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Effective Repentance: Corinthian Style

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Effective Repentance

Corinthian Style

MP3 Audio (13.11 MB)


Effective Repentance: Corinthian Style

MP3 Audio (13.11 MB)

This sermon video, given during the Education Travel Program’s biblical study tour of Greece, sets the scene and provides the perfect backdrop for gaining deeper understanding of repentance during the Spring Holy Days.


Good morning, everyone. And happy feast day to all of you. I was just listening to the waves lapping up on the shoreline behind me here, as you face out over the bay, and I was thinking it reminds me of Bakersfield about a million years ago when it was under water. (Audience laughter.) Sorry, John. Which it was. Maybe longer than that even. It was underwater at one time. So was Palm Springs. So, it's desert now. It's amazing how the topography of the earth changes, but it's great to be here with you for these Days of Unleavened Bread in this special location. I find it fascinating that much of what was addressed to the Corinthians involved unleavened bread and putting sin out of our lives, which is what we're focusing on here this week.

And so during this time of the year, the Passover and Unleavened Bread, we take a closer look at ourselves. We look at our hearts, as we heard during the sermonette, and we look at Christ's sacrifice for our sins and our need to come out of Egypt, to come out of this world. What better place to reflect on this subject that here in the city of Corinth this year with its fascinating history.

The apostle Paul, as we've heard, and I'll reiterate a few things as we go along, but the apostle Paul visited Corinth twice in the fifties, A.D. and later wrote two letters to the Christian community here that we know of as I and II Corinthians. I find it fascinating that those words can be preserved for two thousand years and we read them here today. Not only that, the Old Testament writings, some of which can be upwards of three or four thousand years old, have been really well preserved for us, of course, according to God's master plan and God's design.

Although the golden age of Corinth was five centuries before Paul actually visited here, it did have the return to prominence in the first century A.D. It had a small rebirth of the biennial Isthmian games second in importance only to the Olympic games were held here in honor of their god, Poseidon here on the Corinthian Isthmus. The Isthmian games.

Now after preaching at Athens, the apostle Paul traveled here to Corinth. You can read about that in Acts 18. It was the most important city Paul had visited since leaving Antioch, Syria, and with the exception of Ephesus, he stayed longer here than anywhere else on his visits. It was about a year and a half, eighteen months, or so. Probably around about the spring of fifty-two to the fall of fifty-three, something like that. Now, when he came from Athens, very likely, that he actually came ashore at the ancient port we find just a few hundred meters down the way here. So, we're very, very close at the ancient port.

The world that we live in can be a cauldron of temptation. Corinth was no different back then.

I would like to read to you from William Barclay's book about Corinthians, his book, The Letters to the Corinthians. Now he may not have it all completely right, and no doubt there were some pristine areas of Corinth, like we've heard even in some of our cities today that are known as "sinful cities" or even "sin city." There are some nice parts where our brethren live. But here is some of Barclay's notes on the letter to the Corinthians. He says, just a little bit of background, of course:

"She, Corinth, had a reputation for commercial prosperity." It was a port city. ". . . but she was also a bi-word for evil living. The very word — korinthiazesthai — to live like a Corinthian - had become a part of the Greek language. There was a Greek word for it, and it meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery. Aelian, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play, he was usually shown drunk." The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery, and there was one source of evil in the city, which was known all over the civilized world, and we visited that site a couple of days ago.

Barclay says, "Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis, Acrocorinth, and on it stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. And to that temple, there are attached one thousand priestesses who were actually sacred prostitutes, and in the evenings, they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth until it became a Greek proverb — It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.

"In addition to those cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vices which had come in with the traders and the sailors from the ends of the earth until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth." And of course, being a sailor city, a port city, the sailors were taken advantage of as well, or they took advantage of the situation here. Not everybody lived like this, but Corinth did have a reputation for this kind of lifestyle.

