Sermon – True Repentance (Jeremiah 3:12 – 4:4) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Jeremiah 2020

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Sermon 4 of 6

True Repentance

Philip Cooper, Jeremiah 3:12 - 4:4, 21 March 2021

Phil continues our series in the life of Jeremiah preaching from Jeremiah 3:12-18 and Jeremiah 4:1-4. In this passage we see both Israel and Judah's response to God's rebuke. God calls the nations to repentance that goes beyond remorse.

Jeremiah 3:12 - 4:4

12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,

  “‘Return, faithless Israel,
      declares the LORD.
  I will not look on you in anger,
    for I am merciful,
      declares the LORD;
  I will not be angry forever.
13   Only acknowledge your guilt,
    that you rebelled against the LORD your God
  and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
    and that you have not obeyed my voice,
      declares the LORD.
14   Return, O faithless children,
      declares the LORD;
    for I am your master;
  I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
    and I will bring you to Zion.

15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.

19   “‘I said,
    How I would set you among my sons,
  and give you a pleasant land,
    a heritage most beautiful of all nations.
  And I thought you would call me, My Father,
    and would not turn from following me.
20   Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
    so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel,
      declares the LORD.’”
21   A voice on the bare heights is heard,
    the weeping and pleading of Israel’s sons
  because they have perverted their way;
    they have forgotten the LORD their God.
22   “Return, O faithless sons;
    I will heal your faithlessness.”
  “Behold, we come to you,
    for you are the LORD our God.
23   Truly the hills are a delusion,
    the orgies on the mountains.
  Truly in the LORD our God
    is the salvation of Israel.

24 “But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our fathers labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”

4:1   “If you return, O Israel,
      declares the LORD,
    to me you should return.
  If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
    and do not waver,
  and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’
    in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
  then nations shall bless themselves in him,
    and in him shall they glory.”

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:

  “Break up your fallow ground,
    and sow not among thorns.
  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;
    remove the foreskin of your hearts,
    O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
  lest my wrath go forth like fire,
    and burn with none to quench it,
    because of the evil of your deeds.”


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

We're going to turn to Jeremiah, chapter 3 and I'm going to read from verse 12 to the end of - to verse 18. Of chapter 3 and then over to chapter 4 and verses 1 to 4. So if you can keep your fingers there, that will be really helpful. So starting at verse 12. Go, proclaimed this message towards the North Return faithless' realm declares the Lord, I will frown on you no longer for I am faithful declares the Lord.

I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt. You have rebelled against the Lord your God, You have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree and have not obeyed me declares the Lord. Return. Faithless people declares the Lord.

For I am your husband. I will choose you, 1 from a town, 2 from a clan. And bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land declares the Lord, People will no longer say, be ark of the covenant of the Lord.

It will never enter their minds or be remembered. It will not be missed. Nor will another 1 be made. At that time, they will call Jerusalem, the throne of the Lord. And all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord.

No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts In those days, the people of Judah will join the people of Israel and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance. And then over to chapter 4 and verse 1. If you Israel will return, then return to me declares the Lord. If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray. And if in a truthful just and righteous way you swear as surely as the Lord lives, then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him, they will boast.

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem. Break up your unplowed ground. And do not sow among the thorns. Circomize yourself to the lord. Circomize your hearts.

You people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. All my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done, burn. With no 1 to quench it. Thanks, Pete. And let me add my welcome to you.

And Welcome to all of you who are joining the live stream and from wherever you are. My name is Philip Cooper. I'm 1 of the elders at the church. And yes, as Pete said, if you can keep open chapter 3 if you're at home and those few verses of 4, we're going to spend some time looking at those. But let's pray as we start.

Father God, we do thank you for your word. We thank you that it speaks to us today. All those written, those thousands of years ago, that it's still relevant, that it's still a living word. We pray this evening that you will take it and by your spirit put in on our hearts and our minds that we will be changed. In Jesus' name, amen?

