Tag Archives: Repentance

“At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life” by J.C. Ryle

“First of all you are meant to learn from these verses Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners. This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches you that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it,—it teaches you that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.

I ask you if any man’s case could look more hopeless and desperate, than that of this penitent thief once did?

He was a wicked man—a malefactor,—a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked,—for when he first was crucified he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered. The grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death.

If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone, and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first. He began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom.’ He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned, and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change.

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved. But it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy. But it proved not too late at all.

The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer,—spoke kindly to him,—assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise,—pardoned him completely—cleansed him thoroughly from his sins—received him graciously—justified him freely—raised him from the gates of hell,—gave him a title to glory.

Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation, as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to them as these, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Reader, the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that he was a strong deliverer. In the hour when his body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, he conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now have I not a right to say, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God through Him?” Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say. “Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none?” Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, “By grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works,—fear not, only believe?” Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized. He belonged to no visible church. He never received the Lord’s Supper. He never did any work for Christ. He never gave money to Christ’s cause,—But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, “The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true?” Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old, but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.*

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life?

These things are sad indeed; but there is hope even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can cleanse you. Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Reader, are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief,—come to Christ, and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ by faith, and live.

Reader, are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas! the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fulness there is in Him.

Reader, do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love. Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings. Tell them of what He has done for the chief of sinners. Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time. Tell it them over and over again.

Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did,—come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'”

–J.C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 258–265.

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“He atoned for all our sins” by J. Gresham Machen

“This business of letting by-gones be by-gones has a pleasant sound. But in reality it is the most heartless thing in the world.

It will not do at all even in the case of sins committed against our fellow-men. To say nothing of sin against God, what shall be done about the harm that we have wrought to our neighbor?

Sometimes, no doubt, the harm can be repaired. If we have defrauded our neighbor of a sum of money, we can pay the sum back with interest. But in the case of the more serious wrongs such repayment is usually quite impossible.

The more serious wrongs are those that are done, not to the bodies, but to the souls of men. And who can think with complacency of wrongs of that kind which he has committed?

Who can bear to think, for example, of the harm that he has done to those younger than himself by a bad example? And what of those sad words, spoken to those we love, that have left scars never to be obliterated by the hand of time?

In the presence of such memories, we are told by the modern preacher simply to repent and to let by-gones be by-gones. But what a heartless thing is such repentance!

We escape into some higher, happier, respectable life. But what of those whom we by our example and by our words have helped to drag down to the brink of hell? We forget them and let by-gones be by-gones!

Such repentance will never wipe out the guilt of sin— not even sin committed against our fellow-men, to say nothing of sin against our God.

The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead.

We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong—at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer.

And something like that Christ did for us when He died instead of us on the cross; He atoned for all our sins.

The sorrow for sins committed against one’s fellowmen does indeed remain in the Christian’s heart. And he will seek by every means that is within his power to repair the damage that he has done.

But atonement at least has been made—made as truly as if the sinner himself had suffered with and for those whom he has wronged. And the sinner himself, by a mystery of grace, becomes right with God.

All sin at bottom is a sin against God. ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned’ is the cry of a true penitent.

How terrible is the sin against God! Who can recall the wasted moments and years? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little allotted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life?

Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition.; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 109–110.

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“That happy day” by Charles Spurgeon

“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel.

In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me.

I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose.

At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, of tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid.

He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was,—

‘LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH’ (Isaiah 45:22)

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text.

The preacher began thus:—’My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look’. Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’

‘Ay!’ said he, in broad Essex, ‘many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me’. Some on ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says. ‘Look unto Me.’

Then the good man followed up his text in this way:—’Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!’

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.

Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before.

However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, ‘and you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death,—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’

Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.’

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said,—I did not take much notice of it,—I was so possessed with that one thought.

Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me!

Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him.

Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’ Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say,—

‘E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.’

I do from my soul confess that I never was satisfied till I came to Christ; when I was yet a child, I had far more wretchedness than ever I have now; I will even add, more weariness, more care, more heart-ache, than I know at this day.

I may be singular in this confession, but I make it, and know it to be the truth. Since that dear hour when my soul cast itself on Jesus, I have found solid joy and peace; but before that, all those supposed gaieties of early youth, all the imagined ease and joy of boyhood, were but vanity and vexation of spirit to me.

