- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Spiritual Attacks: Drawing You to Sin #6
The remedy for the grief of Spiritual Attack is repentance: 1) Repentance is a difficult work above our power, 2) Repentance transforms the whole person from sin to God, 3) Repentance is a continued act, 4) If repentance were easy, millions would not now be in Hell, 5) To repent of sin is as great a mark of sin as not to sin, and 6) Satan says that repentance is easy, but will soon show how hard it is.
Book Review: When I first learned about Thomas Brooks, the Puritan preacher, I was overwhelmed by his spiritual maturity and the authority of his insights. However, I also realized that because it was written in an old style of English, most of the message would be lost on a post-modern audience …the very people who need to hear his words the most! Therefore, I decided to undertake a massive book review project, reviewing each chapter individually and “translating” the key ideas into a format suitable for a popular audience. All these techniques of Spiritual Warfare are adapted from Thomas Brook’s book “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” first published in 1652, now available through Puritan Paperbacks (see the Paid Link Below).
Device #6: Persuading the Soul that Repentance is Easy
What happens if a Christian sins? Satan tempts us to believe that all we have to do is return to Christ, confess, and be sorrowful. Just like that, all our sins are forgiven, right? All you’ve got to do is say, “Lord, have mercy on me!” and God will forgive your debt, pardon your sins, and save your soul. By making forgiveness seem so easy, Satan has encouraged people to sin more often. Through this technique, millions have become slaves to sin. But is repentance truly such an easy process? Consider the words of the Psalmist and decide for yourself if true repentance is easy or difficult:
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath, there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long, I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (Psalm 38: 1-8 NIV)
How do we experience this device today?
In 1987, Jim Bakker, a former member of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and co-host of the PTL Club, was discovered to have spent more than $270,000 to silence a former employee who accused him of engaging in a forced sexual encounter with her.
In 2009, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, gave a tearful confession on television. He had told his staff that he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but in fact, he was in Argentina with his mistress.
In 2008, it was discovered that the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards, had fathered a child out-of-wedlock while still married to his wife, who was struggling with cancer. At first, Edward denied the affair, and then he admitted to the affair while denying paternity of the child. He later confessed to being the child’s father. Eventually, he even faced felony charges for misappropriating campaign funds to hide the affair.
Remedy 1: What most people fail to understand is that people are not able to repent by themselves. Repentance is a mighty work that is above all human power to achieve. Repentance requires the same power that raised Christ from the dead, the same power that created the world; only that can break the heart of a sinner and turn it back to Christ. It is as impossible for you to turn stone into flesh, as to turn your own heart to the Lord. It would be easier for you to raise the dead, than to repent. Repentance is a flower that does not grow in nature’s garden. People are not born with repentance in their hearts; it is not within the power of any mortal to repent at their pleasure. Repentance is a gift that comes only from above. Many rest in their repentance, not knowing that it is only a shadow of true repentance. This kind of false repentance damns more souls than sin does.
Remedy 2: Repentance is often taken to mean either godly sorrow or a transformed life. However, true repentance is composed of three elements; the act, the subject, and the terms:
The formal act of repentance is a changing and converting. It is turning from darkness to light.
The subject that is changed and converted is the whole person. It is both the sinner’s heart and life; first the heart, then the life. First the person, then the person’s practices and speech.
The terms of this conversion are the person’s heart and life, from sin to God.
To complete the conversion, a person must turn from every sin, or else you truly do not turn from any of them. This includes your most cherished, secret sins, because every sin strikes at the honor of God, the being of God, the glory of God, the heart of Christ, the joy of the Spirit, and the peace of one’s own conscience. Now, does repentance still seem so easy, as Satan would suggest? True repentance includes sorrow for sin and breaks our hearts with sighs, and sobs, and groans.
Remedy 3: The third remedy for this device is to understand that repentance is a continued act. The word repent implies the continuance of it. True repentance inclines a person’s heart towards God, even unto death. A true penitent must struggle from faith to faith, strength to strength, must never stand still, and must never turn back. Repentance is grace that must be exercised daily. A true penitent must always have something within them to turn from, and a feeling that they can never get close enough to God. The greatest good and only happiness is turning every day away from sin, and turning nearer to God. Does repentance still seem so easy?
Remedy 4: Consider that if repentance were easy, millions of souls would not be in Hell now. Wouldn’t those poor, wretched spirits give anything for the tiniest speck of true repentance now? When the poor sinner’s eyes are finally opened at their judgment, they would be happy to exchange anything in the world for the repentance needed to save them from the torment to come. Wouldn’t the souls in Hell have prevented this greatest misery if repentance was easy? If repentance is so easy, then why do the hearts of wicked people become enraged against those of us who speak of repentance? Why do wicked people try to kill two at once (the faithful laborer for Christ, and their own souls) with their hateful words and actions? It is because they are threatened by the extraordinary difficulty of true repentance, which Satan tells them is easy.
Remedy 5: Remember that to repent of sin is a great a mark of grace, as not to have sinned at all. By our own sins, the powers of the soul are weakened, our odds of getting into heaven reduced, and our fears and doubts increased. However, despite all this, to repent of sin shows a mighty work of grace. The means that try to preserve a soul from sinning are the same supernatural means that work within us toward the repentance of sin. Confidence in God’s mercy and love will heal you, bind up your wounds, revive your dejected Spirit, and cause you to live in His favor once again. Remember that there is as much power in the love of God, and faith in God, to help you repent of sin, as there is to keep you from sin.
Remedy 6: He that tempts you to sin by deceiving you that repentance is easy will soon leave you to wallow in your despair. Satan works forever to break the neck of your soul, and only when it is too late, he will reveal that repentance is the most difficult and hardest work in the world. When you are judged, Satan will help your soul to look up and see God’s anger. Satan will cause you to look inward at your own conscience that accuses and condemns you. Then he will make you look down at Hell’s mouth, waiting to receive you. Is it so easy to turn from some outward sin to which you have become addicted? Do you remember that you have often complained that you wanted to abandon that sin but find, at this hour, that you could not turn from it? And now it is too late. Have you not loved your sins more than your Savior? By denying the labor of true repentance, you have denied mercy, and now the door to mercy is shut against you. Repentance is not easy. It is the hardest work in the world, and it is above our human ability to accomplish it. However, with Christ repentance is possible. If you were wise, you would break away from all sin now while you can and embark on the task of repentance.
Because Thomas Brooks offers so many remedies, and because he lists them so systematically, I built an online spreadsheet for easy referencing. Find all of the Remedies to Satan’s Devices at the Spiritual Warfare Curated Library. Be sure to link to the page as the spreadsheet is constantly being updated!