Input sound file: Audio 01 07 2018
[is?] a joke. It is a joke that a grammar or english teacher would understand cause it’s a grammar joke. The past, the present, and the future all walked into a bar. It was tense. Now if you were an english teacher, the reason you’d be laughing is because there is the past tense, and the present tense, and the future tense. And when Jesus tells you something it really helps you [to?] understand the meaning if you know if it’s in the past tense, if it’s about the past. If it’s in the future tense, it’s about something that may happen in the future or if it’s in the present tense, which means we need to pay attention to it right now. Grammer adds to the meaning of anything we say, anything that’s written, including the scripture, and the sayings of Jesus. But, to be honest, even more important than tense is mood. What’s mood. Well let’s switch the joke around. The indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative walked into a worship service. It was moody. I’m sorry, english teachers don’t have very good jokes perhaps. But the grammar, these terms are also terms from grammar and they’re called moods. Not the kind of moods like you have if we’re happy or sad. They indicate information about what’s being said. The indicative mood is, here’s some information, “David”. The subjunctive mood is when you’re not quite sure. It’s something that might happen, “David? Is that David there? I’m not sure”. I’m in a subjunctive sort of mood. But the important mood for us as Christians is the imperative mood. The imperative mood is when there’s a command. And why this is important is that Jesus said in Luke six, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I tell you”. Jesus said in the very last words of Matthew in the Great Commission that his disciples were to teach all of the other disciples how to observe, how to practice, how to live everything he commanded them. And see here’s the thing, if it’s an imperative, it’s a command for us about how to live. Now here’s the really interesting thing. In English, you have to figure out based on the tone of voice whether it’s a command because that word, David, it doesn’t tell you if it’s indicative or subjunctive, or imperative but I tell you, when my mother would look at me, that’s her picture by the way, when she would look at me and she would go, “David”, I knew it was imperative that I listen to her. If my middly name was added onto it, it was just even more imperative. And if you were raised like I was, you know that all three names means it’s time to stop because it’s imperative that you listen. Something important is going to be communicated to you and your behavior is going to be different when you listen to what is said. The imperative mood calls for us to make a difference. Now, here’s another example, you see that sign there that says, “Speed limit 35,” most people don’t know how to read that sign in English. But that sign is definitely indicative. It indicates for us what the speed limit is. There is some information there; it’s indicative. But whether people actually drive the speed limit or a few miles over or twice the speed limit is subjunctive because it’s not always consistent. You’re not quite sure. But I guarantee you when you see the red, flashing lights behind you, that’s when you find out this is imperative. And you got caught and you should have thought this through before you drove faster than the speed limit. Here’s the interesting thing, in Greek, in the Greek language in which the Bible is written, and, by the way, also in Russian and various other languages around the world, there are different endings for a verb. So if you understand the way the language works, you could take a red highlighter and highlight every word that Jesus said that was an imperative, so as to identify this is not just information – indicative – this is not just a suggestion which you may or may not ignore – subjunctive – but this thing that Jesus said is an imperative, “You must do this.” As the Ginghamsburg United Methodist church is fond of saying, if Jesus says to vote no, you cannot vote yes because Jesus is Lord.
You know how you can buy a Bible that has Jesus’ words in red? I wish, like the police lights, the ones that were imperative would be flashing red because then you and I would notice them. It’s really interesting – I’ve begun to look online – you could read the Bible in what’s called an interlinear and see the different parts. It’s interesting, a number of things that are translated in English as if they’re commands are not in the imperative mood in the Greek. But there are things that, if Jesus says it in the imperative mood, he means that it should change your life and your behavior because there’s no question, it is a command. And we need to understand what those mean. A command, an imperative always calls upon us to change some aspect of our behavior. Sometimes it does it very lightly, sometimes we’re called upon to change our behavior with flashing red lights. But an imperative always calls upon us to change our behavior. So this is an imperative: never stop dreaming.
