Real Repentance 9

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.

Humility is a true sense of our state, and must necessarily go before a cure; but then, where is the virtue or merit of it? A man full of noisome, stinking sores, would be a madman, if he did not look out for a remedy, whenever he came to be sensible of his condition, but more so if he took any merit to himself for knowing that he was thus diseased. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

While humility for a believer is more than just a true sense of our state, for the unbeliever arriving at a true sense of his state is certainly a work of humility in the heart by the Spirit. Until a person arrives at and accepts as true from some depth in the heart, a person will not seek a cure. Who would seek an expensive and painful cure for something s/he did not think s/he had? This is something that is necessary for a true repentance, for once again who will seek for what may be a painful sight of self and a painful time of repentance unless one must do that?

The heart of man is exceedingly wicked and evil, though it is wicked enough that it will not accept that what it does is wicked and evil. Self-love and pride work together (though they are really the same thing in a sense) to keep man from seeing the depths of his wickedness and evil, though that is needed for a real repentance. It takes some work of humility in the heart (the opposite of pride) for a person’s pride to be lowered and the blinders of pride taken off to see his or her own heart. Oh how a proud heart will hide so much wickedness and evil from its own eyes. But that proud heart must be brought down so a person can see the real condition of the heart. That proud heart will fight at every step out of self-love which only wants to think the best it can of itself. Oh how difficult it is for self-love to see itself as wicked and evil. How impossible for a hear full of nothing but pride and self-love to know that it is the same hear that the LORD saw in all men so long ago:

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

How utterly humbling it is to a proud heart to recognize that s/he is guilty of the indictment of the LORD that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” While that text of Scripture is an objective truth, it must come home to each soul that it is true “of me” as well as all. This truth must be driven into the depths of the soul by the Spirit of the living God or it will be rejected by the heart as it churns up evil intents of the heart. This is a spiritual battle as well. While the believer has to battle the temptations of Satan that his or her sins are so great that they cannot be forgiven, the unbeliever fights his or her own pride and self-love while Satan uses those things to tell him or her that s/he is not that bad.

When Scripture tells us that we are that bad, then we are that bad. While the heart wants to and does suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, the heart must be softened and humbled before God by God if that heart is going to see itself for what it is and then be enabled to really repent of what it is. The Pharisees were incensed at being called sinners and so there was no real repentance from them, but others were brought low by the preaching of Jesus and cried out for mercy and were granted a real repentance. God was working in their hearts to bring them to humble their pride and bring them off of their self-love to see who they really were in order that they could repent of those things. But the same is true even now. Until a person sees his or her own foul and rotten heart, that person will not be able to seek a real repentance. God works to humble a person so that they can see what they must repent of, but once they see what they need to repent of (a sinful nature and heart), they will see that this repentance is not in their own power but is a work of grace. How we must have God to open our eyes to our hearts!

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