Grieving Without Regret

Did you see the film “The Bucket List” that came out in 2007? That movie created a big, long-lasting fad. Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do before you die? For many people, now having a “bucket list” means listing your goals and the experiences that fulfill those goals as you plan your life around them. I don’t have a bucket list, and I often wonder about them. Some have told me it’s because they don’t want to have any regrets about things they haven’t done, unread books, or places they haven’t seen before infirmity of old age will hijack their bodies. Our world would have us focused on what we haven’t done and what we must do to be fulfilled because life will end with all its opportunities here. The goal, of course, is to be happy and free (since having a bucket list implies the ability to-do items on the list). But God doesn’t want us to list personal ideas for achieving personal joy, fulfillment, and holiness. He has already given us the means to glorify him for all eternity in his Word. If we don’t want to have regrets, we are encouraged to seek the wisdom of Scripture and apply its truths to our lives and ourselves often. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) If we allow him, the Holy Spirit will work through Word to pierce our pride, materialism, covetousness, gluttony, selfishness, and self-centeredness. The cure for regret is grief in confession and the resulting repentance.

Paul’s Joy for the Corinthians’ Grief

After Paul planted the church in Corinth, he was greatly concerned about his brothers’ and sisters’ sanctification. In his second letter to the Corinthians, “Paul’s opponents were undermining his work, claiming that his suffering proved he was not a true apostle. Paul responds that his suffering highlights his dependence on Christ, as it points to Christ’s strength rather than his own. Second Corinthians includes stirring perspectives on gospel ministry, encouragements to holy living, and instructions about giving.” (1) In his discipleship for holy living, he writes, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11) The Corinthians’ grief assured Paul of their salvation, purity, hatred of personal sin, holiness, and innocence. This is the work of true repentance in God’s power. Rather than regret our failures to glorify God and live a holy life, we grieve knowing that our repentance will lead to assurance, purity, holiness, and innocence through God’s forgiveness.

Godly Grief Versus Worldly Sorrow

“The apostle speaks of sorrowing ‘after a godly manner’ (2 Cor. 7:9). But what is this godly sorrowing? There are six qualifications of it [a few of which I will quote here]:

  • True godly sorrow is inward. It is a sorrow of the heart. The sorrow of hypocrites lies in their faces: ‘they disfigure their faces.’ As the heart bears a chief part in sinning, so it must in sorrowing. It is a sorrow for heart-sins, the first outbreaks and risings of sin…The true mourner weeps for the stirrings of pride and concupiscence [lust].
  • Godly sorrow is ingenuous. It is sorrow for the offense rather than for the punishment. A  Christian grieves for sinning against that free grace which has pardoned him.
  • Godly sorrow is a great sorrow. Sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow. We must grieve more for offending God than for the loss of dear relations…for in the burial of the dead it is only a friend who departs, but in sin God departs…Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight.
  • Godly sorrow is abiding. It is not a few tears shed in a passion. True sorrow must be habitual.  O Christian, the disease of your soul is chronic and frequently returns upon you; therefore you must be continually physicking [medicating] yourself by repentance.” (2)

The Seriousness of Sin Deserves Our Most Serious Grief

Sin is serious business. Some ministries, like Ligonier, have been built upon the importance of holiness because sin is such an insidious, fatal problem. If we are to grieve over anything, it should be the effects of sin, including the death of unbelievers, tragedies, crimes, congenital disabilities, and the love of evil in the world. As my Pastor said on Sunday, “We need to have a grace-filled killer instinct toward our sin.” He compared our approach to sin like that of a fly hovering in our kitchens. Do we invite it to stay, ignore it, or most likely, try to kill it or get rid of it as soon as possible? (3) We should notice our sin and do everything we can to kill it off, rather than ignore it, with its annoying presence or even power to control us. “Sometimes confronting sin requires going beyond what love and compassion might be comfortable with. But it is necessary to do so because sin is a deadly killer. The Corinthians’ remorse was not the sorrow of self-pity, of getting caught, of despair, bitterness, wounded pride, or manipulative remorse. Their sorrow led to repentance which produced genuine change. They were not defensive; they did not view themselves as victims or seek to justify their sinful behavior. Their sorrow was according to the will of God; it was the healing, transforming sorrow for sin that God intended for them to feel, because it produces repentance.” (4) Deep, godly sorrow leads to healing from the devastating disease of sin.

Grief-motivated Repentance Proves Our Innocence 

“For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11) In his book “The Mortification of Sin,” Puritan John Owen encourages us to hate sin, to be watchful against anything and everything that disturbs our souls. If we are only uncomfortable because of it, and our conscience is not wounded, we will ignore it. God gives believers a desire to kill sin. But many digest sin without any bitterness in their hearts, imagining that God will be gracious and merciful, without any remorse for sin. Some are on the brink of falling away from God and turning God’s grace into permissiveness, being hardened by sin. Owen writes, “To use the blood of Christ, which is given to cleanse us, the exaltation of Christ, which is to give us repentance, the doctrine of grace, which teaches us to deny all ungodliness—to countenance sin, is a rebellion that will break the bones.” (5) “The Corinthians’ genuine repentance manifested itself in a desire for vindication. [They] had a strong desire to clear their name, remove the stigma of their sin, rid themselves of their guilt, and prove themselves trustworthy. Therefore, they made sure that all who had known of their sin now knew of their repentance…Truly repentant people have a strong desire to see justice done and to make restitution for the wrongs they have committed. Instead of protecting themselves, they accept the consequences of their sins. Repentance had brought purity to the sinning saints in the Corinthian assembly, and every aspect of their lives reflected it.” (6)

Are you chained to a worldly bucket list to prevent regrets? Do you grieve sincerely over your heart sins? Will you begin grieving today, knowing that you have a choice between regretting your failures to glorify God and live a holy life, or grieving, knowing that your grief will result in repentance, transformation, assurance, purity, greater distaste for your sin, more holiness, and innocence through God’s forgiveness? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Related Scripture: Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 22:10; 16:6; Zechariah 12:10; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8; James 3:17-18; 1 John 1:8-9; 3:3.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version, The Holy Bible, Introduction to 2 Corinthians, 2016, Crossway Bibles.
  2. Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, Banner of Truth Trust, pp. 21-28, 2016 (1668)
  3. Taha, Allen, Christian Identity, July 25, 2021, https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-07-25/christian-identity
  4. MacArthur, John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 2 Cor. 7:5-16, Moody Publishers, 2015.
  5. Owen, John, The Mortification of Sin, Urbanophile, LLC (August 7, 2019), Kindle Edition.
  6. MacArthur, Ibid. 

July 29, 2021              

When Broken is Good

#30                                          When Broken is Good

I have a few broken or torn things in my possession that I do not want to replace because they have sentimental value or remind me of critical phases of my life. And, I have a rule that I won’t purchase a new item until the old one is useless (or too ugly to even look at). I try to fix broken things but am usually unsuccessful and must replace them. But I confess that I like new and have about five things in my Amazon shopping cart right now. But I don’t like to spend money unnecessarily, so my conflicted desires battle each other. Do you like new things and buy them often? Do you try to fix things, so you won’t have to replace them? We carry our views about old versus new and broken versus into every area of our lives. They are even here in our Bible reading and study. But the biblical concept of brokenness, especially when it’s a good thing, is counter-cultural. In the Bible, things and people aren’t broken because they wear out or are worn down from age. Brokenness is evidence of a need for God’s supernatural help, and an opportunity to be “remade.” In his psalms, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart. In Psalm 51:14-17, he writes, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Broken and Dysfunctional

God is not looking to replace us with something new because we become dysfunctional or useless—we’re that way from conception. Instead, he wants to remake us to be better than before, but of the same essence, like a potter reworks clay. Our transformation begins with our regeneration in Christ through God’s salvation. Then it continues in our sanctification since we have our old sin-nature as long as we are in this world. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to the potter’s house to illustrate his intentions with Israel. “So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do” (Jeremiah 18:3-4). The potter “reworked” the clay, that is, he changed it entirely, but with the same material. Some potters will leave their vessels alone if they are almost perfect, but God wants us to be “pots” representing his faultless character. He wanted Israel to be different from other nations and different from how she had been in her national idolatry and rebellion. David, Israel’s king, knew that every personal and national fault was an opportunity to be transformed into something better. Do we know that about our failures and flaws—that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10)? If so, we will move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness to praise Christ, our Savior.

