: The Need of this hour
Rev. L R. Shelton, Jr.
Mt. Zion Bible Church 2603
West Wright Street Pensacola, Florida 32505
Why is Biblical Repentance-The Need of this Hour?
Did you know that we are living in a day when repentance is denied by most religious leaders? And when it is preached at all, it is watered down to mean nothing more than what a president of a certain seminary called it, "a gentleman telling God he is sorry." Others say that repentance was only for the Jew, so it is not for us today. They say that all we have to do is "believe" and we are Saved. Some say that repentance is only for the children of God, and has nothing to do with lost sinners; and others teach just the opposite-that confession of and sorrow over sin in true repentance is not for the children of God, but only for lost sinners! And then others claim that repentance is just a form of works, so it is not needful for any group! So, my purpose is to refute these fatal errors that are beguiling precious souls, and poisoning the minds of many to their eternal destruction.
I. REPENTANCE and ITS DEFINITION The Word of God teaches plainly that today, as in all ages, GOD REQUIRES A DEEP AND SINCERE REPENTANCE before He pardons any sinner, and that this repentance continues with the believing children of God until He takes them home to glory. Further, the Bible plainly teaches that REPENTANCE IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO SALVATION, just as necessary as is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told his hearers in Acts 20:20-21 that he had kept back nothing that was profitable unto them, "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks," that there had to be "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" for them to be saved. Therefore, we see that these two requirements are commanded by God, for we stand before Him as rebels to His government and His authority.
Our Lord Jesus came on the scene preaching repentance. His first text was Matt. 4:17, "REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"; or, "REPENT, for the King has come." He laid stress upon the fact that for any man to enter the Kingdom of God, he had to lay down his arms of rebellion, hoist the white flag of surrender-in other words, he had to change his mind about sin. And this is exactly what it means to repent: REPENTANCE IS A CHANGE OF MIND ABOUT SIN and A CHANGE OF MIND ABOUT GOD, for it is a turning to God from sin. And what a turning it is, for it affects the whole life of the repenting sinner! Repentance is an attitude toward sin: a hatred for it, and a loathing of ourselves for committing it against God. And we must show that this repentance is real by walking in the pathway of righteousness and true holiness, which is "bringing forth fruits for repentance" as evidence that this change has taken place in our lives. Now let us give some futher definitions of repentance, so we can understand what God means when He calls upon us to repent: REPENTANCE IS A SINNER TAKING THE BLAME FOR HIS SINFUL CONDITION before God, and siding with God against himself. Yes, self-condemnation is certainly a part of true Biblical repentance, which means that you blame no one else for your condition, but you condemn yourself to God's eternal wrath because you know you deserve it. And it is a CONFESSING OF SIN, hiding nothing, but telling God your whole sinful heart. But this repentance also includes SORROW FOR SIN, for if a man does not mourn over sin, he cannot repent of it. We are told in II Cor. 7:10 that "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of;" and in Matt. 5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
Then not only do we confess our sin, and sorrow and mourn over it in true repentance as we get on God's side against ourselves, but repentance includes a FORSAKING OF SIN, a determination not to return to it. So we see the convicted and convinced sinner taking his place before God as justly condemned, with a hatred for sin, a longing to be free from it, a sorrowing over it as being against God, and a determination not to return to it.
Now I must quickly add that, as with all of God's graces, THIS GRACE OF REPENTANCE IS A GIFT, worked in the heart by the convicting power of God the Holy Spirit, for as Acts 11:18 tells us: "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." The Holy Spirit shows us our sinful condition before God and we are made willing to renounce our state of enmity, our hatred of God and His authority; and by His grace we are given a desire to turn to Him to walk in newness of life, in a way of holiness.
You may ask, "Why does God require and give us repentance before He will save us by the merits of Christ's death, burial and resurrection?" It is because you and I are rebels against God by nature. The fact that every man outside of Christ is a rebel against the Throne of God (Rom. 8:7) is the reason that He commands and demands repentance before He will save us. It is because you and I by nature have determined to live our own lives apart from and independent of God, that He commands us to REPENT before He will take us into His heaven. So there must be a change of mind and attitude about our acting independent of Him-a change of mind that will show itself in our crying after God to be LORD and RULER of our lives! Further, it is because we have spit in His face, blasphemed His name, bowed down to the gods of gold and pleasure, spent His day as we pleased, and have walked in pride and arrogance against Him, that God demands repentance before He will save us for Christ's sake. So there must be a change of attitude about pride and arrogance, covetousness and worldly pleasure, and about walking in our way; there must be a cry after Him to work His love and holiness in us that constitutes true repentance.
Yes, my friend, it is because we have not loved Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and have given this love to self and the world, that God commands repentance before He will give us everlasting life in Christ. For you see, in true repentance, SELF is taken off the throne, and CHRIST is enthroned in our lives as Lord over all.
Now let us back all of these statements with the Word of God. In Luke 13:3&5 we hear our Lord's words, "EXCEPT YE REPENT, YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH." What He is saying is this: Unless you lay down your arms of rebellion against God, you shall perish in hell, for you abide under the wrath of God. Unless you confess your sins, leave and hate your sins, and your own self also (for living in such a state of rebellion against such a holy God), you shall perish forever!
In Acts 17:30 we read these words: "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT." He says "ALL MEN"-not just the Gentiles, but all men, which includes every tongue, nation, tribe and people. And in v.31 we find out why God has commanded all men everywhere to repent: It is because judgment is coming! "REPENT!" He says, "the King is coming in judgment! REPENT! If you value your never-dying soul!" Why? "Because He [God] hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained [Jesus Christ Himself]; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men [that this is so], in that he hath raised Him from the dead." Yes, God commands that all men everywhere repent and bring forth fruit suitable for repentance which is a holy life and a holy walk, or He will meet you in judgment without mercy!
