True Repentance

Posted on: March 4th, 2014 by mattpapa 1 Comment


The following is an excerpt of a Tim Keller sermon that I listened to recently called, “Removing Idols of the Heart”.  I have used it in several counseling situations recently, and it has been very helpful, so I thought I would just post it for the world.  In the sermon, Keller echoes Stephen Charnock (Puritan) in talking about the way we truly change, and the difference between self-pity and repentance.  READ:


“The way in which you destroy the power of a sin is to take it to the cross, not to Mount Sinai. Take it to Mount Calvary, not to Mount Sinai. I’ll explain this for a minute.

If you take a sin to Mount Sinai that means you’re thinking about the danger of it. You’re thinking about how it has messed up your life. You’re thinking about all the punishments that are probably going to come down on you for it. That is not repentance; that is self-pity. Self-pity and repentance are two different things. I came to a place in my life where I realized 90 percent of what I thought I had been doing as repentance throughout most of my life was really just self-pity.

The difference between self-pity and repentance is this: Self-pity is thinking about what a mess your sin got you into. Self-pity is thinking about the consequences of it, what a wreck it’s made of you, how God will probably get me for it, or how my parents will probably get me for it, or how my boss will probably get me for it, or all the problems it will create in my life or already has created in my life. “Oh, Lord, how sorry I am this has happened. Oh, Lord, get this out of my life.” What you’re really doing is saying, “I hate the consequences of this sin,” but you haven’t learned to hate the sin. What is happening is instead of hating the sin, you’re hating the consequences of the sin, and you’re hating yourself for being so stupid.

Self-pity leads to continuing to love the sin so it still has power over you but hating yourself. Real repentance is when you say, “What has this sin done to God? What has it cost God? What does God feel about it?” Let me give you an interesting example of two guys who wrote 300 or 400 years ago. One man’s name is Stephen Charnock. Stephen Charnock tries to explain the difference between taking your sin to Mount Sinai, where you just look at the danger of it, and taking your sin to the cross, where you see what effect it’s had on God.

When you see what effect it has had on the loving God who died so you wouldn’t do it, who died for your holiness, when you begin to see that…it melts you, and it makes you begin to hate the sin. It begins to lose its attractive power over you. Instead of making you hate yourself…you find you hate it, and so the idol begins to get crushed bit by bit. Listen carefully to Stephen Charnock, because he’s using old English. Charnock says there is a difference between a legalistic (religious) conviction of sin and an evangelical (Christian) one.

“A legal (religious) conviction of sin ariseth from a consideration of God’s justice chiefly, an evangelical conviction of sin from a sense of God’s goodness.” Now hear this. “A legally convinced person cries out, ‘I have exasperated a power that is as the roaring of a lion … I have provoked one that is the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth whose word can tear up the foundation of the world …’ But an evangelically convinced person cries, ‘I have incensed the goodness that is like the dropping of a dew. I have offended a God that had his hands stretched out to me as a friend. My heart must be made of marble. My heart must be made of iron to throw his blood in his face.’ ”


Love ≠ Open-mindedness

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by mattpapa 5 Comments


We live in the “same love” culture.   The new ethic is sincerity.  If he’s into guys, cool.  If she’s into girls, ok.   If that’s his religion, then it’s true for him.  If she wants to kill it, then that’s her choice.  Don’t judge, don’t offend, don’t disrupt.

Chill out evangelicals.

Granted….and sadly…Christians haven’t been the most gracious when it comes to these topics.  However…

Love ≠ open-mindedness.

Love is intense.  We all know this.

Nearly everyday my kids sincerely don’t want to sit in their carseats.  What does love do?  “Ok, no big deal honey, sit wherever you want.”


Love does this:  “Put your bottom in your carseat right now, or I will come put it there myself.”

If you have a friend who is making decisions that are ruining their life, love doesn’t stand by and watch it.  It sits them down…it gets in their face.

As it’s been said, the opposite of love is not hate.  It is indifference.

Love gets angry when the good of it’s beloved is threatened.

“To love is will the good of another.”  (T. Aquinas)

It turns out that our culture’s view of love is self-defeating.  If to love is to will the good of another, but in a culture of “non-judgmentalism” and “tolerance” a standard of good is lost, then love is lost.

