Life Together: Walking the Path of Repentance

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In Reformed Churches, we make it an important point to address sin directly. The pattern of the Christian life as we deal with sin with an eye to the finished work of Jesus Christ is the pattern of repentance and faith, turning from sin and turning to Christ. The great Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen puts it well in his perennial work Christianity & Liberalism: “The fact of sin is faced squarely once and for all, and is dealt with by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can then proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him.”

I have blogged on a number of sin issues including the matter of pornography. I blogged on porn bots. I blogged on women who are intolerant of pornography. I blogged on the connection between pornography and the Hollywood scandals. These blogs took place among a variety of other posts that have touched on 8th commandment, 6th commandment, and other issues of morality. 

If anyone knows me well, I strive to be candid on the matter of sin. But I also strive to be truthful and straightforward on the matter of forgiveness and renewal. For example, I dealt with the issue of toxic shame here and the exclusive power of a new affection here. There are also a number of people in my life who I speak with openly about my own temptation and sin.

A major aspect of the Christian life is repentance. It can be a terrifying thing for those in conservative communities who fear the scorn and judgement of their churches and families. When it comes down to it, sin is isolating, whether it is the sin of others or ourselves. While we are responsible before God for our own sins, we are placed in a Christian community so that we can walk together on this road of repentance. The Apostle James writes his epistle with a focus on Christian community: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16). This is the community we should seek to cultivate.

Any and all sin must be dealt between a man (or woman) and God. Read the prayers of David as he cries out to God. But there is also corporate confession in worship as a church. Even David lead God’s people in repentance. In my experience we hear the reading of God’s law, we confess our sins, and we hear His words of pardon.

John Owen states: “Let not man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.” There are many ways to stomp on the bellies of our lusts. Openness with one another in confession is just one step to walking over the bellies of our lusts. It helps to get counselling from friends/family/pastors/counsellors to isolate what points of pain are also feeding those lusts. Excercise, hard work, fellowship, are all aids to defeating various lusts. Minimizing technology is helpful. Eating well, and good sleep patterns are excellent. Delighting and thinking about good literature and stories push us in a new direction. Enjoying God’s gifts like food or a pipe gives us a positive view of God’s world. Above all, fervent prayer and study of God’s Word, feed the soul with whatever is pure, lovely noble good.

John Owen writes: “He can make the dry parched ground of my soul to become a pool and my thirsty barren heart as springs of water. Yes he can make this habitation of dragons this heart which is so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations to be a place of bounty and fruitfulness unto Himself.” My aim in blogging on matters of sin, is to encourage my readers to also face sin squarely in the face once and for all. But the goal is not to remain there. The goal is to joyously develop every faculty God has given. Stomping is a faculty and while it is accompanied by tears, it can also be joyous. Stomping on the bellies of our lusts is only the way there. When Christ forgives sin, He also goes to work on us, making us into new people.

The point of addressing sin directly is not to join the shame and guilt spiral. Exactly the opposite. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would use my writing to encourage you to find friends/family/leaders to work through matters of sin with. We need each other. Above all, we need Christ. John Owen again: “Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.” 

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

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