Have you noticed how saying sorry is sort of being eradicated from our culture? Gradually, perhaps, perhaps you think it's happening quite fast. I mean, I I've been in business over 30 years when I started. It was it was pretty normal. It was expected even that we were gonna make some mistakes when we were being trained.

We'd have to apologize to our boss or whoever it was. And occasionally, if we were involved in something, as a firm, we might need to apologize, you know, to a client for getting it wrong, I guess, the advice that we gave. But that doesn't appear to be an option anymore. You know, lawyers tell you pretty quickly. You mustn't apologize as it indicates liability.

I've noticed even I don't know if you've noticed this, even in sort of minor car accidents. We we can't just get out the car and apologize for, you know, bumping them slightly up the back. You know, we've got to be very careful what we say, we've got to take photographs, we've got to look at other evidence to support our version of events because Well, you know, saying sorry and and paying for the damage like we used to, you can't do that now. Because that opens yourselves up to a claim for whiplash and anxiety and panic attacks and loss of earnings just for that minor little bump. I mean, if I knew that was all coming, I'd have really round them.

But that's that's what it's like, isn't it? In fact, it reminds me few years ago, Matthew was at secondary school, and I spent a lot of Saturday mornings at the sports field. And he'd be playing hockey or cricket or something. Anyway, there was 1 Saturday morning. I parked with all the other cars, we park on this road near the sports fields.

And I was in there and he came over before the match started and he gave me gave me his track suit because I was the kit man and said, take it back to the car, will you dad? So as it was cold, I thought I may as well walk back to the car, actually, so I wouldn't have did that. As I came around there with all these blue flashing lights, and I thought, that looks like my car in the middle of the road. Even though I know I parked it half on the curb, half on the road. And I got closer and sure enough, it was my car.

And it was in a right state, front smashed in, back smashed in. And what had happened is another dad going to a different sports fields of a different school, driving a bentley, had mounted the curb slammed into the back of my car, which had shot across the road and been hit by a white van coming the other way. So it got taken out twice. But this guy in the Bentley was just strolling around saying, don't worry, I'm gonna pay for everything, everyone, and and he did. But could you do that today?

There'd be lawsuits and claims if you owned up to that sort of liability? What about politics? You know, it seems to me it's no longer possible to apologize and keep your job. Rory Bell, who's here, actually. We're saying in our home group this week that it seems that if you're in the public sphere now, the policy is 1 strike and you're out.

And that's it. You can't apologize anymore. See, the failure to apologize in our lives leads us, I think, to more hurt in our relationships, more broken relationships than are really necessary, and it causes us more pain even in churches. Because we seem to expect perfection from each other rather than, you know, the fact that we're flawed, sinful, friends, if you like, who will make mistakes, but apologize for them. Ben said this morning, didn't he?

When he was preaching on that floating act head story that 1 of the options that the guy had was to basically steal it. I mean, he lost it by then. He was in the water. Was to basically just block the guy's number, the person who lent him the axe head, and avoid him for the rest of his life. That seems to me to what culture does.

If if if you upset a friend or if they upset you, it's over. We don't apologize. We just don't speak to that person again, which is move on. Now with children, I've noticed there are largely 2 types of children you come across when it comes to saying, sorry. The obstinate 1 and at the other end, and the sort of people pleaser.

As an adult, you might think there's more options, but I think actually if you think about it, they're just Nuance versions of 1 of those 2. The first one's the stubborn child. You know, the person who, when they're caught doing something wrong, effectively refuses to back down. Refuses to acknowledge guilt won't say sorry. It's a mixture of indignation and defensiveness and pride.

There is no intention in the little kid to say, sorry, even if in the back of their own mind, they know they did something wrong. They won't back down. This is painful to deal with as a parent. It is a battle between your will and the child's will. And it's very important you win.

