Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: The book of Revelation begins with messages to seven churches. What would happen if you were delivering a personal message today? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I think He would encourage in the areas where we’re obeying Him, we’re being faithful. He would acknowledge those as He did with these churches.

But then I think He would shine the spotlight of His holiness and His truth and His Word into our hearts and say, “I have this against you.”

Leslie: It’s Monday, October 1, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Repentance isn’t just something you handle one time when you come to Christ. Repentance is a daily process, and it’s also one of the marks of genuine revival.

Nancy has been helping women study the elements of personal revival in a series called Seeking Him. So far, Nancy has covered humility and honesty. This week, we talk about true repentance.

Nancy: Well, we’ve come to the fourth week of our Seeking Him series, and I hope you’re hanging in there with us. We said at the beginning of this series that revival in our lives involves a process.

Kind of like farming, there’s a plowing process, and that takes a lot of time. Then there’s a planting or sowing process, and there’s a lot of waiting, a lot of patience, a lot of steps before you can actually reap the harvest.

We encouraged you at the beginning of this series by telling you the first several weeks were going to be a plowing process; that we need to let the Lord God put the plow of His Word down deep into the soil of our hearts.

The plowing is what prepares the soil to receive the seed. So we’re still in that plowing process. You may be wondering, “Are we going to plow forever?” Well, the answer is no, but this week we are going to keep plowing. Then the opportunity will come for us to plant seeds in that prepared soil of our hearts.

I promise you if you stay with us and if you’ll stay with what God is doing in your heart, that the day will come when you will see the harvest of righteousness. Remember, we read in Hosea earlier on in this series, Hosea chapter 10, “It is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you” (verse 12, NKJV).

So don’t stop seeking Him. Keep seeking Him. Persevere in seeking Him. You may have seen the Ziggy cartoon that pictures a robed prophet holding up a placard that says, “Sinners repent.”

Then in parentheses, it says, “Nothing personal.” That’s kind of the way we like to think about repentance. We don’t mind preaching about repentance, hearing people preach about repentance, talking about repentance, as long as they’re talking about someone else’s sins.

But we don’t want that prophet to go meddling in our sins. Nothing personal. That’s the kind of repentance we’d like to have, and yet, there is nothing more personal in the life of a believer than the whole issue of repentance.

So this week we want to focus on the message of repentance, and I’ll just tell you at the outset, it is personal. We can’t say there’s nothing personal about the message of repentance.

Repentance was the message of John the Baptist when he came preparing the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Matthew chapter three, verse one tells us that, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea.”

What was His message? “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (verse 2). That’s the first message Jesus gave when He came. Matthew chapter four, verse 17 says, “From that time [after the baptism] Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

The people knew that was familiar because John had already been preaching that message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

What was John the Baptist saying? What was Jesus saying? What did the kingdom of heaven being at hand have to do with repenting?

Well, John was saying and Jesus was saying that there’s a whole new world order coming. It’s a whole new system. It’s a whole new way of doing things.

It’s a whole new set of values from what you’ve ever known before, and this system, this world order, this kingdom requires that you turn from the kingdom of man, the kingdom of self, the rules, the laws you’ve been living under, the kingdom of this earth.

You’ve been going in that direction, and this new kingdom requires that you do an about-face, that you turn around, that you go a whole new direction, and that you begin to live for this different kingdom.

Jesus was saying, “There’s a new kingdom coming, and it requires that you have a new heart, and it will give you new desires and a new lifestyle and a new reason for living, a new agenda for your life.”

It’s saying you have to repent because this new kingdom is at hand. He was saying, “You have to admit that the agenda you’ve been living for is the wrong one.” What Jesus was saying is, “That’s what it means to be a Christian.” That’s what Christianity is—it’s a whole new kingdom.

It’s a whole new Lordship and a whole new realm that we live in. It’s not a new religion. It’s not just a new thing to add to your life. It’s a whole new sphere of living. You’re transplanted from one kingdom to another, but to get from one kingdom to the other requires that you turn, that you repent, that you have a new ruler for your life, a new Lord, a new life.

