Repent or Perish

by LA UBF   03/04/2006     0 reads


Luke 12:49-13:9

Repent or Perish

Luke 12:49-13:9

Key Verse 13:5

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." 

About a month ago a man who owns a used pick-up truck wanted to go out to the LAX to greet a guest arriving. But he saw that the gas ran out. So he stopped at a gas station nearby and filled up the tank. He tried to re-start the car. But the car wouldn’t start. So, he asked a mechanic to check it out. The mechanic went underneath the car, touched a few things, and the car started. Afraid of driving the car to the airport, he asked the mechanic to check the car thoroughly. The mechanic complied, and said, “The alternator is no good, and the starter is a problem.” Feeling embarrassed, the man asked, “How much does it cost to fix it?” The mechanic worked on a calculator, and said, “Three hundred fifty dollars plus tax.” The man thought it was too expensive. So he took the car to another mechanic, showed the car, and “divulged” the problem to him saying, “The alternator might need some work and the starter does not seem to be working properly. Please check them out and give me a quotation.” The mechanic went through the car, and gave him a quotation, “$550.” The man was so embarrassed, that he did not have anything done to the car. Finally, the car stopped running. So he called a towing company. The tow truck arrived. The driver asked, “Where do want the car towed?” The man said, “Do you know any mechanics who would know how to do electrical work on this truck?” “Yes, I do. Go to Carlos”, the driver said. So, the two went to Carlos. At Carlos’ place the man did not “divulge” the problem, and said to Carlos, “This car wouldn’t start. So check everything, like the alternator or the starter.” Two days later, Carlos called saying, “The car is ready.” The man went, and asked Carlos, “What was the problem?” Carlos said, “I fixed a poor connection, for there was a power shortage.” The man asked, “What about the alternator?” Carlos said, “Oh, it works just fine.” The man also asked, “What about the starter?” “Oh, it is just fine.” “How much do you charge for the work you did?” the man asked. Carlos said, “$65.” Then, the man realized that not all mechanics are perfect. 

Today Jesus, who is the ultimate mechanic of all, says, “Repent or perish.” Jesus knows each person. Man is a million times more sophisticated than a pick up truck. Yet, Jesus knows what is wrong with each person and when and what will go wrong. This Jesus says today, “Repent or perish.” What then does it mean to repent? And how can it be done? 

First, repentance becomes completed with God working in a man with His fire.

One person I know had studied the Bible for over thirty years. During this period of time he listened to numerous preachers, pastors, evangelists, and theologians preaching the message of repentance. But for the most part he remained confused about the idea of “repentance.” He waned to repent, but he did not know where he should begin and where he should end. But, thank God. One day he read a Bible passage saying, “I am the beginning and the end.” By definition, the beginning is the beginning of everything, and the end is the end of everything. Everything includes everything including repentance. Then the realization came. Repentance begins with Jesus and ends with Jesus. 

But first let us think about how it ends. Isaiah 46:10 says, “I make known the end from the beginning.” It is like the computer program called “Map Quest” showing you the driving direction: in order for you to go to a certain destination you start out at one point, and then you end at the ending point. And the total mileage is shown at the bottom. Where then does repentance end? And how is it completed? When it is completed how complete is it? Being the Son of God, I believe in verse 49 Jesus made known the end (of repentance) known from the beginning. Look at verse 49. "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” 

Here by the ‘fire’ Jesus does not mean the physical fire such as the brush fires that are common in the Los Angeles area. Oh, no. Jesus is not an arsonist. What then does “fire” mean? A lot of Scriptures stand up to answer the question. But one of the places for us to go is Exodus 3:2. “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” I believe this fire is the fire of the Holy Spirit which [during Moses’ encounter with the burning bush] jumped into the heart of Moses, and stayed with Moses until Moses was able to lead the slave nation Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land, for Numbers 11:25 says, “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.” 

What the Lord accomplished for the slave nation Israel through the fire of the Holy Spirit which worked in and through Moses, is symbolic of what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through all who believe in Jesus Christ. And he is the one who is to complete the work of repentance. [Read also Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 16:8-11.] 

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Let us then pray that Jesus would give you the “fire” of the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus will make you not only to be a new creation but also to lead many to the Promised Land. 

