Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The anatomy of repentance, Part III

It's one of the worst forms of deception there is .... and one of the most dangerous. We've all done it, and suffered the consequences .... or we will suffer them.  I'm talking about self-deception. And even if you're upright and honest in your dealings with other people, even if you're considered a person of integrity, you haven't always been honest with yourself .... or with God.

This is our third post on the subject of repentance, and it may seem strange to begin by talking about self-deception.  But the subject needs to be addressed in this context, if we're to move ahead in our understanding.

In our first post , we discussed the mechanics of repentance, as described in James 4:7-10; in the second post, we saw that genuine repentance involves, not just the things we do, but what we are. This time around, we're going to talk about false repentance: the kind that isn't real, and that doesn't work. Because even with the best of intentions, we human beings have a tendency to blow it, to do it wrong, to screw it up - - - whatever "it" happens to be. And that includes the very important matter of repentance.

Let me make something very, very clear at the outset.  If you're a Christian, who has received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, and you've repented of a certain sin, I have no intention of casting any doubts on your experience.  If you've repented for what you've done and what you are, as discussed in the previous posts, you're in good shape, and I'm not trying to worry you.  Of course, repentance is an ongoing process, but if you're serious about it, I'm not trying to raise doubts in your mind.  God forbid!  Just stay close to the Lord, and don't worry about what preachers and bloggers say!

But the fact remains that there is such a thing as false repentance, and it's an easy trap to fall into.  That's what this post will be about: the right kind of repentance (the kind that God honors), and the wrong kind (the kind that doesn't achieve anything at all).  Just as there are several different types of "sorrow" over the sins we've committed.

The Bible makes this very clear.  For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:10).  When we've done something wrong, or when we realize our own true nature, it produces sorrow; and sorrow, for the Christian, leads to repentance.  But there's "godly" sorrow, the kind that comes from the Holy Spirit, and "the sorrow of the world:" which is, essentially, just unhappiness at getting caught - - - even if we've "caught" ourselves.

Anybody who commits a certain sin, once or over a protracted period of time, will be "sorry" when he or she realizes what they've done, or (even worse) is caught by someone else.  A man can steal from his employer on a small or large scale, whether pocketing money from a cash register, or embezzling millions, and when he finally gets caught, he'll be very, very sorry.  But is that "godly" sorrow?  A woman can gossip and lie about others consistently, until someone finally catches her in her web of deceit: then she'll try to deny her sin, but it won't take long for her to regret it.  But is such regret "godly," or is it simply a matter of "Oh no, they caught me?"  The prisons are full of men and women who understand this reaction - - - and so are our schools and our offices and our homes.  We've all experienced this, if only on a trivial, everyday level.

But let's look at that verse again, because it might seem confusing: For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. What does it mean, "repentance not to be repented of?"  Why would anyone repent of repentance?  At first, it sounds like doubletalk.  But it's not: because the wrong kind of sorrow, leading to the wrong kind of repentance, does need to be repented of.  Look at the little boy with the cookie jar.  His Mother catches him, and what does he say?  "I'm sorry, Mommy!"  Well, of course: he's sorry he got caught!  If Mommy hadn't come around, he'd be smiling and happily licking the cookie crumbs off his fingers.  That's not "sorrow:" that's contentment.  And that's exactly how many people live their lives: content with their sins, so long as nobody catches them.  If the little boy thinks he's "repented," just because Mommy caught him .... he's fooling himself.  And that's why we started by talking about self-deception. He needs to repent of his self-serving, temporary "repentance" when Mommy showed up.

The classic example of "false repentance," the "worldly" kind, is that of Judas Iscariot.  His sin, of course, was considerably more consequential than that of the boy with the cookies, or even the sins committed by you and me.  But let's consider Judas, not as an actor in the greatest events in history, but simply as a sinful man.

We all know the story: Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ to his enemies, the "religious leaders" who were seeking Jesus' death. After receiving his thirty pieces of silver, he identified Jesus to the arresting officers, and then went his way.  (The account is found in Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50 - - - although the entire chapter should be read, for context.) This act has made Judas, arguably, the greatest villain in popular history; how many people name their sons "Judas?"  But the Bible tells us that Judas repented.

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day (Matthew 27:3-8).

Did Judas repent? Was he truly sorry for what he had done?  We can't know his state of mind, but he certainly wasn't happy; his agony caused him to commit suicide.  But his was the wrong kind of sorrow and repentance:  the sorrow of the world, [which] worketh death. Not just metaphorically: real, literal death, in Judas' case.

There's one little word in the account of Judas which is often overlooked, but is very instructive: Then Judas ... repented himselfDid you get that?  Judas wasn't convicted by the Holy Spirit, or even pricked by his own God-given conscience: he worked up all his "sorrow" himself.  It was a completely human operation, and had nothing to do with his relationship with God.  The little boy with the cookie jar was more honest and genuinely sorry.  Judas didn't think he had done anything wrong; he simply talked himself into it, for whatever reason.  And people still do that ... and some even follow his example and kill themselves over it.  Perhaps he couldn't live with the shame, or with the infamy.  So he took the easy way out, humanly speaking.*

Another very important characteristic of Judas' "repentance:" it was entirely self-centered.  This is where the rubber meets the road: this is what you and I need to be aware of, in our own lives.  Judas was concerned with how his sin affected him: his shame, his unpopularity, and the consequences in his life.  He was like the murderer who says, not, "Oh, I've done a terrible, sinful thing," but "Oh, I'm going to jail!"  That's the wrong kind of repentance.

What a contrast with David, after he had committed adultery and murder!  If Judas is the classic example of false repentance and worldly sorrow, David is the  great exemplar of true, Godly repentance.  If you want to see a man who understood and practiced repentance, look at David!

Yes, he committed murder and adultery (2 Samuel 11) - - - but he got away with it, humanly speaking, because he was the King.  Nobody could call his hand, in a disciplinary way, but God sent the prophet Nathan to confront him with his sin (2 Samuel 12).  He hadn't really gotten away with it at all: because God saw, and sent a messenger to rebuke him.  You might remember that next time a preacher or Christian friend says something that steps on your toes!

What was David's reaction? Did he concentrate on his own shame and embarrassment, or the damage that his sins might have done to his reputation?  Did he worry about the earthly consequences of his sins (which were surely coming, as Nathan told him)?  No, he was stricken with godly sorrow, the kind that involves no self-deception at all, and his eyes were turned on God, not himself:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise (Psalm 51:1-15).

