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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:Repentance That Rises From And Expresses Joy In God Through Christ
Text:LD 33 (View)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy 3:00 p. m.
Psalm 108:1,2.
Hymn 1A.
Read: 2Cor. 5:16-21; 7:2-16.
Hymn 56:1,2.
Text: Lord's Day 33
Hymn 7 (all).
baptism of Alexis Joelle Gortemaker, infant daughter of br. and sr. Dave and Teresa Gortemaker
Psalm 12:4.
Psalm 150.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Too many people are afraid of repenting. We all had a hard time learning "sorry" when we were young, and some of us still have a hard time with it. We don't want to admit fault or look bad. We change the subject. We find something bad about the other person. Anything to avoid saying sorry. People are scared to repent, scared to say they are sorry.

No one, of course, has trouble playing the board game that goes by that word. In the board game "Sorry" you get to say sorry with a grin and a smirk. If you pick up the right card then you can return one of your opponent's men to the start and put yours on the board where theirs was. The card for this says "sorry" on it, but no players really looks sorry when he picks it up.

This afternoon we need to be encouraged in what is much more than a game. This is serious stuff - saying sorry to God. It means more than just saying "sorry," as we will see. But even the idea of saying sorry to God is difficult. It's hard enough to say sorry to the people we live with and love, let alone to God.

It is time for us to understand that this sorrow for sin is directly connected to our overflowing joy in Jesus Christ. The greater Christ is in our lives, the more readily we will repent before God of all our sins. This brings me to preach God's Word under this theme:

Our delight in Jesus Christ needs to come to expression by true repentance:

1. Our godly sorrow for sins expresses delight in Christ;
2. Our heartfelt joy for holiness expresses delight in Christ.

1. Our Godly Sorrow For Sins Expresses Delight In Christ:

We read these remarkable words of the Lord through his apostle: "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while - yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us." (2Cor. 7:8-9).

Paul had written them a letter with strong warnings in it. Because these believers were sinning against the Lord, the apostle had the duty to admonish them. He had taken his duty seriously and had seriously warned them that they needed to repent. You can imagine that his letter caused them some pain. It also caused him some pain to do this. He wrote that he did regret it. He saw that his letter had hurt them. It was only for a little while, because it had the desired effect. But the apostle Paul was sensitive like Christ to the feelings of his people. He elsewhere calls himself their father in Christ (1Cor. 4:15) and in another place says that he was gentle among them, like a mother taking care of her children (1Thess. 2:7). There is no doubt that he did not want to hurt them.

We learn from this that there is always going to be something difficult about repentance. The start of it is often the hardest point, because that is the point where we are hurt. In one way or another, we come to realize that we have done wrong. The people of Corinth, if we go by the first letter to them in our Bibles, were breaking God's law in several significant ways. Paul had pointed out the divisions in the church. Besides fighting with each other, they also did not respect the apostles. Further, they allowed serious sexual sins in their membership. They had a low view of marriage and children, an unhealthy Lord's Supper service, and a disorderly worship service. There were a lot of things he had to admonish them about. When they received all that, they had a choice: To follow the ways of Satan and entrench themselves in these sins, which really is no choice at all. Or, they could agree with the warnings and admit that they had been doing wrong. The second one of those two things is the more difficult. No doubt it caused them some hurt. But it was necessary and it led to the right thing - they repented.

There was that critical point when they first received these admonitions through Paul. Would they run away from the hurt and remain in sin, or would they become sorry and let the Lord lead them to repentance?

By God's grace, they became sorrowful as God intended. They received in their hearts a godly grief and so the outcome was that they were not at all harmed by the admonition. Rather, they were helped.

It is a very remarkable thing that repentance was placed in our Heidelberg Catechism in Lord's Day 33. It is not placed before faith, but after. In other words, you first believe in Jesus Christ and then you repent of your sins. This is not meant to deny that faith includes repentance. Nor does this mean that we do not believe that there must be a decisive change in a person's life when they become a believer. Some are turned from death to life in a dramatic way. They endure a crisis, and they repent of their former way of life to believe in Jesus Christ. The point of the Heidelberg Catechism is that repentance does not end once you believe. Just the opposite! That is where it begins in earnest. The people who really need to repent and who really put it into practice are those who already believe in Jesus Christ. For them, the struggle with sin needs to be a daily reality.

This reading from 2Cor. 7 supports our Confession's position very well. When the apostle writes to them about their repentance, he does not mean their initial attachment to Christ. He is not referring to their first-time turning away from sin. No, he wrote his letter to believers. They already knew the gospel. They already loved the Lord. This made their sins all the more grievous. It was as believers that the call to repentance came upon them so forcefully. They needed to be engaged in true repentance every day, not just at the beginning. It really was part of their love for Christ, that they should keep on repenting.