The city was filled with sailors who gladly spent their money here, and Paul used the reputation of Corinth in part of his writings when he addressed the church. But just like ancient Corinth, the world in which we live can be a cauldron of temptation, too. The atmosphere around us is charged and electrified with evil influence from Satan, the devil, and we, as Christians, are assailed at every turn. Every time we turn on the television, when we go to the movies, when we go to the grocery store, there are temptations along the way, probably not a whole lot different to what the people who lived here found two thousand years ago.

And the carnal pull to sin still drives and influences our mortal minds and poses a constant threat to our daily walk with God. And that's the theme of these days of unleavened bread, recognizing that and concentrating for a week out of the year specifically on putting the world out of our lives and putting sin out of our lives specifically.

Today each one of us is in a continual, spiritual warfare. We wrestle against the rulers of the darkness of this age. We wrestle against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Nothing much has changed in, shall we say, six thousand years, let alone the last two thousand. And thus we see the need for Jesus Christ's sacrifice on our behalf when we fall short of the mark, when we sin, and that is the theme of these days that we're just now beginning. And now to the key of the sermon today, it's the term — repentance, because repentance is the foundation upon which we build our Christian lives. It all starts with repentance. That's the first step to becoming a child of God.

I'd like to quote to you from a booklet written decades ago by Herbert Armstrong titled, "The Unpardonable Sin," because he has a couple of paragraphs in there on repentance that I think is very descriptive. Herbert Armstrong says, "Repentance is a change of mind and attitude. It is a change from this carnal attitude of hostility toward God, of rebellion against God's law to the opposite attitude of love, submission, obedience and worship of God and reliance on Him. It is an about-face in attitude and intent to the way of God's righteousness." To repent means a total change of attitude and heart, a continuously repentant attitude, for God's spirit will only dwell in such a mind. So God is looking for that humble repentant spirit in us.

The question I have for you today is — do we know how to repent effectively? In II Corinthians 7, and that's where we're going to go, II Corinthians 7, Paul concentrates on this matter of how we repent effectively, how we can grow more Christlike as time goes on. So in the sermon today, let's take a fresh look at repentance; we'll see the example of the Corinthian church and glean some help from their example. And perhaps we'll understand a little better what God requires of us and the strength He can provide to us. And I've titled this message — "Effective Repentance — Corinthian Style." Okay? You can put that in your notes. "Effective Repentance — Corinthian Style." (He coughs.) I just might need a dash of juice or something. My throat's getting a little dry there. Maybe, John, you can grab me just something to sip on.

Now, as I said, Paul wrote two letters to Corinth that are preserved for us here in the Bible. And as you've already heard, I Corinthians (thank you, Dave...he must have brought him juice,) was a very corrective letter. I Corinthians was a very corrective letter. (Excuse me for just one moment...taking a sip of juice...) . . .in which Paul pointed out serious sins existing among the members of God's church here at Corinth. The church was divided into factions, some following one minister, some following another minister. Their approach toward Paul was critical, even hostile at times. Some members were guilty of open sins. Fornication is mentioned specifically. Some had problems in their marriages, others were not properly using the spiritual gifts that God had given them. Some did not understand the resurrection properly. Heresies were beginning to develop, and it seems that maybe even brotherly love was not much in evidence at times in the Corinthian church. Brethren were going to the courts and suing one another. This was all within the church; you read about in I Corinthians.

But then Paul wrote a second letter, because his first letter, which was quite corrective had produced an interesting result. And we'll look at that here in a moment because they did repent after the words of admonition in the first letter.

A little bit more background here, as we move into II Corinthians. On his first visit here, Paul lived in Corinth for eighteen months. As I said, you can read about that in Acts 18, and he was working as a tent-maker and preaching to the Jews and the Gentiles here as he was able, and it was here that he first become acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, because they were tent-makers also. And they had fled Rome; Rome wasn't a very pleasant place for the Jews at the time, so Aquila and Priscilla came here to Corinth, and that's where Paul became acquainted with them and even lived with them as they shared a common trade. Once again, that's in Acts 18.

