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(18 posts)

The Grace of Repentance

Monday··2007·07·30 · 5 Comments
Let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. —Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter VII

Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

Tuesday··2012·10·02 · 3 Comments
Right now, if you’re a Christian, you’re thinking—or, at least, I hope are—that the answer is obvious: of course same-sex attraction is sinful. But that answer is not as universally obvious among Christians as you might think. It is becoming increasingly popular to acknowledge innate homosexual orientation, even accepting the term “gay Christian,” while maintaining that homosexual acts are sinful. So-called “gay Christians” must therefore remain celibate. As long as they do, their homosexual attraction incurs no guilt. The attraction itself is not sin. At least part of this opinion is based upon equivocation. I say, “Same-sex attraction is sin,” and the other guy replies, “Is it a sin to be tempted? Surely not; so the one who is tempted only sins when he surrenders to the temptation.” Nicely done, very tricky—but not so fast. Of course, I agree that to be tempted is not sin, or Christ himself would be a sinner, but that’s not what I said. I said “attracted,” not “tempted.” Temptation is nothing more than the enticement to have or do something God has forbidden. The store clerk gives me too much change. I can remain silent, keep the money, and get away with it. That knowledge is temptation, but it is not sin. As soon as I want to do it, as soon as I am attracted to dirty money, I sin, even if I overcome the desire and return the money anyway. To be tempted is to be offered a potentially attractive opportunity; to be attracted is to want it. I need to repent of my urge, however momentary, to have that money. When did Eve first sin? Was it when she saw the fruit, or when the serpent enticed her to eat it, or when she actually ate it? It was none of those. Eve sinned when she looked at an object that God had declared off-limits and found it attractive. Jesus teaches just that when he tells us that murder and adultery are only the outward expressions of sin that has already been committed in the mind (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). Potiphar’s wife enticed Joseph to sin (Genesis 39:7–18). We do not read of Joseph struggling with his desire to have her. Rather, we read of his repeated refusal to even consider it. Joseph did not sin. Nor did Christ struggle with his desire in the desert. Read his terse answers (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13) to the greatest tempter of all time and see if he ever said, “I’d love to, but I can’t.” It is sin for me to be attracted to other women than my wife, not because they aren’t attractive, but because they are forbidden. Just so, I am not to desire men; it is forbidden. As noted above, the desire is the same as the act. I must repent of my sinful inclinations as well as my sinful acts. How sad and cruel it is to gloss over sin and deny sinners the grace of repentance, which they so desperately need.

How to Pray When You’re Angry with God

Last week, I came across a video of hipster pastor Doug Paggit interviewing an Episcopal pastor and author of a book Driscollesquely titled How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God. Disappointed that the video had no audio (a logical tactic of postmodernity?), and thinking, “Sounds good! I must look into this!”* I hurried off to to read the reviews. Not too surprisingly, the book is (if I may trust the reviewers) all about how it’s all okey-dokey to be angry† with God. This is no novel notion. People with cleaner mouths have been saying this for as long as I can remember—and they’re all wrong. That God could ever be a legitimate object of anger, and that anyone could ever be angry with him without sinning is absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Job, who famously remonstrated against God and received a four-chapter lecture on knowing his place saying, in short, “Who are you to cast aspersions on my sovereign acts?”—which moved Job to demonstrate how one is to pray when he is angry with God: Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” —Job 42:1–6 * No, not really. † Anger in general is an ugly thing, and is rarely excusable. I wrote on righteous anger here.

Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful? (The Sequel)

