Repentance and Pride

You will never be done with repentance.

Did that quote get your attention? It did mine. It’s the first sentence of chapter 30 of Joe Thorn’s Note to Self, his book of 48 notes to preach to yourself.


It may be the best devotional I’ve read about repentance. Here’s more to explain why:

Repentance is both an attitude and an action. It will be helpful to think of repentance in three parts: revulsion, resolution, and repetition.

Revulsion is finding something offensive or distasteful. Revulsion will come only when you see the holy, just, and good character of God in contrast to yourself.

Resolution is purposing to walk in righteousness, delighting in God’s law, laying off the old self, and walking in newness of life.

Repetition is the ongoing nature of this work. Without repetition, it is all for nothing; for as long as you continue to sin, you need to repent.

Helpful, right? And because of the truth of that note, Note #34 entitled “You are Proud” demands sharing. Why? Because we all are prone to it and thus need to practice repentance of it. Thorn suggests that we struggle with pride because of comparing ourselves to others and because we disregard the work God is doing in our lives.

Pride is why you rage, lust, covet, steal, and lie. You do these things because you believe you deserve what you don’t have. This kind of pride denies God and others the place they should have in your life.

You must see yourself as you really are-creature, not Creator; sinful, not righteous; undeserving, not deserving; dependent, not independent; made for his glory, not for your own. And you must know God as holy, just, good, gracious, and merciful, who saves all who trust in him, and not in themselves. This is the theology that erodes pride, builds humility, and produces joy.

These two notes on repentance and pride have great content for self-preaching. I encourage you to get the book to hear the other 46.

Church Idols

(A post for the church-going reader)

We have idols. Some we know and hear sermons about. Some we don’t recognize or acknowledge and hear fewer if any sermons about. Before I list four of these and suggest how to address them, here’s how I’m defining an idol.

Oxford gives two definitions for idol:

  1. an image of a god, used as an object of worship.
  2. A person or thing that is the object of intense admiration or devotion…

My definition uses the second of Oxford’s with a few caveats.

  1. …which may tempt me to develop anger, gossip, slander, argue, or vilify.
  2. …which may cause division in my family or my church.
  3. …which may disrupt my worship in a church service.
  4. …which may be the source of spiritual attack.

A complete list of these idols would be longer, but here are four of these idols that are continually present in our churches.

  • Translation preferences-if you are disturbed if someone reads from a different translation than you prefer in any setting, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Preaching style preferences-if you are disturbed if a preacher’s style of speaking is other than you prefer or you sit in judgment regardless who is speaking, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Music style preferences-if you are disturbed by the song choices for a worship service and resist engaging with the rest of the congregation, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Leadership preferences-if you are disturbed by the leadership style of a staff member because they lead differently than another past or present staff member, this may be an idol of yours.

We all have dealt with and observed these idols both personally and corporately. For those of us who deal more directly with them on both of these fronts, I offer these suggestions:

  • Read from various translations in your own study time. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of the translation methodology.
  • Give grace to the following aspects of God’s work through a human being: their experience(s), their personality, their humanity, their gifts, their calling, their struggles, their uniqueness. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of someone’s speaking style.
  • Recognize your opportunity to engage music as you choose seven days a week. Open your heart for the short window of time during the worship service where you are not in charge of the choices and allow yourself to engage with the body of Christ.
  • Pray for your leaders. Spend time with your leaders. Accept that God moves leaders in and out of ministry locations. Resist the temptation to compare and grip unfair expectations. Open your heart to God’s work in this season of all the people in your church.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)