Paul intended to pass through Corinth, then, a second time, before he visited Macedonia to the north of us here, but circumstances changed and he first went to Troas, from Troas to Macedonia, and then came down to Corinth on his second visit. And this time he stayed for three months. The second time, he was here three months.

It was probably during the second visit to Corinth, in around 57 or 58 A.D., that Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. So imagine, when you read the book of Romans that Paul is here, penning a letter, having dealt with issues here in Corinth then writing a letter to Rome, to the church in Rome. It helps put it in perspective a little bit while you're sitting here. I don't know if he was sitting down on the beach, if he was up at Aquila and Priscilla's home or what, but it was here in Corinth that he wrote to the Romans.

It is believed that II Corinthians, what we're about to get into in a moment, was written from somewhere in Macedonia, perhaps Philippi, while he was on his way here for the second trip, so he went from Troas up to Macedonia, wrote to the Corinthians the second letter, and then he finally came down to visit them on the second time.

But now to the point, this second letter of Paul to the Corinthian church was occasioned by a report brought back to him by Titus, who informed Paul of the reception of his first letter, and how the Corinthian church received the rebuke that that letter contained. So Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth produced an interesting result, repentance, and as we'll see, I've titled the . . . "Repentance, Corinthian style." Let's get into II Corinthians here for a moment, because very happily the Corinthian church did respond to Paul's first letter. His letter moved the brethren to repentance. II Corinthians 7, let me just open my notes here, II Corinthians 7:4.

II Corinthians 7:4 — Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort.. . .He's so glad. . . . I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

Verse 5 — For indeed, when we came to Macedonia,. . .So he went from Troas up to Macedonia. . . .our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Tough trip.

Verse 6 — Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.

Paul got some good news in the midst of this harrowing trip while he was up there in Macedonia.

Verse 7 — and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. And so why? What was the message Titus brought to Paul up in Macedonia?

Verse 8 — For even if I made you sorry with my first letter, . . . Corinthians, . . . I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. There's always a danger when someone's corrected that . . . be sorry just for a short time, and then go back to what they were doing. But, Verse 9, notice:

Verse 9 — Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

Verse 10 — For godly sorrow produces repentance, (leading) to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. This is real repentance. They sorrowed to the point that they changed their way of living. And that's the key to repentance. It's a change of heart; it's a change of attitude; it's a change in the way you were going to following the way of God. It's an about face; it's a turn around, and Paul was so happy with the message Titus brought up to him in Macedonia from here in Corinth. And of course, then Paul came down and actually visited them the second time.

Notice Verses 11 and 12: Verse 11 is where we're going to draw some points here today.

Verse 11 - For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner;. . . He says, what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all these things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. I find it interesting that seven things are listed here, so it makes a perfect seven-point sermon, because you've got to look at all seven of those words that he used to express their type of repentance.

Verse 12 — Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.

Paul said, "I wrote that first letter because I really cared for you. It's not fun to write, you know, a letter of rebuke or correction. Paul didn't want to have to do that, but he did it because he really cared for them and they took it to heart. So Paul speaks here in Verse 11 about what repentance is all about, what it produces in your life, and so not let's notice these seven phrases, these seven words that he used — diligence, clearing of yourselves, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal and vindication.

I'd like to expound for a moment on the very first word he used, which was diligence, or carefulness. Some translations say carefulness; some say diligence. The first point Paul brings out in recognizing their repentance is their carefulness, or their diligence. The word in the Greek most closely means — diligence. This is one of the main qualities that a person must have in order to repent effectively. You have to have to be diligent about it. And certainly the Corinthian church in the past was not very diligent. In fact, they were rather casual about their sins. They were negligent of spiritual Judaism responsibilities, and they were indifferent to the sins going on around them in the city but also even in the church.

Remember what Christ said to Peter in Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
American King James Version×

Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
American King James Version×
- Christ said to Peter, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." And because we know we easily succumb to temptation, we're not being led by God's spirit, we have to be careful. We have to be diligent. We have to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation, and we so often find that the things we want to do, we don't do, and the things we don't want to do, we do. The things we know we ought to be doing, we're not, which is very similar to what Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 7 while he was sitting here, those very phrases.

