By A. W. Pink
Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
In view of these solemn words it is tremendously important that each of us should seek and obtain from God the repentance which He requires, not resting content with anything short of this. Hence, there needs to be the most diligent and prayerful examination as to the character of our repentance. Multitudes are deceived thereon. Many are perplexed by the conflicting teaching of men on this subject; but instead of that discouraging, it should stir up to a more earnest searching of the Scriptures. Before turning to the positive side of this branch of our theme, let us first point out some of the features of a nonsaving repentance.
Trembling beneath the preaching of God's Word is not repentance. True, there are thousands of people who have listened unmoved to the most awe-inspiring sermons, and even descriptions of the torments of the damned have struck no terror to their hearts. Yet, on the other hand, many who were deeply stirred, filled with alarm, and moved to tears, are now in hell. I have seen the faces of strong men pale under a searching message, yet next day all its effects had left them. Felix “trembled” (Acts 24:25) under the preaching of Paul!
Being “almost persuaded” is not repentance. Agrippa (Acts 26:28) is a case in point. A person may give full assent to the messages of God's servant, admire the gospel, yea, receive the Word with joy, and after all, be only a stony-ground hearer (Matt. 13:20-21). Not only so, he may be conscious of his evildoing and acknowledge the same. Pharaoh owned, “I have sinned against the Lord your God” (Exod. 10:16). A man may realize that he ought to yield himself to the claims of God and become a Christian, yet never be more than “almost persuaded.”
Humbling ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God is not repentance. People may be deeply moved, weep, go home and determine to reform their lives, and yet return to their sins. A solemn example of this is found in Ahab. That wicked king of Israel coveted Naboth's vineyard, plotted to secure it, and gained his end by causing him to be murdered. Then the servant of God met him and said, “Hast thou killed and also taken possession?” And we are told that “he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted . . . and went softly” (I Kings 21:27-29). Yet in the very next chapter we find him again rebelling against God, and that he was cut off by divine judgment. Ah, my reader, you may have humbled yourself before God for a time, and yet remain the slave of your lusts. You may be afraid of hell, and yet not of sinning. If hell were extinguished, so would be the repentance of many church members. O mistake not fear of the wrath to come for a holy hatred and horror of sin.
Confessing sins is not repentance. Thousands have gone forward to the “altar” or “mourners' bench” and have told God what vile creatures they were, enumerating a long list of transgressions, but without any deep realization of the unspeakable awfulness of their sins, or a spark of holy hatred of them. The sequel has shown this, for they now ignore God's commandments as much as they did before. O my reader, if you do not, in the strength of God, resist sin, if you do not turn from it, then your fancied repentance is only whitewash—paint which decorates, but not the grace which transforms into gold.
~ A.W. Pink