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Doctrine of Repentance Unto Life: The Dangers of Sin to Self

May 1, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Ezekiel 3:16–21

Quote: Rev. John Owen

Several Practical Cases of Conscience Resolved

He should labour to affect his mind with the danger of it. It is not conceivable how subtle sin is to shift off an apprehension of the danger of it. “Notwithstanding this,” says the man, “yet I hope I am in a state of grace, and shall be saved, and come to the issue of it at one time or other;” and so the mind keeps off a due sense of the danger of it. I beseech you, brethren and sisters, if this be your condition, labour to affect your minds that this state, as far as I know, will end in hell; and let not your minds be relieved from the apprehension that, upon due and good grounds of faith, these ways go down to the chambers of death.’


As we continue on our study of the Doctrine of Repentance, lets review what the Westminster Confession says about Repentance unto Life.

We have seen examples of false repentance

  • so that we can see those examples that we should not follow
  • so that we might not be misled by pursuing the repentance of an unregenerate man

We have seen repentance unto life is a saving grace.

  • it is given as a grace – it is a gift of God.

Yet, even though there is nothing for us to do earn this grace, this does not mean we are not to search, to strive for it.

It does not mean that once we have it, there is nothing that we are to do –

  • Remember, if we know that someone is giving something precious away, that does not preclude us from showing up at the place where it is going to be dispensed.

We learned that repentance unto life is not create or initiated by man but it is wrought in the heart of man by the Spirit and by the Word of God.

We learned that repentance unto life is not something that is considered unnecessary

It is as necessary as faith – in fact, without preaching repentance, there can be no full gospel preaching.


Larger Catechism #76

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.

Notice the phrase:

  • Out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger
  • But also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins

Repentance unto Life is not, as we have seen, mere sorrow or confession of sin.

It also includes the staying out of sin and the appearance of sin.

But there are some difficulties that we encounter with respect to sin that we must bring to our attention.

The Difficulty We Have with Sin

We are inclined to ignore our sin

The natural man is an expert at

  • Excusing his sin (Genesis 3:12)
  • Denying his sin (Psalm 50)
  • Hiding his sin (2 Samuel 11-12)
  • Lying about his sin (Acts -> Annanias)
  • Accusing others to hide his own faults
    • (Gen 39.7-20 -> Potiphar’s wife)

We do not recognize our sin

  • As a danger to ourselves
  • As a danger to our loved ones
  • As a danger when we do not repent

We do no recognize the filth/ odiousness of sin

  • The natural man loves his sin
  • The natural man cherishes/ protects his sin
  • The natural man excuses his sin by falsely claiming he has liberty
    • so that he might pursue his pleasures
    • instead of understanding Galatians 5 in its proper context.

Even after professing Christ, those remnants of our former corruption may confuse us as to the seriousness of sins.

Tactics of the Enemy

There are times he would have us ignorant

Consider the Garden of Eden

  • There was confusion over what God said
    • This can doubt in the minds even of professing Christians.

There are times he would have us question God's Word in such a way to bring confusion,

Consider Sabbath Keeping

  • In many churches the enemy continues to ask:
  • “Hath God said…?”
    • as if to say, “Does he really require that in the form of these questions?”

The questions framed today are much more subtle than "Hath God said…?”

  • Are you saying that it's a sin for me to go to a football game on Sunday?
  • Are you saying that it’s a sin for me get take-out on Sunday so I don’t have to cook?
  • Are you saying that it’s a sin for me to go shopping for groceries or gas on Sunday?
  • Are you saying that it's a sin for me, to relieve my wife from cooking by going out to eat?
  • Are you saying that it's a sin for me to do work on the Sabbath to pay bills and take care of my family?

Can you hear in the background? “Hath God said…?”

  • Think of it this way: "How close do you want to get to danger?"
    • You don't let your children play too close to the streets or stay out late unsupervised, do you?
  • Then why do you skirt around the edges of sin, possibly imperiling your estate?

We make these questions so wide and so laden with implication that we aren't even sure of the question or the right answer so we tend to do what we’ve always done or what feels right or convenient at the time.

  • So that whatever we do, we don't know if it is right or wrong (sometimes we don't dare try to find out)

Temptation to doubt the very love of God, toward his children

This also can be heard in the words -> "Hath God said?"