That happy day, when I found the Saviour, and learned to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me. An obscure child, unknown, unheard of, I listened to the Word of God; and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ.

I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped, I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of my spirit at that hour.

Many days of Christian experience have passed since then, but there has never been one which has had the full exhilaration, the sparkling delight which that first day had. I thought I could have sprung from the seat on which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren who were present, ‘I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace! A sinner saved by blood!’

My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of Heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Christ Jesus, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock, and my goings established.

I thought I could dance all the way home. I could understand what John Bunyan meant, when he declared he wanted to tell the crows on the ploughed land all about his conversion. He was too full to hold, he felt he must tell somebody.

It is not everyone who can remember the very day and hour of his deliverance; but it was so with me. The clock of mercy struck in Heaven the hour and moment of my emancipation, for the time had come.

Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me! I had passed from darkness into marvellous light, from death to life.

Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, ‘Something wonderful has happened to you.’

And I was eager to tell them all about it. Oh! there was joy in the household that day, when all heard that the eldest son had found the Saviour, and knew himself to be forgiven,—bliss compared with which all earth’s joys are less than nothing and vanity.

Yes, I had looked to Jesus as I was, and found in Him my Saviour. Thus had the eternal purpose of Jehovah decreed it; and as, the moment before, there was none more wretched than I was, so, within that second, there was none more joyous.

It took no longer time than does the lightning-flash; it was done, and never has it been undone. I looked, and lived, and leaped in joyful liberty as I beheld my sin punished upon the great Substitute, and put away for ever.

I looked unto Him, as He bled upon that tree; His eyes darted a glance of love unutterable into my spirit, and in a moment, I was saved.

Looking unto Him, the bruises that my soul had suffered were healed, the gaping wounds were cured, the broken bones rejoiced, the rags that had covered me were all removed, my spirit was white as the spotless snows of the far-off North; I had melody within my spirit, for I was saved, washed, cleansed, forgiven, through Him that did hang upon the tree.

My Master, I cannot understand how Thou couldst stoop Thine awful head to such a death as the death of the cross,—how Thou couldst take from Thy brow the coronet of stars which from old eternity had shone resplendent there; but how Thou shouldst permit the thorn-crown to gird Thy temples, astonishes me far more.

That Thou shouldst cast away the mantle of Thy glory, the azure of Thine everlasting empire, I cannot comprehend; but how Thou shouldst have become veiled in the ignominious purple for a while, and then be mocked by impious men, who bowed to Thee as a pretended king; and how Thou shouldst be stripped naked to Thy shame, without a single covering, and die a felon’s death;—this is still more incomprehensible.

But the marvel is that Thou shouldst have suffered all this for me! Truly, Thy love to me is wonderful, passing the love of women!

Was ever grief like Thine? Was ever love like Thine, that could open the flood-gates of such grief? Was ever love so mighty as to become the fount from which such an ocean of grief could come rolling down?

There was never anything so true to me as those bleeding hands, and that thorn-crowned head. Home, friends, health, wealth, comforts—all lost their lustre that day when He appeared, just as stars are hidden by the light of the sun.

He was the only Lord and Giver of life’s best bliss, the one well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. As I saw Jesus on His cross before me, and as I mused upon His sufferings and death, methought I saw Him cast a look of love upon me; and then I looked at Him, and cried,—

‘Jesu, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly.’

He said, ‘Come,’ and I flew to Him, and clasped Him; and when He let me go again, I wondered where my burden was. It was gone!

There, in the sepulchre, it lay, and I felt light as air; like a winged sylph, I could fly over mountains of trouble and despair; and oh! what liberty and joy I had!

I could leap with ecstasy, for I had much forgiven, and I was freed from sin. With the spouse in the Canticles, I could say, ‘I found Him.’

I, a lad, found the Lord of glory; I, a slave to sin, found the great Deliverer; I, the child of darkness, found the Light of life.

I, the uttermost of the lost, found my Saviour and my God; I, widowed and desolate, found my Friend, my Beloved, my Husband.

Oh, how I wondered that I should be pardoned! It was not the pardon that I wondered at so much; the wonder was that it should come to me.