Let’s look at the second imperative, the second verb that Jesus uses in the New Testament that is a command. Here’s the context Matthew chapter 4:12. Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he, Jesus, withdrew into Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelled in Capernaum by the sea of the territory of Zebulun and Naphtili, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled. The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtili toward the sea, across the Jordan, the Galilee of the Gentiles. And here’s what was foretold. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region in the shadow of death, light has dawned.
You know what this is? This is Christmas. Light has dawned. God is with us. The light is shining. It used to be too dark to see. It used to be too dark to know what God wanted. Now the light is shining, and we know what God wants. Jesus grew up, and now Jesus is ready to begin his ministry, and the book of Matthew says the difference between before and after is the difference between night and day, because now you can see. And then comes these words, this very, very interesting verse. From that time Jesus began– what does that mean? What does that say? It means that this was the theme of what he was preaching throughout his entire ministry. From that time Jesus began to preach. And it’s interesting, in the Greek there’s two words. Now why in the world would they take two words and make them into one? I don’t understand. The word proclaim is there, but the other word is there, Jesus began to say. And I can assume from that, Jesus began to say in conversations, in responses to questions. What this is saying is that what came out of Jesus’s mouth in one or another, for his whole ministry, was this one word., this one imperative. Repent. What that word means, when we think about it in terms of grammar will have great meaning and benefit for us. And why should we repent? Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. So what exactly does this word repent mean? I would like to tell you most of us have the wrong idea of what repentance is all about. Let’s take a look at the grammar.
The Greek word for repent– it’s translated metanoia. It’s a combination of two words. It is a present verb, which means right now– now is the time to repent. It is an imperative verb, which means that it calls for a change in you and I, and it means you all– Jesus is using the pronoun that means all people, plural you. You all repent. But interestingly what it means in Greek is to change your mind. The word metanoia is the combination of two Greek words. Meta means with, or after with. It has the connotation of both. And the second word means think. When you repent, you do not feel sorry. You might feel sorry certainly, you and I have regrets but repentance is not about feeling, it’s about thinking. And the word repent literally means, “With thought,” or with a kind of thought that you would think afterwards. And it literally means for you to change your thinking. Roman Catholic [inaudible], the Benedictines, they call this, “conversatio morum,” a conversion of life, that we begin in the faith and we slowly become completely converted. John Wesley said it in a different way. He said that we go on to perfection. Repentance is something that you begin by changing your thinking and your thinking continues to change because what it basically means is now it’s time for a change. Can you see why we’d be talking about this the Sunday after New Year’s Day? If any of you have New Year’s resolution, you’ve said to yourself, “I want my life to be different, I want my life to be better.” What you do when you are saying that is, “I want to repent, I want things to be different.” Because to repent means to think differently.
Now, you see that picture with all that stuff loaded on there? How many of you have done that? Maybe not on a bicycle but, man, let’s be honest, “Here’s all the groceries in the trunk. I can carry them all in one trip.” You ever done that? And the neat thing is sometimes you were successful. Other times, cans rolled all over the floor in the garage. Repent is the thinking that is what we would think after we had done something. And we would say, “I wish I had done it this way.” You see, you can make a mistake and then repent, which means, “Wow, been there, done that, regretted that. I don’t want to do that again.” You can have that kind of repentance thinking after you make a mistake but the best form of repentance is recognizing the mistake before you make it. There is no reason why you can’t think differently in advance of making a mistake. In fact, I’ll be honest with you, if it’s important, what you’re about to do, you really ought to think before you do it. Every accident, every failure is a failure to think sufficiently before you act. So you can repent before you do something wrong by choosing to do something right. Because what repentance means is, “I’m not going to do what I want,” and maybe sometimes it’s right, maybe sometimes it’s not, “I’m going to do what Jesus wants,” and it will always be right. To repent is to recognize a mistake and you can recognize a mistake before you make it because because to repent is a change in your thinking. You ever heard this phrase, “No cop, no stop”? Kim is the one who told me this. This is a saying that high school kids have. Not any high school kids we know, of course, but high school kids in general. Grow up in a rural area. If I come up to a stop sign, if I don’t see a cop, I’m not going to stop. You would not believe how many people die because people see a stop sign and they think, “You know, there’s nobody around. There’s no reason why I should stop.” And guess what? After somebody dies, they repent of doing that. If you’re going to change your thinking, if you’re going to do the right thing, you’re going to stop whether no one is watching you or not because it’s just simply the right thing to do. Repentance is about obedience. And it doesn’t matter how late you are. You will not gain that much of an advantage from powering right through a stop sign. Not only the risk of your own life, and anyone else that’s in your car, but anyone who may be coming the other way. And by the way, the higher the corn gets, the more important this is.
