Real Repentance 29

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.

If my nature, heart, will, and affections must be changed, God must do it; for I can no more change them than I could make myself. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

While the quote from Adam above is a strike at all the religion of self and the will of self, it makes the point and makes it powerfully. Man is made in the first creation and he had nothing to do with that. Man did not choose his parents, did not choose to be born, and did not choose one thing about himself. Man did not choose how he looks, how tall he is, nor how heavily boned he is. Man did not choose his personality nor several things about his inner life as well. When it comes to man needing a new heart, there is no question that this is the work of God as well.

It is relatively easy for men to see the basics of how utterly incapable they were about their birth and how they came into the world. It is far harder, however, for men to recognize their utter nothingness before God and their utter inability in changing their nature, heart, will, and affections. This is part of the creation and no one can do this but God Himself. Man will argue and fight that he is free to change himself by a mere choice or act of the will, but this is simply impossible. This is a sovereign work of the Spirit and that is His work alone.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

James 1:18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

In the two passages above the assertion of Adam is easily seen as true. The new birth is not the work of man, but instead it is in the exercise of His will that we are brought forth. It is not because of the parents or lineage of a person that one is born from above, but it is the will of God. It is not the will of any human flesh and not the will of any man, but instead the new birth happens only by the will of God. It should be clear from the very fact that a man cannot make himself so man cannot make a new self, but people want to deny that. But the texts of Scripture stand strong in their affirmations that God alone can give them new hearts.

True repentance and regeneration are not two completely different things in reality. When God changes the heart of a person, then the person turns from unbelief to belief and from the power of sin to the power of grace. While sinners are only too happy to settle for an external repentance and think that they have repented, those with new hearts will long to repent of sin more and more and in fact their sin is their greatest misery. A new heart gives men new tastes and new views of things, so that the sin that man once loved is now his greatest misery. It is a trial to the heart of man to find out that he still finds some delight in sin and has little sorrow for it, but he seeks the Lord to give him more sorrow in sin so that by tasting the bitterness of it he will learn to leave it alone. It is also a great trial to a sensitive soul that he loves the Lord so little, so he asks for the Lord to grant him a turning from love for the world and self to love the Lord with more and more of his being.

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