In his extraordinarily useful book A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry includes a large section on repentance, which begins with these words:
Having given glory to God which is his due, we must next take shame to ourselves, which is our due, and humble ourselves before him in the sense of our sinfulness and vileness…
With many examples, he demonstrates effective prayers of repentance. To the modern reader, what may stand out the most is the acknowledgement of sin’s evil. It’s one thing to admit we’re sinners and name our sins before God. It’s equally important to stare at those sins long enough to own and feel our shame as well as our guilt. (Henry says we are to “aggravate” or poke at them until we see them for what they really are.)
Toward that end, here are two aspects of the evil-ness of our sin which God has recently shown me very clearly. To those who need motivation to read a morose article like this, let’s remember that “…her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) In other words, deeper repentance is the shortest and most sure path to greater love for Jesus.
Every sin is a rejection of God’s goodness.
Imagine a world-renowned architect designed and built, free of charge, a new house for you. And you chose instead to live under a bridge instead.
Imagine a friend prepared a beautiful feast, inviting you to her home where you promptly rejected her food and began to much on a moldy piece of bread you brought with you.
So it is with every single sin. God’s law, summarized in the ten commandments, is an outflow of God’s goodness to all those made in his image. Both as Creator and Father, he has carefully and clearly communicated an outline of the most full and blessed life we could possibly live. His law is, quite simply, your best life now. Writing that law for us (by his own hand!) was an extraordinary gift, perhaps surpassed only by the gift of himself through Christ.
Consider how our longest Psalm (119) is thoroughly dedicated to thanking God for the gift of his law. Or the words of Psalm 19, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart…the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”
And yet we sin. In order to sin, we need to convince ourselves, each time, that our plan is better. That God’s plan is unkind and restrictive. Blinded by sin’s deceitfulness, we choose famine rather than feasting, brokenness over wholeness, death instead of life, wretched independence over
Let us repent. Let’s repent of how often we pray for God’s “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven” yet willfully reject his perfect will. Let’s repent of how we have spurned the very goodness of God to us by choosing our way, which is always full of selfishness
Every sin is a misuse and mutation of God’s gifts.
Sin is a parasite, never able to exist except by glomming onto something healthy and turning it sour. No sin has ever existed ex nihilo. Each and every sin begins with something good, wonderful, beautiful, heavenly and God-given. Every sin begins with a gift and abuses that gift, twisting it into something ugly.
Every sin of deceit takes God’s good gifts of language and truth, then twists them into self-service and ugly lies.
Every sin of lust takes God’s good gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, begins to worship the gift rather than the Giver and ends up twisting the one and abandoning the other.
Every sin of violence takes God’s good gifts of strength and passion and protective instincts, bends them until they hurt others instead of helping.
Every sin of coveting sees God’s good gifts to others, but instead of rejoicing turns to resentment.
Every sin of pride takes God’s good gift of our ability and tendency to worship but replaces God with self as the object of worship.
The point is simple: the evil of sin lies not only in transgressing a standard but in receiving something good from God yet using it in rebellion against him.
Let us repent. Let’s repent of receiving God’s abundant and good gifts without living in constant gratitude. Let’s repent of using those gifts for our selfish and prideful desires rather than his glory. Let’s repent of worshiping the gift rather than the Giver.
Let us remember that Jesus came that we may have life and have it to the full. He came that we might be restored to the Father, that we may live out the beautiful plan of God for humanity, that we may finally appreciate God’s gifts without worshiping or twisting them. Let us look to Christ for forgiveness from the evil of our sin and for the strength to live the very best life we can.