Repentance is about thinking before we act. It’s not about feeling bad. Because if you think about it, when the police pull you over – assuming that they ever have – you’re really sorry after you’ve been caught. Most of us want to tell the officer, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” You weren’t sorry enough to stop. But this is the mistake that comes with the idea of repentance. The idea of repentance is we’re supposed to feel bad for what we’ve done. No, no, no. You’re supposed to not do that thing you would feel sorry for. You’re supposed to save people’s lives to live a better life because you do the right thing, the better thing. And if you always do the right thing and the better thing, then I want advice from you. But if you always do the right thing and the better thing, you won’t have very many regrets. Because repent means to turn toward God and to do what God wants as a priority. Feeling bad. Feeling sorry. That’s what we go through when we’ve done wrong. And don’t mistake me. We all have done wrong. But you don’t want to focus so much on doing wrong that you never turn it around to do right. Every single one of us knows someone who has betrayed us, who has lied to us, who has tricked us, who has taken advantage of us, and then they were so sorry that we forgave them. You know someone. But the second time they did it, and the third time, and the fourth time, and the fifth time, what you find out about that person, sadly, is they use sorry to get out of doing the right thing, when what’s needed is for us to do the right thing. When Jesus stands up and says, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” he’s saying, “It’s time for a change.” Right now, it’s time for a change. Because the kingdom of God is just ready to happen. And if you change your ways, it can happen to you.
An airplane that takes off to fly from New York to San Francisco. You know something? When they take off, they will take a bearing, and they will steer in the direction of San Francisco. And then the wind will blow them off course. They will have to adjust. And a minute later, the wind will blow them off course, and they’ll have to adjust. And a minute later, the wind will blow them off course. Now, I want to tell you, these pilots don’t waste any time feeling bad about being off course. All they do is redirect the plane to go where it’s supposed to go, to do what it’s supposed to do. They are off course maybe 90% of the time, but by constantly making corrections, they’re constantly right back on course. Small changes done immediately make a huge difference in where we end up. They’re on course, but most of the time they’re off course. Of course. That’s the way life is. What we’re supposed to do is get back on course. I want to remind you of something that you already know. Every Christian has a path. And because we’re forgiven, because God loves us, every Christian has a future. Past tense, future tense. But what we do in the present will control where we end up in this life. And while I believe that all of you are going to Heaven, it would be my preference that by living by the best that you know, that God has for you to do, it would be my wish that you would come as close as possible to Heaven on Earth before we go to the future tense of Heaven beyond this earth. How we live matters.
And so therefore, along with Jesus, I want to say to you, “Let’s repent, not in the sense of feeling bad, but in the sense of let’s get back on course with what Jesus wants us to do.” Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank you for these words in the Bible that unfortunately, are confusing in English. I pray that they would be like blinking red lights that would draw our attention to a better way to live, so that we too might move onward toward perfection, as John Wesley described. Help us, Lord Jesus, to think before we do, and to be wise in our thinking, and wise in our doing. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen. On the night that he was betrayed, our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, took bread, and he broke it. And he said, “Take and eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And after supper, he took
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This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.