That's repentance.  Look at the focus: it's on God, not David himself.  He doesn't even talk about sinning against Uriah and Bathsheba, although he doubtless felt this: in these moments of repentance, he said, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight

(There are elements in David's prayer that a Christian doesn't share, by the grace of God: no Christian has to say, Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. The man or woman who's been born again can't be cast away from God's presence: we are part of Christ, and He is part of us.  And the Holy Spirit will never be taken away from us, although we need to daily ask to be "refilled." The Christian enjoys blessings and privileges that even David could only dream of.)

And there's one little word in David's prayer that Judas would never have understood - - - and that many Christians overlook.  David said, Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.  He didn't say "the joy of my salvation:" because his salvation, like ours, wasn't really "his" at all.  It was all of God: it was the salvation that God had bestowed upon him.  There is, for the Christian, no such thing as "our" salvation: there is only the salvation accomplished by Christ on Calvary, which has been given to us.

Finally, in discussing repentance, we need to know that, when we truly repent of our sin, our sins, and ourselves, there will be questions.  For one thing, the Enemy will always be there to challenge and question us.  When we weep before the Lord, the Enemy will sneer, "You don't really mean that.  This is just emotion.  What a phony you are!"  When you hear that voice, the source is pretty obvious.

But, when we come to God in true repentance, He has the right to question us, too.  He won't sneer or try to make us feel like hypocrites, but He might (sometimes, not always) ask, "Do you really mean this?"

At least, that's what He did with Peter, who probably knew Him at least as well as you and I do!  After Peter denied Christ three times (John 18:17, 24-26), he undoubtedly had a heartbreaking period of repentance.  And when he met Jesus, after the Resurrection, Jesus gently but firmly asked him about it -  - - and He asked him three times! (John 21:15-17)  But, when God asks us, "Child, do you mean this?", He's not trying to trip us up: He's simply helping us be firm in our resolve, so that we can put the past behind us, and move forward with new purpose and power.

Two kinds of sorrow ... two kinds of repentance.  And a God Who is ever willing to forgive and to enable us to follow Him more closely.  What a Saviour!

There is one more question about repentance, however, and it's a legitimate question: "Does God Himself ever repent?"  But that will have to be the subject of another post!

(*I'm aware that, in speaking of Judas, there are supernatural factors involved that extend beyond the sphere of psychology, and that Judas himself was a mysterious and unique creature.  I am simply not concentrating on his uniqueness for the purposes of this post.)

The anatomy of repentance, Part IV 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Palestinians praise Fogel murderers

They never change: despite what Darwin said, wild animals seldom do.  Nearly a year after the atrocious murders of the Udi Fogel family in Samaria, in which a man and wife were butchered, along with three of their children, Palestinians are still celebrating the massacre, and calling the killers "heroes" and "martyrs" (because they have been imprisoned).  Such a thing seems unfathomable to the civilized mind, but, as the following attests, civilization is a concept not to be named when discussing Islam, and its noble Palestinian "soldiers."

For those who don't recall the incident, or have never heard of it, the following brief video describes it in heartbreaking detail.  (Heartbreaking to most people: a young father and mother, as well as two of their sons, ages 11 and 4, were slaughtered, along with their three month old daughter.  But, as we will see, some people are not touched by such sentimental considerations.) This video includes some graphic still images, but they have been pixelated to obscure the most gruesome parts.


The killers, Amjad and Hakim Awad, confessed proudly to the crimes, one of them saying that he'd happily do it again, and were sentenced to life imprisonment.  These murderers did not belong to Hamas, although Hamas praised their actions; you might say they were freelancers.  Whatever else they were, the were the purest fruit of the Muslim "religion."

Neither the victims nor the murderers have been forgotten.  Shortly after the atrocity, a courageous British journalist, Melanie Phillips, spoke out against this horrendous crime, and herself became a target of hatred, and a cowardly response from her own employer, as seen in this post.  And now, the killers are being celebrated as heroes and "legends," not quite a year later, on Palestinian television:


These are the people that Barack Obama and George W. Bush say deserve their own "state."  Ron Paul would say that such matters are none of America's business.  Next time you hear them (or people like them) say such things, remember the face of little Hadas Fogel.  Of all the Fogel family, she was the only one that the followers of "Allah the All-Merciful" actually beheaded.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"A Christian Manifesto"

(The following is an address given by  Dr. Francis Schaeffer (1912 - 1984), one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, at a Presbyterian church in Florida.  While he speaks of abortion, abortion is simply the example he uses for the zeitgeist that has become our current mode of thought. Although he wrote a book by the same name, this is not simply a recap of that work, but is a chillingly prophetic and thought-provoking message that goes to the very heart of what's happening in the world of 2012.  It should be read and considered by everyone who considers himself or herself a thoughtful person.)

Christians, in the last 80 years or so, have only been seeing things as bits and pieces which have gradually begun to trouble them and others, instead of understanding that they are the natural outcome of a change from a Christian world view to a Humanistic one; things such as overpermissiveness, pornography, the problem of the public schools, the breakdown of the family, abortion, infanticide (the killing of newborn babies), increased emphasis upon the euthanasia of the old, and many, many other things.

All of these things and many more are only the results. We may be troubled with the individual thing, but in reality we are missing the whole thing if we do not see each of these things and many more as only symptoms of the deeper problem. And that is the change in our society, a change in our country, a change in the Western world from a Judeo-Christian consensus to a Humanistic one. That is, instead of the final reality that exists being the infinite creator God; instead of that which is the basis of all reality being such a creator God, now largely, all else is seen as only material or energy which has existed forever in some form, shaped into its present complex form only by pure chance.

I want to say to you, those of you who are Christians or even if you are not a Christian and you are troubled about the direction that our society is going in, that we must not concentrate merely on the bits and pieces. But we must understand that all of these dilemmas come on the basis of moving from the Judeo-Christian world view -- that the final reality is an infinite creator God -- over into this other reality which is that the final reality is only energy or material in some mixture or form which has existed forever and which has taken its present shape by pure chance.