You must win even if it takes hours and ends in tears and tantrums, You have to win because as an adult, particularly as, you know, Christians, we have to learn to say sorry. It's part of growing up, it's part of maturing. The other option is the child who's keen to please, keen to keep the peace. Basically can't do conflict. Maybe an element of fear of man in them, I'm not sure.

So they're very fast to say, sorry. You know, it's almost the first thing out of their mouth, but the problem here is not stubbornness, obviously, it's in sincerity. See, they'll say sorry to avoid upset. Whilst in their heart, they're not really sorry at all. In fact, they're so quick to try and repair any damage that they'll apologize for something without really thinking through whether they even did anything wrong.

That feels easier to deal with as a parent, because you get the sorry, but it's much harder to correct, actually. You see, it's important again as we grow up as we mature to learn how to handle conflict. So avoiding conflict just by being very fast to say sorry, isn't really a methodology for going through life. So as we start this evening, I want you to think about, now that we're you're an adult here, Which of those do you tend towards? Are you unapologetic for most of the things you do in life?

Or do you tend towards apologizing for, you know, even existing? Which 1 of those 2 do you fit into? See, this whole idea of saying sorry is just a minefield as an adult. Let's think about when you do do something wrong. How long do you think it's reasonable for the other party, the hurt party to stay angry with you?

Well do -- as I've said, do we just accept in our culture that it's all -- they're going to stay angry forever, that's the end of the relationship when we move on. What about as a Christian when you're wronged? How long is it okay for you to stay angry with them? See, when we when what we saw last week was that God has more than enough justification when looking at the behavior of his people, to file for divorce. And it wasn't, as we looked at, a no fault divorce.

Israel and Judah were unfaithful. They were adulterous. They'd lost their first love of God. And in chapter 3 verse 8, we saw this. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.

Yet, I saw that her unfaithful sister, Judah, had no fear. She also went out and committed adultery. See, each child is behaving like the little kid, but he's not even saying sorry here. In verse 3, God says, you know, I withheld spring showers and rain from them. In in other words, he's trying to break him, break them.

Break their willfulness, and still they refuse to blush with shame at their behavior, it says. Instead, what do they do? They're saying, well, how long are you going to stay angry? How long are you gonna stay angry? And that's our first point this evening.

How long will God stay angry? Chapter 3 and verse 4. Have you not just called to me? My father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry, will your wrath continue forever? The Israel's asking God, are you always gonna be angry with us as if it's unreasonable?

There's no sorry from them at all. God laid out the charges last week in chapter 2. They were pretty shocking. But instead of being full of remorse and sorrow, the people are basically saying here in these verses, well okay, but how long before he'd get over it? What they're saying to him?

Not saying sorry. They're saying, come on. You know, are you gonna keep on going on about it? How long o lord before you stop being angry? It's like a big yawn to them almost.

Let's leave him alone for a bit and he'll get over it, they think, to about God. And damningly, Jeremiah says, this is how you talk. Are you these verses here? This is how you talk. But you do all the evil you can.

In other words, even when they're asking the question, how long are you gonna be angry for? They're off chasing the next idol. That's Israel. Judah, on the other hand, he's like the child who says sorry just to keep the peace. Jeremiah says in verse 10, I think that's going to come up.

In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister, Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense declares the Lord. See, this would have been a stinging rebuke for Judah at the time, because they thought they were better. They thought they were holier than Israel. You know, they were living under a relatively good king Josiah. But Jeremiah shows them here that actually you're just as bad, in fact, worse.

Verse 11, the Lord said to me, faithfulness, Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. Because Judah's proud. Judah thinks they're above Israel. And Jeremiah says their attitudes worse than Israel's. So with both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, God has every right to stay angry, not just at their unfaithfulness, but at their hypocrisy.

As they cry out to him, you know, how much longer lord, while doing all the evil they can. So is there a way out? How long is he gonna stay angry for? Is he gonna stay angry forever? Well, the answer as we saw in our reading is no.

