Sermon title:  THEY WOULD HAVE REPENTED

Matthew 11:20-30 

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 10, 2018

 

 

 

 

For the past 6 months—since just before Christmas—

we’ve been going through the 4 Gospels chronologically,

looking at everything our Lord Jesus said and did

in the order that those events occurred.

 

And one thing we’ve noticed

is that our Lord’s ministry on earth had a theme—

a consistent message

that kept coming up—

a message everything else revolved around.

 

And that theme of Jesus’ preaching

was that people should come to him,

repenting of their sins,

to receive forgiveness of their sins.

 

Repentance and forgiveness of sins—that was the theme.

 

To “repent” means to feel sorry

for things we’ve said and done:

to regret what we’ve said or done,

to be conscience-stricken about it—

and to resolve to change our speech and conduct for the better. 

 

This call for people

to change their hearts and lives

was such an important theme of Jesus’ preaching

that he began his work on earth

with this call for people to “Repent!”

And he ended his work on earth with the same message.

 

At the beginning of his public ministry,

Matthew 4:17 says,

“Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent!’”

 

And at the end of his ministry on earth,

Luke 24:47 says Jesus told his followers that

“repentance and forgiveness of sins

will be preached in his name

to all nations.”

 

So, that helps us understand

this morning’s Responsive Reading

in Matthew, Chapter 11,[  OPEN  ]

beginning at Matthew 11:20,

where it says,

 

“Then Jesus began to denounce the cities

in which most of his miracles

had been performed,

because they did not repent.”

 

We’ve been reading about

how Jesus was healing the sick,

curing leprosy,

restoring sight to the blind,

enabling paralyzed people to walk,

and even raising the dead back to life.

 

But Jesus expected something in return.

No, he didn’t want anyone’s money.

 

But he wanted them to repent of their sins.

 

He wanted them to recognize

that God the Father had sent his only-begotten Son

to call them back to him.

 

He wanted them to be so appreciative

of God’s love and mercy,

that they would repent of their sins

and receive forgiveness.

 

But these cities where Jesus preached

didn’t do that.

They hard-heartedly failed to repent.

 

And so, Jesus rebuked them.

 

Beginning with Matthew Chapter 11, Verse 20,

as we read in our Responsive Reading,

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities

in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

21 "Woe to you, Korazin!

Woe to you, Bethsaida!

 

If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Tyre and Sidon,

they would have repented long ago

in sackcloth and ashes.

22 But I tell you,

it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon

on the day of judgment than for you.

 

23 And you, Capernaum,

will you be lifted up to the skies?

No, you will go down to the depths.

If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Sodom,

it would have remained to this day.

24 But I tell you

that it will be more bearable for Sodom

on the day of judgment than for you."

 

Tyre and Sidon were pagan Gentile cities

where people worshiped false idols

and didn’t know the true God.

But those cities had never heard the message Christ preached.

 

Jesus said

they would have repented long ago

in sackcloth and ashes”  if his powerful works

had been done there.

 

Shame on the Jewish cities of Korazin and Bethsaida,

where Jesus did do his miracles

and where the people did NOT repent of their sins!

 

And then our Lord went on

to address the city of Capernaum

that was his home town

for much of his ministry.

 

Jesus did miracles in Capernaum,

but its people did not repent of their sins.

So, he told this town,

If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Sodom,

it would have remained to this day.

 

The town of Sodom did NOT exist in Jesus’ day.

God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah

centuries earlier.

 

But, if Jesus’ preaching and miracles

had been done in Sodom

its people would have repented of their sins

and Sodom would have remained,

instead of being destroyed.

 

If we open our Bibles to the 13th chapter of the book of Genesis,

we’ll read about this ancient city

that used to exist south of Jerusalem

on the shore of the Dead Sea.

 

Looking first at Genesis Chapter 13, Verse 13,

we note what kind of place it was.

Genesis 13:13 says,

“Now the men of Sodom were wicked

and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”

 

And then, if we turn over to the 18th Chapter of Genesis,

         we’ll see what the Lord did about it.

 

God appeared to Abraham

     and told Abraham

          that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah

                  because of their sin.

 

Our English-language word “sodomy”

      comes from “Sodom.”

 

The sin of Sodom was homosexual conduct.

 

Abraham knew how the men of Sodom were sinning,

        and so did everyone else.

                 That ancient world was scandalized

                         by what was going on in Sodom.

 

So, in Genesis Chapter 18, Verse 20,

       we read that the Lord told Abraham,

 

"The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great

and their sin so grievous

21 that I will go down

and see if what they have done

is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.

If not, I will know."

 

God then sent two angels

     who were materialized as men

        to go to Sodom and investigate.

 

Abraham’s nephew Lot was then living in Sodom

as a temporary resident. 

And, when the investigating angels arrived that evening,

Lot invited them to spend the night at his house. 

 

Genesis Chapter 19 tells us what happened next,

beginning at Verse 4:

4 Before they had gone to bed,

all the men

from every part of the city of Sodom--

both young and old--

surrounded the house.

