The root of all evil in human nature is the corruption of the will. The thoughts and intents of the heart are wrong and as a consequence the whole life is wrong. Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul's direction. The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, "I will arise and go to my father." As he had once willed to leave his father's house, now he willed to return. His subsequent action proved his expressed purpose to be sincere. He did return. (A.W. Tozer, From True Religion is Not Feeling but Willing)
I dare say I am troubled, my friends, by the general manner in which repentance is presented to us today by our modern teachers. I take issue with the fact that much of the current emphasis barely takes issue with sin, or the inborn depravity of mans condition, or the ageless reality that the God we serve is a High and Holy Being who cannot dwell among darkness.
In much the same way that many other foundational doctrines of the faith are being re-skinned by this new, veiled humanism, such is the case with repentance. Here too, we discover that at its core, repentance is more about the fallen mans behavior and need for affirmation than his unlikeness to a Holy Maker.
I love the way Tozer paints the vivid word picture of repentance as an often violent reversal of the souls direction, and how he precisely targets human will as the real source of mans corruption. We do not slip morally because we are having a bad day, so much out of character, but rather because the carnal and dark heart within us stands in open defiance of our Fathers love.
I have sinned against the Lord! cried David, accurately portraying his infidelity and murder as an offense against the Most High. All sin, whatever it looks like, or whoever it hurts or destroys is a sin against God simply because it defies His perfect and creative purpose on the earth. True repentance acknowledges what God is as much and perhaps more than what we are; it stems from the stark and spirit-inspired sense that the chasm between the Creator and the created is wider than we could ever have imagined.
When the first man Adam tasted of that forbidden fruit, and the all the creation groaned on that dark day, it was the will of man that was then and there corrupted and sealed in his offspring. And ever since it stands with clenched fists in open and violent defiance of the Maker.
Those whom the Bible calls the children of light will see this most clearly. Those who view sanctification as little more than an improved self, or a fancy suit of clothes draped over dead mens bones, will not; indeed, they cannot.
My friends, when we repent, we do so not for the evil that we have done (our behavior), but for the evil that our entire existence represents in proportion to God (our condition). We repent in dust and ashes for what we are, as we gradually come to see Him for what He is. And as this unlikeness and inequality becomes ever more evident to us as He draws us into Himself, we begin to see what Job saw when he cried&ldots;
Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)"
or the Apostle Paul, when He enjoined us to&ldots;
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Rom 12:9).
At the most essential level, as the Holy Spirit is turning our moral world upside down and inside out, we begin to see how absolutely loathsome and helpless we are. Then, flowing out of this is a heaven-sent desire to be rid of it, once and for all, and forever. This is what Paul was driving at when he tells us to abhor evil. The Jews of his day would be well familiar with Old Testament directives to separate themselves from what was unclean or unholy. To abhor means to be removed or separate from it.
Yet the humanistic religion of our day is quick to nod its happy head and suggest that nobodys perfect, my friend. Just say youre sorry to God and all will be well. After all, He loves you and understands that you are only flesh and blood.
Do we not see how this trivializes it all away into vapor, and why so many supposed Christians never actually improve, or come to see life from Gods perspective. I must confess here that this has been an apt description of my Christian walk for most of my life. I repented for what it did for me (or what I wanted it to do for me), not because it affirmed the moral perfection of my God!
I have since begun to ask my Lord to show me what He sees in me, filth and all, and to help me to treat repentance as a way of living this new life, not something I do only when I stumble morally at some point in time.
The Bible teaches, and experience confirms, that our behavior (or what the Scriptures call fruit) springs forth from what we are. I lie, not due to a momentary lapse of truthfulness, but because I am a liar. I steal, not because I temporarily stumbled, but because I am thief. If the well has been polluted, then the water will be undrinkable.
The humanist tendency today is to refuse to be defined by what we are, to consider the human condition as essentially good, yet prone to stumbling.
This gospel, false to its core, tramples on the truth, and degrades the Cross of Christ!
To repent in biblical terms is to turn away from the sinfulness we abhor, and toward our pure and perfect Redeemer. Repentance is the ongoing expression of the truth that the Holy Spirit is exposing about our foul condition. Yes, when it surfaces in the form of rotten fruit and hurts others, it becomes even more exposed, but repentance has a persistent role in our transformation.
We repent also because we have veiled the testimony of our Lord to this sin-stained world. Rather than magnify our Lord Jesus Christ, we have covered him over in the dark shroud of the old carnal self. Rather than shine forth His pure and heavenly light, we have only added to the darkness. In place of salt, we have spilled sugar, and the rot and decay of evil has advanced, unrestrained by the power of God in us.
Repentance marks a commitment to turn, a redirection of the will back toward the Captain of our Souls, that Bright and Shining Light. It is not an intellectual or mental thing at all, but it flows upward out the illumination of the soul. It is a recognition of our profound and utter uncleanness and a God-sent desire to be eternally cleansed and pure.
We repent, my friends, because we do not love Him as He has loved us. Indeed, part of the godly sorrow that surfaces and sometimes threatens to consume us, may even flow out the realization of how utterly unworthy we are of any good thing from the Masters table. He has stooped to wash our feet, yet we persist in wanting to be dirty.
My friends, I have written more than I usually do, and for this I apologize. May our Holy and Perfect Father lead each of us further along this path into His Light and Truth. May the tears that flow from the recognition of our own uncleanness render the fruits of righteousness and holiness in our hearts and lives. May we begin to see all things as only He sees them, abhorring that which is evil, and turning to that which is good.
Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.
Your friend in Christ Jesus,
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