Real Repentance 1

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.

The law is not satisfied by an outward observation of it, but by the inward disposition of the heart; we break it as much by a bare outward keeping of it only, as by living in an avowed neglect of it. Perhaps the best of men may find, upon consideration, that they never performed one act of true and pure obedience in all their lives. What conviction is here and what a terrible blow is this to our pride! (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion, International Outreach)

We live in a day where repentance is thought of (when at all) as a person simply stopping an external action. It is as easy to do as an act of the will, they say. Faith, which is grossly misunderstood as a simple act of the will or choice as well, is also so easy to do in the modern world. The Pharisees seemed to think the same thing as well, that is, that religion consisted in the external actions. They could hardly be more wrong. While the external actions can be a reflection of the fact that a heart has not been changed and so a true repentance has not occurred, the simple matter of an external change does not reflect that an inward change has occurred.

John the Baptist referred to the Pharisees and the Sadducees (the most religious groups of his day) as a “brood of vipers.” Surely, they thought, he does not know what he is talking about. But John told them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, which is to say that they had not truly repented from the heart. The Pharisees were so concerned about the small things of the law and keeping the legal requirements of it, but they were blind to the true nature of the law and the true nature of holiness. It would appear that their blindness continues in religious institutions across the land (and world). The external focus on repentance and external behavior continues to this day. The nature of inward and spiritual Christianity seems to have been lost. The commands of God reach the inner man, Christ dwells in the inner man, and the Holy Spirit works His fruit in the inner man.

The Pharisees were so stringent about the outer man keeping the commandments, yet John called them a brood of vipers. He told them that they could not look to Abraham, but instead they were to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. But of course they thought that they had nothing to repent of. But are we any different (essentially) in the modern day? For some the issue is praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or something like that and having the slightest bit of moral change (if at all) and all is thought to be good. For others, it seems to consist in ascribing to a creed, doing the sacraments, and living a moral life. But the real issue is that for both the religious actions are nothing but external issues.

What a person must come to the realization of is that not only MUST there be a repentance of external things; it is the heart that MUST repent as well. It is the inward part of a person that must be turned from love of sin and of the world. It is the inward part of a person that must be turned from love of self and pride. It is the inward parts of a person that must love God and seek His face with some earnest desire. It is not enough to refrain from the outward actions when the inward person is violating the whole law each moment of his or her existence. It is not enough to put a piece of gauze over a gaping bullet wound to the abdomen, but there must be work done to repair the damage that the bullet did to the inside of the person. The main damage that a bullet does is to the inward parts, but so is sin. Unless sin is dealt with on the inside, there is no real dealing with it at all.

One of the great problems with dealing with sin in the inner man, however, is that man cannot change his own sinful heart and nature. It is when men start dealing with their own hearts in truth that they will begin to see that it takes grace to change the heart and it takes grace to truly repent from the heart. Man no more has the ability to repent from the heart as he does to jump over the moon with no mechanical help. As a man cannot create himself in the first place, so he cannot make himself a new creature in Christ Jesus. When the whole law is seen as essentially internal and of the heart, it is then that man may come to the conclusion (as the quote above) that he has done nothing but sin his whole life even in the best things he has done. When men see that their sin is of the inner man and is of their nature, they see that true repentance is in the depths of the soul and must be by Divine power.
3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.

The law is not satisfied by an outward observation of it, but by the inward disposition of the heart; we break it as much by a bare outward keeping of it only, as by living in an avowed neglect of it. Perhaps the best of men may find, upon consideration, that they never performed one act of true and pure obedience in all their lives. What conviction is here and what a terrible blow is this to our pride! (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion, International Outreach)

We live in a day where repentance is thought of (when at all) as a person simply stopping an external action. It is as easy to do as an act of the will, they say. Faith, which is grossly misunderstood as a simple act of the will or choice as well, is also so easy to do in the modern world. The Pharisees seemed to think the same thing as well, that is, that religion consisted in the external actions. They could hardly be more wrong. While the external actions can be a reflection of the fact that a heart has not been changed and so a true repentance has not occurred, the simple matter of an external change does not reflect that an inward change has occurred.

John the Baptist referred to the Pharisees and the Sadducees (the most religious groups of his day) as a “brood of vipers.” Surely, they thought, he does not know what he is talking about. But John told them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, which is to say that they had not truly repented from the heart. The Pharisees were so concerned about the small things of the law and keeping the legal requirements of it, but they were blind to the true nature of the law and the true nature of holiness. It would appear that their blindness continues in religious institutions across the land (and world). The external focus on repentance and external behavior continues to this day. The nature of inward and spiritual Christianity seems to have been lost. The commands of God reach the inner man, Christ dwells in the inner man, and the Holy Spirit works His fruit in the inner man.

The Pharisees were so stringent about the outer man keeping the commandments, yet John called them a brood of vipers. He told them that they could not look to Abraham, but instead they were to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. But of course they thought that they had nothing to repent of. But are we any different (essentially) in the modern day? For some the issue is praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or something like that and having the slightest bit of moral change (if at all) and all is thought to be good. For others, it seems to consist in ascribing to a creed, doing the sacraments, and living a moral life. But the real issue is that for both the religious actions are nothing but external issues.

What a person must come to the realization of is that not only MUST there be a repentance of external things; it is the heart that MUST repent as well. It is the inward part of a person that must be turned from love of sin and of the world. It is the inward part of a person that must be turned from love of self and pride. It is the inward parts of a person that must love God and seek His face with some earnest desire. It is not enough to refrain from the outward actions when the inward person is violating the whole law each moment of his or her existence. It is not enough to put a piece of gauze over a gaping bullet wound to the abdomen, but there must be work done to repair the damage that the bullet did to the inside of the person. The main damage that a bullet does is to the inward parts, but so is sin. Unless sin is dealt with on the inside, there is no real dealing with it at all.

One of the great problems with dealing with sin in the inner man, however, is that man cannot change his own sinful heart and nature. It is when men start dealing with their own hearts in truth that they will begin to see that it takes grace to change the heart and it takes grace to truly repent from the heart. Man no more has the ability to repent from the heart as he does to jump over the moon with no mechanical help. As a man cannot create himself in the first place, so he cannot make himself a new creature in Christ Jesus. When the whole law is seen as essentially internal and of the heart, it is then that man may come to the conclusion (as the quote above) that he has done nothing but sin his whole life even in the best things he has done. When men see that their sin is of the inner man and is of their nature, they see that true repentance is in the depths of the soul and must be by Divine power.

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