Thursday··2014·01·02 · 2 Comments
Once upon a time, I wrote this, probably as a response to something. I don’t remember. Now, once again, the word comes down, from Desiring God this time, that: 1. The Bible explicitly says that impenitent homosexual acts, not homosexual desires, keep a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). 2. The Bible does not seem to explicitly mention same-sex attraction. It is possible that the “dishonorable passions” in Romans 1:26 could be dealing with SSA, but it’s unclear whether this is a reference to simply experiencing an attraction, or following the attraction into active lusting. 3. Our passions may be disordered by the fall of this creation, and yet be distinct from active sinning. Paul said, “the creation was subjected to futility . . . [and will one day] be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–21). Even Spirit-filled believers groan under this “futility” and “corruption,” including “dishonorable passions.” “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Given the above three realities, it seems right to say that while homosexual practice is active sinning, the experience of same-sex attraction need not involve active sinning. John Piper says it like this: It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders (“Let Marriage Be Held In Honor,” emphasis added) In other words, although SSA is a disordered desire, owing to the fall and thus rooted in sin and broken by sin, nevertheless experiencing SSA is not in itself an act of sinning. Well, I have said what I have said, and have nothing original to add. However, if I did, I’d like it to be something mature and biblically well-rounded, like this from Pastor Don Green: Is it okay to be attracted to the same gender as long as you don’t have sex? Short answer? No. The sin of homosexuality is more than the external behavior. The disposition toward homosexuality is also sinful. This may surprise you if you have approached Christianity as a series of rules to be kept and going to church on Sunday. But biblical righteousness is far more than avoiding physical sin. Continue reading A Pastor Responds to Desiring God on the Issue of Same-Sex Attraction and listen to a discussion of same with Pastor Green and Pastor Mike Abendroth.

The Spirit’s Work in Salvation

John MacArthur writes, “If we are to honor our divine Guest, treating Him with the reverence and respect that is His royal due, we must rightly discern His true ministry—aligning our hearts, minds, and wills with His wondrous work.” Toward that end, he lists “six aspects of the Spirit’s work in salvation.” The Holy Spirit Convicts Unbelievers of Sin As the general, external call of the gospel goes forth, through the preaching of the message of salvation, unbelievers in the world are confronted with the reality of their sin and the consequences of their unbelief . For those who reject the gospel, the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction might be likened to that of a prosecuting attorney. He convicts them in the sense that they are rendered guilty before God and are, therefore, eternally condemned (John 3:18). The Spirit’s convicting work is not about making unrepentant sinners feel bad, but about delivering a legal verdict against them. It includes a full indictment of their hardhearted crimes, complete with irrefutable evidence and a death sentence. Yet for those whom the Spirit draws to the Savior, His convicting work is one of convincing, as He pricks their consciences and cuts them to the quick. Thus, for the elect, this work of conviction is the beginning of God’s saving, effectual call. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 184. The Holy Spirit Regenerates Sinful Hearts Regeneration is a transformation of a person’s nature, as the believer is given new life, cleansed, and permanently set apart from sin (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13). Those who formerly operated in the flesh now operate in the Spirit (Rom. 8:5–11). Though they were dead, they have been made alive, indwelt by the very Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead (v. 10; cf. 6:11). The Spirit of life has come upon them, empowering them to resist temptation and live in righteousness. This is what it means to be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). —Ibid., 188. The Holy Spirit Brings Sinners to Repentance A vivid illustration of this is found in Acts 11:15–18, where Peter reported the conversion of Cornelius to the other apostles in Jerusalem: ”As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” As Peter and the others realized, the undeniable proof Cornelius and his household had truly repented was that they had received the Holy Spirit. They had been convicted of their sin; their hearts were regenerated; their eyes were opened to the truth of Peter’s preaching; and they were given the gift of repentant faith (cf. Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:25)—all of which was the Holy Spirit’s work. —Ibid., 188–189. The Holy Spirit Enables Fellowship with God The Spirit produces an attitude of profound love for God in the hearts of those who have been born again. They feel drawn to God, not fearful of Him. They long to commune with Him—to meditate on His Word and to fellowship with Him in prayer. They cast their cares freely on Him, and openly confess their sins without trepidation, knowing that all has been covered by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, the Spirit makes it possible for believers to enjoy fellowship with God, no longer fearful of His judgment or wrath (1 John 4:18). As a result, Christians can sing hymns about God’s holiness and glory without cowering in terror—knowing they have been securely adopted into the family of their heavenly Father. —Ibid., 190. The Holy Spirit Indwells the Believer It is important to emphasize that there is no such thing as a genuine believer who does not possess the Holy Spirit. It is a terrible error—one tragically promoted by many within Pentecostalism—to assert that a person could somehow be saved and yet not receive the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit’s work, no one could be anything other than a wretched sinner. To reiterate Paul’s statement from Romans 8:9, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Put simply, those who do not possess the Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ. Genuine believers—people in whom the Holy Spirit has taken up residence—think, talk, and act differently. They are no longer characterized by a love for the world; instead, they love the things of God. That transformation is evidence of the Spirit’s power at work in the lives of those whom He indwells. —Ibid., 192. The Holy Spirit Seals Salvation Forever The Holy Spirit Himself personally guarantees that fact. As Paul told the Ephesians, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13–14). Believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. He secures them unto eternal glory. —Ibid., 193.

