Yet They Did Not Repent

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Revelation 9:13-21 | November 19 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
November 19
Yet They Did Not Repent | Revelation 9:13-21
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Our Father in heaven, how grateful we are that we can have Jesus as our friend, what a friend of sinners. God, through Your Word now we pray that You would give to us spiritual life, that every soul in this room might truly see, understand, and know You. If any are but once born, would You give them new life. Do in us what we cannot do ourselves, open our eyes, unstop our ears, and give us new hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

I’ve a thought experiment for you. If we were a smaller group, I’d take the time to have you write down some answers and hear what you came up with, but we won’t do that. But I want you to think in your head, if someone asked you, okay, here’s the question – What is Christianity? What is Christianity? And you only had 10 words. Now take out the articles and the prepositions. 10 words that you can write on a board and then you could explain, you could unpack these words. But if you were going to start your explanation of Christianity with 10 words, what, just think for a moment, what 10 words would you want to write up on the board, would you want to put on the napkin, to explain to your friend what Christianity is all about?

All right. So think about what’s on your list of 10 words. I bet you had “Jesus” somewhere. That would be good. I’ll even give “Jesus Christ,” will count as one. Maybe “God.” That would make sense. Maybe “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Or maybe if you’re thinking, you thought “I’m going to put trinity, all right, I’ll save some words there and then I’ll explain that.” Maybe being in this place, “covenant,” because that word is ubiquitous around here. Maybe “fall, redemption.” Seminary students wrote down “propitiation.”

What word is on your list? Just 10 words to describe to someone what is Christianity about.

I imagine that if we had time to collate the list that very few of you put this word, which is one of the most important words in the whole Bible and word that you need if you are to explain the Gospel to someone. It is the word “repent.” We think of that sort of as a scary word maybe, somebody on a street corner with a sandwich board, “Repent for the end is near.”

But when Jesus announced the Gospel, He said in Mark chapter 1 very simply, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Ezekiel said, “Repent and turn from your transgressions.” John the Baptist in Matthew 3 came on the scene, saying “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Peter in his sermon at Pentecost announced, “Repent and be baptized.” Paul in his preaching in Acts chapter 17 said, “God is commanding all people everywhere to repent.”

Of course, there’s a lot of words, and if you only get 10 it’d be hard to say that many of them are wrong. Yet I would suggest to you that if you are going to faithfully explain the Gospel and you are really going to explain what Christianity is about, you must have in your short list of words this word, which many of us would, “oh, yes, yes, yes, of course we believe that.” Or even some Christians would be embarrassed by it, and yet it stands front and center in so much of the Bible.

God’s word to the peoples of the word and to everyone in this room this morning is not ultimately a summons to go live rightly, though there are commands. Certainly it’s not a promise to make all your dreams come true and live your best life now. No, we do not understand what Christianity is all about unless we understand that God is even now commanding all people everywhere to repent.

Turn in your Bibles if you’re not there already to Revelation chapter 9. You will see this is none of the most important words in this text. Revelation 9, verses 13 through 21. The second woe, the sixth angel with the sixth trumpet. We read beginning in verse 13.

“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

This is a strange and difficult passage. We could just make that as a post-it note for most of the rest of Revelation. This is a strange and difficult passage. There are lots of questions we could ponder from this text. I want to look at five of them, the last of which will bring us back to this big theme of repentance. Very simply, the five questions are who, what, when, where, and why. That’s what we’re going to ask of this text – who, what, when, where, and why.

Question number one. Who is being harmed and who is doing the harming in this passage? That’s the first question, the who. Who’s being harmed, who is doing the harming?

Well, look back at chapter 8, verse 13. That’s when this section within a section started, 8:13, “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!””

This threefold woe. So just as we saw with the seals, there’s really a group of four that go together and there’s five, six, and seven. Five, six, and seven of these angels blowing their trumpets come in this unit of three woes. Notice again that phrase, because it’s important, “Woe to those who dwell on the earth.” Seven times we have this phrase in Revelation. Every time it’s a reference to the wicked, the unbelieving, the ungodly.

