Oh? Did I type that outloud?
At Christmas time, we talk a lot about family… forgiveness… love…
Every year – Same thing.
Not that there is anything wrong with that… I just think the reason that we remind ourselves is because there is never any real forgiving going on… let alone an understanding of what it means to forgive.
We talk about removing ourselves from the “bondage” of bitterness… Regaining our “power,” and my favorite: “Let it go.”
But what about the first rule of forgiveness?
Jesus talks about it… It’s a requirement of forgiveness…
It’s called – Repentance.
Today, people are talking about the greatest gift – the “babe in the manger,” most would like to keep him there…
The quiet little baby… “No crying he makes…”
But that is Jesus Christ – and He grew up.
And He wept. For you. Dying to forgive you….
We talk a lot about His grace, His mercy, His love. All one has to do is believe –
“Love God. Love People.”
The Gospel all rolled into a nice, neat, little package… Placed under the Christmas tree, right next to the nativity scene.
After all, that is what the Scripture says, right?
“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” 
That’s it. Repent and believe.
“Confess your sins to the father, He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness…” (1 Jn. 1:9).
If you believe the likes of most of today’s modern preachers than all of life will be grand – as you will experience the mercy of forgiveness through the free gift of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ… and the feeling you experience will be … well… exaltation!
There is danger in not reading your Bible and that is, you will tend to believe what you want to hear rather than truth as it is written.
Exaltation is not a feeling derived from God’s mercy and grace because you apologized.
To experience exaltation would require that you experience God. Who He is and all He is… That is to include: Righteous. Holy. Judge… (along with the grace, merciful, loving).
Those who are seek after “feelings” are those who seek their own glory by formulating a god in their mind to whom they prefer to worship.
But this is not the God of the Bible.
This is not the Jesus Christ who gave His life for you… No, this Jesus Christ is something you have yet to experience because you have not, ever, experienced repentance.
Many are those who have attended church, studied their Bible, gone to a camp, revival and came down from the mountaintop “glowing” with a renewed feeling of “exaltation” only to resume life as normal stating things such as “God loves me, no matter what.”
Relying on their personal belief that their personal god loves them no matter what life they may lead.
But for the God of the Bible – that is not truth. You have made for yourself an idol, you might as well cast it in iron and overlay it with jewels… Oh wait, you have.
That cross hanging around your neck is empty. Diamonds are set in place of the bloody, unrecognizable face and body of the Lord Jesus Christ who endured 12 hours of brutal, mutilation of His flesh… for your sin… not His.
But that’s not the God that is represented on your empty cross – No, no, no…. your god is the god that has allowed you to live your life the way you chose, the god full of grace unmerited no matter what’s…
Or is it that little baby that lays in the manger of one of your dozen nativity scenes placed around your home this Christmas…? Or is it the “Holiday’s,” as to not offend anyone?
The “baby Jesus” who is full of love and laughter – the baby that doesn’t cry or mourn the death of His creation in an eternal pit of hell.
We want to preach and teach sermons that are “listener friendly” as to not offend, but when we do this, we have a “happy” congregation of misinformed sinners who believe that they can live life without fear of judgment because they have walked the isle and “experienced” the grace of God in their lives by way of an excepting church or the choice scriptures they have pulled out of context to describe the god they want to believe in.
We take the alter of God and turn it into a stage of loud songs of God’s abounding grace, love and mercy without talking about the price paid for sin… Or the requirement of forgiveness.
Sin is talked about in past-tense, as if it reigns in the lives of the church no more. Then we lead people to believe that if they are to simply “believe and trust in Jesus” their sins will be forgiven and forgotten and grace will set them free and they can experience the mercy of God through the love of Jesus Christ… forever.
But those of us who sit by and watch this white-washed gospel manifest itself in the life of the American church and stay silent, should be ashamed.
Based on our world of Christianize we have left out the truth of what repentance of sin truly is – and therefore have left church goers and social media responders believing that grace and mercy is found with a simple apology and all sin is washed away because a confession has been made in the darkness of a person’s home rather than by experiencing repentance by way of professing the darkness of a person’s heart.
“In connection with sin the word “repentance” has a specific sense. It designates sorrow for sin, grief for having committed it, and a turning away from It,” (Thomas J. Shephard).