You see, God is SOVEREIGN IN HIS SALVATION. He alone sets the conditions on which He will receive rebellious sinners into His kingdom. His Word does declare that He is loving, kind, merciful and gracious, but He is also holy and righteous; and therefore He must demand repentance. He cannot take a rebel into union with Himself in Christ until that rebellious sinner is broken at His feet in submission to His will, and shows it by hating sin, confessing sin, leaving sin, and turning to Him with a heart broken over sin. But praise His precious name, it is to this kind of sinner that He will look, as Isa. 66:2 tells us: "To this man will I look, [saith the Lord], even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Also, Psalm 51:17 tells us, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Praise the Lord! He will never turn away such a seeking, repenting sinner, for it is just this type of sinner that Christ came to seek and to save. Listen to Isaiah 55:6-7, "Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD; and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." You will note in these verses there is again a command for a forsaking of sin and a turning unto God; which means that there is no way for you to receive God's salvation apart from the forsaking of your way of sin and rebellion, and a returning unto God with a hatred for that which has separated you from God-your sins.
There is one other truth that I must stress, and it is this: BIBLICAL REPENTANCE IS PERPETUAL-it will continue till God takes us home. By perpetual we mean that turning to God today will not prove that I am a true convert; no, it is a forsaking of my sin throughout the whole course of my life, until I sleep in the grave. You must not think that to be upright for a day, a week, a month or even a year will be proof that you are saved; no, it is a perpetual abhorrance of evil. It is a leaving of sin, never to return to it again as the course of your life.
Oh how many precious souls have been damned right here! They seemingly embrace repentance for awhile, they give up their old companions, and leave their places of sin-the bar, the dance floor, the harlot's house-and seemingly embrace Christ; they even preach, teach, and witness for Him. But because they are "stony-ground hearers," they endure only for a while, and then begin to grow cold and gradually return to their former ways. They go back to sin, back to that which they had renounced. One by one they pick up the old sins and companions, and return to the world. You see, their repentance has not been perpetual, so they are classified under these Scriptures: "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (II Peter 2:20-22). In so many cases this going back has been slow. They did not go back all at once! First, they longed for liberty, and searched out the Word of God to find out what liberty they had, so they could live as close to the world as possible. Then they began to slowly go back to this sin and that sin until they no longer had a witness for Christ, but only a profession. No longer did sin bother them as it used to, and no longer did they have a hatred for it and a cry against it. They told themselves that God no longer wanted them to repent and hate sin, for surely He had given them life more abundantly, and they should not be bothered with sin any more. They turned back to those sins from which they had once turned away, saying, "We now have LIBERTY to walk in these ways!" But oh my friend, it is not liberty, but a LICENSE to do that which you always wanted to do-and that is to walk in sin without restraint! You've played with fire and your heart has been hardened through the deceitfulness of sin! (Heb 3:12).
Again I warn you, beware of a repentance that is not a continuous repentance! For if it is not true Biblical repentance, then your heart will again be satisfied with the garbage of the world, and you will never know that you are not feeding upon the pure Word of God! "He feedeth on ashes; A DECEIVED HEART hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isa. 44:20). So never forget it: Repentance that is true is perpetual. It continues our whole liftime through-a continual hatred and a forsaking of sin, and a longing after holiness, to be like Christ and pleasing to God. I ask, Have YOU ever possessed the true Biblical repentance that God commands from all men before they can enter into His salvation in Christ?
II. The NEED of REPENTANCE
We will now set forth now THE EFFECT OF SIN UPON THE HUMAN RACE, especially upon you and me, and further show WHY THERE MUST BE GENUINE REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD BEFORE THERE CAN BE TRUE SALVATION IN CHRIST.
First, one of the definitions of repentance again is an attitude toward sin-that is, a hatred for it, a loathing of oneself for committing it against God, and a sorrowing over it because God has been made to look upon it. It is because sin is sin, that it must be repented of. And what is sin? Sin in its essence is rebellion against God, thinking we have the right to do with ourselves as we please, and acting independent of God and His Holy law-His holy requirements; in fact, saying to God, "Stay out of my life, for I don't need you."
The doctrine of SIN and its effects upon you and me and the whole human race is A MOST SOLEMN ONE. For as no heart can sufficiently conceive, so no tongue can adequately express the state of wretchedness and ruin into which sin has brought guilty, miserable man. You ask, "What has it done? Oh my friend, it has separated us from God! It has warped and ruined our bodies, souls, and spirits! It has filled the body with sickness and disease. In the soul, the image of God has been defaced. And in the spirit, it has cut us off from God, from fellowship with Him Who made us in His own moral likeness! Sin has made you and me by nature lovers of evil and haters of God- the only good; and this is the reason sin must be repented of. It must be hated, confessed, and forsaken, and the soul must turn to God crying for mercy and looking by faith to Christ, Who is God's only salvation for poor sinners.
Yes, it is a most solemn thing, to view sin in the light of God's Word and see what it has done to God and His Christ, to man and to God's creation! It has shut us out from God; it has opened the gates of hell, and necessitated the death of the Lord of glory for any to be saved and to come into the presence of a holy God. It is solemn, because it has cost man the most precious possession that he has ever had, and that is his never-dying soul. I know that fools make a mock at sin; but to every awakened soul, sin is a solemn thing, and therefore it must be repented of. And remember, repentance is an attitude toward sin: an abhorrence and hatred of it because of what it has done to God.
Again, the doctrine of sin as revealed in God's Word is A VERY HUMBLING ONE. Why? Because the Word of God does not present man as merely being ignorant and requiring instruction, nor that he is run down and needs a tonic, but rather that you and I have become undone, lost, spiritually dead, void of any righteousness that will commend us to God; therefore sin must be repented of, and we as sinners must be brought low at His feet in humility.
Further, the Word of God pictures us without strength, thoroughly incapable of bettering ourselves, exposed to the wrath of God, and unable to perform a single work which can find acceptance with a holy God (Rom 3:10-18). Therefore, because what sin has done to God's law and His holiness, it must be repented of; it must be turned from; it must be hated and forsaken forever!