On the other hand, we often find that we're doing those things we don't want to do. So here's a statement of fact. The spirit may want to do the right things, but the flesh can be very weak, if not being led by the power of God.

Jesus said that to overcome, we've got to watch. We've got to be spiritually alert. We have to be diligent; we have to be careful; we have to be mindful of the things we should be doing, and pray and be close to God. Otherwise, we're not going to have the strength and the character to do what is right. We find Peter, then, also expounding on these words that Christ told him in his letter in II Peter 1. II Peter 1:4-7. Here Peter expounded upon this thought where he says:

II Peter 1: 4 — by which have been given. . . breaking into the sentence. . . by which have been given (to) unto us exceedingly great and precious promises,. . . how great are these precious promises? We'll find out here. . . .that through these promises you may be partakers of the divine nature,. . . That's how awesome these precious promises are, we can be partakers of the divine nature. Do you know what that means? We can be like God, and partake of the divine nature, be filled with His spirit. . . .having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Verse 5 — But also for this very reason,. . . you know, recognizing what our potential can be. . . .(giving) give all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,

Verse 6 — to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness.

Verse 7 — to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. He says give all diligence to this. Very similar to what Paul was telling the Corinthians.

Where Peter says, giving all diligence here in II Peter 1, he's using the same Greek word that Paul used that's translated — carefulness, our first point, II Corinthians 7:11.

Here are attributes of spirituality that we desire to have in our lives, right there in II Peter 1. We want to replace the sin, the lust, the vanity, the greed, all the wrong things with the spiritual qualities that are all the right things. Peter goes on to say in Verse 8:

II Peter 1:8 — For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 9 — For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Verse 10 — Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent. . . once again, diligent. . . . . . to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble. And you can be partakers, as he said, of the divine nature. That's our incredible potential.

To have a true and effective repentance, we must be diligent, and so Paul praised the church at Corinth for their diligence. We must have a serious approach and attitude toward our life and our sins, not take them casually, not being different or take them for granted, but be careful, be diligent.

Secondly, Paul said that he praised the fact that they had a clearing of themselves, which means they were working toward having a good reputation. So I've titled the second point — a good reputation. Point number two that Paul brings out is that they sought a clearing of themselves and actually the word in the Greek means — defense. It means to seek a good reputation, to seek a good name. And up until this point, their reputation was rather bad. In the church community, they had a bad name. Their character had been besmirched by their wrong doings, by the things they allowed to go on in the congregation, and so I think the people here at Corinth would want to do any and everything they now could to erase that reputation, to seek a clearing of themselves and get a good reputation. And that's what we like to do in our family, isn't it? We like our family to have a good name, not a bad name, to have a good reputation. And there's only one way to do that, and that is to change your life, to stop doing the things you were doing, have an about face, go in a different direction, and repent. Do the right things, and so the same goes for us today.

It's interesting that while they had a bad name, people may have been ashamed to say they came from Corinth, but not too far up the road in Thessalonica, they had a pretty good reputation; they had a good name. Let's look in I Thessalonians 1, for a moment, because Thessalonica's not too far from here either.

I Thessalonians 1:3 — Paul in writing to the Thessalonians said: remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.

Verse 7 — so that you became examples. . . good examples. . . to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. The Thessalonian church set a good example for everybody.

Verse 8 — for from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. So their good reputation spread abroad. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. And so like the Thessalonians, the Corinthian church changed; they repented; they saw the clearing of themselves, and they wanted to change their name and get a good reputation. And Paul said, "Yes, now you're getting yourself a good reputation, here." Similar to the Thessalonians, perhaps. So one aspect or ingredient of repentance is to desire to clear your reputation of any sins in your life by living Godly and righteously.

