How many mirrors do you have in your home? What type are they? Are they full length or handheld? Do they hang on the wall or do they sit on the floor? Regardless of how many, how decorative, or what type of mirrors you have in your home, they’re all there for the same basic purpose – to reflect.
These are the tools by which we ready ourselves in the morning – it’s so that we can, at least in part, know what we look like to the rest of the world. The mirror is shows us to ourselves, and upon that viewing, we generally make some kind of adjustment. We respond based on what we see.
God’s Word is like this. We open the pages of Scripture to read it only to find that it is reading us through the power of God’s Spirit. The Word of God reveals ourselves to us – it judges the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. And so it’s through God’s Word that we see our sin. This is the primary way God uses to give us a vision of ourselves. When we read God’s Word, or when someone talks to us about our sin based on God’s Word, or when we sit under the convicting teaching of God’s Word, we are confronted with our real, personal, and specific sin.
And just as we respond when a physical mirror shows us our appearance, so also do we respond when the spiritual mirror is held up to us and reveals our shortcomings. So how do we respond then, when we are confronted with our sin? The Book of Acts shows us the two primary ways:
1. We respond with violence.
Such was the case with the first martyr, Stephen. Stephen, the man who was doing the work of food distribution for the church and sharing the good news of Jesus in word and deed along the way, was charged with blasphemy. In response, he preached a sermon that took his accusers through the arc of Israel’s history, culminating in his turning the tables on his audience. The accused became the accuser, and those listening were confronted with their sin:
“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53).
When confronted with their sin, the people responded with violence:
When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him… Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him (Acts 7:54, 57).
It’s an extreme case that ended in Stephen’s murder. But one of our own primary responses when confronted with our sin is one of violence. We might lash out at the confronter, or we might leave the church that dared be so invasively personal. We might disassociate with the person with the impudence to talk to us so directly. In the end, though, we violently reject the claim on us, refusing to acknowledge that we might actually be worse than we hoped.
2. We respond with repentance.
Earlier in the Book of Acts, we find a different reaction. Fresh off the rumors of a resurrected Jesus, a crowd bore witness to the miraculous preaching of the disciples, each hearing the word of the gospel in their own language. Peter, the spokesperson for the group, boldly stood before this crowd and preached the gospel in all its unabashed truth. In that presentation, he did not shy away from the culpability of those who were listening:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” (Acts 2:36).
Here, too, was a crowd. And here, too, was the gospel. And here, too, was the confrontation. And yet here we find a remarkably different response:
When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Again, it’s an extreme case. Thousands were convicted. Thousands believed. But this is our other primary response when confronted with our sin. Instead of violence, we can accept the truth about ourselves and humbly turn to Jesus for forgiveness again and again.
We are on this spectrum somewhere, friends, and we are on it daily. Maybe even now. For today will be a day through God’s Spirit by which He brings us to the mirror. He will show us ourselves, for He loves us too much not to. How will we respond? What will we do then? Will we respond with violence, or will we respond with repentance?