Christian Perfection – 19: A Repentant Spirit

Christian Perfection – 19: A Repentant Spirit

Lamb of God
Lamb of God

By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is  perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
(Wesley’s writings are in bold)

One of the obvious signs that God’s love is being perfected  in us is that we develop a repentant spirit.  If we truly love God with all  our heart, soul, mind, and might, then we will earnestly try to do whatever is  pleasing to God.  In essence, we put God first.  The same conditions  should apply to our human relationships, too.  If by accident we do  something that is displeasing, then we should instantly feel a sense of sorrow  for having done it, and be bold enough to say, “I’m sorry!  Please forgive  me.”  If we are truly sorry for what we have done, then we will strive with  all our heart to never make the same mistake again.   This is having a  repentant spirit.

A repentant spirit is not something we learn, nor is  repentance something we do.  Having a repentant spirit is a state of being  in which we are tuned into the prompting of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.   During my years in prison ministry, I had the opportunity to ask approximately  500 inmates a question concerning this prompting by the Holy Spirit.  I  asked, “Before you did whatever you did to be sent here, did you hear that inner  voice telling you not to do it?”  Every single one of the men said they had  heard this inner voice, and instead of listening, they had rejected it.

The reason these inmates rejected the voice of the Holy  Spirit was because God’s love was not perfected in them.  Nevertheless,  God’s prevenient grace, which is all around us, gives each of us these  promptings, regardless of whether we are born again or not.  The acts these  inmates committed were acts of pleasing one’s self or of pleasing other people.   They were not acts of pleasing God.  They were not acts of love.

The words that John and Charles Wesley wrote and published  in their hymnals, and the portions that John selected for Part 16 of his A  Plain Account of Christian Perfection are prayerful hymns that reflect the  state of being of having God’s love perfected in us and of having a repentant  spirit.

John Wesley wrote:

The hymns concerning it in this volume [those   mentioned in the previous Chapter] are too numerous to transcribe.  I   shall only cite a part of three:

Saviour from sin, I wait to prove  
That Jesus is Thy healing name;  
To lose, when perfected in love,  
Whate’er I have, or can, or am;  
I stay me on Thy faithful word,  
“The servant shall be as his Lord.”

This first verse expresses our desire to no longer be a pleaser of self,  but a willing servant of God; one who truly desires to be like his master and do  as He does.

Answer that gracious end in me    
For which Thy precious life was given;    
Redeem from all iniquity,    
Restore, and make me meet for heaven.    
Unless Thou purge my every stain,    
Thy suffering and my faith is vain.

This second verse expresses not only our desire to be forgiven for our  past sins but, more importantly, to have all our sinful desire removed from our  being, for this is the reason that Christ died for us.

Didst Thou not die that I might live    
No longer to myself but Thee?    
Might body, soul, and spirit give    
To Him who gave Himself for me?    
Come, then, my Master and my God,    
Take the dear purchase of Thy blood.

This third verse repeats the thoughts of the previous two verses.

Thy own peculiar servant claim,    
For Thine own truth and mercy’s sake:    
Hallow in me Thy glorious name;    
Me for Thine own this moment take;    
And change and thoroughly purify;    
Thine only may I live and die. (P. 80.)

This first hymn expresses similar thoughts to those  expressed in the more modern so-called “sinners prayer”:  a recognition of  our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, a recognition of our sinful state, an  expression of our sorrow for what we have done, a desire to be forgiven, and a  desire to be restored back into the image of God (the people God desires us to  be).

The next hymn is a prayerful song of having this repentant  spirit perfected in us to the extent that we don’t even think of sinful things  any more: as if we were back in pre-disobedient Eden.  For without those  sinful desires within us, there is nothing to hinder God’s love from being fully  perfected in us.

Chose from the world, if now I stand,    
Adorn’d with righteousness divine;    
If brought into the promised land,    
I justly call the Saviour mine:

The sanctifying Spirit pour,    
To quench my thirst and wash me clean.    
Now, Saviour, let the gracious shower    
Descend, and make me pure from sin.

