Egypt, the Jordan River and Forty Days
Matthew 4 is where we’re going to end up in just a minute. But we are now in that transition of our series together where we are crossing over from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And last week we talked about the picture of the prophets, the last 17 books and how to look at the position of prophet. And now we’re jumping into the New Testament. And you may wonder to yourself, why does the Bible have this division between Old Testament and New Testament?
The word testament could also be translated as covenant. And the Old Testament is primarily set up around covenant. The idea of covenant, especially the old covenant under Moses and the giving of the law. The new Testament is set up under Christ and what he’s done for us in the New Covenant. Jesus says in Luke 22:20 with his disciples in the upper room, they’re celebrating the Passover. And he takes the picture of the Passover and he now gives us the presentation of communion that we celebrate as a church today. And he says, this is my body, which has to be broken for you. This is my blood that is to be shed, do this in remembrance of me. And he calls it the New Covenant, Luke 22:20.
It’s based on an Old Testament promise in Jeremiah 31:31 where God says to Israel in their disobedience to the law, Israel, if you’ve remember, as we’ve gone through the series together. God calls Israel and Israel continues to walk in disobedience. Disobedience, the point they’re carried into captivity. And God finally says to them, in Jeremiah, who writes during this period when Israel is being captured, and he says to them, I’m going to write my law on your heart. They can’t obey it. God’s going to transform us from the inside out to be obedience to him through Jesus. They call that the New Covenant. Jesus gave us his life and that represents the New Covenant.
We’re going to talk about what the Spirit of God does to us in a few weeks. But that’s the reason your Bible has this division. New covenant, old covenant. Exodus 34:28 talks about the old covenant. Luke 22:20 talks about the new covenant. And when you turn to the New Testament, if you ever read the New Testament, just like the Old Testament, the way it’s put together, it is not put together chronologically. So if you go through the Old Testament and you expect that you’re going to just read the stories and unfolds, it does not go together chronologically. In fact, I would tell you probably one of the least beneficial things you can do. I think reading God’s word is always important. But one of the more difficult things you could do is you can say, okay, I’m going to read the New Testament. And you start in Matthew. And then by the time you hit the Mark, you realize you are reading a lot of the same stories again.
And you get to Luke and you’re like, this is very repetitive. And John’s different in his gospel setup, but you read a lot of the same stories over and over and you might get a little bored by it. But I would just say this, it’s because the new Testament really wasn’t put together in the sense of expecting you to read through it from beginning to end that way. During the time of Jesus, when Jesus would read from scripture, he didn’t have a book that he just opened up to a certain page and read through it. There was no chapter divisions, verse divisions. It was presented in a scroll in a long literary form. And they would unfold a scroll like, “Give me Isaiah.” And they’d have to go through their series of scrolls and pull out Isaiah and unfold Isaiah and find the section they wanted and read from it.
But over time they developed this idea of what they should do. Rather than everyone carries around 66 scrolls. We should put this together in a book. It’s way more convenient. When you get to the New Testament, let’s put these gospels together up front, because this is the theme of what we’re all about. Old Testament points forward to this moment and the New Testament points back to the moment of the gospel. So when you get to the New Testament, the new covenant, you have all four gospels there in the beginning. And then after that you have the history book of Acts. Acts records what happened in the early church historically, and it shows how the spirit of God worked through the people of God to accomplish the will of God. And then after the book of Acts, you get the letters. The letters that the apostles wrote.
And even the first letters that pop up for you, are all of Paul’s letters. And when you’re looking at Paul’s letters it’s important to know, they’re not even given to you in chronological order. They’re actually given to you according to the size of the letter. They’re like, let’s put Paul’s letters together. Okay. How are we going order these? I don’t know. Put the big one first. And they got the big one up to the little one. And that’s how it’s put together. But you have the letters written by the apostles.
And then at the end you had the book of Revelation, which is a book, honestly, of worship. People take Revelation and they butcher it all kinds of ways. But Revelation is actually written to a persecuted church to remind them that they win and Jesus calls them to worship. And they look at that victory in Jesus. And so Revelation, a beautiful book that describes worship before the Lord. It’s apocalyptic in it’s literature, which when you understand that is a very beautiful way of writing. But that’s how your New Testament is pieced together.
