Thomas Brooks says Satan wants us to be comfortable in our sins because grace is cheap. Do you think unlimited grace is a license to sin? Think again.
Cleanup is easy as 1, 2, 3!
Consider how much time and money have been spent since 1946 on making cleaning easier.
That was the year after World War II ended. It was also, not coincidentally, the year the first Baby Boomers were born. The enormous spike in postwar births signaled America’s return to domesticity and all the challenges it brought.
American industry transformed from a war machine to a home appliance machine. If the Sherman Tank helped win the Battle of the Bulge, the automatic dishwasher turned the tide against baked-on food crust.
In the 21st century the war for cleanliness has not slowed, only shifted its focus. Vacuum robots sweep up pet hair while you’re at work. Smart washing machines scan loads to distribute optimal detergent amounts and water temperatures. Even your car will tell you – or your service center – when your oil needs changing.
Making messes has always been easy for humans. Cleaning them up is the perpetual challenge. And the easier cleaning becomes the messier we may allow ourselves to get.
Especially if it’s someone else doing the cleaning.
As Thomas Brooks states, Satan wants us to be comfortable in our sins knowing we have a God who freely gives grace. And because the path to grace is so short, why not sin away knowing our return home is such a quick trip?
Suppose you do sin, says Satan, it is no such difficult thing to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me!’ and if you do but this, God will forgive your debt, and pardon your sins, and save your souls.
Think about that: In what other religion is grace, or its equivalent, so accessible? We have no sacrifices to make. Jesus is our sacrifice. We have no penance or religious rituals to follow. Christ’s death removed the dividing wall between us and the altar of God’s grace. We ask forgiveness, we receive, we repent. The Holy Spirit continues with us beginning with the very next step.
The temptation to sin with that giant, wide-open door behind us can be great. But Brooks teaches it is far better to remain within the boundaries of God’s commands than treat so cheaply the grace his Son won for us in his death.
Remedy 1: Grace is God’s gift, not your paycheck
The very first command of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Mark is: Repent. Why? Because “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand (1:15, ESV).
But the Lord does not command anything He does not also give us the ability to do. Appearing before the council of the High Priest, Peter declared
The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader [“Prince” in the KJV] and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:30-32, ESV).
Who is a prince but a representative of the King? Who but a prince has the authority to distribute the King’s gifts to His subjects? And in the case of Christ, He offers the greatest gift ever given.
You may have heard that repentance is merely a changing of mind, that it is as easy as making a decision to think differently about something – in this instance, about sin. Or more accurately, about your actions or thoughts being sinful.
But repentance is by no means easy. As Paul wrote to Timothy, it is an “escape from the snares [devices] of the Devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26, ESV). Repentance is God’s divine rescue plan, His mission of liberation from enslavement to sin and death.
That you have the ability, even the desire, to repent of your sins is evidence of God’s inworking power through the Holy Spirit. It is the fruit of God’s love toward you while “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince [there’s that word again] of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2, ESV).
But then what took place in your heart? God saved you, by grace, through faith. “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8b-9). What is God’s gift? Is it His grace or your faith? In the Greek, the “it” is neuter. It has no gender reference to either word. Therefore we must assume that both His grace and your faith are gifts.
You could not have earned God’s grace. And you did not muster faith by your own power. As a Christian you stand forgiven of sins, the product of God’s unmerited favor. The repentance that caused you to turn from your sins was His gift of a changed mind.
The sooner you see and grasp this truth, the more powerfully you will be able to turn and turn again from your sins, the less likely you will be to turn back to them.
Remedy 2: I don’t think that word means what you think it means
Brooks insists again that repentance is not merely a changing of mind. It is a being turned – not a turning only – away from darkness and toward light, a transformation of both mind and heart.
His exegesis of the Hebrew word for repentance helps us understand the dual nature of how it works. It is being both “wise in the mind” and “thoughtful in action” after the fact. There is both a regaining of knowledge and an order of lifestyle confluent with that awakening.
As a small child I once touched my mother’s hot iron when she wasn’t looking. The consequences were twofold: a stinging pain on the sensitive pad of my index finger, and a realization that touching the iron was foolish.
