What Does It Mean To Genuinely Repent?

The True Meaning Of Repentance Involves Changing Our Behavior.

Ross Sawyers
Aug 30, 2020    57m
How can you navigate sin in your life? By examining scripture found in the Book of Jeremiah chapter 2 through 6, we get a picture that shows us that the true meaning of repentance involves so much more than asking God to forgive us, we must also change our behavior. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Eric: 00:07 So as y'all know, this fall, a big focus of ours is on the underground church. Those believers, all across the world, who are persecuted for believing in Christ and as a result they have to meet in secret. So we've been spending a lot of time talking about that, and we'll continue to understand that more and more about what that looks like, and what it would be like for us to enter into those and how can we live boldly in whatever circumstances God puts us in.

Eric: 00:36 In just a moment, Ross is going to continue by opening up the Book of Jeremiah, and continuing to teach us there. But we want to you to meet Jacob today. Jacob and his wife, Sonia, and their seven kids, they've served in Africa for the last 15 years. Serving there, bringing the good news of Jesus to a pretty dark place, where they're very hostile to Christianity. So we want you to hear a little bit of his story, and what God has been doing there as we go into this.

Eric: 01:08 So Jacob, you were telling us yesterday, in the consider the cost experience, that there was one time where you were actually detained and questioned. Tell us about what happened there, and what was that was like.

Jacob: 01:21 Yeah. So the Lord had opened a door for our family to provide clean water for people in villages, and so we would go to those villages drilling wells, repairing wells. And at that time, one day, the government officials showed up. This is in a closed country, and so we had to report that you have Bibles in your offices. Unbeknownst to me, the national director who lived in the capitol had okay'd a shipment of Bibles said, sure, you can put them in our container of equipment, they never checked there. And they found these Bibles in his guest house, 50 boxes, 3,400 Bibles. Shortly after finding this 10 vehicles, military vehicles, show up with about 20 armed officers, and I, and three of my workers, are taken off to prison. I spent three days in and out of prison being interrogated as to my activities, and the activities of the organization.

Eric: 02:16 What was that like? I mean, how did that make you feel while you were in there not knowing what was going to happen, just for having Bibles?

Jacob: 02:22 Yeah, I mean, certainly fear was really there on the doorstep knocking. I mean, as the officer who was guarding us and had a gun, you know, was walking back and forth. I kept thinking to myself, you know, I have a guy who just came to faith here as one of my workers. I've got a couple of guys that are Muslims here, and they know that I'm a follower of Christ. So I'm sitting there praying and just saying, Lord, would you fill me with your boldness, fill me with your courage, because what I want them to see is that I have nothing to fear. I mean, we just sang the song here this morning from First Corinthians 15, either we sing it and mean it or we don't. Death, where is your sting? And if that's true, then even in those circumstances, we don't have to fear death. And so I found myself just wrestling and asking God for grace to be a bold testimony of his love, even to those people around me.

Eric: 03:12 Mmm, I couldn't imagine that. What about your wife, Sonia? I mean, what was she thinking and feeling during this time while you were in prison?

Jacob: 03:19 Yeah. Well, one of the things that was happening is in this country, there's a lot of genocide happening, and so the government was actually sending airplanes over the villages and they were bombing the villages. And then as the villagers would run out the villages because of the bombs falling, there were militia's that were stationed outside of the villages and they would gun down these men and women and children as they would be running from their villages. And so as I would be going out to these places, for Sonia, there was just a lot of fear. She would describe it as almost crippling, as she would hear those planes going out, just praying to the Lord and say, Lord, please don't let one of those planes be dropping a bomb where my husband's working right now. And so she had her own wrestling with fear in those situations.

Eric: 04:07 Wow. You did tell us though that there was, God opened some doors and some opportunities even while you were imprisoned and being interrogated.

