Real Repentance 35

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)

The short statement by Adam just above is simply profound. It can be understood from the vantage point of the believer or the unbeliever. From the vantage point of the unbeliever, God will make the man understand and feel his sin by which he will know the depths of his sin to some degree and understand his helplessness and inability before God converts the man be free-grace. From the vantage point of the believer, God shows the man his utter inability in spiritual things apart from Christ and shows man what he is and what he must do in order to grow in holiness. Man must seek the Lord to understand his own heart. Once man understands something of his own heart, the man will cry out to the Lord to take the world, pride, and self out of his heart. Not only that, however, the man will cry out to God to write His laws in the heart. All of this is by free and sovereign grace.

Real repentance has understanding and knowledge as a basis, but that understanding and knowledge can only come from the illuminating work of the Spirit of Christ. As David cried out for understanding of his sin and asked God to show him his sin, so we must cry out as it is free-grace to show us our sin. We don’t deserve to know our sin as God has turned us over to sin as judgment for sin. Strict justice demands that we be left in the prison and darkness of our sin because that is what we deserve, but free-grace says that for the glory of God Christ has suffered for sinners and fulfilled strict justice and so we must have light to understand our sin for free-grace to rescue us from our sin. Behold the glory of Christ in His freely opening the hearts of sinners to see what awful chains that binds them. Behold the sovereignty of Christ in opening the eyes of some who certainly don’t deserve to see and leaving others in darkness. Behold the wonder and glory of free-grace in teaching men of their sin. Behold the wonder and free-grace of our sovereign Lord who can raise up from stones children of Abraham and yet He raises enemies of God from the dead and makes them children of Abraham.

Behold the glory of free-grace in taking sinners who love the world and the things of the world and making them lovers of the living God. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes sinners who are born dead and then follow the ways of the world: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Oh how the world had or has our hearts and we simply follow along as if we had a ring in our nose. We follow the courses or ways of the world which is set to the tune of the prince of the power of the air. In that course or way of the world we lived in the lusts of our flesh and indulged the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Behold the wonders of free-grace which alone can take sinners and transfer them to a different kingdom and instead of living by the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, they now are lovers of the living God through King Jesus.

As long as people think of repentance as simply stopping external sin or making a choice to turn from unbelief to belief (as if that is possible), they will not understand the nature of sin and certainly not the wonders and glories of free-grace in Christ Jesus. It is the Lord Jesus alone who has the power to turn sinners from sin of the heart and give them love for Himself. It is the Lord Jesus alone who can break the power of sin by His blood which He shed on the cross. Behold the Lord Jesus Christ and the freeness of His grace to sinners who are hopelessly bound in sin and hatred of God. Behold the Lord Jesus Christ and the freeness of His grace to those who have nothing but hatred in their hearts for the true God even though they may be deceived into thinking that they love God. Behold the Lord Jesus Christ and the freeness of His grace in granting to sinners a love for the true God by changing their hearts and then sharing His love for the Father with them. Lovers of free-grace don’t even want a free-will much less believe it. They want the freeness of grace that they may delight in the glory of God in the face of Christ.

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