Real Repentance 2

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)

It is vital for people to understand the true nature of sin in order to understand the true nature of repentance. If one thinks of sin as simply external actions, then repentance is nothing more than to refrain from an external action. But once one begins to understand the spiritual nature of the law, things begin to change. If the law has a spiritual nature and reaches the depths of our souls, then real repentance must be spiritual and reach the depths of our souls as well. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about how much they misunderstood the real intent of the Law when they did not take it to the inner man. They thought of adultery as the external actions, but Jesus instructed them and us that if we lust in our hearts we have committed adultery.

This is simply shattering to the person who thinks of sin as in the external actions alone. A person can be very chaste and outwardly moral and yet commit adultery with thousands and thousands of people in his or her heart. A person can be very moral and even religious and not realize that minute after minute his heart is committing spiritual adultery against God over and over again. The law is far more concerned with the inward disposition of the heart than it is just the external actions. When the soul of a person comes to the realization of this, it can be quite the shattering experience. But even more, when the person begins to deeply understand that this is the very nature of his or her heart, this person will be crushed and see that s/he has no righteousness in self.

The inward devastation reaches far and wide to those who begin to understand the spiritual nature of the Law and then to understand how it speaks to the very condition of his or her heart. These people will begin to see that the spiritual nature of the Law speaks to the sins that are actually carried out and committed, but they will then have their heart opened to them and they will see their sins of omission as well. They will see that they have sinned by not loving God with all of their being and all of the things that they have not done. When the eyes of the soul are opened by God and He shines His holy light in the soul and a man or woman sees with great horror that s/he has never performed one act of true obedience or true holiness, that person is utterly devastated. Their righteousness unravels like that of Isaiah in the presence of a thrice holy God.

What can a person do when the Lord in His great kindness shows us our sin like that? A person can only cry out to the Lord for mercy and grace because that person has no way of turning from sin since sin is the nature of the regenerate and that person has no real ability to do anything but sin. There is no way to pay for sin with sin and there is no way to turn from sin by turning from one sin to another. Oh how the soul feels its conviction at this point and sees itself with horror and anguish. The pride of a person is crushed by this but certainly not eradicated. What can I do cries the person who has his or her eyes opened? How can I stand before God on that day?

Yes, the soul must have a true repentance but that can only happen from the heart and by grace. The heart must be changed from a proud heart that loves self and lives for self to a person that loves God and lives for His glory. The heart must have a new fountain, source, and object of its love and desires. Real repentance is when God turns the heart from it being a throne of self to being a throne of God. Real repentance is when the soul is turned from exalting self in its own eyes and turned to exalting God. Real repentance is when the soul is turned from pride as the chief motive in the heart to God being the chief motive in the heart. Real repentance can only come when Christ is the teacher in the soul and the soul learns from Him more about the Father and what true humility and meekness is. Real repentance is when the soul mourns for the presence of self and pride when before it mourned that it could not have the desires of self and pride. Real repentance requires all, but grace must do the work.

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