5 They called to Lot,

"Where are the men who came to you tonight?

Bring them out to us

so that we can have sex with them."

 

Remember, our English-language word “sodomy”

      comes from “Sodom.”

 

That city’s sin was homosexual conduct.

 

Now, some people today try to deny that fact.

 

       They say, ‘No, the sin of Sodom was pride.’

               Or they say, ‘No, the sin of Sodom was lack of hospitality.’

 

But, if we know God,

     we know he doesn’t go around destroying cities

            because they lack hospitality.

 

In fact, the two angels

      explained to Abraham’s nephew Lot

             that God had already decided

                    to destroy the city BEFORE

                           this last incident took place.

 

In Genesis Chapter 19, beginning at Verse 12, we read,

12 The two men said to Lot,

"Do you have anyone else here—

sons-in-law, sons or daughters,

or anyone else in the city

who belongs to you?

Get them out of here,

13 because we are going to destroy this place.

The outcry to the Lord against its people

is so great

that he has sent us to destroy it."

 

So, the two angels arrived in Sodom

knowing their mission

was to destroy the city

because of the sin

that was already going on there.

 

And Genesis 19:24 tells us

how the sentence of destruction was carried out.

It says in Genesis 19, Verse 24,

24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur

on Sodom and Gomorrah—

from the Lord out of the heavens.

 

This was an actual, historical event.

       It wasn’t a myth.

              That’s why our Lord Jesus referred to Sodom

                     the way he did

                            in our Responsive Reading.

 

In fact, Sodom is referred to by name 48 times

       throughout the Bible,

              including 9 times in the New Testament.

 

If there’s any doubt

       that the reason WHY

               God destroyed Sodom

                       was their practicing homosexual perversion,

the New Testament letter of Jude[ OPEN ]

       makes it unmistakably clear.

 

Jude is a small, one-page letter,

      just before the book of Revelation or Apocalypse

            near the very end of the New Testament.

 

And there in Jude Chapter 1, Verse 7, it says,

 

7 In a similar way,

Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns

gave themselves up

to sexual immorality and perversion.

They serve as an example

of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

 

So, this New Testament passage

        reminds us

               that it was “sexual immorality and perversion

                       that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

That shows that God has not changed his mind.

      Homosexual conduct was punished as “sin”

             in the first book of the Old Testament,

                    and it’s still punished as “sin”

                          in the next-to-last book of the New Testament—

and everywhere in between.

 

In Leviticus, Chapter 18, Verse 22,

      God told the Israelites,

22 "'Do not lie with a man

as one lies with a woman;

that is detestable.

 

 And in the New Testament book of Romans,[  OPEN  ]

        God makes it plain

                that he hasn’t changed his mind.

 

Romans, Chapter 1,

       talks about those who worship idols

                     and engage in sexual perversion,

                            and it says people should NOT behave like that.

 

In Romans Chapter 1, beginning with Verse 24, it says,

 

24 Therefore God gave them over

in the sinful desires of their hearts

to sexual impurity

for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

 

25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,

and worshiped and served created things

rather than the Creator—

who is forever praised. Amen.

 

26 Because of this,

God gave them over to shameful lusts.

Even their women exchanged natural relations

for unnatural ones.

27 In the same way the men also

abandoned natural relations with women

and were inflamed with lust for one another.

Men committed indecent acts with other men,

and received in themselves

the due penalty for their perversion.

 

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile

to retain the knowledge of God,

he gave them over to a depraved mind,

to do what ought not to be done.

29 They have become filled

with every kind of wickedness,

evil, greed and depravity.

 

God hasn’t changed his mind.

 

The behavior he condemned as “sin”

for thousands of years

in the Old Testament and in the New Testament

is still “sin” today.

 

But the good news

is that people can be saved from that sin

by repenting and putting faith in Christ.

 

As we just read in our Responsive Reading in Matthew 11,

Jesus told the cities where he preached,

“If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Tyre and Sidon,

they would have repented long ago

in sackcloth and ashes. . . .

If the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Sodom

it would have remained to this day.”

 

Sodom would have remained.

It would not have been destroyed,

because its people would have repented

and changed their behavior

and put faith in Christ.

 

That shows that homosexuals

can change.

They can stop practicing homosexuality.

They can repent.

They can change their conduct

and even their thinking.

 

They can pray, as ancient King David did,

according to the New Century Version’s

rendering of Psalm 141:4,

“LORD . . . Take away my desire to do evil

or to join others in doing wrong.”

 

Those who turn to Christ for salvation

can have the powerful help of the Holy Spirit

in resisting temptation

and in re-shaping their pattern of thinking

and their behavior.

 

We know that such change is possible,

because Jesus said the men of Sodom

would have responded to his preaching and miracles.

They would have repented,

and God would not have destroyed them and their city.

