The words “Touchdown Steelers!!!” get me excited every time I hear them. I love the Steelers. Whenever they win, I am pleased, and I quite often celebrate their success by jumping around and hollering. The things we enjoy cause us great delight.
Luke 15:1-7 tells us that the cause of delight in heaven is repentance. In fact, Jesus tells us that heaven strikes up the band at the repentance of one individual. The celebration is contrasted with the implied silence in heaven over the existence of 99 righteous persons. One may think this odd considering that 1 Samuel 15:22 tells us that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” And since sin is disobedience, one would think that God would celebrate the existence of 99 righteous persons who have no need of repentance rather than one disobedient sinner’s repentance.
However, the Bible teaches that no person except Christ is truly righteous. Consequently, these 99 righteous persons are persons who either do not recognize or ignore their unrighteousness and need of repentance. The silence in heaven should not lead one to think that God is apathetic over those who think of themselves more highly than they ought to. Far from being apathetic, God is full of anger towards the unrepentant.
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5 NKJV).
God loathes the self-righteousness of the unrepentant because their actions demonstrate their belief that they can achieve God’s righteousness on their own. They refuse to understand the absolute holiness of God and the depravity of their own hearts. Thus, the unrepentant “righteous” persons lower God to their level and exalt themselves above God.
In contrast to God’s attitude towards the 99 unrepentant “righteous” persons, Jesus insists that God celebrates over one sinner’s repentance. He celebrates at the repentance of one sinner because he delights to save sinners. Repentance is a gift of kindness from God, which leads to salvation (Romans 2:4); thus, he loves repentance because it is the means of bringing sinners to salvation. God’s delight in saving sinners is further proven in biblical texts that express his desire for the repentance and salvation of all mankind.
“Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV).
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9 NKJV).
Moreover, this is why later in Luke Jesus commands the apostles to preach “repentance for forgiveness of sins…in his name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47 NASB). God delights to save sinners.
When God saved us, we did not have to twist his arm. He did not see us coming and say, “Oh brother, not him.” God saved us because saving sinners is what he loves to do. God did not save us because we are so wonderful he could not live without us. We are sinners who spurn God at every opportunity we get. He saved us for his own purpose and because that is what he likes to do.
Since God delights to save sinners by bringing them to repentance, we ought to cooperate with God in his purpose to save sinners. As repentant sinners, we should preach the gospel and call fellow sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. If God loves repentance, how much would he love the preaching of repentance?
All of heaven and most importantly God celebrates over the repentance of one sinner. Let’s be thankful that God delighted to save us and seek to cause celebrations in heaven by preaching “repentance for forgiveness of sins.”
Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church