Real Repentance 40

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)

Adam points out that it may be that many of those who think that they have renounced sin have never tried it and are hidden from themselves. This is very sobering. While it must be made clear as we can make it that repentance does not and cannot bring free-grace but instead free-grace works repentance, yet repentance must be there. Without a real repentance we will perish and there is simply no question about that among those who hold to the glorious doctrines of grace. But again, it is a very hard thing and there is much conflict in the soul as God works in us to show us our sin and then for our hearts to be broken from self-effort renouncing sin in order that our renunciation of sin would be full.

This is not to say that a person that renounces all sin will be sinless or even remotely close to it. What it is saying, or at least as I perceive it, is that a person must renounce all sin as to what it is and then as sin is exposed the person will seek the Lord for grace to turn from that sin. That is not inconsistent with a person being turned over to sin several times over a period of years that the person may learn that s/he is far from perfect. While our hearts may reach the point of renouncing all sin that is far from meaning that we have the power to overcome all sin. This is an important distinction that we must be aware of. It is also the case that only those who have renounced sin will seek the Lord for the power to really overcome the power of sin.

It is also an important point that the sinner must renounce sin as sin. Many people will renounce moral evils because of the harm it does to people or because of the harm it brings to self. Many people will renounce certain moral evils because it is good for them to do so, but that is not the same thing as renouncing sin as sin. Many others will renounce sin in the name of religion and in the name of their branch of religion, but once again that is far from renouncing sin as sin. Many people will renounce a certain amount of sin, usually what they are comfortable with, but they will not renounce all sin. Still there are some who renounce a lot of sin and yet all of that sin is what they have the power to stop and it does not get at their idols of the heart. Sin must be renounced for what sin is and not renounced only for the harm it brings me or the religious attention it might bring me.

In order to renounce sin as sin God must be at work in the heart by His grace in order to conform the desires of the heart to Himself. While Scripture gives us several definitions or aspects of sin, we know that sin as sin is directed at God Himself in its primary relation. We are told that sin is to be at enmity with God and we are also told that sin is to fall short of the glory of God. Sin is to choose self and the loves of self rather than to have a heart that is oriented toward God and loves God. If we are to renounce sin as sin, therefore, we must renounce the enmity in our heart toward God as God and seek the Lord for a heart that will bow in utter submission to Him. If we are to renounce sin as sin then we must seek the Lord for grace to renounce all that we do for self out of self-love and seek Him for grace that all we do would be out of love for Him and His glory. If we are to renounce sin as our heart being oriented toward self, then we must seek the Lord for a great love for Him that all we do would be out of love for Him and that self would long to be tread upon in the dust that His glory would shine forth.

Real repentance requires our hearts to be broken from self and the love of self. Real repentance requires our hearts to be truly turned from the world and self to God. Real repentance requires a lifetime of repentance to where the heart will constantly be broken from self and to seek His glory. Real repentance is so hard that it is rarely even considered much less sought for. Real repentance is so far above the power of man that it takes light from the Lord to see what it really is. Real repentance is hidden from so many that many religious people think that they have attained it when in fact they are far from it. Real repentance is a gift of God and can only be worked in the soul by His power and free-grace. Real repentance cannot be the work of human effort as that is only self and self-love working, so it is only by free-grace and free-grace alone.

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