Real Repentance 22

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.

Till we know sin, and feel the burden of it in some degree, we shall be blind to every thing else, in Scripture, whether of nature or grace; we shall pray with great reserve, and never mean half of what we say. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

It is interesting that Adam says, though somewhat self-evident in my view, that apart from knowing sin and having a burden for it we shall be blind to every thing else, but included in that is that we shall pray with great reserve and never mean half of what we say. Prayer and speaking with honesty are vital to the spiritual soul, but most likely Adam is referring to our prayers when he says that we never mean half of what we say. If we view prayer as a way of communing and communicating with God, then if we only mean half of what we say (at best) this shows us how superficial we are. If prayer is a mark of our spiritual life and we only mean half of what we say, then that also shows us how superficial (non-spiritual) we are. Since God knows our hearts, our real desires are set out in His presence and He knows how superficial we are and how badly we need true repentance to really pray.

It is also not possible to work up within our own strength a burden of sin in order to fool God about our prayers. How this brings light to our pride and self-love which are the strength of sin. Pride and self-love blind us to our sin and actually moves us to sin as well. In fact, those things are at the heart of our sinful and fallen nature. Part of the awful effects of pride and self-love is that wicked drive for human beings to be self-sufficient. The fact is, however, it is the humble alone who can truly pray. This should show us the great need of a true and inner repentance in order to live before God, commune with God, and to seek the face of God.

Pride and self-love are also the very energy of hypocrisy and our being like the Pharisees in terms of the differing forms of legalism. Our exalted view of ourselves and our abilities in the things of religion blind us to how much we are pretending before others, to ourselves, and before God. Our prayers are what we think they should be, but they do not come from the heart and they do not come from Christ in the soul. Our prayers are not what we truly desire and so our hearts do not desire the things of God (in truth) and instead they pretend to desire the things of God in words and yet that simply reflects a hypocritical heart.

Until our hearts have some degree of burden from sin and some degree of real repentance, our prayers are nothing but vile acts of self-love and idolatry before God. Without a burden for our sin we are satisfied with self and our level of “spirituality.” Without a burden for sin we show that we are not concerned with our remaining sin (whether unconverted or converted) and so we are not humbled before God and our prayers are the offerings of self. Without true love for God we only operate upon the power of self-love and pride. Why do we think that our prayers that are fueled by self-love and pride are acceptable to the living God? After all, a prayer of pride and self-love is nothing more than the prayer of the Pharisee who “was praying this to himself” in Luke 18:11.

Once the Spirit opens our eyes to see that the very nature of sin is self-love and pride and not just what we do, we can see the horror of our most religious acts and that includes our prayers if not shows that our prayers are even the very worst of our sins. While many complain that their prayer-lives are not what they should be, few will admit that their prayer lives are full of pride and self and as such they don’t mean what they ask for and as such their prayers are open displays of hypocrisy before God. Apart from a real repentance, we cannot truly pray. Apart from a real repentance, our prayers are nothing but hypocrisy. Apart from a real repentance, we are deceived about our prayers and our whole religious life. Apart from a real and inward repentance, we are putting on faces and pretending to be religious before others, ourselves, and God. While we may be able to fool others at times and ourselves most of the time, we are only fooling ourselves if we think we can fool God at any point in time. Apart from a real and inward repentance from self and pride, the whole of life is nothing but empty deception. We must have a real and inward repentance worked in us and granted us by Christ. If not, we are just deceiving ourselves even more and showing how badly we need a real repentance.

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