Repentance—a strong word. Even many Bible believing pastors hesitate to use the word, thinking it will come across as abrasive and will make people immediately uncomfortable. In a day where people are striving with all energy to gain wide acceptance by the public or avoid condemnation, the word and idea of repentance is far from people’s lips and minds. Recently, someone told me to stop talking about repentance. She told me the thought of repentance gives her spiritual post-traumatic stress disorder.
But repentance is essential to the Christian life. The gospel begins with a strong message of repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt. 4:17).” That is why
Satan, the enemy of God and all of God’s people, wants you to believe his lie: “Confessing your sin brings shame upon you and you must hide it at all costs.” We’re also reluctant to confess and to repent because we understand that sin is a reproach to us, since we bear the image of God. Yet, the only way to true repentance is confession. Confession is honesty before God and people. Confession of sin is the beginning of repentance, and the beginning of confession is learning to hate sin.
Learn to Hate Sin
The post-Christian culture is laboring hard to rewrite word definitions but also biblical doctrine. That which God declares evil they say is good and that which God declares good they say is evil. Clearly, sin is alluring to fallen people, so alluring that they will prize it as good and reject that which is truly good.
There is no need to share why sin is so alluring. Thus, it is important to learn why sin is so evil and why we must hate it. You might think it is enough merely to repeat what Scripture declares regarding certain actions and thoughts as sinful. Yet, both the culture and large sections of the church echo Satan’s question to challenge God’s truths: “Did God really say?” The default approach is often: “What is wrong with my actions if it is done in love?“ Consequently, one who does not meditate upon God’s law and its reasons for identifying certain things as sin may come up with nothing to say to such common questions and go down the path of self-destruction, alienating themselves further from a holy God.
Let me provide an example of the reasons behind the evilness of a particular sin: the unlawful taking of a life. Why is that evil? Life is cheap in our culture—murders are rampant and so called “mercy deaths” are growing in acceptance. Christians protest the abortion of babies in the womb, but why? What makes it really evil? Yes, God says, “You shall not murder,” but what is the logic of this command? After the flood of Noah’s day, God restarted the human race. It had became very wicked and full of violence, so much so that after the flood, He instituted the death penalty for murder, instructing us as to why murder is such a great evil. Murder is not simply a matter of hurting someone or taking their life, as wicked that is. The core of the evil is described in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
When we unjustly kill another human being, we are destroying the image of God. We are attacking that image. Murder is ultimately directed at God, the God who created human beings and sovereignly rules over us by His Son, Jesus. Killing babies is a great evil because it is ultimately a war against God waged through an attack on His image bearers. Murder strikes against the very person of God. In the final analysis, however, this is true of all sin, for all sin is against the character and person of God.
Hating Sin and Its Consequences
Hating sin for what it does to you is not the primary reason to hate sin. Everyone hates drunkenness when they experience the hangover. To hate drunkenness because of what it does to you is not hating sin; it is hating the unpleasant consequence of that sin. The reason to hate drunkenness is because God hates it. All people are called to have a sober mind (1 Peter 1:13), therefore we are to avoid drunkenness. We cannot do this without understanding that sin is our enemy and is an offense against our righteous and holy God. The conviction that sin is our deadly enemy because it is contrary to the holiness of God enables us to learn to hate sin, more and more. Thanks be to God, as new creatures in Christ we can love what God loves and hate what He hates for the same reasons that God loves and hates those things. We can more and more hold His honor high and desire to glorify Him in all we think, all we say and all we do (Ps. 97:10).
Love God’s Word
As we learn to hate sin, we must also grow to love God’s Word, filling our mind with His sanctifying truth as we read it, keeping His commandments and growing even more in knowledge (Ps. 119:97–100). This is a means of great spiritual growth and maturity.
The world looks negatively upon Christians and is quick to point out all forms of hypocrisy. If the world expects Christians to have confessed and repented from their sins, how much more does our God? Repentance is the expression of our faith in a meaningful way. If we do not hate sin enough or not at all, let us pray to God for that gift of hatred and, if needed, saving faith, for our good and for God’s glory.