Real Repentance 14

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)

The Scriptures in all places condemn pride, self-love, and haughty eyes. It is pride that is idolatry itself in man choosing himself and loving himself supremely rather than God. It is that pride that works in man and makes man to think that he can work righteousness and that he has the ability to do things apart from Christ. It is pride that puts blinders on men and keeps them from seeing that they are proud and full of self. It is pride that blinds men from the understanding of humility and the real truth of God and so proud man lives in a perpetual lie about reality.

It is no wonder, then, that for there to be a real repentance that man must be pierced through with a sense of his vileness and unworthiness. What can man repent of unless he knows what he is repenting of? How can man repent of all conceit of his merit until he knows and understands that he has no merit? Here we see some experimental teaching that reaches the depths of our souls if the Lord is pleased to open our hearts to it. How can we truly rest in Christ and His merits and righteousness alone if we have not repented of our own merit? But our pride hides some of the secret spots and hiding places where our heart grasps at our own merit and righteousness. Surely it is self-evident that as long as we are holding to our own merits and righteousness that we cannot hold on to Christ alone and grace alone. Surely it is clear that we cannot see and understand from the depths of the soul about the Gospel until God has rooted up our conceit or merit and leaves us naked and ashamed in His presence.

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, but in no place do we see that the Gospel leaves some room for the power of man to contribute to his own salvation. If man is to really repent of sin, then man must repent of the sin of trusting in his own power and not looking to the power of God alone. How crushing this is to the pride of man to stand annihilated before God and have no power and no righteousness, but if man is to really repent from the inward man he must repent of all self-power and look to the power of God in Christ for grace alone. As Paul put it in II Corinthians 12, it is in our weakness that we are strong. Another way he put it was that in our weakness it is His power that is perfected in us and it is the power of Christ who dwells in us. Until that power or self or self-power is annihilated (real repentance) there will not be the power of Christ in the soul. Until Christ kills the power of self in the soul He will not reign in that soul by grace. This is to say that there will only be one, true reigning power in the soul and the one must be repented of.

A real repentance will necessarily be preceded by a person being pierced through and through with a sense of his vileness and unworthiness. God works a sense of vileness and unworthiness upon men before they are converted and this conviction does deepen as the sense of conviction goes on. If once we think about it, we can know that our repentance will not be any deeper than the sense of conviction that precedes it. Our repentance from self will not be any deeper than our sense of the vileness of self. It is interesting to note that in Acts 2:27 some who heard the sermon of Peter were said to be pierced to the heart. Peter had just finished telling them that they had crucified Jesus. John 19:34 has the account of Jesus on the cross and a soldier pierced his side to show He was already dead. The Greek word used for piercing there (John 19:34) was nusso. The word in Acts 2:27 is katanusso. The end of the word is the same in John 19:34 and Acts 2:27, but there is a preposition added on front of the word used in Acts. It adds a more violent aspect to the pricking or piercing. The point is that the word for the conviction (piercing) brought on the people in Acts 2:27 is that used of what they were guilty of, the crucifixion of Jesus where He was pierced through with a spear.

A conviction of sin that brings about a piercing like that of a spear is one bought about by a sight of sin by the work of God. These people felt a deep and piercing conviction and it certainly appeared to lead to a deep and real repentance. These people went from mocking the apostles to following the apostles. They went from being part of having Christ crucified to a real repentance where they bowed before the crucified One as Lord. No longer did they have the illusion that they had merit, but their conviction was deep and thorough. They did not just need a little help to be converted, they needed a Savior who would do all the work. They had no merit to add to the merits of Christ and they had no self-power to trust in. They needed a Divine power and they looked to that alone. This piercing conviction brought them a sense of how vile they really were and they were turned from their pride and righteousness to Christ and Christ alone. Real repentance of the inner man requires a real conviction in the inner man.

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