Jacob: 04:16 Yeah, actually, so they had given me a guard and allowed me at night to go home and sleep at my house. And so this armed guard would come to my house with me and got to meet Sonia, and got to meet the kids and stuff. And so on the third day, his name is Ahmed, and on the third day Ahmed said to me, he said, Yakup, which is my Arabic name. He said, I've been noticing that as you interact with your wife, she's such a good wife, she's obedient, she listens to what you tell her to do. My wife is a bad wife, she doesn't listen to what I tell her to do, and so can you help me understand how I can make my wife to be like your wife? And I asked him, I said, you know, Ahmed, have you ever read God's word before? And he said, no. And I said, well, I think you'll find your answers in there. Ahmed. But I can tell you what I think the reason why your wife is a bad wife. And he said, what? And I said, it's because you're a bad husband. And he looked at me with this flash of almost anger, but also inquisitive question. And I said, you see, in God's word, what he explains is that he created marriage to be a picture to the world, so that they might see what the love of God looks like for his people, and in turn what the love of his people should look like to God. And in my short life, Ahmed, when a man is loving the way that God describes he ought to in his word, with sacrifice, laying down his own life, putting the needs of his wife before his own, I have never seen a wife who doesn't lovingly want to walk by and share whatever the Lord has with that husband. And so that would be my encouragement to you. So yeah, the Lord even opens up doors in harrowing circumstances like that.

Eric: 06:03 Yeah, that's amazing. Hey, now you said that it was hard going through that, that week, but that's nothing compared to the people who live there on a day to day basis, what they go through because it wasn't just a week for them. Oftentimes, it goes longer than that. What does it look like when someone trusts Christ in the country that you're in, what does life look like for them?

Jacob: 06:24 Yeah, that's absolutely right, Eric. So don't think this is a great thing, or this was like one week. But yeah, oftentimes for these believers to even consider wanting to read what the scriptures have to say, it means endangerment to them, let alone, if they were to believe in these things. I talked about in the considering the cost sessions that we had yesterday, I shared about a man named Sadiq who, after he became a believer and some of his family told the authorities, he was thrown into prison for 40 days. And every day they would mock him in prison, and they would open up the door and the guards would grab their sticks and they would beat him day, after day, after day. And so this is the regular experience for these men and women that hear the gospel, believe in its message. They really have to consider, am I willing to follow Christ? Am I willing to lose potentially father, mother, brother, sister, and even my own life for the sake of finding it in Christ.

Eric: 07:27 That is just so hard for us to fathom, and wrap our heads around. But thank you, thank you for the work that you're doing there with those people there, as well as coming here and sharing with us. And if you want to interact with Jacob some more, at the 2 o'clock at our consider the cost experience, he'll be there and able to talk a little bit more about what's going on in other parts of the world. So thank you very much for being here.

Ross Sawyers: 07:59 Jacob, thank you for being with us. Jacob was here back in March, right before the pandemic hit us and we shut down, so you might've seen him in the service online a few months ago. One of the things that we want to be doing as we think about the underground church in these coming weeks and months, is to expose you to different people like Jacob, who are live in areas that are difficult, and areas that persecution is being experienced. We have a number of guests over the next several weeks that you'll have opportunity to hear what God's doing, and get a good picture of what's happened in the underground church, and the persecuted church all over the world.

Ross Sawyers: 08:45 If you turn your Bibles to Jeremiah, we'll be in chapter 3, verses 11 through 14. It's somewhat of an anchor point, I want us to hang out in chapters 2 through 6 as a whole, and so I'll move us around a little bit in different verses through these chapter. So if you have a Bible, you can find your way there. If not, we'll have all the verses on the screen. I'm grateful that we can gather in person to worship, and grateful for those who are online with us. Yesterday I was with Dee and Keller, and so I know exactly where they are, and it's helpful for me when I look through the camera to be thinking about where people were worshiping online. And so we just love that we have those options in what is going on today, and excited that God provides ways for us to worship in different places.

Ross Sawyers: 09:35 As we look at Jeremiah, the reason we want to spend our time here in these coming weeks, is to look at a man who stood firm in the midst of people who weren't interested in what he had to say. And Jeremiah was speaking to the people of God, and as he was speaking to them, they were not interested in what God's message was to them. And as a result of that, he was calling out things in their lives, he was calling out sin in their lives, he was pronouncing judgment that was coming on them, and he also had a message of hope and renewal. And that's the beauty of God's grace and kindness towards us, when there's sin and judgment that is pronounced, there is hope on the other side of that, and there is a way to avoid those consequences in him.