So as we’ve seen and we’ll see, there will be suffering for God’s people on the earth and there are certain kinds of sufferings in the world that everyone will experience. But when we have this phrase, “those who dwell on the earth,” the earth dwellers are in contrast to those whose names are written in heaven. So we’re thinking here of those who do not have the mark of God but rather, as we’ll see later, the mark of the beast. We’re talking about the ungodly. So that’s who is being harmed.

Well, what about who is doing the harming? In the first woe, a few weeks ago, we saw that Satan, that was the argument, that Satan, this one who comes from the abyss, that Satan was given authority to harm the ungodly. That even though these people in a way belong to Satan, Satan is not friend to those who are in his train, he means to accuse them, he means to deceive them.

The situation is similar here with the second woe. These, I believe, these angels, notice again in verse 13, blew his trumpet, heard a voice saying to the sixth angel, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” Angeloi can mean messengers, so that we hear angels and we usually think good guys, angels can also be wicked angels. We call them demons. Believe that these are bad angels.

Remember in chapter 7, verse 1. Go back to 7, verse 1. There, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth.” Now those were good angels and they were there because there was an interlude in the middle of the seals to say, “Well, who can stand? Who will stand on the great day of judgment?” So we have this vision of the 144,000, the great multitude, and the picture is of the four angels saying, “No, no, don’t let this final cataclysmic judgment fall upon God’s people.”

Notice what it says in chapter 7 – they hold back the four winds, the four spirits of the earth. They’re holding back those demonic forces that will come.

Four in Revelation is a number that signifies the whole earth. Cosmic significance. North, south, east, west, the four corners of the globe.

So these four angels are holding back the four winds and now when we come to chapter 9 these four winds begin to blow in the persons of these four bad angels. We have another indication that they’re bad angels because verse 14 says “release the four angels who are bound.” Bound. We’ve seen that word already and we’ll come to it next year, Lord willing, in chapter 20, that Satan is the one who is bound. So the reference to the binding, the bound, and now released in part for a time tells us that we are not dealing with good angels, we’re dealing with bad angels.

This all fits together. The prayers of the saints from the altar in chapter 6 call out for vindication, for justice, and as a result of those prayers, a voice comes from the altar. Did you notice that? Blew his trumpet, I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar.

Back in chapter 6 the martyrs were under the altar. So this is the voice of the righteous, of the Church facing persecution, calling out, “God, when will You work justice? When will the judge of all the earth do right?” And in response to those prayers, the sixth angel blows the trumpet, now is the time, release the four angels and this demonic horde is unleashed on the earth.

So that is the who.

Question number two. What? What is going on?

Now here’s where hopefully you have something of your sea legs, as it were, with Revelation, something of your Revelation lenses, so you already have some good instincts on how to interpret a bizarre passage like this. The wrong way to interpret this would be to try to find some allegory for every single specific point. What is the lion’s head mean? What does it mean that their tail is like a serpent? And every single point would have some allegory?

Again, we’re thinking of these like paintings in a museum. They’re showing the same kinds of events, but with different images, different pictures. So just as you look at a painting and many fine works of art, it’s not that every single piece there is meant to be an allegory to point to something else back in reality, but sometimes it’s more impressionistic than that. It’s supposed to wash over you with a sense of joy or gloom or fear.

So that’s what we have here. The picture, the big picture, is more important than the individual parts. What do we have? We have horses, just like we had pictures of locusts before. It’s a gruesome, frightening portrayal of demonic destruction on the earth. It is not to be taken literally.

Now some people hear “literal” and they equate literal with, “Okay, if Pastor just said we’re not taking it literal, he doesn’t think it’s true.” No, those two words are not identical. This is not to be taken literally as if there really are two hundred million of these strange horse creatures with lion’s heads and tails as serpents. You see the number is given. Verse 16. And isn’t it interesting again he hears the number. When is the last time we saw that? Chapter 7. He heard the number 144,000. Why does he hear the number? Probably because it’s too big to show. You can’t show 144,000. Hold on a minute… You can’t show 200 million. So he hears, because both numbers, 144,000 and that’s for the righteous, and here this demonic presence on the earth 200 million, is not to be a literal number but to signify a great multitude, a great multitude of evil. Literally, it says in the Greek double myriad times myriad. A double myriad, 10,000, a double 10,000 times 10,000, or as the ESV helpfully does the math for us, 200 million. Twice 10,000 times 10,000. That’s what the ESV. Other translations will helpfully give you the math. 200 million.