This Is Repentance

This is what repentance at the Lord’s Table (or anywhere else) looks like: It was the glory of Alexander, that, as soon as ever he had opportunity, he slew the murderers of his father upon his father’s tomb. Truly, reader, a sacrament day is a special opportunity, and thou wilt shew but little love to thine everlasting Father if thou dost not now put his murderers to death, upon those monuments of his passion. Now thou art at the table, think of thy unthankfulness, ambition, hypocrisy, covetousness, irreligion, and infidelity, and the rest, how these ‘crucified the Lord of glory,’ and resolve through the strength of Christ that these Hamans shall all be hanged, that these sins shall be condemned and crucified. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:211

At the Lord’s Table (2)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:26–29 This is the second of three parts of George Swinnock’s A good wish about the Lord’s supper: I wish that before I go for a discharge, I may look into the book of my conscience, cast up my accounts, and consider how infinitely I am indebted to my God, that I may consider whence I am fallen and repent, and . . . rend my garments, my heart I mean, with godly sorrow and self-abhorrency. Oh that my soul might be so searched to the bottom that none of my wounds may fester, but all may be discovered and cured. I pray that I may not dare to turn the table of the Lord into the table of devils, by receiving the sacrament in the love of any known sin, but may go to it with a hearty detestation of every false way, and a holy resolution against every known wickedness. I wish that after all my pains in preparing myself, I may look up to Christ alone for assistance, as knowing that I am not sufficient of myself so much as to think anything, but my sufficiency is of God; blessed Saviour, be thou surety for thy servant, and bound for my good behaviour at the last and loving supper. I wish that when I come to the table I may, like the beloved disciple, behold the wounds of my Saviour, and see that water and blood which did flow out of his side; that as in the Gospel I read a narrative, so in this ordinance I may have a prospective of his sufferings: how he emptied himself to fill me, and to raise my reputation with his Father, laid down his own; how he humbled himself, though he had the favour of a Son, to the form of a servant, and though he were the Lord of life and glory, to the most ignominious death, even the death of the cross. I wish that in his special passion I may ever take notice of his affection, and esteem the laying down his life, as the hyperbole of his love, the highest note that love could possibly reach. Ah! how near did this high priest carry my name to his heart, when he willingly underwent the rage of hell to purchase for me a passage to heaven! ‘I will remember thy love more than wine.’ I desire that when I see Christ crucified before mine eyes, in the breaking of the bread, and pouring out of the wine, I may not forget the cause, my corruptions, but may so think of them and my Saviour’s kindness, in dying to make satisfaction for them, that as fire expelleth fire, so I may be enabled by the fire of love to expel and cast out the fire of lust. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:219–220
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. —1 Peter 4:1 Sproul writes, “When we come to Christ, we come by repentance. There is no other way. One does not cling to Christ as Savior until he first acknowledges that he is a sinner who needs a Savior.” Knowledge of sin is the very first step in conversion. Without that knowledge, there is no reason for turning to Christ, and no one ever will. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (v. 3). Augustine spent the early years of his life following the pattern that Peter describes here. Then one day . . . he picked up the Bible and his eyes fell upon this passage: “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:13–14). At that moment, Augustine’ s heart was stricken because he recognized himself in the text he was reading. He said in essense, “I have made every provision I could to fulfill the lusts of my flesh. I need to change my clothes. God grant that He would dress me in the clothes of Christ that I may no longer make provision for the lusts of the flesh.” Peter says the same thing. We know the bankruptcy of our former way of life. We ought to spend our time for the will of God. We have spent enough time doing the will of pagans, when we walked like they walk—lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 143. I have often said, if you have never been overwhelmed by the guilt of your sin, you have never been born again. The objections I hear in response are many, but I stand by it. There is no salvation without repentance, and no repentance without conviction.