Ross Sawyers: 10:30 Now, when we think about today, and the culture that we're in today, really across the world. It has already been said that in the 21st century, these first 20 years of the 21st century, that in terms of lives lost, families separated, people imprisoned, and churches shut down, this has been the worst period of persecution of Christians in recorded history. We're in live time right now, when we talk about the underground and persecuted church. We are way more a global people today, and we see in even more so what's going on across the world, but just think for a moment that for the last 20 years, that's the worst period of persecution in recorded history for followers of Jesus. We're not talking about something that's happening over here, and it's with a few people, this is across the world, the persecution of followers of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: 11:31 And yet, what God said to Jeremiah, who would face a number of times that he would be persecuted, to not be afraid. And that's what we find in scripture again, and again, to not be afraid, to stand firm, to walk with courage, don't be dismayed or troubled, rather, walk with strength and courage. And our courage comes for who we are in Christ. And God said to Jeremiah chapter one, a set him apart in his mother's womb to do exactly what he had in store for him just as he does us. Not the same task Jeremiah had, but he has specific plans for each of us. And he set him aside, and he said, I'll be with you to do it. I'll be with you. And so God never gives us something to do, that he's not with us as we do it.

Ross Sawyers: 12:26 I want us to think about these chapters, and I want to think about it under this question, what does it mean to genuinely repent? What does it mean to genuinely repent? This isn't something that I hear people talk a lot about, sometimes it makes me wonder what really goes on in our lives and our relationship with God in terms of repentance. And so I just want to think about it from what Jeremiah has to say, and Jeremiah talks about repentance over a hundred times in this book of the Bible. He is trying to call the people back to God. When we think about what's happening here in chapters 2 through 6, he's very specific about the sins of the people. He names them, he calls it out. And what I'd like for us to think about, this is a bit of a hard message that lands in a really gracious spot. What I want us to think about in the scripture, I want to read a lot of scripture. I just want you to hear it from God's word, what he says. And if this pertains to any of us, then our prayer today is that we would generally repent from it. If it's something we were involved in in the past, and God has already forgiven us, what a beautiful time of gratitude to God, as we think about these things that he's taken me out of these things that I formerly was in. And that we would just listen to what God has to say, and that we might respond the way you'd have us to respond. Now, interestingly, this was written 2,600 years ago. We like to think about how progressive we are, and how much more advanced of a culture we are, than any before us. Yet, it's stunning to read today what was written 2,600 years ago, and it feels absolutely no different in 2020.

Ross Sawyers: 14:39 What does it mean to genuinely repent? First, before we get to chapter 3 verses 11-14, I want to look at chapter 2 verse 13. And God has said to Jeremiah, this is what I want you to say to the people. And for context, keep in mind that Jeremiah is preaching to the people who were already God's people. Now Jeremiah will be a prophet to the nations, but he's talking to God's people, this isn't an indictment on people outside of who God is. When we think about a lot of these things, we would expect that someone who doesn't know God isn't following after God, that this would be what it would look like for them. I mean, it would be a unreal expectation to think somebody would not be about some of these things, if they're not following after Christ. But he's writing to people who are supposed to be the followers of God, and that's who this is for. So really today, if you say you're a follower of Jesus, this is for all of us, the things he's saying to consider.

Ross Sawyers: 15:44 Chapter 2 verse 13, "For my people have committed two evils." So he's saying, look, here's just two evils that my people have committed, "They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters." So, the first thing, the first evil they've committed, is they are God's people and they have forsaken God, they've turned against God, they're opposed to him. The one who's rescued them, brought them out as a people, now they've forsaken him. The fountain of living waters, life is found in God himself, life is found in him. He is the fountain of living waters, he's the one that gives the life that we all are yearning for.

Ross Sawyers: 16:32 Some will be familiar, some not, with John chapter 4. Jesus encounters a woman at the well, when he encounters her, Jesus was a master of stories and metaphors. And one of the reasons, and one of the ways that we love people, well, the way Jesus did is to understand where different people come from, what their thought processes are, what their world views are. We love people well, when we understand the way they think. Because when we understand how someone thinks, we can bridge the gospel to them, we can tell stories that connect and actually makes sense when we talk about Jesus. Jesus was masterful using metaphor and story to help people connect in to who he is and what he was about. And Jesus did this with this woman at the well, she just came to draw water for the day, she's looking to survive for the day. And here Jesus is, and he says, if you understood who I was, you'd never thirst again, because I'm living water. God is saying, hundreds of years before that incident ever took place, I'm the fountain of living water. What you're after, I'm it. And the people have forsaken him, they've turned for other lovers as we'll see in just a moment.

