Faith General

Rationalizations Versus Repentance

Derek thought his secret would never be found out. He had covered his tracks meticulously. Foolproof, or so he thought. Lust and porn had become a regular foray. He was driven by the relentless pursuit of the forbidden. It was as if his secret was the most invigorating adventure no one knew about, nor could he tell anyone. On the one hand, he portrayed himself as this moral, upright guy among his peers, while there was a dark side to his character he tried to mask.

Then, it happened. His laptop picked up a virus. Derek left it for a few days at a computer shop on the other side of town, where no one knew him. What he didn’t realize was the manager of that store was a good friend of his dad’s. Picking up his repaired laptop, the manager asked to have a word with him. Aren’t you Ron’s son?  Derek quietly acknowledged the connection. Well, In repairing your computer we discovered where you picked up the virus; one of the porn sites you frequently visit. Derek was mortified. You aren’t going to tell my dad, are you?  I’ll leave that up to you. He happened to be in here the other day and I mentioned you stopped by and thought you were his son.  

That next weekend, Derek saw his dad. I heard you had your laptop fixed. All working ok now?  What was the problem? Derek muttered something incoherent, hoping his dad would ignore the answer.  Was it porn? Derek’s face said it all. His dad knew. How could you, son?  Dad, I’m sorry I did it. There was something in me that made me do it. I promise I’ll stop. I just don’t know what got into me. Derek grabbed his clean laundry and left as fast as he could.  His secret was out and the one man in his life he never wanted to disappoint now knows his dark side.

Like Derek, my sin nature hates getting caught. When my back is against the wall, confronted over my stupid choices, all I want to do is turn invisible and disappear? Instead, I’m expected to explain my actions. What were you thinking?  That’s my problem. I wasn’t.

Rationalize or Repent?

When caught in a sin, you and I have two choices to make: rationalize our actions or repent.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV

Top 5 Rationalizations to Sin

1. God will forgive me. God forgives. However, as Paul asks the practical question  

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Romans 6:1-2 ESV

Truth is a repentant man will value his relationship with Christ so highly that to think of exploiting anything would be horrific. To continue in sin because God forgives is a sign you don’t grasp true grace.

2. It can’t be wrong if it feels so good. I like feelings. Some sins feel super great; for the moment. Later, it leaves us worn out and tattered. Derek had covered his tracks for so long he was held hostage by the very thing he thought would make him feel good. Feelings are a poor rationalization for doing something that breaks the heart of God.

3. Everybody’s doing it. This comes out of an adolescent pressure to conform. Newsflash! Just because everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid doesn’t mean you have to. Societal norms are shifting so quickly away from a Christ-centered focus just because even your Christian friends are doing something doesn’t justify you doing it.

4. No one will know.  This is the one that Derek believed. All while he was scheming, having his secret forays, God saw it all.  When a man thinks he has a secret no one will ever know, he is the most self-deceived person on the planet.

23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.  Numbers 32:23 ESV

5. Just this once. I can handle it.  Illicit choices always turn out worse than you think. A young man tried to convince me just one joint would give me the best high ever!  You’d be higher than Jesus! Needless to say that rationalization didn’t take for me. The consequences for me would be much higher than altering my brain for the weekend. How about losing a career for the rest of my life!  Nonetheless, we often let our sense of infallibility convince us otherwise.

Bottomline, rationalizations over sin usually include Sorry I got caught or If only he or she hadn’t done….  Derek wasn’t truly repentant. He was just sorry he got caught. And, yes, Derek claims to love Jesus.

Top 5 Fruits of Godly Repentance

You know you are truly repentant when:

1. There is an absence of rationalizations. No more Sorry I or If only. No more posturing or spinning the story.

2. You express genuine sorrow. There’s a big difference between genuine tears and crocodile ones. Real sorrow leads to taking responsibility for your actions. You don’t spin it anymore. You admit your part in the disaster and you are genuinely broken over the pain you caused others and God.

3. You have an open confession of sin. No more masks. Instead, you openly admit your sin to others. I took advantage of my girlfriend. I lied. I cheated on that exam. I’ve been secretly looking at porn and it has destroyed my view of women. I got drunk last weekend. I said some very ugly things about my parents to my roommate.  When we finally get to the point of open confession to God, it naturally flows to human confession. Let the circle of sin be the circle of our confession.

4. You seek restitution.  Godly repentance is costly. You make things right with those who were injured by your sin. You replace the money you took from your roommate’s wallet. You spend time doing the court-ordered community service for trashing a public park. You pay to fix the broken window you caused while house-sitting for your mentor. You make things right.

5. You seek reconciliation. Invariably along the way, you are going to say hurtful words to someone. They will be like a wedge between you and the injured party. Reconciliation involves forgiveness and the willingness to release the other person, and yourself, from the obligations that offended. Trust can be lost in a moment, but it takes time to rebuild it, if ever.

The Gospel is clear. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin. To continue to rationalize your sin, like Derek, is to live contrary to the Gospel, even as you claim to be a Jesus-follower.

With the help of a mentor, you can journey the path from worldly repentance (rationalizations) to that of genuine, Holy Spirit-induced godly repentance.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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