So we should not expect to see an army of 200 million fire-breathing, snake-tailed horses rampaging out of Mesopotamia. We’ll come to this in a moment when we come back to the river Euphrates, but I know that’s lots of momentous, scary, hard things going on in the Middle East and any time there’s something momentous, hard, scary going on the Middle East it’s tempting to think that this absolutely is the sign that we’re coming to the end.

You know how often there are momentous, scary, bad, frightening things going on the Middle East? A lot of the time. We’re going to pray about that tonight as we should, but I don’t think we are meant to see that these things are to find a literal fulfillment in the slice of land that we now call the Middle East.

The picture, rather, is to be of something powerful, frightening, demonic. It’s killing people and more than that, it’s deceiving people.

Notice these three plagues. It says several times “fire, smoke, and sulfur,” matches the colors of the breastplate, fire, sapphire, and sulfur, or we might say red, dark blue, and yellow. It’s the same as fire, smoke, and sulfur. These are the colors. The plagues, notice it says several times, come out of the mouth, out of the mouth. Why? What does Satan do? Two things. He accuses and he deceives. The main way in which Satan works in the world is by telling falsehoods. Not by spinning around heads, not by haunting houses, not by doing all sorts of scary signs and wonders, but mainly with words. With words that come to us from universities, movies, Tik Tok. Words that mean to deceive and to harm. That’s why the plagues come out of the mouth.

We’ll see this again in chapter 16 with the sixth bowl. There instead of horses with three plagues coming out of their mouths, we will have three frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon and the false prophet. Again, coming out of the mouth.

Later, at the end of the book, when Christ marches out triumphant, what does He have coming out of His mouth? A sword. Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

These are not literal pictures, but they’re showing that ultimately this wrestling against the devil and his powers is a wrestling of truth versus error. The devil lies. That’s how he hurts people. That’s how he kills people.

If you don’t think the truth is important, you think all these churches that are always talking about truth, truth, truth, that’s just getting tiresome. Well, the Bible talks about truth. You may not care about Truth with a capital T, but the devil does. He absolutely does.

This is why the armor, the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, with spiritual warfare is all about knowing the Truth, defending yourself with the Truth of God’s Word. That’s what the shield is and the feet and the breastplate and the helmet. They’re all elements of God’s Truth about us as Christians.

Lies, that’s how the devil works in the world. Lies that he gives to you, sometimes through entertainment, sometimes through the quiet moments and quiet places, dark places in your heart. Sometimes through very smart people. Sometimes through media. Sometimes through social media. Sometimes through politicians. Lies that say you are autonomous. Your body is not the real you. Your desires ought always to be fulfilled. Or maybe the lie that you’re struggling with this morning, that your life is meaningless, that hope is gone. Maybe a lie about your identity or about the fleeting pleasure of sin, or the lie that the devil tells you that you can go ahead and continue to live a double life, no one will ever know about it, you can get away with it.

The world, you can be sure, is very invested in these lies because the devil is invested in telling us what is false. That’s how the devil works in the world through lies, through these plagues which come out of the mouth. Those who are truly God’s people in the elect will have discernment, to know and to withstand the assault of the devil’s lives, and those who are inhabitants of the earth will be swept up.

Ever meet someone who’s given himself over to sin? To addiction? To their pleasures without any self-restraint? Some of you, sadly, know people like that. Perhaps there’s a moment of fleeting pleasure. It seems good for a semester in college. Maybe it seems like the right thing to do for a time as a young adult. You meet anyone who’s lived that life, not just for days but months, years, and decades, you’ll find them a shell, hollowed out, the devil has his claws in them. He does not mean to give you life but to rob you of it.

That’s what is going on.

Question three. When will these things take place?

The sixth trumpet, I think, is both past, present, and future. We know this is not the complete end. Why? Because only a third of mankind are killed, verse 13. Again, are you getting to understand how to view Revelation? When we see these portions, a third, it means this is partial. This is not the end, this is not the final cataclysmic judgment. It is partial, it is limited. So this sort of deception has been going on and continues to go on in the world and people are harmed and hurt by the devil’s lies.