Ross Sawyers: 18:12 The second thing he says of the two evils, "Is that you've hewed for yourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." Now, what is a cistern? A cistern would be something, a pit, that would be dug into the ground and it would capture rainwater. This is easy for us, because God gifted us a few hours ago with rain. And I don't know about you, but I didn't know that was in the forecast, so I love that gift. And what they would do for a cistern, is catch the rainwater. And because the earth where they were was primarily limestone, it was porous, and they would have to plaster it. And so it'd be a plastered kind of pit, to catch the water, to be able to use. And there were three kinds of water that Israel had access to. They had access to streams of water. They had access to well water that came up from the earth. And then they had the cisterns as a third source that the water would dump into. He gives an analogy to say, this is what y'all have done. Not only have you forsaken me, turned from me, but you've turned to broken cisterns that can hold no water. You've turned to something that's broken, it leaks, it can't even hold the water. And on top of that, the only thing that would then accumulate in there is sludge. So the picture he paints for them is what you've done, you've traded the very best for the very worst, for the sludge. That's what you've traded me for, by chasing after other lovers.

Ross Sawyers: 19:56 That gives us a picture of what's going on. We move to chapter 3 verse 7, he said, “I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it." Quick history, make sure we're...Context is important when we're reading the prophets, it's important anytime in the Bible. The first three Kings of Israel, Saul, David, Solomon, a united monarchy under those three Kings. After Solomon died, the kingdom split, now it's two. Israel split in two. Israel is the North, Judah is the South. So when you're reading the prophets, you're reading about Israel, and when you read Israel, that's the Northern part, and when you read about Judah, it's the Southern. And what he's telling them right here is to Judah, they're the Southern part, they're still intact. In 722 BC, Assyria, the world power at the time, captured Israel. God brought judgment on Israel because of their sin against him. That was his judgment on them, He was very clear. And now God's saying, you saw what Israel did. They chased after everything but me, I brought judgment on them, you saw it. And now not only are you doing the same thing he says in verse 10, you're doing it worse. I thought you would see that and return to me. You know how we talk about that? We think, okay, if we see somebodies example, then that would deter us from doing it. The human heart just sort of gets in the way of that. But God says, no, you've come back and you've been more deceptive, you're actually trying to hide it. You're doing all this against me, and you're trying to hide it, you think you can hide it from me.

Ross Sawyers: 21:58 And that sets us up for verse 11, "And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah." This is not the kind of comparison we'd want to be a part of. Israel has been faithless, they're awful. But they're so awful, and Judah is even more awful that that awfulness of Israel makes them more righteous than the awfulness of Judah. It's like just comparing the worst of sins, and seeing who can outdo each other. Verse 11, when we think about what those were. What specifically did they trade God for? If we use that analogy of the cistern and in the sludge, what was it they traded?

Ross Sawyers: 22:49 And I want to read several scriptures in these chapters, 2 through 6, that describe the specific sins of the people. And I want to read them for us to consider personally, and does there need to be repentance there, or gratitude, as I said. And I also want to say that it's hard to repent when we don't acknowledge and own what a sin is. Here would be a somewhat common Christian vibe. I move through a day, I recognize I probably sinned in it, and so at the end of the day, I tell God, I'm sorry for my sins today, and thank you for your forgiveness. Or just some generic confession of sin and forgiveness, it's generic. How do I repent from, forgive me for my sins today? I'm going to look exactly the same the next day, and I'm going to bring back the same comment to God, forgive me for my sins today. What God is looking for is repentance, turning from something and then towards something.

Ross Sawyers: 24:20 So what are those specific things that he talks about? Chapter 2 verse 5 says, "Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me and walked after emptiness and became empty" Jeremiah just frames things in a way that I'm not accustomed to reading, and it's refreshing to hear, I says it. And to think about what goes on, this is our culture today, 2,600 years later, people walking after emptiness. And when walk after emptiness, we become empty, we become what we're after. And he's just looking and he's saying to his people, it goes, "What injustice did I do to you? That you would walk away from me?" What fault did you find in me, this is God, that you'd walk away? That's God's rhetorical question. But you did walk away, and you walked away towards something that does not fulfill, empty. You became empty, because that's what you followed. That's the challenge culturally, in our cultural moment as well, people are empty and they're chasing after any and everything to fill the emptiness. But they're chasing after anything and everything, except God Himself, who can actually fill the emptiness. People are exhausted, I believe, from being empty. And we have something to give them that'll fill, and bring joy, peace, hope, life.

