Jesus said this, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”. This is Jesus’ attitude. And this is the attitude of God. This is the attitude of heaven and also attitude of angels. It is very different from our attitude. We like righteous people, we like good people, but somehow God has a special heart for those who are broken, those who fail, who fell. Somehow, God has a very special heart for these, in a way, losers. People don’t want to associate with these people because they’re losers. They’re sinners. They’re not good for society, they are good for family, they’re are good for anyone. But somehow Jesus always spent time with them and the Jesus had a special heart for these people. That’s why the in scripture, Jesus said, God is more pleased with one sinner over one sinner who repents than 99, the multitude, who are righteous, who don’t need to repent. I think repentance is beautiful thing.
Living life with over confidence and being a know it all and all that, that is not really, what’s beautiful. But the person who is truly repentant of themselves and admits their own shortcomings and their fallible or nature, that is is what is beautiful. And that is what God is pleased with. So we don’t have to pretend we are so righteous. We don’t have to pretend that we are so good before God to be accepted by God. Somehow, we just be honest with ourselves and just come to God as we are, as sinful as we are, then God is pleased and God will give the heart to repent. I think King David knew about this a long time ago, and he said this, “For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”. God will not despise your broken spirit.
Realization is Repentance
When Saint Paul met Christ, what happened to him was not that he was a bad person before, and became all of a sudden good person after meeting Christ. Somehow the opposite happened. He thought he was a good person before meeting Christ, but after meeting Christ, he realized that he’s not so good. He was not as good as he thought he was. That realization, that is repentance. ‘I’m not as good as I present myself to be’. Realizing that is repentance. We don’t need to hide that. We don’t need to put on a false self on us to look good when we come before God, because God is pleased with our broken spirit.
When Paul realized that, not only he was changed from that point on, he didn’t live a false life anymore. He was honest and true. He changed tremendously. He experienced freedom when he truly recognized, realized, who he really was. But not only was he changed, but he changed so many people. He brought about what gospel was all about. You don’t need to be perfect to be saved. And Paul confidently expressed that to all of us. And so many people experienced true spiritual transformation and change through the words of St. Paul. So not only was he changed, but he changed so many people. When repentance happens it changes not only ourselves, but also it changes a lot of other people around us. Same thing happened to St. Augustine. St. Augustine, one day he realized how sinful he was and then he experienced gospel grace. And he wrote confession of St. Augusta. If you haven’t read it, it’s a beautiful book that I strongly recommend to read. Chapter 10 or 11 is a kind of little bit difficult because he talks about time and it’s very philosophical. But the whole book, when you look at it, read it, you can see how beautiful repentance is. How beautiful it is when somebody becomes utterly honest with himself or herself. That’s a beauty of repentance.
None is Righteous
What happens when we repent? When we truly repent, our eyes will be open. Until then, our eyes are closed. We are blind to ourselves, but when you truly repent, your eyes will be open and you will see what you didn’t see before. St. Paul experienced that and St Augustine experienced that. When you truly repent, all these spiritual insights flood your soul. When people repent, they have the courage to be themselves as they are. They find their true self. That’s tremendous freedom, finding yourself, your true self and being comfortable. That’s hard. But through repentance, that is possible. You can find your true self and yet still be comfortable with yourself. And that’s what a repentance does. You experience God’s grace. Right at repentance, you experience God’s grace. That’s why you can accept yourself as sinful as you are.
Repentance is not necessarily specific things that you did wrong. I mean, it’s easy to do that because you see your sin right away so it’s easy to repent. But repentance is not just about specific things that you did right now, but you discover the pattern within you. You discover the tendencies within you, your stubborn tendency, your pride, your arrogance, and you see what’s going on within you, deep inside. It doesn’t show necessarily, but somehow you discover that, ‘I’m so arrogant. I didn’t realize how arrogant I was’. And you recognize that and realize that. That is what repentance is. ‘Oh I swore at somebody, or I did this wrong or that wrong’, that’s easy to repent, it’s only on things that you did. But understanding deep inside, what’s going on, the darkness that is controlling you, understanding that is hard. But repentance is about that. St. Paul experienced that and St. Augustine experienced that.
When Jesus said those 99, who didn’t know repentance, he didn’t mean that they were truly righteous. Where is the person who needs no repentance? Everybody needs repentance. And Jesus said, these 99, who need no repentance, they were not really righteous. We all make mistakes. We all have shortcomings. We all fall and fail. We need repentance. When St. Paul experienced Christ, he realized how frail we are, how sinful we are. Until then, he had an idealistic image about himself and all about human beings. But when he met Christ, he realized how sinful we are. That’s why he said this, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. There is no one who shows kindness. There is not even one”. He thought that he was pretty righteous, but he realized there’s no one who is righteous.
Only by God’s Grace
Only by God’s grace. We can be righteous. Only God’s by forgiveness, we can be righteous. And God is very much pleased when we repent. What is wonderful about repentance is that you meet God in a real way. Until repentance, God is conceptual. God is way up there. Forgiveness is only conceptual. But when we truly repent of yourself, the forgiveness becomes real. It’s a sweet thing. God, forgives me and God becomes real. And God pours out all spiritual wisdom and insight. And also God empowers us to be able to overcome our own shortcomings. How can you overcome your sin? By hiding them? No. When you hide your sins, sin works much harder, it’s much more active. When you try to hide your sins, they really completely control you. But when you expose your sins before God with a repentant heart, somehow that sin cannot control you anymore. That’s how we overcome our shortcomings. You cannot overcome your shortcomings by yourself. You can only overcome your shortcomings by God’s grace. That’s why repentance is so powerful.
When you see the prodigal son, even though he wasted all this money, all his life, when he came back, the father never asked any question of ‘why did you do that?’. All he did was embrace him and restored him and threw a party. If God does not accept our repentance, repentance has no power, but God is pleased with our repentance. And through that Father, we can see the image of God. When you come to God, God is not going to ask you, ‘why were you so stupid? Why did you do this? Why did you do that?’ No. All God wants to do is to embrace you. I know you, I still love you, and you are my child. You are my precious child. And he restores us and he blesses us with all the spiritual wisdom and insight. And that’s why repentance is beautiful. So that’s why the story of the prodigal son was written right after this story. It’s the third story. The first story is about sheep, the second story is about coins, and the last story is about the prodigal son.
You’re struggling with your own darkness. Are you struggling with your own shortcomings? Are embarrassed with your own selves? I want you to come before God and present yourself with a repentant heart. You will discover your beautiful self again and live with that. People who repent don’t look at sin all the time. People who repent always look at God’s grace and forgiveness. People who feel guilty, they only look at their own sins all the time, but people who truly repent, they don’t focus on their sins alone. They focus on God’s grace and God’s forgiveness. The people who repent when they see other people’s sin, they don’t really come with judgment. They look at them with compassion. They ache as they ache. That’s what repented people do. We are all sinners. We have gathered together. Let us help each other. Let us love each other. Let us embrace each other. Let us build each other up. Then this community will become very, very strong community where God’s grace is working.