Many awakened and seeking souls are in distress, because they cannot find a real sorrow for sin in their hearts.
They know they have sinned, and they are unhappy. But they cannot work up a deep and true sorrow for sin; they cannot attain to a broken heart.
Sin is raging in the flesh, in thoughts and desires, yes in words and actions also. "I ought to be ashamed of myself and humble myself thoroughly'' -they lament. But I feel so hard and cold. How I wish, I had sorrow for sin and true longing after God.
If I only had the right repentance!
It is very important to come to a true repentance. Not all repentance is true. Even Cain repented and complained about his sin and said: "My iniquity is greater than I can bear." But his repentance did not lead to conversion. He went away from the presence of the Lord.
Esau wept over the loss of the blessing-he even sought it with tears-but he found no room for true repentance. His weeping was over the consequences of sin, not over sin itself.
Saul broke into weeping over his unrighteousness toward David, and even confessed that he was in the wrong. I Sam.24:18. But he did not want to break away from sin, and he never was saved from it.
He had no right repentance. Only regret.
In our days repentance is made superfluous. Sin is being polished and given attractive names and is made as innocent as possible, that no room is left for true repentance and conversion. Just a little improvement here and a little coat of paint on the outside there-that is sufficient in these days.
"Flee the serious, shun repentance," says the poet.
For sin is not sin these days.
But true repentance will never be at rest with this. It shuns the hollow and false appearance. First of all it wants to know the truth. Here I shall mention a few ear-marks of true repentance.
1. True repentance acknowledges and confesses sin.
True repentance will never cover up sin or seek to excuse it. It comes before God with an honest confession of sin-confess it to God just as it is. It is without guile: comes to God and acknowledges how dishonest and false the natural heart is.
2. True repentance wants to be set free from sin.
It is not only forgiveness it seeks, but is also seeks to be set free from the bondage and power of sin. False repentance wants forgiveness, but not deliverance from the power of sin. Therefore it never leads to a full surrender and experience of salvation.
Old man Kjelland, on the Litchville-Valley City Prairie, once told an experience from his younger days, when he was a sailor: On a trip to India they anchored at a small island near Sumatra. The natives had small monkeys for sale. They told how they had caught them. They bored a hole in some big nuts that grow there, took the meat out and spread sugar on it, put it back and tied it inside the nut. The little apes liked sugar and came to help themselves-putting the little hand in through the hole and filled it. But the hole was not wide enough for them to pull the hand back filled. They pulled and shrieked when caught, but they did not have sense enough to let go of the sugar. So they were caught.
Many awakened souls go at it in the same way. They are in distress and long for peace with God. But sinful things are binding them which they don't want to give up. Certain things hinder them, which they will not renounce; things are in the way, which they will not humble themselves under.
Then when the time of revival is over, they little by little sink down into carelessness and worldliness, held fast in the chains of the devil to their own eternal perdition.
My friend: Let go of the sugar! True repentance breaks with sin.
3. True repentance cannot see itself.
This often makes it bitter for the seeking soul. He feels condemned and unhappy. When he seeks in his own heart for grief and sorrow for sin, he cannot find it. Instead of feeling broken-hearted, he feels sinful desires deep down in his heart.
He feels perplexed and comfortless.
This is distressing.
But this disappointment over himself is really the best thing for the awakened soul. If he could find a deep sorrow in his heart, he would be apt to build his faith on his own repentance and not on Christ alone.
"If I only could feel broken-hearted! Just so I was rightly converted! If I could only attain to a real faith! Then there would be help and a way out for me to be saved. But no matter how much I pray, I don't get any different."
My dear seeking friend: It is really your good fortune that it has gone to pieces for you. It is the Holy Spirit that has done this. He wants to turn you away from a dangerous side-track, which your own deceitful heart was leading you in on. Therefore does He want you to experience the fourth ear-mark of true repentance.
4. True repentance goes to Jesus.
Jesus said: ''Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
He said it. The one who is of the truth is coming. He accepts the invitation. He obeys the invitation.
In Roman 10:16 the apostle speaks of some one who did not obey the Gospel. Therefore they never came to a living faith.
True repentance obeys the Gospel. It renounces its own thoughts and accepts God's thoughts. It places God's Word above its own feelings.
True repentance goes to Jesus and obeys the Gospel. When Jesus says: Come unto me! Then the repentant person comes to Jesus-comes with his sin and sorrow, comes with his shortcomings, failings, discouragements and accusations, with it all. In this way the obedience of faith is worked in the sinner's heart. In this way he also receives the seal of the Holy Spirit in his heart.
It is not for the sake of your repentance that God offers you His grace. He does not give you His forgiveness in exchange for your sorrow.
God saves you for Jesus' sake only. And Jesus was broken and crushed for your sins-and for mine. He wept over them and knew to the full the anguish of penitence in Gethsemane and Calvary - your and my sorrow--a sorrow that we cannot produce. But Jesus knew it and felt it. His soul knew anguish and sorrow-even unto death. This sorrow was sufficient in the sight of God. He requires no more.
Our Iowa friend, Alvald Stole once told about a beggar who came to his father. When his father wanted to put something into his bag, it came to light that the beggar was so poor that he did not even own a bag.
So, the beggar had to receive both the gift and the bag.
The law in the kingdom of God is, that the poorest receive the most. He filled the hungry with good gifts but the full and the rich he sent empty away.
The hungry who are so out and out poor, that they do not even find sorrow for sin in their own poor hearts-even such are filled with good gifts -especially these.
"The whole do not need a physician, but they who are sick (sin-sick). I have not come to call righteous, but sinners to repentance,'' Jesus said.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
They shall be filled.
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