April 17, 2011
Repenting Before We Sin
“With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life” (Proverbs 7:21-23).
Dealing wisely and decisively with temptation requires strength of character. If sin is to be avoided, we must be able to interrupt the train of events described by James: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full‑grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15). When we feel ourselves being pulled in the direction of doing something we know is wrong, we must have the character to “draw the line” and refuse to cross it. Most people know what it feels like to hate or loathe a sin that has already been committed. But wouldn’t it be a great thing to have the same intensity of feeling beforehand so that the act could be prevented?
One reason we succumb to temptation as we do is that we don’t really say “No!” to sin. We often think that’s what we’ve done, and so we’re frustrated to find ourselves going ahead and doing that which we think we’ve rejected. But often, the actual fact is that we’ve not at any point really said “No!” to the act we’re contemplating.
Decisively rejecting sin is more than a vague feeling that we ought not to do the thing. It’s more than the soft whisper of our conscience. Rejecting sin requires that we gather ourselves together, decide upon our course of action, and refuse to commit the act. It certainly does include the feeling that we shouldn’t do the deed. But it must be more than a feeling. It must be a commitment – a resolute, decisive, final commitment not to let ourselves be carried along by the momentum of temptation.
There’ll surely be times when we find that we have allowed temptation to give birth to sin in our lives. At such times, godly sorrow does require character. But for all those who have enough character to feel sorry for what they’ve done after the fact, there are far fewer who have the character to feel sorry in advance and “repent” of the deed before it has a chance to take place.
“It is much easier to repent of sins that we have committed than to repent of those we intend to commit” (Josh Billings).