 3:19 – “I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.”
Repent for the kingdom is at hand, right here, a kingdom in our midst! Imagine that! Imagine how the presence of the kingdom of God changes our heart. Imagine being in the spirit of the Holy Spirit year round, being in the spirit of repentance, in the spirit of the kingdom.
The call is to turn away from that which is opposed to God’s kingdom. Too long we have lived among those who hate Jesus. Too long we have lived with those who hate the truth. Too long we have endured those who give no respect to God’s word. Too long we have eaten the junk food, literally and figuratively. Cheap burgers and cheap words. Cheap grace and convenient faith. We eat it up because it requires nothing of us. Repentance is the decision to stop, turn around and turn away from the kingdoms of this world and turn to God.
Repentance is for us when we realize that we need to turn away from something that is hurting our relationship with Jesus. Repentance is seeing for the first time, years after accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, seeing that we have never dealt with this addiction or that sin. Repentance is learning that what we may have believed about something is really a lie and we need to repent and turn away from whatever it is, and turn to God. It may be selfishness that has never been dealt with; it could be love of money. Maybe we are holding on to parts of the old self that we have refused to crucify. The call is to repent.
In repentance we are preparing to receive Jesus and his forgiveness. Repentance is required when we first come to Christ or when we have sinned or when we realize we have been suckered in or seduced by something. We might call this kingdom repentance because John calls us to repent with the coming kingdom. I also think that we are called to kingdom resistance. There is the need to resist that which is not of God’s kingdom. So much of the world is opposed to the kingdom.
Begin with ourselves, not trying to change others, but in being changed ourselves, others might be drawn to Christ. The Message renders John’s words (Matt. 3.2) this way, “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” John and Jesus do not say, “Change everybody else’s life. God’s kingdom is here,” but change your life. Look within ourselves; reflect upon our lives.
The Restoration God Gives
God has been in the ministry of restoration since the fall of Adam and Eve. If you were to read through the Old Testament, just the passages that speak to restoration, you would have a large portion of the Old Testament covered. God restored Israel to the land. God restored Israel to their home. God restored Israel to the Word. God restored Israel to Himself.
Jeremiah 33.6-9 is a classic example. It takes place while in exile and the promise is for the restoration of health, wealth, and forgiveness.
6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
While God promised to restore all this, there was yet more to come.
The Restoration in Jesus Christ
The next major restoration is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His life and was raised from the dead in order that we might be restored to God. Jesus’ entire life demonstrated God’s restoration. He restored blind to sight, mobility to the lame, fullness to those empty, generosity to the poor, and salvation to the lost. Listen to 2 Corinthians 5.17-21
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The text gives us the charge to proclaim God’s restoration in Christ to others as ambassadors.
While God has restored all who believe in Jesus Christ, there is still more to come.
The Full Restoration of all Things
God restored Israel on many occasions. God restores us to salvation and right relationship in Jesus Christ, and one day God will restore everything! Everything!
(Revelation 22.1-5) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
There is nothing left to come after this for all things will be restored. There will be fruit and healing and worship and the light of God forever and ever.
One last look at Rev. 3.19-20...Consider the call to repent in verse 19 and the promise to come and eat with us, verse 20, as the great restoration!
We are invited to repent, recommit, be restored...
1The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, p.16.