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The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier: “True Repentance: Love of Truth”

March 24, 2015

From the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier of Providence REC in Texas, here is an excellent sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, titled “True Repentance: Love of Truth.”

True Repentance: Love of Truth

5th Sunday in Lent

If I say the truth why do ye not believe me? Truth is like the light, it continually shines forth and instantly dispels the darkness of falsehood, error and lies.

Why then does Truth have so few followers? It is not that it is too complicated, nor that it is hidden in riddles beyond our ability to unravel. No, truth is simple and clear, transparent and accessible.

Why then are there so many people against it? It is not that truth is not persuasive, nor is it for lack of evidence, neither is it for lack of good teachers.

There is no better teacher than Christ, nor is there any other truth in this world as well attested by God himself as the Gospel is, yet, how many would not believe it? Why?

During our Lenten Season we have been considering the meaning of true repentance in relation to fasting in preparation for the celebration of Holy week. Today we come to the last week of Lent before Palm Sunday. The beginning of the week devoted to following closely the suffering and death of Christ upon the cross for the salvation of the world.

Our Gospel lesson reveals to us part of the confrontation the Lord had with the unbelieving Jews. There we can see the hostility Jesus encountered against him and his teaching which would eventually led him to the cross.

He the only sinless man who ever lived was falsely accused and publicly disrespected, by people who could not receive his word and thought that it was their religious duty to kill him! And why? because of the things he said. Things they could not believe to be true.

The Lord said quite a few extraordinary things.

In this very passage he is quoted as having said:

“I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” 8:12

He claimed that to know him was also to know God his Father:

“Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” 8:19

He told the proud Pharisees that they were wordly, while he came from above:

“Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” 8:23

He also said that without acknowledging him as the true Messiah there is no salvation:

“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” 8:24

He claimed that his teaching was not his, but was the teaching of God, the Father:

“26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.”

He expected those who believe in him to continue trusting and obeying his word and promised that:

“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 8:31-32

This verse is often quoted out of context as if Jesus was referring to knowing an abstraction of the truth, which is what makes people free. But when Jesus said, ye “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” he was speaking about himself:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” 8:36

Those who heard these words did not understand them nor received them. And they were seeking to kill him.

As Jesus said to them: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham; but now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” 8:39-40

Which leads us to consider the reason why they were seeking to kill him? Why would they not receive the Truth, which Jesus heard from God and came down from heaven to reveal to us? The Lord gave us the answer:

37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

They could not even understand his word; and why: Jesus also tells us:

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

And why could they not even hear his word? The Lord also tells us:

“44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”

We wrongly tend to think that human beings stand in a neutral position when it comes to deciding on matters of faith. That we are like impartial judges considering the case objectively based upon its own merits; that we are naturally capable of sound judgment in matters of life and death, truth and falsehood and faith and unbelief. But the truth is that we are not.

We are sinners. And sin enslaves all our faculties. Sin prevents us from hearing, understanding, receiving and obeying the truth.

Sin makes us like the devil: “Sin makes men and women partakers of the devil’s character now, and of his condemnation hereafter.”

Of course these truth are too horrible for us to imagine, we do not like to think ourselves as sons of the devil. But that is the necessary consequence of sin.

It only took one act of disobedience to have humanity expelled out of the garden. How many times have we been disobedient to God’s commandments? That makes us, and each and every other human being a slave to sin and a son of the devil, unless we receive the good news of the gospel which is the truth the only way by which we can be saved.

Notice that it was this enslavement to sin and this incapacity to receive the truth which motivated humanity to crucify Jesus. And it is the same reason why today so many are not willing to receive the free offer of salvation.

Most people are familiar with one of the most famous verses of the Bible John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

But most people do not know that this famous verse is followed by some other verses explaining and expanding its meaning:

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The reason God sent his Son into the world was to save the world. This is the meaning of the cross. The Son died to save us, who are already lost without him. This is also the message of the cross.

The sinful world is already condemned:

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

People do not come to embrace the word of the gospel for one simple reason. Evil hates the light. Men loved darkness.

Light has come into the world, but sinful men would not receive him because they wanted to continue living in sin, without true repentance.

This is why the love of truth, the love of Christ, the love of the cross, is the only hope for salvation for us miserable sinners.

How do we respond to the message of the gospel will determine our eternal destiny, there is no middle ground. We either love or hate the truth, we either believe or reject Christ, and if we believe in him, we must abide by his word, so that he may make us grow more and more into his image until we are made completely free from all bondage to sin and the devil in every way; when we are made to be like him at his appearing.

It is sad to consider the end of this passage; how the more Jesus revealed the truth, the more hostile they become, to the point that they took stones to stone him right there in the temple. But the time was not yet.

Later on the murderous design revealed in this prophecy was made manifest upon the Lord’s last week of life upon this earth.

Yet, we must not forget, that that was not the end of the story. Many of those who partook of the events leading to the crucifixion, eventually became believers in Christ. See how on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter finished his Sermon where he makes them responsible for the death of the Messiah:

Acts 2: 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 ¶Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 9 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Yes, the children of the devil, who could not hear the word of God, nor understand it, nor receive it, after they crucified him, finally, received him just as the Lord said unto them:

28 When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

The unbelievers, the liars, the murderers finally received the gospel and their sins were forgiven that very day. And they became the first generation of believers in whom all the promises of blessing to Abraham began to be fulfilled. And we at the end of time have come to join in the same fellowship receiving the same word, loving the same truth; and are also filled with comfort, knowing that if the mercy and love of God, and the power of the gospel was enough to deliver them from darkness and slavery to Satan, through the preaching of the word and they receiving it with faith in true repentance, so that same gospel, that same Lord, that same truth, that same preaching and that same hearing of faith, that same repentance is powerful to deliver us today who like them; do believe that He is indeed the Son of God who laid down his life to save all who repent and believe in him, the truth we love, who alone can make us free; to Him be all honor and glory, now and forever more. Amen.
 

by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Bernier

 

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