But why do you have four gospels? When you look at the gospels, you’ll see that the stories are very similar, but oftentimes different things highlighted within the stories. It’s not because the people who wrote the books didn’t get their stories straight or get their stories right together and they’re kind of fabricating. What they’re doing is they’re sharing their story experience and that you find in the gospels from their angle as a disciple. All of us have a different perspective when we go through certain events together, but they drive towards the main point. And so what I’m saying is when you read these gospels, what you get is this story told from different angles as they experience Jesus and what they went through with him in life.
And the importance of that is that it provides a testimony that holds up in the court of law. There’s this word called collusion, that if someone’s put on trial and someone set up to testify against them and you put another witness and another witness. When all three witnesses are saying the same exact thing, the same exact way, you know, they’ve corroborated in their story and there’s no credibility to it. But when you read the gospels, what you actually find is a slightly different flavor of different stories throughout the gospels, though the same stories being told, you have a different angle. And it says to us, look, this is not collusion. These guys have experienced what they’re talking about with Jesus and they’re telling it from a different angle.
And not only that, they’re writing to a different audience. So when you read Matthew, Matthew quotes a lot of the Old Testament, because Matthew is primarily writing his book to the Jews. When you read Mark, Mark uses this word often. He says immediately, immediately, immediately. Because he’s writing to a particular culture that’s familiar with Roman society. Romans were doers. When you get to Luke, Luke was a doctor, he was a Greek, he was a thinker. Luke is more meticulous in how he shares things. And so Luke is more towards the Greek style of culture. And then John writes to what we say is to the world.
And so you have these different gospels presented to different audiences to best reach them. Sharing stories that don’t have collusion, but rather from their angle as they’ve walked with Jesus. And when you read the gospels, you might even ask the question, okay, so why don’t we have anything about the entire life of Jesus? You pick up the gospels, you read a little bit about his birth, you have one little story about Jesus disappearing in the temple when he’s a kid, but the rest of it is about his years of ministry when he’s 30 plus and honestly about half of it is the last week of his life.
If Jesus is so important, why do we not have his entire life? Well, the point of Jesus’ life wasn’t so much about his life as it was about his death. Jesus’ life was about his death. And so when it share stories about Jesus, it’s giving us these stories so we can identify that he is the Messiah so that when he does die, we can recognize the significance of his death. At the end of John, the last of the gospels records it for us. It says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John 21 goes a little further and it just elaborates more. It says this, “And there are also many other things that which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” So what the disciples are saying is, yes, you get to this story and you think, where’s all of the detail about Jesus? And they’re saying, yeah, Jesus did way more than what’s described in this book. But the point of this book isn’t to give you every detail of Jesus. The point of what he says in John chapter 20 is to say, we’re sharing these stories so that you can see the significance of who Jesus is and find life in him. It’s not to be caught up in every story. But rather the story had a point.
And what it’s saying is when the authors are writing the gospels, they’re not sitting there thinking, you know, guys, we walked with Jesus for three years. What should we include in here? What was the most entertaining story to you? Man, that was a good one, Jesus. When we write your book later, we’re going to put that story in. That other miracle you did a little bit is not as good as the first one. So this second one we’re going to include, right? This is not the reason for which they chose to put in the book. It’s not about entertainment. The reason they put the particular stories they chose to put within the book of the Bible is because it identifies the significance of who Jesus is, so that you can rest your faith in him.
For example, there’s a few Jewish scholars that have written on this, but during Jesus’s day, there are people that came and declared themselves to be the Messiah. And sometimes Israel would follow after him believing they were the Messiah and they would be led astray. And so Israel, during the time of Jesus actually came up with a test to demonstrate, is this the Messiah? And one of the things they include on the test is that he would heal a leper. Because Israel would say, look, no Jews ever been healed of leprosy. Miriam was healed of leprosy, but it was before they had the law. You have a Gentile that was healed of leprosy in the Old Testament Naman, but no Jew after the giving law was ever healed of leprosy. So when the Messiah comes, he’ll heal a leper. And so when you read the gospels, what do you see?