The word Humanism should be carefully defined. We should not just use it as a flag, or what  people might call a "buzz" word. We must understand what we are talking about when we use the word Humanism. Humanism means that the man is the measure of all things. Man is the measure of all things. If this other final reality of material or energy shaped by pure chance is the final reality, it gives no meaning to life. It gives no value system. It gives no basis for law, and therefore, in this case, man must be the measure of all things. So, Humanism properly defined, in contrast, let us say, to the humanities or humanitarianism, (which is something entirely different and which Christians should be in favor of) being the measure of all things, comes naturally, mathematically, inevitably, certainly. If indeed the final reality is silent about these values, then man must generate them from himself.

So, Humanism is the absolute certain result, if we choose this other final reality and say that is what it is. You must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God.

But it is not only that man must start from himself in the area of knowledge and learning, but any value system must come arbitrarily from man himself by arbitrary choice. More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary -- merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment.

Now this is the real reason for the breakdown in morals in our country. It's the real reason for the breakdown in values in our country, and it is the reason that our Supreme Court now functions so thoroughly upon the fact of arbitrary law. They have no basis for law that is fixed, therefore, like the young person who decides to live hedonistically upon their own chosen arbitrary values, society is now doing the same thing legally. Certain few people come together and decide what they arbitrarily believe is for the good of society at the given moment, and that becomes law.

The world view that the final reality is only material or energy shaped by pure chance, inevitably, (that's the next word I would bring to you ) mathematically -- with mathematical certainty -- brings forth all these other results which are in our country and in our society which have led to the breakdown in the country -- in society -- and which are its present sorrows. So, if you hold this other world view, you must realize that it is inevitable that we will come to the very sorrows of relativity and all these other things that are so represented in our country at this moment of history.

It should be noticed that this new dominant world view is a view which is exactly opposite from that of the founding fathers of this country. Now, not all the founding fathers were individually, personally, Christians. That certainly is true. But, nevertheless, they founded the country on the base that there is a God who is the Creator (now I come to the next central phrase) who gave the inalienable rights.

We must understand something very thoroughly. If society -- if the state gives the rights, it can take them away -- they're not inalienable. If the states give the rights, they can change them and manipulate them. But this was not the view of the founding fathers of this country. They believed, although not all of them were individual Christians, that there was a Creator and that this Creator gave the inalienable rights -- this upon which our country was founded and which has given us the freedoms which we still have -- even the freedoms which are being used now to destroy the freedoms.

The reason that these freedoms were there is because they believed there was somebody who gave the inalienable rights. But if we have the view that the final reality is material or energy which has existed forever in some form, we must understand that this view never, never, never would have given the rights which we now know and which, unhappily, I say to you (those of you who are Christians) that too often you take all too much for granted. You forget that the freedoms which we have in northern Europe after the Reformation (and the United States is an extension of that, as would be Australia or Canada, New Zealand, etc.) are absolutely unique in the world.

Occasionally, some of you who have gone to universities have been taught that these freedoms are rooted in the Greek city-states. That is not the truth. All you have to do is read Plato's Republic and you understand that the Greek city-states never had any concept of the freedoms that we have. Go back into history. The freedoms which we have (the form / freedom balance of government) are unique in history and they are also unique in the world at this day.

A fairly recent poll of the 150 some countries that now constitute the world shows that only 25 of these countries have any freedoms at all. What we have, and take so poorly for granted, is unique. It was brought forth by a specific world view and that specific world view was the Judeo-Christian world view especially as it was refined in the Reformation, putting the authority indeed at a central point -- not in the Church and the state and the Word of God, but rather the Word of God alone. All the benefits which we know -- I would repeat -- which we have taken so easily and so much for granted, are unique. They have been grounded on the certain world view that there was a Creator there to give inalienable rights. And this other view over here, which has become increasingly dominant, of the material-energy final world view (shaped by pure chance) never would have, could not, has, no basis of values, in order to give such a balance of freedom that we have known so easily and which we unhappily, if we are not careful, take so for granted.

We are now losing those freedoms and we can expect to continue to lose them if this other world view continues to take increased force and power in our county. We can be sure of this. I would say it again -- inevitably, mathematically, all of these things will come forth. There is no possible way to heal the relativistic thinking of our own day, if indeed all there is is a universe out there that is silent about any values. None, whatsoever! It is not possible. It is a loss of values and it is a loss of freedom which we may be sure will continually grow.

A good illustration is in the public schools. This view is taught in our public schools exclusively -- by law. There is no other view that can be taught. I'll mention it a bit later, but by law there is no other view that can be taught. By law, in the public schools, the United States of America in 1982, legally there is only one view of reality that can be taught. I'll mention it a bit later, but there is only one view of reality that can be taught, and that is that the final reality is only material or energy shaped by pure chance.

It is the same with the television programs. Public television gives us many things that many of us like culturally, but is also completely committed to a propaganda position that the last reality is only material / energy shaped by pure chance. Clark's Civilization, Brunowski, The Ascent of Man, Carl Sagan's Cosmos -- they all say it. There is only one final view of reality that's possible and that is that the final reality is material or energy shaped by pure chance.

It is about us on every side, and especially the government and the courts have become the vehicle to force this anti-God view on the total population. It's exactly where we are.

The abortion ruling (Roe v. Wade) is a very clear one. The abortion ruling, of course, is also a natural result of this other world view because with this other world view, human life -- your individual life -- has no intrinsic value. You are a wart upon the face of an absolutely impersonal universe. Your aspirations have no fulfillment in the "what-isness" of what is. Your aspirations damn you. Many of the young people who come to us understand this very well because their aspirations as Humanists have no fulfillment, if indeed the final reality is only material or energy shaped by pure chance.

The universe cannot fulfill anything that you say when you say, "It is beautiful"; "I love"; "It is right"; "It is wrong." These words are meaningless words against the backdrop of this other world view. So what we find is that the abortion case should not have been a surprise because it boiled up out of, quite naturally, (I would use the word again) mathematically, this other world view. In this case, human life has no distinct value whatsoever, and we find this Supreme Court in one ruling overthrew the abortion laws of all 50 states, and they made this form of killing human life (because that's what it is) the law. The law declared that this form of killing human life was to be accepted, and for many people, because they had no set ethic, when the Supreme Court said that it was legal, in the intervening years, it has become ethical.

The courts of this country have forced this view and its results on the total population. What we find is that as the courts have done this, without any longer that which the founding fathers comprehended of law (A man like Blackstone, with his Commentaries, understood, and the other lawgivers in this country in the beginning): That there is a law of God which gives foundation. It becomes quite natural then, that they would also cut themselves loose from a strict constructionism concerning the Constitution.

