Repentance and the Fire of “Victim Mentality” (Mk.1:14-15)
from THE CHURCH UNDER FIRE sermon series . . .
You’ve got to love some of the comical billboards out there. For example, we’ve got a bail bonding company here in town called “Devil Made Me Do It Bail Bonds” with their ads around town. It’s a play on a common saying that’s been around a while. Sadly, when it comes to taking personal responsibility for their actions, the human race is very adept at blaming others for their wrongdoing. It’s a trait we’ve inherited from our common ancestors, Adam and Eve—Eve blamed sin on the devil, and Adam blamed his wife, and we blame just about everyone and everything else but ourselves when we sin.
Some of the more humorous examples of this is exhibited by children. We’ve all seen the type videos where the cute, curly-headed girl is standing there with her mom’s lipstick smeared all over her face; and mommy is asking, “Did you get into mommy’s makeup.” And what does the little girl say, “Nope! It was my brother.” As “innocent” as this may seem, it’s no mere innocence. It is evidence of our fallen sin nature inherited from our forefather, Adam.
Given time, these seemingly “innocent” claims of victimization turn to more severe examples of deception and denial. Our country has always had it’s share of victim mentality, but with the growing rejection of authority and the rule of law has come an epidemic of denying respon-sibility. The antidote to victim mentality is biblical repentance, and biblical repentance can only be under-stood and experienced in relation to the gospel. In the beginning of His earthly ministry, we see Jesus make the connection between His gospel and the need for repentance.
Mark 1:14-15—Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus, the King of Israel, has arrived in the most humble of ways—being born of a woman, growing up and submitting Himself to the Father by being baptized in order “to fulfill all righteousness,” followed by success-fully enduring 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. He then emerges from the wilderness and begins preaching the gospel (v.14a). The word “gospel” means good news. The full gospel message includes the good news of Jesus’ sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and glorious ascension.
Notice Mark calls the gospel the “gospel of God,” telling us that God is the source of the gospel and He Himself is the good news because He came down to us in the Person of Jesus Christ to display His glory (cf. 2 Cor.4:6b). And notice Jesus began preaching, not in Jerusalem, but in Galilee of the Gentiles, telling us that God’s gospel is not just for ethnic Israel but for all the world, both Jew and Gentile (v.14b).
And now to connect the text to our topic of repentance versus living life in the fog of a victim mentality. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (v.15). The Kingdom of God was in their midst then (Lk.17:21), and it is still in our midst today for those who have the faith to see it. The Kingdom is mainly spiritual right now, but at Christ’s Second Coming, it will be manifested physically and spiritually.
Jesus teaches the way into His Kingdom, the way to Heaven—namely, through repentance and faith. Repentance is a change of mind about sin that results in turning from sin. Faith is a change of trusting in yourself to trusting in Jesus as your Sovereign, which results in godly living. In this way, faith sounds a lot like repentance doesn’t it? This is because they are inseparable truths—they are the heads and tails of the same coin. They’re so intertwined that Matthew records both John the Baptist and Jesus as simply saying, “Repent,” without including the word believe (Matt.3:2; cf. Acts 20:21).
The Hebrew writer also maintains the close connection between repentance and faith.
Hebrews 6:1—Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.
This verse confirms our definitions of repentance and faith—turning from dead works (aka, sin) and trusting in God as our Sovereign. All this to say, without a proper understanding and practice of actual repent-ance, there is no saving faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we have pastor upon pastor, church upon church, believer upon believer in our country forsaking the doctrine of repentance in favor of the doctrine of victimization. They have bought into the “victim mentality” swirling in the currents of postmodern culture.
We have given the definition of repentance as a change of mind about sin that results in turning from sin. But now I want us to look deeper into the nature of repentance in order to debunk the common fallacies of victim mentality.
1. Repentance is a gift of God’s grace. The heart attitude and action of repentance does not originate within ourselves. Repentance is a gift of God along with saving faith.
