Thursday, July 10, 2008

There's No Atheists In Foxholes!

Just finished reading a letter written by a US Marine in Iraq, in which he made a pointed statement:

If there's no atheists in foxholes, then why aren't there more people in church every Sunday?

How is it that a man can cry out to God when the bullets are flying, "Save me Lord. Save Me. Please Lord. Save Me." but when the battle is over, and the danger subsided, go right back on living in rebellion and sin without another thought or care for the one he so earnestly entreated hours earlier?

Because he loves his sin and refuses to repent!

I remember in my own childhood being like this at the Royal Adelaide Show. Before getting on the big, fast, scary rides I would in fear send up a short, insincere prayer that went something like: "Lord, please forgive me of my sin. If this ride should break and I am horribly killed, please don't send me to hell." After the ride was over, and finding that I had survived the ordeal (even though still very much dead in my sins lacking true repentance and faith), I proceeded to quickly forgot all about God. Caught up in the show bags and fairy floss... until the next ride!

I'd like to explore this very serious problem looking at an event in the life of Pharaoh recorded in Exodus 9.

Exodus 9:27-34

And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Entreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thundering and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

1. His admission of guilt was insincere. I have sinned this time is a long way short of, all I have ever done is sinned against you, the Most High God. Repentance consists of a wholehearted change in mind from enmity towards God to enmity towards the sinful self. It is coming into agreement with God about who you are, what you have done and what you deserve. Pharaoh never saw himself as the guilty sinner that he was.

2. His "repentance" was not heartfelt. Instead of crying out God for mercy he asked Moses to entreat God on his behalf. His pride would not let him bow the knee personally.

3. His "repentance" was self-centred. Instead of being broken over how much he had been grieving and angering God, he was broken over how tough things were for him. Turning to God was not an act of surrender mixed with grief over his crimes, but a means to end - the preservation and pleasure of self.

4. His "repentance" was conditional. Instead of unconditionally throwing himself at the feet of a Holy God with an attitude that cries out "you are worthy to be worshipped and served and I will worship and serve you for the rest of my life, even if you throw me in hell at the end of it because I deserve an eternal hell for my crimes", Pharaoh tried to plea bargain with God. If you make things good for me, I will obey you.

5. His "repentance" wasn't lasting. As soon as the rain and hail and thundering ceased, and the motivation for his "repentance" was eased (his own personal comfort had been restored), Pharaoh hardened his heart and continued in sin. True repentance is an unconditional and heartfelt. It is not a means to an end, that is, to escape the fires of hell, but it is an end of a man! True repentance always leads away from wilful rebellion and sin to a state of increasingly unconditional surrender to the will of God, out of love for God. It is a heartfelt change in the mind and will of a man, which always produces a tangible change in the actions of a man. True repentance never ceases!