Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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When a farmer plants seed, can he sow it on a field without doing anything first to the ground? Wheat grows very easily. Even for us to grow wheat, we have to plow the field and till the soil first. In the same way, there must first be the tilling work in God’s salvation before the plants will grow in a deep way. Hence, those who never feel that they have sinned will not be saved, and neither will those who never feel that they are wrong. Perhaps after such a one hears the full gospel as we are preaching now, he would become clear concerning God’s work in Christ and would gladly receive the gospel. I dare not say that he has no repentance. Perhaps he has repentance. But the repentance is not deep. There is not much operation of the Holy Spirit in him. He does not see that he is a weak, filthy, and useless sinner before God. Such a one has to go through the experience of Romans 7 in his later years. What is the experience of Romans 7? It is the make-up lesson for a Christian who has not repented. If a man has passed through repentance when he comes to God, there is no need for the experience of Romans 7. If a man has not repented, and does not know that he is desolate before God, but receives the full gospel readily when he hears it, in his future experience, God still has to show him his desolation. It is necessary for one to know himself, either from the beginning or somewhere along the way. God never allows a Christian not to know himself.

Hence, we can see the true meaning of repentance according to the Bible. It is a new concept of one’s past. Repentance sees oneself, in the same way that faith sees the Lord Jesus. When one believes, he sees the work that the Lord Jesus has done for him. When he repents, he sees the deeds that he himself has done in the past. To see what one has done in the past is repentance; to see what the Lord Jesus has done on the cross is faith. If we want to see what the Lord Jesus has done for us, we must first see what we have done ourselves. Unless the thief who was crucified next to Jesus had said clearly with his own mouth that what he was suffering was what he deserved, he could not have said to the One crucified next to him, "Remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). If he were to curse the magistrates as agents of the imperialists, and if he had not seen that what he suffered was what he deserved, he would not have seen who the Lord was. When we do not see ourselves, we do not see the Lord. When we see ourselves, we see the Lord. This is repentance.

Hence, we can see that repentance does not carry any element of our self, our work, or our behavior. Many people say that I do not believe in repentance. That is not true. I believe in repentance with my whole heart. But I believe in the biblical repentance. I do not believe in the mental repentance that some have had. If it is a repentance according to the Bible, I will gladly believe, for it is real. It gives us a new view and a new perception. Only in this way can we receive the Lord by faith in the presence of God.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)