Truth without love is bigotry, and quite often, Christians have been bigots.  But love without truth is cowardice.  And we live in a culture of cowards.

Stand up.  Do something.  Say something.  For love’s sake.  Be cool or be loving.  You can’t be both.

I Will Help You

Posted on: December 30th, 2013 by mattpapa No Comments
We’re here at the Campus Crusade Conference in Greensboro, and earlier this morning I heard Tyler Jones reference a Spurgeon quote that I had to share.  I hope it does for your soul what it did for mine.  It rings with the glories of Romans 8:32.
“Let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: ‘I will help you.  It is but a small thing for me, your God, to help you.  Consider what I have done already.  What! not help you?  Why, I bought you with my blood.  What! Not help you?  I have died for you; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less?  Help you!  It is the least thing I will ever do for you.  I have done more, and will do more.  Before the world began I chose you.  I made the covenant for you.  I laid aside my glory and became a man for you, I gave up my life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now.  In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already.  If you had need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to you; you require little compared with what I am ready to give.  ’Tis much for you to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow.  Help you?  Fear not!  If there were an ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat; and you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of my all-sufficiency.  I will help you.’
O my soul, is not this enough?  Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity?  Do you want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit?  Bring here your empty pitcher!  Surely this well will fill it.  Haste, gather up your needs, and bring them here – your emptiness, your woes, your needs.  Behold, this river of God is full for your supply; what can you desire beside?  Go forth, my soul, in this your might.  The Eternal God is your helper.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon



Look & Live (Worship or Die)

Posted on: October 17th, 2013 by mattpapa 6 Comments


One of the clearest pictures to me of what worship is like and what a worship leader does is found in a story in the Old Testament.

In Numbers 21 God’s people are wandering in the wilderness.  They are essentially, like us, a big group of tired, hungry, grouchy, grown-up kids who need a nap.  First, somebody in the back begins to grumble.

“This stinks.  Take us back to Egypt!”

The grumble spreads through the camp like wildfire…their entitlement now spewing projectile from their mouths.  They were tired of eating of manna burgers, bamanna bread, and manna-cotti (Thank you Keith Green).  They were tired of walking.  God was tired of their complaining.

Enter “fiery serpents”.

Poisonous snakes begin appearing…hundreds of them.  Biting.  Screaming.  Shrieking.  Fainting.  Dying.

Isreal wants mercy.  And so God, true to His character, grants them mercy.  But He chooses to do so in a very peculiar way…

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery (bronze) serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” Num 21:8

Now why show mercy in this way?  Couldn’t God have just said a word and fixed it all?  Healed them all?  Maybe just turned all the snakes into cute little puppies?

This is why: John 3:14-15.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

This is why the display of mercy was so peculiar.  It was a parable.

In this historical event, God is teaching us what faith is like…what worship is like.

Faith is a looking.  It is the blood-earnest, serious looking of serpent-bitten, sin-ridden people towards God’s peculiar display of mercy…the holy, battered, bloody, mutilated Son of God.  And if we don’t see Him…

We die.

We die.  We go to hell.  We have no victory over sin.  We have no power over our addictions.  Our lives remain a self-destructive mess.  We have no spiritual life…unless we see Him.  Unless we run to survey the Savior on the pole.  Unless we fight through the crowds and through our doubts and lift up our face.  The poison of idolatry will rot our veins until the glory of the crucified God-man fills our eyes.

The reason our church services are boring….the reason our sanctuaries are filled with cold, lifeless songs….the reason we feel the need to conjure up fake emotions with slick productions…it’s all because deep down we believe we’re ok.  We’ve forgotten that worship is life or death.

Worship is a looking.  It is the gaze of the soul towards greatness….towards some savior.  It is the pulsating, throbbing ache of the soul to see & celebrate glory.  The “wow” of the heart.  And we are always being captivated by something.  We must be.  The throne of the heart must be filled.

You have heard the phrase before “worship is a lifestyle”.  This is true, but weak.  It’s much more than that.  We cannot not worship.  We are continually kneeling to our highest perceived beauty.  The soul does not have an embrace….it is an embrace.  We never begin worship, we aim it.