Remarkably, remarkably actually in this passage, God still asks them to return to him. Now, just think about that. Imagine if you were a husband, which is how we were pictured last week, God is the husband, we're the bride, Israel's the bride. Imagine if you were her husband and loved your wife, but she's unfaithful. Not in the sense of just having an affair.

That's not what it's saying. If you remember last week, this was a bride who was out there with every man that was passing by. Would you take her back? Because God 3 times in this passage says, return to me. Let's look at verse 12.

Go proclaim this message towards the North, return faithless Israel declares the Lord I will frown on you no longer for I am beautiful declares the Lord. I will not be angry forever. And then verse 14, return, faithless people declares the Lord for I am your husband I will choose you, 1 from a town and 2 from a clan and bring you to Zion. And then I think the next slide, verse 22, return faithless people. I will cure you of backsliding.

Yes, we will come to you for you are the Lord, our God. See that? 3 times, return to me. After everything we looked at last week, after all the things God's people had done, The times they turned away from him, the idols that they worshiped instead of the true God. He nevertheless 3 times has come back to me.

Return to me. It's an amazing thing. It's an amazing facet of the character of God, that however unfaithful we are, however we behave, he loves us and he wants us to turn back to him. He even holds out for them that amazing picture that Pete read for us earlier in verse 17. At that time, they were called Jerusalem, the throne of the Lord.

This is the time of them coming back to him. And all nations gathering Jerusalem to honor the name of the lord, no longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days, the people of Judah will join the people of Israel. And together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance. So they're being given there a picture of the messianic age.

But that's a long way in the future for them. But for us, we're closer to that glory. We're closer to the glory of that picture that that Jeremiah portrays than the people at the time. So that vision, that feeling of all being together with God I hope it reminds you of Revelation because we hear it very similarly in Revelation. Revelation chapter 21 and verse 2, I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Very different, isn't it, that picture from the bride? Portrayed last week in Israel. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, look, God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. They didn't have that, of course.

It's new testament. Israel didn't have that at the time, but we have it. And we have the picture as well that they had from Jeremiah, that picture of unity of Judah and Israel together again, under him. And all of that shows us a future. But there's still 1 thing we need to do.

Yes, God won't be angry forever. But he wants his people to change, he wants his people to return to him, he wants his people to repent, not a superficial sorry, and not a stroppy, sorry, but true repentance. And that's our second point. God wants true repentance. In the first 4 verses of chapter 4, he sets out how he wants his people to return to him and what it means to actually repent.

And God is gonna show us tonight in these little verses, what it means for us in a relationship with him to say sorry, to truly repent rather than just feeling sad about the mess that we've created, or the thing we've got caught up in. And what we're going to see in the remaining time that we have is that true repentance requires action as much as emotion. It's not about how we feel as much as it's about what we do. There's only 2 points in this sermon this evening. And we're on to the second 1, but it has 4 sub points.

So I'm just warning you. You want to unwind, otherwise, you're wondering what's going on with the numbering. And the first 1 is this, true repentance means removing the idols. So let's read this chapter 4 verse 1. If you, Israel will return, then return to me declares the Lord.

If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, So you see what he's saying? You see, if you go back to when God calls them to return in verse 22 of chapter 3, they replied, yes, we will come to you for you are the lord our God. That was their response on the third time. Through Jeremiah. And in chapter 4, God's taking notice of that and he's saying, okay, okay, if you're gonna come back, then come back.

If you, Israel will return, then return. In other words, do it fast. You see, God's challenging our tendency in our hearts to prevaricate, to put something off, particularly when we have good intentions spiritually. But sort of never get round to it. You know, we're much more like the proverb, aren't we?

The 1 about this Proverbs 22? The 1 about the lion. Oh, there's a line outside I'll get killed in the market square. I mean, you know, it's a way of putting something off. You know, I can't think about that today.

And that's what we're like. We come up with all sorts of reasons not to get round to stuff. And God's saying here, if you're going to return to me, then return to me. Don't just talk about it, and that means remove the idols. Do not retain any of the relics and charms associated with your idolatry.

