Real Repentance 32

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.

God never makes any man what he should be, without first making him know what he is. O God, take the veil from my heart; take the world, take pride, take self out of my heart, and write there all they laws, I beseech thee. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

Knowing the heart is a scary thing, but we must seek the Lord to show us the spiritual reality of our hearts. We must have Him show us the reality of our desires when for unbelievers very intent of the thoughts of the heart are only evil and that continually (Gen 6:5). But believers have not escaped the sinfulness of their hearts entirely nor have they escaped it for the most part. Even when we have a desire to know our hearts, it can be that we desire to know them from false and sinful motives. Do I want these things from the strength of religious self or from love for Him and His glory?

When we ask God to take the veil from our heart and mean it to some degree, even though it may be a small degree surrounded by self-love and the mechanisms it employs to protect itself, at some point it goes beyond just asking ourselves if we really want God to strip us of those things. It goes beyond the point of being satisfied if we have a desire for God to take the veil from the heart. At some point we have to submit to King Jesus and have Him to actually be stripped of the things He wants to strip from us and to submit to His pace in doing that. When He begins to strip us we will begin to cry out because of the pain and we will ask Him to stop, but He will not always do so. In His great love for His people He will strip them from the things that keep them from the greatest good, Himself. Will we seek Him to take those things away and do we really want to suffer the loss of those things? Will our hearts join with Paul in thinking all things as dross and dung which come in between our hearts and Christ?

This is to say that we may have some desire for God to take the veil from the heart for various reasons and some of those reasons may be from religious pride. We must know that when God lifts the corner of the veil and we see our religious pride and realize in a deeply experiential way that our righteousness is as menstrual cloths, our desire will be to flee back to a comfortable way of viewing ourselves. But what we must do is to flee to Christ and His free-grace. Our hearts are wed to self-righteousness in so many ways, and we must realize that despite our theological statements and what we say we believe we are full of self-righteousness and it is hidden from our eyes. It is only when the hideous nature of this is exposed that we will begin to see that we have no hope in anything but Christ and having Him by free-grace.

When He takes the veil off or lifts a corner it will be hard to believe the actual state of our hearts. We will become sick of self and sick of our own pride, perhaps even to the point of being nauseated. We will learn what it means to hate self, which is really to hate our self-centered idolatry and the stench of that will drive us to cry out to God against self and pride. So many think that they have repented, but when the veil is lifted they will see that they have not truly repented at all. Only the work of Christ in showing us our hearts and then teaching us about free-grace can lead us to a fuller and then a fuller repentance from pride and self. But beware, it is a painful process and you are not in control. Is this to say that you should not seek Him for it? No, it is just to say that it is something you should know is a painful process and it is not for those who just play with Christian things.

The very best that many have done is to have some form of behavior modification in becoming religious, but all that they do is done out of self-righteousness and pride. A person may think that s/he is orthodox and moral, but one sight of the heart as God shines the light in may destroy all of that. The person’s orthodoxy may come from a wicked heart that is full of pride, and a person’s morality may come from nothing but love for self and issue forth in self-righteousness. We must have Christ deliver us from those things in order that we would be saved and then sanctified by free-grace alone. True repentance is not just to stop doing things, it is to be turned from self, pride, and self-righteousness to Christ, His humility, and His righteousness. It is the glory of free-grace.

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