 

And we also know that such change is possible,

if people choose to follow Jesus,

because there are many Christians today

who have given up the homosexual lifestyle

and the trans-gender lifestyle,

and who now live godly Christian lives.

 

1st Corinthians Chapter 6 tells us          

that there were also those in the early Christian Church,

who quit that sin,

along with other sins,

when they repented and answered the call of God.

 

1st Corinthians Chapter 6, beginning at Verse 9, says,

 

9 Do you not know

that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters

nor adulterers nor male prostitutes

nor homosexual offenders

10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards

nor slanderers nor swindlers

will inherit the kingdom of God.

 

11 And that is what some of you were.

But you were washed, you were sanctified,

you were justified

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

and by the Spirit of our God.

 

So, just as people gave up idolatry, adultery,

thievery and drunkenness

to follow Jesus,

they also gave up male prostitution

and other forms of homosexual conduct.

-------------------

 

But people who want to sin

come up with all sorts of excuses

and all sorts of reasons

to justify their sinful conduct.

 

And today, one of those arguments

comes from people who say,

“We were born that way.”

 

Last month, even the Roman Catholic Pope

shocked everyone

by reportedly telling a homosexual man,

“God made you like that”

and that his sexuality “does not matter.”

 

The pope claims to be the successor of Saint Peter,

but Peter wrote, at 2nd Peter 2:6, that God

 

“condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

by burning them to ashes,

and made them an example

of what is going to happen to the ungodly.”

 

Yes, people are born with the desire to sin,

but that does not make it okay

to act out those desires. 

 

The Bible explains

that we’ve all inherited sin and death

from the first man, Adam.

 

As a result, Genesis 8:21 says,

 

“the imagination of man’s heart

is evil from his youth.”

 

We’ve all inherited a tendency to sin.

 

For some people it is a tendency to steal. 

Other people inherited a tendency toward violence. 

For some men, it is a very strong desire to be a womanizer;

they have a sexual inclination toward multiple women,

instead of just one wife.

 

Does that mean we should all feel free

to act out our sinful inclinations? 

Of course not. 

We all need to struggle against inherited sin,

no matter what sinful inclination

is strongest in our particular case. 

 

At 1 Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul wrote concerning himself:

“I beat my body and make it my slave

so that after I have preached to others,

I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

-----------------------

 

But gay activists today

try to present homosexuals

as if they were like a race of people

born that way.

So, they say they’re entitled to civil rights as a minority group—

just like Jews or blacks or Latinos or other minorities.

 

But that is an insult to racial minorities.

 

It contradicts God’s word, the Bible

 

And it also contradicts sound medical science.

 

I have in my hand

part of a 144-page study

published by top psychiatric and medical experts

at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

 

And these experts conclude

that homosexuality and trans-gender

are LEARNED behaviors--

NOT things that people are born with

and stuck with.

 

They say, on page 2 of their Conclusion,

“Some of the most widely held views

about sexual orientation,

such as the ‘born that way’ hypothesis,

simply are not supported by science.”

 

Let me read that again:

“Some of the most widely held views

about sexual orientation,

such as the ‘born that way’ hypothesis,

simply are not supported by science.”

 

People are not born that way.

They learn it.

And the choose to continue in it.

 

It’s not who they are, but what they choose to do.

 

Aggressive gay activists

tried to suppress this scientific study,

and to hide its results from the public.

 

I have here a news article titled,

“LGBT Group Threatens Johns Hopkins

Over Study on Homosexuality, Transgender.”

 

This news article goes on to say,

“the most powerful lesbian, gay, bisexual,

transgender and queer advocacy group in the country, labelled the report an ‘attack on LGBT communities’ and threatened to penalize Johns Hopkins University

if it did not distance itself from the study.”

 

They are bullies,

and they tried to force Johns Hopkins

to censor this scientific study—

just like they tried to force a Christian baker

to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding,

in a case that the Supreme Court overturned

just this past week.

 

I don’t like to talk about a subject like this in church,

but it has to be discussed

because it’s in the newspapers, on the internet,

and on television all day long—

with the devil’s point of view

being proclaimed as right, instead of God’s.

 

This is “gay pride” month all across the country.

Governor Baker and the mayor of Boston

proudly participated in raising

the gay rainbow flag over Boston’s city hall.

 

Here in New Bedford,

crowds gathered in Buttonwood Park last week

to celebrate gay pride in New Bedford.

 

The prophet Isaiah[  OPEN  ]

described it in Isaiah, Chapter 3, Verse 9,

when he said,

 “The look on their faces testifies against them;

they parade their sin like Sodom;

they do not hide it. Woe to them!

They have brought disaster upon themselves.”

 

But they can escape that disaster

by repenting of their sin

and turning to Christ for forgiveness.

 

Jesus calls homosexuals

and all sinners of every sort

to repent,

and to come to him for salvation.

 

Our Responsive Reading this morning

concluded with Jesus’ words at Matthew 11:28-30,

where he said,

 

“Come to me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you

and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy

and my burden is light.”