Satan tells us that repentance is easy and forgiveness is available, so yielding to temptation is not serious. We are tempted to think that we'll only commit a sin a few times and then claim God's forgiveness. “Correcting the situation after you sin is easy,” the Tempter tells us.
But this is dangerous thinking for several reasons. First, consider how nauseating even we humans find insincere repentance. Here's an example of what I mean: Imagine that you heard me saying to my young daughter,
“I am about to smash your finger with this hammer I will do this deliberately and with no regard for the pain it causes you. I know it’s wrong for me to crush your finger like this, but I'm going to do it anyway because it is fun. And tomorrow, I will apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”
I then proceed to wallop my little girl's finger and, as expected, she screams in anguish. The next day, I say to my injured daughter, “I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Don't hold this against me. I apologize.” Wouldn't you be horrified that I could manipulate concepts like “I'm sorry” and “forgive me” so mechanically? Wouldn't you be outraged at my hypocrisy and malice? Surely you would doubt that I was truly repentant, since by definition repentance includes sincerity and genuine remorse.
Humans reject insincere repentance like this; surely God rejects it as well. Satan will tempt you to think that God will accept such insincere repentance. But He will not; the Holy One of Israel will not accept it, since it is not true repentance at all, but an insulting attempt to manipulate God. And this will result in judgment.
And what if Satan is successful at getting you to think like this? What if the devil persuades you to sin now on the assumption that it will be easy to find forgiveness later? If Satan is so successful at getting you to sin today, what makes you think he won't be equally successful at getting you to avoid repenting? Once you have committed your sin, Satan will work just as hard to persuade you that repentance is unnecessary. After your sin, the Adversary will point out (accurately, I might add) that repentance is often humiliating. It may involve tears and sleeplessness, shame and anguish of soul, perhaps even public confession and costly restitution.
Anyone who has repented knows that repentance is not easy! If Satan persuades you to sin now, isn't it likely that he will persuade you to not repent later? The power of Satan's temptations today should convince you that Satan's temptations tomorrow will be equally powerful. Your easy repentance and easy forgiveness will not be so easy.
Nor can we even be certain that we will want to repent after we sin. This is because indulging in sin desensitizes us to sin. Frequent sinning diminishes our sense of moral outrage at sin. When sin becomes commonplace and routine, we are more likely to sin again. We all know calloused men who sin repeatedly and no longer wish to repent of their sins. They continue in their sins precisely because they don't want to repent of them. This is the process that Scripture characterizes as a searing of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).
Your deliberate sins today may make you unwilling to repent tomorrow.>
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Robert Spinney (PhD, Vanderbilt) is professor of History at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches American history and historiography. He is the author of City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago and World War II in Nashville: Transformation of the Homefront, as well as an American history textbook and numerous ministry-related booklets. Dr. Spinney formerly served as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN, and at Winchester Baptist Church in Winchester, VA.