Real Repentance 16

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.

As God looks principally at the heart, so it is there he carries on his saving work. We may polish our outward man, but what shall we do by it, but to get the name of whited sepulchers. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

The whole issue of moral reformation is pictured by Scripture and is what Thomas Adam alluded to. People can beautify the outside of a tomb and it can appear clean and shiny, but they can only touch the outside and the inside is still full of dead men’s bones and all sorts of unclean things. That is precisely what moral reformation is apart from a real repentance. That is precisely what repentance is apart from a real repentance. Apart from a real and true repentance in the inward man, all that a person is doing by a moral reformation is to shine up a tomb of bones.

Sinners are represented by hard words in Scripture. They are sick, naked, and blind, lost, enemies of God, despisers of Christ, and covered with filthy rags. They are self-destroyed, found in their own blood, without strength, ready to perish, sinners, ungodly, united to idols, lovers of pleasure rather than God, without hope and condemned. Sinners do not just need a little cleaning up here and there; they need to have a thorough cleansing of the inner man. But how many think themselves to be rich (spiritually) and have need of nothing? It appears that many do while indeed they are miserable, blind, poor, and naked in the eyes of God. In order to understand anything of real repentance concerning them, people must understand the nature of sin and the power of sin over them. If one thinks of sin as outward only, then the focus is on outward things.

Deny it though you may, this is your actual condition. As to any holiness and strength, heavenly wisdom, spiritual purposes and desires, your soul is an empty vessel. Not a solitary ray of Divine light illumines your understanding, not one pulse of spiritual life throbs in your soul, nor one spark of heavenly love glows in your heart. Nay, more; there is not only absence of all moral good, but there is the actual existence of all moral evil. The mere negation of holiness, if we can suppose such a state, would be less gloomy and appalling than the positive indwelling and supreme dominion of sin. Sin dwelling in you, Satan lording over you, and hell gleaming in your face, presents a picture of woe which baffles all description. You are a moral suicide, for you have destroyed yourself. You are a moral homicide, for your influence has destroyed others. You are a moral deicide, for the tendency of your sin is to annihilate the existence of God. Thus are you at war with universal being. Such is the power, and such the tyranny of that monster evil—sin! Startle not, my reader, at the application of this appalling description of fallen nature to you. Read it not for another, but read it for yourself. Turn not away from it in unbelief and scorn. It is needful that you should recognize in yourself the moral image of the first Adam, that you might be led to seek a transformation into the moral image of the Second Adam. Your soul—I reiterate the truth—your soul is this empty vessel, God has gone out of it, and as to the existence of any holiness, it is a vast and gloomy void. (Octavius Winslow)

The previous quote sets out the great need for a real repentance and the many ways the soul needs it. The soul is full of darkness because it has no Divine light. The soul is full of the power of evil, but it has no spiritual life. The soul is full of hatred and envy, but it has no heavenly love at all. The soul is not just guilty of some external things, but it is at war with all beings in the universe because of sin. The soul is under such a dominion of sin that it can turn from all of that it thinks is outward sin but it will still be a slave to sin even while it is undergoing moral reformation. Without any holiness or heavenly love in the soul, all the external good that a soul does is idolatry. Without any holiness or heavenly love in the soul, all the moral reformation is like dressing a corpse in better clothes. Real repentance has only happened when the love of the soul has changed from self and sin to love for God and holiness. Real repentance has only happened when the soul is turned from darkness to Divine light shining in the soul. Real repentance is a real change in the inner man and it is a change that God must do.

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