Destroy the high places In fact, if you go back to that verse 1 of chapter 4, he's saying, put your detestable idols out of my sight and that's showing us that not only did God see them, and he saw Israel worshiping them, but they were offensive to him. See, we often think of repentance as some emotional thing we have to feel. It's something we need to feel, but God is saying, I want you to do something, not just talk about it. It's important you see that we don't confuse remorse with repentance. They're not the same thing.

If you're I don't know, a burglar and you get caught, you might be sad, you might feel remorse even because you've been sent to prison, I guess. But you're not repentant or not necessarily. Just because you feel those things. 1 commentator, I really love this. He wrote remorse is only your friend until it leads you to repentance.

After that, it is no friend at all. Do you get what he's saying? You see, sorrow in the sense of remorse is only a friend if it leads you to change. Other than that, it's of no benefit. God says to Israel, I want you to get rid of the idols, destroy them, leave no sign of them.

So let's just stop and apply that to us. How often do we feel bad about some, I don't know, sin in our life or or some ongoing area where we're battling to be more godly. And we feel bad, when we fall, we feel remorse, you know, we've done it again, but we don't do anything to prevent it happening next time. How many of us, if we had a problem with what we watch on the computer, would actually throw the computer out? How many of us if we have a problem with pornography would make sure that we're not the last person in the house going to bed?

So that we're on our own downstairs flicking through channels. How many of us if we struggle to avoid gossip Take ourselves out of the situation where gossip occurs. How many of us if we're tempted to overspend and go into debt would actually tear up the credit card. See, our version of repentance today tends to be sorrow, regret. And then because we're sort of in our modern culture, it involves us bearing our soul and telling someone else about it.

But the idea of actually doing something to stop it, of removing yourself from the situation just feels extreme. That's a bit over the top, we think. What throw it out, the computer? But all that's showing us, you see, if we think like that, as we don't take sin seriously. Or we're not truly repentant.

Because we wanna leave it in place so that we can do it again. And that's what that's what's happening here. And God's saying to each rail. I'm sorry. You've gotta destroy the idols.

Take them away. If you're gonna return to me, you need to remove everything so that you're not tempted back. There's another translation of this verse about the idols, which is really helpful. It says, if you put away your idols, put away your idols and you will not wander after them again as you do, then all shall be well. Because that's what we like.

We don't put them away, if we don't destroy them, we'll be back because we've got sinful, natures. But you see, in this little phrase, if you Israel will return, then return to me. God is saying more than just put away the idols because that's That repentance is turning your back on those, but it's always it's turning towards something as well. That's why he says return to me. He knows that when we're battling, when we remove something from our life, when we destroy that idol, there's a void, and it's dangerous when there's a void because we fill it with something else.

We need something else to take our attention. And so verse 1 says, if you Israel will return, return to me. You must return to worshiping the living God. So repentance requires turning away from the false garden from the idol perhaps the sin in your life towards the 1 true God. But you've got to do the turning towards as well.

So that's the first key to repentance that we see in these 4 verses. Put away the idols and turn to God. The second element of repentance is make a commitment. So look at verse 2. And if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear as surely as the Lord lives, then the nations will invoke blessings by him, and in him they will boast.

God saying here, look, after you've acted, after you've dealt with the idols, after you've shown that you're willing to deal with the problem in your life, then don't just feel sorry about something, vocalize the repentance. Take an oath, make a pledge, The idea really is that in front of other people, you will assert the position of your heart going forward. So you're to do it in truthfully, it says, just and righteous way. In other words, it's sincere, genuine. It's not something that should just come out easily, like the sorry, quick sorry because I, you know, I just want to move on.

Feel better about myself. This oath, this commitment is an act of religious worship. It's saying as surely as the Lord lives, In other words, we're acknowledging his existence, that he's the 1 true god, that we're completely sure of that in our life, that he's alive today. And it's a very important commitment, not just because it cements in our own heart the way forward. But look at the end of the verse, then the nations will invoke blessings by him, and in him, they will boast.