Had they not loved Christ, their reaction to Paul's warnings would have been different. But as troubled as they were, they loved the Lord. They delighted in him and they tried to outdo one another in expressing their ecstatic emotions about salvation (1Cor. 14). Paul teaches them in 2Cor. 7 that their delight in Christ needed to come to expression through true repentance. Real thankfulness to God for Christ's work is a daily thing, and it is all about a changed life.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!" (2Cor. 5:17). The apostles were the ambassadors who represented God. They spoke to the people and urged them to be reconciled to God through Christ. They said, "In Christ God is no longer counting your sins against you." God is making his appeal through us that you should be reconciled to him. Don't live like pagans. Don't live in sin. "Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

On the basis of a message like that, the appeal is made to believers to repent. Brothers and sisters, God made Christ who had no sin to be sin for us. If he put our sin upon Christ, then how can we still live in it? Christ already suffered for those sins. Do we wish to make him suffer again? No, out of love for him, we must get rid of all that sin in our lives. Out of love for him who died for us we must grieve about our sins so much that we hate them and flee from them.

A godly sorrow for sins needs to find its roots in your inexpressible joy that you are Christ's. The more you delight in him, the more readily you will express sorrow for your sins. When Christ is your all, then sin is your perfect enemy. I mean: your complete enemy. There will not be a thing about sin that excites you when Christ is the excitement of your life. Your delight in Christ is therefore expressed in your hatred for sin. The one is inversely proportional to the other. As love for Christ increases, love for sin decreases. Just the opposite arises: a perfect hatred of sin.

Do we know what that is like? The concept is so marvellous and yet so simple. Our delight in Jesus Christ needs to come to expression through true repentance. True repentance starts with a godly sorrow for sin. Therefore our delight in Jesus Christ is coming to life precisely when we hate our sins.

Has your love for Christ been growing like that? This love must be from your heart. Let him take hold of you! Think upon the life he gave up for you, the death he suffered in your place, the life he gives you right now. Do you love him? Do you love him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength? We won't claim we love him without any sin in our hearts. But is it your desire that your love for him should be undivided and perfect? He has shown his love to you. Are you showing your love to him? You can demonstrate your love precisely by your hatred for sin!

A heartfelt love for Christ will ensure that your sorrow for sin is likewise from your heart. We confess that the dying of the sinful nature is to grieve with heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sins. King David rightly confessed to God, "Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight."

Our Saviour as he hung on the cross made the perfect acknowledgement that God hates sin. Christ gave up his life to the wrath of God against sin. By doing that he confessed the truth of how strict is God's hatred against sin. We need to delight in Christ's own hatred of sin. He hates sin so much that he fought to the death against sin and Satan. Never forget it! He gave up his life to conquer sin and death. When you say that he is yours, that he died for you, then you need to share his utter contempt of sin. It should feel good to hate sin. It should feel good in your heart to be angry against sin. If we make sin our enemy then we are living with God as our friend.

We have a lot of work to do to live that way. After all, we do find it hard just to say "sorry." And "sorry" often amounts to nothing more than saying "I feel bad." That's not biblical repentance. A godly sorrow for sin that leads to repentance means much more. It means that we hate the sin. We don't just feel bad. We hate the sin. And when we ask someone to forgive us, which is better than just saying sorry, then we put it in their power to forgive or not. We make the opportunity for real forgiveness to be practised and we acknowledge how terrible our sin is - what it does to our relationship with God, and to our relationships with others. But the more we make sin our enemy, the more we are living in unity with Christ, and the more we are delighting in him.

Our godly sorrow for sin must arise from the solid conviction that we belong to Jesus Christ. That's a far more powerful reason to grieve over sin than just to be pushed to it or forced to it. God's way of working repentance in us is to involve our hearts, to move us by his love, and to change our stubborn hearts to serving hearts. It does require some hurt at first, but godly sorrow leads to repentance and leaves no regrets. Such repentance expresses our delight in Jesus Christ. This delight turns our grieving into joy, and this joy brings with it the desire to live according to the will of God in all good works. This is the second of the two major parts of true repentance:

2. Our Godly Joy For Holiness Expresses Delight in Christ:

The old has gone; behold, the new has come! The apostle writes, "See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness, what alarm, what longing, what indignation, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter" (2Cor. 7:11). Their godly sorrow led to an eagerness and an earnestness. They became zealous for the Lord. They longed to set things right. They wanted to live in the way that fit their salvation.