Everything is relative. So as you cut yourself loose from the Law of God, in any concept whatsoever, you also soon are cutting yourself loose from a strict constructionism and each ruling is to be seen as an arbitrary choice by a group of people as to what they may honestly think is for the sociological good of the community, of the country, for the given moment.

Now, along with that is the fact that the courts are increasingly making law and thus we find that the legislatures' powers are increasingly diminished in relationship to the power of the courts. Now the pro-abortion people have been very wise about this in the last, say, 10 years, and Christians very silly. I wonder sometimes where we've been because the pro-abortion people have used the courts for their end rather than the legislatures -- because the courts are not subject to the people's thinking, nor their will, either by election nor by a re-election. Consequently, the courts have been the vehicle used to bring this whole view and to force it on our total population. It has not been largely the legislatures. It has been rather, the courts.

The result is a relativistic value system. A lack of a final meaning to life -- that's first. Why does human life have any value at all, if that is all that reality is? Not only are you going to die individually, but the whole human race is going to die, someday. It may not take the falling of the atom bombs, but someday the world will grow too hot, too cold. That's what we are told on this other final reality, and someday all you people not only will be individually dead, but the whole conscious life on this world will be dead, and nobody will see the birds fly. And there's no meaning to life.

As you know, I don't speak academically, shut off in some scholastic cubicle, as it were. I have lots of young people and older ones come to us from the ends of the earth. And as they come to us, they have gone to the end of this logically and they are not living in a romantic setting. They realize what the situation is. They can't find any meaning to life. It's the meaning to the black poetry. It's the meaning of the black plays. It's the meaning of all this. It's the meaning of the words "punk rock." And I must say, that on the basis of what they are being taught in school, that the final reality is only this material thing, they are not wrong. They're right! On this other basis there is no meaning to life and not only is there no meaning to life, but there is no value system that is fixed, and we find that the law is based then only on a relativistic basis and that law becomes purely arbitrary.

And this is brought to bear, specifically, and perhaps most clearly, in the public schools (I'll come to that now) in this country. In the courts of this country, they are saying that it's absolutely illegal, from the lowest grades up through university, for the public schools of this country to teach any other world view except this world view of final material or energy. Now this is done, no matter what the parents may wish. This is done regardless of what those who pay the taxes for their schools may wish. I'm giving you an illustration, as well as making a point. The way the courts force their view, and this false view of reality on the total population, no matter what the total population wants.

We find that in the January 18 -- just recently -- Time magazine, there was an article that said there was a poll that pointed out that about 76% of the people in this country thought it would be a good idea to have both creation and evolution taught in the public schools. I don't know if the poll was accurate, but assuming that the poll was accurate, what does it mean? It means that your public schools are told by the courts that they cannot teach this, even though 76% of the people in the United States want it taught. I'll give you a word. It's TYRANNY. There is no other word that fits at such a point.

And at the same time we find the medical profession has radically changed. Dr. Koop, the former Surgeon General of the United States, often said that (speaking for himself), "When I graduated from medical school, the idea was 'how can I save this life?' But for a great number of the medical students now, it's not, 'How can I save this life?', but 'Should I save this life?'"

Believe me, it's everywhere. It isn't just abortion. It's infanticide. It's allowing the babies to starve to death after they are born. If they do not come up to some doctor's concept of a quality of life worth living. I'll just say in passing -- and never forget it - it takes about 15 days, often, for these babies to starve to death. And I'd say something else that we haven't stressed enough. In abortion itself, there is no abortion method that is not painful to the child -- just as painful that month before birth as the baby you see a month after birth in one of these cribs down here that I passed -- just as painful.

So what we find then, is that the medical profession has largely changed -- not all doctors. I'm sure there are doctors here in the audience who feel very, very differently, who feel indeed that human life is important and you wouldn't take it, easily, wantonly. But, in general, we must say (and all you have to do is look at the TV programs), all you have to do is hear about the increased talk about allowing the Mongoloid child -- the child with Down's Syndrome -- to starve to death if it's born this way. Increasingly, we find on every side the medical profession has changed its views. The view now is, "Is this life worth saving?"

I look at you... You're an older congregation than I am usually used to speaking to. You'd better think, because -- this -- means -- you! It does not stop with abortion and infanticide. It stops at the question, "What about the old person? Is he worth hanging on to?" Should we, as they are doing in England in this awful organization, EXIT, teach older people to commit suicide? Should we help them get rid of them because they are an economic burden, a nuisance? I want to tell you, once you begin chipping away the medical profession... The intrinsic value of the human life is founded upon the Judeo-Christian concept that man is unique because he is made in the image of God, and not because he is well, strong, a consumer, a sex object or any other thing. That is where whatever compassion this country has is, and certainly it is far from perfect and has never been perfect. Nor out of the Reformation has there been a Golden Age, but whatever compassion there has ever been, it is rooted in the fact that our culture knows that man is unique, is made in the image of God. Take it away, and I just say gently, the stopper is out of the bathtub for all human life.

The January 11 Newsweek has an article about the baby in the womb. The first 5 or 6 pages are marvelous. If you haven't seen it, you should see if you can get that issue. It's January 11 and about the first 5 or 6 pages show conclusively what every biologist has known all along, and that is that human life begins at conception. There is no other time for human life to begin, except at conception. Monkey life begins at conception. Donkey life begins at conception. And human life begins at conception. Biologically, there is no discussion -- never should have been -- from a scientific viewpoint. I am not speaking of religion now. And this 5 or 6 pages very carefully goes into the fact that human life begins at conception. But you flip the page and there is this big black headline, "But is it a person?" And I'll read the last sentence, "The problem is not determining when actual human life begins, but when the value of that life begins to out weigh other considerations, such as the health or even the happiness of the mother."

We are not just talking about the health of the mother (it's a propaganda line), or even the happiness of the mother. Listen! Spell that out! It means that the mother, for her own hedonistic happiness -- selfish happiness -- can take human life by her choice, by law. Do you understand what I have said? By law, on the basis of her individual choice of what makes her happy. She can take what has been declared to be, in the first five pages [of the article], without any question, human life. In other words, they acknowledge that human life is there, but it is an open question as to whether it is not right to kill that human life if it makes the mother happy.