He's saying that the very act of Israel and of us Turning back to God in true repentance and faith and vocalizing it will be a powerful witness to those around us. If Israel returns to God, then other nations will soon look to the God of Israel and will boast in him too. That's what he's saying. See, it's an amazing thing, the impact of a sincere, repentant heart on other people. It's what was missing with Gahazi?

Do we heard about last Sunday morning, if you remember? There was no sorrow, no repentance, didn't think about it, moved on. That was his attitude. Well, think about the example we talked about earlier of avoiding gossip, you know, perhaps at the school gates. I am sure if that's you you might be viewed by other people, by your friends, if you don't gossip, as less fun.

I'm sure you will be thought of like that. But you wait until 1 of them needs advice or needs to confide in somebody and see who they come to. The third element of repentance God highlights is that we must cultivate our heart. Verse 3, this is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem, break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. So if you don't plow the ground, if you don't remove the thorns and the weeds, then sowing seed will be a fruitless task.

It's a waste of time. Unless a field is cultivated, it isn't ready to receive the seed that brings life. And Jeremiah is saying so it is with us. We must plow the hardened ground of our hearts so that the word of God can take root. Because without the word of God taking root in a plowed heart, we won't be truly repentant.

We'll be heading back to those idols. It's the same message in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. In verse 8, Jesus says, Still, other seed fell on good soil where it produced a crop, a hundred 60 or 30 times what was sown. Now see when Jesus is talking about good soil there and he's talking about the growth that you get from good soil, he's not referring to, I don't know, the p h levels in the soil. Or whether it's clay or whether it's chalk based or whether there's a high water table with natural irrigation.

I have to look all this up all the way. I have no idea about land. He's talking about soil that's ready for the seed. He's talking about soil that's been plowed. He's talking about soil where the weeds and the stones have been removed.

The point is when we're repentance, When we're turning back to God in our lives, let the word plow your heart. Let God's spirit deal with us. So that we're ready to receive the word. If you don't, if we don't ever reach this stage, we just stop We don't prepare our hearts, we don't plow it, we're not really listening to the word. Then not only will you not get any fruit in your life, but the repentance will fade and you'll be back with the idols.

So cultivate your heart And what does that mean? Well, do you catch up? If you miss a sermon in the series? Do you catch up? Or do you just, you know, jump in and out.

So you've got a little bit of an idea of 2 kings, but not much. You know, what about home group on Wednesday when we're going to go over again Sunday morning sermon? Do you read the passage between Sunday morning and Wednesday. It's a fantastic idea. I haven't thought of it till now.

But, you know, if I read it beforehand, God might speak to me much more powerfully on the Wednesday instead of coming to it cold again. Repentance requires us to firstly put away, destroy the idols, and replace them with the living God, Secondly, it requires us to make a commitment. Thirdly, it requires us to cultivate our heart. And finally, fourthly, it requires us to consecrate ourselves. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, he says, verse 4, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants, of Jerusalem.

See, Jeremiah addressing people here, we've obviously been circumcised. So, physically, he's not talking about that. He's saying to them, look, that was a covenant sign. That was an outward sign. Now do it spiritually.

Dedicate your lives, your hearts to the living God, devote yourselves to the lord. That's what he's saying. See, some of the times when I've really grown have been when I'm serving in church. I have to admit not always cheerfully at the beginning. When I've had to do something.

But in the end, I've learned through it, and it's brought me closer to brothers and sisters in Christ. And I'm sure if you ask the youth leaders like that video we had earlier, though it's not filling me with your confidence, but I'm sure if you ask the youth leaders, they will say, yeah, they learnt. They've learnt teaching the youth. See, a truly repentant heart is a heart consecrated for God. So plan how you might be able to serve God in your life.