One of the first miracles. Jesus performs the healing of leper. The reason they include that story is because historically to the Jews, that was a test to demonstrate the Messiah. It’s not some random story of, man, that’s really cool, let’s just put that in. But there’s a theme that they’re communicating to us. And this is what I want to say to us when we look at the gospel of Matthew. When we read these individual stories, specifically within these stories, there are things that we can learn and that is important, right? You can stop on each little story they tell. Beautiful, beautiful stories that they’re saying. Wonderful things about Jesus. But their intention and motive behind these stories are to give us a thematic idea of the concept of what the Messiah is.
And this is something that had been saying to us from the beginning as we’ve gone through the series together, is that when we come to the Bible, oftentimes when we study it, we look at individual stories and those are important. But there is a greater story being told. And if all we focus on is the individual story, we will miss the greater picture of what God is declaring to us thematically through the concept of Scripture, as it’s God’s redemptive hand for our souls in sin. God comes to redeem us. And when you look at the stories of Matthew, it’s the same thing. They’re not just specific stories. But the author when he’s putting these stories together for us, is carrying a thematic idea that we could gather in worship to the concept of this Messiah and the brilliance of who He is.
And so when you begin in Matthew 1, I’m going to move through this quickly for us, but Matthew 1, it just says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, and we’ve already talked about this a couple of weeks ago. The word genealogy in Greek actually means Genesis. Just like the book of Genesis is like saying, okay, here we go. The book of Matthew, it’s starting over from the beginning. In Genesis, we have this Jesus, the Messiah. He’s going to reset everything for us. The son of David, the son of Abraham. This is for you to say, ah ha, the promised one. The one who was promised to come through Abraham, the seed that would bless. The one that is to come through David, the royal lineage to rule as our King. This is Jesus.
And then he goes on and start to share these stories for us. And I’m just going to pepper this. You can go further than what I’m going to go in this idea, but I just want you to see it. This thematic description that he’s giving. It says in chapter two about Jesus, that the Magi came and visited Jesus when he was born and they worship Christ.
And then they warn him that Herod’s going to kill this baby. And so Joseph got up and took the child and his mother, and while it was still night, they left for Egypt and he remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what was spoken about the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the Magi, he became very enraged and he sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem all in its vicinity.
Couple things here, I’ll just say real quick, I’m going to leave a question, put it on the shelf and move on. But when I think about some of the prophetic fulfillments of Jesus, and I look at this one about out of Egypt, I called my son. Honestly, it’s weird. That is a weird one. I think about some good ones. I would say, you know, being born of a virgin, that’s a pretty good one. I’m glad Matthew says that. Born in Bethlehem, the Messiah be born in Bethlehem. I’m glad prophetically that was proclaimed and Matthew lets us know that. But then when you get to this idea of, “Out of Egypt, I call my son,” I look at that as a specific story in this place. And I think, why do I need to care about this one? What is this? Who cares? What does this even mean? So I just put that on the shelf for a minute just to think, out of Egypt, you called your son. How does this point to anything great about a Messiah?
And then he says in verse 16, Herod went on and killed kids. He knew he was tricked by the Magi and the Magi went and warned Jesus and his family and Jesus has gone, but he’s like, kill them all anyway. Just in case. That’s, strange. And why includes such a dark thing in this passage of scripture? Let me move on. Matthew 3:1. Now in those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea. Let me just stop there and say this. If you are the one proclaiming the Messiah and you were to think of all the places that you could go in Israel to tell people that the Messiah is coming, you need to prepare the way, just going to throw this out, probably the worst place you could pick as the middle of nowhere. Maybe the brightest idea would be Jerusalem, or even a second city of great population. But you would think primarily it would be in Jerusalem.
And yet John goes to the middle of nowhere. Why? Why would he do that? And verse six, and the Jews were being baptized by him in the Jordan river as they confess their sins today. That doesn’t seem as odd to us because as Christians. Put our faith in Jesus, the first act of obedience described us in Scripture to be baptized. It’s a demonstration of your love for Jesus publicly before the world. So to us, it doesn’t sound bizarre, but to the Jewish people, that would be very bizarre. Because Jews didn’t get baptized. In Jesus’ day that was something Gentiles did. When Gentiles converted to Judaism, they would be circumcised, they would memorize portions of the Torah, and they would go out into the water and they would self baptize themselves.
