Mat 3:8-12 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (9) And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (10) Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (11) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Repentance is an essential element in genuine faith and salvation in Christ. A person who refuses to repent is not a Christian. And as most of you know, the RASN (Reviler, Abuser, Sociopath, Narcissist) is not known for his/her repentance. The Bible is quite clear:
1Jn 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Listen to John Calvin on this. The quote is taken from one of his sermons on this scripture:
Act 2:37-38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (38) And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
[Note: Calvin is speaking about man the sinner in general. When he says “we” or “us” here he means how man is apart from Christ]
“Now we must not be surprised if we are unable to prick our own conscience, because we do the very opposite. We are grieved if someone speaks of our vices in public. We do not want anyone to reproach us for them. We do not want to think about them in private either….”.
“We should be quick to confront our vice head on and take heed to correct it while God gives us the grace to put our minds to it. Now, since very few of us do that and are blessed, many more of us do not do that and are not blessed. And no matter how much we might boast of being a Christian, we indicate clearly, unless we change our ways, that ours is but empty boasting.”
“For we should know that Christian teaching consists of these two points, namely, repentance and the remission of sins. We have no other instruction from God. After Jesus instructed his apostles, he said, ‘Preach repentance and the remission of sins’ (Luke 24:47).”
“And that is why we see many people who are far from being Christians. For as I said earlier concerning repentance, they never want to acquire knowledge of their sins and do not want to be badgered about them, and yet it is in repentance that all our well-being lies.” [John Calvin, Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Banner of Truth Trust]
The thing is quite plain and clear –
Luke 13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Act 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
2Co 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Calvin also states just what genuine repentance is –
The Christian must experience personal grief for offending God….Repentance is, in a word, the turning of a man to God. Repentance has its seat in the spirit and in the heart. It is a turning around to contemplate God face to face rather than having one’s back turned to Him. Repentance must produce fruit; otherwise we will not recognize that a man is converted. ‘Bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance’ (Matthew 3:8). It will only be boasting filled with lies if we say we are repentant but our lives do not reflect our words.
Still another point in this regard is this: the genuine Christian continues to repent daily. This is another certain mark of the new man in Christ. We continue – even increasingly – to see our sin and confess it, asking the Lord’s forgiveness. We continue daily to hate our sin and battle against it by the Spirit in us. The hypocrite is characterized by none of this.
Note then what I said at the beginning (quoting Calvin). The hypocrite has no pricked conscience. (That is, his conscience does not cause him to grieve over his sins). If anyone speaks of his sins, then he is grieved – savagely so. He lashes out in rage. He does not want anyone to reproach him for his sins. He will not even think about his sins in private. His boasting about being a Christian is a lie.
This is the reality of the RASN, and knowing these truths serves as a great encouragement to the victims of these evil ones. It clears up the fog and confusion. He is not in Christ. He is dead in his sins. And his refusal to repent proves it.
Finally, a word to pastors –
The one who preaches to us must reprove us daily for our faults. Otherwise we would have a gospel made to our order. It would not be the one God has given us. That fact greatly annoys us, whatever the situation. Some are vexed and others gnash their teeth, but we must nonetheless uphold the teaching of God in the midst of his church. If we think we are doing them a favor by being lenient, we shall be contributing to their ruin. It is a great pity that we cannot be persuaded that this is true. As I have already said, when God calls us, a change must take place in us, as if we had become new men. That is how Scripture speaks of it and how we must use repentance to advantage.[John Calvin, Sermons on Acts, Banner of Truth Trust]