In biblical reckoning, today is the Day of Atonement. While we no longer need to offer up sacrifices, holding our breath as to whether the Lord will accept them or not, this is certainly an opportunity to reflect on God’s grace toward us. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain and has redeemed us to God by His blood. How seriously do we consider our redemption? Do we repent wholeheartedly at the time of salvation, only to refuse to repent when sin eventually creeps back into our lives? This is the time of year that our family takes additional time to pray and ask our Heavenly Father to reveal any sin in our lives, any relationships that we need to mend. Today is a day for us of focusing on full repentance for anything that may have been overlooked at times of communion, or if there is some nagging sin we have held onto, refusing to deal with it outright. Although every day should be a day of repentance for Christians, it is good to spend this extra time every year searching our own hearts.
On this Day of Atonement, I would like to call RC, Tim Dick, John Duncan, the Ligonier board members, and any others, to consider searching their hearts for true repentance. I have read the statements by Tim Dick and Senior Management and do not find any evidence of repentance for suing a fellow believer in a secular court or covering up afterwards.
Let us examine the biblical qualifications of true repentance. We are not talking about the repentance that leads to salvation, since we are dealing with professing Christians. But true repentance is necessary for believers who have sinned as well.
If we don’t start by admitting that something is a sin, there will never be any true repentance. What “sin” has Ligonier confessed to so far? Tim says, “I regret any confusion this may have caused” and “I accept full responsibility for the decision.” “Senior Management” said, “The decision was reached not to pursue a conclusion to this matter through the legal system.” This is the closest thing to confessing sin in these statements, which are the only public statements so far released by the ministry. That is NOT confession.
Now let’s go to II Corinthians 7:8-12 and see what Paul thinks should be included in repentance. First, Paul talks about the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is being sorry that you got caught. “I’m sorry someone figured out what we were up to.” Worldly sorrow involves defensive anger, as evidenced here by Tim: “Each time I refuted the accusations, he refused to listen. My denials were then used by the accuser to perpetuate his blog commentary. At that point, I stopped interacting with the accuser, who again escalated his attack, continuing to exhibit, by his public and private conduct, a testimony inconsistent with that of a Christian.”
And here by Senior Management: “The accuser's malicious attacks culminated with the accusation that Ligonier defrauded Soli Deo Gloria, in our recent acquisition of it. This has been categorically refuted by Don Kistler, SDG's founder. Threats to Ligonier and its leadership have continued to escalate, with the accuser issuing deadlines for Ligonier to answer his non-credible charges. At one point our president was told he had “put a knife to his own throat,” by ignoring the accuser. Throughout this entire ordeal, numerous emails and posts refuting the accuser were ignored by him. Mediation through ecclesiastical means is always preferred. On at least six occasions, we have sought information from the accuser as to how we might contact his pastor or session. The accuser has refused all requests, publicly scoffing at the notion.”
Worldly sorrow also includes pride. Notice that the whole content of each statement is focused on how they were hurt, how they were attacked, how they were accused, all the bad things that happened to them. The focus is on them. And that leads us to the next aspect of worldly sorrow – self-pity. Don’t you feel sorry for Ligonier when you read those public statements? Have they drawn out your sympathies in showing how hurt they’ve been? Worldly sorrow does not produce a change in behavior. Ligonier certainly appears to be hanging on to their right to file suit against Frank Vance once they have another opportunity. Worldly sorrow covers up what was done. Saying that they take full responsibility is a totally meaningless statement without the necessary accompanying confession and admittance of sins. Defensive anger, pride and self-pity are not the marks of true, godly repentance, but rather that of the world’s way.
Worldly sorrow wonders what other people are thinking. Godly sorrow wonders what God thinks. Godly sorrow is primarily directed toward God. David said, when he had committed great sins, “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned.” Although other people are certainly affected, we need to remember that all sin is rebellion against God.
Paul goes on to make a list of what godly repentance should entail:
Clearing of yourselves
This is a difficult passage to understand, so let’s look at them one by one.
Diligence here is in the same sense as in dealing in business: being earnest in dealing with the issue, to be very careful and diligent in accomplishing what needs to be done, not being flippant, but having a serious attitude toward right and wrong.
Clearing of yourselves is the Greek word apologia, which is used in a different manner in this verse than the normal meaning. Here it refers to a clear explanation of what was done wrong to all those who were affected or who have a need to know. It involves clearly stating the details of the sin(s) to the appropriate parties.
Indignation means to be irritated or vexed, but not in a spirit of anger or self-justification; rather, to be so displeased with your own self for having committed such a grievous sin.
Fear here has nothing to do with being afraid. Rather it is a godly dread or terror of that particular sin you have committed, to the point that you now take a very strong stance against that particular sin, and have a heightened hatred of sin in general.
Vehement desire is that burning desire to live your life fully sold out to God now that you are turning from your sins.
Zeal involves having a fervent mind, one that is determined to do what needs to be done for the Lord now.
And vindication involves godly sorrow working in your heart to make you ready to take a stand on the right side of truth, God’s truth, and to stand up for right against wrong.
We all know that repentance means a complete turn in the opposite direction of where we were heading, but this verse above clearly lays out the specifics of that.
Let’s see what Ligonier should have done, if they wanted their donors and supporters to believe they truly repented.
First, RC Sproul, Tim Dick, John Duncan, each board member, and possibly other senior management need to put their names out there. Thank you, Tim, for at least having the guts to use your own name.
Diligence: We need to see that you each are serious about dealing with sin, especially in this situation.
Clearing of yourselves: There needs to be specific confession. What did you do wrong? How did you sin? Who did you sin against? Why was this wrong?
Indignation: There should be absolutely no self-justification in those statements. You should take full responsibility by using statements such as “I was wrong when I …” or “I am so sorry that I did…”. If there is even a hint of blaming others, God will not consider that true repentance.
Fear: We would like to see you each make a public statement about how wrong it is to do what you have done. Show us your hatred of your sins.
Vehement desire: Dismissing a lawsuit without prejudice so that you can resurrect it again later is NOT turning away from your sins. Now is the time to take a stand AGAINST Christians suing one another and for you to call other Christians to hold to God’s Word on this, and other, issues related to your sins.
Zeal: Determine what needs to be done for Lord now, what needs to be done to clean up His testimony that you have tarnished here.
Vindication: Show us your sorrow; show us your shame. Where is your shame? Worldly sorrow won’t work here. We are calling you to a godly sorrow, a godly repentance.
RC, Tim, John, board members, and others: Do us the honor of showing your shame. Search your hearts today and see if there is anything wicked there. Godly repentance works righteousness. We so desire to see this once-righteous ministry glorify God in everything. We are praying for your repentance.