Ross Sawyers: 26:12 In chapter 3 verses 1and 2, "God says, “If a husband divorces his wife and she goes from him and belongs to another man, will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me,” declares the LORD." See, He's using an analogy of marriage. There's a divorce in the marriage, one goes and marries another. And according to the legal way things rolled in that day, once you did that, then you could not come back and remarry the person that you were originally married to. And he's making a point about idolatry across the land, and saying, I'm your lover, I'm your God, and now you've turned and you've chased after other lovers. You've committed adultery with me, and you've polluted the land with your idols. He describes it this way in verse 2, “Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see; Where have you not been violated? By the roads you have sat for them like an Arab in the desert, and you have polluted a land with your harlotry and with your wickedness." He said, you polluted the land, and you've played the harlot. It's like you're on the road, just waiting for your next lover. And he's talking about in relation to himself to God, I've chased after everything else, except for God.

Ross Sawyers: 27:39 This is what he's bringing against them. Chapter 4 verse 22, “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.” These are my people, they're foolish. They chased after other things, shrewd to do evil. People are shrewd today to do evil. People love to sit behind their keyboards and promote evil on social media. It's gutless, by the way, anybody can do that. We have a voice, let's be shrewd. Let's put things out there that ruin people's reputations, let's attack and slander, bring malice against. It's all okay, because I'm just firing away right here. Would they ever say that face to face to someone? The things people write about our political leaders all across the land. If they were sitting across from them face to face, would they say the same? People are shrewd to do evil? And it seems like they don't know how to do good.

Ross Sawyers: 29:04 Chapter 5 verse 8, “They were well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing after his neighbor’s wife." One person said that if there is religious infidelity, then that'll lead to marriage infidelity. If we are abandoning the idea of God, and we are abandoning the idea of God's ethic, then it will lead to all kinds of immorality. We see that played out, is uncorked in our culture, a sexual ethic that is in complete opposition to God's design. For many people, they don't know the Lord, they're away from the Lord, and it's out of ignorance that they're doing what they're doing. It's what the culture says, this is how we roll. In the early 1960s, I'm leery of stats anymore, but I'm going to give one and you can do with it what you want. But in the early 1960s, 82% of people in America said that having sex before marriage was not right. Just a few years ago, and I don't know what it would be today, 25% said that was not right. Now, that's just one aspect of the sexual immorality of our day, and people are coming up empty with that chase. God has a design that's far more beautiful. But he describes it here and says, you're just like a beast, just like a lusty stallion, just looking for the next one. That's our day, that's our cultural moment, the same from 2,600 years ago.

Ross Sawyers: 30:46 In chapter 5 verses 27 and 28, there's a picture of deceit. And we find that, "Like a cage full bird, so their houses are full of deceit." Full of deceit. And we're deceived constantly by a media narrative that wants to give us just a small video clip, or a small piece of a story to paint the particular narrative, all sides do this. They're picking their narrative, deceiving people with what we see, with what we hear. Verse 28, "They do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, that they may prosper; and they do not defend the rights of the poor." He's talking about indifference. God is concerned about the vulnerable and the poor, He's concerned about the orphan. And he's saying, this is an indictment against the people. It's not that you're doing something to them, you're doing nothing.

Ross Sawyers: 31:47 Versus 30 and 3, he doesn't let off the prophets and the priests, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?" My people love it, He says. Look what's happened, the priests, they're no longer preaching what the message of God is. The prophets, they're not preaching what is God's message. They're listening to the people, they're polling the people if they could have in that day, they're listening to what everybody wants to hear. And they're adapting their message from scripture to fit the people, and the people love it. They love that the prophets and priests are saying their own thing, rather than God's thing.