Then, thirdly, indignation against sin. Paul said, "What indignation..." He was impressed by their indignation. Why do we need to have anger or indignation against our sins? For one reason, it's a tremendous impetus toward overcoming those sins. How can you eradicate something from your life unless you hate it? If you view as not too bad, then you're not going to be all that concerned about it. But if you feel and believe and think that even your least sin, even the tiniest sin is a horrible thing to God, then you'll have a far greater impetus to overcome than if you just feel indifferent about it. You've got to be indignant, and say, "No, that's not for me."

Again, let's go back to I Corinthians 5:1&2. This has been referred to and read from already since we've been here, but let's read it again.

I Corinthians 5:1 — It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality (as) is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father's wife! And as has been mentioned, this is probably not his mother but his father's second wife. What was the church's attitude about this? This flagrant sin?

Verse 2 — And you are puffed up, . . . once again, the theme of unleavened bread. . .and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. They just let it go on. They weren't indignant against what they saw.

The church was putting up with this sin and some others as well. How can you repent; how can you turn from your sin if you feel this way, if you feel the way the Corinthian church felt at this point? How can you overcome anything that's wrong in your life unless you believe that everything that is against the laws of God is evil and despicable and be indignant against that? You have to hate sin.

In Romans 12:9 Romans 12:9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; hold to that which is good.
American King James Version×
, notice what Paul states.

Romans 12:9 Romans 12:9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; hold to that which is good.
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— Paul says, writing here from Corinth — Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Sometimes you wonder if he didn't use some of the thoughts that were going around in his head while he was even here in Corinth when he was writing to Rome. Abhor what is evil.. . . He saw what was happening on the Acropolis, the Acrocorinth on the hill. You have to abhor evil. You have to be indignant against it. Just as he praised the Corinthians for finally being. You have to hate evil, abhor it, detest it, loath it, despise it.

These people at Corinth didn't fully hate the sin they saw going on at first. They weren't indignant at first, but eventually they did after Paul's first letter of scolding. If you come to the point you can hate the sins in your life enough, you will change. If you get to that point of abhorring it, of being indignant against it, you'll change. You'll get rid of them. Indignation will set in, and you will eradicate what is ungodly in your life. So that was the third point Paul mentioned, having some indignation. He praised them for their indignation.

Fourthly, a fear of God. He said, "Yea, what fear." Now, God is not talking here about the kind of terror that is unwholesome and unsound, but a positive fear, a right frame of mind and respect toward God that we should all have. The guiding principle of our lives should be faith and hope. Everything that is optimistic in God's plan, looking to the kingdom of God, expecting to be there, but on the other hand, in the back of our minds, there should be a right kind of respect for God's law, a right kind of fear for who He really is as the God of the universe. There are many fears that we can have in this world that are good to have, to be afraid of, to step away from, to stay clear of.

In Hebrews 3, Paul shows how Israel of old could not enter into the promised because of their disobedience, and especially because of their unbelief and their lack of faith. But notice Hebrews 4:1 Hebrews 4:1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
American King James Version×
. This is where he warns us, today in his words. He gave an example in Hebrews 3 of ancient Israel. Now they couldn't enter into the promised land because of their disobedience and fear and unbelief, but notice Hebrews 4:1 Hebrews 4:1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
American King James Version×

Hebrews 4:1 Hebrews 4:1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
American King James Version×
- Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. In other words, have the right respect for your Father in heaven, for Jesus Christ, for His law, and for what He requires of you. . . .let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. So this is the kind of fear we ought to have, a right fear, a healthy fear to do wrong, to not care about sin.

Number five — Paul talks about the Corinthians' vehement desire. So, there's quite a lot of adjectives in here — vehement desire. Paul said of the Corinthian church, had this vehement desire. How can you change unless you really deeply want to change? If you're unconcerned, if you couldn't care less, if it's not really all that important to you, obviously, then, you're not going to really change. You may be able to put on an outward appearance, but unless you vehemently desire to change, it won't happen.