Worshipping God Through Our Brokenness

In our Pastor’s sermon yesterday on Romans 5, he reminded us that sin wrecks everything, that “the world is the wreckage of Eden.” We are all born spiritually and legally guilty—the consequence of Adam’s fall, which we refer to as original sin. (1) In our Christian Ed. Class on the Westminster Confession of Faith after worship, our teacher noted that God displays many of his attributes and intentions through the world’s brokenness. David recognizes that he cannot worship God rightly as long as the guilt of his sin ensnares him. “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise (Psalm 51:14-15). Anyone “who has used this psalm to confess his sins and to receive God’s assurance of pardon is the one who can genuinely worship the gracious God of the covenant.” (2) In our hymn of grace during worship, we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” When I reflect on its words, I wonder if David would sing the third stanza first: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” Having received God’s unique, loving grace, drawing us back to him, we remember that “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” That is why we want God to tune our hearts to sing His grace; “streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” (3)

The Best Brokenness Leads to Repentance

David knew he needed to be “sensible of sin, repent of it, acknowledge it, and ask for mercy…[his] lips were shut with a sense of sin, with shame of it, and sorrow for it; and though they were in some measure opened in prayer to God for the forgiveness of it, as appears by various petitions in this psalm, yet he still wanted a free spirit and boldness at the throne of grace, which the believer has when his heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ; and especially his lips were shut as to praise and thanksgiving; the guilt of sin had sealed up his lips, that he could not sing the praises of God as he had formerly done; and only a discovery of pardoning grace could open them, and for this he prays.” (4)  After all, Jesus taught that “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, quoted from Hosea 6:6). “Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it.” (5) So, David asked God to deliver him by breaking his spirit and heart, to sing aloud and declare praise for the God of his salvation. “These verses seem to make sacrifice and burnt offering relatively unimportant for the faithful, even replacing them with the inner disposition (a broken and contrite heart). However, since verse 19 goes on to speak of offering physical sacrifices, it is better to take these verses as implying that the animal sacrifices look to the worshiper offering himself to God as ‘a living sacrifice’ (Rom. 12:1), and without this they forfeit significance.” (6) “The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit…[we are] humbled under a sense of sin; have true repentance for it; are smitten, wounded, and broken with it, by the word of God in the hand of the Spirit, which is a hammer to break the rock in pieces…broken and melted down under a sense of it, in a view of pardoning grace; and mourning for it, while beholding a pierced and wounded Saviour: the sacrifices of such a broken heart and contrite spirit are the sacrifices God desires, approves, accepts of, and delights in.” (7)

“The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender and pliable to God’s word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not.” (8) Will we see our old motives, habits, and desires to have them “reworked” by God? Will we move toward, not away from spiritual brokenness, to praise Christ, our Savior? “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry…When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:15, 17-18)

Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 66:18-20; 103:1; 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 16:23-34; Mark 12:33.

Notes:

  1. Witten, Pastor Kevin, “Grace Abounding, (Romans 5:12-21),” https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-07-18/grace-abounding
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 51:14–17, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” words by Robert Robinson
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 51:14-15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-51.html
  5. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalms 51:16-19, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-51.html
  6. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.
  7. Gill, Psalms 51:17, Ibid.
  8. Henry, Ibid.

July 22, 2021

Repentance Restores Our Joy

What gives you joy? Will completing a task, healing after an injury, seeing someone you miss, being with particular people, or  church worship, fellowship, or sports games make you happy? What if your joy isn’t dependent upon any of these but remains elusive—do you give up and accept that life just isn’t fun and is a series of duties or responsibilities? I’m a pretty serious person, so joyfulness is a challenge for me. I adopted a dog to help me lighten up—and it has worked. I call him my “Joy Boy” for this very reason. He reminds me that joy is often doing what comes next, trusting God for the big stuff, and continuing to move forward. I love my lightness with him, with people I love, completing a ministry project, or attending church events. But these are all minuscule compared with the joy I have when I have confessed my sin, been forgiven, and have the assurance that I won’t repeat that sin to that degree. That’s the joy of repentance—and there is no greater, more profound, longer-lasting delight than knowing that we are changed and love Christ more than ever before. But this is something only the Lord can do—repentance, like faith, is a gift from him—the joy we have of God’s forgiveness is a gift of our salvation.

Repentance is From God.

“Repentance does not come from within us. It is not a natural trait that lies dormant, just waiting to be aroused and utilized. It is not imparted to us by our parents or other relatives. It is not a learned response that we can gain from books, [blogs,] or good teachers. It does not rub off on us when we are among repentant people. There is only one source of repentance. It is a gift given by God….In the midst of his great crisis, David knew how utterly dependent he was upon God’s gracious enabling.” (1) David knows that only the Lord can do the six things he requests in Psalm 51:10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” In other words, David asks God to make him a new heart, revive his spirit, stay with him, return his spiritual joy, and sustain his willingness to obey Him. These are things only God can do. As we continue to learn to repent, we should also yearn for God’s Spirit to recreate, renew, and replenish our hearts, joy, and obedience.

A Clean Heart and Right Spirit.

David’s heart was black with sin, and, like us, he did not have any way to clean it. Nor did David think that his heart needed a little dusting. “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” “This is a startling request, and we must not miss its force. The word that begins this section is the Hebrew verb ‘bara,’ which is used in Genesis 1 for the creation of the heavens and the earth by God. Strictly used, this word describes what only God can do; to create ‘ex nihilo,’ out of nothing…In other words, as Derek Kidner writes, ‘With the word create he asks for nothing less than a miracle.’ He desires what only God can provide…It is a way of saying that if we are ever going to have victory over sin, God is going to have to start over with us from the beginning. And he does!…It is a wonderful truth and promise. It is a promise to which we cling.” (2) David understood that a new heart was required for his “spirit” to be made right again, as John Gill interprets it: “Here it signifies a renewing of the inward man, or an increase of grace, and causing it to abound in act and exercise; and intends a spirit of uprightness and integrity, in opposition to dissimulation and hypocrisy; a spirit ‘prepared [and] ready’ for every good work.” (3) Repentance begins with God’s work of turning our hearts from stone to flesh, from cold to loving, from sinful to sacred. We must sincerely long for God to recreate and renew us according to his character when we say we want to change. This is the essence of Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:12-14, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Don’t Leave Me Alone!

