Doing Wrong Is Like a Joke to a Fool

Crying crocodileIntro

Originally, I was going to call this sermon, “How Not to Repent.” However, as I did research for it, its final title, “Doing Wrong Is Like a Joke to a Fool” seemed especially apropos. We’ll see by the end of this talk if you agree.

How to Repent

We will still end up talking about how not to repent, but sometimes the best way to know what not to do is to see the right way to do it. So, let’s look at a biblical example of the right way to repent.

We’ve discussed the situation before. King David saw a hot chick, committed adultery with her, and then had her husband killed to cover-up the deed (since she became pregnant). Not a wee little transgression…a couple of huge sins. Sins God couldn’t ignore. So our Lord has the prophet Nathan visit him:

12 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house (2 Samuel 12:1-15).

That is a long quote from Scripture…but I think it gives the full picture of what happened when the prophet Nathan called out King David. Additionally, it shows principle #1 of the right way to repent. That principle was implicit in the sequence from Nathan talking to David responding (verses 12 and 13).

12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die (2 Samuel 12:12-13).

How long did David take to repent?

Not very. It was immediate.

When you do something wrong and realize it, repent immediately.

If you know you did something wrong and you are having an internal wrestling match about whether you should say you are sorry…there is a problem. Just repent. Wholeheartedly. Don’t worry about the ramifications. Just do it. If avoiding getting in trouble by being honest is more important to you then being right with God and whoever you sinned against…

There is something wrong.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

I remember many years ago someone I cared about was arrested for DUI (although I think it was called DWI back then where we lived). I told her that since she was under the influence she should admit it. She did. The judge gave her a fine and community service.

And she was mad at me.

But she was guilty. She was right in admitting it. Getting mad about the results, however, revealed she probably wasn’t truly repentant.

Which leads us to the second principle of the right way to repent.

It could be that David immediately said he was sorry because he was hoping to avert punishment. Have you seen people who repent like that? Is that true repentance?

So, how do we know David was truly repentant? By looking at the Psalm he wrote after his sin:

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3  For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4  Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.

5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,

and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8  Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

9  Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:1-10).

What does your Bible say just before those verses? My English Standard Version translates the introduction as:

TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA.

And does the beginning of Psalm 51, which does reflect the whole psalm, sound repentant? Genuinely repentant?

Yes!

Principle #2 of the right way to repent is…

When you repent, mean it.

Simple, eh?

If you don’t mean it, don’t say you are sorry. Be honest. If you aren’t honest, there is a good chance that your deception will be found out, making it all the worse. Often you can tell someone isn’t really repentant in one or more of three ways:

  1. They say, “If I offended anyone…” – basically admitting no wrong
  2. They don’t end their apology with a full stop, instead saying, “But…” – deflecting
  3. They reject any true accountability for their sin – wanting credit for apologizing, but not accepting any natural consequences or punishment

Let’s review David’s repentance.

Did he do the “If I offended anyone…” cop-out? [No.]

Did he add a “But…” clause to his repentance? [No.]

Did he reject true accountability for his sin? [No.]

David was genuinely repentant and followed both of our principles:

  1. When you do something wrong and realize it, repent immediately.
  2. When you repent, mean it.

And that second principle is a dopey one to break. You may be able to fool your acquaintances, friends, family…and the person you wronged with you crocodile tears…

But you cannot fool God.

If you know you should repent but don’t feel guilty, don’t lie. Instead, get on your knees and beg God to create in you a new heart so that you are truly repentant. To fix your problem.

Don’t add the sin of lying to your list of transgressions.

Quotes About Repentance

Before we get to how not to repent…and our final principle about repentance…I wanted to share five quotes I found and liked about repentance. Most are from Puritans…but they are timeless, in my opinion:

Repentance with man is the changing of his will; repentance with God is the willing of a change.

JOHN TRAPP1

God will not pardon for repentance, nor yet without it.

THOMAS WATSON2

Wouldst thou know when thou hast been humbled enough for sin? When thou art willing to let go thy sins.

THOMAS WATSON3

If an unregenerate man should leave off sin under fear of death or hell, it would not be out of hatred to sin, but out of the fear of the punishment, as the bird is kept from the bait by the scarecrow

THOMAS MANTON4Ibid.

The difficulty some have in entering the doorway to the kingdom of God is like the experience of the boy who got his hand caught inside an expensive vase. His upset parents applied soap suds and cooking oil, without success. When they seemed ready to break the vase as the only way to release the hand, the frightened boy cried, “Would it help if I let loose of the penny I’m holding.”

So it is all too often with us. We cause others great anguish and risk the truly valuable because we will not let go of the insignificant things we possess today.5

The last one isn’t from a Puritan…it is instead from a book of biblical illustrations by Michael Green. However, let’s digest all of those as we talk about how not to repent.

How Not to Repent

Although we’ll spend some more time in Scripture, the example of how not to repent is from current events. Without going into specifics, how many here are aware of what comedian Kathy Griffin did this past week? If you aren’t, we can discuss when kids aren’t around, but it was horrible. Inexcusable.