Without true repentance, there is no forgiveness. There is no grace. There is no mercy.
Without true repentance – we cannot even begin to offer forgiveness to those who sin against us.
And I’m not referring to their repentance – I’m talking about YOURS.
We cannot give something we have not received.
“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.” (Rosaria Butterfield)
There must be an outpouring of grief – an acknowledgement that we have made our Lord suffer for our sake, that our sin grieves His spirit and brings shame onto the church. His church, His people. Himself.
There has been very little repentance in the lives of the church. Very few congregants leave their church mourning their sin. Very few members cry and lament over their inconsistent life of tolerance and lack of integrity.
“Evangelical repentance is repentance of sin as sin: not of this sin nor of that, but of the whole mass. We repent of the sin of our nature as well as the sin of our practice. We bemoan sin within us and without us. We repent of sin itself as being an insult to God. Anything short of this is a mere surface repentance, and not a repentance which reaches to the bottom of the mischief. Repentance of the evil act, and not of the evil heart, is like men pumping water out of a leaky vessel, but forgetting to stop the leak. Some would dam up the stream, but leave the fountain still flowing; they would remove the eruption from the skin, but leave the disease in the flesh,” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon).
Without repentance, there is no hope for life abundant, let alone life at all.
How is the Gospel message ever to be delivered to change the heart of man without true repentance? How are we to ever to expect a change when we do not repent?
Where is the broken heart? Where is the contrite spirit?
Not only when the preacher is caught in infidelity or denounced from his throne due to arrogance – do we see tears… but of sorrow of being discovered – not repentance.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death,” 2 Cor 7:10
Who has gotten down on their tear-stained face for their failure? Who has buried their head in the shame of complacency? Who has boldly stood before men and denounced their irreverence to who Christ is and all that He has done?
Where are the men who admit the pain of their sin to God alone?
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes,” (Matt. 11:21).
Do you want to run and confess it to others – out loud? Who will pray for you to help make you stop?
Or is it more like over a beer during a football game, covered in laughter and a deep sigh of relief that you’re not alone because you surround yourself with those who justify it and tell you that “God loves you right where you are…”
Do you realize that your sin is causing your brother to stumble… does that grieve your heart? Do you desire to change? To once and for all, no matter who knows and no matter what the cost – friends, family, job, status, turn from the life you are leading?
If not, then you will die in your sin. Because you have not experienced repentance – which is the first and only way to experience the mercy of Christ and salvation through grace.
Then and only then can you realize exaltation – and glory – is not for you. Your desire will be to exalt and glorify Christ – alone.
Then and only then can you forgive another.
You will realize that God has not forgotten your sin, He has chosen to remember it no more.
God is our restorer indeed – but that ONLY comes through repentance.
He has demanded repentance that He will be exalted and glorified in and through you – That is through His grace and mercy but also through the blood of Jesus Christ.
That blood shed is not to be taken so lightly that you have forgotten your own sin – no indeed. That reminder of your sin is a constant tap on the shoulder of the suffering and shame that Jesus took upon Himself so that you could be “free” to live for Him. Not so that you can sin again – but that you will not sin again:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (Jn. 14:15).
The Christian life is not for the faint at heart. It is not for victims. It is for warriors for Christ. Those who are strong enough to acknowledge that sin is against God alone and He will not stand for it because He is holy it is He that is to be exalted and glorified and our sole mission on this planet is to tell others of the Gospel – the whole gospel. Not just the part that satisfies “itchy ears.”
So this Christmas season – as you are giving thanks for that “little” Christ-child and sharing the wonder of His birth and His love for this world…. Don’t forget that this child grew up to be the man who suffered and died for your pitiful, sinful, wretched life and He deserves your demonstration of love for Him, by way of your mournful tears of repentance.
And as you “remember” to forgive… yet again… this Christmas season – you might want to start your forgiveness process by your own admission of sin –
Repent the fact that you are still holding the sinner accountable, that you have never forgiven them, and the reality is that you don’t know how because you have not been forgiven – and that bitter, angry and hateful feeling inside you might be more counter-transference and projection than what you think.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 1:14–15.