Several lessons in these past weeks have led up to this one. I did not even know it was where God was taking me. Even when realized, I was very slow to go in this direction. Today's lesson is 100% Scriptural, and 100% needed. Though I have never taught it as honestly and raw as we will hear it today—going to take a big chance here today, because it's not about making more false converts, it's about making less, but real converts (According to Christ Himself). When I tell you that I love you, I'm not just saying it jokingly today; you need to know this lesson comes from love and obedience, not anger, frustration, or anything else you may consider when we're done. And know this one more thing, before we begin, for a number of you, God will be calling you to a point of decision and change today.
I want to start with a modern-day parable: A man marries a wife he seems madly in love with. He slips and has a one-time affair (It could happen, even if he loved her, they continue); he slips again (she's crushed, but they stay together); eventually this man drifts further and further. Every day he says he still loves her with all his heart, but now, almost every-single-night he is sleeping with another woman before coming home; not even hiding it, but doing it in the open; breaking her heart; embarrassing her and disrespecting her. He spends time reading about doing better, has support meetings, memorizes slogans about fidelity, gets excited about quitting, but doesn't ever even try. Even in all this, she loves him, but he never considers her love (he takes it for granted). Does this man really love her as she loves him? Does he really want her as his one and only true love? Should she continue to let him sleep with other women every night and come home to her as though all is well? Absolutely not—because he has proven what he really wants? And if there is any hope that he could be sorry for what he's doing, it surely won't happen while he's allowed to continue unchecked; and if there are any children involved, what would he be teaching them if he were allowed to stay? There are people right here in this room who are living out this exact story with the most important loved one in your life: Jesus Christ. You say you believe in Him; that you love Him; that you've accepted Him; but like so many believe today, you think an emotional decision, a few happy words, and some occasional guilty moment at an altar are the extent of your life with Him. Because all you must do is believe and trust Him—He will do all the rest. I am not teaching you anything near Salvation by works—you cannot earn anything; Christ did it all—but I am emphatically telling you this: you can treat someone well without having to really be in love with them, but you cannot ever truly be in love with someone, and not treat them well. Actions don't save you, but they show proof of where your heart truly lies. James 2:19-20; John 14:23-24. So many of you have promised your heart and life to Christ; you claim His Name, you call yourself a Christian if you're asked; but you continue a life daily, that you 100% assuredly know He is heartbroken over. Even after we have repeatedly talked from this pulpit, and some talks privately. You choose to sin against Him openly, over and over, just as the new husband in the parable, with what you choose to do in spite of Him (sex outside of marriage, living together, drinking and doing drugs, still loving God-ridiculing, Jesus mocking, sin teaching entertainment more than a righteous heart for Christ, stealing, lying, hating, holding people in hatred and contempt with no intention of ever forgiving); with what you choose not to do, in spite of Him. After years as a, "Christian" you still don’t know His Word, still do not have any prayer life, nor do you want one, still do not tithe or help others, still don't reach others for Christ or love on them, still don't guide, teach, and pray with your children, still ashamed of Him around certain people, and in all of this it's still not that He doesn't want you. It's simply that you don't want Him. Just like in the story of Joseph, we are studying on Wednesday Nights. Joseph would not reveal his identity to his brothers until he knew they had changed hearts, until he knew he could trust himself to them. Then, his hope and desire exploded on them, as he revealed himself in uncontrollable tears—that's Christ. Just as the story of the prodigal son and the father running to meet him. Before Jesus will truly reveal Himself, or give Himself to you, He must know that you do more than believe in Him; He must know that you are sold out for Him, as He is for you. The only way that is proven to Him, to you, and to the world is that you try to please Him in obedience and trust. Because you simply cannot truly love Him for who He is, and for what He's done, and for the heart that He has, and not want to please Him, and not want to be like He is, and not want to keep from hurting Him, when you know how much He loves you. Somehow, we seem to miss the Scriptures, many of which are from Christ Himself, that tell us belief is not enough—we must be so in love with Him and His ways, that we want nothing to do with the selfish ways that put Him on the cross. That means we must turn from the sins that murdered Him, and go another way. What is another name for that action? Repent! This word, in English and in Greek means to reverse one's thoughts and ways due to conviction and guilt.
Matthew 21:28-32; Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19; Romans 2:4-9. Could Scriptures, could Jesus Himself, be any more emphatic? That your reaction of repentance (changing your mind in conviction), or your reaction of impenitence (unremorseful, unapologetic, shameless), are the true sign of your heart towards Him, and whether you belong to Him? Listen, as Paul describes what true repentance looks like versus a little selfish pity: 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. Paul uses seven words in describing what happened to the people of Corinth when they repented unto Salvation in Christ: eagerness, haste (to do better; apology, clearing of self (broken, wanting forgiveness); grieved anger (angry they've hurt Christ & others); fear, exceeding terror (for what they've done, and of God); extreme desire, longing for (passion to live for God now); heated jealousy (determined never to be against or hurt Him again); revenge, retribution (strong desire to punish wrong against God now). If we really love Him, really want Him—why do we have one more thought about what we can get away with and still be safe? Why don't we instead, have a desperation to do anything we can to show our love and live for Him now? Yes, people can sin; yes, people can fight and fail in sin; no, Jesus will never leave nor forsake you; but, you absolutely can walk away from Him, after knowing Him as your Savior—and some of you have done just that. Hebrews 3:12-14; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Peter 2:20-22.
Now, listen to how serious God is about those who remain in church week after week; hear His Word, continue to proclaim faith, and choose to keep sinning over Him on purpose; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. God doesn't want them out because He doesn't love them or want them, but because He knows they don't truly want Him. And as long as He lets them sit there comfortable and in sin, He would be enabling them, just as the wife who never called her husband on adultery, to continue to his destruction, as he hurt everyone around him. God says resist them so they will wake up to Salvation, and so they cannot bring others into the world of sin with them; so they cannot make God seem cheap and uncaring; so they cannot think it is OK to hurt others by ignoring God's Wisdom on purpose. When Jesus confronted the rich young ruler, and told him what truly had his heart, his riches, the rich young ruler went away sad, because he wanted Christ, but he wanted his life more. Some people here have openly chosen a life against Christ.
If you say you love Him, but you choose to live in a sinful lifestyle, are you saved? If you once were saved, is it possible to walk away? (yes) Is it because He left you, or you left Him? (you left) Does God say blatantly, that under these conditions, you shouldn't even be allowed in the earthly body of believers, much less Heaven? Since you would be hurting others, living comfortably in sin, and mocking Christ? (yes) Then decide today—right now—what you want. Do you love Him enough to repent of what you are doing, and live for Him really? No matter the cost? If not, I am telling you, not asking—do not come back until you are ready. Not because He doesn't want you; not because we don't want you; but, because you don't really want Him, and it's time you stopped playing games. If you think He doesn't want you back at the first thought of repentance, just remember the picture of that father in the prodigal son. We all need more passion, and pain, and desire to live for Him like we really adore Him, more true reverence for Him as God and King; but some of you—and you know if it's you—need to come to this altar and make the change now, or don't come back. At least then, you aren't fooling yourself about where you stand until the day of Judgment. Every one of us could use some heart-felt, humble repentance over how care-free we’ve treated Almighty God.
Please choose to repent; please choose to stay; but please choose. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.
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