Acts 5:31—God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
2 Timothy 2:23-25—Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
Ephesians 2:8—For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Philippians 1:29—For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for the sake.
2. Repentance clears the believer of all sin through justification. How are all our sins justified before God? Through faith and faith alone.
Romans 3:28—For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Justification is God’s declaration of “not guilty” for all who receive His saving grace through faith. It is the canceling of debt. Jesus died for all my sins (past, present, and future). There is no more debt to be paid or reparations to be offered. The Hebrew writer makes this clear.
Hebrews 10:17-18—Then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
But those promoting victim mentality through heretical social “gospels” insist on holding a Christian’s sins against him indefinitely without the hope of forgiveness. They fail to teach the doctrine of justification, and they fail to make the proper connection between justification and sanctification.
3. Repentance is the daily practice of all believers through sanctification. This truth is so important to our understanding of salvation and daily Christian living that Martin Luther made it his very first of ninety-five theses. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt.4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Daily, repetitive repentance is the heart and habit of all true believers. We see a description of this truth in Proverbs 24.
Proverbs 24:16—For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
Jesus alludes to this verse when He teaches how often a believer is to forgive another repentant believer.
Luke 17:3-4—“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Obviously, Jesus is not saying we must put ourselves into uncertain or dangerous situations just because someone says that they “repent.” But where true repentance is found there will be evidences of sanctification, even as John the Baptist preached to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt.3:8).
4. Repentance is hatred of sin because we love God more. This is the reason that the daily life of the Christian is characterized by repentance.
Psalm 97:10—O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Romans 12:9—Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
One way you know you have passed from death to life is that you have a newfound hatred of your sin, not just the painful consequences but the sin itself.
5. Repentance is taking personal responsibility for your actual sin. Here is where many Southern Baptist leaders, pastors and churches have gone astray. Many are preaching a sociological “gospel” rooted in victim mentality rather than the gospel of repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus alone. This became abundantly evident to me at the 2018 Together for the Gospel conference when the Southern Baptist pastor, David Platt, made the blanket statement that white pastors are subconsciously racist because they are indifferent to or in denial of the victimization that minorities have experienced and continue to experience in America. What is most astounding is his apparent ability to know the hearts of thousands of men he’s never met!
We will cover the topic of racism in a few weeks. But for today, while I agree that racism continues to be a real sin in our country and within many churches, this does not permit anyone to make blanket statements about the conscious or subconscious status of the majority of white pastors. This is because no person ought to be judged on the color of their skin but the “content of their character” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). And a persons’ true character comes out in literal words and actions. In this way, a statement like Platt’s is itself racist because it assumes a position of superiority based on skin color.
One of the most helpful Scriptures that warns us against a victim mentality in favor of heartfelt repentance is Luke 13.
Luke 13:1-5—There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The Bible does not permit us to demand any person or group of people to repent of sins they didn’t commit themselves. Neither does the Bible permit us to withhold forgiveness from anyone who has repented of actual sins. This is because repentant believers are forgiven in Christ Jesus through faith, and repentant believers have received a new nature that is characterized as forgivers, just as Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer.
Luke 11:4a—“And forgive us our sins, for we our-selves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
Perhaps the scariest part of victim mentality is the unwillingness of those claiming victimization to forgive others. Again, looking at the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus offers us the stark truth that there is no forgiveness for anyone that refuses to forgive others.
Matthew 6:14-15—“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
There is no greater example of forgiving others than the Lord Jesus while on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk.23: 34a). Paul emphasizes the forgiveness we have received and the heart of being a forgiver of others in his letter to the Colossae Church.
Colossians 3:12-14—Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated by repenting of your sin? If so, you have been justified by His grace? And if justified by His grace, are you living in daily repentance characterized by being a forgiver of those who have wronged you? If so, there is no need to keep carrying the damning baggage that comes with having a victim mentality. You are forgiven, and our hearts desire is to see others forgiven in Christ too.