And basically that is no different than Stalin, Mao, or Hitler, killing who they killed for what they conceived to be the good of society. There is absolutely no line between the two statements -- no absolute line, whatsoever. One follows along: Once that it is acknowledged that it is human life that is involved (and as I said, this issue of Newsweek shows conclusively that it is) the acceptance of death of human life in babies born or unborn, opens the door to the arbitrary taking of any human life. From then on, it's purely arbitrary.

It was this view that opened the door to all that followed in Germany prior to Hitler. It's an interesting fact here that the only Supreme Court in the Western World that has ruled against easy abortion is the West German Court. The reason they did it is because they knew, and it's clear history, that this view of human life in the medical profession and the legal profession combined, before Hitler came on the scene, is what opened the way for everything that happened in Hitler's Germany. And so, the German Supreme Court has voted against easy abortion because they know -- they know very well where it leads.

I want to say something tonight. Not many of you are black in this audience. I can't tell if you are Puerto Rican. But if I were in the minority group in this country, tonight, I would be afraid. I've had big gorgeous blacks stand up in our seminars and ask, "Sir, do you think there is a racial twist to all this?" And I have to say, "Right on! You've hit it right on the head!" Once this door is opened, there is something to be afraid of. Christians should be deeply concerned, and I cannot understand why the liberal lawyer of the Civil Liberties Union is not scared to death by this open door towards human life. Everyone ought to be frightened who knows anything about history -- anything about the history of law, anything about the history of medicine. This is a terrifying door that is open.

Abortion itself would be worth spending much of our lifetimes to fight against, because it is the killing of human life, but it's only a symptom of the total. What we are facing is Humanism: Man, the measure of all things -- viewing final reality being only material or energy shaped by chance -- therefore, human life having no intrinsic value -- therefore, the keeping of any individual life or any groups of human life, being purely an arbitrary choice by society at the given moment.

The flood doors are wide open. I fear both they, and too often the Christians, do not have just relativistic values (because, unhappily, Christians can live with relativistic values) but, I fear, that often such people as the liberal lawyers of the Civil Liberties Union and Christians, are just plain stupid in regard to the lessons of history. Nobody who knows his history could fail to be shaken at the corner we have turned in our culture. Remember why: because of the shift in the concept of the basic reality!

Now, we cannot be at all surprised when the liberal theologians support these things, because liberal theology is only Humanism using theological terms, and that's all it ever was, all the way back into Germany right after the Enlightenment. So when they come down on the side of easy abortion and infanticide, as some of these liberal denominations as well as theologians are doing, we shouldn't be surprised. It follows as night after day.

I have a question to ask you, and that is: Where have the Bible-believing Christians been in the last 40 years? All of this that I am talking about has only come in the last 80 years (I'm 70... I just had my birthday, so just 10 years older than I am). None of this was true in the United States. None of it! And the climax has all come within the last 40 years, which falls within the intelligent scope of many of you sitting in this room. Where have the Bible-believing Christians been? We shouldn't be surprised the liberal theologians have been no help -- but where have we been as we have changed to this other consensus and all the horrors and stupidity of the present moment has come down on out culture? We must recognize that this country is close to being lost. Not, first of all , because of the Humanist conspiracy -- I believe that there are those who conspire, but that is not the reason this country is almost lost. This country is almost lost because the Bible-believing Christians, in the last 40 years, who have said that they know that the final reality is this infinite-personal God who is the Creator and all the rest, have done nothing about it as the consensus has changed. There has been a vast silence!

Christians of this country have simply been silent. Much of the Evangelical leadership has not raised a voice. As a matter of fact, it was almost like sticking pins into the Evangelical constituency in most places to get them interested in the issue of human life: a vast, vast silence.

I wonder what God has to say to us? All these freedoms we have. All the secondary blessings we've had out of the preaching of the Gospel and we have let it slip through our fingers in the lifetime of most of you here. Not a hundred years ago -- it has been in our lifetime in the last 40 years that these things have happened.

It's not only the Christian leaders. Where have the Christian lawyers been? Why haven't they been challenging this change in the view of what the First Amendment means, which I'll deal with in a second. Where have the Christian doctors been -- speaking out against the rise of the abortion clinics and all the other things? Where have the Christian businessmen been -- to put their lives and their work on the line concerning these things which they would say as Christians are central to them? Where have the Christian educators been -- as we have lost our educational system? Where have we been? Where have each of you been? What's happened in the last 40 years?

This country was founded on a Christian base with all its freedom for everybody. Let me stress that. This country was founded on a Christian base with all its freedom for everybody, not just Christians, but all its freedom for everyone. And now, this is being largely lost. We live not ten years from now, but tonight, in a Humanistic culture and we are rapidly moving at express train speed into a totally Humanistic culture. We're close to it. We are in a Humanistic culture, as I point out in the public schools and these other things, but we are moving toward a TOTALLY Humanistic culture and moving very quickly.

I would repeat at this place about our public schools because it's worth saying. Most people don't realize something. Communism, you know, is not basically an economic theory. It's materialistic communism, which means that at the very heart of the Marx, Engels, Lenin kind of communism (because you have to put all three together to really understand) is the materialistic concept of the final reality. That is the base for all that occurs in the communist countries.

I am wearing a Solidarity pin -- in case you wonder what this is on my lapel. We had two young men from L'Abri take in an 8 ton truck of food into Poland -- very bad weather -- they almost were killed on the roads. They got in just three days before the crackdown. We, of L'Abri, have taken care of small numbers of each successive wave of Europeans who have been persecuted in the communist nations, the Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, now the Poles. A dear wonderful Christian schoolteacher that we love very much (she's a wonderful, wonderful Christian young woman, brilliant as brilliant, and she studied at L'Abri for a long time and she was one of the contact points for the destination of the food) -- thought that the crackdown might come. So she sent me out this Solidarity pin. This wasn't made in Newark! This came from Poland. I have a hope. I hope I can wear it until I can hand it back to her and she can wear it again in Poland. That's my hope! But all the oppression you have ever heard of in Mao's China, Stalin's day, Poland, Czechoslovakia -- any place that you can name it -- Afghanistan -- all the oppression is the automatic, the mechanical certainty, that comes from having this other world view of the final reality only being material or energy shaped by pure chance. That's where it comes from.

