The Danger of Counterfeit Repentance

January 28, 2017

Proverbs 28:13-14

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.


Sin loves secrecy. Nurture a secret sin long enough and you will have an addiction– a habitual pattern of hiding, lying, denial and self deception. Addictions take on a life of their own and literally de-form people over the course of time. Sin always makes a person less. Sin always takes, never gives. It is the nature of sin to conceal itself. This is its greatest and most subversively dangerous strategy.

Sin’s strategy is to produce a kind of counterfeit repentance within us. Our broken way of dealing with sin is to magnify our inner remorse, to feel badly about ourselves and our behavior and to cover ourselves in shame. Rather than appropriately dealing with our guilt, we cover ourselves in shame until the storm has passed. We consider that these bad feelings toward ourselves somehow cover the cost of the behavior. Soon the cycle resets and the process repeats itself.

Little by little, with every pass through the cycle, the remnants of shame build up layer by layer– like tartar on teeth or plaque in arteries. It leads to a condition the Bible calls “hardness of heart.” We become desensitized to sin and, over time, impervious to shame and our inner life slowly dies. And I’m not talking about self-professed addicts. I’m talking about garden variety sinners like you and me.

When something gets labeled as an “addiction” it becomes a convenient way to consider it’s someone else who has a more extreme problem than you do. In truth, addiction is nothing more or nothing less than habitually feeding our hunger and thirst for God with something or someone other than God. Addiction never starts as addiction. It starts with concealing small sins.

So what’s the answer?

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Confession and renunciation. Confession really has little to do with our feelings of remorse, and it cannot be confused with mere “admission.” Confession does not mean self condemnation or self deprecation or self loathing or self anything really. The wisdom of confession is all about becoming extricated from the prison of self. Confession means agreeing with God about what is true. Confession means ever-increasing, unremitting honesty. It is living life in alignment with what is true. On the one hand we can make the confession, “Jesus is Lord.” On the other we can make the confession, “I have sinned against you, God and against (fill in the blank) by doing or not doing (fill in the blank).”

Confession breaks the pattern, but it takes renunciation to kill the cycle. Renounce is a very strong word. It’s actually something a person does when they are baptized. At baptism one is asked if they renounce sin and evil and injustice and the powers and principalities and so forth. To renounce something is to throw it on the ground and stomp on it and walk away from it, never to be in relationship again with the thing being renounced. Renunciation means a decisive termination. Far from a “feeling” word, renunciation is an act of the will.

The good news for those who confess and renounce? They receive mercy. Their heart becomes sensitized to the Holy Spirit. They live in an awe-filled reverence before God. They prosper.

Confession and renunciation aren’t ethereal mystical practices. They are road meets the rubber realities. They are good medicine that cures the soul. Sometimes we need the help of a pastor or friend in the process. The good news is you can do it right now. Sin is a colossal waste of time.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 29.


Abba Father, thank you for the mercy of being able to confess our sin and the grace to renounce and leave them behind. Come Holy Spirit and empower us to live in this kind of humble honesty. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.


  1. How do you understand the difference between shame and guilt?

2. If guilt says I’ve done bad and shame says I am bad, do you see how shame can keep someone from dealing with guilt?

3. Do you more tend to “admit” you are a sinner or do you actually confess your sins? See the difference?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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