Jews wouldn’t even touch them until they were baptized. They would self baptize. And why all a sudden are Jews being baptized? That’s bizarre. Put that on the shelf. And Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John and to be baptized by him. Kind of bizarre. Jesus is being baptized when Jesus is perfect, but Jesus being baptized. But then you see this thought that Jesus is coming from Galilee to the Jordan. Now, I don’t know if you guys have ever seen the Jordan river here locally, but I promise you, I can almost guarantee this, probably put my life savings on this, that no one’s ever driven by the Jordan river and thought that’s a spectacular river. Wow. If they’re saying wow by the Jordan, it’s not because they’ve been impressed. It’s because they saw something nasty floating down.
But I will tell you this, when you look at Israel’s Jordan river, and if you were to take pictures of Israel’s Jordan river and pictures of our Jordan river and you were putting them side by side, you would have a hard time distinguishing which one’s in Israel and which ones in Utah. Because they looked like the same junky river going down the road. And you think about, okay, Jesus is going to be baptized. I mean this is the Savior of the world. Jesus, where you want to be baptized. He just left the Sea of Galilee area to go to the Jordan river. Why would you do that? And it’s the concept of thematic ideas, but just put it on the shelf again.
Look at this. Matthew 4 when Jesus, after he’s baptized, it tells us immediately was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after he had fasted 40 days, 40 nights, he then became hungry and the tempter came and said to him, if you’re the Son of God, command these stones become bread. But he answered and said, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Why 40 days?
I think if you read this interaction with Jesus, Satan just says three things to him. We could settle all this in an hour. Jesus, go to the wilderness. Satan’s got three things to say to you and you should say three things really good back to him and we’ll call it done, right? But it goes for 40 days. Why? Why does the text want us to know that? Why right after baptism does Jesus is He led by the Spirit to this wilderness to do this? What does all this have to do with anything? You can look at this specific story, draw things out of it. I think it’s important, but there’s a thematic theme being communicated to us. And I think it’s important to appreciate the identity of the Messiah and discover what, what is this? What does all this mean? How do these weird scenarios fit together?
When you get to Matthew 5 to 7, that’s where Jesus shares with us the Sermon on the Mount. He goes up on the mountain and he preaches and he talks about the law and the kingdom and he presents this upside down kingdom where he starts in the very beginning, blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of God. This upside down kingdom where it’s not the elite that God loves, it’s everybody. The people that disconnected from God, maybe abandoned, maybe worthless. Jesus loves them all.
What is this theme? Well, consider this. Go back to Matthew 2:14, out of Egypt. I called my son. Who liked Jesus was a leader called out of Egypt? Moses. And who like Jesus was almost murdered as a baby by a ruler? Moses. Matthew 2:16. And who liked Jesus went through the water? Moses. And who liked Jesus was led by the Spirit of God through the wilderness for a time of 40? Moses. And who liked Jesus delivered the law from a mountain? Moses.
But not only that, is not only as Jesus identifies himself as a Moses like figure for the Jewish mind was, was the pillar of what Judaism was about. He was the one of all of Jewish people. Not only is it identifying Jesus like Moses, but the Messiah comes out of Egypt and John rather than rather than go preach in Jerusalem, he’s taking Israel to the wilderness. Which is exactly a representation of the place where Israel had failed to follow after God and did not repent. And John leads them back to their place of failure. The Jordan river, the place where they rather than cross the river, rejected God and wandered in the wilderness.
And John rather than baptizing Gentiles, now is baptizing Jews. To demonstrate that when the Messiah comes, he’s going to begin something new. And he’s providing for them a place to start over in their failure.
And Jesus takes Israel to the Jordan, the boundary line between the wilderness where they wandered for 40 years and the promised land, which was all that God desired for them if they walked in faith on the other side. This line between sin and rejection to faith and obedience, and it’s Jesus who faithfully goes through the water. Jesus then goes to the testing of 40 days. Just as Israel had failed God in their 40 days of the spies sent into the land of Canaan and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The Bible tells us through those 40 years that the Spirit of God directed them. And all of a sudden, as soon as Jesus is baptized through the waters, Jesus is immediately led by the Spirit for 40 days, a representation of Israel and their rejection of God through those 40 years.