A few months later I did it again. I can’t explain why, except that my curiosity got the best of me. Would the iron burn me again? Yes, as it turns out, it would! So, had I “repented” of touching the iron? No, because the knowledge I gained in my previous act did not lead to changed actions. (True repentance followed the second burned finger, though.)
In true biblical, godly repentance two God-fueled changes occur: the changed heart of belief; and the changed life, which is an outworking and application of the inner change.
It would do us great good to head the three components Brooks names regarding true repentance: the act, the subject, and the terms. Further, Brooks outlines what happens to the utterly repentant person:
- Denial of sins he once loved.
- Turning from evil to good. It is not enough to simply stop doing wrong, but to engage in what is right.
- Understanding of how evil sin truly is.
- Deep sorrow over sin.
- A self-loathing that is utterly contrary to our modern concept of self-love.
- Shame over sin in the light of forgiveness.
- A “holy revenge” upon sin that stands in contrast to the former rushing toward it.
Once you begin to comprehend the depths of this inward transformation and its outward operation, you see it is no small thing at all to repent.
Remedy 3: Repent, rinse, repeat
Repentance cannot be seen as easy when we realize it never ends.
When does a new house begin to fall into disrepair? The day you move into it. Time, gravity, sunlight, rain, wind, and especially the presence of people wears a house down a little at a time.
In the 13 years we lived in our last home, we replaced the air conditioner, all the kitchen appliances, and the water heater. We replaced the roof and half the siding after a hail storm, and the flooring after a flood. Then there was the constant upkeep of vacuuming, dusting, cleaning counter tops and bathroom fixtures. It took constant, hard work to keep the yards from reverting to weeds. It never ends.
Neither does repentance from sin. What did the Lord Jesus teach us to pray? “Give us this day our daily bread.” And then? “Forgive us our trespasses.” We must return to God’s stores of grace daily as surely as we must take our bread daily.
Remedy 4: Why don’t more people do it?
If repentance were so easy, why have so many churches abandoned teaching it? Wouldn’t it increase spiritual growth and happiness among their people?
Why isn’t repentance a more regular part of our gatherings? We come together to fellowship, share a meal, pray, tell our stories. Why not repent together?
Why do we so easily forget repentance in our daily prayers, if it requires so little effort?
It is exactly because repentance of sins is so difficult for us that it is one of the most neglected practices in Christianity. It’s also why we eagerly shorten the list of sins from which we believe we must repent.
Remedy 5: Grace is a weapon
“Don’t touch that cake until dessert.”
“Try to not lose your temper again today.”
“Stop being jealous of your friend and be thankful for what you have.”
How long will you last until you cave into your pet sins again? As hard as it is to resist your greatest weakness – whether it be food, a relationship, or a destructive emotion – that’s how hard it will be for you to repent if you succumb to it.
The problem is we tend to focus on our sins rather than on Christ who gives us power to defeat them. We look to our efforts and “will power,” instead of the Lord Jesus, who is our Head, who has provided victory over sin for us.
When it’s time to go to war against sin, the law is the wrong weapon for winning. “Don’t look, don’t taste, don’t touch!” Commandments have no power to rescue us from ourselves. Christ who upheld the law in our place is the true Victor.
Do you really want to avoid having to repent of a sin later on? Cling to Christ now. Remember his sacrifice. Dwell on his goodness. Marvel at his sinlessness. Rest in his salvation. Depend on his grace.
Remedy 6: The bait and switch
Satan will tell you repentance is easy before you sin. And then he’ll tell you it’s impossible afterward.
As we’ve seen so far in our study of Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, the devil has many tactics. But you can file all of them under two categories: temptation and accusation. Satan tempts us to sin. After we fall he accuses us of being sinners.
So it is with repentance. The devil will dangle an easy return to God’s grace in exchange for submitting to our most cherished weaknesses. And then he will condemn us for taking forgiveness so lightly. The real evil in this plan is that it contains a measure of truth. God does stand willingly ready to forgive us. But that forgiveness cost him dearly.