Confront Your Sin with Comfort

Confront Your Sin with Comfort

Does something about this blog’s title sound wrong to you? Maybe it even caused an eyebrow raise?

Comfort seems like the wrong word. The Bible is clear that sin should be confronted. You don’t sweep it under the rug. You don’t ignore it. You don’t just hope it goes away. You confront it, but how?

What is the most effective way to confront sin?

This week, I was listening to a Podcast featuring a discussion between Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney (these 18-sessions are well worth a listen). In their conversation, Keller mentioned the difference between penance and repentance in the way that we confront sin, and the distinction hinges on how we respond when we fall short.

When we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, think the wrong thing, what is our response?

Often, we internally motivate ourselves to turn from sin by saying, “If I don’t shape up then God is going to punish me, stop blessing me, or abandon me.” Does sin have consequences? Does sin introduce death? Does sin keep us from experiencing God’s best in our lives? To all of these questions the answer is a resounding, yes. But, we can all too easily begin using our insecurity in Christ as our primary internal motivation to turn from sin, when we should be using our security in Christ. When we confront our sin with our security in Christ, we begin to say, “How can I live like this, when God the Father loves me so much that He sent Jesus to die and made me a temple of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, I am not just appalled at what sin costs me but how ugly sin is to God.

The most effective tool we have in confronting our sin is the comfort of the gospel.

The Puritan theologian, John Owen, models this so well in his book The Mortification of Sin in Believers. For my money, this paragraph contains some of the most powerful lines that Owen ever wrote:

Bring thy lust to the gospel,—not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, “What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit hath chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust’s sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation? In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation,—I have despised them all, and esteemed them as a thing of nought, that I might harbour a lust in my heart. Have I obtained a view of God’s fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements? Shall I endeavour to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?” Entertain thy conscience daily with this treaty. See if it can stand before this aggravation of its guilt. If this make it not sink in some measure and melt, I fear thy case is dangerous.[1]

[1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 58.


David Lindell is the West Campus Pastor at James River Church. To view content and messages from David visit

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About me

David Lindell

David Lindell

David serves as the Campus Ministries Director and West Campus pastor at James River Church in Springfield, Missouri. He has theology degrees from Evangel University (BA) and Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM). David has written for Christianity Today and currently writes for James River Church’s blog. He is married to Becky and they have three children: Owen, Elliot, and Henley. You can follow him on Twitter @davidlindell