David continues his prayer in Psalm 51, asking God to “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (v. 11). Here is a continuation of David’s request to have God not look on his sin but expunge it, making it possible to restore his fellowship with our holy God, to look on David with favor. “Nothing is more desirable to a child of God than the presence of God; and nothing gives him more sensible pain than his absence; and even to be deprived of or denied the means of enjoying his presence the word and ordinances, makes them very uneasy…the happiness of the saints in heaven is to enjoy it without interruption. [Christians], the people of God, are never cast away from his favour, or out of his heart’s love; but they may for a while be without his gracious presence, or not see his face, nor have the light of his countenance, nor sensible communion with him, which is here deprecated. David might call to mind the case of Cain, or rather the more recent one of Saul, whom the Lord rejected, and from whom he departed upon his sinning, and which he might fear would be his case.” (4) It is worth asking what David may have meant by his prayer that God did not take the Holy Spirit from him. “John Calvin believed in eternal security, of course. So when he came to this verse he argued that David’s prayer that God not take away the Holy Spirit showed that he still possessed the Holy Spirit…Calvin wrote, ‘It is natural that the saints, when they have fallen into sin, and have thus done what they could to expel the grace of God, should feel an anxiety upon this point; but it is their duty to hold fast the truth, that grace is the incorruptible seed of God, which can never perish in any heart where it has been deposited.’ Today most commentators recognize that David is not talking about eternal security or the fear of losing his salvation at all. He is only acknowledging that he is unable to live a holy life without God. Therefore, he needs the help and power of the Holy Spirit every single moment if he is to be able to overcome temptation and follow after godliness.” (5) We need the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power and attention to want and be willing to repent and long for renewal. 

Joyful Obedience

David doesn’t just want relief from his anxiety, guilt, and shame over sin. He wants God to strengthen his “willing spirit” based on the joy of God’s salvation. (v. 12) “[The Holy Spirit] makes the saints ready and willing to obey the will of God, and to run with cheerfulness the way of his commandments…and with this spirit the psalmist desires to be ‘upheld’, to be strengthened by it, to do the will and work of God, that so he might not stumble and fall into sin as he had done; that he might be stayed, supported, and comforted with it, as the Holy Spirit of promise; that so he might not faint and sink under his present sense of sin, and the guilt of it; and that he would be not only a guide unto him in the ways of God, but that he would hold up his goings in them, that so he might walk both at liberty and in safety.” (6) Isn’t this what we truly want, rather than constantly wondering if we have pleased God or grieved the Spirit by our lack of contrition over sin? Where’s the joy in that? Shall we not repent for God’s Spirit to recreate, renew, and replenish our joy and obedience? “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-24)

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 10:9; 2 Kings 24:20; Psalm 24:3-5; Jeremiah 24:7; Lamentations 5:21-22; Ezekiel 11:9; 26:25-27; Matthew 5:8; Acts 15:8-9; Ephesians 4:22-24, 30.

Notes:

  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 105-107, Crossway, 2002
  2. Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Baker Books, Psalm 51, Part 2, Software version, 1998.
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 51:10,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-51.html
  4. Gill, Psalm 51:11, Ibid.
  5. Boice, Ibid.
  6. Gill, Psalm 51:12, Ibid.

July 15, 2021    

The Cry of the Repentant Believer

When do you look at yourself in a mirror? Upon waking (albeit scary)? When shaving or fixing your hair? Applying makeup? Getting ready to go out? Are there times when you don’t want to look at yourself—when you’re sick or haven’t had enough sleep? Many of us turn away from unpleasant things, even our own faces, but others stare like those rubber-necking on a highway. Horror movies are a real turn-off for me, as are scary previews on streaming channels. I grieve that our world has turned from the love of the beautiful to an insatiable appetite for that which is ugly and frightening. God’s way is the way of beauty; sin’s way is that of foulness. When God created the perfect world, he called it all good, and he delighted to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden. But after the first couple sinned, they hid from God, not wanting him to see their guilt, nakedness, and shame. Because God is omniscient, he knew, even before them, that they would be repulsive in his sight, as is all sin. Adam and Eve were hiding from themselves, their shame, guilt, and from their punishment for disobeying God. They were hiding from the very knowledge of evil that they had sought from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Isn’t that what we do—as soon as we sin, we realize that our motivation and desires were opposed to God’s? But God knows us and calls for us to repent, the same way he called out to Adam and Eve, asking, “Where are you?” (Genesis 2:9)

God’s omniscience & patience

Much later in the history of God’s rebellious people, the prophet Jeremiah faithfully carried God’s word to his people in exile. The Lord assured him, “For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes.” (Jeremiah 16:17) We may think we have secrets, but not with God, who knows every inclination of our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’” (Jeremiah 17:9-10) The truth and implication of God’s omniscience is especially relevant for believers. Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:16-18) As we reflect on God’s ability to know everything in our hearts and minds, we should also cringe, knowing the less-than-pretty real-life movies he tolerates. I’m sure that is why David prayed, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.” (Psalm 51:9) David knew that God is delighted to look with favor upon those who fear him and that he can’t hide from the Lord. So, instead, he begs God not to look at him and, further, to completely erase all his sins. David wanted to live “Coram Deo,” in God’s holy presence. When we repent, we are also begging God to help us live Coram Deo, with his face turned toward us, not away.

Lord, My Sins!

Micah predicted that his people in exile would “…cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.” (Micah 3:4) God’s silence is an authentic aspect of his judgment. In Romans 1-3, Paul expounds on God’s refusal to intercede for those who reject him—which is the opposite of what David sought and what we would desire if we love Christ. Will we cry out in repentance, like David, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities?” God is faithful to forget our sins and remember them no longer (Jeremiah 31:34). Watson writes, “Have you been penitentially humbled? The Lord will never upbraid you with your former sins. After Peter wept we never read that Christ upbraided him with his denial of him. God has cast your sins into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19). How? Not as cork, but as lead. The Lord will never in a judicial way account for them. When he pardons, God is as a creditor that blots the debt out of his book (Isa. 43:25). Some ask the question, whether the sins of the godly shall be mentioned at the last day. The Lord said he will not remember them, and he is blotting them out.” (1) When Peter first met Jesus, he was confronted by the Lord’s miraculous provision of fish after a night of catching nothing. “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8). “We must all, like Peter, own ourselves to be sinful men, therefore Jesus Christ might justly depart from us. But we must beseech him that he would not depart; for woe unto us if the Savior depart from sinners! Rather let us entreat him to come and dwell in our hearts by faith, that he may transform and cleanse them.” (2) “These words were not spoken by a demon or an enemy of Jesus, but by Simon Peter, his own disciple; when he sees the identity of Jesus, he says, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’ Holiness is scary, but oh, that all of us would understand the grace, mercy and compassion that is borne by that same Man of holiness who says to people whom he makes uncomfortable, ‘Fear not! Peace be with you!’” (3) David’s request for God to expunge his sins after his confession is a model for us, rather than Peter’s impulsive, ‘leave me!’ Let us rather confess and repent living “Coram Deo,” in God’s holy presence because of the love, mercy, righteousness, and atonement of Jesus Christ.

Search me, Lord!

“All of us are in danger of stopping short of full repentance. One might suppose that, having already repented a great deal, they have repented enough. This is anything but true, however, for repentance must never cease. Another might look around at others they know and think that their own repentance is so far ahead of the repentance of those other people that they can rest for a while. Yet in doing so, they add grievously to the terrible sin of pride that already besets them. Many face the incredible danger of a lazy and sluggish disposition that fully intends to repent but never really does. All are in danger of living certain sins and their pleasures so greatly that genuine repentance cannot happen.” (4) In Psalm 139, David expounds on God’s complete, infinite knowledge of his mind, heart, and ways. He draws close to his Creator to examine and guide him. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether…Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:1-4, 8) David’s is the cry of a repentant believer who has looked into a mirror and seen his failures, a real “doer” of God’s Word, as James describes. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:23-25). Lord, help us to seek your face in our ongoing repentance. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:17-18; 32:20; Joshua 7:19; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 14:13; 34:21-22; Psalm 10:1; 13:1; 27:8-9; Proverbs 5:21; Isaiah 6:5; 8:17; Jeremiah 16:17; 32:18-19; Ezekiel 39:29; Micah 3:4.

Notes

  1. Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 98, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668)
  2. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Luke 5:8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/luke-5.html
  3. Sproul, R. C., A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 5:8-11, Electronic Book, 2016.
  4. R Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 282-283, Crossway, 2002

July 8, 2021

Sinning Against God’s Good Character

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Pastor’s Day—what do these days have in common? They celebrate people because we apparently need a special day to remember those we appreciate and respect. I am sure you would agree that we should value the men and women who fill these roles, rather than neglect them except on one particular day. Why do we need to hear God’s Word every Sunday to remember his divine attributes of righteousness, purity, perfection, goodness, mercy, grace, love, and justice? If we are honest with ourselves, it is because it is easier to forget him and his holy, perfect character than be continually reminded that we have fallen short. However, God has given us the means and the Spirit to help us repent, to raise our view of God rather than lower it. We exhibit our attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives about God by how we interact with others, set our priorities, order our days, and in how we will spend our time and money. Every time we fail to demonstrate his good character, we sin against him. In Psalm 51:4, David acknowledged his sin against God’s good character, person, and law. “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.” (Psalms 51:4) David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, but he recognized that he sinned against God in particular. As we meditate on his confession, let’s pray that we realize that all sin is an offense and rebellion toward God and his righteous character in himself and others.

Sinning against others is sinning against God.

Repentance is necessary because we are sinners with an inherent, corrupt view of God, ourselves, and others. Although believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the sin of the world, Satan, and our sinful nature still influence us. (See Romans 7.) To be holier, kinder, more loving, patient, joyful, self-controlled, peaceful, good, gentle, merciful, and gracious—we must turn to God for continual improvement—our sanctification. Only when we actively seek the Lord’s help to mature spiritually will our godliness be demonstrated toward others, and therefore toward God. We serve God by serving others. We also love God by loving others and sin against God when we sin against others. In a parable about the final judgment, Jesus says that believers and professors of faith will be separated by their treatment of others, which points to their treatment of him. “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:44-45) Paul applies this principle in his first letter to the Corinthians church: “Sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:12) “What greater cruelty than to strike or beat…a sick and infirm man? And greater still to strike and wound his conscience…for a wounded spirit is insupportable without divine aid and influence; and what serves most to enhance the crime and guilt is, ye sin against Christ, who has so loved this weak brother as to die for him; and between whom there is so close an union, as between head and members; and…what is done to or against such a person, Christ takes as done to himself. (1) David knew this and therefore acknowledged his sin against God’s good character, person, and law when he sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah. Shouldn’t we, like David, recognize all sin as being an offense and rebellion toward God and his righteous character in himself and others—and repent?

What David Knew

“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.” (Psalms 51:4)Have you interacted with the court system lately, or known someone who has? Then you know that lawyers usually argue to win cases by using the law to their best advantage, not necessarily seeking to have righteousness prevail. In both civil and criminal cases, the law is founded on the principles of a country’s constitution, not necessarily upon moral statutes (although we hope the constitution was created upon high moral standards). “‘Sin is ultimately a religious concept rather than an ethical one’ (Weiser).” (2) David broke the law of the time—but it was God’s law, not national law. I know that it is sin. In my judgment, this is the meaning of the much-discussed sentence ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned.’ I think J. J. Stewart Perowne is on the right track in his excellent treatment of this statement. He approaches it in two ways. First, sin by its very definition is against God, since it is only by God’s law that sin is defined as sin. A wrong done to our neighbor is an offense against humanity. In the eyes of the state, which measures wrongs by its own laws, that wrong may be a crime. Only before God is it a sin. Second, it is only because God is in the picture that even a wrong done to our neighbor is a wrong. It is because our neighbor is made in God’s image and is endowed with rights by God that it is wrong to harm him or her. Perowne writes, ‘All wrong done to our neighbor is wrong done to one created in the image of God; all tempting of our neighbor to evil is taking the part of Satan against God, and, so far as in us lies, defeating God’s good purpose of grace toward him. All wounding of another, whether in person or property, in body or soul, is a sin against the goodness of God.’” (3)

Remembering God’s Character for Repentance

In his book, “Repentance—The First Word of the Gospel,” Richard Roberts writes:

“Whenever you sin, whatever that sin may be, it is against God’s sovereign rights in creation. An act of murder is against God’s sovereignty. A lustful thought is equally against God’s sovereignty. No matter what the sin is, it is against God. No sin is considered so inconsequential by God that it is not an affront to him…No one can ever hope to live in genuine ongoing repentance who has never come to realize that the great evil of all sin consists in the fact that it is against God. You ought to focus upon God’s sovereign rights in creation. You ought to begin every day with sober, serious, scriptural thoughts about the God who made you and the reason for your existence. If you will return to these thoughts whenever possible throughout the day, you will find yourself powerfully motivated to repentance. But if you tolerate a degraded view of God’s sovereign rights, you will be robbed of this powerful and needed motivation…When motivation toward repentance is lessened, the tendency to justify self and excuse sin increases. It then becomes easy to live nine months or longer without repentance.

“A summation of David’s response to God in [Psalm 51:1-4] can be condensed into the following essential ingredients of all true repentance, the knowledge…

  1. that there is one true God who made him.
  2. that God made him for Himself, not himself.
  3. that it is God’s right to command, and to enforce all that He has commanded.
  4. of what God’s commands actually are.
  5. of which commands have been broken and the nature of the transgressions committed. 
  6. of the fate of the transgression.
  7. of what must happen for transgressions to be forgiven.” (4)

Revival Starts with Repentance

When I was serving as a missionary in Uganda, I heard references to the revival in 1999-2000. I most often heard the description of people meeting on the street and asking each other, “Have you repented today?” I later learned that the Uganda revival was part of a larger East African revival, including Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania. If we want to witness a revival, it must start with the repentance of unbelievers. And how will these, created in God’s image and given his general revelation, know what that means unless we model it? We who have God’s special revelation in Jesus Christ, who know God personally and scripturally, must recognize all sin as being an offense and rebellion toward God and his righteous character in himself and others—and repent of it. As we view and treat the people in our lives, we should be demonstrating Christ’s righteousness, unhindered by our low view of God and his creatures. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22)

Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:13-14; 24:10; Ezra 10:10-14; Psalm 38:18; Matthew 18:5-6; Acts 9:5; Romans 15:5-7.

Notes

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Corinthians 8:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-corinthians-8.html
  2. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Psalm 51:4, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition
  3. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 51:4” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, p. 155-159, Crossway, 2002.

July 1, 2021      

Repenting of Original Sin

When we meet someone new, often the first question that comes up is, “So what do you do (for work or ministry)?” We’ve heard the saying, “You are what you do.” Last year, Daniel Im published his book titled “You Are What You Do and Six Other Lies About Work, Life, & Love,” from a Christian viewpoint. He lists seven myths: you are what you do, what you experience, who you know, what you know, what you own, who you raise, and finally, you are your past. (1) “Daniel Im’s incisive cultural analysis is more than a big-picture overview of massive structural shifts. It’s an unflinching look at the way those shifts have changed our perception of ourselves, the world, and God. And his answer to these shifts is, thankfully, full of grace and truth. You Are What You Do is both a brutal excavation of our deepest assumptions and a healing balm for what ails us.” (2) As much as I appreciate our Christian authors, I wonder why we need a book to expose worldly lies when God has given us repentance for a “brutal excavation of our deepest assumptions and a healing balm for what ails us.” Christ, not a book, is our deliverance for original sin. Sin drives us to cultural solutions for soul problems, but Scripture compels us to our knees for transformation. Only Christ can provide the wisdom and freedom from preconceptions that deceive us.

David’s Confession of Original Sin

When King David sank to his knees, and God graciously preserved his confession for us in Psalm 51, a prayer of deep contrition over his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. But David also confessed his sinful nature from birth and the need for God’s truth to reach his innermost heart. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalms 51:5-6) Perhaps you are wondering about why we should confess over something for which we are not responsible. The answer lies in the fact that David was remined of his sin-nature, not just his sinful acts. “David was in danger of confusing what he did with what he was; repenting of the acts of sin but failing to repent of the sin nature that had brought him down. Yes, David had a problem with what he did, but his greater problem was what he was. In the same way, our greatest problem is not what we do but what we are. When we come to repentance, it is never enough to repent of the things we have done; it is always mandatory that we repent of what we are. Our great problem is not merely that we have sinned but that we are sinners. And when we come to repentance it is never enough to turn away from what we have done—our sin. It is mandatory that we turn from what we are—sinners. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” (4) The more we meditate on and are broken by our sinfulness, the more we are freed from it to delight in God’s truth about who we are in Christ. Saint Augustine wrote, “Too narrow is the house of my soul for you to enter into it: let it be enlarged by you. It lies in ruins; build it up again. I confess and I know that it contains things that offend your eyes…Lord, all this you know. Have I not accused myself to you, my God, of my sins, and have you not forgiven the iniquity of my heart? I do not contend in judgment with you who are truth itself. I do not deceive myself, lest my iniquity lie to itself.” (3)  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:17)

Jesus Christ—the Only Sinless Man

There is only one man who does not need to be broken by his sinfulness—Jesus Christ. We may never quite comprehend how Mary’s sinfulness didn’t transfer to him, but he, alone of all humans, was indeed utterly sinless. In comparison, every other one of us must declare, like David, that “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5) We often confess our appreciation and worship Christ for his atoning sacrifice made on our behalf when our sins were laid on him. But do we remember that his perfect human obedience qualified him to be our substitute, taking our punishment for us? “Let us be deeply humbled and mourn before the Lord for original sin. We have lost that pure quintessential frame of soul that once we had. Our nature is vitiated with corruption. Original sin has diffused itself as a poison into the whole man, like the Jerusalem artichoke which, wherever it is planted, soon overruns the ground…This primitive corruption is bitterly to be bewailed because we are never free from it. It is like a spring underground, which though it is not seen, yet it still runs. We may as well stop the beating of the pulse as strop the motions to sin. This inbred depravity retards and hinders us to that which is spiritual: ‘the good that I would do I do not’ (Rom. 7:19)…Sin does not come as a lodger for a night, but as an indweller (Rom 7:17). Original sin is inexhaustible. This ocean cannot be emptied. Though the stock of sin spends, yet it is not all diminished…Original corruption is like the widow’s oil which increased by pouring out [2 Kings 4:1-7]. Another wedge to break our hearts is that original sin mixes with the very habits of grace. Hence it is that our actings toward heaven are so dull and languid…As bad lungs cause an asthma or shortness of breath, so original sin having infected our heart, our graces breathe now very faintly. Thus we see what in original sin may draw forth our tears. Let us lament the corruption of our will and senses. Let us grieve for the diversion of our affections. They are taken off the proper object. The affections, like arrows, shoot beside the mark. At the beginning our affections were wings to fly to God; now they are weights to pull us from him. Let us grieve for the inclinations of our affections.” (5) 

Christ’s Wisdom & the Spirit’s Witness 

David wisely recognized and dealt with his utter sinfulness as he humbled himself with the Lord. “He who was born of religious parents, was famous for his early piety, and from whose seed the Messiah sprung, it may well be concluded to be the case…he having been, from his conception and formation, nothing else but a mass of sin, a lump of iniquity and, in his evangelical repentance for them, he is led to take notice of and mourn over the corruption of his nature, from whence they arose.” (6) But David also knew that drawing close to God through his brokenness would result in more truth and wisdom as he continued to walk with the Lord. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6). This reminds me of Paul’s prayer for his Colossian brothers and sisters–“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-4) When we read of David confessing his sinful nature from birth and God’s provision of profound wisdom, should we not also be compelled to confess our sinful nature and delight in God’s insightful truth that results from it? “True repentance must always go beyond the specific acts of sin. It must include turning from what we are—sinners by nature and sinners by birth. Has this vital truth broken the unplowed ground of your heart? Has it registered in your life in such a way as to lead you to the most profound repentance possible? Or have you been living with the myth that it is enough to turn from the evil you have done? Face the facts: every one of us was born in sin. Sin has a vise-like grip on our lives. It has contaminated everything we are and do. You might have repented a thousand times of specific sins you have committed, but it is not until you repent of what you are that true repentance begins.” (8) “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

Related Scripture: Job 15:14; Psalm 58:1-3; Romans 5:12-15; 7:17-19; Ephesians 2:1-5;  

Notes:

  1. Im, Danial, “You Are What You Do and Six Other Lies About Work, Life, & Love, Kindle Edition, B&H Publishing Group Nashville, Tennessee, 2020. 
  2. Im, Ibid, Inside Cover, Review by Richard Clark, podcast producer, host, and manager with Christianity Today.
  3. St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. John K. Ryan, Image Books, New York, 1960. 
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 114-115, Crossway, 2002
  5. Roberts, Ibid.
  6. Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, pp. 73-74, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668).
  7. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 51:5,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-51.html
  8. Roberts, Ibid.

June 24, 2021              

Repenting of Insensibility and Lukewarmness

Do you watch HGTV with the home renovator celebrities redo old houses or the Food Network? Maybe you watch the Travel Channel, Animal Planet, or other reality TV shows. When we are watching these shows we are passive. But when we engage in home renovation ourselves, cooking, traveling, or training our dogs, we become more invested and passionate about the project and hopefully about those who will benefit from it. Simply watching someone else will probably result in a casual interest that can easily be replaced by something else. Likewise, we can become casual, lukewarm, and even insensible toward God if we act like observers of his Word rather than doers. Walking with God isn’t for the faint-hearted if we do so biblically. But so often, we move through our days as if taking the Lord for granted and not showing him any particular attention. This can lead to replacing him with other ideals or values, causing us to move further away from him rather than growing closer. Israel, called by the Lord to glorify him among the nations, was guilty of this. Like Israel, the Body of Christ doesn’t exist to make us comfortable or free from troubles, although there is great peace in our covenant with God. He called us to be set apart so that others will be drawn to him, through our holiness and zeal for Christ.

A Warning and Advice for Insensible Christians

John’s letter to the church in Laodicea contains a warning to believers about their lukewarmness toward God. The Lord gave John a well-known illustration of the problem. “The waters of the nearby Lycus River were muddy and undrinkable, and water flowing by aqueduct from hot springs 5 miles (8 km) away were lukewarm when they reached Laodicea.  Likewise, Jesus found his church’s tepid indifference repugnant. Cold and hot water represent something positive, for cold water refreshes in the heat, and hot water is a tonic when one is chilly.” (1) “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:16-19) “Revelation 3:14 represents the members of this church as lukewarm, and very disagreeable to him and as having a vain opinion of themselves, being ignorant of their real state and case, wherefore he gives them some wholesome counsel and advice, suitable to their condition, and whereas there were some among them he loved, he lets them know that his rebukes and chastenings were from love, and with a view to stimulate them to zeal, and bring them to repentance, which became them..” (2) God calls on the Laodicean church to repent of their spiritual insensibility, nakedness, poverty—to be refined and receive God’s rich, holy covering for their shame. We, like the Laodiceans, need to zealously repent of our insensibility—feeling ashamed and desiring God’s riches and covering for our spiritual poverty.

The Good Shame of Repentance 

“The shame that accompanies repentance is not momentary but permanent. Every new sin produces new shame to such an extent that it is even possible to state, ‘All day long my dishonor is before me, and my humiliation has overwhelmed me.’ (Psalm 44:15). That is not to suggest that there is no joyous sense of forgiveness, but no matter how great the sense of freedom in having been delivered from sin becomes, the capacity to blush over sin is ever with the repentant. In the letter to the church of Laodicea we find an urgent word on shame…The truly repentant cannot say that they have need of nothing, for they know absolutely that they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. In true repentance and faith they have bought the refiner’s gold, they are made rich by the God of heaven, the shame of their nakedness is covered with the white robe of Christ’s righteousness, and their eyes are so anointed that they see and blush over every sin.” (3) In Psalm 44:1-8, God’s people remember and rehearse how God graciously delivered his people from destruction by their enemies. But this retelling isn’t their best engagement with him.  Starting in verse 9 the psalmist engages with the Lord about their current trial. God calls his people to engage with the Lord, seeking his righteousness in all our circumstances, repenting of any laziness or disinterest in testifying to his great unfailing loyalty through sincere confession and repentance.

Why We Don’t Repent

“Men do not apprehend that they need repentance. They thank God that all is well with them, and they know nothing that they should repent of: ‘thou sayest, I am rich and have need of nothing (Rev. 3:17). He who apprehends not any distemper in his body will not take the physic prescribed. This is the mischief sin has done, it has not only made us sick, but senseless. When the Lord bade the people return to him, they answered stubbornly, ‘Wherein shall we return?’ (Mal. 3:7). So when God bids men repent, they say, ‘Wherefore should we repent? They know nothing they have done amiss. There is surely no disease worse than that which is apoplectically.”’ (Apoplexy is a malady, sudden in its attack, which arrests the powers of sense and motion).” (4) John Gill writes that “true believers…stand in need of nothing indeed, they are complete in him, and have everything in him; but, as considered in themselves, they are daily in need of daily food for their souls, as for their bodies, of fresh light and life, strength and comfort, and of new supplies of grace…true believers account themselves wretched, as the Apostle Paul did, on account of indwelling sin, and the plague of their own hearts…and miserable…some persons neither know their misery, nor their need of mercy.” (5) Just as God calls on the Laodicean church to repent, he calls us to repent of our spiritual insensibility, desiring God’s covering for our shame.

The Blessing of a Father’s Reproof

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:18-19) “[God’s] advice is always wholesome, good, and suitable, is hearty, sincere, and faithful, and is freely given, and is wise and prudent; and, being taken, infallibly succeeds…none are rich but those who have an interest in Christ and his grace…and such are rebuked by Christ, not in a way of wrath, but in a tender manner, in order to bring them under a conviction of their sin and of their duty, and of their folly in trusting in, or loving any creature more than himself, and of all their wrong ways; and they are chastened by him, not in a vindictive, but in a fatherly way, which is instructive and teaching to them, and for their good…zeal was what was wanting in this {Laodicean] church…Christ would have her be ‘zealous’ for God; for his cause and interest, for his Gospel, ordinances, and the discipline of his house, and against everything that is evil…and repent of her lukewarmness, remissness, and supineness; of her pride, arrogance, and vain boastings of herself; and of her self-sufficiency, self-dependence, and self-confidence.” (6) Aren’t we the same, if not constantly, but in particular situations, or with certain people?

Sheltered by God’s Voice

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (v. 20) “[God knocks]not as a homeless transient seeking shelter but as the master of the house, expecting alert servants to respond immediately to his signal and welcome his entrance. To the one who opens the door, Christ will come in and will eat with him, a picture of close personal fellowship. (7) Jesus wants us to engage with him, rather than merely think about him, and definitely not forget him as we attend to work, family, or other pursuits. “Let us examine ourselves by the rule of his word, and pray earnestly for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, to take away our pride, prejudices, and worldly lusts. Sinners ought to take the rebukes of God’s word and rod, as tokens of his love to their souls.” (8) “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Related Scripture: Psalm 19:8; Proverbs 8:19; Isaiah 55:1-4; Hosea 12:7-9; Zechariah 11:4-6; Matthew 25:1-10; Luke 12:35-40; John 9:39-41; 1 Corinthians 4:8-9; Ephesians 1:17-21; Hebrews 12:6.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Revelation 3:14-21, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Introduction to Revelation 3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-3.html
  3. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 190-191, Crossway, 2002.
  4. Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance, The Removing of the Impediments to Repentance,” Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668).
  5. Gill, Ibid, Rev. 3:16-17.
  6. Gill, Ibid, Rev. 3:18-19.
  7. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, Rev.3:20
  8. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Revelation 3:14-20, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/revelation-3.html

June 17, 2021

Deep Cleaning of Pride and Legalism

Do you wash your car, vacuum cleaner, or oven regularly? I try to keep my car clean, but from time to time, I notice how filthy it is where the car door hinges to the body. I think, “Oh, I should clean that soon,” and then completely forget about it until the next time I notice the filth. Ditto for my oven and vacuum. Some dirt is easy to spot. Most of us want to get rid of the obvious mud that gets tracked into our homes or the discarded packaging from delivered things. But small amounts of dirt and dust turn into grime when we neglect cleaning. It’s the same with our hearts and minds. We can fall into the bad habit of realizing we have ungodly or rebellious thoughts and desires and think, “Oh, I need to talk with God about that soon and confess,” and then forget about it. But God uses all our circumstances—together with His Word—to teach us how to walk with him. He often uses our relationships, advice from others, work issues, family projects, or significant life changes to sanctify us, teaching us to confess immediately for quick repentance. I wondered what would happen when I moved pieces of furniture that haven’t been moved for over four years? If I hadn’t done some spring cleaning in March, I would have found filthy baseboards and floors behind my heaviest pieces, but I only saw a buildup of a few months rather than years. We should keep  “short accounts” of our sins or offenses, Christian jargon for confessing our sins before they become filthy issues that require significant reconciliation with God and others. 

We Need What Israel Needed 

“There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.” (Proverbs 30:12) Although Proverbs 30:12 points to those who do not know God as we do, we are still vulnerable to those sins of our former unbelief or snares from Satan. They, “in their own eyes, in their own conceit and imagination, trusting in themselves that they are righteous…have not their eyes opened or enlightened to see [what we can see]—the plague of their own hearts, the spirituality of the law of God, the perfection righteousness requires; the righteousness and holiness of God himself; or the imperfection and insufficiency of their own. Did they, they would not seem pure and righteous to themselves.” (1) In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet presents everything and everyone by their relationship with God. A key theme in Isaiah is Israel’s offense toward God with outwardly impressive religious rituals that conceal empty hearts. Another theme is man’s duty to repent, trusting in the holy God who rules all things. See Isaiah 66:1-4; 28:16-17; 31:1. (2) Any time we move forward in life without any idea of God’s involvement, we are in danger of trusting in ourselves or others as if we are pure. Either we admit that we are weak, tempted, and unrighteous, in need of frequent cleaning, or we move away from the Lord as Israel did, leading to God’s dramatic discipline. We, like Israel, are prone to prideful self-confidence and legalism, which we must repent of if we want inner cleanliness and intimacy with Christ. 

Either Like the Pharisee or the Tax Collector

We should never take for granted the work of God’s Spirit in us, thinking that our salvation somehow precludes us from vanity and pretentiousness. Scripture is rich in its teaching about the dangers of these sins. “There are those—how lofty are their eyes, how high their eyelids lift!” (Proverbs 30:13) “Above others, on whom they look with scorn and contempt; as those who have more riches than others, and boast of them; they despise their poor neighbours, and disdain to look upon them: and such also who have more knowledge and wisdom than others, or at least think so; they are puffed up in their fleshly minds, and say of the illiterate or less knowing, as the proud Pharisees did, ‘this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed:’ and likewise those who fancy themselves more holy and righteous than others; these, in a scornful manner, say, ‘stand by thyself, I am holier than thou;’ and thank God they are not as other men are, as publicans and sinners.” (Gill on Prov. 30:13) We should not exclude passages that compare believers with unbelievers since we usually don’t measure up to Jesus’s standard in his parables, miracles, and teaching. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14) “The Pharisee does not really pray at all. He asks God for nothing, and his thanksgiving is merely a form. He glances at God, but contemplates himself. He thanks God for what he is, not for what God is.” (3) The Pharisee was as close to the holy place in the temple as possible, but the Tax collector was far away. The holy place did not scare the Pharisee at all, unlike Peter who fell and asked Jesus to depart from him (Luke 5:8). “Sinful people don’t rush into the presence of the holy, they flee from the presence of the holy. The tax collector was in fear and trembling just in the outer court, not even able to lift his gaze to heaven, but only on the floor, beating his breast. He begged God to be merciful to him, who only had his sin, without any excuses for it. He knew that only God’s grace could help him.” (4) The Pharisee was one of the most respected religious leaders in Israel but trusted in his position and deeds for God’s approval, which hindered him from being washed from his spiritual filth. We can also fall into that trap, sometimes just for a day. That’s when we should cry out for mercy, like the tax collector, to be washed by Christ, confessing our prideful independence.

Deep Cleaning 

Those who think they are sinless and will not be washed by God become spiritually filthy, just like our floors under our furniture when untouched. But we have the privilege of confessing our pride and legalism, so it doesn’t build up into rubbish that separates us from the Lord. Most people don’t like to do deep cleaning—it isn’t easy or fun—although there are a few people who enjoy it. We do it because it helps our homes, garages, cars, appliances, tools, and furniture to last longer and look better. Doing the deep cleaning of our hearts isn’t fun or enjoyable like worship, fellowship, hospitality, or service. Repentance is hard work, and it should be continuous. Perhaps we ought to think of it like looking at the contents of our fridges. Cleaning out the refrigerator keeps it from reeking of spoiled food, with the stench spilling over into our kitchens. In the same way, the filth of unconfessed pride or self-justification dirties our relationships and witness. “It is not enough to admit that one is a sinner. One has to repent of that. In fact, to acknowledge that we are sinners and not repent of it, is to blaspheme God. This tax-collector here not only recognized that he was a sinner, he also confessed it before God and begged God for mercy…When we come into the presence of God, let us come not with an attitude of self-justification, but with an attitude of dependence upon his mercy. For the point at issue here was not the track-record of the Pharisee or tax-collector, but the present attitude of their minds towards God.” (5) “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:8-10)

Related Scripture: Job 9:30-31; Proverbs 16:2; 21:2; 30:32; Jeremiah 2:22-23; Daniel 9:19; Matthew 5:20; 6:5-13; Luke 11:42-44; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Peter 3:21; Revelation 3:17; 7:14.

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Proverbs 30:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-32.html
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Isaiah—Key Themes, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Luke 18:9-14, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  4. Ligonier Ministries, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector devotion, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/pharisee-and-tax-collector/
  5. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 18:9-14, Electronic Book, 2016.

June 10, 2021   

Desiring Inner Cleanliness

I’ve been waiting to move for two months. But we didn’t know when the contractor would complete the renovation work on the other apartment. So I thought it best to pack up all my drawer and cabinet contents after hauling off useless things to the thrift store and Salvation Army. After that, I looked for non-essentials to pack. So now there are boxes in sight everywhere I look. However, to offset this, I have relieved myself of things I hadn’t used in four years, cleaned out closets, and furniture. Despite living in a messy environment, I have inner peace about moving only those things I want to keep. I don’t function well in a disorderly environment, but the boxes remind me that life is always messy, unpredictable, and in a state of change. We have and still are living through a chaotic pandemic that called for us to keep ourselves and our environments clean. I think it’s not a coincidence that my theme for June is desiring cleanliness within, with God, and in our relationships. It’s time to take a hard look at Psalm 51. King David had some pretty messy relationships and two in which he sinned gravely. His confession and desire for cleanliness in Psalm 51 is striking and should be a model for ours. David’s repentance is proved by his never-repeating (to our knowledge) the acts of adultery and murder. He desired and received God’s loving, abundant mercy to be washed thoroughly of his sin. My prayer is that we will turn to God for his loving mercy to be forgiven and cleansed, leading to sincere repentance.

David’s Desire For a Clean Heart

One of the things we often do that David didn’t do was justify our sins and lack of contrition when we know we have erred against God and others. But David gives us a model for accepting God’s righteous judgment on sin, even before consequences appear. (See v. 4.) David had a true friend in Nathan who confronted him, allowing David to confess and repent. As a result, he had the strength to bear God’s discipline of the death of his sin-child and his future as a man of war. (See 2 Samuel 12:1-23.) David’s desire for spiritual cleanliness is the desire of every true believer. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” (Psalms 51:1-2, 7, 9) Matthew Henry writes, “Those that truly repent of their sins, will not be ashamed to own their repentance…The believer longs to have the whole debt of his sins blotted out, and every stain cleansed; he would be thoroughly washed from all his sins; but the hypocrite always has some secret reserve, and would have some favorite lust spared.” (1) Psalm 51 calls us to look into our hearts to know if we sincerely desire to be cleansed of our sin and confess any favorite ungodly passion that we might hold back because of its tight grip on us. 

Only By God’s Mercy

“Mercy is the sole basis of any approach to God by sinners . We cannot come to God on the basis of his justice; justice strikes us with fear and causes us to hide from him. We are not drawn to God by his wisdom; wisdom does not embolden us, though we stand in awe of it. No more does omniscience, omnipotence, or omnipresence. The only reason we dare come to God and dare hope for a solution to our sin problem is his mercy.” (2) “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1) “David, under a sense of sin, does not run away from God, but applies unto him, and casts himself at his feet, and upon his mercy; which shows the view he had of his miserable condition, and that he saw there was mercy in God, which gave him hope; and upon his bended knees, and in the exercise of faith, he asks for it; according to thy lovingkindness; not according to his merits, nor according to the general mercy of God, which carnal men rely upon; but according to his everlasting and unchangeable love in Christ.” (3) John Gill notes that David’s sin is complicated—it involves not only his specific sin against Uriah and Bathsheba but also his original sin (v. 5). But, “The mercy of God is plenteous and abundant; he is rich in it, and various are the instances of it; and it is exceeding tender, like that of a father to his children, or like that of a mother to the son of her womb; and from this abundant and tender mercy springs the forgiveness of sin. The psalmist makes mention of the multitude of the mercies of God, because of the multitude of his sins, which required a multitude of mercy to forgive, and to encourage his hope of it.” (4) If we think we are empty of sin, we should consider our culture’s pressure to meddle in the affairs of others, gossip, slander, and impugn others. “There is so much of this in the Christian world today, and it generates so little disapproval.” (5) Can we still say we are without sin, without the need to repent? Do we think God’s Spirit in us enjoys our “secret” sins or ungodly motives?

Purge, Wash, Blotted Out My Sins

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” (Ps. 51:7, 9) ) “The terms wash and cleanse come from the ceremonial system, where they refer to rites that allow a person to come safely into God’s presence. Here the psalm focuses on the inner condition that the ceremony points to.” (6) “Cleanse means “purge.’ It is based on the word for sin and literally means ‘de-sin’ me. David wanted to have his sin completely purged away. He did not want to retain even a stain of it…Wash refers to the lustrations of the law. Centuries later Isaiah would write, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ (Isa. 1:18)…David wanted to be washed until he was as clean as that. ‘Blot out’ refers to removing writing from a book, perhaps removing an indictment. This is what David wanted and what we all desperately need. The books of our lives have been written upon with many sins, and these stand as a terrible indictment against us. Unless something is done, they are going to be read out against us at the last day. But God can and will do something, if we ask him. God will rub out the ancient writing, turn the pages sideways, and write over the newly prepared surface the message of his everlasting compassion through the work of Jesus Christ…When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.’” (7) David desired and received God’s loving, abundant mercy to be washed thoroughly of his sin, to remove his shame before God.

Clean and No Longer Ashamed

David, “being now ashamed of them himself, and ashamed that any should see them, and especially his God; and being filthy and nauseous, he knew they must be abominable to him, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity…they might be cast behind his back, and into the depths of the sea; and blot out all mine iniquities; as in Psalms 51:1; here repeated, to show his deep sense of them, and his great importunity for the forgiveness of them.” (8) We who are in Christ, who already know and have his loving, abundant mercy to be forgiven and cleansed—are we not seeking sincere repentance for our remaining sins? The messiness of life, afflictions, injuries, and relationships is no excuse for rebellion or stubbornness. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Related Scripture: Exodus 12:22-23; 19:10; Leviticus 14:1-8a; Psalm 90:8; Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Zechariah 13:1; Ephesians 2:4-7; Hebrews 9:198-22; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 14:14-17.

Notes:

  1. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Psalm 51:1-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/psalms-51.html
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 51, Part 1,” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 51:1, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms -51.html
  4. Gill, Ibid.
  5. Challies, Tim, Respectable Sins of the Reformed World, July 15, 2020, https://www.challies.com/articles
  6. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalm 51:1-2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  7. Boice, Ibid.
  8. Gill, Ibid, Psalm 51:9.

June 3, 2021   

Freed to Repent

We live in a world that endorses and produces “news,” which is opinions, political commentaries, and whatever is trending more than reporting on actual events. It’s no wonder that we feel manipulated so much of the time. We must discern these influences if we want to maintain a correct view of the world. Have you ever been personally manipulated? I don’t mean people forceful about their opinions, who outwardly disagree with you, or have even shunned you because you hold different values or beliefs. Manipulation is subtle. It is “the action of manipulating something in a skillful manner” or “influencing or controlling someone or something to your advantage, often without anyone knowing it.” (1) Someone once convinced me that I was a particular kind of person and I believed it for about five years. My lifestyle, conduct, values, and personal choices all reflected my wrong belief about myself. I have no doubt this was one way that the devil tried to keep me from coming to faith in Christ since it was someone who had had a kind of faith that I thought was real at the time. But I was liberated from the relationship and false view of myself. Years later, Christ brought me into his glorious family. Those five years were enslavement to a lie, with continuous sin at work. I value confession and repentance so much because I have been forgiven so much.

Sinners Don’t Make a Practice of Sinning.

In the second and third chapters of 1 John, the apostle expounds on the theme of overcoming the antichrist by confession of the Son and no longer practicing sin regularly as we did when we were children of the devil. “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive youWhoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4-10) Of course, we still sin, but hopefully only occasionally. Believers repent rather than allow sin to become a practice as we did before or as others do, who are under the devil’s control. “When all the basics of faith are in operation, we not only know joy but can live a holy life and be assured of salvation even though we are still far from perfect.” (2) 

Satan’s manipulation

In Lewis’s brilliant satirical book, “The Screwtape Letters,” the demon Screwtape mentors his nephew Wormwood to keep his “patients” (earthly folk) from God. “The only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (3) But we who have been freed from Satan’s domination and overwhelming influence may confess and repent regularly to break the cycle of sin from the devil, the world, and our flesh. Sometimes Satan does his work by making our sins seem overwhelming, so we can’t imagine that God will forgive us. Other times, the devil wants us to compare ourselves to others who are more sinful to manipulate us into thinking there’s nothing we have done so wrong. “The devil himself takes great delight in assisting you in thinking that you have never done anything worthy of God’s punishment (if indeed there is a God) and in helping you to suppose that repentance is a very radical matter needed only by sinners much worse than yourself.” (4) We repent because we have not been glorified yet and are continually being sanctified—to be more holy as we mature in our Christian walk. 

Christians Handle Sin Differently

“Not everyone that sins, or commits acts of sin…is of the devil, because no man lives without the commission of sin; but he who makes sin his constant business, and the employment of his life, whose life is a continued series of sinning, he is of the devil…by imitation, being like him, and so of him their father, doing his lusts, living continually in sin, as he does, and so resemble him, as children do their parents; and hereby also appear to be under his government and influence, to be led captive by him at his will, and so to belong to him.” (5) Would my family and neighbors agree that they are under the devil’s influence “just because” they don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Absolutely not—and that is partly because of the devil’s expert manipulation. However, we know that all those who don’t belong to Christ and are not in God’s family are under the power of Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). We know that Christ will forgive our sins. “’I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-48)

Christian Faith: Repentance for Peace

Regular repentance for our tendencies to sin protects us when God cleanses our hearts and minds and helps us turn to Him. Coming closer to the Lord, we are influenced more by His grace, mercy, and love. “A person is saved by faith in Jesus Christ…In itself this act does not destroy the works of the devil, which are many. But it is the first step. Indeed, it is as Christians come to Christ and are united to him by faith that they receive the power to turn from sin and the devil’s works and thus begin to live a holy life before God. The devil’s works are not yet totally destroyed…[But] now the Christian can live in that knowledge and can escape from sin’s tyranny.” (6) “Renewing grace is an abiding principle…the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought.” (7) We don’t practice sin as others do who are under the devil’s control. Instead, we are to pray for our attentiveness to sin, confess, and repent, to receive the peace that comes from our liberation through Christ. 

The Holy Spirit Opposes Satan’s Influence.

The Believer does not commit a sinful act “as to be the servant of it, a slave unto it, or to continue in it; and that for this reason: for [Christ’s] seed remains in him…the grace of the Spirit, the internal principle of grace in the soul, the new nature, or new man formed in the soul, is meant; which seminally contains all grace in it, and which, like seed, springs up and gradually increases, and always abides; and is pure and incorruptible, and neither sins itself, nor encourages sin, but opposes, checks, and prevents it…it is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God; it is a good work, and well pleasing: in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin with delight.” (8) “The hearts of genuine Christians (those who are truly children of God) have been so transformed that they cannot live in a pattern of continual sin.” (9) Christ has freed us to enjoy his holiness. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2a)

Related Scripture: Psalms 40:17; 55:22  Matthew 6:25-34; 24:42-45; Ephesians 4:26-27;  Timothy 2:24-26; James 4:7-10; 1 John 1:7; 2:18.

Notes:

  1. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/manipulate
  2. English Standard Version The Holy Bible, Introduction to 1 John, ESV Text Edition: 2016, Crossway Bibles.
  3. Lewis, C. S., “The Screwtape Letters,” pp. 60-61, HarperOne, Kindle Edition.
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance-The First Word of the Gospel,” Crossway, 2002.
  5. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 1 John 3:1-10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/1-john-3.html
  6. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 John 3:8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-john-3.html
  7. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” 1 John 3:4-10, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  8. Gill, Ibid, 1 John 3:9.
  9. Boice, Ibid. 

May 27, 2021