The following are my notes of Thabiti’s sermon at T4G 2014.
Unashamed is our theme. Stop for a moment and ask if we feel unashamed about our personal evangelism. Is that how we would describe ourselves? Many of us would, but many more would not.
I want to begin by confessing that I am not the greatest evangelist in the world, in this conference, in my church and if I were in a room by myself I would fear I still would not be the greatest evangelist in the room.
I have two evils in my life. First, I do not love the lost like I should. I do not care about them like I should. Second, I came to faith in my late 20s and have a doctrinally light approach to evangelism that our Christian world has taught me to preach.
I wince and shy away from the hard parts of evangelism. The hard parts like repentance. We act like repentance is a footnote to our evanglism. We at times will become ashamed. We downplay sin and hell.
If we get the motive and method and evangelism wrong we will find ourselves betraying the motive and method of heaven. If we see why heaven rejoices at the sinner’s repentance.
Repentance brings happiness to heaven. We see this in Luke 15 and that these three parables of Jesus all make this one point.
The context for the text is set in verses 1-2. All the sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to hear Jesus. This is amazing because since Genesis 3 sinners have been hiding from Christ. So it is amazing that they would want to come near to him. Isaiah 53 says there was not anything that was attractive about him.
Then the religious leaders are grumbling and saying that “This man receives sinners.” This is bad news to them.
It is in this context that Jesus tells these 3 parables. It is like he is asking them, “don’t you get it?” Heaven rejoices in sinners repenting.
Heaven rejoices over every sinner repents. We see this punch line in 15:7 and 15:10 and 15:22-23.
This is what the Pharisees missed and what we too often forget in our evangelism. Repentance is a fountain of joy in heaven. Nothing prompts a party like repentance. Even 99 righteous people do not bring the same kind of celebration as one sinner.
What must it be like to have all of heaven rejoicing in heaven?
We often want happiness in our lives, but we forget about the great joy of repentance. Not often enough do I remember the joy of seeing people coming to repentance. The joys of heaven’s happiness is not like the joys of this earth.
The joy in heaven expands in quality and never fading. It grows richer, deeper and more satisfying.
It expands in quantity as well. The chorus of celebrants grows as the people in the parables call their friends, neighbors and servants to join them in their celebration.
This means we are not only the means of bringing people to repentance, but we are the chorus who joins the angels in celebration of those who repent. We will experience this rejoicing for all the days of glory.
What is it about repentance that makes it so beautiful to bring this celebration? Why didn’t the Pharisees see it?
1. The Repentance of the Sinner is the Goal of the Gospel
In Jesus’ stories he puts the people in the story and gives them a perspective they did not have before. He gives them a heavenly view and that God makes a sacrificial and diligent search for the lost. He would even risk the security of the 99 to go find the lost sheep.
It is a careful and diligent search. This is what the scene with woman searching for the coin is all about. She is like a woman nesting and cleaning everything before she has a baby. Its a dangerous thing to be in the house of a nesting woman. She will sweep you right out of the house!
Repentance is God accomplishing his purposes. God will seek and save the lost. He will do this because he will grant repentance to the sinner. The sinner is found even when they do not know they are being looked for.
2. The Unrepentant Sinner Is of Great Worth
Why don’t we just let the one sheep go? Why not just not worry about that one lost coin? This one wondering lamb is valued by the owner and they feel their abscence. The shepherd cannot let them stay lost. Their value is seen when you see the shepherd finding the sheep and finding the coin. They rejoice and there is strength restored to them.
This is the picture Isaiah gives us in chapter 40 of Jesus who carries the sheep in his arms close to his bosom.
If we had the entire world, would that be enough to purchase our soul? Nothing is as valuable as our soul.
3. Life Apart From God Is So Devastatingly Ugly
Consider the life of the younger son after squandering his living. The life that the son thought would bring liberty and joy left him in poverty and lonliness. That is the story of sin. The destitution of the younger son is a living picture of the hell that awaits all those who live apart from God. It is a desperately ugly life.
4. Repentance Begins to See God Rightly
We see this when the son notices that his servants are well cared for. He confesses his sins and makes no qualifications or excuses. We so often are regretting the consequences of sin and not the sin itself.
In verse 19, he makes a resolution in light of the character of God. He casts himself on the mercy of God. He came to see a holy God and acquire the knowledge of the Holy Law.
He left the harlots. He left the swine. He left all that he had and did not try to keep his sin to come to Christ. We bring no good works. We bring nothing to him except that we try to turn to him.
5. Repentance Is the Occasion for the Display of the Riches of God’s Grace
We need to bring forth the character of God and the tenderness of his embrace and his kisses. He receives him as a son. He does not let him become a servant or even make the request.
The gospel defies all human expectations, but the father does not chastise him. He spent his inheritance how can he ask for something else. Yet there is not a word of condemnation. There is no breaking this bruised reed or quenching this smoldering flax. A kingdom for a beggar. That is what heaven is and it makes the riches of God’s grace all the more glorious.
We as evangelists call people to repentance and its an indescribable privilege.
6. Repentance Reflects the Miracle of New Birth
See how the Father says the son was dead, but has become alive again. When we see a repentant man we see a resurrection. To be lost is not simply to be misplaced, but to be dead. He is not to be brought back as a corpse to a funeral, but a new life to a banquet.
The same power of Christ’s resurrection is in us who believe and in those who give the gospel in evangelism. What joy is it to see men with true life and joy.
7. Repentance Exposes the Hardness of the Self-Righteous
It should awaken the church. The proud and self-righteous always think they are not treated as they deserve. We can easily imagine the older brothers and Pharisees saying that this man eats with sinners.
So often the church can be the older brother. We slide away from the gospel and to self-righteousness. Repentance of the sinners should be like a needle the pops the boils of self-righteous pus in our lives.
We are invited by this parable to imagine not that we are the younger son, but that we are the older son as well.
Here are 5 things I am applying to my heart. Thabiti remember that:
1. Calling people to repentance if calling them to the joy of heaven, the church and sinner.
2. Calling people to repentance is building up a sinner’s value.
3. Calling people to repentance is calling them to gain, not lose.
4. Calling people to repentance is not about do’s and don’ts but seeing life as it truly is.
5. Calling people to repentance is bringing them to what is beautiful and helping them see themselves as God sees them.