But what does Jesus do? Rather than disobey the law, Jesus is faithful to it. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, it tells us that Jesus, in chapter four he goes to the temptations of the gamut of all that human society will face. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It’s the temptation Adam and Eve had in the garden of Eden. It’s the temptation all of us go through, no matter what it is. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life. Jesus is tempted by it all and Jesus is faithful. And the reason we know Jesus upholds the laws because what Jesus quotes. Every time Satan tempts Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy. It’s said of Jesus that Jesus’ favorite book in the Bible was the book of Deuteronomy. And the book of Deuteronomy means the second giving of the law. It’s Moses sermon about the law. And when Jesus defeats Satan, he does it through the word of God being obedient to the law.
And then Jesus comes out and preaches the Sermon on the Mount and he talks about this kingdom for which he’s coming to represent. And what does he say about the law? He tells us in Matthew 5:17 do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly, I say to you until heaven and earth has passed away, not the smallest letters, stroke shall pass them law until all is accomplished.
Jesus is saying in this new thing, it’s not to disregard what God has done, but rather Jesus is saying he’s come to fulfill it all. And what is identifying for us in this story it suddenly becomes crystal clear from chapter two to chapter five. That the reason the prophecy is saying that out of Egypt, I called my son is not some arbitrary idea, but he wants us to identify for us, that as Israel left Egypt and they did so in disobedience there is finally coming one Israelite who was faithful to it all. And out of Egypt he come and through the water he passes.
And into the temptation he enters. And through the 40 years of wandering or 40 days for Jesus, symbolic of Israel’s wandering. And he is the faithful Israelite. Jesus walked the path no one else could walk so he could pay the debt no one else could pay. He, Matthew 5, fulfilled the law. Jesus goes on from verses 17 and 18 and he says to us, he warns humanity, none of you could fulfill the law. But only one who is greater could fulfill this law, talking about himself.
This is why when we look at religion, we say religion doesn’t work because no law could ever set you free. But here comes Jesus. So you see the thematic idea that Matthew was communicating to us. He’s not just putting together a hodgepodge of stories to impress you with Jesus. I think he wants you to be impressed with Jesus, but each story is connected to the next to give this grand story of exactly who this Messiah is so that no one makes the mistake and rejects Him.
And so what does this mean for us? Well, in the middle of this as it’s unfolded from chapter one to chapter seven as Jesus is giving the law, Jesus delivers a message. And in this passage of scripture tells us that not only did Jesus deliver a message, that this message was the repeated message Jesus stated throughout his ministry.
In Matthew 4:17 and what it is saying is if you look at this text, you say, okay, what do I do? This is great thematically to understand in scripture, but what do I do with this? Well, the answer is listen to the call for which Jesus makes for your life in Matthew 4:17. This is what Jesus said, this is what you do with this. From this time, Jesus began to preach and say, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And what he’s recognizing for us is in our lives, we can live for all sorts of self-made kingdoms. Mostly every kingdom we set up as a whole about us. We look for things that just want to provide what we desire in our lives for our own kingdom and so we live for our purposes. But what God is saying is there’s something completely different for what your life should surrender to in submission. Don’t submit to your kingdom, don’t submit to the kingdoms of this world, but rather my kingdom.
And when we think in terms of repentance, I think it’s important to discuss what exactly this means for us. Because repentance is a very abused word religiously. I can tell you in concept of kingdom as this demonstrate in this passage here’s what repentance means. Turn from, turn toward. It’s a turning inwardly of your heart of everything that it’s lived for apart from God and turning around completely and devoting it entirely to His kingdom. It’s this idea of submission of saying, what’s going to guide you? Repent. Here comes this King to present this kingdom and I invite you to be a part of it. Lay down everything else and turn towards this King. Repenting is about recognizing this Jordan river moment God is calling us all too.
Remember Israel goes to the Jordan river. It has an opportunity to embrace God. And rather than pursue his kingdom, the promises that come with that, they reject God. They choose to walk with themselves and their desires. I love how simple Jesus’ first words are. Could you imagine? Jesus like, all right guys, I’m going to share my first thoughts with you as the Messiah that’s been recognized in my baptism. You saw the Father speak, the Spirit descend. You saw and know I went to the wilderness and Satan tempted me and I went through that without any sin. You know that I’m the Messiah. I’m going to give you my first message. Are you ready? And everyone pulls out their notes and pads and they’re ready to write down. Okay? The first one, we’ve been waiting for this. The Bible’s talked about this forever and Jesus says, here it is. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. You’re like, okay, good, I got that. Repent. Okay, Jesus. Point number two and Jesus says, there isn’t a point number two.