We, must desire vehemently, as the Corinthian church did, to want to change, to be more like God daily. As we know, it's not just during this week of unleavened bread; it's every day of our lives.

We have to be more Christ-like, to emulate His example, the way Christ lived, and this has to be a paramount goal in our lives. It has to be a vehement desire. Notice what Christ tells us in Matthew 5:6 Matthew 5:6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
American King James Version×
. Here in the Sermon on the Mount, some important words in this verse.

Matthew 5:6 Matthew 5:6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
American King James Version×
— Blessed are they or those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. I want to concentrate for a moment on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Now, the implication here is that those who do not hunger and thirst for it won't be filled. In order to filled with righteousness, you've got to hunger and thirst for it. Now, remember what, I'm not going to turn there right now, remember what Peter said in I Peter 2:2? As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word. How does a newborn babe desire his or her mother's milk?

I don't know if you've ever watched a nursing baby, or a feeding baby, when they wake up at night, they don't just kind of look around, you know, at the ceiling in the dark, and kind of whine a little, or say, "Hey, Mom." Oh, no! Here's a big, "WAAAA!!!" And then they cry as loud as they can until they get attention. They're desiring that milk, and they want it NOW, and there's a...the brain is connected to the stomach, and there's not much in between. I mean, when a baby wants to eat, they want to eat.

Well, how should we want to desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow? We have to, as written in Matthew — hunger and thirst for righteousness. Perhaps like that newborn babe, we have to hunger and thirst. We have to truly desire it in order to be filled.

If we're going to repent and grow spiritually as we should, as we must, we have to desire it. We must crave it and want it whole-heartedly, vehemently, and energetically. Let's turn to Psalm 51 for a moment as we look at vehement desire. In Psalm 51, which is known as the classic chapter concerning the attitude of repentance. David showed the kind of vehement desire we all should have when it comes to repenting of our sins. Psalm 51 — Let's just read the first two verses this time, although we could go into the whole chapter, but Psalms 51:1 Psalms 51:1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
American King James Version×

Psalms 51:1 Psalms 51:1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
American King James Version×
— Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions. Totally erase them.

Verse 2 — Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sins. David is crying out with the utmost of sincerity and intensity here. Maybe the utmost intensity and sincerity so far in his life. Wash me...cleanse me...scrub me...bathe me...blot out my sins...totally, completely, and so we see a vehement desire here as David penned these words from his prayer.

That's the kind of attitude and approach we have to have, a vehement desire. King David was a great sinner, but he was also a great repenter. God can use a person that can truly repent and change the way they live. And Psalm 51 shows how his heart was opened and he was filled with this spirit of repentance.

Some people have a false concept of repentance, because repentance truly means a change of heart and mind. That's what the Greek word means literally — a change of mind. Some people think repentance is just remorse, just being sorry, maybe just being sorry that you got caught, or for something fresh and of God's standards. You know? But that's very wide of the mark. Remember the rich, young ruler? He was very sorrowful, but he did not repent. Other people think that repentance is regret, wishing he hadn't done it. A lot of us live like that when we've sinned, but that's not repentance either.

Remember Pontius Pilate. He washed his hands in a basin of water regretting his deed, but he didn't repent. Still I always think of repentance as reform, in other words, turning over a new leaf. You know, I'm just going to try harder, and I'm going to turn over a new leaf, but it's a lot more than that. Remember Judas Iscariot. He reformed, in a way. He took his thirty pieces of silver, went back and flung them down the corridors of the temple, and said, "I don't want the money anymore." But he didn't truly repent. Repentance means a change of heart and mind. It's when our volition is transformed. It's when our will is changed. If we've truly changed our mind, our will is completely altered. And what will happen if our will is changed? Our actions will likewise change, and we'll start to live from the heart, and our actions will show what's in our heart. Again, the brethren at Corinth began to vehemently desire to change, and they did.