Purge me from every sinful blot:    
My idols all be cast aside;    
Cleanse me from every evil thought,    
From all the filth of self and pride.

The hatred of the carnal mind    
Out of my flesh at once remove;    
Give me a tender heart, resign’d,    
And pure, and full of faith and love.

O that I now, from sin released,    
Thy word might to the utmost prove,    
Enter into Thy promised rest;    
The Canaan of Thy perfect love!

Now let me gain perfection’s height!    
Now let me into nothing fall:    
Be less than nothing in my sight,    
And feel that Christ is all in all.  (P. 258)

The thoughts expressed are not those of “working” ones way into  perfection, but those of first being perfected by the grace of God.  Then,  as a result of this change by God’s grace, we would lovingly and totally desire  to do the things that are pleasing to God.  This belief leads us into the  last hymn in this part.

Lord, I believe, Thy work of grace    
Is perfect in the soul:    
His heart is pure who sees Thy face,    
His spirit is made whole.

From every sickness, by Thy word,    
From every foul disease,    
Saved, and to perfect health restored,    
To perfect holiness:

He walks in glorious liberty,    
To sin entirely dead:    
The Truth, the Son hath made him free,    
And he is free indeed.

Throughout his soul Thy glories shine,    
His soul is all renew’d,    
And deck’d in righteousness divine,    
And clothed and fill’d with God.

This is the rest, the life, the peace,    
Which all Thy people prove;    
Love is the bond of perfectness,    
And all their soul is love

O joyful sound of gospel grace!    
Christ shall in me appear:    
I, even I, shall see His face,    
I shall be holy here!

He visits now the house of clay,    
He shakes His future home;    
O wouldst Thou, Lord, on this glad day    
Into Thy temple come!

Come, O my God, Thyself reveal,    
Fill all this mighty void;    
Thou only canst my spirit fill:    
Come, O my God, my God !

Fulfill, fulfill my large desires,    
Large as infinity!    
Give, give me all my soul requires,    
All, all that is in Thee!  (P. 298)

Each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves a question.   Are all the words expressed in these three hymns the true desire of my heart,  without any reservations, and without trying to make any excuses for anything  past or present?   If it is, then God’s love is perfected in us.   It is from here that we can continually mature into the image of God, an image  that sees and feels the suffering of the whole of creation, and desires to free it from  its corruption as peacemakers and children of God (Matthew 5:9 and Romans  8:18-25).

Go on to: Christian Perfection – 20: What Is It To Be Sanctified?

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4 thoughts on “Christian Perfection – 19: A Repentant Spirit

  1. Thank you frank for a wonderful and thought provoking topic. I remember when I was in third grade and In Sunday school. I had the most beautiful soul for a teacher. earache week she would tell us a story concerning Jesus and the kind acts her performed and the loving compassion he had for all living creatures. Some days I would cry at the end of her story, I was so moved and I felt such a love and inspiration to be like Jesus.
    I was always the first person to remember the previous weeks lesson, many had no recollection at all, no interest. I have never for got how motivated these stories were and to this day they still are with me, I have always felt this wonderful teacher and all I learned about true happiness walking in Jesus’ path.
    I am who i am today because of many of the wonderful inspirations I received learning about Jesus and his compassion and empathy.
    it is hard for me to understand how anyone can harm animals or others and claim to be a Christian.
    Thank you for this chance to comment and share my experience, Jesus does love animals and God does not want us to hurt them. he trusted us with his precious creatures. dominion meant to be their loving caretakers and protectors and not to ever harm them but to
    keep them safe.

    1. Linda: You sure had a wonderful teacher when you were young. We hope and pray that there would a more like her today. We also wonder why so many people who claim to be Christians, seem to follow Satan rather than Jesus.

      1. May I add it was a delight for me to go to Sunday school that year and sadly they changed the class schedule and though the class was suppose to remain with this teacher through September, they moved us in June. I was heartbroken and I never had a teacher that was as wonderful as her. She was an inspiration, for sure.

        1. That’s the dfference between the few who are truly atuned to the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the people in the world.

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