The impossibility of any man's gaining approval of God by works of his own and therefore having no need of repentance, appears plainly in the case of the rich young ruler who came to Christ (Matt. 19). When you judge this young man by human standards, he was a model of virtue and religious attainment. Yet, like so many others who trust in self-efforts and self-righteousness, he knew of no need to repent. Why? He was ignorant of the spirituality and strictness of God's law; for when Christ put him to the test and showed him the covetousness of his heart, he went away sorrowful, for he had great riches. It was HUMBLING to this young man to find out that his best duties in religion were nothing but stinking rags in the nostrils of God and needed to be repented of. He would not confess that his morality, his goodness, and his best deeds were only works of darkness that needed to be forsaken, hated, and mourned over, for they were damning him to hell.
Also it is humbling to you and me to find out that God requires TRUTH IN THE INWARD PARTS (Psa. 51:6), and that we cannot shut off sin in our hearts, in our affections, in our desires, and in our minds, for we are sinners by nature and by practice. It is humbling to know that we must, like all others, take our place before God as lost sinners and plead guilty in repentance before Him. This is the reason men HATE the truth of Biblical repentance. It is because they do not want to confess that they are SINNERS-undone, helpless, guilty sinners-before God. The moral and self-righteous do not want to confess that they are in the same fix before God as the rapist, the harlot and the drunkard!
Why must sin be repented of? Because it is in our NATURE. We cannot get rid of it by resolution, command, sacrifice, or by shutting ourselves out from the world. The reason for this is because SIN IS IN OUR VERY NATURE. Jeremiah 13:23 reads, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Therefore, the only way out of your sin and sinful ways is to come to God for repentance (Acts 5:31), confessing and hating your sins, turning from them, and trusting the blood and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, Who died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. It is either repent or perish, turn or burn; there is no middle ground!
This fact of being a sinner by nature was humbling to the apostle Paul, and led him to repentance and full confession before God as a hell- deserving sinner. In Romans 7 he tells us that he was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came that he should not COVET, then all hell was turned loose in his soul as he saw that he was helpless against sin, for he was carnal, sold under sin. He confessed this fact to God. He confessed that it was humbling to him to find out that what he wanted to do-to live righteously-he could not do; and that which he did not want to do-to sin against a holy and righteous God-he found himself doing. It was humbling to him, as he confessed in humility before God, that he had a WILL to do good, but NO POWER to perform, because his will was depraved and held captive by his sinful nature-"The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Rom. 7:19). It was humbling to him that there was indeed in him a law that he could not control, the law of sin and death. Fight it, resolve against it, denounce it, do everything against it that he would-still he could not get rid of it. But he confessed it before God in humiliation, and cried to be delivered from it. He confessed that it ruled him, governed him, and had him damned to hell, and he could do nothing about it. But hear the apostle crying unto God for mercy as he lay low at His feet in true repentance (v.24): "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death!"-This was his helpless cry unto the Lord for mercy. And when in repentance he cried to God for mercy and grace, the answer came back-"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.25). Here he cast himself by faith upon Christ and found forgiveness in Him.
When we see the awful POWER OF SIN in our lives under the illuminating power of God's Spirit, it is humbling; but praise the Lord, He calls us to come to Him in repentance, confessing our sin-nature, confessing our sins, confessing what sin has done to us-that we are undone by it and are powerless against it-confessing our need of Him; and He will surely hear us and save us for Christ's sake.
But there is another reason why we must come to God in repentance, hating and turning from our sins. It is because the Bible declares that the effect of sin upon man is such that OUR HEARTS ARE COMPARED TO SOME OF THE MOST REVOLTING THINGS that we can think of! In using these descriptions, the Word of God shows us how our sins look to God, and why they need to be confessed and repented of. Did you know that God's Word describes us by nature as a WRIGGLING MAGGOT, wallowing in the filth of the world? Well, He does in Isaiah 41:14-"Fear not, thou WORM Jacob." The root meaning for "worm" here in the Hebrew is "a wriggling maggot in the cesspool." This is the way God looks upon us in the cesspool of sin outside of Christ. No wonder He has to give us a new heart and a new nature before He can take us into union with Himself! No wonder we need to come to Him in repentance, confessing, forsaking, and hating sin! But praise His Name, He does grant us repentance, through the cleansing power of the blood of Christ; and by the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, He gives us a new heart and a new nature, so we become new creatures! (II Cor. 5:17).
Again, did you know that God's Word describes us in our depraved nature as a PUTRIFYING SORE? Well, He does, in Isaiah 1:4-5-"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and PUTRIFYING SORES: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." What a picture of depraved man! What a picture of you and me by nature! Therefore, seeing us in this putrifying state, God must command repentance. We must come to Him acknowledging what we are, confessing our sinful ways, forsaking our evil ways, and turning to Him with hatred for our past life against Him and a determination not to go back into sin again.
I hear someone saying: "All of this is not very palatable language." I know this, but this is God's Word, and we must be stripped of all our pride, all of our self- righteousness, and for ever despair of finding anything in us to commend us to God. For if we are never stripped at God's feet in humbling confession of sin, hating it and forsaking it in true repentance, we will never be saved by the precious blood of Christ! God never reveals His Son to a rebel, who will not lay down his arms of rebellion and confess that he is wrong and God is right.
The Scriptures also show that SIN HAS MADE MAN LIKE THE BEASTS IN IGNORANCE AND STUPIDITY, and therefore needs to be repented of. We read this in Psa. 73:22: "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a BEAST before thee." Also in Psa. 49:20 we read, "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not [spiritually], is like the BEASTS that perish." If you have not laid down the arms of your rebellion against God in repentance; if you have not confessed your sins before Him in repentance; if you have not forsaken sin and fled to Christ for refuge by faith; if you are still playing with sin that will soon doom your soul to hell, -then you are like the beasts that perish, for you are VOID OF UNDERSTANDING.
