Real Repentance 6

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.

‘Till we are so convinced of sin, as fully to pronounce the sentence of condemnation upon ourselves, we shall not receive mercy, as mercy, but consider it as a debt. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

The statement by Adam just above is liable to misunderstanding on at least two sides. One, some will think that until one says the words that one is under condemnation that one is not ready to receive mercy. Two, others will think that in some way this self-condemnation is a type of work that one must do. However, neither of those two points is in line with Scripture or the writings of Thomas Adam. Since we are trying to think of real repentance in terms of an inner repentance, in some way the issue should be relatively clear. However, the deceiver is always at work in the area of spiritual Christianity or the life of the inner man.

The soul must become so convinced of sin, which points to the inability of man in his depravity to do good at all apart from Christ, that it sees that it is only worthy of a sentence of condemnation. Instead of viewing some good things that it does as a balancing sin, this soul arrives at a point where it sees that even its righteous acts are as filthy rags. Instead of viewing itself as having some sin and some good things in the religious acts that it does, it sees that its religious acts are vile in the sight of God because they too are done out of pride and self-love. The soul must arrive at the point where it truly sees that all it does is sinful and nothing but sinful before it can be rescued by mercy and nothing but mercy.

Mercy, in terms of definition, is relieving the misery of those who are unable to relieve their own misery. The soul that is not willing to pronounce condemnation upon itself, then, is able to relieve itself and so is not in need of mercy. The soul that does not think it is worthy of being condemned does not think of itself in need of mercy. Mercy is not just helping people in order to make it easier, or mercy is not just helping a person do something that is just out of their reach, but biblical and Divine mercy is to rescue those who are in utter need of rescuing and can do nothing to help themselves. Divine mercy reaches out to those who are dead in sins and trespasses instead of those who are a little sick or even quite sick.

Real repentance is when a person repents of the sins of the inner person but also of its sinful nature and sinful, unbelieving heart. This turning from self to Christ and from a nature that is at enmity to God to where one loves God is not an act that sinners can help with. Divine mercy reaches those who are dead and makes them alive. It is when sinners are made alive in Christ that sinners can and do truly repent. The command to repent is not a command that a person can do in his or her own natural strength, but instead it is a command to do what we cannot do unless God grants mercy to us and grants us a new heart.

The sinner that has not arrived at the inner conviction of the depths of his or her sinful nature and sin that flows from that nature has not arrived at an understanding or conviction of his sin. Corresponding to that, the sinner has not arrived at a real understanding of Divine mercy and is in reality just asking for help rather than to be saved by the mercy and grace of God alone. This shows us how far modern versions of the Gospel and of sin are removed from the biblical Gospel and teaching on sin. Not only do we just try to get people admit that they are sinners rather than to teach them and urge them to seek the Lord to teach their inner man what desperate sinners they really are, but we try to get them to say a prayer or walk an aisle as if that moves God to have mercy on them. Real repentance requires a real understanding of sin from the depths of the soul and for a person to know that s/he deserves nothing but eternal flames. It is only when a person arrives at that point in truth can a person look to Divine mercy in truth. Real repentance requires a real turning from self and pride and looking to Christ alone to save as He is pleased. Real repentance requires a new heart that is the work of mercy and grace alone. Real repentance comes when a proud, condemned soul is turned and becomes a humble and delivered soul.

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