“ So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3-7)
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Who doesn’t need repentance? That is the question here. Which one of us can look in the mirror and say we don’t need any repentance?
This is as big a question as what is meant by repentance. A person could easily see this as those who are already in the fold. Those who have been converted. What bugs me is the open country. Jesus leaves them unprotected, not in the fold. He dust’s his feet of them. He can do nothing for them because they think they need not repentance. He could stay and preach to them nice encouraging messages, but since they think they do not need repentance and are righteous on their own, well he will leave the comfortable open country and go search the fringes of society where there are people who know their sin and need of a savior.
But who are these people that need no repentance? This is something that needs to be thought through, long and hard. The nature of repentance needs to be considered as is the nature of sin. I have heard of a disturbing trend in the church today. Churches have replaced confession and absolution with confession and rededication. Evidently this is more palatable than actually admitting you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. All you need is a second chance to do better. Perhaps a third or a fourth. This is the kind of preaching that goes on to ninety-nine that think they need no repentance.
Repentance is not pledging to do better. This is completely unsatisfactory. This is half assed repentance at best. Really it is no repentance at all. No, true repentance will work within you a desire to rid yourself of porn, to quit a love affair, to return your stolen goods, to stop gossiping, to stop coveting. True repentance will work in you a love for neighbor, that will make you wish you could stop hating them, and desiring their demise. True repentance will work in you a desire to patch things with your parents. True repentance will get you wanting to go to church and hear God’s word, to study God’s word so that you don’t misuse his name, in short true repentance will work in you a desire to rid yourself of your idols. But these things in and of themselves are not true repentance, not if it is accompanied by the desire to pull yourself up by your own boot straps. Not if all this is nothing more than your sinful nature’s attempt to show God that you can do it, that you can be like him, as i as him with no need for his forgiveness. No, what is called repentance today especially in what is the American Evangelical scene is often the opposite of repentance because it is a rejection of forgiveness, a half assed acceptance of forgiveness possibly. “I’ll let you forgive me this once God, because I screwed up, but I will do better Lord, you won’t have to forgive me again I promise.” That isn’t the promise God wants to here, he considers such foolish vows to be wickedness themselves. Just go read the fifth chapter of Ecclesiastes. No these are the vows of a proud man who hasn’t come to terms with the nature of sin, and his sinfulness, and therefore does not think he needs God or his forgiveness. God knows better. God knows that this side of glory you will always be a sinner. God knows that as a Christian Romans 7 will always define you and the good that you would you will not, but the bad that you would not, that you will do. God knows this, and so he has sent his son to die for your sins, so that you would be reconciled to him, that you would know his forgiveness is all encompassing, and covers all your sins. God knows you, he knows your sin better than you do, and he forgives it in Jesus Christ. And true repentance is believing him that you might have eternal life.