There has been much talk in my circle about effectively dealing with sin. Oswald Sanders in Problems of Christian Discipleship provides insight as he sees God’s call to Ephraim in Hosea 14:2-4.
First the prophet (God) calls for repentance – “not a vague and general confession but a specific and personal outpouring of a contrite heart.” Individually naming and confessing sin … calling our behavior what it is. He then invites a return to the Lord. Come back! Move away from where you have been. Leave the sin behind. Stop acting the way you have been. Come, be with God. But there also must be a renunciation of entanglements – in Hosea it is alliances with the Assyrians. For us it may mean repudiation of the sinful things we hold to – our pride, our self-righteousness, our “being right,” our image. We must specifically deny the what we hold to instead of God and his Word. Sanders points out that following these actions, then God promises blessings of restored communion with him (in this case, a millennial promise).
Sanders begins the discussion by pointing out that we are often marked by superficiality (a spirit of the age even in 1958) especially in our response to God’s message. “Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin.” So we tend to lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously dealing with it. We act as if merely making new resolves of our will can take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. Sanders understands that it is not that we don’t want to do the best, the highest, to be obedient. He grants that we usually do mean it when we resolve to do better. Its just that our “resolves are fleeting.”
He also points to a common problem in believers – unconscious deterioration. “It is possible that we are merely keeping up appearances while spiritual atrophy is already far advanced.” In other words, our image is far more important to us that our hearts and without times of serious reflection in the mirror of the Word we might not see it. A good warning to us all – especially in an age where “looking good” has become seemingly all important.