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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11b
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #5
Tonight, we continue our study of Thomas Brooks great work, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. Brooks was a Puritan pastor who wrote this book to help us see through the clever workings of the devil.
So far, we've looked at four of Satan's devices: concealment, false advertising, making sin seem small, and abusing the Bible. Now we take up a fifth: Satan will make you believe repentance is an easy thing. He reasons like this: "Why struggle with temptation? Give in to it now, repent later, and you can have both the pleasure of sin and the joy of forgiveness". It sounds like a pretty good deal--if repentance is a quick, easy, and painless thing. But is it?
It is not. Thomas Brooks offers several remedies for this diseased thinking.
The first is
"Consider that repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power".
Satan argues "Repentance is an easy work". We shouldn't counter by saying, "No it's a hard work", for, in fact, repentance is an impossible work for us apart from God's grace in Jesus Christ.
If repentance is such an easy work, why does our Lord say, "Without Me, you can do nothing?" (John 15:5) It must be because repentance is not so easy. In fact, it's no easier to repent than it is for a branch to grow grapes, cut off from the vine!
If repentance is such an easy thing, why does Jeremiah 13:23 compare it to the change of one's race or species? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? [If so], you may also do good who are accustomed to do evil".
If repentance is so easy why is a "new birth" required to achieve it? Or a "rising from the dead"? Or a "new creation?" These figures of speech are used in the Bible to describe the Divine power spent in bringing one to repentance. Is it easy to create a world or raise a dead man to life? It's no easier to repent of sin.
Remind Satan of these things when he tells you how easy it is to repent. Easy? Oh yes! So easy that no man can do it; so easy only God can achieve it!
The second remedy is
"Consider the nature of true repentance".
"Repentance is some other thing than vain men suppose" writes the Puritan. They think "repentance" is nothing but words--a formal confession. Thomas Brooks calls them "ignorant deluded souls who vainly [believe] these five words, `Lord! have mercy on me!' will [send] them to heaven".
He goes on to explain what true repentance is. It is "a changing of the whole man from sin to God". It is, therefore, much more than breaking a bad habit or getting into a good one.
The Puritan adds: Repentance includes turning from the most darling sin...a sorrow for sin and contrition of heart...a loathing of sin; it makes a man ashamed of his sin also".
Did you notice the words he uses over and over again? They are "his sins"--not "getting caught". The proudest sinner is ashamed of "getting caught". Repentance places the sorrow in sin itself--not just in its expose.
Let me add: It is not another person's sins you need to repent of, but your own. Do I hate and despise some sins? I sure do! The thought of being homosexual, for example, has never crossed my mind! To ogle a man makes me sick! It is easy for me to abhor that sin. And to strike a pose of holiness. But what about the sins that appeal to me? These are the sins I'm called to repent of.
This is why repentance is no easy thing--as Satan suggests--because it is a turning away from the bad things I like, the things that make me feel good!
The third remedy proposed by Brooks is
"If repentance were such an easy work, then so many millions would not go to hell for not repenting".
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we find the former in hell because he didn't repent. And his brother heading there, because they, too, were impenitent. Now, were these stupid men? Had repentance been as easy as "clapping your hands three times" don't you think they would have done it? Even if they didn't believe in it, don't you think they would have--just in case?
I think they would have. For thousands of people are baptized every day with the hope of "washing away original sin". They enter confessionals to gain "absolution". They walk aisles to get assurance. They follow booklets and pray prayers to obtain a cheap ticket to heaven.
Why do people do such things? Tradition, family pressure, and other things are involved, but it seems to me, the most obvious reason is also the truest: These things are easy!
What's not so easy is repentance. It is saying to God "You're right and I'm wrong". And not just saying it, but meaning it! Nothing is harder than humbling oneself before God and man. And that's what repentance is. And that's why some people would rather go to hell than to repent.
How sweet repentance is to the humbled heart; and how bitter to the proud mind. Think about the preachers of repentance and how well received they were. John the Baptist--head on a platter! Stephen--stoned to death. Elijah--hunted down like a rabid dog. Noah--ignored and mocked. Jesus Christ--crucified.
If repentance evokes this kind of opposition, it must be mighty hard indeed.
A fourth remedy is
"He who tells you `repentance is easy' will, before long, work despair in you by telling you `repentance is the hardest work in the world".
This is a bit wordy; I'll try to simplify. Satan doesn't care how he gets you to sin--as long as he does. He often starts with presumption--"Why not sin? Repentance is easy". But then, when you find it's not so easy, he'll go for despair--"I cannot repent, and so I'm lost for sure".
You see how devious Satan is; how insincere. Presuming on the mercies of God often lead to despairing of the very same mercies. The people of Jeremiah's day knew it: "There is no hope, so we will walk according to our own plans, and we will do the imagination of our evil hearts" (18:12).
"Oh that you were wise--pleaded the author--"to break off your sins by timely repentance".
These are remedies Thomas Brooks offers; let me suggest two others.
Remember, repentance does not necessarily reverse the consequences of sin.
If you repent of your sin, God will forgive you. Never doubt that--"There is mercy with [The LORD] that He may be feared". But eternal guilt is not the only consequence of sin. You may be fully pardoned, but still suffer much because of your sin. When David confessed his guilt, "The LORD put away [his] sin". Yet he paid dearly for what he had done. The child born of his illicit affair died; other children rebelled; the "enemies of the LORD blasphemed" because of the king's sin.
If a man drinks heavily for many years, he may get cirrhosis of the liver. If he repents of his sin, God will forgive him. This doesn't mean, however, that his cancer goes away. The LORD may heal him, but He makes no such promise. The drinker will be damned for his sin, but he will lose much as a result of it.
The same is true of parents who neglect their children and then--when the kids are nearly grown--repent of their evil ways. Does God forgive them? Of course He does, but they don't necessarily get their children back.
Chastisement is for our good; if God chastens we should submit to it. But we're never told to seek chastisement, but to live in such a way we don't need too much of it.
So, if Satan tells you: "Repentance is easy", remind him: "But chastisement is not". "No chastening for the present seems to be joyful, but grievous..."
Lastly, let me remind you of
The price God paid for your repentance.
Repentance is a gift of God. But, unlike the rising sun or the falling rain, it cost God dearly to provide it for you. What did it cost? It cost the life of His Only Begotten Son. For "repentance" is offered only through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. God "exalted Him to be a Prince and a Savior, to give Israel repentance and the remission of sins". He exalted Him only after He had first humbled Him, and made Him "Obedient to death, even the death of the cross".
Your repentance, therefore, was "bought with a price". It cost our Lord Jesus His "precious blood". Thus, repentance is no easy thing, but the priciest thing: bought with the life of Jesus Christ.
Remember that the next time Satan tells you how easy repentance may be had.
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