Real Repentance 12

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.

It is the vainest of all vanities, and pride in perfection, to pretend to separate ourselves from the world outwardly, before we are separated from it inwardly. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

While outward repentance is necessary, even vital, Adam points to something that the scribes and Pharisees should have thought of. It is vanity and pride to pretend to separate ourselves from the world when we are not separated from it inwardly. If we have separated ourselves from the world in the externals and have not separated ourselves from the world inwardly, we have not been separated from the world at all. While that may sound a bit odd to some, let us look at the example of the Pharisees. They pretended to be very holy while that holiness and external religious activity did nothing but hid their greedy hearts. They were not separated from the world at all, but instead they just used religious things to gain worldly things (money, honor).

This should make all who interested in their own souls to examine themselves in the inner person and not just assume that they are okay because they keep from external sin. The essence of worldliness consists in our loves, desires, attitudes, motives; intents, and all the things of the heart and mind. At the heart of worldliness is the love of what the world will do for me rather than to seek the honor and glory of God. It is important to the worldly person to have people honor him or her and to have others think well of him or her. The worldly person is not just the person who seeks the outward pleasures of the world, but is one that seeks the honor and esteem of others. The worldly person does good things and may be very involved in civic concerns and moral issues, but the worldly person does those things in order for others to think well of him or her.

The same thing is true of the worldly person who is quite religious. A worldly person in religion can be liberal in order to please others or be conservative in order to please others. This religious person can be very involved in church in order to be highly thought of and this religious person can refrain from many external sinful activities in order to be thought highly of. A religious person can hold to conservative creeds and be quite intellectual in many religious things, yet this person longs and desires for the esteem of others in what s/he tries to convince self is a true and inward belief. This person will believe as long as this person finds that others esteem him or her because of it. However, when believing these things does not gain the esteem of others or this person finds another way to gain more esteem, that person will leave the religious things for other things. This kind of person is described in Matthew 13 (verses below) who receives the word with joy, yet at some point will fall away for various reasons.

Matthew 13:20 “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

The vain person and the proud person don’t always see themselves as such, but their lack of a true and inward repentance is seen by the eye of God at all times and in most cases it will be seen by others. It is that same pride that will deceive a person into thinking that his or her outward repentance and outward religious actions are evidence of a real repentance and a real Christianity. Instead, the vain and proud person is in bondage to self-love and pride and that person’s outward repentance is being used to blind him or her to a lack of inward repentance. Real repentance is a work of God in the inner man and it cannot be done by the act of man or any power of man. Real repentance must be preceded by a changed heart or a new heart that God has worked by grace alone. Real repentance does not make the person perfect, but it is real. The proud heart may think it is perfect, but the heart of one that has really repented now sees worldliness with new eyes and longs to repent of even more of the world. The proud heart may repent of its repentance, but a true repenter will repent of the world the rest of his or her life.

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