And what about our schools? I think I should stress again! By law, you are no more allowed to teach religious values and religious views in our public schools than you are in the schools of Russia tonight. We don't teach Marxism over here in most of our schools, but as far as all religious teaching (except the religion of Humanism, which is a different kind of a thing) it is just as banned by law from our schools, and our schools are just as secular as the schools in Soviet Russia -- just exactly! Not ten years from now. Tonight!

Congress opens with prayer. Why? Because Congress always is opened with prayer. Back there, the founding fathers didn't consider the 13 provincial congresses that sent representatives to form our country in Philadelphia really open until there was prayer. The Congress in Washington, where Edith and I have just been, speaking to various men in political areas and circles -- that Congress is not open until there is prayer. It's illegal, in many places, for youngsters to merely meet and pray on the geographical location of the public schools. I would repeat, we are not only immoral, we're stupid. I mean that. I don't know which is the worst: being immoral or stupid on such an issue. We are not only immoral, we are stupid for the place we have allowed ourselves to come to without noticing.

I would now repeat again the word I used before. There is no other word we can use for our present situation that I have just been describing, except the word TYRANNY! TYRANNY! That's what we face! We face a world view which never would have given us our freedoms. It has been forced upon us by the courts and the government -- the men holding this other world view, whether we want it or not, even though it's destroying the very freedoms which give the freedoms for the excesses and for the things which are wrong.

We, who are Christians, and others who love liberty, should be acting in our day as the founding fathers acted in their day. Those who founded this country believed that they were facing tyranny. All you have to do is read their writings. That's why the war was fought. That's why this country was founded. They believed that God never, never, never wanted people to be under tyrannical governments. They did it not as a pragmatic or economic thing, though that was involved too, I guess, but for principle. They were against tyranny, and if the founding fathers stood against tyranny, we ought to recognize, today,  if they were back here and one of them was standing right here, he would say the same thing -- what you are facing is tyranny. The very kind of tyranny we fought, he would say, in order that we might escape.

And we face a very hidden censorship. Every once in a while, as soon as we begin to talk about the need of re-entering Christian values into the discussion, someone shouts "theocracy!" Someone says that what you are after is theocracy. Absolutely not! We must make absolutely plain, we are not in favor of theocracy, in name or in fact. But, having said that, nevertheless, we must realize that we already face a hidden censorship -- a hidden censorship in which it is impossible to get the other world view presented in something like public television. It's absolutely impossible.

 Dr. Koop, one of the great surgeons of the world, when he was nominated as Surgeon General, much of the press (printed) great swelling things against him -- a lot of them not true, a lot of them twisted. Certainly though, lots of space was made for trying to not get his nomination accepted. When it was accepted though, I looked like mad in some of the papers, and in most of them what I found was about one inch on the third page that said that Dr. Koop had been accepted. What do you call that? Just one thing: hidden censorship.

You must realize that this other view is totally intolerant. It is totally intolerant. I do not think we are going to get another opportunity if we do not take it now in this country. I would repeat, we are a long way down the road. I do not think we are going to get another opportunity. If the Christians, specifically, but others also, who love liberty, do not do something about it now, I don't believe your grandchildren are going to get a chance. In the present so-called conservative swing in the last election, we have an opportunity, but we must remember this, and I would really brand this into your thinking: A conservative Humanism is no better than a liberal Humanism. It's the Humanism that is wrong, not merely the coloration. And therefore, at the present moment, what we must insist on, to people in our government who represent us, is that we do not just end with words. We must see, at the present opportunity, if it continues, a real change. We mustn't allow it to just drift off into mere words.

Now I want to say something with great force, right here. What I have been talking about, whether you know it or not, is true spirituality. This is true spirituality. Spirituality, after you are a Christian and have accepted Christ as your Savior, means that Christ is the Lord of ALL your life -- not just your religious life, and if you make a dichotomy in these things, you are denying your Lord His proper place. I don't care how many butterflies you have in your stomach, you are poor spiritually. True spirituality means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of all of life, and except for the things that He has specifically told us in the Bible are sinful and we've set them aside -- all of life is spiritual and all of life is equally spiritual. That includes (as our forefathers did) standing for these things of freedom and standing for these things of human life and all these other matters that are so crucial, if indeed, this living God does exist as we know that He does exist.

We have forgotten our heritage. A lot of the evangelical complex like to talk about the old revivals and they tell us we ought to have another revival. We nee another revival -- you and I need revival. We need another revival in our hearts. But they have forgotten something. Most of the Christians have forgotten and most of the pastors have forgotten something. That is the factor that every single revival that has ever been a real revival, whether it was the great awakening before the American Revolution; whether it was the great revivals of Scandinavia; whether it was Wesley and Whitfield; wherever you have found a great revival, it's always had three parts. First, it has called for the individual to accept Christ as Savior, and thankfully, in all of these that I have named, thousands have been saved. Then, it has called upon the Christians to bow their hearts to God and really let the Holy Spirit have His place in fullness in their life. But there has always been, in every revival, a third element. It has always brought SOCIAL CHANGE!

Cambridge historians who aren't Christians would tell you that if it wasn't for the Wesley revival and the social change that Wesley's revival had brought, England would have had its own form of the French Revolution. It was Wesley saying people must be treated correctly and dealing down into the social needs of the day that made it possible for England to have its bloodless revolution in contrast to France's bloody revolution.

The Wall Street Journal, not too long ago, and I quote it again in A Christian Manifesto, pointed out that it was the Great Awakening, that great revival prior to the founding of the United States, that opened the way and prepared for the founding of the United States. Every one of the great revivals had tremendous social implications. What I am saying is, that I am afraid that we have forgotten our heritage, and we must go on even when the cost is high.

I think the Church has failed to meet its obligation in these last 40 years for two specific reasons. The first is this false, truncated view of spirituality that doesn't see true spirituality touching all of life. The other thing is that too many Christians, whether they are doctors, lawyers, pastors, evangelists -- whatever they are -- too many of them are afraid to really speak out because they did not want to rock the boat for their own project. I am convinced that these two reasons, both of which are a tragedy and really horrible for the Christian, are an explanation of why we have walked the road we have walked in the last 40 years
We must understand, it's going to cost you to take a stand on these things. There are doctors who are going to get kicked out of hospitals because they refuse to perform abortions; there are nurses that see a little sign on a crib that says, "Do not feed," and they feed and they are fired. There's a cost, but I'd ask you, what is loyalty to Christ worth to you? How much do you believe this is true? Why are you a Christian? Are you a Christian for some lesser reason, or are you a Christian because you know that this is the truth of reality? And then, how much do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? How much are you willing to pay the price for loyalty to the Lord Jesus?