Second, repentance begins with the cross of Jesus.

Since we have seen the ending point, let us now consider where it begins: look at verse 50. “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” Here by a “baptism” Jesus means his sufferings and death on a tree. 

Eventually as Jesus predicted, he went to the cross. On a tree Jesus died. Right before his death, Jesus prayed to God saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus’ prayer indicates that God sent Jesus and caused him to suffer and die, to forgive us of our sins. This realization of God’s sin-forgiving love is the beginning of repentance. By definition, repentance is to make a compute u-turn, turning from the way of rebellion back to the way to God the Father. God is the source of life. As we are convinced of God’s sin-forgiving love, the love that forgives us of our sins, we can decide to go back to the Father and live in His presence. 

In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son we see a beautiful example of a repentant sinner going back to God. In the parable, a prodigal son left his father’s house and went to a distant country. There he squandered all the money he took from his father’s house. Then he ended up in a pig farm. He was about to die of starvation. But at that moment, he realized that in his father’s house there is a lot of food even his father’s servants would not spare. He also realized that his father was such a loving person that only if he repents and goes back to his father, his father would forgive him of all of his sins. In this conviction he said, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” 

For us sinners then the cross of Jesus is the plus sign of God’s loving-kindness, the sign that God is going to forgive us of all of our sins. When we are convinced of this sin-forgiving love, we are encouraged to go all the way back to the Father’s house. 

Third, one of the first signs of repentance begins to appear in a family.

Look at verses 51-53. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." 

Many of us would admit that the family is the foundation of human relationships. Yet, Jesus says he came not to bring peace but to divide it. Why? Did he come to destroy human relationships? No. Then why does he want to cause division in the family? We find an answer to this question Matthew 12:50 where Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 

One person I know has four brothers and four sisters. Originally none of his family members were Christians. But although this man is the youngest son, he was the first one who became a Christian. Then all of a sudden his family began to experience lots of earthquakes. For example because he was the brightest of all of his siblings, his father loved him the most. But since he became a Christian his father hated him so much that the father said, “You are no longer my son. Never send me a letter. Never set your feet in my house.” The father excommunicated him. But this man did not back down. He kept following Jesus. He also began to invite his siblings to Christ one by one. Eventually he invited his mother and his father. 

The amazing thing is that the gospel of Jesus brought true peace among the family members. Before the Lord God brought the gospel into his family, there were a lot of fights going on in the family. The relationship was particularly hostile between him and his elder brother who was two years older than he. For example at the age of 16, his elder brother learned Karate. Soon the elder earned a black belt. Then, his brother started using his Karate skills on his younger brother. But being a Christian the younger brother did not retaliate. Plus, he could not possibly fight him back because his elder brother got a black belt. But one day the younger brother invited his brother to Bible study. Then mysteriously the elder brother accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior. Guess what happened. The elder brother stopped beating him up. Plus, the elder brother calls his younger brother, “My shepherd!” This happened more than 30 years ago. Since that time the two became the closest of brothers in the Lord. And still they love each other ever so dearly. 

Fourth, repentance must take place at a time called “now”

Look at verses 54-56. “He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?” 

Unlike the weather in Los Angeles, the weather in the Middle East, particularly in the area of Galilee, is quite unstable. At one moment it is bright with sun shining, wind remaining calm, but at another wind rises, cloud gathers in the sky, and it rains. In addition, because the land size of Israel is relatively small and the weather pattern is quite simple, it is very easy for anyone to predict what is going to happen next. 

Jesus then says that just as it is easy for one to predict changes in the weather, so also only if one paid some attention, one could easily interpret the present time. What then was the time of Jesus’ day? According to Isaiah 61:1-2 and all other Bible passages, the time was this: “the year of the Lord’s favor.” To make it easy for the people to know the time, God sent John the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, that is, Jesus Christ. Then when Jesus came to the land of Israel, Jesus started his ministry saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19) 

The year of the Lord’s favor refers to the generation (or the present time) where God graciously bestows upon all believers his sin-forgiving love. Based on the blood sacrifice of Jesus he is generously giving out the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who repent and turn to the Lord. 