Not good intentions, a plan. The whole emphasis in this passage is that God doesn't want skin deep repentance. He's not really interested in you feeling sorry. He wants to see change. He wants to see a plan.

So you don't see anything in this passage about regret and tears and how you feel. And if you're sitting there and you're thinking this is just too much. I'm not strong enough to do this sort of repentance. It's too overwhelming. The problems I've got or the thing I can't let go of, then let Jesus help you.

Repent, turn to God and let him lift you in his arms and help you with the action plan that's required. It's what he wants to do because he wants us to come back to him. Repentance has always been part of God's salvation plan. And perhaps we don't talk about it enough, perhaps, We don't recognize its importance enough. See, 3 times in this passage, God, having originally said I'm gonna file for divorce.

Says return to me. Return to me. Return to me. That is amazing. How much God will put up with, and yet he still loves us and he still wants us back.

And he gave us that vision Verse 14 after he says, return faithless people, he says in verse 15, then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding and then verse 17. At that time, they were called Jerusalem, the throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the lord. He's saying, you see the nation's repentance is all part of the plan. Returning to worship the living God is part of the plan, and it will bring other nations to him. And it's part of God's salvation plan for you.

Reent and be saved. In Loop 19, I'm going to finish here. We get the story of Zakius, the tax collector. And if you remember, he climbed a tree to see Jesus. And Jesus basically says, come down because we're going to your house.

And Zakius is a changed man, but he doesn't just sit in the corner crying, Barry's past life. And he doesn't jump around with excitement. He has a plan. Verse 8 of Luke 19, he says, but Zakia stood up and said to the lord, look lord, here and now, I give half my possessions to the poor And if I've cheated anybody out of anything, I will give back 4 times the amount. See, he's not just regretting his actions, he's doing something.

Now does Jesus respond by saying, I can see well, you know, I can see you're a bit upset about, you know, life and what's been going on, but you don't need to go as far as 4 times. You know, there's laws about this sort of stuff. Now, of course, he doesn't. Jesus responds verse 8. Today, salvation has come to this house.

He's absolutely and directly linking repentance and action with salvation. And that's the takeaway for us tonight. You see, God wants you to return if you've drifted He wants you to take sin seriously, but he doesn't want you in your seat now when we're praying in a minute or at home to instantly say sorry. And then forget about it and carry on. He doesn't want a begrudging sorry that he has to leave or out of you like we did with some of our children.

He wants a plan. He wants action. If we want to live out our salvation, we need to truly repent and act on it. May not be easy, may be painful, because it requires change. But it's the type of repentance that God wants.

And it's the kind of repentance that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us as We fix our eyes on Jesus, our lord and savior, and look forward to a future in heaven with him when we'll be perfect. And then we don't have to worry about this stuff, and we don't have to keep saying sorry. But for now, let's repent. Let's say, sorry. Let's learn how to say it if we're bad at it.

But from our hearts, not superficially. Let's pray. Father God, we do thank you for your word. We thank you again that it speaks to us. Help us whether we're 1 of these people who say sorry all the time.

And in a sense, it doesn't mean much, or we never say it. Whatever it is, that isn't repentance anyway. Lord, help us to learn from what we've seen in your word this evening what true repentance is that we might come to you and be truly repentant. Help us to turn our backs on the idols to destroy them, to destroy the things that claw at us to tempt us back into patterns of life we don't want to live. Help us to worship you.

Help us lord to genuinely make a commitment to you, to love you, to turn to you, to rely on you, and we pray that your spirit will help us help us to be a changed people, that we won't you know, have good intentions and do nothing. Help us to leave here this evening or go into the week determined to be people who follow you, who seek your face. And reject those things that pull us away. In Jesus' name, amen.

Preached by Philip Cooper
Philip Cooper photo

Phil is an Elder at Cornerstone and oversees our Finances. Cathryn is on the staff team as our Women’s Ministry Coordinator.

Contact us if you have any questions.

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