Real Repentance 13

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.

No man has the least glimpse of the inside of truth, till all conceit of merit and self-power is annihilated, and he is pierced through and through with a sense of his vileness and unworthiness. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

Here is a truth that seems to be lost in our day. Here is what used to be known as experimental Christianity or experimental religion. It was not enough to know that Scripture tells us that we have no merit or self-power, which is seemingly rare today, but one must feel the weight and the arrow of those truths in his or her own soul. I must be rid of all conceit that I have any merit before I can truly look to the merits of Christ alone. I must not only believe that, but I must be rid of all hope and all trust in my merit from my inward man. But even more, I must know that not only do I know that I have no merit, I must feel the weight of being before a thrice holy God with nothing but demerit. Oh how the soul must fight through self-love and pride to arrive at that in the intellect, but that is nothing compared to the battle of the soul that comes to this realization from the depths of the soul. A real repentance is when I am turned from looking to my own merit to looking to the merit of Christ alone. The soul that has been changed by the Spirit will not only turn from looking to its own merit, but it will turn in disgust and loathing at the thought that it might have merit. It will then be turned to the merits of Christ and love and boast in His merit alone.

Not only must I come to the intellectual awareness that I have no merit and not only must I come to the experimental knowledge of that in my own soul, but I must also come to the point of having all of my self-power annihilated in my own eyes and in my own heart. Once again, it does not good to hear those things or read those things as long as I secretly trust in my own power in my heart. A real repentance is being turned from any hope or trust in any power or strength I have in the spiritual realm to looking to grace alone to work in me all that I can possibly do in the spiritual realm. Once again, the soul that has truly been changed will have disgust toward the idea that it has any power in the spiritual realm. Oh how this soul will fight against the through of free-will or the power of man in spiritual things and point others to the glory of free-grace in the spiritual realm. The soul that has tasted of its own depravity and the goodness of the Lord knows that apart from Him it can do nothing.

It is an interesting point to think of people seeing inside the truth as Adam says. The other side of that is people looking upon the truth from the outside and thinking that they know the truth because of their intellectual grasp of it. This provides us with an excellent picture of reality. Man stands outside the truth looking upon it until the truth works itself in him and he sees how he is utterly without merit and utterly without self-power. It is only when man sees that and that by Christ opening his eyes to see that man begins to see the inside of truth. It is no longer just the subject of the mind, but truth becomes part of the person and truth becomes the light by which a person sees all things. Christ Himself, of course, is Light and Life, but until a person has reached the end of any hope or illusion of merit or self-power that person cannot see with Life and Light.

The soul will not know the truth from the inside until that soul is “pierced through and through with a sense of his vileness and unworthiness.” Now this is not a popular teaching in the modern day, but it was a few centuries ago. It was thought that man must come to the point of seeing himself as vile and unworthy before he could understand the nature of grace. As long as a person thinks that s/he is not vile and has some worth, that person will have no real understanding of grace. This is why the doctrines of grace (experimentally) are at best shallow in our day if not virtually gone. It is easy enough for the intellect to grasp the doctrines of grace and view them in a logical order from the outside, but it is hard to grasp them as beautiful and glorious apart from Christ teaching the soul how vile it is and how unworthy it is. How the pride and self-love of the heart fights to maintain some worth, some righteousness, and some power of its own, but in doing so it only keeps looking upon the doctrines of grace from the outside. In order to understand grace one must understand what makes grace necessary and in order to understand grace from the depths of the soul one must understand the depravity of the soul to its depths. In order to taste the glory of grace shown to sinners, one must feel the piercing and awfulness of sin.

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