Number six is zeal. So many people don't change because they're not as zealous as they ought to be. So, point number six here is zeal. Remember Revelation 3:19 Revelation 3:19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
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? Christ said to the Laodicean church, which at that time was the very opposite of zealous. He said, "Repent and be zealous." I'll quote it to you.

Revelation 3:19 Revelation 3:19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
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— "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent." So Paul is thanking the Corinthian church for their zeal in repenting, and Christ told the Laodicean church , "Be zealous and repent." The two go together — zeal and repentance.

You have to have the zeal, the drive, the continual effort. Laodicean was lukewarm and casual, indifferent, more like the church of I Corinthians. But Christ says, "No, you've got to be zealous. I'm rebuking you; I'm chastening you; be zealous, repent and change your life."

Let's turn to Galatians 6:9 Galatians 6:9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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, quite close by here. Paul admonished the Galatians here in Galatians 6:9 Galatians 6:9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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Galatians 6:9 Galatians 6:9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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— (And) let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Don't lose heart. Keep that zeal alive. Continue the zeal; continue that love; continue that determination to follow and serve God completely and totally.

And then the seventh comment Paul makes is - revenge. What does he mean by revenge? It means to vindicate that which you have done. Once again, you are going to change; you are going to repent; you are going to vindicate what you have done. That doesn't mean that you will forgive what you have done. Christ's blood forgives you. It doesn't mean you atone for it. Christ's blood does that also. It means that you can erase the sin by any revenge on your part, by any fruit or action you do. But this means that you've recognized what you have done, and that recognition leads you to correct what was wrong. It has to do with correction. Doing the right thing now. That's what Paul means by revenge here. It's a vindication; it's a correction of the way you've been going. The kind of approach we should and must have is to look at our past and to correct it, to now lead a right life and do those things that are profitable rather than injurious.

We need to have effective repentance, Corinthian style. And that's a lesson here of II Corinthians 7. Just like Jesus Christ when He walked on this earth, we are of and by ourselves powerless, however, we can draw on the same invisible help, power and strength that Jesus had available to Him. It's the same power that the church here at Corinth drew upon, the power of God's holy spirit and a relationship with Him and Jesus Christ.

I'd like to digress just for a moment and go back to a passage - tells us how to keep these days of unleavened bread. Just one verse, and it's I Corinthians 5:8. I want to make a point here.

I Corinthians 5:8 — Therefore let us keep the feast, . . and I wanted to quote that here on this first day of unleavened bread. . . .let us keep the feast. . . notice that it's not done away with under the old covenant or in the Old Testament. . . not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. There's a word here I want to focus on that Mr. Johnson also focused on yesterday on the Sabbath, and that is — sincerity. I have another little aspect to add to the word — sincerity — for a moment.

There's a story that comes from ancient Corinth. One day, Alexis, a young man of the ancient city of Corinth, was pouring hot water into a colorful clay vessel. It began to leak. And then suddenly broke apart in his hands spilling its contents on his feet. Looking closely at the broken pottery, he discovered that the clay was mixed with wax. When the hot water melted the wax, it revealed the inferior quality of the vessel. Alexis had purchased a piece a of junk, but it looked really good on the outside.

Corinth was famous in its day for its fine pottery, however, many dishonest merchants plied that trade. If a vessel was cracked, some deceitful potters would melt wax and carefully wedge it between the cracks. They would then skillfully paint over the flaw so it couldn't be noticed by an unsuspecting customer. Careful shoppers found that they could expose the cracks by holding the pottery up to bright sunlight. They could see the flaws under the paint in much the same way as an X-ray device might work today.

