(Luke 13) Repent or Perish

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"...Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)

(Supplementary reading: Matthew 16:13-16, 24-27)


Many times in conversation with people the topic of someone's sudden death arises. Often people will say: "His/Her time was 'up.'" In Luke 13, it says that some tragic events happened. Pilate had killed some people from the region of Galilee and had mixed their blood had been mixed with the sacrifices. (Perhaps Pilate had killed some people as they came to make sacrifices as part of their worship). Also, there was some type of tragedy involving a tower in the city of Siloam that fell one day, killing 18 people. Jesus asked if the people thought that those who had died were worse sinners than anyone else because their lives had ended tragically. Then He answered His own question: "No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (verse 5b)

Sometimes people die because of their own poor choices or through someone else's choice or by accident. Don't make the mistake of thinking that when something tragic causes death that those people are being singled out for punishment. Jesus did not say that was correct. All of us die one day. But, He said, that unless we repent, we shall also perish.

Repent or Perish.

1 Don't try His Patience

Luke 13:6-9 tells about a man who had a fig tree planted in his vineyard that did not produce figs. After three years of the tree not bearing figs, he tells the groundsman (the vinedresser) who looked after the garden, to cut down the fig tree. The groundsman asked the owner to let the tree grow another year and he would dig around it and fertilize it and see if it would be okay. Then, he said, if it doesn't bear figs, I will cut it down.

Some have said this parable was about God as the owner of the vineyard. The fig tree represents the Jews. God required that they walk in righteousness and they had failed to do so. Jesus was the vinedresser (or groundsman). Jesus intervened for the people for three years of His ministry. And, soon, if no fruit came, He would cut them down.

Jesus was patient with the Jews who should have recognised that He was the Son of God. But, the time of His patience was running out.

And, His patience is running out with us who know what is required of us to be right with God. We have had plenty of opportunity to read the Bible, to pray, to find out how we can have our sins forgiven. Don't try His patience!

2 Don't Put Him Off

Jesus is patient towards us. He has provided the way for us to have peace with God. Jesus came into the world, to become a man. He lived amongst us. He went through the same experiences of life that we have gone through. He was tempted like we are. He was laughed at, misunderstood, mocked, and put to death on the cross. He died in our place so that we didn't have to die for our own sins. All we have to do is accept His death for us personally, by faith. He is patient, but there comes a day when He says - If you don't repent, you will perish.

3 Remember His Power

Read Luke 13:10-20

Jesus healed a woman who was bent over for 18 years. He touched her and she was straight!

Jesus gave the illustration of the mustard seed. It is so tiny, yet it produces a huge tree. He also spoke of leaven (yeast) and how a small amount of leaven makes a big loaf of bread.

The Kingdom of God will grow and grow until it has vast influence.

If you allow the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and take control of your life, the influence He will have in your life will grow and grow and touch others' lives. Jesus is powerful! He can change your heart! No one else can do that.

4 Fear His Punishment

Read Luke 13:22-30 Yes, God is a God of patience, that is true. But, He offers us forgiveness and makes the way possible through the death of His Son. Don't put Him off. Remember His power. He can do what He promises. But, do fear His punishment.

"Entering God's kingdom is not so much a matter of being religious as it is a personal decision and a continuing commitment to follow Him and to avoid iniquity [sin]." (Wesley Study Bible, page 1548)

"The future kingdom of God in Heaven is like a banquet where one has accepted an invitation. At the judgment those who have accepted Christ will enter, but God will close the door of opportunity to those who have rejected Him." (Wesley Study Bible, page 1548)


God works in different ways in people's lives to bring them to a place of repentance. A man named Arthur Stace came to know the Lord when he was in his forties. He had lived a life of drunkenness and even got to the place of drinking metho. But, one day he heard that Jesus Christ can forgive sins, can clean up our life and we can know peace with God. He spent the next nearly forty years reminding people of eternity by writing that one word "Eternity" in chalk in copperplate script on the streets of Sydney and other NSW towns. God used that one word to make many people stop and think about where they would spend eternity.

