Real Repentance 7

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.

So long as we are joined to the world; acting in the main for worldly ends; attached to its interest; oppressed with its cares, or devoted to its pleasures; we must either totally reject, or explain away the gospel. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

While many think of the Gospel as saving them from an eternity of wrath, the Bible also speaks of being saved from the power of sin. The Gospel is good news for both now and eternity, though especially for eternity. One aspect of the good news is what is done to relieve the misery of sinners. The nature of sinners is that they have a sinful nature, so the good news is that God gives them a new heart. Sinners are born dead in sins and trespasses, so the good news is that God gives them life. Sinners are born in bondage to sin, so the good news is that God purchases them from their bondage. Sinners are born slaves of sin and of the devil, so the good news is that God releases them from their slavery. Sinners are locked into the world in the sense that they follow the path of the world which is following the prince of the power of the air, so the good news is that God takes them from following the world and now they have a new King to follow. Sinners are under the dominion and power of darkness, so the good news is that God translates them from that dominion into the kingdom of His Beloved Son. Sinners are born under the curse of the law, so the good news is that God delivers from that and gives them a kingdom of grace.

Clearly, then, there is a huge difference between an unbeliever and a believer, though indeed saved sinners will see more corruption in their own hearts than they can see in others. As one is given more light the more sin s/he will see in themselves. But the difference is real and it is huge. This is to say that there must be a real repentance and it will be a willing repentance from the inner person, though again there is a battle to fight and a war with the flesh, the world, and the devil. This does not mean that believers will have an easy life with sin nor does it mean that they will be close to perfect for one minute. But it is to say that they have a new heart, a new nature, a new King, and a new life.

Scripture is quit clear that a true believer is a new creature in Christ Jesus and is not longer the same person. When God gives a person a new heart, a new mind, and a new controlling love, those people are different than they were before. The good news (or at least an aspect) of Scripture is that God does change people and deliver them from themselves, the devil, and the world. Instead of being joined to the world, the believer has been joined to Christ and is one with Christ. Instead of being united (one joined with) to or married to the world, we are united and married to Christ. Instead of the world and its thinking controlling us, we are compelled by the love of Christ.

Instead of acting for worldly ends, we now (to some degree) are to seek the glory of God in what eat, drink, or whatever we do. God is now our primary/chief end or goal in what we do. Instead of being a slave to the world and attached to the interests of the world, we are now attached to the interests of Christ and His kingdom. Instead of being oppressed with the cares of the world, believers have their thoughts on the things of Christ and His kingdom. Instead of being devoted to the pleasures of the world, believers live for Christ alone and have true joy in Christ as given by the Holy Spirit. These things are both inward and outward, but there is a huge difference.

As long as people deny this real repentance of the inward man which comes with a new heart and an indwelling Christ, they are rejecting and explaining away the Gospel of grace alone. This great change is not because people work hard, but instead this great change is by grace alone. Sinners are taken out of bondage and are given a participation of life and holiness in Christ which is life itself. The Gospel has promises of Christ and of grace, yet as long as people are joined to the world they show that they are not united to Christ and do not have indwelling grace. Real repentance is not a work, but instead it is a free gift of God in taking His people out of slavery and bringing them into the kingdom of His beloved Son. A message that denies that is not the Gospel of grace alone.

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