Now what does wax in a piece of pottery have to do with our lives as Christians? We can draw an analogy from this simple account that applies to every Christian's life. A man or a woman of God is sometimes referred to in the scriptures as a vessel. As in one of the apostle Paul's letters to Timothy where he said we are to be a vessel of honor. We are also to be useful for the master for every good work because God says He is the master potter and we are His clay that He is forming in to vessels. In fact Paul even mentions that in Romans 9, while he was writing Romans. The practice of covering up poor workmanship with wax was common in Corinth in New Testament times, perhaps Paul had this in mind when he wrote this to the Corinthian church. You'll see why when he said, "Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

Sincerity here is a very, very good translation, and here's why. The meaning of the Greek word — eilikrineia — translated sincerity, is purity. In the Bible it is used in referring to purity of motive. Sincere appears two times in the King James Version; sincerely appears three times, and sincerity ten times. They are translated from Greek words meaning — genuine, or pure, without deceit, unmixed, or unadulterated.

Now the English word — sincere — as I said is a very good translation. This word in English comes from two Latin words — sine and cere. Sine simply means without. Cere means wax. Without wax. And Paul said sincerity and truth, be sincere. It means you live your life without putting wax in the cracks to hide an inferior vessel. So sincere can literally mean — without wax.

And honest merchant in the ancient of Corinth when presenting his product to a buyer, might say "Here, buy my vase. Buy my piece of pottery. It is sincere." It was genuine, unmixed, pure, just like we should be during these unleavened bread period putting old things out of our life to separate us from God, being sincere, being unadulterated, being pure, not being puffed up, but the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. It's an interesting side note.

Now, as we begin to wrap things up here, just to continue with the theme of repentance, let's turn to Romans 8 for a moment. It's like the third time we've been in Romans. It seems to apply very much to I Corinthians and II Corinthians as well because we are told we have to study to show ourselves approved unto God. We mustn't be ashamed. We have to rightly divide the word of truth. We have to have daily contact with God. We have to pray; we have to meditate; we have to study; we have to follow the lead of God's holy spirit. Notice what Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
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reveals. We'll read through to Romans 8:16 Romans 8:16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
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Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
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— For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. You want to talk about a divine purpose? You want to talk about taking on divinity when we're resurrected? You want to talk about being a son of God? You have to then be led by the spirit of God.

Verse 15 — For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear,. . . a wrong kind of fear. . . . but you received the Spirit of adoption. . . you actually become adopted into God's family. . . by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." It's a sonship, you see.

Verse 16 — The spirit (Himself) itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Once you repent of your sins, when you become converted and baptized and receive the holy spirit, you now are a son of God. You have that essence of the power of God within you, living in you, that actually changes your life. It actually pricks your heart, and your conscience and your mind when you sin so that you repent and you change and you become like God in preparation to take on the divine nature.

We need to learn to recognize when the holy spirit is being quenched in us. We need to have the holy spirit living in us, not being quenched, not being grieved, and when we slip and fall prey to sin, we must repent instantly. We must turn from and reject the thought or temptation that led to the sin to prevent our relationship with the Creator from being weakened or severed. Allow nothing to come between you and your heavenly Father, nothing in your life to come between you and your heavenly Father so that you, as a son of God can cry out, "Abba, Father."

We as Christian soldiers are in a life-long battle against human nature, against the world. We're in a battle against fallen spirit beings even, therefore it's incumbent on us never to let down and take it easy. Like warriors, we must be highly disciplined and uncompromising. We must tackle repentance with the power of God at our disposal, just like Jesus Christ had at His disposal and just like the Corinthians did with great vigilance.

A final passage, II Timothy 4. Let us be diligent and be able to say with the apostle Paul, as he wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:7 & 8. Let us also say —

II Timothy 4:7 — I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Verse 8 — Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not only to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. Of course, Paul is opening it up to the rest of humanity there — to all who come to know the Father and Jesus Christ.

The crown of righteousness, after all, will not be given to Paul only, but also to all who have loved Christ's appearing, us included.

So let's turn back to II Corinthians 7 from time to time, not right now, from time to time and meditate upon these principles, because there's a lot in those seven words of those seven phrases. We can have a more effective repentance in our lives, become more the kind of person that we ought to be as Christians who put sin out, Christians who live a life pictured by these Days of Unleavened of bread so that not only the apostle Paul but even Jesus Christ could say of us, "What diligence is produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation against sin, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal and what vindication.

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