Sorrow that Produces Repentance

Not all sorrow over sin is genuine repentance. Some is only motivated by self-interest. Inquire seriously, in the first place, “what views you have had of sin, and what sentiments you have felt in your soul with regard to it?” There was a time when it wore a flattering aspect, and made a fair, enchanting appearance, so that all your heart was charmed with it, and it was the very business of your life to practice it. But you have since been undeceived. You have felt it “bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder, Prov. xxiii. 32.” You have beheld it with an abhorrence far greater than the delight which it ever gave you. So far it is well it is thus with every true penitent, and with some, I fear, who are not of that number. Let me therefore inquire farther, whence arose this abhorrence? Was it merely from a principle of self-love? Was it merely because you had been wounded by it? Was it merely because you had thereby brought condemnation and ruin upon your own soul? Was there no sense of its deformity, of its baseness, of its malignity, as committed against the blessed God, considered as a glorious, a bountiful, and a merciful Being? Were you never pierced by the apprehension of its vile ingratitude? —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 115. Worldly remorse sees sin only as a detriment to the sinner. Genuine repentance sees sin for what it really is: an offense against God. Worldly remorse prompts one to seek change in hope of a better life. Godly sorrow seeks reconciliation with God. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. —2 Corinthians 7:10

Evangelical Repentance

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Repentance, writes David Clarkson, “is an evangelical duty; a gospel, a new-covenant duty.” But not all repentance falls under the gospel category. There is also legally-motivated repentance, performed in one’s own strength, intended only to ease the conscience. Gospel repentance is that which is given by God (2 Timothy 2:25), and flows joyfully from a heart he has made (Ezekiel 11:19). Clarkson distinguishes between the two, exhorts us to “practise this duty evangelically,” and offers these (and more) directions: (1.) Undertake it for evangelical ends. The end gives nature and name to the action. If your aims be legal, mercenary, the act will be so. Go not about it only to escape hell, avoid wrath, satisfy justice, remove judgments, pacify conscience. Ahab and Pharaoh can repent thus, those who are strangers to the covenant of grace. How then? Endeavour that you may give God honour, that ye may please him, that you may comply with his will, that you may never more return to folly. Confess, to give honour, as Josh. vii. 19, get hearts broken, that you may offer sacrifice well pleasing. (2.) Let evangelical motives lead you to the practice of it. Act as drawn by the cords of love. The goodness of God should lead you to it, Rom. ii. Horror, despair, terror of conscience will drive Cain and Judas to strange fits of legal repentance. The remembrance of sins against electing, distinguishing love, against redeeming, pardoning mercy, against the free grace of the gospel and offers of it, should lead you to it. So should your dealing unfaithfully in the covenant of grace, sinning against the blood of Christ, wounding him, grieving him, who became a man of sorrows. Piercing, Zech. xii. 10, that you have hated him who loved you; grieved him who would have comforted you with unspeakable comforts; dishonoured him who thought not his own glory too much for you; provoked him who would see his own Son die, rather than you should perish; undervalued him who thought not his life too dear for you. (3.) In an evangelical manner, freely, cheerfully, with joy and delight; not as constrained, but willingly. As those that are . . . in love with the duty—for so are pardoned repenting sinners. . . Christ’s people in covenant with him are ‘a willing people,’ Ps. cx. 3 . . . (4.) Repent that ye can repent no more. This is an evangelical temper, to be sensible of the defects and failings of spiritual duties; be grieved that you can grieve no more for sin; abhor yourselves that you cannot hate it with a more perfect hatred; count it your great affliction that sin and you are not quite divorced; count the relics of sin which you cannot drive out, what the Canaanites were to the children of Israel, Num. xxxiii. 