We must absolutely set out to smash the lie of the new and novel concept of the separation of religion from the state which most people now hold and which Christians have just bought a bill of goods. This is new and this is novel. It has no relationship to the meaning of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was that the state would never interfere with religion. THAT'S ALL THE MEANING THERE WAS TO THE FIRST AMENDMENT. Just read Madison and the Spectator Papers if you don't think so. That's all it was!

Now we have turned it over and we have put it on its head and what we must do is absolutely insist that we return to what the First Amendment meant in the first place -- not that religion can't have an influence into society and into the state -- not that. But we must insist that there's a freedom that the First Amendment really gave. Now with this we must emphasize, and I said it, but let me say it again, we do not want a theocracy! I personally am opposed to a theocracy. On this side of the New Testament I do not believe there is a place for a theocracy 'till Jesus the King comes back. But that's a very different thing while saying clearly we are not in favor of a theocracy in name or in fact, from where we are now, where all religious influence is shut out of the processes of the state and the public schools. We are only asking for one thing. We are asking for the freedom that the First Amendment guaranteed. That's what we should be standing for.

Now, I come toward the close, and that is that we must recognize something from the Scriptures, and that's why I had that Scripture read that I had read tonight. When the government negates the law of God, it abrogates its authority. God has given certain offices to restrain chaos in this fallen world, but it does not mean that these offices are autonomous, and when a government commands that which is contrary to the Law of God, it abrogates its authority.

Throughout the whole history of the Christian Church, (and again I wish people knew their history. In A Christian Manifesto I stress what happened in the Reformation in reference to all this) at a certain point, it is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government. Now that's what the founding fathers did when they founded this country. That's what the early Church did. That's what Peter said. You heard it from the Scripture: "Should we obey man?... rather than God?" That's what the early Christians did.

Occasionally -- no, often, people say to me, "But the early Church didn't practice civil disobedience." Didn't they? You don't know your history again. When those Christians that we all talk about so much allowed themselves to be thrown into the arena, when they did that, from their view it was a religious thing. They would not worship anything except the living God. But you must recognize from the side of the Roman state, there was nothing religious about it at all -- it was purely civil. The Roman Empire had disintegrated until the only unity it had was its worship of Caesar. You could be an atheist; you could worship the Zoroastrian religion... You could do anything. They didn't care. It was a civil matter, and when those Christians stood up there and refused to worship Caesar, from the side of the state, they were rebels. They were in civil disobedience and they were thrown to the beasts. They were involved in civil disobedience, as much as your brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union are. When the Soviet Union says that, by law, they cannot tell their children, even in their home about Jesus Christ, they must disobey and they get sent off to the mental ward or to Siberia. It's exactly the same kind of civil disobedience that's represented in a very real way by the thing I am wearing on my lapel tonight.

Every appropriate legal and political governmental means must be used. "The final bottom line"-- I have invented this term in A Christian Manifesto. I hope the Christians across this country and across the world will really understand what the Bible truly teaches: The final bottom line! The early Christians, every one of the reformers (and again, I'll say in A Christian Manifesto I go through country after country and show that there was not a single place with the possible exception of England, where the Reformation was successful, where there wasn't civil disobedience and disobedience to the state), the people of the Reformation, the founding fathers of this country, faced and acted in the realization that if there is no place for disobeying the government, that government has been put in the place of the living God. In such a case, the government has been made a false god. If there is no place for disobeying a human government, what government has been made GOD.

Caesar, under some name, thinking of the early Church, has been put upon the final throne. The Bible's answer is NO! Caesar is not to be put in the place of God and we as Christians, in the name of the Lordship of Christ, and all of life, must so think and act on the appropriate level. It should always be on the appropriate level. We have lots of room to move yet with our court cases, with the people we elect -- all the things that we can do in this country. If, unhappily, we come to that place, the appropriate level must also include a disobedience to the state.

If you are not doing that, you haven't thought it through. Jesus is not really on the throne. God is not central. You have made a false god central. Christ must be the final Lord and not society and not Caesar.


These matters are treated at greater length in Dr. Schaeffer's book, A Christian Manifesto, available here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jerry Clower: Talkin' Dog

Time for another change of pace. Once again, a few words from Mississippi's favorite son, and the finest humorist since Will Rogers, the late Jerry Clower (1926-1998).  I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

PA Leader: "Kill the Jews!"

It's the same old song, and, sadly, neither the melody nor the lyrics ever change.  In this very recent video (January 9), a "mufti" from the Palestinian Authority - - - the official Palestinian entity, which will comprise the Palestinian "state," if such a monstrosity ever exists - - - yammers about the obligation of all Muslims to annihilate the Jews, who, as we have been repeatedly reminded, are the descendants of apes and pigs.  Please bear in mind that this is Fatah, Arafat's old group: this isn't even the more "radical" Hamas speaking. (In Palestinian terms, these are the moderates.)   That's because there is no such thing as "radical Islam."  There is only Islam, and any Muslim who doesn't agree with this speaker is, by definition, an unfaithful Muslim.


This video was previously available on YouTube, but has been withdrawn, allegedly in keeping with the site's Terms of Service regarding violence.  But if YouTube removed all of the Muslim videos that incite genocide and torture, the site would be left with nothing but home movies, music videos, and clips from Ron Paul speeches.  The vid came from the Palestinian Media Watch. PMW had an account at YouTube, but it was suspended.  Apparently, Muslim calls for murder and "honor killings" are okay, but reporting on them is not okay.  That's the sort of thinking that's destroying the West.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The anatomy of repentance, Part II

Every day, we ask ourselves dozens of questions, most of them very practical: "What am I going to wear to work today?" "Do I need to pick up anything at the grocery store?" "Should I try to run that yellow light, or stop, and wait until it's green?"  And sometimes the questions are very personal: "I wonder what she's thinking of me right now?"  "Did I say the right thing?" But very often, the most basic questions, the most important questions, get lost amid all the others.  For example, when was the last time you looked in a mirror and asked, "Just what am I, anyway?"

