Real Repentance 39

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.

It is a hard thing, and a sore conflict, to renounce all sin, as sin, fully, finally, irrevocably; and probably many of those who think they do, never tried it, and are hidden from themselves. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

Real repentance is not a simple thing and far from easy. It is so hard that it requires the very denial of self and that is impossible for self to do, so real repentance is impossible for the self to do. Real repentance, then, has to come from a greater power than the power of self and free-will. There can be no real doubt for those who have dealt with sin seriously and spiritually that the only way to repent in truth is by the blood of Christ and free-grace. Real repentance is not as simply as an act of the will or saying a prayer or making a decision, real repentance is the work of God in the human soul. Oh, someone might say, if God does it then it is easy. No, that is far from the truth of the matter. God works real repentance in the hearts of His people by trials that stretch them beyond their strength and even sore trials that break them from any hope in themselves and at times it feels like there is no hope at all. Yet Christ is the Great Physician and He never wounds those He loves beyond what is needed and He is always standing there to apply the balm of Gilead to heal and restore.

Modern versions of Christianity sure appear to have lost the concept that God is truly sovereign over all things and that as sovereign He uses sore trials to bring His people to look to free-grace rather than anything found in them. Modern versions of Christianity lean upon secular models of psychology and they try to heal the hurt of the people through superficial means rather than recognizing that God may be at work in the souls of people. There is nothing that will cure a pain that God has brought but Christ Himself, though with all the current models and versions of things around people do try. We have forgotten that sin brings misery and so a person that is in misery may be there because of the misery sin brings and/or the hand of God who is working in or on that person to break them from the world, self, and pride.

It is so easy for ministers and counselors to give people easy methods to feel better, but that is not dealing with the issues. Not only is it a hard thing and a sore conflict to renounce sin in our day, it is a hard thing and a sore conflict to get ministers and counselors to deal with people in a way where sin is seen as a hard thing. These kind people will rush in to make people feel better are like those who put bandages on gaping wounds in battle and think that they have treated the wound. Only Christ can truly heal a soul and Christ only heals sinners who want to deal with their sins, though indeed the desire to deal with our sins can only come from Him as well. Christ did not come to help the strong, He came to help those who are too weak to help themselves. Christ did not come to help the wise (in their own eyes), but instead He came to help those who are fools in their own sight and need Christ alone.

The soul that desires to renounce all sin will soon realize that there are degrees of desire depending on the sin. We may want to renounce all sin that causes me trouble or that I don’t like that much anyway, but how much do we desire to renounce our pet sins and the things we love? It is beyond our strength to renounce and leave the sins we love. One reason it is so hard to renounce and leave the sins we love is because we don’t even see those things as sin. We love them and so we have made excuses for them and we have justified them in our own eyes. We are blinded to so much of our sin because we deny that it is sin. But we must know that real repentance is to repent of all known sin and then start on a path of repenting from more sin as it becomes known. If we refuse to repent of sin as it becomes known, then we are idolaters and love our sin more than Christ. We may love our legal righteousness or moral things that we practice and not see it as opposed to free-grace, but it can be. We may love our orthodoxy and all sorts of good things and yet they can be our pet or darling sins because we do them because we get honor from them rather than love for God. We may love the ministry because of what we get out of it rather than to stand for God and speak for Him out of love for Him. We must learn to seek a knowledge of our hearts and to renounce sin as sin or we will never learn what real repentance is and as such what free-grace really is.

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