So it’s past, it’s present, and I think it’s also leaning us into the future. Look at verse 15 – “So the four angels who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year were released.” So this seems like a specific fulfillment. The trumpets, if they follow the pattern of the seals, then we would expect that the sixth trumpet would be the beginning of the end. Seals one through four, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, that was all of history. Seal five was the martyrs under the throne, that’s an intensification. Then seal six was the beginning of the end and the mountains falling and the sky dissolving and then seal seven was the end.

Similar pattern here with the trumpets. One through four, all of history. Trumpet five, the first woe, an intensification. Trumpet six, the beginning of the end.

So we have elements of this and yet there’s something that’s pointing us to an even worse occurrence in a day, in a moment, in an hour. The sixth bowl is similar to the sixth trumpet. We’ll see later in Revelation. There are three evil plagues coming from Satan’s mouth. Again, we’ll have in Revelation 16 the Euphrates River. There we will have the final showdown at Armageddon. Revelation 16 is confusing in its own right, but if the sixth bowl is the beginning of the end, then it would seem that the sixth trumpet is also.

So that’s the when. There’s an element of past, present, and future.

Question number four is one that maybe with the headlines these days you’re particularly interested in. Where? Where is all of this to take place?

Look at verse 14. “The sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”” The great river which runs southeast from Turkey down through Syria and Iraq into the Persian Gulf. This reference to the Euphrates River in chapters 9 and we’ll come to it again in chapter 16, has caused a lot of interpretive speculation over the years, leading many people to think we should expect an end times showdown to happen in the Middle East, there at the literal river Euphrates, such that whenever there seems to be some conflagration in that part of the world, people think this could be it. This is what Revelation was talking about. There it is.

If you grew up with that view, just stick with me here as we try to understand why I think we’re best to see this as a metaphorical reference and not a literal one. For one reason, which I hope should be obvious, is that we do not literally expect a final battle with lion-headed horses, a scorpion/locust invasion, and horses with fire-breathing, sulfur coming out of their mouth and tails that are actually wiggly serpents. I don’t think we expect that literal picture. So if that’s the case, and we understand okay, this is a picture of evil and lies and the tails of serpents, that’s another clue that we’re dealing with demonic powers, if we don’t expect that to have a literal fulfillment, then we shouldn’t expect the great river Euphrates.

Think about how the river Euphrates functions in the Bible. Maybe you’ve not thought of this before. On the one hand, the river Euphrates is important because it marked out the boundary of Israel. We don’t have time to go look at them, but Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 1:7 and 8, Joshua 1:4, all of those occasions talk about the land that God’s people were to inherit and they would be bounded off by the river Euphrates. So the other side, so there’s a theological significance to the other side of the Euphrates River. If that is the boundary marker for God’s people, then what comes from the other side is judgment, is chaos, is demonic.

And think about what you may know about ancient near Eastern history. This is how it often happened. The Assyrians who wiped out Israel came from the northeast and swooped down and on the other side of the Euphrates. The Babylonians who took the Israelites captive, came from the east and had to go over the other side of the Euphrates. Even into the first century the Roman Empire was considered to be bounded in some sense, or at least there were marauding armies, to the east of the Euphrates. In the Jewish first century mindset, trouble and judgment came from the Euphrates.

Turn, for example, real quickly to Jeremiah chapter 46. The whole passage is instructive because it forms the backdrop for this and if you can’t get there you can just listen. Jeremiah 46 is about a judgment on Egypt. Listen to what the prophet says.

Jeremiah 46, verse 2, “About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by,” where? “The river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year,” verse 3, ““Prepare buckler and shield, and advance of battle! Harness the horses.””

So there we have horses. Verse 5 we have warriors. Later in the passage there are serpents, there are locusts.

So this imagery, which was used to describe the defeat of Egypt in Jeremiah 46, is now being brought forward, would have had familiar echoes to a first century Jew. Egypt, when they were defeated, Babylon came from the other side of the Euphrates. The Roman Empire knew that on the other side of the Euphrates. The great river marked off the boundary for God’s people.

So why does this disaster in chapter 9 and later in chapter 16, come at the Euphrates River? For this reason. By the first century it had become a not to be taken literally symbol of judgment and defeat. That’s where bad things come from. Just as the rest of this passage, the number 200 million, the pictures of the horses, the fire, the snakes, the lions’ heads, are not to be taken literally, so the reference to the Euphrates River.