I don’t want to delude the thought because this one thought makes all the difference in the world. This is it. This is what this kingdom is about for you to turn from all your self made kingdoms that leads to brokenness, that leads to rebellion against God that leads to eternity without me and embrace who I am that’s come to set you free. You know what’s interesting, if you follow the rest of the gospels, what’s astounding as you see all the miracles that Jesus performs and the way that he demonstrates his as himself as the Messiah, they reject him.
This thematic ideal in the brilliance that we just share in the first few chapters and they still reject them. And as you read the gospels, here’s what you begin to find according to the gospels, that truthfully, and I don’t say this half-heartedly, I mean this fully, that religion is the greatest obstacle to true repentance.
You look at the individuals that reject Jesus, they’re all about their law. They’re all about their religious living. And the religion becomes for them the greatest obstacle, from true repentance and turning to the Messiah. I know sometimes in our lives we think, you know, it’s the rebels God needs to rescue. It’s the rebels that need him. I’m okay, I’m good, right? I got it all together. I’ve done better stuff than they have. It’s the rebels that need Jesus.
But can I tell you guys, if you read the gospels, that’s not so. Religion is going to blind more people then rebellion ever has. You think of who Jesus’ friends were. The sinners, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the Bible tells us. One of my favorite sections in the gospels, that my heart just loves to sit in, is Luke 15 and Jesus sharing the parables of all the lost everything’s. Several stories. He shares the lost coin, lost sheep, and then ends with the idea of the prodigal son, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.
I love what Tim Keller says about that section of scripture. Tim Keller says, we’ve got it wrong calling the prodigal son story of the prodigal son. It’s not about the prodigal son. Because the story has two sons. It’s about the prodigal God. And what we learned about the prodigal God is there’s one son in rebellion and one son in religion. And you know who embraces the father? It’s not the son in religion. It’s the sun in rebellion. And listen to this, the pinnacle of this story for me is in Luke 15:20, listen to what it says. The son recognized, I had it better with my father. In verse 20 it says this, the son got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him. This wasn’t Jewish custom. The father didn’t run to you. You were to run to them.
But yet this is a picture of God and the rebellion of our heart. And we see the goodness of who he is. And it’s not about putting on religion to make yourself look better. It’s to come in your rebellion and lay it down. Repent, repent. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
What is the benefit of repentance? I would just give us this thought. I would say repentance is healing because Jesus is fulfilling. If I were to give you another verse to think about in terms as it relates to repentance and the practice of it, the epistle of James. James writes about this, the concept of repentance in James 5:16. He doesn’t use the word repentance, but he clarifies here the outworking of what repentance looks like. And look at this. He says, therefore, a concluding thought. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. What does this mean?
Confess your sins is not the same as repentance. There is some distinguishment there, but they work together. And confession is really the outwardness of what repentance represents. Now, let me be clear in saying this. Sometimes we confess things and it’s not repentance. And sometimes we confess things not because we are repentant. We look at God and we’re like, you’re right. I’ve been living for the wrong kingdom out. I surrender myself to you as King, but rather the reason we repent is simply because you feel guilty. And you confess because it just makes you feel better. 2 Corinthians 7:10 talks about worldly repentance and godly repentance.
Worldly repentance is saying, ah, you caught me. I feel guilty. I’m sorry. But you wouldn’t have done it unless you got caught. Godly repentance is recognizing this, whether someone catches you or not, we live contrary to the Lord. And His kingdom sets us free and we’re created to live for that kingdom. That’s why I lay myself down and I turn to it. It’s not about avoiding this world anymore. It’s about living for that. His world, His kingdom. Naturally in living for his kingdom, you’ll deny the things of this world. But repentance is about turning and living for a totally different purpose.
Sometimes people look at this verse and it’s a little weird because you think, okay, if I confess my sins, I got some physical ailments and I’m going to feel better. And if the reason that I don’t feel better, it’s because I didn’t confess enough. Because it says if we confess and pray a little bit, then we’re going to be healed. Right? Is that what does this passage talking about? I’ve seen people even apply this where it’s like, okay, this says we need to do it. So I’m going to go around and confess my sins. I’m going to look at other people, I’m going to quote this verse and I’m going to guilt him into doing it too, right? I’m going to confess, I’m going to say some weird things in my closet and I expect you to share your skeletons in your closet, and then you sit there and like, do we feel any better? No. We just talked about awkward things. What is this passage saying to us?
