“Satan . . . sometimes offers to teach us humility, but though I wish to be humble, I desire not to learn in his school. His premises [about our sinfulness] are perhaps true . . . but he draws abominable conclusions from them, and would teach us, that therefore we ought to question either the power, or the willingness, or the faithfulness of Christ.”- John Newton (1725-1807)
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”- Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)
As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 9 of Forgive, he talks about self-flagellation, the third and last counterfeit of repentance.
3. The Counterfeits of Repentance: Self-Flagellation. Filled with loud and intense self-loathing, cries, and tears, this false repentance is excessive. In fact, Pastor Keller astutely notes, listeners feel compelled to offer comfort. To tell that person he/she isn’t really that bad or guilty.
Thus, Pastor Keller stresses, here’s the very point of such self-flagellation. This false repentance tries to pressure others, even God, not to accuse but to excuse and pardon. Hence, using self-hating contrition to atone for one’s sin serves to reject God as much as a proud denial of wrongdoing. So, these opposites both function as forms of self-righteousness. As John Newton once explained:
“Indeed, though our [self-recriminations] are good so far as they show dislike of sin, yet when we come to examine them closely, there is often so much self-will, self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience mingled with them, that they are little better than the worst evils we complain of.”
Finally, Pastor Keller shifts his focus to two things to look for with true repentance that connect us to God. First, we must confess – a word Proverbs 28:13 helpfully contrasts with conceal. To confess means to take full responsibility. Also, the Hebrew word translated as ‘confess’ (ydh), always carries the sense of praising and thanking God.
However, one must do more than confess or admit a sin. One must also forsake that sin.
Today’s question: Have you ever fallen prey to Satan’s offer to teach us humility? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “The mercy God offers – personal”