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be very concerned about the things happening in that part of the world. It doesn’t mean that we know another place where the end may come. But it does mean that Revelation 9 and later Revelation 16 are not trying to give us a geographical roadmap, look there, that’s where the end of the world will take place. Revelation is not to be interpreted in that way.

Which leads to our fifth question and in many ways the most important one. Why? Why does God release this demonic attack of death and destruction?

Notice again this is all under the sovereign hand of God. Verse 14, “Release the four angels who are bound.” They were bound, they had no authority to do this on the earth except the angel called, the voices called, and God granted by His sovereign authority that they could do so.

Like that famous quip from Luther, that the devil’s to be feared but always remember, he is the Lord’s devil. Meaning, he is still under the sovereign sway. They are not co-equals somehow duking it out.

God gave permission for this demonic activity to happen. You think about Job. There Satan comes before the Lord and He gave permission that Job might be tested as he was.

Why does God do this? Why does He allow for this judgment, or at least partial judgment, to take place? Because that’s what we have. Whenever you read of fire and sulfur in the Bible, just think bad things are happening, God is angry. The only other time you read of all three – fire, smoke, and sulfur – think in your head, fire, smoke, and sulfur, the only other time all three come together is in Genesis 19, the Lord reigned on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire and the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

So this second woe is God releasing judgment on the earth, really for two reasons. One, because the inhabitants of the earth deserve it. That’s hard for us as contemporary modern people. We like to think of ourselves as basically good.

But one reason He can do this is because they are deserving of this punishment. They have willfully believed the lies that the devil is giving to them and so in a manner, just like Romans 1, what does God do in Romans 1? He gives them over, He gives them over. This is how you want to live? You believe that lie? There’s almost nothing worse in all the world than that you would say in your heart, “Let me just live however I want to live” and God says, “So be it.” You be you is not the hope of the world, it is the judgment of God. So they receive in themselves the due penalty of their error, that’s what Romans 1 tells us.

So it is a punishment, a judgment upon those who deserve it.

But second, and here’s where we end, it is also at the same time a gracious invitation to repent.

Why is there so much suffering in the world? It’s a very perennial question. You can sort of answer it on a philosophical level, theological level, the hardest is just in the existential level with your own pain, your own hurt.

Now keep in mind this is not, Revelation 9 is not saying, well, your loved one got cancer or someone died in a car accident, you’re struggling therefore God must be punishing you. No, God allowed Job to suffer and he was righteous in the earth. We must always remember there is not a one to one correspondence, I’m suffering, God must be punishing me for something.

No, this is talking on a cosmic level. One of the reasons there is so much evil in the world is because God will at times lift the restraining power of His presence so that in partial fulfillment of these things the inhabitants of the earth can see just how bad the judgment will be. Every act of partial judgment is an opportunity and a gracious summons from God to repent.

It’s like that famous line from C.S. Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.”

Isn’t that true? You can barely hear Him when you’re so happy. He speaks in your conscience but there’s nothing like the megaphone of pain.

Tragically, when the very end of the age comes, it will be too late. But as that end approaches, many sadly will be hardened instead of chastened. There’s a reason these are called plagues. Just like the plagues of Egypt in the end hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

So these trumpet plagues harden the hearts of the earth dwellers who are hell-bent against God.

Look at verses 20 and 21. You can hardly find sadder verses in all the Bible. Think of everything that we’ve just seen. This terrifying demonic horde, a third of mankind killed, verse 20 tells us, the rest who were not killed, they just watch friends, family, countrymen, slaughtered. Yet they did not repent. Even with such graphic warning, still they did not give up their idolatry, their anger, their witchcraft, their immorality.

The sad truth is that some people, you say well, he’s hit rock bottom, nowhere to go but up. Some people hit rock bottom and they start digging. They say there’s got to be something below this, and they don’t change.

The worst woe of all may very well be the curse of a hard heart.

Look at what it says in verse 21, “Nor did they repent.” Now notice the sins in verse 20 have to do with the first table of the law, worship; violation of the first commandment, idols; violation of the second commandment, probably blaspheming the name of God; violation of the third commandment. Now verse 21 turns to the second table of the law, sixth commandment; murders, seventh commandment, sexual immorality; eighth commandment, thefts.

