Real Repentance 5

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.

Generally speaking, it is to be feared we do not dread sin, but the punishment of it; and yet till we hate sin, as such, and feel our misery under it, it is vain to talk of repentance. Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

It used to be the case that sin was thought of in terms of pride, self-love, and self-centeredness. When one considers Romans 3:23 and the teaching that sin is falling short of the glory of God, it is seen that man does not love God and seek His glory in what he does, but instead man seeks his own glory rather than God’s. Man loves himself rather than God and is centered upon himself rather than God. When this is seen, real repentance is no longer just external acts which are considered bad, but real repentance is for God to change the heart and for those who have truly repented to hate sin as sin rather than just to dread the punishment of sin.

Unconverted sinners are full of pride and self, which means that their hearts are all about themselves and the things they want and the things they want to avoid. The unconverted sinner (and that can include very religious people) will avoid sin, but s/he will not avoid sin out of a hatred for sin as sin, but will avoid sin for the fear of getting caught and the punishment of it. The unconverted sinner can avoid a lot of sin out of a fear of punishment or perhaps a fear of being seen by others as a sinner. The unconverted sinner, however, is still operating under the power or pride and self-love. While it seems to be the case in modern versions of Christianity that as long as people seem to stop their outward sin that they are viewed as having repented, that is simply a soul-damning teaching. Real repentance has only happened in reality when the heart has been changed. One sign of that change is when a person begins to hate sin as sin and sin as against God.

In the Matthew 3:7-9 passage above, John tells them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Real repentance will show a certain kind of fruit and a false or deceptive repentance will bear a certain type of fruit as well. Sensitive souls, however, will note that their hearts are not perfect and so will be concerned that they have not repented when they have. On the other hand, proud hearts will be quite sure that they have truly repented when they have not. It is vital to note that a true repentance does not mean that a person has repented of everything 100% and is now perfect and will now love God with all of his or her being all of the time and will hate all sin with all of the heart all of the time. As a fruit tree will not bear fruit that is 100% perfect 100% of the time, so Christ gives sinners a new heart and yet leaves enough of the flesh in them that they should be humbled from self and depend on Him and on Him alone.

What must be noted is that a real repentance has occurred when there is some love for God as God in the soul and some (even a small amount) hatred for sin as sin is in the soul. In the soul that has truly repented there will always be mixed loves and mixed hatred for sin. The question is not whether it is mixed, but is there something of a real repentance in the soul. The sensitive soul that has truly been granted a real repentance will see the pride and self-love that are left and think that s/he may not be converted. But that sensitive soul, even though it may be through tears and doubts, should look to the mixture and take strong notice that it is a mixture. The question is not whether we have a perfect repentance or not, but whether we have a perfect Savior or not. We have a perfect Savior and it is His work in life, His suffering and death, and His resurrection which saves sinners. Those who have Christ are perfect in the sight of God because of Christ. If Christ is our life, then there will be evidences of Christ in the soul who is our life. He will manifest Himself by working a true love for God in us and giving us a growing distaste for sin as sin and sin as against God.

The proud heart, however, misunderstands the things of God and so concludes that s/he is saved. The proud heart will think it loves God because it has high feelings for God because it thinks that God has saved it. Yet the sinful heart loves those that it thinks love it. The proud heart will hate sin out of self-love and the damage it might to its own honor, yet this is out of nothing but self-love and so it does not hate sin as sin. The proud heart will hate sin in one sense because it thinks it should and because its creed may say that it should. This proud heart has a repentance that it will repent of sooner or later because it is not a true repentance granted it by grace alone. It is nothing but the works of self and self-love. Since it has not been turned from self-love, all it does is from that self-love and so all of its outward repentances are from self-love rather than love for God.

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