Jesus never stopped preaching that message. After His resurrection, before He returned to heaven, Jesus appeared to His disciples. We read in Luke chapter 24 that He said to His disciples that they should preach repentance and forgiveness of sins and proclaim that message in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (verse 47, paraphrased).

What was the message they were to proclaim? Repentance and forgiveness of sins. Preach this new kingdom, but you have to repent to get into it.

That wasn’t Jesus’ last word to His disciples. It was His last word here on earth, but if you’ll turn with me to the book of Revelation, I want us to see Jesus’ last words to the church that are recorded in the Scripture.

Revelation chapter two and chapter three, and I want us to see that Jesus’ last word to the church was not the great commission, as you may have thought, and as important as that is, “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). His last word to the church that is recorded in Scripture was a call to repentance.

Jesus sent a messenger, as you remember (we have this recorded in Revelation chapters two and three), to seven churches of Asia. To five of those seven churches Jesus gave a command to repent.

I want us to look at what He said to some of those churches before we go through in greater detail. You’ll notice that Jesus didn’t tell these churches, “You need a stronger evangelistic program,” or “You need to get more committed to missions,” or “You need to do a better job of reaching out to your community or reaching out to young people.”

What He said was—to five of the seven churches—“You need to repent.” As we look at these churches, you’ll see that each of these churches had some positive qualities. Some of them had many positive qualities, and Jesus commended them for those qualities.

But He didn’t overlook the things for which they needed to repent. Look, for example, in chapter two, the first of the seven churches is the church at Ephesus. This church is commended for many things. They had a lot going for them.

Jesus talked about their hard work, their endurance, their discernment, their doctrinal correctness, their purity, their faithfulness to the Word. But He said, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).

So what was the instruction there in verse five? “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” That means you have to acknowledge that you have fallen, in spite of all the things that you’re doing well.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” “I’m going to turn off your light. I’m going to make you useless, unless you [what’s the word?] repent.”

Then look at the church in Pergamum at the beginning of verse 12 in Revelation chapter two. People in Pergamum lived in a very hard area. In fact, Jesus describes it as the area where Satan’s throne is.

I don’t know what that means exactly, but I don’t think I’d want to live there. Tough place to live, but Jesus said, “Yet you hold fast My name [living in this tough area], and you did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you” (verse 13).

“You’ve had a martyr, and you still held firm to your faith.” Wow! What a church. “But I have a few things against you,” Jesus says. And He goes on to say that they had tolerated some teaching that was very popular in the church, but it wasn’t biblical.

It wasn’t truth, and Jesus said, “You have some there who hold the teaching of Baalam” (verse 14). Baalam was the false prophet who led the Israelites to compromise and to adopt the immoral practices of the pagan nations.

He said, “Also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (verse 15). These were popular, but false doctrines of the church in that day.

And so Jesus says in verse 16, “Therefore, repent.” Turn. Change. “If not, I will come to you soon and war against them [who promote these teachings] with the sword of My mouth.” Of course, what is the sword of His mouth? The Word of God would ascend with truth to change the situation.

Look at the church at Thyatira, beginning in verse 19 of chapter two. Jesus said, “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance.”

Verse 20: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat foods sacrifice to idols.”

Verses 21-22: “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her, I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works.”

See the church in Sardis in chapter three. He said, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (verse 1). That’s the truth. Get honest. We talked about that last week. Get honest about your true spiritual condition.

And then it says, verse three, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” And then to the church of Laodicea, verse 15 of Revelation three—we’re familiar with this. “I know your works: You are neither cold nor hot.”

Verse 17, “You say, I am rich. I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Jesus said, “The impression you’re leaving is not the reality. Everybody thinks you’re a great church, but you’re not. You’re having some issues that you need to deal with.”

Verse 19: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” It’s a thread that runs all through the Word of God, and I found myself wondering this morning as I was thinking through this, if Jesus came to the church today and spoke to it, what would His message be?