We confess that the coming to life of the new nature is a heartfelt joy in God through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works. Catechism students have trouble memorizing that. I can see why - the sentence has an unusual structure. But it says some beautiful things. Coming alive for the Lord, we confess, is a joy, a love, and a delight. That joy, love, and delight are put towards living for God. That joy, love, and delight are expressed by practising good works according to the will of God. What earnestness, what eagerness, what zeal for the Lord! It arises from a joy, a love, and a delight in holy things.

Our confession underlines what was already said in the last Lord's Day: the true Christian life is not for hypocrites. Here we find what hypocrites lack. They don't have the godly sorrow for sin nor do they have the heartfelt joy in God through Christ. They don't have those things because they lack the delight in Christ in the first place. You see that our true repentance, which must be from the heart, grows out of true faith in Jesus Christ, which must also be from the heart. If you don't have true faith, then you won't practice true repentance. Anyone can go through the motions. But the Lord knows the heart.

Do we realize that it is actually harder to keep going through the motions than it is to serve the Lord from the heart? It seems easier, but where the true gospel is preached, it is much harder. What is it like to go to a party where you are just showing up for good graces but actually you never even wanted to go in the first place? You can hardly enjoy a minute of it. You can't wait to get out. That is exactly what it is like when we don't delight in Jesus Christ. That is exactly what it is like when we are not repenting from the heart. We have to force ourselves to go through the motions, but our heart is not in it. Why even do that? The faith that God gives makes these things a delight. A joy in God through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.

Let's say you don't experience repentance in this way in your heart. What should you do? Should you give up? Maybe it's not for you. No! It IS for you! Don't give up. Are you convinced that this is what the Lord wants - a heartfelt joy for holiness? Then pray for it! Ask God to give you what he requires. Ask others to pray with you. Fix your studies upon Jesus Christ. Know him more. Consider what he has done for you. Take God's promises seriously. And keep praying. By God's grace you will receive more and more of that joy. The more you know Christ, the more his joy in holiness will become yours.

We know how our Lord Jesus Christ lived: in perfect obedience to God. Why could he do that? Not just because he was the Son of God. We are inclined to look at him that way and then give ourselves excuses why we can't obey. He lived in perfect obedience because he lived in perfect trust of his Father. I know that we can't live in perfect trust. But the point is that Christ did not live that way so that you don't have to. He lived that way to gain the Holy Spirit for you and to leave you the perfect example. He is holiness itself. All his life he was holy. His entire life was lived for God in accordance with all God's commandments. That is why our heartfelt joy for holiness will in itself be an expression of our delight in Christ. We are to delight in all that he was and is. Therefore we do need to delight in the perfect law of God. Holiness has to be something we look forward to, something we devote ourselves to, something we practice.

If not applicable bracketed section can be left out: [[We are about to embark on a detailed study of every single one of the Ten Commandments. The next Lord's Days explain them. This is the second time we encounter God's law in our confession of faith. The first time was when it exposed our sin and misery so that we might flee to Christ for salvation. We have done that. We have received Christ in our hearts. He is ours by faith and we delight in him. Now what about the law? It comes back. It comes back for its most important use in the life of a Christian: to express our delight in Christ.

The detailed study that is coming is all about how we show our delight in Jesus Christ for the salvation which he gave us. God's law regulates holiness for us.]] Good works must be measured according to his law. Provided we are believers who delight in Christ, then we will do good works out of true faith. We also do them to honour God, to his glory. But the Holy Spirit still needs to guide us to perform good works in the particular ways that delight our Creator and Saviour. How does the Spirit guide us? By means of the law of God and prayer. He guides us to express our delight in Jesus Christ through our heartfelt joy for holiness. That is our walk with God.

Whenever we study the Ten Commandments our sins will be exposed. True repentance with both its parts, will be necessary. We will see which sins we must ask forgiveness for and we will see what kind of holiness we put into practice. Let us do all this because we have a joy, a love, and a delight in Jesus Christ. In that way, having been delivered from all evil, we will live in thankfulness to God.

If not applicable bracketed section can be left out: [[Many Reformed churches have had the practice of putting the law after the sermon and not just in the morning before the sermon. This was done to highlight this beautiful place of the law in the life of the believer - the guide for expressing delight in Christ. For that reason we will sing the entire law from Hymn 7 as a guide for expressing our delight in Jesus Christ and his holiness. God grant that this kind of singing, out of delight in Christ, is on our lips all the time. Amen.]]

alternate ending: May God fill us with such a delight that we forsake all sin and give our lives fully unto him in all good works. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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