Real Repentance 23

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.

There may be an abiding consciousness of sin, with self-condemnation, where there is not the least degree of self-indignation, or self-abhorrence. Humility is knowing that we are not humble. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

Adam strikes to the heart with a piercing quote again, though it is to be feared that truths like these are seldom read by a few and never read by the majority. One can have a sense and even abiding consciousness of sin and yet there be nothing resembling real repentance. One can have an abiding consciousness of sin and that with self-condemnation, yet there can still be nothing resembling real repentance. In some ways and some aspects Adam gets to the very heart of heart religion here. The heart can have a sense of sin and be moved in some ways and yet that can still be on the very surface of true Christianity.

In many ways this gets to the heart of real repentance which is the repentance from the deepest parts and aspects of the soul. It seems self-evident that the soul can have a consciousness of its sin and yet continue on in sin. The soul can even know it is worthy of condemnation for its sin and still continue on in its sin. What is needed, however, for real repentance, is for the soul to be indignant with self and to abhor self. Only when the soul is turned from love for self and its pride to the abhorrence of self will real repentance have occurred. However, once again, the heart has many ways to get around real repentance and be satisfied with a deception. The soul can be indignant against itself in a self-righteous way rather than indignant against itself that it has sinned against God. This is a dangerous deception. The soul can also abhor the fact that it has been caught in sin or abhor the fact with self-righteousness that it has sinned, but that is not the same thing as abhorring the very self as a vile and wretched sinner against God. We have to be very careful and seek discernment from the Lord.

The soul that has been granted real repentance will be able to discern, though it may require much prayer and seeking of the Lord, some degree of true indignation and abhorrence of self. The unregenerate person can despise self and be indignant with self, but the source of that will always be self-love and pride. Yet the regenerate person will always be fighting self and pride as regeneration does not make a person perfect, so the regenerate person always has those things with him or her along with the signs of true repentance. This means that it is quite difficult at times to wade through the issues of the heart and the work of the evil one who wants to deceive and misdirect our attention to things other than Christ.

Adam states that humility is knowing that we are not humble. This sounds simplistic at the first reading, but the more one ponders it the more one begins to get a glimpse of the meaning. The proud can work up a humility in their own power and deceive themselves into thinking that they are proud, but the humble will know that they are not thoroughly and finally humble and so they will see their pride and know that they are not naturally humble. The person that sees that s/he has no sufficiency in self to be humble and looks to Christ to work all of his or her humility in the soul is a person that sees that s/he is not truly humble and so must always be fighting the pride that arises in the heart. The heart that sees that it should be humble simply because it is a creature knows that it is not perfectly humble and at times when it has some humility that humility is fleeting. The person that sees how humble s/he should be because of his or her sinfulness knows that sin will still work in that heart and will work against humility and for pride. The person who knows that humility is not natural and that every aspect of it comes as a gift from Christ, that person will seek the Lord for humility on a constant basis because that person understands that s/he is not humble beyond what the Lord gives as He pleases.

The Lord must work real repentance in our hearts and make us truly humble. The heart that has had some degree of real repentance will abhor self because of its sin even though it is a converted soul. The heart that has some degree of real repentance is a heart that is not perfect and is dependent upon the Lord to see its sin, to hate its sin out of a love for God, and that it must have humility as a gift as well. The really repentant soul looks to Christ for all as a gift and by grace alone.

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