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The world is full of hypocrites, and the solution to this problem is twofold: If you are more modern, you deal with the gap between your obedience and what you pretend to be by trying harder to be good. You try to make your sin go away. If you are postmodern, you deal with the problem not by trying to do better, by getting rid of your sin, but by getting rid of the idea of sin. If there is no right and wrong, no one can rightly accuse you of acting like you are right when you are actually wrong.

The church is likewise full of hypocrites. Because we claim to be citizens of heaven but are suffused with the world, our solutions often look just like the world’s solution. We either, if we tend toward the modern, try harder to sin less and thus shorten the gap between what we pretend to be and what we are. Or, if we tend to be more postmodern, we muddy up God’s law, revel in a soft grace, and accuse our conscience of being a legalist. The Bible’s solution, however, is neither to try to reduce the sin nor to reduce the idea of sin. It is instead to repent. We deal with our hypocrisy, our folly of pretending to be better than we are, by confessing how bad we actually are. We enter more fully into our sin by entering more fully into repentance.

Consider this: How quick are you to repent? If you’re anything like me, you’ve just this moment added several more things to repent of. First, pride. I suspect that you, if you are like me, think yourself a pretty decent repenter. You likely wish that others would learn from your wonderful example and do likewise. Indeed, now that I mention it, you can think of several people that owe you an apology, and aren’t you the one being so gracious about it up until now? Second, lying. I suspect that you, if you are like me, have in thinking all of the above lied to yourself in an egregious way. You are deluded, your delusions springing forth from your deceitful heart like so many dandelions on a spring day. Third, pride again. Here your pride is less about you and more about Jesus. That is, our failure to understand what failures we are is in turn a reflection on the work of Christ. We diminish His work on our behalf when we diminish the scope of our own sin. Fourth, unrepentance. That is, because, like me, you are a bigger sinner than you are willing to face; you have not repented for your sins like you ought. You have repented lightly for dark sins.

What should you do? You could get mad at me for pointing this all out. Or, you could repent. You could ask that God would forgive you for thinking too highly of yourself. You could ask that He would empower you to be swift to see your own sins and swift in turn to confess them both to Him and to those that you have wronged. You could ask that you might have earned the right to have etched on your gravestone: “He was quick to repent.” And you could thank God for His provision of His Son so that we can be forgiven. You could ask Him to gently remind you each time you find yourself unhappy about the sins of your family, your neighbors, your fellow parishioners from your church, your parents, your elders, and others that such would be a prompt to you to assess honestly your own weaknesses. That we are sinners is a problem solved by the coming of Jesus the Savior. That we don’t know we are sinners — that is a problem for the Holy Spirit, who convicts and sanctifies.

The answer to every problem, no matter how complex, is simple — repent and believe the gospel. As frustrating as our own blindness might be, the light has come into the world. As maddening as our weaknesses might be, the Sovereign One has come and dwelt among us. As embarrassing as our pride might be, the one who is poor in Spirit has sent the Spirit to lead us into all truth, including the ugly truth about ourselves.

As we consider our calling to seek first the kingdom of God — as we consider how we might make known the reign of Christ — we are quick to judge the world. The coming months are likely to bring more political unrest. Were I a betting man, I would guess in turn that economic hardship will get worse rather than better. We can expect to see more cultural decline. All of which will be for nothing if we do not learn the first lesson — repent and believe. Before we take over the levers of power, before we dominion our way back to prosperity, before we press the crown rights of King Jesus over the culture, may we remember the crown of thorns and repent. And when we have repented, let us repent again for the anemia of our repentance. Then, let us believe that He is at work in us both to do and to will His good pleasure. And all these things will be added unto us.

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From the October 2009 Issue
Oct 2009 Issue