Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conflict and Repentance (Keller at EMA)

The below quotation was transcribed by Darryl at DashHouse.com highlighting part of a sermon given by Tim Keller in London, England at EMA (Evangelical Ministry Assembly). I thought someone might like it.
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"How are we going to face this hostility from culture and fragmentation within the church today? The general resource is the biblical doctrine and practice of repentance.

Luther began the95 Theses that began the Reformation by writing this: "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent,' he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Why did Luther say this? Nobody was bigger than Luther on the difference between faith and works. Religious people generally believe that God accepts them because of their good works. In other words, they base their sanctification on their justification. In which case, religious people are either sinners or they are loved at any given time.

Luther understood that the gospel - salvation by grace through faith through the substitutionary work of Christ alone - brings a paradoxical personal identity that nobody else has. We are simultaneously sinners (in ourselves) and completely accepted (in Christ) - simul iustus et peccator. We have Christ's righteousness. We understand that we're sinners but infinitely loved. We're as loved now as we will be a million years from now.

This means that we are weaker and more sinful than we ever before believed, but also more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.

If that is the case, the way that you can tell that you are a Christian who understands the gospel, rather than a religious person, is how you handle repentance. If you are religious, repentance is occasional and traumatic. It's what you do to get out of the sin bucket into the love bucket. Repentance then becomes another weapon in your arsenal of self-salvation. It becomes a work. But you never know if you've been repentant enough.

But if you believe the gospel, then we understand that the gospel has nothing to do with our performance. This gives us the freedom to see sin everywhere in our lives. We don't have to be in denial about sin in our lives. George Whitefield wrote:

I cannot pray but I sin -- I cannot preach to you or any others but I sin -- I can do nothing without sin; and, as one expresseth it, my repentance wants to be repented of, and my tears to be washed in the precious blood of my dear Redeemer. Our best duties are as so many splendid sins.

To the degree that we understand the gospel, we are free to admit the worst about ourselves finally. Repentance isn't how we get right with God; it's just the right response. It gives immediate assurance.

Lloyd-Jones tells the story of someone who says, "I was at your house the other day, and you weren't home. A bill came due to you, and I paid it, so you're off the hook." Lloyd-Jones said that we would have no idea how to respond to this man, because we're not sure if it was a package with postage due costing a few pence, or it could be back taxes due worth thousands of pounds. Until we know the size of our debt, we don't know whether to say "thank you" or fall down and kiss his feet. The more we understand the size of our sin, we understand how loved we are.

My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don't need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn't based on their performance.

All of life is repentance, and repentance increases joy."

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