In an earlier post, we discussed the subject of repentance, as it's used in the Bible.  We primarily concentrated on James 4:7-10, and how we should approach God when we've blown it, and fallen (or deliberately walked) into sin.  "Repentance" has become a controversial topic in some Christian circles, but, as noted in the previous post, it needn't be.  Rather than simply summarize or recapitulate what was said there, however, we're going to move on to the next step now, and it's likely to be heavy.  Heavy, but liberating, as all Bible truth tends to be.  Instead of discussing repentance for individual acts, as we did before, we're going to discuss something more fundamental - - - and something with which God Himself is much more concerned than our individual sins and blunders.  In the previous post, we were discussing things that we've done, and how to repent of them.  This time, we're going to discuss what we are.

Before getting to the question of "What am I," as important as that is, we need to consider something else. What is the purpose of real repentance?  In our previous post, we addressed the matter of turning from sin and sins, and that's an enormous part of it.  Getting out from under our own sins is urgent, if we're to have fellowship with Christ, and serve and enjoy Him.  But that's not the entire story.  Another purpose of repentance, or another step in repentance, is coming to see ourselves as God sees us.  

Preachers and Christian writers often say that repentance is "agreeing with God that such-and-such is a sin."  Okay, that's a good starting place. But we also need to come to agreement with God about who we are: who, and what, is that man or woman we see in the mirror every day? 

Basic knowledge of the Bible, of course, tells us that we're really two things, or two people - - - assuming that we've received Christ according to John 1:12, and been born again.  (If you haven't taken that step, then "repentance" is both meaningless and impossible for you.)  On the one hand, we are new creatures in Christ, according to 2 Cor. 5:17: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. We are sons of God (John 1:12); we're "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6), forgiven and accepted by God because we're now part of His beloved Son.  That's our new nature.  But, on the other hand, as long as we're living down here on the ground, we also have our original sin nature hanging on to our bodies, as Paul laments at such length in Romans 7 (one of the most "realistic" chapters in the Bible, in terms of our Christian experience).  We're not children of wrath or children of disobedience any more (Eph. 2:2, 3), but we still have a sin nature, an "old man," that prompts us to sin.  As the old hymn says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love."  That's the honest confession of every Christian who has ever lived.

Well, when a man fornicates, or a woman becomes a drunkard, or someone cheats on his taxes or indulges in gluttony, which part of that person is obviously operating?  These things are certainly not the fruit of the Spirit; they're the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-24).  Those are the individual sort of sins we need to confess, and repent of, as mentioned in the previous post.

But, of course, when we confess individual sins, we're not telling God anything He doesn't already know; we're certainly not surprising Him. Essentially, we're saying to Him (as we would say to a spouse after an argument), "I know I was wrong, forgive me."  That's very important; its importance should never be minimized.

But God wants more, as we mature in the Christian life, and come to know Him better.  He wants us to understand and acknowledge, not just what we've done, but what we are.  And, apart from the grace and transforming power of Jesus Christ, what we are isn't very pretty.

I can't avoid a personal note here, but it may be encouraging to you.  I was saved a month before my twentieth birthday; I've been a Christian for 43 years. But I didn't understand the real nature of repentance and confession until the past decade or so.  Talk about a slow learner! So, if you're a slow learner too, don't feel all alone!

For decades, I confessed my sins, in detail and promptly; I didn't let them pile up.  As God gave me the power, I repented of those sins.  And God honored this, and I grew to know Him more, and our fellowship was never broken for very long.  But it wasn't until the last few years that I understood what repentance was all about.

If I steal, it's important for me to confess that theft (and to make restitution, if possible).  But God wants to hear more than "Lord, I'm sorry I committed the sin of theft." God wants me to acknowledge what I am: instead of "God, I stole," He wants me to understand and admit that "God, apart from Your grace, I'm a dishonest and thieving man."  This doesn't contradict 2 Cor. 5:17; it merely acknowledges that the "old man" is always present, and that I know where I'd be without Christ. God already knows that, of course.  But, in the process of Christian growth, it's important for me to understand it. 

This is important with sins of omission, too; maybe even more important.  We don't all steal or shoot heroin, but most of us neglect God's word from time to time; we don't pray as deeply and in as much detail as we should; we certainly don't bear witness, verbally, as often as we should.  We hear a good sermon, and say "That was good;" but do we meditate on it, hours later, and internalize its lessons?  We read our chapter or chapters of scripture, hopefully every day; but do we pray as we read, and ask God's revelation and guidance?  Or do we do it by rote, because it's expected of us?

I'm no great prayer warrior, and I'm not holding myself up as an example: may God forbid!  But, in my own prayer life, I've seen a real change in recent years, and it's brought me much closer to God. Yes, I still confess the acts, the sins; I'm commanded to do so, and 1 John 1:9 promises forgiveness. (Being aware of our sinfulness and sins isn't a matter of "guilt;" it's the first step in getting rid of the guilt!) But more and more, I find myself praying, "Lord, I haven't read Your word enough; I haven't loved it enough; I'm not a spiritual man.  Lord, I've wasted so much time on 'entertainment,' or my own enthusiasms; I simply don't have a heart for You, or Your things. Apart from Your grace, and apart from the fact that You've saved me, I'm not much.  I'm not worth shooting, and all my 'righteousnesses' are filthy rags!  I know that, Lord, I understand it, and I ask You to help me repent ... not just of what I've done, but of what I am!"

Do you know what you'd be without Jesus Christ?  Do you know what you were before you received Him? (If you don't, you need to go to the top of the page, and read the tab called "Hey, Dummy!") Well, you don't need to ask God's forgiveness for being a sinner; that matter was handled at Calvary.  But you and I need to constantly remember - - - and let God know that we remember - - - what we'd be without Him.

Because that's part of repentance, too.  And that's where the growth comes.  Simply put, 90% of the Christian life consists of remembering Who God is - - - and what we're not!

We need to confess what we are.  But, having done that, we don't need to dwell on it, or get discouraged by it; because we're also God's sons and daughters, by His grace, and we're part of Jesus Christ, just as He's part of us.  Confessing what we are sounds so negative; but it clears the decks, and allows us to understand more fully, and more joyously, the new life, and the new future, that God has given us. 

Don't get discouraged: that's not the point.  Just see yourself as God sees you - - - and then watch Him make you what He wants you to be!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Rom 8:35-37).