The following is an excerpt of a Tim Keller sermon that I listened to recently called, “Removing Idols of the Heart”. I have used it in several counseling situations recently, and it has been very helpful, so I thought I would just post it for the world. In the sermon, Keller echoes Stephen Charnock (Puritan) in talking about the way we truly change, and the difference between self-pity and repentance. READ:
“The way in which you destroy the power of a sin is to take it to the cross, not to Mount Sinai. Take it to Mount Calvary, not to Mount Sinai. I’ll explain this for a minute.
If you take a sin to Mount Sinai that means you’re thinking about the danger of it. You’re thinking about how it has messed up your life. You’re thinking about all the punishments that are probably going to come down on you for it. That is not repentance; that is self-pity. Self-pity and repentance are two different things. I came to a place in my life where I realized 90 percent of what I thought I had been doing as repentance throughout most of my life was really just self-pity.
The difference between self-pity and repentance is this: Self-pity is thinking about what a mess your sin got you into. Self-pity is thinking about the consequences of it, what a wreck it’s made of you, how God will probably get me for it, or how my parents will probably get me for it, or how my boss will probably get me for it, or all the problems it will create in my life or already has created in my life. “Oh, Lord, how sorry I am this has happened. Oh, Lord, get this out of my life.” What you’re really doing is saying, “I hate the consequences of this sin,” but you haven’t learned to hate the sin. What is happening is instead of hating the sin, you’re hating the consequences of the sin, and you’re hating yourself for being so stupid.
Self-pity leads to continuing to love the sin so it still has power over you but hating yourself. Real repentance is when you say, “What has this sin done to God? What has it cost God? What does God feel about it?” Let me give you an interesting example of two guys who wrote 300 or 400 years ago. One man’s name is Stephen Charnock. Stephen Charnock tries to explain the difference between taking your sin to Mount Sinai, where you just look at the danger of it, and taking your sin to the cross, where you see what effect it’s had on God.
When you see what effect it has had on the loving God who died so you wouldn’t do it, who died for your holiness, when you begin to see that…it melts you, and it makes you begin to hate the sin. It begins to lose its attractive power over you. Instead of making you hate yourself…you find you hate it, and so the idol begins to get crushed bit by bit. Listen carefully to Stephen Charnock, because he’s using old English. Charnock says there is a difference between a legalistic (religious) conviction of sin and an evangelical (Christian) one.
“A legal (religious) conviction of sin ariseth from a consideration of God’s justice chiefly, an evangelical conviction of sin from a sense of God’s goodness.” Now hear this. “A legally convinced person cries out, ‘I have exasperated a power that is as the roaring of a lion … I have provoked one that is the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth whose word can tear up the foundation of the world …’ But an evangelically convinced person cries, ‘I have incensed the goodness that is like the dropping of a dew. I have offended a God that had his hands stretched out to me as a friend. My heart must be made of marble. My heart must be made of iron to throw his blood in his face.’ ”