55 . . . (6.) Think not that your repentance can satisfy God, or make any amends for the wrong sin has done him; do not imagine that it is any recompence for the injury sin has done him, or any reparation of that honour which is violated and defaced by sin. Every old corrupt heart is so far legal as it would have a righteousness, a satisfaction of its own, and not rely upon another for it; so proud is corrupt nature, as it is loth to deny its own, to depend only upon another’s satisfaction. And therefore we are apt to think that our acts of repentance do satisfy God and appease him, and thereupon, after the exercise of them, will speak peace to ourselves, and stop the mouth of an accusing conscience with such performances, resting on them as though thereby we had satisfied the Lord. But we must consider that no satisfaction is sufficient to make amends for sin but that which is of infinite value, since the injury sin has done is infinite, having disobeyed, displeased, dishonoured, an infinite majesty. And such a satisfaction no finite creature can make, not the most perfect saint, not the most glorious angels; much less can such vile, weak, sinful creatures as we, by such imperfect acts of repentance. (7.) Ye must depend upon Christ for strength, ability to repent; all evangelical works are done in his strength. Repentance is an act above the power of nature, and therefore we cannot practise it without power from above. Ye must depend on, seek to Christ for this power. . . . Christ must both give us soft hearts, hearts that can repent, and must teach them by his Spirit before they will repent. Except he smite those rocks, they will yield no water, no tears for sin; except he break these hearts, they will not bleed. Repentance is his gift, his work, Acts xi. 18, 2 Tim. ii. 25. . . . Go into your closet, and pour out your requests: Lord, thou commandest me to repent, and I see the necessity; but I have a hard heart, opposite; and Satan and the world, &c. (8.) Ye must expect the acceptance of your repentance from Christ. No evangelical service whatsoever, or by whomsoever performed, can be well pleasing to God, either in itself or as it comes from us, but only in Christ. Not as it comes from us, for our persons must be accepted before our services can be capable thereof. But how can sinful persons please a holy God? We must either be righteous in ourselves or in another, or else the righteous God will loathe, must punish us. No flesh can be justified in his sight, Ps. cxliii. 2, till Christ cover its deformities, and clothe it with a robe of his righteousness; nor in themselves, for so the best are sinful, in regard of many defects, &c., not fit to be looked upon by him who is ‘of purer eyes,’ &c., Heb. iv. 13; only acceptable through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter ii. 5, Eph. i. 6. . . . (9.) Think not your repentance obliges God to the performance of any promise, as though he were thereby bound, and could not justly refuse to bestow what he has promised to the penitent; for he is not obliged to fulfil it till the condition be perfectly performed. Imperfect repentance is not the condition; God requires nothing imperfect. . . . Perfect performances are still required. The gospel remitteth no part, no tittle of the substance of the law, which commands perfect obedience in duties, whether expressly or implicitly, and by consequence contained in it, as repentance is. . . . Now our repentance is defective, both in quantity and quality, measure and manner, neither so great nor so good as is required. Our sorrow not so hearty, constant, ingenuous, &c., and so does not engage. Why then does God perform? How is he obliged? Why, it is Christ that has obliged him; he makes good the condition. When we cannot bring so much as is required, he makes up the sum; he adds grains to that which wants weight. He has satisfied for our defects, and they are for his sake pardoned, and therefore are accepted, as though they were not defective . . . Christ’s undertaking makes good the condition, and so the promise is obliging. Hence, 2 Cor. i. 20, he is so obliged by Christ’s undertaking as, except he will be changeable or unfaithful, he must accomplish. Hence he is called the Mediator, Heb. ix. 15, and surety, chap. vii. 22. . . . Christ has procured pardon for all defects. And in this sense our repentance is as it were perfect, because the defect thereof shall not be imputed. Hence it obliges the Lord, not by virtue of our performance, but of Christ’s satisfaction. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:19–23.