Let me reason with you: If you make no provision for eternity and have no mind for the world to come, then surely God's Word pictures you accurately in all of these descriptions. You are like a wriggling maggot, a putrifying sore, and a beast that perishes. O that you knew your latter end (Deut. 32:29) and would flee to God in repentance, casting yourself upon His mercy in Christ! O that you would stand before the Holy God today, humbling yourself before Him, and crying after Him in true repentance! Tell Him that you are a guilty soul, having broken His holy law. Tell Him you are a naked soul and have not that covering that He has provided in the righteousness of Christ. Tell Him that you are a sinner lost, a sinner doomed, a sinner damned, apart from His divine mercy. Tell Him you are willing to forsake sin, to leave the world with all its pleasures, and to follow Christ. Tell Him how you have sinned against Him, hated Him, lied to Him, cursed Him, and broken His holy law. Tell Him that you are the chief of sinners and that you are ready to lay down your arms of rebellion; that you are ready to come clean and come clear with Him, confessing all and hiding nothing, and acknowledging that you deserve hell. This is true repentance. But as you confess, look to God by faith to have mercy upon you in Christ, for our Saviour Himself came to seek and to save the type of sinner that you have confessed yourself to be (Luke 19:10). May the Holy Spirit so work in your heart, that you will not be able to rest until you rest in Christ!
III. The MEANS of REPENTANCE
Let us consider now THE MEANS BY WHICH REPENTANCE IS WORKED IN THE HEART.
In true repentance we see a radical change of mind and heart that leads to a complete turnabout of life; and this is wrought in the soul by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. But what is the INSTRUMENT He uses? My friend, He uses the WORD OF GOD, of which He is the Author, to convict "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8). You see, apart from the Word of God there can be no salvation, for we read in Rom. 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing BY THE WORD OF GOD." And I Pet. 1:23 tells us, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth for ever."
Now with your Bibles in hand, let us read Heb. 4:12-13: "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." You see? In true repentance, the Word of God is brought home to our hearts by the Holy Spirit in convicting power that we might be saved. Paul, in writing to the church of the Thessalonians on this subject says, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." How? "For our GOSPEL CAME not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:4-5). And in salvation, this is exactly the way the Word of God comes home to the heart of every sinner for whom Christ died.
Did you notice the description given of the Word of God in our text, Heb. 4:12-13? Did you notice how it is used to convince of sin and the bringing of the sinner to true repentance? It is spoken of as being "quick," that is, a living Word. Our blessed Lord represents it in the same way in John 6:63: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Yes, the Word of God quickens, it makes alive; and repentance is produced in the heart of the awakened sinner as the Holy Spirit opens the sinner's heart by the Word, to see his need of turning to God from his rebellious ways and casting down his arms of rebellion, hoisting the white flag of surrender, and of looking by faith to God's Substitute for sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ, to save him, cleanse him from sin, and deliver him from the wrath to come. You see, this quickening Word operates upon the soul, to give that soul the knowledge he needs of the Holy God against Whom he has sinned; and the knowledge of himself, the sinner, before God.
"For the Word of God is quick, and powerful"-It is not a mere dead letter that will soon vanish away! No, it lives in the mind of God; it lives in the decrees of heaven; and it lives and will live forever in the hearts and minds of all God's redeemed ones, because it is THE LIVING WORD of God. It operates in the mind and in the affection, and will not leave us alone. It is truly the law of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit which is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24).
Also this Word spoken of here in our text is POWERFUL. Hear the appeal which God Himself makes to us concerning His Word in Jer. 23:29: "Is not My Word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" And, I say it is! I believe, yea, I know, that every child of God will say that God's Word burned itself into his soul, and he could not be still until he fell at God's feet in true repentance. His heart was truly BROKEN by the powerful Word of God!
The Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit is so powerful that we are slain by it. Paul says in Rom. 7:9 that he was alive without the law once: but when the commandment (the Word of God) came home to his heart, "sin revived, and I died." The Word of God slew him, because II Cor. 3:7 tells us that the law is the ministration of death. It puts to death our cherished sins, our cherished ambitions, our cherished plans, our self-righteousness, our self-will and our pride, and leaves us at the feet of a sovereign God, crying, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" You see, it is a powerful and a living Word as the Holy Spirit puts it into our minds and writes it upon our hearts (Heb. 8:10 & 10:16). We cannot get away from it, for it follows us and cries out in our souls, "Thou art the man; thou art the sinner!" I ask: Have you ever experienced the slaying work of the Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit? If not, you are still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, for God's Word slays us and brings death into the soul, before that soul is raised to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. We must be slain before we're ever raised to life.
This precious Word is described in I Pet. 1:23 as a living Word. Why? Because it has life in itself. It is the living and "incorruptible seed," for it creates life when it comes-life in Christ. And, praise the Lord, it can never be destroyed or exterminated! Heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word shall abide forever (Matt. 24:35).
Also, our text in Heb. 4 tells us that this Word of God, in the hands of the Holy Spirit Who leads us to true repentance, is not only quick and powerful, but EFFECTUAL. It is active, operative, energizing and effective. It carries conviction-convincing us of sin, and the evil of unbelief-for it will discern between the good and evil that is in the most holy thought of the best of men, and show him what he is: a sinner before God!
For you to be brought to true repentance, the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit convinces you that you are spiritually blinded because of sin, and that the eyes of your understanding are out, so you cannot see the danger you are in, nor the beauty there is in Christ. As II Cor. 4:3- 4 tells us: "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath BLINDED THE MINDS of them which believe not." Then the Word will convince you that you are deaf because of sin, and cannot hear the voice of God apart from His effectual call (Mark 8:18). Again, the Word will convince you that you are defiled-corrupt and morally unsound-because of sin (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10-12). And the Word will convince you that you are in a state of spiritual paralysis because of sin, for sin has paralyzed your will so you have no power to raise yourself from the helpless position you are in. Romans 5:6 reads, "For when we were yet WITHOUT STRENGTH... Christ died for the ungodly."