Ross Sawyers: 32:31 Chapter 6, verse 7, talks about violence. Chapter 6, verses 19 and 20, they've rejected God's word, they're picking and choosing what they like, and then they're worshiping. And God says, I'm not interested in your incense, or anything you're bringing. God's not interested in people showing up, checking a box, knocking out their little bit over an hour, and feeling like they've done their deal. He's interested in people who obey, follow, and love him, that's what he's after. It's a long list, they were excelling in wickedness, and they were fresh in their ideas of that wickedness as well. And we need to hear that because we need to check our own hearts, what have we kind of slid into? Or what is it we're about, that's not of God? This is what you really need to hear, when you hear that. Is what God does with that, and what he's calling us into, we're not beyond coming into a place that's good.

Ross Sawyers: 33:51 In verse 12, he says, "Go and proclaim these words to the North and say, 'return faithless Israel.' He's telling them they've been faithless, but I want you to return. God's love is such, he's saying to his people, ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever." Think about how stunning that is that we can completely turn our backs on God, that we can get in the most vile of sin. And yet, here is God in all his grace and mercy, in the middle of chapters 2 through 6 is just laced with way more than what I've just read, and right in the middle of it is the grace of God.

Ross Sawyers: 34:35 Somebody gave Lisa and I book called, The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning. And Brennan Manning does a fantastic job of just helping us see the grace of God towards the worst of our sins. God is a gracious God, it's scandalous what he does, it's why some people can't buy it. Wait a minute, you mean I do all this. I mean, I don't feel like I'm worth anything because I've done this, how could God do this? I'm ashamed, how could he love me like that? That's who he is in his character, He's a gracious God. I think sometimes I'm better at helping people see how much God loves them, than I am at personally receiving God's love. I find it hard sometimes to receive God's compassion on me, and I find it hard sometimes to receive God's grace on me, and I find it hard sometimes to receive God's love on me, to think that he really would love me like that.

Ross Sawyers: 35:51 And two or three years ago, God started breaking through some things in me that started to free that up. And I'm not suggesting that everyone has to raise their hands at all, it's in there and scripture. I mean, postures reflect what's going on in us. I mean, we can just look at the posture of people, and it gives you an idea of what's happening. And what I realized until two or three years ago, and then I know this in the last two or three as well, that for me, when we're singing sometimes I'm putting my hands out here, but it's kind of tight. I feel myself tensed up, because this is a posture of surrender and receiving, and it's hard for me to do that. And that's a reflection of my heart, that it's hard for me to receive God's love and compassion on me. I can't even put my hands out and receive, physically, I freeze up. Or I might try and stick one hand up, and kind of, you know, ease my way into it, so I'm sort of receiving God's love for me. But my posture's revealing for me. But a couple of three years ago, when God started breaking my heart a little bit more, I just felt my arms go out, and I'm not near as worried about what you think about me anymore. And when we're singing this morning, arms wide open, oh my goodness, I can just feel God's love wash over me. Here I am, I surrender, and go wider and wider, I am yours. And I can't believe God that you love me as much as you love me, that your grace is as deep as it is towards me. I can't believe that you would let me have any part of anything, you're doing that, your grace is so good. Here am I. God's grace, it's greater and deeper than the deepest sin that you or I have ever, or ever will commit. Do you believe that today? God's grace in the midst of our sin.

Ross Sawyers: 38:33 Verse 13, "Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God and have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the LORD" What does he tell us to do? He says, return, God's gracious, he wants us to return. And when we return, he saying, this is the way to return, acknowledge your sin, acknowledge it, own it. Say, this is what God, I've chased after other things, I've been after this, I've ignored you God, tell God that. Jesus met the blind man Bartimaeus, and he asked him, what do you want me to do for you? What do you want me to do for you? God's asking us that question, and then what God wants us to do is to come to him and own where our sin is. And then in his grace, he frees us up, he's done that ultimately through the cross and what he did in Christ. So we can be free, we can be set apart.