I marvelled that He should be able to pardon such sins as mine, such crimes, so numerous and so black; and that, after such an accusing conscience, He should have power to still every wave within my spirit, and make my soul like the surface of a river, undisturbed, quiet, and at ease.

It mattered not to me whether the day itself was gloomy or bright I had found Christ; that was enough for me. He was my Saviour, He was my all; and I can heartily say, that one day of pardoned sin was a sufficient recompense for the whole five years of conviction.

I have to bless God for every terror that ever scared me by night, and for every foreboding that alarmed me by day. It has made me happier ever since.

For now, if there be a trouble weighing upon my soul, I thank God it is not such a burden as that which bowed me to the very earth, and made me creep upon the ground, like a beast, by reason of heavy distress and affliction.

I know I never can again suffer what I have suffered; I never can, except I be sent to hell, know more of agony than I have known; and now, that ease, that joy and peace in believing, that ‘no condemnation’ which belongs to me as a child of God, is made doubly sweet and inexpressibly precious, by the recollection of my past clays of sorrow and grief.

Blessed be Thou, O God, forever, who by those black days, like a dreary winter, hast made these summer days all the fairer and the sweeter! I need not walk through the earth fearful of every shadow, and afraid of every man I meet, for sin is washed away.

My spirit is no more guilty; it is pure, it is holy. The frown of God no longer resteth upon me; but my Father smiles, I see His eyes,—they are glancing love; I hear His voice,—it is full of sweetness.

I am forgiven, I am forgiven, I am forgiven!”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1834–1854, Vol. 1 (Cincinatti; Chicago; St. Louis: Curts & Jennings, 1898), 1:105–110.

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“Look for Christ and you will find Him” by C.S. Lewis

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.

Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins, 1952/2001), 226-227.

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“He is worth more than a thousand worlds” by Thomas Brooks

“Sinners, don’t you deceive your own souls: sin and your souls must part, or Christ and your souls can never meet. Sin and your souls must be two, or Christ and your souls can never be one.

Christ is a most precious commodity; He is better than rubies, Prov. 8:11, or the most costly pearls. And you must part with your old gold, with your shining gold, your old sins, your most shining sins, or you must perish forever.

Christ is to be sought and bought with any pains, at any price. We cannot buy this gold too dear. He is a jewel worth more than a thousand worlds, as all know that have Him. Get Him, and get all; miss Him and miss all.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 203.

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“Repentance is a continual spring” by Thomas Brooks

“The repentance that accompanies salvation is a continued act, a repentance never to be repented of (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance is a continual spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing.

A sound penitent is still a-turning nearer and nearer to God. He is still a-turning further and further from sin. This makes the penitent soul to sigh and mourn that he can get no nearer to God, that he can get no further from sin (Rom. 7).

The work of repentance is not the work of an hour, a day, a year, but the work of this life. A sincere penitent makes as much conscience of repenting daily as he doth of believing daily.

And he can as easily content himself with one act of faith, or love, or joy, as he can content himself with one act of repentance: ‘My sins are ever before me,’ says David (Ps. 51:3). Next to my being kept from sin, I count it the greatest mercy in the world to be still a-mourning over sin, says the penitent soul.

The penitent soul never ceases repenting till he ceases living. He goes to heaven with the joyful tears of repentance in his eyes. He knows that his whole life is but a day of sowing tears that he may at last reap everlasting joys. That repentance that accompanies salvation is a final forsaking of sin.

It is a bidding sin an everlasting adieu. It is a taking an eternal farewell of sin, a never turning to folly more: ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ says Ephraim (Hosea 14:8). I have tasted of the bitterness that is in sin; I have tasted of the sweetness of divine mercy in pardoning of sin.

Therefore, away, sin! I will never have to do with you more! Away, away, sin! You shall never be courted nor countenanced by me anymore.”

–Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 467-68.

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“Rejoicing and repentance” by Timothy Keller

“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change.

Indeed, it is when we rejoice over Jesus’s sacrificial love for us most fully that, paradoxically, we are most truly convicted of our sin. When we repent out of fear of consequences, we are not really sorry for the sin, but for ourselves.

Fear-based repentance (‘I’d better change or God will get me’) is really self-pity. In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake.

But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us– seeing what it cost Him to save us from sin– we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God.

What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

–Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), 172.

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