The Word will convince you that your sins have separated you from God (Isa. 59:1-2), and have made Him your enemy. And the Word will convince you that sin has filled your heart and mind with rebellion, so you will acknowledge that Rom. 8:7 is true, that you are carnal and enmity against God-in rebellion against God-and that you need true repentance. Oh my friend, this is our need today in Christendom: the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in writing the eternal Word of God upon our hearts, which will make us cry out in sorrow for sin and for mercy before God in Christ!
Again, Hebrews 4 tells us that the Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit is SHARPER THAN ANY TWO-EDGED SWORD. You see, the Word of God is so comprehensive that there is not a thought or purpose in the whole creation that does not come within its range. As Psalm 139:2,4 tell us, "God knows my downsitting and mine uprising, He understandeth my thought afar off. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether." The Word is spiritual, and it searches men spiritually, even as the Author of it Himself is spiritual; and when the Word is brought home with power to the soul, it convinces a man of sins of which before he had not the least conception.
It is a Word that WOUNDS and MAKES ALIVE. It kills self- righteousness, sin and unbelief; because it brings us on our faces before God, crying, "Woe is me, for I am undone! I am lost! God be merciful to me, the sinner!" And, if it does not have this effect upon us, it has done us no good! Listen to David's cry in Psa. 51, as the Word of God forced its way into his heart under conviction: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me... Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
David did not blame his sins on anyone else; he did not blame circumstances or environment. He took the full blame for his sins and repented of them before God, and cried unto Him for mercy and forgiveness. Oh this is what is needed today-TRUE BIBLICAL REPENTANCE-the taking of the blame before God for our spiritual condition, and our confessing-"I have sinned and stand guilty; I need the mercy of God in Christ."
So many people I meet today are seeking the deeper life, the full life, when they so desperately need to find their way to the cross of Christ in true, heartfelt repentance and brokenness of heart over sin. They are trying to by-pass Holy Spirit conviction, repentance, and the weeping cross, and therefore they have missed it all! Let me tell you from the depths of my heart which goes out to you in compassion: THERE IS NO SHORT CUT TO THE OVERCOMING LIFE! You must begin in repentance. You must begin in Holy Spirit conviction, by your heart being opened by the Word of God to your lost, and miserably, sinful condition before God. I know you don't like to hear this, because you love sin, and your pride will not let you admit before yourself and your fellow men that you are wrong, sinful, a hypocrite, a hell-deserving sinner, and that you are classified (according to God's Word) as the chief of sinners. But remember, you will come this way or perish! You cannot build a life that will last for eternity, unless that life is laid in the foundation of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Try as you will, whitewash the outside as you will, clean up all you can, go to church, pray, preach, teach, witness, have great religious feelings and experiences; but all of this is to no avail if the foundation of your Christian life is not laid in the foundation of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We come back to our Lord's words in Luke 13:5: "Except ye REPENT, ye shall all likewise perish." There is no getting around it! You will have to face it: If there is no repentance (which is a changed attitude toward sin-a hatred for it), then there is no salvation in Christ, for God's Word teaches that we bow to the Lordship of Christ and His authority in repentance, before we bow to His Saviorship in the remission of our sins and deliverance by His blood from the wrath to come. There must be that radical change of mind and heart that leads to a complete turnabout of your life! And these words in Luke 13 are not my words; they are the Word of Him Who speaks from heaven, Whose voice you must hear or you will die in your sins (Heb. 12:25).
Let me ask you again: Have you ever taken your place before God as David, crying for mercy, as you confessed your sins, mourning over them in repentance? If you are a stranger to these exercises of soul, no matter what your profession or performance, no matter how highly you may think of yourself or what other believers may think of you, God says you are still dead in your sins!
But if, by God's grace, His Word has gone home to your heart, lifting the veil off so you can see what God has seen all the time, then I know that your cry will become one of mercy, one of pleading for the Christ of Calvary to come and save you, to cleanse you by His precious and atoning blood, and clothe you in His perfect robe of righteousness, that you may be able to stand before the holy God. Then it is that we prize the Christ of Calvary, and forsake all, that we might be found in Him, clothed in His righteousness alone.
This is the way that God by His Spirit calls us through His Word to salvation in Christ: by working in our hearts repentance toward God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask again: Has God ever dealt with your heart like this, or are you a stranger to Holy Spirit conviction and God-given repentance and faith?
IV. REPENTANCE and FAITH are INSEPARABLE
Repentance and faith are inseparably connected together in the Word of God, and they must be set forth together. Let us not put asunder what God has joined together.
Listen to these verses of Scripture where these great truths are set forth together in the Word of God! In Mark 1:15, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT YE, AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." In Acts 5:31, "Him [Christ] hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give REPENTANCE to Israel, and FORGIVENESS OF SINS." Again, in Acts 20:21 Paul declared that he had preached "REPENTANCE toward God, and FAITH toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Then one of our Lord's last commandments to His disciples before He returned to heaven, as found in Luke 24:46-48 was, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem; and ye are witnesses of these things."
There are many illustrations given in the Bible of those who came to Christ in confession and repentance, and looked by faith to Him to save them and forgive them of their sins. The thief on the cross repented and believed; the prodigal son repented and believed; and so we call upon men today to repent and believe.
You see, our Lord told His disciples and us as well, to follow His example in preaching repentance and remission of sins through faith in Christ, because this truly shows His ministry while here upon earth. His first message as recorded in Mark 1:15 was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." And His last words to His disciples and to us were those of Luke 24:46-48, that repentance and remission of sins through faith in Christ should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Yet it seems that many are afraid to preach repentance today. Our Lord was not afraid to call men to repentance, and He has commissioned us to do the same; so we desire to proclaim it to all men that they should repent: that they should lay down their arms of rebellion and turn to God with broken hearts, sorrowing over sin, so they may receive remission of sins in Christ's name because of His blessed work of redemption.
"REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS SHOULD BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME AMONG ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). These are words full of meaning, and that need to be proclaimed today as well as then: that God requires repentance to be preached in Christ's name because He is willing for sinners to be saved; that there is truly remission of sins through faith in Christ for those who see themselves to be sinners-ungodly sinners, lost, without God and without hope, full of sin, full of unrighteousness-if they would come to Christ for repentance, laying down their arms of rebellion and hoisting the white flag of surrender. Unto them God has provided remission of sins; He invites them to come, even as the prodigal came back home.
First of all, I want to declare upon the authority of God's Word that repentance is to be preached in the name of the Lord Jesus as a grace given from above. It is given of God. Yes, repentance has therefore been granted unto the Gentiles as well as unto the Jews because it is a gift of GRACE (Acts 11:18). It does not come to us by the works of the law, but it comes wholly and completely out of the gracious heart of God. It should not be preached in Moses' name as a legal duty, but it is to be preached as a grace coming down from God. It is not to be preached like Jonah, without any hope-for he proclaimed that Ninevah would be destroyed in only 40 days-but it is to be preached in Jesus' name as the grace of God, that for those who do repent, there is remission of sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Repentance is a gift given by the GRACE of God, even as faith is given by the grace of God. And it is given because God has highly exalted His Son, and given Him a name which is above every name, having set Him at His own right hand to be "a Prince and a Saviour" for to GIVE repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31). So it is the grace of God, the goodness of God, that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). For the very reason our Heavenly Father, our gracious God, has set the Lord Jesus Christ as a Prince, a Ruler, and a King at His own right hand, is that He might give repentance and remission of sins!
Wherever there is real sorrow for sin, wherever there is an honest determination by God's grace to cease from sin; wherever there is a complete change of mind with regard to sin (and that is what repentance means), then we can understand and know that by the grace of God this repentance has been produced by the Spirit of God, and that it is as much a gift of the covenant of grace as ever the pardon which comes with it. And remember, God gives this grace to poor sinners-only to sinners-those in whose hearts He has made to realize their need of it. The song writer expressed it this way:
Come ye needy, come and welcome, Come, God's free bounty glorify; True belief and true repentance, Every grace that brings you nigh; Without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.
It is the grace of God that He uses the Law to show us what we are, and it brings us to Christ. So Law is a grace, because it is used by the Holy Spirit to give us the knowledge of sin; therefore, never let us throw off the Law of God! Yes, it condemns us and it damns us to hell, for we have broken it; therefore it brings us under the wrath of God; but we should praise God for it, because it is by the Law of God that we see, acknowledge, and understand our sinnership, our far distance from God, and our great need of a Saviour (Rom. 3:19-20; 7:7-25). For as Gal. 3:24 tells us, the Law is the schoolmaster that brings us-guides and leads us-to Christ as our only hope.
Then it is the grace of God as revealed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that produces in our hearts the salvation that God gives; and along with it is the gift of repentance, a sorrowing over sin. But let me warn you, you're not to seek to draw up repentance from the depths of your own heart as you might draw up water from a well, but you are to come to Christ for it; you are to ask Christ to work repentance in you by His Holy Spirit, through belief of the truth as it is recorded in the Word of God, or as it is set before you in the preaching of the Gospel (II Thess. 2:13,14; Rom. 1:16). And it is as you learn how terribly Christ suffered because of your sin, that this truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit-will be the means of leading you to hate sin; and you will realize how the Holy Spirit, by enlightening the understanding and influencing the affections, produces repentance in you even in that heart that seemed to be unbroken and so sterile that nothing could be produced! That heart will be broken and made fertile by the gentle dew of the rain of grace as it falls in upon your soul. Then, by the working of God's Spirit in you, you will see a beauty and a glory in the Lord Jesus Christ that will cause you to desire after Him, (II Cor. 4:4,6; Job 23:3; Song 2:3). And not only will you hate sin and sorrow over it (II Cor. 7:10-11), you will willingly turn from it by faith in Christ as you see what it has done to Him.
So God GIVES repentance to sinners; it is one of the free gifts of His grace; and whoever has it may rest assured that the hand of the Lord has been upon him for good-in fact, the work of salvation has already been begun in your soul if the Holy Spirit has been gracious to you in giving you a deep sorrow over sin (II Cor. 7:10).
But let us go further. To preach repentance in the name of Jesus Christ means also that wherever there is real repentance, it is the token of the pardon of sin, for faith is operating in your heart to look away to Christ! It is not merely a hopeful sign that it is going to be done, but it is the sure, infallible sign that pardon has already been given to you! If any man's heart be turned away from sin, if he prostrates himself in the dust before God because of his offences, his iniquities and his sins; if he looks with true penitence and faith to Christ upon the cross crying, "Lord, remember me! Lord, save me! God, be merciful to me, a sinner, and deliver me from going down to the pit," it is not a question whether forgiveness may or may not be granted to that poor seeking soul; it is a fact that he already has it and that pardon has been given, because true heartfelf repentance goes along with remission of sins and true faith in Christ. You cannot separate true repentance and faith; where you will find the one, you will find the other.
We have this so beautifully illustrated in the case of the publican, as recorded in Luke 18:13,14: "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." And the Lord said, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." You see, the Psalmist's word's are still true: "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit" (Psa. 34:18). It was for such as these that our Lord Jesus suffered upon the cross.
So let the message ring out from every land under heaven: Wherever there is a soul that hates sin, that desires to leave sin and who turns to God from sin (which is true repentance), then there, in that soul, eternal mercy has already been granted, and the gracious work of remission of sins and pardon has been given unto that soul, for faith will look away from self to Christ, and find in Him a sufficient Saviour for all his needs. Let's go further.
