Real Repentance 18

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.

Is there any such thing as regeneration, or a change of nature, from sensuality to purity of heart, from flesh to spirit, from sin to holiness, from the world to God? So the Scripture says, and that nothing less is being Christian. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

If we think of repentance in accordance with the basic definition of it, then repentance is turning from one thing and turning toward another. One cannot repent, that is, turn from one thing without have another object to turn toward. This is very important. A person has not repented in the inward man if he has only turned from outward sinful actions. The reason a person sins is because of a heart that is full of pride and self, so when a person turns from outward sin and yet the heart has not been changed that person has not truly repented because the heart is still full of pride and self. The person sins outwardly because of a sinful heart and the person stops sinning outwardly because of that same sinful heart.

Now the sensitive soul that the Spirit has awakened and is working in to reveal sin will look at self and realize that he is full of pride and self and is moved to do a lot of things out of that pride and self. This can cause a lot of disconcernation and trouble of soul. What we must remember is that Christ came to save sinners and saved sinners are still sinners. Christ did not save sinners on the condition that they turn from all sin and become perfect, but instead He saved sinners with a full knowledge of all their future sin. Christ breaks His people from sin slowly and surely, but He does not remove it all until they reach glory. It is also true that those who are truly converted will see more sin in their hearts and minds than those who are unconverted will. The true believer has more light and so will see more of his own black heart than those without light can. Part of the sanctification process that Christ takes the soul through is to reveal sin and then to reveal Himself and His grace to that sinner. This is how we grow.

True repentance happens at regeneration when sinners are granted a new life and a new heart. Sinners are turned from the absolute control of pride and self to the kingdom of Christ. But again, sinners under the control of Christ are not perfected in practice but may instead grow even worse in their own eyes. However, the absolute power of sin has been broken over the soul. The unconverted sinner can do nothing but what is sensual, but the one granted real repentance now longs (imperfectly) for holiness in the heart. The unconverted sinner is nothing but flesh, but the one granted real repentance is now focused on spiritual things. A word of caution is once again needed at this point. A spiritual person lives in a fallen world and so there will always be things that will make a sensitive soul think that it is sensual, and indeed that soul may be sensual to a point. But that soul will not be controlled at all times by things that are sensual. It may not see much of a longing for spiritual things, but there will be a longing. In fact, the longing for sensual things may be greater much of the time than the longings for spiritual things. Some of this may because of remaining sin and some may be because sinners need to grow some in order to recognize true spiritual longings. The body has memories and those can be very strong. But as faith as a mustard seed is true faith, so true spiritual longings are evidences of true spiritual life and of real repentance.

Real repentance also means that the soul is turned from the world to God. We can see once again that the soul is turned from something and turned toward a new object of sight and love. The Scriptures tell us that love for the world is inconsistent with love for God, so we must be turned from the world to God. How can the love of (for) God dwell in those who love nothing but the world? This turning from the world is a turning from sin and this turning to God is a turning toward seeking true holiness. These are not all separate and distinct things, but instead all the negatives are one thing and all the positives are one thing. This is, quite simply, what it means to be a Christian. The heart must be changed and not just the outward behavior. Real repentance must include the heart or there is no real repentance at all. If the heart/inward person/soul/loves/desires/motives/intents are not changed and turned from, then how can one say that s/he has been turned to God and holiness? This is not to say that we must leave the world and use nothing that the world uses, but we use them for different reasons and with a different love. Real repentance is real and it occurs at the deepest parts of the soul even though that turning from the darkness to the light may reveal a lot of sin in us. Nevertheless, we have been turned.

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