Ross Sawyers: 39:36 We're talking about genuine repentance, not a quick drive by, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, not a drive by, genuine before God, this is what I've done, God. It's what Jermaine read in Psalm 51 a few minutes ago, David had committed adultery and murder, and that's where that psalm came out of. And he's coming, and he's owning it before God, "Against you only have I sinned, restore my heart. Create me a clean heart, O God." Only God can do that, no person can do that, only God can do that. When we come to him expressing that regret and sin, when we recognize it, own it, and turn from it, He forgives, God goes on to say, "I'm going to give you good shepherds later, that'll replace all these that are bringing false words. By the way, Jesus and Paul talked a lot about, beware of false teachers. Beware of false teachers, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump of dough. Just get a little bit of that bad teaching, and it'll make the rest of it expand bad. But there'll be a day where there'll be good ones who are coming and teaching, and ultimately Jesus will be that good shepherd.

Ross Sawyers: 41:16 But the message in Jeremiah 6, that continued to be preached, was a message that was superficial. In verse 14, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace." The prophets, the priests, the preachers, if we come to 2020, the preachers in the land are saying peace. Everything's okay, pursue everything you want to pursue, you're good. God's a God of love, just whatever do it. Okay, just make sure you're tithing and giving, and I'm going to make sure I'm going to teach you what will be tickling to your ears. And you'll think, Oh gosh, I feel so much better today. I knew I was right with what I was doing.

Ross Sawyers: 42:07 It got so bad, that the only time in the Bible we read this statement is in Jeremiah 6 verse 15, “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all." Here's the phrase, "They did not even know how to blush." I read something the other day, they're already targeting the percentage of sexual immorality from a biblical standard, that is the amount they want to increase to on the programming for this coming fall. We don't even know how to blush anymore at sin.

Ross Sawyers: 42:55 Well, there is a fork in the road in verse 16 of chapter 6, here's God in all his grace saying, "Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls." He said, I'm telling you there's an ancient path, there is a way where there'll be rest for your soul, there'll be peace and joy in life. There is a path, it's the path that God has laid out through all of scripture from the beginning, all the way to the end. Through Moses at this point, and through King David, he kind of laid out a path, and what the new covenant would be? He'll say that to Jeremiah, where it will come and it will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, that new covenant. There is a path that'll bring rest for your soul, but you know what they said, "We won't walk in it." We're out, we like our own story better.

Ross Sawyers: 43:56 And that's really what this gets down to, a contrast of stories. Do we want to write our own story, or do we want in on God's story? In 2 through 6, they've written their own story said, I like my way, I don't like God's story. I'm going to do a little bit of God's story, I'm going to do a lot of my own story. No, that's empty. So this fall, one of the things we're doing, we've talked about eight ways to follow Jesus in his great commands of loving God, loving neighbor, and eight specific ways that we can do that. And I just want to cheer on our life group leaders today. Some of you have gotten started with your life groups, some of you will start this week, and still others, you might be a couple of weeks out before you get going. Every life group is doing this. We encourage life group leaders to be patient, take your time, make sure you get each way. We want to make sure everybody can actually understand it, practice it, be able to do it. We don't want to just rush off, and say, okay, well we knocked those eight ways out. No, we make sure that we can do this because we have something to offer people, and sometimes I think we just don't know what. So if we have a heart to make disciples and to lead other people to follow Christ, then this'll give us a simple and reproducible way to do that. So I', just asking everybody to get on this with us. And there's so many ways we can do it, this is just a way, but it will give us a confidence to do it. But we want to take our time, we don't want to rush, so if everybody doesn't have it, spend another week or two on it til we got it. Just take our time, we've got a whole semester.

Ross Sawyers: 45:54 Alright, I want to do one of them for you. And I'm going to do it really quick, just to give you an idea that if you just know a big story...And you're going to do this in your life groups, I'm giving you just an overview, but there's the kind of repentance that brings us first into relationship with God, before we think about an ongoing repentance, as we've described this morning. And we can do that by not thinking about our own story, but thinking about God's story. And when we think about God's story, God is at the center, he's the center of the story. I'm not the center of the story, you're not at the center of the story, it is God's glory, his honor, his name. That's what we're desiring for people to know, and follow, and love, and enjoy, it's God's story.

Ross Sawyers: 46:51 And in God's story, we put it in four chapters. And the first chapter is, creation. And God did an amazing thing. he created everything perfect, created, man, male and female in the image of God, he created marriage, and then he made all of creation. The beauty of what we see, he made it, it was all perfect in chapter one. But we know this is a broken world, it's why there's so much pain, and so much hurt, and so much difficulty, and so much unrest, and so much chaos. The Bible speaks to things as they are, when we read the Bible and we look at what's going on, we see truth and reality match up.