Our Lord taught us here in our text also that repentance preached in the name of Jesus means that it is preached in or UPON THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS AS LORD. It is by His authority-by his power-as He tells us in Matt. 28:18-19. Listen! "All power [all authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach [disciple] all nations... in my name." This is what He is saying: It is in the Name of Jesus, upon his authority, that sinners bow down in repentance before God, and that every walled fortress of the sinner's heart falls. It is in the Name of Jesus the LORD that the legion of demons must be cast out of the man in the tombs of Gadara. It is in the Name and upon the authority of KING Jesus that every sin must flee and die out, its power broken, its penalty met, its dominion gone, and the sinner set free through faith in His blood; it is in the authority of that Name that he will flee as you plead it, coming to that Throne that has been set up for poor sinners by God Himself (Heb. 4:16).
Also it is upon His authority that remission of sins by faith in Christ is to be preached. Repentance and remission are so joined together, that wherever we find one, we are sure to find the other. Where there is no repentance, rest assured that there is no faith in Christ; but where there is true repentance that godly sorrow for sin that needs not to be repented of-rest assured there you will find faith to trust Christ for full and free forgiveness of all your sins. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared with authority that "All manner of sin... shall be forgiven unto men" (Matt. 12:31); the apostles declared it, and we declare this same truth today. In the Book of Acts: "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39). "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20-21).
And there is promised in the Gospel to penitent sinners A FULL PARDON OF SIN-from every sin that they have ever committed, whether it has been a sin of thought, word or deed, whether it has been a sin of omission or commission. It is a pardon as great as it is full: pardon from the most horrible and oft-repeated offences; from uncleanness, theft, blasphemy, rape, drunkenness, yea, from whoremongering and adultery, and even from murder if the murderer has truly repented. It is a pardon for crimes of deepest dye, a pardon bought with the precious blood of Christ, for when we turn to God in true repentance, and look to Jesus Christ by faith to cleanse us, it shall be done and we shall be saved!
This is the Gospel, the hope that God tells us to hold out to sinners-not as Jonah, who said, "Forty days and Ninevah shall be destroyed!" He said nothing about repentance. But we tell you with one breath that the wrath of God is coming; and with another, that if you will repent and turn to God with full sorrow for sin, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, there is full forgiveness and remission in the blood of the Saviour. You see, "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7). For all who truly repent and believe in Him, this blood cleanseth from sin-all sin, and from every sin that banishes men from the presence of the thrice-holy God. Yes, pardon is proclaimed in the Name of Jesus for sins such as these; they are not too black to be forgiven by God; they are not too deeply engrained to be washed out by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus! But I hear someone saying, "I do not doubt that repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in Christ's name, and that this is the teaching of Christ. My difficulty is, are they for me?" Well, that is a point that you must yourself settle under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but let me ask you a few questions: Have you really repented of your sin? Have you sorrowed over it as the plague of your heart and the curse of your life? Have you hated it? Have you turned away from it and sought to live as the Holy God would have you to live? Then I say unto you: If this repentance is yours, then this remission is yours also, for they go together; Christ put them together: "repentance and remission of sins" (Luke 24:47). And remember, God has commanded you to repent and believe (Mark 1:15), so what He has commanded, you can by His grace perform. You see, by hating sin because it slew Christ, hating it because God is so good that you ought not to sin against Him, hating it because God is so gracious as to forgive it, and hating sin as to weep over it and return to God as your loving Father Who is ready to forgive-this shows us that repentance and remission of sins go together.
But if indeed you have not experientially known what repentance is, then will you breathe this prayer? "Oh Lord, show me the guilt of my sin; teach me to mourn over it, to loathe it and to leave it. Let me see Thy dear Son bearing its penalty on my behalf, and then assure me by Thy Spirit's gracious instructions from Thy Word that my sins, which are many, are all forgiven for Jesus' sake, that I may go on my way rejoicing as a sinner saved by Thy sovereign grace." Will you do it?
V. The FRUITS of REPENTANCE
In conclusion, let us consider THE FRUITS WHICH WILL ALWAYS FOLLOW GENUINE BIBLICAL REPENTANCE.
In his message recorded in Matt. 3:8, John the Baptist warns his hearers to bring forth fruits meet [suitable] for repentance. Also in his address before King Agrippa, as recorded in Acts 26:20, the apostle Paul tells us that his message to the Gentiles was that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works suitable for repentance. So from these two Scriptures we learn that true biblical repentance will show itself in the believer's life by its fruits. Let us look then, at some of these fruits, and pray that the Holy Spirit will open our understanding to His precious Word, and that our hearts will be searched and opened, that we may know if these fruits have been, and are being, produced in our lives by the Spirit of the living God.
First, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be seen in our lives in A REAL HATRED FOR SIN AS SIN, and not merely for its consequences, which are: the wrath of God poured out upon every soul which dies outside of Christ, and a separation from God in hell forever. Also, it is not a hatred against this or that sin, but a hatred of all sin, and particularly of the root itself which is self-will. In Ezek. 14:6 we read, "Thus saith the Lord God; repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations," and we do this with a hatred for them and a loathing of ourselves. This is set forth in Ezek. 20:43: "Ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed." You see, the change of mind which God requires, the change of mind which God is pleased with, is a real hatred for sin as sin against God. Therefore I ask-Do you and I have a hatred for sin in this manner? If not, then we have not brought forth the fruits of true Biblical repentance.
Second, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be seen in A DEEP SORROW FOR SIN. II Corinthians 7:9-10 reads, "Ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner... for GODLY SORROW worketh repentance to salvation." And such a sorrow is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit, which has God for its object, for it consists of a grief for having despised such a God, for having rebelled against His authority, and for having been indifferent to His glory. It was such a sorrow that caused Peter to go out and weep bitterly over his sin of denying his Lord (Matt. 26:75). And it is such a sorrow that causes us to weep bitterly over our sins because they have been against God. We are made to cry like David in Psa. 51:3-4: "I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Have you thus sorrowed for sin as being against God? For this fruit of true Biblical repentance causes us to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24) and to follow God in Christ with all our hearts. Only this kind of sorrow for sin is genuine.