Another man, Frank Jenner, found time every day for many years to speak to at least 10 people a day on the streets of Sydney (particularly on George Street) He stopped people and said to them: "Excuse me, sir/madam, I have a question to ask you. If you should die within 24 hours where would you go? Would it be heaven or hell? It must be one or the other."

Many people shrugged off the question, but others could not escape the warmth and compassion of the man or the heart searching question. Some, even years later, prayed and asked the Lord for His salvation. The author of Jenner's biography traced 10 Christian leaders who were serving the Lord in various parts of the world because they had been asked that very important question by Jenner and they had come to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour.

Another man named Gerhard Dirks, the "father of the modern computer," was one who had to face up to life's most important question. During the years of the Second World War he made many inventions that led to the development of the first computers. He and his family escaped from Hitler's Germany and later Russian occupation to the west. He was a brilliant man, reported to have an IQ of 208. He had over 140 patents with IBM and even attempted theoretically to reconstruct the human brain. But he became completely bewildered and shaken when confronted with the complexity and utter impossibility of such a reconstruction. He didn't know what to do or where to run. He had to face a choice: Either the human brain came about by a fantastic chance or by intelligent planning. Dirks re-established contact with an old friend and found out this friend had become a true Christian. He saw the change in this man from being selfish and impatient to being patient and at peace. But, Dirks clung to his atheism because he could not understand how God can know all about us, every person in the entire world. He couldn't understand where God could possibly store all the information about every person that ever lived.

Dirks went with his friend to a discussion group where a man talked about God. Someone asked "What do you say to someone who thinks they are not a sinner?" The leader of the meeting told the man to take four pieces of paper and number them 1 to 4 and write a list of things on each piece of paper. On page 1,he said: write down every time you can remember when you said "yes" and meant "no" or said "no" and meant "yes." Then write down every time you can remember when you told an outright lie. Write down every time you gave someone a shady answer, every time you made a promise and broke it and every time you made a promise and never intended to keep it.

On page 2 write what it is that you hide from everybody. You don't have to show this to anyone, but to yourself. And, write down something that, if anyone found out about it, something inside you would wither.

On page 3 he said make a list of friends to whom you have done something that you would not want them to do to you. Never mind if they did something to provoke you, just put down your part.

On page 4 write the names of the people for whom you have done something good, and done it without hope of any compensation or reward of any kind. He then said "I think that any man who does that honestly will see that he is a sinner and that he is desperately in the need of salvation. He will know that the sin and the wrong he has written down is only the tip of an iceberg."

Dirks went home and did all that. And he realised that he was a sinner. And, suddenly it hit him. He knew where God stored data. He got his answer without even looking for it. God stored the information about Dirks IN DIRKS [although God knows everything about everything anyway]. Everything he had ever thought, seen, heard, said, done - everything was there in his own mind. He was his own "file." Every human being was his own "file." Now, he lost all his excuses for not believing in the Saviour. People CAN change, because he saw the real changes in his friend. And, there is information for a final judgment - because every person carries his own data. He realized that he did not like himself and the way he lived. Just like when a computer has errors he needed to be "debugged." He fell onto his knees and prayed "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and wash me in your blood."

In a few minutes he stopped crying. He knew that something had happened. A wall had come down, the wall that had stood between him and his Creator. He hadn't known the wall was there, until it came down. It was the wall that Christ had demolished. Now, for the first time in his life, he knew what it meant to have fellowship with his Heavenly Father. Then he thought, It wasn't a wall, it was more like a sphere made of stone - a sphere that formed a prison. It had kept him in, and God out. He was now free of that prison!

These are testimonies of three 20th century men. There are millions of others like them who have come to a place of humbly admitting that they are sinners in need of God's forgiveness. People who gave their lives to the Lord and the Lord made their lives at peace with Him. People that God used to bless this world.

Where do you stand before the Lord your maker? Do you know that He is your own personal Lord and Saviour? Repent or perish.


Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

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