And after people reacted, she seemed to fully, genuinely repent. There was no “If I offended anyone…,” no “But…,” and no apparent avoidance of the consequences.

However, I had some difficulty feeling 100% comfortable with it because there was video of her speaking with her partner in crime about how people were going to freak out and that they’d have to apologize.

But she did it anyway.

Which reminds me of Hebrews 10:26-27:

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Now, the context in Hebrews is different…and I’m not saying that Griffin is damned to hell…but the principle still remains…it is very, very bad to deliberately sin when you know better.

And Kathy Griffin did it anyway.

Have you ever sinned intentionally, knowing you can say you are sorry…or that you can get out of any consequences?

I suspect we’ve all been guilty of it…although perhaps not with such an obvious transgression as Griffin’s.

Which leads me to the proverb that caused me to rename this sermon, Proverbs 10:23:

23  Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,

but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

Kathy Griffin is a comedian. A jokester. She thought what she did was funny. Edgy, but funny.

But doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.

It was wrong.

It was not a joke.

She knew it was wrong.

She did it anyway.

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.

She was a fool.

And, sure enough…the very next verse in Proverbs 10 came true:

24  What the wicked dreads will come upon him,

but the desire of the righteous will be granted (Proverbs 10:24).

The vast majority of people, even those who hate the object of her offensive “humor,” reacted negatively. She lost her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve program with Anderson Cooper. Natural consequences were coming down on her.

And, as such, we got to see if her repentance was real. To find out whether that bad indicator ahead of time…sinning even though she knew she’d have to say she was sorry…meant her flat-out, genuine-sounding apology was just an act.

Want a good indication that your repentance is false?

Hire a lawyer. Hold a press conference. Claim to be the victim by accusing the true victim of wrongdoing.

And that is exactly what Griffin did. Just Google Kathy Griffin and you’ll be able to see the audacity she had in immediately switching from a “genuinely” repentant sinner to one who…

Proved she wasn’t repentant…

Principle #3 of the right way to repent:

When you repent, accept the consequences

Seems common sense, doesn’t it? Contriteness accepts consequences.

Before we wrap up…let’s see how Kathy Griffin did with our three principles:

  1. When you do something wrong and realize it, repent immediately.
  2. When you repent, mean it.
  3. When you repent, accept the consequences

What do you think? How did she do?

I’ll give her #1…she repented the same day.

However, she appears to have miserably failed #2 and #3. On top of that, let’s also look at the our three ways of seeing the genuineness of repentance:

  1. They say, “If I offended anyone…” – basically admitting no wrong
  2. They don’t end their apology with a full stop, instead saying, “But…” – deflecting
  3. They reject any true accountability for their sin – wanting credit for apologizing, but not accepting any natural consequences or punishment

Again, I’ll give her #1…she never took back admitting that she did something wrong. At least not from what I heard.

As for #2, her press conference was one gigantic, “But…” to her original Facebook apology. Deflecting on steroids.

Finally, with #3, by making herself the victim she was rejecting any true accountability. Now, don’t get me wrong, we live in a country where we believe the punishment should fit the crime…and there are cases where we can be over-disciplined for a sin. For instance, we shouldn’t get the death penalty for stealing a candy-bar.

But what Griffin did was really, really bad…and being fired and ostracized…at least for a period of time…in my opinion was not overkill. I don’t think I am a heartless person.

Not to mention, we are a forgiving nation. We believe in reformation and restoration. If she had just left it at her apology and stayed in the background for a while, she would have likely been able to come back. Who knows, maybe by New Year’s Eve CNN would have brought her back on.

But, she blew it. What she dreaded came upon her…and likely will stay upon her a lot longer, if not permanently now.

Good News for Kathy Griffin

But I have some awesome news for Kathy Griffin and all the Kathy Griffins out there. Those who willingly sin. Those with false repentance.

Unless you truly reach the point the writer of Hebrews mentions…once you finally get our act together…you have the promise of a verse I often quote, 1 John 1:9:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Griffin has dug a pretty deep hole, but no pit is too deep for the blood of Christ to wash away her sins. For the arm of the Lord to reach down, to lift her up, and to put His robe of righteousness on her.

Ditto for everyone!

And you know what? If a sinner accepts His hand as He reaches down to lift him or her up…well…

Let’s read Luke 15:1-7:

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 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.

If Kathy Griffin accepts our Lord’s hand to lift her out of the hole she has dug…if anyone accepts our Lord’s hand to lift her or him out of the hole she or he has dug…

There is joy in heaven!

Let’s pray for Kathy Griffin…not only to truly repent of her recent transgression…but of her life of sin. Let’s pray she repent, turn to Jesus, and allow Him to create a new heart in her.

No, I am not judging her salvation, but she is a self-proclaimed atheist, and her actions appear to thoroughly confirm it.

And I want Jesus, the Great Shepherd, to find her.

I want there to be overwhelming joy in heaven because of her and the billions of other lost Kathy Griffins out there.

You?

Footnotes

1Thomas, I. D. E. (1999). The golden treasury of Puritan quotations (electronic ed., p. 237). Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation.

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

5Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


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