  • These questions are framed in such a way to overlay the mind and perspective of man upon God.
    • "Do you think God would deny you?"
    • "Do you think that God would deny you something that is pleasant?"

Remember what the devil said to Eve?

  • "Hath God said?"
  • Do you think that God would set you in the garden and say that let us create man in our image, and he would give you dominion over all the creatures, tell you of this tree, which is pleasant to the eyes, good for food and desirable to make one wise...Do you think God would deny you that?
  • In other words -> "Doesn't God want you to be happy? Don't you deserve to be happy? Isn't it your duty to be happy 'in the Lord'?""

Do you see what is going on here?

  • Satan asks little questions in the mind of Adam and Eve to doubt of God at His word.
  • Who are we going to believe?

This is dangerous

  • Are you going to believe God or believe the lie from the father of lies?
  • Rather than understanding the danger of sin, they interposed some other standard of behavior.

So, you see there is a natural confusion with sin.

  • Whether it is with idols hanging on your walls or on your shelves
  • Whether it is with profaning the Holy Day of the Lord
  • Whether it is with excusing little sins (little lies, little stealing, little cheating, little gossip)
  • Whether it is swearing, cursing, etc.….

The enemy of our souls is quite content for us to remain in a state of confusion

  • With respect to the truth as contained in the Scripture
  • With respect to minimizing its danger of sin and then promoting it as good

The Dangers of Sin

We should all agree Repentance unto Life is good and necessary thing.

We should all agree that it is right and good to repent of our particular sins.

Now that we are aware of some of the tactics that hides our sin from us…let’s turn our attention to understanding the dangers that sin brings to us.

Sin brings Death

In this life and the life to come.

  • We memorize that in our catechisms
    • What does every sin deserve?
      • For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
    • This is not just the death of our bodies that we're talking about.
    • This is also the death of our souls.

This was the word of the Lord to our first parents

  • if you sin, you will die.
  • If you eat this tree, you will die.

The word of the Prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 18.4, 20

  • the soul that sinneth it shall die.

The apostle James declares

  • Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death

The apostle Paul asks in Romans 6:20,21

  • what fruit was there in your past life, when you were the slaves of sin?
  • those things that you did, then now you're ashamed of them.
  • But what was the end of them?
    • Death was the end of the great confusion that we have as those fallen creatures in humanity

But we think that because we sinned once, and we didn't die, then we can sin again and we won't die.

  • Since we've lied once and nothing happened...since I profaned the Sabbath and nothing happened...we can continue to do it.
  • We mistake the patience and long suffering of God for inattention on His part. (Psalm 50.16-21)
  • What we're really doing is heaping up wrath against the Day of Judgment.

All we see is death, death, and death as the wages of sin.

Temporal death

When we think of temporal death, we normally think “Yes, everyone dies”.

But there is more to just dying of old age.

There are sins that lead in a more natural way to death.
  • WLC 136: We hear of the immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, medicine, recreation
  • Those are all violations of the sixth commandment and immoderate use of things.
  • Because we are endangering our health, which is to endanger our earthly lives.
There are temporal dangers of sin
  • such as provocation to violence and quarreling that can and have led to death
There are judicial punishments that bring death and therefore ought to be avoided.
  • Gen 9.6
    • whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed for in the image of God made him
  • Leviticus 24.17
    • And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
  • Romans 13.1-5
    • This use of the sword here is actually a thrusting through death to the evildoer judicial death.
  • Violation of the 10 Commandments with capital punishments in Old Testament Israel.
    • 1st Commandment
      • Leviticus 10
      • Nadab and Abihu brought strange fire before the Lord, and they were put to death.
    • 2nd Commandment
      • Deuteronomy 13.6
      • if the wife the wife of thy bosom, entice thee and say let us go worship other gods.
      • What's the punishment? Death
    • 3rd Commandment
      • Leviticus 24.10-16
      • blasphemy is a sin that carries the punishment of death.
    • 4th Commandment
      • Exodus 31.14-15
      • This is often dismissed and minimized by contemporary Christians.
      • What does the Lord think of Sabbath violation?
        • He thinks it's terrible.
        • He thinks it brings death, such that he commanded judicial execution to those who would violate the Sabbath day in ancient Israel.
      • 5th Commandment
        • And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
        • Leviticus 20.9
        • Deuteronomy 21.18-21
        • Proverbs 20.20
        • Proverbs 30.17.
        • Matthew 15
      • We could go on with the remainder and show how violation of each of the commandments can lead to death.