You know what I think it would be? Revelation three, verse 19. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

If Jesus were to come to your church today, what message do you think He would give? I think it would be that same message. “Be zealous and repent.”

What is this gift? What is repentance? The word repentance comes from a Greek word, metanoia. That’s a compound word—two words—that when put together means “change the mind.”

It’s a change, a change of thinking, and our thinking is very important because “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV). The way we think dictates the way we live, so it’s a change of thinking that results in a change of heart that results in a change of life.

You can’t repent and not have your life changed. It’s a change. It’s a change of thinking about ourselves, a change of thinking about God, a change of thinking about sin. It’s a total change where we come to the point that we hate what God hates and love what God loves.

That’s not the way we’re born. We’re born loving what God hates and hating what God loves. That’s natural to our flesh, but when the Spirit of Christ comes to live in us, He changes us.

He makes us a new person. He begins to change our desires. We come to Him through repentance, and as we come to Him in repentance and faith, He continues to grant us the gift of repentance so we’re continually agreeing with God and changing our way of thinking about ourselves, our circumstances, about God, and about our sin.

Repentance is an about-face. You’ve been going one direction, and you start heading in another direction. You think of a baseball player and a ball coming one direction toward the bat, when the bat connects with the ball, the ball does an about-face, a total reverse, and is going in the totally opposite direction.

As I was preparing for this series, one of the word studies I did in the Scripture which was really fascinating to me, particularly in the Old Testament, was this command to and this plea to return to God. Return to God, over and over again, particularly in the Old Testament.

God is saying to His people, “Return to Me. Return to Me.” That’s an Old Testament description of repentance—to return to God. God says, “Return to Me, and I will return to you,” in Malachi chapter three, verse seven.

Lamentations chapter three, verse 40, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD.” What does it mean to return to God?

I think first of all it implies an acknowledgement that we’ve left Him, that we are in a backslidden condition, that we’ve committed spiritual adultery. That’s the word picture God uses many times in the Old Testament.

But that’s hard on pride. We’d rather say, “I’ve made some mistakes. I kind of tripped up or messed up.” God says, “No. Say it the way it is.” I have been an adulterer, or an adulteress. I have left my first love. I’ve been unfaithful to God.

You’ll never know the God of the Bible until you come to the place where you can acknowledge the places in your life where you have left the lover of your soul.

It implies we agree that we’ve left, and then it suggests—return to God suggests—the restoration of a relationship that has been broken. God is a lover. He’s a relational God. He’s calling us into a relationship with Him.

When He says, “Return to Me,” He’s saying, “I want to restore the relationship.” And then it suggests a change of mind and heart and direction. “You loved the way you were going—I want you to go a new direction now. Return to Me. You were going away from Me; now return to Me.”

Doesn’t that phrase, “Return to Me,” reveal the heart of God? He’s compassionate. He’s merciful. He perseveres with us. I mean, when I think it over, I’ve been walking with the Lord for almost 42 or 43 years.

How many hundreds, thousands of times, in big and little ways (and is there any little way to commit adultery?) that I have sinned against God, and He keeps saying to me, “Return to Me. Return to Me. Return to Me. I want you. I love you.”

The call to repentance is not a negative thing. It’s the most positive possible plea that God could issue to His children that He loves.

That decisive change in direction is reflected in Psalm 119, verse 59, where the Psalmist says, “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies.” When I think on my ways, my ways have been going contrary to Your Word, and when I think on my ways, I repent. I turn my feet to Your Word, to go Your way.

That’s repentance. Paul describes repentance in 1 Thessalonians chapter one, verse nine, where he talks about how the Thessalonians turned to God from idols. They turned to God from idols. It’s not enough to turn away from your idols. You have to turn to God.

You can’t turn to God until you have turned away from the things that have stolen your affections, that have stolen your heart. You turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God.

