Yesterday on the blog we discussed how repentance means fleeing from God’s righteous wrath. But why? Am I really that bad? If you feel that way you need to understand that repentance means forsaking.
On the one hand, repentance means forsaking your sin. If sin is the atomic bomb that destroys us in the end, we haven’t repented until we leave it behind.
But repentance also means forsaking your self-righteousness. To see this, let’s go back to the Pharisees and Sadducees. These were two major religious groups in Jesus’ day, and they’ll be repeat characters in Matthew’s gospels.
The name Pharisee comes from an Aramaic word that means “to separate.” They were religious separatists. They were well-known for the strict and literal application of the Mosaic law. They were kind of like strict fundamentalists in our world today. But don’t think of the Pharisees as grumpy rule-makers that nobody could stand. They were actually pretty popular among the Jewish people.
The name Sadducee probably comes from the name Zadok, who was the high priest during the reign of King David. These were wealthy, powerful elites. Most of the members of the Sanhedrin, which was kind of like the Jewish Supreme Court, were Sadducees. Just like many elites in our world today, the Sadducee’s had a liberal worldview. They denied the possibility of the supernatural, so they didn’t believe in the afterlife.
These two groups were very different, and often fought against each other, but one thing they had in common was their pride in their Jewishness. These are the chosen people of God!
If you could ask any self-respecting Jew in John’s day (and especially a Pharisee or a Sadducee) what was the best thing about them they’d say “I am a Jew.” John knows this, so he cuts to the chase...
Matthew 3:9—And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
The fact that they were related to Abraham doesn’t matter! The best thing about them wasn’t good enough to earn a relationship with God! The same is true for us today.
Isaiah 64:6a—We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We know we have to flee the wrath to come because we’ve forsaken our trust in ourselves. Is that true for you? Have you forsaken all hope in yourself? Even in your righteousness?
Young people: don’t assume you’re fine because your mom or dad are strong Christians. Your earthly parents can teach you about repentance, model it for you with their lives, and encourage you to repent. But they cannot make you repent. You must do it.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”
You’re not prepared to meet the King unless and until you repent. And repentance means forsaking your sin, and your self-righteousness.