Real Repentance 25

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)

It is by having some humility that we can know that we don’t have perfect humility. The more humility we have the more we will see that we don’t have. The more humility that we have, then, should show us a lot about real repentance. As Luther (paraphrased) put it, the man that truly repents will be one that repents the rest of his life. A true repentance, then, is not a perfect repentance, but is one that is the gift of God and that repenting will continue the rest of the person’s life. A true repentance, then, is a start of what will be a lifelong practice. But humility is required for true repentance and it is growing in humility that shows us our need for more and more repentance.

The human heart is born dead in sins and trespasses and by nature children of wrath. In the fall the human heart fell into the bondage of pride and self-love. The devil is the proudest creature in the universe and he does all from that pride and self-love. All unregenerate human beings are his children and as such they live by pride and self-love as well, though they are restrained by the sovereign hand of God more than the devil is restrained. When the Lord in His great mercy is pleased to grant life to a human soul, that life He gives the soul is a sharing in His life and the Lord Jesus Christ was perfectly humble. In giving the soul a taste of humility, the soul begins to obtain a real view of itself. That humility that is given it enables it to now see to some degree how horrible its pride and self-love are. The soul is now enabled to gain a glimmer of how hateful its pride and self-love are to a thrice holy God.

It has been said for hundreds of years, though perhaps not so much in the last hundred or so, that if God opened our hearts to us and showed us the whole of our sinfulness, we would die at the sight. It is clear from Scripture that unregenerate men flee from the light because they don’t want their sins exposed and so love the darkness. While it may sound strange to the uninitiated, only holy people don’t mind a sight of their sin even though they hate it. A holy person (to some degree) wants to be finished with sin and as such wants to have God show him his sin that he may seek grace to repent of it. The unholy person is still full of pride and self and simply wants to retain a good opinion of himself.

The person that has been declared holy in the sight of God by the work and grace of Christ alone and has Christ as his or her perfect righteousness, that is a person who has Christ as his humility as well. That is a person that can seek God to open his eyes to some of his sin so that he may mourn and taste the bitterness of them and then turn from them in a real repentance. This is a person that has Christ working in him or her His humility and as such this person can see more and more of his pride in secular life as well as religious life. As Christ works humility in the heart of the soul, the person sees more of his or her own pride and becomes more and more disgusted with him or herself. As the person is enabled to really repent of the pride and self-love that is shown him or her, that person grows in humility by the work of Christ in the person, but that opens the eyes to more pride and self. In other words, in a sense it is a circle, but those with some true humility to that degree see their own pride and self and as such know that they are not truly humble.

The humble soul alone, then, sees its own pride and self and so that moves the person to flee from pride and self. The humble soul will always know that it can never be perfectly humble but will always have room to grow in humility. The person that thinks that s/he is humble is a deceived person because a person that has true humility will see so much pride and self-love in his or her own heart that this will keep that person from saying or thinking that s/he is humble. The humble person can admit that s/he is more humble than a previous time and can admit to presently being full of pride and self. The proud person may be proud enough to confess pride, but will never see the depths of his or her own pride and self. It is clear, then, that it takes some humility in order to really repent. We should seek the Lord for a little humility that we may really repent and then seek more humility to repent more.

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