Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that
You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.
Question 104 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the duties required in the First Commandment?” It gives the answer, “The duties required in the First Commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honouring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.” Last week we considered what it means to believe God. This week we examine our duty to be sorrowful when we offend Him.
Being sorrowful does not come natural to sinners. Whereas we are born with the seeds of the knowledge of and ability to sin, children must be taught to say “I’m sorry.” And it is one thing to teach a child to say “I’m sorry,” it is another thing altogether to actually BE sorry! I remember once after a snowstorm; my sister and I went outside and began to try to walk through the bank of snow that the plow had created on the side of the road. It was so much fun; we ended up climbing, falling, and walking around the whole block! When we arrived home over an hour later, our parents were very upset. We had been gone a long time and they did not know where we were or what might have happened to us. As my father punished us, I can honestly tell you that I truly was very sorry! My heart was sincere when I said “I’m sorry.” However, the reason I was sorry was because I did not relish the idea of getting a spanking. I was sorry for me. I was not sorry because I had wronged my parents.
Here we come to the heart of the matter of being sorrowful for our sin, which is to be sorrowful from the heart for the right reasons. No doubt, everyone who will be sent into the lake of fire on Judgment Day will be truly sorry from the heart for what they are about to receive on account of their sins. They will dread all that their sins have ultimately brought to them, and they would give anything to go back in time and turn away from any and every sin in order to curtail their endless torment. But as sincere as this sorrow is, it is nothing more than a selfish desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain—the very same desire that kept them walking blissfully in their sins while they lived in this world. They are not now, and will not then be sorrowful for the evils they have done, they will only be sorry for the “evil” they are about to endure.
The sorrow that it is our duty to feel is not this kind of wicked self-centered regret. The Christian sorrows for what his sins have done to God. A man experiences godly sorrow when he mourns over the evil he has done without consideration of the consequences he will receive. We see in the Scripture quoted above, David pronouncing God right in all of His judgment against him. David is not concerned about his suffering on account of his sins. In fact, he categorizes all of his sin and all of the evil that he did as being entirely against God. Here we must see that David is not denying that he sinned against Uriah in murdering him, against Joab in ordering him to get Uriah killed, against Bath Sheba in tempting her to adultery, against his wives, his children, his nation, etc. David is not trying to minimize his sins. In fact, he is doing the exact opposite. In acknowledging that all of these sins were “only” against God, David is magnifying his sins to the highest possible degree! David is confessing that it was against God that he committed murder, adultery, conspiracy, falsehood, temptation, etc.
Beloved, when you and I sin, we offend God. That is the ultimate truth of it. We take what God has made for good and for His glory, and as far as possible we attempt to use that creature for evil and for His shame. What a monstrous evil every sin is when we rightly see it in this light! Thus, it is our duty to be sorrowful for our sins, to be sorry that we have offended the all-wise, all-good God, who in spite of our evils against Him, continues to magnanimously give us life, breath, and every good thing. Take some time today to afflict your souls (Lev. 16:31), and make it a regular part of your prayer life to mourn for your sins. Jesus promised that those who mourn now shall be comforted, but those who laugh now shall mourn and weep (Luke 6:21, 25).