Third, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be seen in A CONFESSING OF SIN. We read in Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Yes, there must be the fruit of confession of sin: confessing all and hiding nothing. You see, you and I both know that it is our nature to deny our sins, directly or indirectly; to minimize or make excuses for them. But when the Holy Spirit works in our souls and our sins are brought to light, there must be an acknowledging of them before God. If true Biblical repentance has been worked in our hearts, then there can be no relief for these stricken hearts of ours until we confess our sins and lay them bare before God. This is brought out in Psalm 32:3-4 in these words: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old though my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into drought of summer." You see, it is only the fruits of a frank and brokenhearted confession of our sins that will bring us peace with God in Christ. This is the change of attitude which God requires, thereby showing true repentance. And my friend, this continues in our life until we get to glory. Confession and repentance is part of the believer's daily prayer, as he pleads I John 1:9 at the throne of grace: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Fourth, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be seen in AN ACTUAL TURNING FROM SIN. My friend, there are three Greek words used in the New Testament which represent different phases of repentance, and all three of them are seen in the life of the one who has actually turned to God from sin in true repentance. In Matt. 3:2 the word "repent" means A CHANGE OF MIND ABOUT SIN. In Matt. 21:29 the word "repent" means A CHANGE OF HEART. And in Matt. 3:8 and in Acts 20:21 it means A CHANGE OF LIFE, AN ACTUAL TURNING FROM SIN TO WALK IN IT NO MORE. So we can say again, true repentance is a radical change of mind and heart that leads to a complete turnabout of our life. It brings about in the repenting believing sinner, a change of mind, which is the understanding; a change of heart, which is the affections; and a change in the course of our life, which comes from our wills. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." If I really hate sin and sorrow over it, then I shall forsake it. I shall take to heart Isa. 55:7, which reads, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord; and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." This is the change of course which God requires. It will show itself in the repenting, believing sinner taking heed to the Word of God which says, "Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6:18); "Flee from idolatry" (I Cor. 10:14); "Flee the love of money" (II Tim. 6:10-11); "Flee also youthful lusts" (II Tim. 2:22). And it will also show itself in the putting into practice the positive graces of following after "righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Tim. 2:22). My friend, the question before us is-Have you and I from our hearts actually turned unto God from sin?
Fifth, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be seen in A DESIRE TO PUT INTO PRACTICE THE SCRIPTURES THAT TEACH US TO WALK IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE HOLINESS (Eph. 4:24), and to be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). This, to me, is one of the most distinguishing marks of true Biblical repentance: the desire to walk in a different way-a different course of life than we did before. We read in Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." So by God's grace we desire to follow after this peace and holiness, because God has given us a new heart and a new nature. In Matt. 1:21 we read that Christ came to save His people from their sins (not IN their sins), so the heart of the true penitent cries unto God daily to be delivered from sin and self because he hates them. Again, in Eph. 1:4 we read that God's purpose in saving us was to make us holy, so by God's grace we desire to be holy, separate from sin and our self-will. And in I Thess. 4:7 we read that God's purpose in calling us was not to be unclean-to stay in our sins and self-will-but to live in holiness; so by God's grace, we desire to walk worthy of this calling unto holiness. Then in I Thess. 4:3 we read that the will of God for our lives is for us to be sanctified: that is, to be set apart from God's holy use. So this being true, we desire by God's grace to be separated from sin unto Christ. It is by our desiring and walking in righteousness and true holiness and "being careful to maintain good works," that we can know the fruits of true Biblical repentance are being manifested in our lives. For we read in Titus 2:11-12 that "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." And this is the desire of our hearts: to put into practice the denying of ourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts, and by the grace of God to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world. Our cry will be, "O Lord, help me to understand Thy Word, and by Thy grace help me walk in the way that is well- pleasing unto Thee." Or like that of the Psalmist: "Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day" (Psa. 25:4-5). And, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Psa. 73:25), so teach me Thy way, and lead me in plain paths, that I will follow Thee all the days of my life."
These then, are the fruits of true Biblical repentance: A deep desire to be finished with sin, because it is the plague and sorrow of our heart; a deep desire to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, and a desire to fight the good fight of faith; a deep desire never to go back to a way of self-will and self-pleasing, but to show forth the praises of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light; a deep desire to follow the Lord in a path of holiness all the days of our life; a deep desire to please Him in all our ways; the deep desire to judge ourselves before Him every day and to live at His feet with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Sixth, the fruits of true Biblical repentance will be shown in REAL FAITH IN CHRIST. True Biblical repentance cannot be separated from true saving faith; the two always go together. He who truly repents will truly believe, for the same Holy Spirit Who gives us repentance to the acknowledging of our sinful conduct before God, and gives us such a desire to confess it and forsake it with a true godly sorrow, will also turn our eyes upon yon lovely Lord Who died in our place. The Word of God says that the Holy Spirit never separates these graces: repentance and faith. Where you find one, you will find the other in the life of the saved soul, for repentance without faith will despair; it would end in hell. But praise the name of our thrice-holy God, He Who gives repentance also gives saving faith!
Faith finds in the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood the forgiveness of God for all sin. By faith in Him we find a putting away and a washing away of all our sins. We find in Christ a complete Saviour who has undertaken for us before God. We find in Christ peace, because Christ made peace by the blood of His cross. We find in Christ hope, and hope is not made ashamed, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We find in Christ a perfect standing before God, because Christ has by God been made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We find in Christ a perfect hiding place from the wrath of God against our sins, because the judgment of all of our sins has fallen upon Christ. We find in Christ all that God gives to poor, repenting, believing sinners; for we find that we are complete in Him, the Saviour of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. L R. Shelton, Jr. Mt. Zion Bible Church 2603 West Wright Street Pensacola, Florida 32505 904.438.6666 http://www.mtzion.org