And every week, people come into our churches.  They enter….eternal souls…hoping to be impressed.  Wanting to see real greatness.  They have seen the glory of the world this week.  We, along with them, have turned to the creation for happiness and have been betrayed.  We’ve seen the ads.  We’ve tried money, sex, and power and we have been bitten.  Entangled by all manner of slithering sins.  And now we come.  They come.  Wanting more.  Craving, yearning, longing, dying for real glory.

The hour strikes, the service begins. The worship leader…that little moses…takes the stage.  He takes his pole and he lifts up…

a guitar riff.

a catchy tune.

his own personality.

his own opinion.

his own greatness.

an idol.

a tragedy.

Because what should have been the pole became the thing on the pole.  Jesus was the pole, a means to an end, and the people did not feast.  They were placated.  Inoculated.  Restless. Embracing shadows. They leave church with a pseudo happiness in a vision of a pseudo glory.

Brothers and sisters, this should not be.

We must give them Jesus.  Idols and addictions are never suppressed.  They are eclipsed.  Replaced.  The brightness of the stars vanish in the fury of the sun.  Money, Success, Power, Lust, Pride don’t stand a chance in the presence of Jesus.

So to my worship leader friends out there…my pastor friends…be a little moses.  Standing before you are ever-worshipping, dying, immortal beings.  People thirsting for greatness.  So give it to them.  Give them the glory they were made for…the anti-venom of the soul…the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Exalt Him.  Satisfy them.  Paint Him.  Lift Him up.  If you don’t, the people in the back are going to die.

Because a worship leader is not someone who stands on a stage and passively says “Stand & sing”.  It’s someone who stands before a world of restless, dying hearts and lifts up Jesus as high as he can, and screams with every fiber of his being along with John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”


Worship or die.


Look & Live.

“Drawn away from love of the thing he tells…”

Posted on: August 5th, 2013 by mattpapa 1 Comment


Below is an excerpt from chapter 9 of C.S. Lewis’ powerful book “The Great Divorce”…brimming with insights for anyone involved in the arts or communication.

A little context….”The Great Divorce” is a story about a group of “ghosts” from purgatory or hell who take a bus trip to the foothills of heaven where they meet “spirits” who urge them to journey upward. Lewis brilliantly paints here, as he does in so many of his works, the hollowness of selfishness and the “thickness” or reality of love, beauty, and selflessness.

I was recently reminded of this section and wanted to post it, (especially) as a way to help to those who help us see…to my songwriting, preaching, painting, book-writing, instrument-strumming friends out there….who constantly strain…who continually squint…trying to further comprehend the Glory.  But why comprehend it?  Why communicate it?

That is Lewis’ question to us…..


“God!” said the Ghost, glancing round the landscape.

“God what?” asked the Spirit.

“What do you mean, ‘God what’?” asked the Ghost.

“In our grammer God is a noun.”

“Oh-I see. I only meant ‘By Gum’ or something of the sort. I meant . . . well, all this. It’s . . . it’s … I should like to paint this.”

“I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you.”

“Look here; isn’t one going to be allowed to go on painting?”

“Looking comes first.” “But I’ve had my look. I’ve seen just what I want to do. God!-I wish I’d thought of bringing my things with me!”

The Spirit shook his head, scattering light from his hair as he did so. “That sort of thing’s no good here,” he said.

“What do you mean?” said the Ghost.

“When you painted on earth-at least in your earlier days-it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. There is no good telling us about this country, for we see it already. In fact we see it better than you do.”

“Then there’s never going to be any point in painting here?”

“I don’t say that. When you’ve grown into a Person (it’s all right, we all had to do it) there’ll be some things which you’ll see better than anyone else. One of the things you’ll want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed.”

There was a little pause. “That will be delightful,” said the Ghost presently in a rather dull voice.

“Come, then,” said the Spirit, offering it his arm.

“How soon do you think I could begin painting?” it asked.

The Spirit broke into laughter. “Don’t you see you’ll never paint at all if that’s what you’re thinking about?” he said.

“What do you mean?” asked the Ghost.

“Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.”

“But that’s just how a real artist is interested in the country.”

“No. You’re forgetting,” said the Spirit. “That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”

“Oh, that’s ages ago,” said the Ghost. “One grows out of that. Of course, you haven’t seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake.”

“One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.”


That you may not be drawn away from love of the Thing you tell,