The Repentance of Believers - John Wesley Condensed Sermon
Sermon: The Repentance of Believers
Wesley's Text: "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15
It is generally thought, that repentance and faith are only the gate of religion; that they are necessary only at the beginning of our Christian course, when we are setting out in the way to the kingdom… [And] there is a repentance and a faith, which are, more especially, necessary at the beginning: a repentance, which is a conviction of our utter sinfulness, and guiltiness, and helplessness;
[But] there is also a repentance and a faith [needed] after we have "believed the gospel;" yea, and in every subsequent stage of our Christian course, or we cannot "run the race which is set before us."
But in what sense are we to repent and believe, after we are justified?
I. In what sense are we to repent as believers?
1. Defining our terms:
a. Repentance frequently means an inward change, a change of mind from sin to holiness.
b. After we are justified, [repentance] “is one kind of self-knowledge, the knowing ourselves… helpless sinners, even though we know we are children of God.”
2. When we are first saved, “it is natural to suppose that we are no longer sinners, that all our sins are not only covered but destroyed.”
a. [Sin] does not reign, but it does remain.
b. [Being convinced of this] is one great branch of the repentance we are now speaking of.
3. We will begin to find sin yet remains in our hearts.
4. We should likewise be convinced, that as sin remains in our hearts, so it
a. cleaves to all our words
b. cleaves to all our actions.
i. Actions not to the glory of God
ii. Sins of omission
iii. inward defects without number
iv. Lack of love for God
5. Yet “A conviction of their guiltiness is another branch of that repentance which belongs to the children of God.”
a. The strict justice of God “pronounces them to be still worthy of death, on all the preceding accounts.
b. It “would absolutely condemn them thereto, were it not for the atoning blood.”
6. A conviction of their utter helplessness is yet another branch of this repentance.
a. that they are no more able now of themselves to think one good thought, to form one good desire, to speak one good word, or do one good work, than before they were justified;
b. that “we have an absolute inability to deliver ourselves from that guiltiness or desert of punishment whereof we are still conscious;”
7. A conviction that “although we may weaken our enemies day by day; -- yet we cannot drive them out” without God’s power
a. Most sure we cannot, till it shall please our Lord to speak to our hearts again, to speak the second time, "Be clean:"
b. if there be no instantaneous deliverance after justification, if there be none but a gradual work of God (that there is a gradual work none denies,) then we must be content, as well as we can, to remain full of sin till death;
II. How are we to “believe the Gospel" after justification?
1. It is in a “different from that wherein we believed in order to justification.” Believe that:
a. He is able to save you from all the sin that still remains in your heart.
b. He is able to save you from all the sin that cleaves to all your words and actions.
c. He is able to save you from sins of omission, and to supply whatever is wanting in you.
d. He is not only able, but willing to do this; to cleanse you from all your filthiness of flesh and spirit; to "save you from all your uncleannesses."
2. Here is how “in the children of God, repentance and faith exactly answer each other.”
a. By repentance we feel the sin remaining in our hearts, and cleaving to our words and actions:
b. by faith, we receive the power of God in Christ, purifying our hearts, and cleansing our hands.
III. More inferences from this idea of repentance and faith after justification.
1. It is an unhealthy idea that we are “wholly sanctified when we are justified; that our hearts are then cleansed from all sin.”
a. It is true, we are then delivered… from the dominion of outward sin;
b. the power of inward sin is so broken, that we need no longer follow, or be led by it:
c. but it is not “true, that inward sin is then totally destroyed;”
d. The problem is “If…we think we are quite made whole already, there is no room to seek any further healing.”
e. On this supposition it is absurd to expect a farther deliverance from sin, whether gradual or instantaneous.
2. A deep conviction of our [lack]…is absolutely necessary, in order to our seeing the true value of the atoning blood;
3. A deep conviction of our utter helplessness, …teaches us truly to live upon Christ by faith, not only as our Priest, but as our King.
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For my own teaching on the Doctrine of Wesley's concept of perfection in modern language, check out The Pursuing Holiness curriculum at www.40daysofholiness.com. Here is a sample day of teaching from that curriculum: