Thomas Brooks 1 points out that one of the Devil’s lies to the Christian is that saying sorry – repenting – is easy, so easy that we shouldn’t make too big a deal about sin. Here’s his imaginary quote from the Devil:
“Why! Suppose you do sin, it’s no such difficult thing to return and confess and be sorrowful and beg pardon and cry ‘Lord have mercy upon me’ and if you do this God will forgive your debt, pardon your sin and save your soul.”
Now I needn’t ask whether that’s true, the giveaway is that it’s a supposed quote from the father of lies, but in what way is it not true? How is it to say sorry, to truly repent? Well in reality it’s pretty difficult and Brooks takes some time to explain why but here are 2 highlights from his answer.
1. True repentance is difficult because it involves turning to good as well as from evil. The truth is that the tokenistic “soorrrrry” you said as a small child was inadequate because when you said it you didn’t really mean that you hated what you did and wished you’d done the right thing instead, you just wanted the problem to go away. So with repentance towards God. To mean sorry is to hate sin and love righteousness. It’s not only to not want to bear bad fruit it’s to want to bear good fruit.
Road test that idea with me for a moment. The husband who thinks rather little of getting angry with his wife and family because he can always apologise afterwards is fooling himself if he thinks genuine repentance is simply a regret for the negative consequences of his anger. To be genuinely sorry means loving peace, gentleness and tenderness. That’s more difficult and should make him think twice before losing it.
2. True repentance takes a mighty work of God in our hearts and isn’t something we can do ourselves. When Peter spoke to the Jewish Council in Acts 5 he tells them that the risen Jesus had been exalted at the right hand of God in order to “give repentance and forgiveness of sins” in other words repentance is something God alone can give through the power of the risen Son. So as Brooks says “repentance is a flower which does not grow in nature’s garden”. The Devil’s lie is that repentance is easy so sin needn’t be taken seriously, but the truth is repentance is costly because sin is deeply rooted in our hearts.
Again think through the implications. The temptation to gossip can be powerful and I might consider that the pleasure of sharing the news can easily be repented of later if I get caught out. But the reality is that for me to genuinely repent of gossip takes the power of a crucified, risen saviour which make gossip and altogether more serious thing that I should think twice before indulging in.
- We’re currently reading “Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices” in our Dead Puritans Society, the book is 99p on the Kindle store and well worth reading. If you’d like to join DPS then just let me know ↩