Ross Sawyers: 47:40 Chapter 2 of the story is the fall, everything's broken. That image of God that we were created in, it's broken. The creation of God, it groans, it's broken. And a way to think about that is, here we were connected to God, we're no longer connected to God after the fall. This is what every human being is born into. Is separation from God, so we're apart from him. But there's good news in the story, God's story is a story of grace and rescue. And there's a way to get in the story, and that's through redemption. We love good redemption stories, this is a greatest redemption story of all time. It's Jesus Christ crucified, bearing that sin and brokenness on himself, the shame, the guilt, every aspect of it, and it's there that you nailed your sins and mine to that old rugged cross. Disconnected here, reconnected, the only way to God is through the cross. It's foolishness to most, scripture says, it's wisdom and power to those who believe.

Ross Sawyers: 49:02 The way in is to repent. That's what Jesus said, he said, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and then believe. Where are you in the story? Here's three chapters of the story, and God wants to write you into the story. If you're already written into the story, then it's extreme gratitude that he would do that. If you're not written in the story, do you believe this? And when you believe it, God writes you in this story, that's his grace and his mercy. Now you wonder, why are things still kind of all not right? So I come to Jesus, he fixes it, why are they still a mess? Why do I still sin? Why do I still struggle and battle with that? Christ is in us now, and the rest of our days were spent being conformed and shaped to the image of Jesus. And we battle that sin, in the meantime, in this world that's still broken. But we do it with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit of God within us.

Ross Sawyers: 50:18 And then one day, that final chapter will be written. It's written, we just haven't gotten there yet. The new heavens and the new earth, there is a day where every person that knows Jesus Christ will be reunited, restored. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation, all over the globe. Into chapter 4, "And there will be no more crime, there will be no more hurt, pain, tears, mourning, nothing. It takes us all the way back to chapter 1of the story, and we're restored in perfect harmony. I haven't usually thought about this over time, it's been kind of different for me after Lloyd, my brother, passed away. And God just kind of turned a corner with me a couple of weeks ago, and just thinking about all the loss in our own family, and there's been a lot of loss in our church family. And I've just found myself when we're worshiping God, just thinking about the beauty and the gift that it is for so many that are already gathered around the throne and are worshiping God. And to think that somehow in their spirits, I don't know how it works, somehow in their spirit, they are worshiping God. And it's kind of a rip off isn't it, from a pain side, because eternity is timeless. And I believe for those who have gone on before us, it's just a moment before we'll join them. But in our earthly time, whatever it is, it just kind of aches because it's a bit before we get there. But what a beautiful picture of that restoring that God does, and one day we'll all be gathered, totally perfect in the new heavens and new earth. Has God written you into his story? Do you believe it? And if you do, then you're in, and now we see how he wants to work in and through us through the rest of his story.

Ross Sawyers: 52:37 Let's pray together. Father, thank you for just the beauty of the good news of what happens in Christ. And we're thankful that in the midst of all the chaos, and mess, and sin, and the ways we try to justify it, and where we run from you, and been stubborn and rebellious, and we like the dark better than we do the light. In all of that, your grace still overwhelms it, it's absolutely stunning, it's an extraordinary offer, as someone said it this week. I pray God, not one person worshiping online or present would miss that offer today. So I pray anyone not in your story today would know in believing you, they can be a part of it, that they'd receive today, Lord Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: 53:27 Father, I pray for those of us who are in the story, if there's any unrepentant sin that you've shown us today, will you help us to own that specifically before you, and receive your grace that you've already given us through the cross? We pray, Father, where there's so much that we read that was a part of our past lives today, that there just be such a gratitude today to you and thankfulness. So we pray these things in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: 53:59 If we could, what I'd like to do is just have a little bit of quiet space where we can be still, and just let this sink in a little. And then I want to show you a quick recap video of our immersive experience yesterday, to give you an idea of what happened, and then you'll be dismissed after that. I'm just grateful for your generous giving, and I want to encourage you on that front as well. But when the video's over, if you'll just dismiss yourself, that'll be fantastic. I won't be here when it ends, I'll be out there. Let's be quiet, and just let the Lord have these last few minutes.

Video: 55:57 Video plays.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051