Sorrow for Sin

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 David Clarkson lists three characteristics of genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin to Christ. On sorrow for sin, he writes, He never truly repented, who has not been more grieved for his sins than for his sufferings, Luke xiv. 26 . . . he that loves not these less than me, &c. Now sorrow is a sign of love, proportionable to it. He that mourns more for the loss of these than losing, dishonouring Christ, loves these more than Christ. And such are unworthy of Christ, are in a state incapable of any benefit by Christ, an impenitent state. Thus no true repentance, where is not more sorrow for sin, than for any affliction has befallen, or you can imagine may befall. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:34. Are you more grieved over your offenses against God than over the consequences to yourself? Am I? This is a measure of the genuineness of our repentance.

Imperfect Hate

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 David Clarkson lists three characteristics of genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin to Christ. Concerning hatred of sin, we may observe that we don’t hate it enough, that, in fact, we still find some attraction to it. We may, then, worry that our repentance is not adequate. Clarkson writes, All hatred of sin is here imperfect. No perfection in this life, but sense of imperfection. Both graces, and gracious affections, want many degrees of perfection. Grace is but of a child s stature, it has perfection of parts, but not of degrees. A child has all the parts of a perfect man, but wants many degrees of man s perfection. And as with grace, so with this affection; it is not perfect, either rations objecti; sin is not hated as it should be according to its hatefulness; nor ratione facultatis, so much as it is possible for the heart to hate it; not raised to such high degrees of hatred, as it may be will be. . . . He that truly hates sin, though but imperfectly, cannot be properly said to love it. He that hates all sin, and hates it above all that the world counts hateful, and abhors himself that he can hate it no more, and mourns for the imperfection of his hatred, and strives in the use of appointed means to perfect it, does truly hate it. In the same subject there cannot be contrary affections to the same object. We count it impossible to love and hate the same thing or person. . . . He that hates does not love, &c. It is as impossible, as for the same thing to be both black and white; the same water to be at once both hot and cold. It may be neither, but it cannot be both; if one, not the other. So here, and though hatred be but in us in a remiss degree, imperfectly, and it may be supposed the imperfection arises from the mixture of the contrary affection, yet that which is predominant gives the denomination. He that hates sin more than he loves it, may be said simply absolutely to hate it. We say not water is cold if it be hot above lukewarmness, though it be not hot in the utmost extremity. We say not that he loves sin who hates it truly, though not perfectly. If he be overpowered to act it, surprised with some pleasure in it, this argues not love. For he abhors himself acting, mourns bitterly for delight in it, as Paul, Rom. vii. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:38–39. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. —Romans 7:15ff

Repentance and Original Sin

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Must we repent of original sin? This is a difficult question for many, but the consensus of orthodox theologians has always been affirmative. The following is one of the best arguments to that effect that I have read. We are bound to rejoice in imputed righteousness, and therefore to mourn for imputed sin. Adam’s sin is ours, the same way as Christ’s righteousness, viz., by imputation, Rom. v. 19 . . . If we must rejoice in Christ’s righteousness, we should bewail Adam’s sin. And indeed great cause of joy in that it is the marrow, the quintessence of the gospel ; the most gladsome part of . . . those glad tidings which are published in the gospel; the sweetest strain of that message, which, the angel says, was good tidings of great joy to all people, Luke ii. 10. Imputed righteousness is that blessed design which the Father from eternity contrived, which Christ published and performed, into which the angels desire to pry, that lost man, who could not be saved without righteousness, who had no righteousness of his own to save him, should have a righteousness provided for him, whereby he is freed from wrath, and entitled to heaven. Sure this is, this will be, an occasion of eternal joy ; and if so, imputed sin is a just ground of sorrow. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:40. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. —1 Corinthians 15:21–22