We need to understand that repentance is not just a one-time experience. It is a continual heart attitude. It’s a way of life. The question isn’t just, “Have you repented?” The question is, “Are you repenting? Are you a repenter now? Are you repentant? Do you have a repentant heart toward God?”

That’s a heart attitude that is always saying, “Lord, anything that You show me to be sin in my life, and anything tomorrow or the next day or the next day or for the rest of my life that You show me to be displeasing to You, whatever it is, I will turn from it so that I can please You and have a right relationship with You.”

That’s the heart of a repenter. Repentance is foundational to the Christian life. It’s a starting place. In Hebrews chapter six, verse one, the author challenges those believers to move on from the first elementary doctrines of the Christian faith.

He’s not saying “move on” as to forget them, but go on to maturity. He lists what those foundational, basic, ABC’s are of the Christian faith—the starting place. Hebrews chapter six, verse one.

He says, “Therefore let us leave [or move on from] the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of [here are the ABC’s] repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”

Repentance from dead works and faith toward God—these are the ABC’s. Until you know the alphabet, you can’t read. You can’t go on to maturity in the Christian life until you have laid the foundation of repentance and faith.

That is foundational. That is the starting place. I want us to see that repentance always, always, always brings forth fruit. Repentance is a heart attitude. It’s a change of mind. That’s something internal. You can’t see what somebody’s thinking. You can’t see what their heart is doing, but repentance will always have visible evidence.

It’s always evident in our lives, in the way we live, in the way we talk, in the way we relate to others. It’s a change of mind that results in a change of heart that results in a change of behavior.

Remember when John the Baptist came preaching at the Jordan River the message of repentance? He said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him.

He was proclaiming a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The people flocked to be baptized by him, and John says to them (now you know he wasn’t running for office when you read this), “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).

Are you just trying to get a fire escape from hell? An eternal life insurance policy? You’ll get that with salvation, but he said, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (verse 8).

"If you’re truly repentant, don’t just let me come and pour water on you. That’s not any evidence of repentance. That’s not any evidence of conversion. That’s just getting wet. If you’re in the kingdom of Christ, then you ought to live like a subject of Christ’s kingdom.

"If you have a new heart, then you have new desires; you have new values; you have a new lifestyle." The people said, “What do you mean?” (verse 10). And John got specific. This preacher got to meddling. He said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (verse 11).

“And whoever has food is to do likewise” (verse 11). The tax collectors came to him to be baptized, and they said, “How should we show fruits of repentance?” (verse 12, paraphrased).

He said, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (verse 13). Don’t cheat. This is where repentance gets practical. No whining about your salary. No whining about your job. No cheating people. No manipulating your husband.

“You’re repentant?” John asks. “You want to be baptized? Then show that you repent by your life.” Richard Owen Roberts has written a wonderful book on revival, and in that book, he says, “True repentance affects the whole man, alters the entire lifestyle, and does not cease.”1

Did you get that? “True repentance affects the whole person, it alters the entire lifestyle, and it does not cease.”

Are you a repenter?

Leslie: Learning to be a repenter is serious. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us understand what repentance costs, and why it’s so valuable. If you’re ready to make repentance a greater part of your life, you’ll find Nancy’s book Brokenness to be very helpful.

One woman wrote to us while facing a difficult problem in her church. She said, “Thank you for your wisdom about brokenness. This message has changed our lives and our family.”

She goes on to say it has left her full of rejoicing and refreshed. Discover the freedom and joy that follows repentance. Order a copy of Brokenness by calling us at 1-800-569-5959.

When you call and make a donation, we’ll say thanks by sending Prayers from the Heart. It’s the 2008 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. It contains prayers from Nancy’s heart, along with Scripture.

If you know anything about the Revive Our Hearts wall calendars of the past, you know the team here does a beautiful job with design. This year is no exception.

Ask for Prayers from the Heart when you make your donation by phone. 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can order the book, Brokenness.

You won’t see any growth in your life if there’s no repentance. Nancy will explain why tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1Revival. Richard Owen Roberts. p. 66.

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