In Sunday’s sermon, pastor Darin preached from Neh chapter 9, which highlights the importance of God’s mercy, confession of sin, and repentance. The Levites again read from God’s Word, and what emerges is a pattern of where God provided for and delivered His people, yet, they repeatedly rebelled against Him. Despite this, God moved in mercy toward His people. The people that were gathered that day were living testimonies to that fact, because even though God exiled His people from the land, He provided for them there, and now, He has brought them back to the land, and the temple and the walls have been rebuilt! So, the pattern we see is “We sinned, we rebelled…but God in His mercy!” (see vv. 17-18, 21, 26, 28, 32).
So, the key idea from the sermon was that repentance is the way to renewed joy in God. As we turn from our sins to the salvation we have through the perfect work of Jesus Christ in His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, God hears us, forgives us, and heals us spiritually (2 Chronicles 7:14). There were 2 points in the sermon related to this:
1. What does repentance look like?
a. We must own our sin. Instead, we often deflect the issue and/or blame others. For example, telling someone “I’m sorry you were offended by my words.” In other words, the problem is the other person because they got offended! True confession and repentance doesn’t deflect or blame-shift. It says, “ I was wrong, and I own my sin.” Think about folks you’ve wronged. Did you truly own and confess your sin? If not, go to them and confess.
b. We justify God instead of making excuses for ourselves. Repentance says I will own what I need to own with no excuses, and commit myself to God, and ask for His mercy in Christ. Have you made excuses? Stop making excuses, and turn to the Lord in repentance by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. This is the gateway to joy!
2. How do we get to repentance?
a. Martin Luther spoke of how the whole of the Christian life is an ongoing response of repentance—of turning from our sin, and resting upon Jesus Christ alone. We never outgrow our need for Christ and the Gospel! Meditate on God’s Word, and turn to Christ!
b. To know God is to know that he is profoundly merciful. This is seen most significantly in the person and work of Jesus (see Eph 2:6–7). The key to repentance then is that we must know that God is a God of mercy and grace. Time and again after we sin, God says “Grace!” And this grace leads us to repentance (see Romans 2:4).
c. How do we acquaint ourselves with this God of mercy?
1) In the text, they discovered the story of God’s mercy in the church. We need to get into the covenant community to hear the gospel preached.
2) Reacquaint yourself with how God has moved in your life.
3) Get into the Scriptures. You’ll see He’s merciful to you before you repent!
As we do these things, we will be confronted with the person and work of Jesus Christ! In the text we see this pattern of disobedience on the part of God’s people. All of this pointed to their and our greatest need: we needed someone to take our place. We needed a covenant keeper. Jesus is the true covenant keeper. And at the cross, He bore the covenant curses that you and I deserved.
So, preach the Gospel to yourself everyday. Think about how God has acted so mercifully to save you from your sin through Jesus Christ, and why it’s because of Him we now have access to God’s throne of grace. The writer of Hebrews puts it so well: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16). Let us turn our gaze there in faith and repentance! Jesus is our righteousness. He is our peace. He is our joy. And God’s mercy comes to us now through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. To Him alone be all the glory!