Have you ever been in that moment where you’ve done something and it’s damaged your relationships and what you’ve done is wrong? And you wonder, how can I come back from this? What’s the way of escape? How can we erase it? This word healed actually means be made whole. You can be made whole.
Let me give you another scenario. Have you ever been in a situation where someone’s wronged you and there was no acknowledgement and you think to yourself, I’m not taking crazy pills? Does this person not know or are they just so hard hearted they just don’t even care? And all of a sudden there’s this wedge relationally, in either aspect. Where whether you did something to someone or they did something to you. And either way, relationship is damaged. There’s this wall and you’re thinking to yourself, well, they did this to me and if they recognize it, they’re just not repenting. I don’t want to be around them. And if they don’t recognize it and they’re just not coming to me, then I don’t want to be around them.
So how is it made whole? Well, the answer James is saying, when you mess up, go before your friends and expose it. If what you’ve done is directly affecting them, I’m not telling you that you need to tell them everything. You know that some things that you’ve done hasn’t even affected a relationship. But this is talking in terms of effecting of a relationship. And so what do you do? You expose it and what the result is is healing. It works like this. Let me give you the scenario. As a dad or as a husband, I’ll blow it. There’s some times where I’m like, today if I got a grade, it would be an F. How do I come back from this as a dad? How in my weakness and my failures do my kids even know how to walk with God when their dad can’t even do it right.
James is showing you it’s not about you. It’s about him. Put everyone’s eyes on him and here’s how it looks. I go before my kids and I say, look, this is what I did. I blew it. I’m sorry, but this is who I want to be. This is who God’s called me to be. A man of integrity that walks in the fruit of the Spirit. This is the target. And now rather than my children wondering what’s wrong with dad? Does he even know how his behavior might affect us or whether my wife wondering or some person wandering, they know that I’ve identified before them. Look, I know that I wasn’t what I was supposed to be. But this is who God’s called me to be. In the midst of the brokenness, we still have the glory of God made known his target. And when I acknowledged that before us in the separation that divided, we begin to find healing.
I’m not saying this passage is now telling you now go guilt everyone into doing this. I don’t think he’s saying that all on. Rather, I think it’s saying to you, if you read the rest of the context that if you know someone walking contrary to the Lord, going and guilty and it’s not going to work, but pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for the heart. Because what God wants is unity and healing. God wants us restored.
It works like that for the church too, guys. We’re not perfect. Jesus is. And when we fail in our imperfection, guess what we still get to do? Point to him. We still in the midst of our failures can say to the church, even though we’re weak, look what God’s called us to be. Repentance. Confession is healing. This is God’s call for us to come home. Come home.
I’ll end with this story. There was a lady in Glasgow, Scotland, and she had a daughter and they were in conflict in their family. And finally the daughter as a teenager, she decided, forget this, I’m leaving. I’m going out on my own. She went out into the streets and lived on her own. And she lived the nightlife of the streets, sold her soul, sold her body for years. Went through this period of time. And the only reason she was able really to ever make it as she would go into shelters every once in a while. And one night while she was in a shelter, she went to a bulletin board and on the bulletin board there was a picture. It was of her.
Her mother had spent years traveling around with a picture of her daughter, sharing with people, asking, have you seen her? And her mother posted this picture on the bulletin board of every shelter that she went into. And she just wrote these words across the front, I still love you, please come home. And the middle of the night and the brokenness, that’s all the affirmation his daughter needed. She ran home, got home in the wee hours and she went to knock on the door and all of a sudden the door suddenly popped open and she was afraid. She knew mom always locked the door. And she went in the house thinking that it had been burglarized and she runs into the bedroom. She feels through the darkness and she touches the bed and startles her mother. She wakes up and she embraces her. Mom, she says, I was so worried. I thought something had happened because the door wasn’t locked. It just slid right open. And her mom embraced her back and just said to her, from the moment you left, the door has never been locked.
Guys that’s what Jesus’ call is. It’s not a call of guilt. It’s a call of healing. Only His presence can do that. To start your Christian walk it begins that way. Your kingdom, not mine. And to live the Christian life, it continues that way, not your kingdom, but mine.