Reformation without Repentance

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Repentance is more than simply turning from sin. David Clarkson lists several examples of moral reformation that do not constitute genuine repentance. Here are three of them. In appearance only: He that leaves sin only outwardly, excludes it out of his conversation, not out of his heart. Repentance is a turning with all the heart, Joel ii. 12; it is not only a turning from all sin, but a turning of all the man, the whole man, inward and outward, from all sin. He that abstains from all sin outwardly and visibly may pass for a penitent with men, but it is not so in God’s account, unless sin be turned out of the heart as well as out of the life. Man judgeth according to outward appearance, but the Lord judgeth of repentance by the heart. There is no true repentance where the life is not reformed; but there may be an unblameable conversation, a life outwardly reformed, where there is no true repent ance. Paul professes that he had lived in all good conscience, &c., until that day, Acts xxiii. 1; and therefore, since he lived so all his life till that day, he lived so before he repented, unblameably, in good conscience outwardly before God, in the account of others, and in his own account; he lived so before he had truly repented, as neither others nor his own conscience could accuse him for outward sinful acts, Philip.  iii. Therefore abstinence from sin outwardly is not sufficient. If sin be regarded in the heart, there is no true repentance though the life be freed from it. Men judge of the heart by the life, but God judges of the life by the heart. He hears every prayer of a penitent soul, Isa. lvii. 15; yet David says, Ps. lxvi. 18, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ Whatever his life was, God would not respect, regard him as a penitent, if he did regard it in his heart. If ye do not break out into gross acts of sin, yet if your hearts entertain them, if you act uncleanness, revenge, covetousness in your thoughts, you are in a state of impenitency. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:43. Out of selfish motives: He that leaves sin only out of sinister respects, by-ends, because it would deprive him of some advantage, or expose him to some loss, if committed, of friends, credit, profit, in respect of God or men; gives not himself to intemperance, because it is expensive; to uncleanness, because it is a sin shameful in the account of the world; avoids oppression, revenge, because civil laws lay penalties; wholly omits not ordinances, lest he should be accounted an atheist; he that leaves sin only thus does not repent; for true repentance is ‘repentance toward God,’ Acts xx. 21. It makes a man forsake sin out of respect to God, because it offends, dishonours him, as Joseph, Gen. xxxix. 9; but this is to abstain from sin out of respect to himself. —Ibid., 44. Turning from without turning to: He that so turns from sin as he does not turn to God. This motion cannot be perfect without its [end point]. If it be not essential to, it is inseparable from repentance, Isa. lv. 7. So forsake sin, as embrace Christ; so hate sin, as love holiness; so grieve for it as delight in God’s ways; steer the conversation to a quite contrary point. Not only cease to do evil, but learn to do good, Isa. i. 16, 17. It is not sufficient not to profane God’s name; he that repents will glorify it; not only not omit holy duties, but perform them in a holy manner; not only not pollute the Sabbath, but sanctify it; not only not dishonour profession, but adorn it; not only abstain from sin, but exercise grace. There are fruits of repentance which John requires, Mat. iii. 8, and Luke iii. 8. That repentance which brings not forth fruit is not sound, no plant of God’s planting; the doom of it you may see, ver. 9. Would you think it a sufficient evidence of a good vine, that it brings forth no wild grapes ? No; if it be an empty vine, though it have no bad, if it bring not forth good grapes, it is good for nothing. Negative righteousness will never evidence true repentance. It is not enoughJto say with the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11, ‘I am not as other men,’ &c. The apostle joins these, repent, turn to God, do works, &c., Acts xxvi. 20. Those that would approve themselves clear in this matter, who would give clear evidences to the world and their own consciences that their repentance is to salvation, and that they sorrow after a godly sort, must produce all the effects of repentance which he inquires after, 2 Cor. vii. 11; not only indignation against sin, clearing themselves from vice, but carefulness to express the contrary virtues; not only fear of offending God, but vehement desire to please and honour him; not only revenge for dishonouring God by wicked courses, but zeal for his glory in all the ways of holiness. A fruitless repentance is rejected. —Ibid., 45–46.

Lord’s Day 10, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” He will sing to men and say, “I have sinned and perverted what is right, And it is not proper for me. “He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, And my life shall see the light.” —Job 33:27–28 XXVIII. The penitent brought back from the pit. Job xxxiii. 27, 28. The Lord from his exalted throne, In majesty array’d, Looks with a melting pity down On all, that seek his aid. When, touch’d with penitent remorse, Our follies past we mourn, With what a tenderness of love He meets our first return! From heav’n he sent his only son To ransom us with blood, To snatch us from the burning pit, When on it’s brink we stood. From death and hell he leads us up By a delightful Way; And the bright beams of endless life Does round our path display. Great God, we wonder, and adore; And, to exalt such grace, We long to learn the songs of heav’n E’er yet we reach the place. —Philip Doddridge, Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Holy Scriptures (Salop, 1755). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Going to Confession

Confession is not a frivolous matter to be engaged in only at appointed times and dates throughout the year. Confession should be a daily activity for the Christian, whose entire pilgrimage is characterized by the spirit of repentance. The principal reason why confession must be on a daily basis is because our sins against divine law are committed on a daily basis. We do things we ought not to do and leave undone those things God commands us to do. We run up a daily indebtedness before God. Consequently, our daily prayers must include genuine acts of confession. It is no accident that the Roman Catholic Church elevated the rite of penance to the level of a sacrament. Because the sacrament of penance was at the eye of the tornado of the Protestant Reformation, a backlash of negativism toward penitence set in among Protestants. It was a classic case of overreaction . . . The Reformers sought not the elimination of repentance and confession, but the reformation of the church’s practice of these things. . . . In the controversy over penance, the Protestant Reformers did not repudiate the importance of confession, and they acknowledged that confessing one’s sins to another human being is biblical. However, they did challenge the requirement of confession to a priest. . . . The apostle John tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV). Here we find the promise of God to forgive our confessed sins. To ignore or to neglect this promise is to steer a perilous course. God commands us to confess our sins and promises to forgive our sins. That we should confess our sins daily is clear. —R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things? (Tyndale, 2009), 52–53, 54–55.