You say, well, what about sorceries? Well, because we’re in I think deliberately the second table of the law, do you see that? Moving from six, murders, seventh commandment adultery, eighth commandment do not steal. I think that sorceries must be either a part of the sixth commandments or the seventh commandment or maybe both.

The word that’s translated here, and it’s a fine translation, as sorceries is the Greek word pharmakeia. You can hear from which we get our English word pharmacy. Now don’t think any pharmacists here are doing the devil’s work, we appreciate it, but it’s just the Greek word that means drugs, potions, or can be used as the casting of spells.

Now we can’t be sure that this is the sense here, but there are a number of occasions in the ancient world where pharmakeia is linked explicitly to abortion. You think abortion is something new. No, people have always tried to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. So many commentators think, and you can make a good case, that this is here together with the sixth commandment because you would take they had ancient pills or potions or ways that were supposed to rid a woman of life. Or it could be leaning into the seventh commandment that the sorceries involved some kind of sexual behavior, orgies and incantations and the like.

What we see in verse 20 and 21 is that despite all the warnings, all the death and destruction, yet they continue to disobey the first table of the law, they continue to disobey the second table of the law.

Repentance has never been easy. It wasn’t easy in the ancient world, wasn’t easy in the Middle Ages, it’s not easy now. No one likes to be told you need to die to yourself. That sin nature needs to be put to death. You need to admit you are wrong and change. It’s always easier to get a crowd by leaving out the repentance part, and there’s a lot of churches that do that.

The Gospel of Jesus, God loves you, He can forgive you, you just need to trust and believe and things are going to go well and you’ll live forever in heaven and you’ll have blessing and abundance. Lots of truth there, but what about the word “repent”?

Embarrassment. It’s easy to be embarrassed when you make a mistake. It’s easy to regret. You were lazy, you showed up to work late, you got punished, you didn’t study for the test, you failed. That’s embarrassing, that’s regret. It’s easy to make a non-apology apology. I’m sorry if you were offended.

But real repentance, change of mind, change of heart, change of behavior, that’s difficult. To say I’m not fundamentally a good person deep down, I am not the center of the universe, I am not the king or queen of this world or even of my life. You change your mind about your sin and you admit I am responsible for my actions. My past hurts, even when people sinned against me, do not excuse my present sins. My offenses against God and against others are not trivial. I do not live or think or feel as I should.

And as you repent, you change your mind about God. Now you acknowledge He’s trustworthy, His Word is sure. He’s able to save. You believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. You owe Him your life, your allegiance. You admit gladly He’s your King, your sovereign, and He wants and knows what is best for you.

To truly repent. The world can give you regret, embarrassment, apology. To really repent of sin takes a work of the Holy Spirit. When’s the last time you’ve repented? Because I promise you, you have been batting 1000. I haven’t been. You’ve not been going years and years without sinning. You’ve not been going days and days or hours. When’s the last time you said, “I was wrong. I sinned. I was wrong about God, I was wrong about myself. My way of looking at the world, my way of looking at my family, my way of looking at myself was wrong and I want to change.”

So right now, as we close, just make sure because here’s what would happen if I were there listening, I’d be thinking, “Preach it, preach it, Kevin, and I already know who I’m sending this sermon to.” Don’t listen for other people quite yet. What is the Spirit of God saying to you?

Most of you know “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton and you know that prior to becoming a Christian John Newton was a drunken sailor and a slave trader. He was converted in a storm at sea. His life did not change all at once, but his repentance was genuine and he changed over time. Here’s what he wrote: “I stood in need of an almighty Savior and such a one I found described in the New Testament. Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing. I was no longer an infidel. I heartily renounced my former profaneness and had taken up some right notions. I was sorry for my misspent life and I purposed an immediate reformation. To all appearances I was a new man.”

There are few things more important in life than repentance. Revelation tells us quite literally you do not go to heaven without it.

Friends, do you believe that Jesus can change you? Jesus can forgive you? Jesus can save a wretch like you, a wretch like me? And the grace that saves a wretch like you is the same grace that can bring us all the way home, praising His name for 10,000 years.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word. Lead us to repentance. We pray in Jesus’ name, by His grace. Amen.