What we have here is God's hatred for sin such that we know we understand that certain sins bring a judicial punishment.

  • These serve to punctuate for us the concept that the wages of sin is death
    • that when we sin, we imperil our very lives.
There are providential punishments that come from sin
  • Genesis 7
    • Er was wicked and was killed by the Lord
  • James 5.14-16
    • If the sickness that this man is suffering is a result of sin -> Did you hear that?
    • Do we believe that?
    • The Lord says sickness and even death can come because of sin
      • that our sins imperil our outward state?
      • Our health, our well-being, even our very earthly lives?
    • And so, this man calls for the elders of the church.
      • Normally, he would call a doctor to work on his body.
      • Why would he not call for the elders to work on his soul?
    • And if he has committed any sins, they will be forgiven him
      • As the elders do that part of those spiritual surgeons to dig down into the soul that the sin might be excised
        • They are not forgiving sin themselves as some churches believe
        • They are ministering the keys to the kingdom - the only place where Christ has given the keys to man -> in the church
      • The Corinthian church was plagued with sickness and with death for their abuses at the table of the Lord.

Oftentimes, there is this breaking out of the Lord against sinners

  • While we know that the Lord is patient, and longsuffering
  • While we know that the Lord is often pleased to go a long time before such judgments fall
    • Do not be presumptuous.

Remember that the Lord would be perfectly just in treating us the same way for our sins

  • Do not confuse patience with acceptance

Eternal death

The evil that men commit against the holiness of God is judged eternally.

  • This is called the 2nd death.

It is described as utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • It is described as a lake that burns
  • It is described as a perpetual burning that the smoke of that burning goes up forever and ever.
  • It is a place where there is no hope.
  • It is a place where patience means nothing.
  • It is a place of horror and darkness and judgment
  • It is visited upon all those who are not cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Do not think that that God is unconcerned with sin and that sin is not a danger.

  • He most certainly is concerned with sin.
  • Sin most certainly is a danger


Many of our churches and many professing Christians are telling us:

“Sin is not so dangerous.”

“You’re saved anyway so it doesn’t matter”

“God accepts you just the way you are”

  • Little sins are fine.
  • Little swearing is fine.
  • Little Sabbath breaking is fine.
  • Litte images/ idols are fine
  • Little rebellion is fine.
  • But sin is very

We must have a sight and sense of the danger of sin.

  • Sin is a danger to our spiritual and our physical well-being.
    • It is a danger to our loved ones, to our family, to our fellow church members.
    • It is a danger because the Lord is just and he sees it is a danger because it is contrary to His Holiness.
    • It is a danger because only in righteousness is there safety.
    • It is a danger because in sin there is only death.
  • And we are all guilty and we are all imperiled.
  • And should the Lord treat with us according to our citizens, we will not stand.


  • First, let us see sin for the danger that it is.
  • Second, let us know that the Lord has shown us the good way wherein we might walk
    • Isaiah 30:18-21
    • Jeremiah 61:6
  • Third, let us remember that the Lord has opened up a fountain for sin and for uncleanness
    • Zechariah 13.

There is only one remedy

There is only one remedy that will deliver us from our sinfulness (Acts 4:12)

There is only one remedy that will give us forgiveness for our sins (1 John 1:9)

There is only one remedy that will take us to the path to resist any and all temptations of sin (1 Corinthians 10:13, Romans 8:14)

But my dear brothers and sisters, if no one ever tells you about the danger, then you may never see it.

  • Remember what the Lord said in Ezek. 3.16-21
    • He said, I'm going to set you on the wall and it's your job to tell the people of the danger that's approaching.
    • And if you tell them and they don't repent, then their blood will be on their head, but you've delivered yourself from that judgment.
    • But if you don't tell them, then you will bear that judgment.

We must recognize the danger that we put ourselves, in our bodies and in our souls.

We are insensitive to that danger today.

  • We are insensitive to it naturally, so we don't need any encouragement to further insensitivity.
  • But the enemy of our souls will continue his campaign “Hath God said…?”
    • Did he really mean to deprive you to restrict your freedom?
    • Of course, we understand what a terrible lie that is.
  • All these things are component parts of what we call repentance unto life

Next week we look at the dangers that we bring to our family and friends with our sin.

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