A Contrite Heart

True repentance reflects contrition, a godly remorse for offending God. Here the sinner mourns his sin, not for the loss of reward or for the threat of judgment, but because he has done injury to the honor of God. . . . Contrition has lost much of its meaning in our culture. It is not difficult to convince people that they are sinners, for not one in a thousand is going to say that he is perfect. The common response is: “Sure, I’m a sinner. Isn’t everyone? Nobody’s perfect.” There are few, if any, who claim they are blameless, that they have lived lives of ethical consistency, keeping the Golden Rule in every situation. The rub is in acknowledging the intensity of our sin, the extreme godlessness of our actions. Because we are all sinners and know that we share a common guilt, our confession tends to be superficial, often not characterized by earnestness or a sense of moral urgency. Psalm 51, a contrite sinner’s prayer for pardon, was composed by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. David did not approach God with excuses. He did not ask God to consider the circumstances that produced his sin or the loneliness of his government position. David did not seek to minimize the gravity of his sin in God’s presence. There were no rationalizations and no attempts at self-justification, which are so characteristic of guilty people. David said, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me . . . you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (vv. 3–4). In other words, David believed that God was absolutely justified if He gave him nothing but absolute punishment. David exhibited what God has said He will not despise: a broken and contrite heart. David then pleaded for restoration to God’s favor: “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” (vv. 10–12). He understood the most crucial element of confession: total dependence on God’s mercy. David could not atone for his sins. There was nothing he could do and nothing he could say to undo what he had done. There was no way for him to “make it up to God.” David understood what Jesus later made clear—that we are debtors who cannot pay our debts. Confession is like a declaration of bankruptcy. God requires perfection. The slightest sin blemishes a perfect record. All the “good deeds” in the world cannot erase the blemish and move us from imperfection to perfection. Once the sin has been committed, we are morally bankrupt. Our only hope is to have that sin forgiven and covered through the atonement of the One who is altogether perfect. When we sin, our only option is repentance. Without repentance there is no forgiveness. We must come before God in contrition. David put it this way: “You will not delight in sacrifice . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:16–17). Here, David’s profound thoughts reveal his understanding of what many Old Testament figures failed to grasp—that the offering of sacrifices in the temple did not gain merit for the sinner. Sacrifices pointed beyond themselves to the perfect Sacrifice. The perfect atonement was offered by the perfect Lamb without blemish. The blood of bulls and goats does not take away sin. The blood of Jesus does. To avail ourselves of the atonement of Christ, to gain that covering, requires that we come before God in brokenness and contrition. The true sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. —R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things? (Tyndale, 2009), 55, 56–59.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: God, Be Merciful to Me

God, Be Merciful to Me Redhead Psalm 51 God, be merciful to me, on Thy grace I rest my plea; plenteous in compassion Thou, blot out my transgressions now; wash me, make me pure within, cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin. My transgressions I confess, grief and guilt my soul oppress; I have sinned against Thy grace and provoked thee to Thy face; I confess Thy judgment just, speechless, I Thy mercy trust. I am evil, born in sin; Thou desirest truth within. Thou alone my Savior art, teach Thy wisdom to my heart; make me pure, Thy grace bestow, wash me whiter than the snow. Broken, humbled to the dust by Thy wrath and judgment just, let my contrite heart rejoice and in gladness hear Thy voice; from my sins O hide Thy face, blot them out in boundless grace. Gracious God, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true; cast me not away from Thee, let Thy Spirit dwell in me; Thy salvation’s joy impart, steadfast make my willing heart. Sinners then shall learn from me and return, O God, to Thee; Savior, all my guilt remove, and my tongue shall sing Thy love; touch my silent lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall praise accord. Not the formal sacrifice hath acceptance in Thy eyes; broken hearts are in Thy sight more than sacrificial rite; contrite spirit, pleasing cries, Thou, O God, wilt not despise. Prosper Zion in Thy grace and her broken walls replace; then our righteous sacrifice shall delight Thy holy eyes; free-will offerings, gladly made, on Thy altar shall be laid. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.


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