In these articles, we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Recently, we’ve been looking at the mediation Christ makes for his church and we’ve seen that part of Christ’s mediation is granting repentance. Last time we started examining repentance and learnt that repentance involves sensing the danger of sin. But what else does repentance involve?
The Bible teaches us that sinners repent because they see not only the danger of sin, but the filthiness and odiousness of their sin.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel describes the repentant in these terms: ‘Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel! “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins”’ (Ezekiel 36:31-33).
Isaiah also writes: ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”’ (Isaiah 30:21-22).
Jesus also rebukes a church for not seeing their sinfulness and repenting: ‘You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent’ (Revelation 3:17-19). The church of Laodicea, thought they were rich. But if they could see their sin, they would have understood their awful state.
The apostle Paul also talks about his disgust with his sin: ‘For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?’ (Romans 7:22-24).
So sin is exceedingly sinful. When God opens your eyes to your sin, you see its true colours – it is disgusting and vile. As the Puritans used to say, sin is exceedingly sinful. And if you take such a view of sin, you are compelled to turn in repentance to God.
And thankfully God forgives the repentant. The next verses from the apostle Paul are: ‘Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:25)’. If we come to God in repentance, he delivers us and cleanses us from all our sins (as Ezekiel puts it).
So have you seen the filthiness of your sin? Have you turned away in disgust and repentance to worship God instead?