Proving that the year of the Lord’s favor (unmerited gift) started Jesus began to perform tons of miracles healing many. Taking advantage of the Lord’s favor, sinners like tax collectors or prostitutes of Jesus’ day came to Jesus, and received salvation. Speaking of the trend Matthew 11:12 says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Here the phrase “until now” especially the word “now” includes the time called “now” today. And even until now, if one has the eyes to see, one can see tons of sinners (small size sinners, medium size sinners, and mega-size sinners, I mean, all kinds of sinners) are making their way into the kingdom of heaven!

We do not know how long this “present time” called “now” will continue. We do not know how long the Lord God will keep the door open. But the great thing is that still the door remains open. 

But why was it that an absolute majority of people of Jesus’ day remained unrepentant? Why do many of our own generation remain unrepentant as well? The answer is simple: “hypocrisy”. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy means dishonesty, duplicity, insincerity, and mendacity. And everyone knows that it is not a good thing for one to be dishonest, double-minded, insincere, or mendacious. Why then does one still choose to be so? The only logical answer is because one may think that he still has lots of time for him to repent. He operates with the idea that says, “Oh today is not the only day. Let us to do it tomorrow.” But we must remember that the only real time is this present time called now. 

Fifth, true repentance accompanies the realization of the dreadfulness of judgment.

Look at verses 57-59. “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny." Here the word “adversary” is a reference to the devil also known as Satan. The “penny” refers to every little sin one commits to God and to men. One of the things Satan does the best is to accuse God’s children of their sins. He is the best fault-finder of all. Standing on the other side of the polar extreme is Jesus. God sent Jesus as the embodiment of God’s love for us. And love covers a multitude of sins. Figuratively speaking Jesus stands in a heavenly tribunal as our defense attorney, whereas on the other side the devil stands as a prosecutor, charging us of all the sins we committed. Suppose then one goes without Jesus. He is without a “cover” so to speak. Then who will get out of the eternal prison? No one can. For this reason Jesus says that while there is still a time, before we stand on trial before the judge, we must reconcile and settle the case, so we would not have to face the guilty verdict. And the only way to do it is for us to believe in Jesus. Then, as we put trust in Jesus, Jesus will shut the mouth of the devil. Because Jesus shed his blood and paid the penalty for our sins, the devil has no basis on which to accuse us. And we must repent and believe in Jesus knowing that the judgment without Jesus will only result in us being thrown into an eternal prison without any possibility of getting out.


Sixth, in repenting you should never compare yourself with people

In Luke 13:1-5, we see two episodes. We also see the call “to repent or perish” is repeated twice. When we see Jesus repeating the same thing, we can rest assured that there is a very important message for us to remember. What is the message? The message is that in the business of repenting, we should never compare ourselves with other people. If we compare ourselves with people, we can always find someone who seems to be doing better than us. At the same time, we can always find someone who seems to be doing far worse than us. In either case, we will fail to find ourselves as sinners. 

What then is the right way to see ourselves? The right way is for us to find ourselves before God. When we examine ourselves in view of God’s word, then we can admit that we are sinners. Then, we can find what to repent of. 

Seventh, repentance must result in bearing fruit that matches repentance

In verses 6-9 we find the parable of a fig tree. In this parable the word “fruit” is repeated: “…he went to look for ‘fruit’ on it…”; “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit…”; and “If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down!” This indicates that repentance is never a matter of lip service. It must result in bearing fruit that meets with repentance. Ultimately the fruit refers to Christ-like character. On our own we cannot bear this fruit. When we sincerely repent and turn to God, meaning business, as we talked about it at the outset of this worship service, the Lord God blesses us with the anointing by the Holy Spirit. And with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Lord God perfects the work of repentance. 

In conclusion, Jesus says, “Repent or perish.”  Notice what comes before and after “or”. It is like two different weights are on a scale – one weight sitting on your left hand side of the scale and another weight put on your right hand side of the scale. So the weight called “repent” goes up, the weight called “perish” goes down. Which one would you rather see going up? Which one would you rather choose? God gave each person the privilege to make a choice, and the choice includes the choice to perish. This is truly amazing. And it is a sobering thought to realize that God created man with the freedom of choice, even the choice to perish. So let us use the freedom wisely. 

One word: repent or perish