Real Repentance 20

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 Spirit’s office to convince of sin, because he only has the power; nothing that others can say, or I can think, will bring me to a true sense and feeling of it without him. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

While the statement of Adam is true (above), it is used often in a wrong sense. When a person speaks to another on account of sin, the person being spoken to will say that it is the Spirit’s job to convince of sin and that the person speaking is trying to take the Spirit’s place. It is correct that it is the work of the Spirit to convict, but that is not the same thing as people speaking to others about their sin. It is the correct way to speak to people about their sin to know that it is the Spirit who must convict them if they are going to be truly convicted. If we don’t approach people that way, we may come across as external moralist, act as if we are better than they, or perhaps act as if the person has it in his or her power to repent of sin. People can only truly repent of sin that the Spirit has convicted them of, though people can have an external repentance apart from the convicting work of the Spirit.

John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

There is a huge difference between those who see that they have sinned, want to be free of the consequences of that sin, and so they stop their outward sin and those who are convicted by the Spirit in the depths of their souls. Those who see that the consequences of the sin will not be good for them (usually in this world, though some see it in some sense as eternal as well) are never really driven from the power of pride and self. Sin is viewed through the eyes of self and the consequences of sin are viewed through the eyes of self. The Spirit, however, brings a deeper conviction of sin than that. He convicts of sin in such a way that men see their sin as against God and are driven from all hope in self. The Spirit, though He will strive with men at times without bringing the deepest conviction, will set to work to convict men in such a way as to deliver them from themselves and their pride and hope in self.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

The passage just above shows what happens when the Spirit comes with power on the soul of people and brings them to a real conviction of sin. It is true that not all may feel the same degree of piercing that these people had. This was the day that the Spirit was poured out and Peter was preaching with great power in the power of the Spirit. These were men and women who had cried out for the release of a murderer and to crucify Christ. They saw that the guilt of this sin was upon them and they knew that they were guilty of a horrible sin. They knew this and felt this because the Spirit had worked this conviction in their souls. Here you have those who had cried out for Christ to be crucified and now they were crying out for the followers of that Christ to tell them how to be saved. This was surely the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Surely this is very instructive about real repentance. It is not just people learning that they have sinned and so they stop. It is not just behavior modification. It is the Spirit piercing the soul with the Scriptures and showing people who they are. It is the Spirit opening minds with light to show people that they have sinned against God and as such there is nothing they can do to save themselves. It is the Spirit showing men their utter inability to convert themselves and give themselves a new heart. It is the Spirit bringing men to an end of self and pride so that they will look to Christ and Him alone. Such we see the difference between real repentance and a false repentance, not to mention real evangelism and false evangelism. Those who teach real repentance and real evangelism are messengers who leave men in the hands of the living God to do the work. Those who teach false repentance and false evangelism leave men in their own hands and leave them with enough strength to do some work.

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