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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, April 09, 2009
On Repentance And The Gospel.
In describing the gospel that he preached, (Acts 20:21) Paul said, that he was solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We read that Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God even saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (c.f. Mark 1:14-15).

The author of Hebrews describes faith and repentance as elementary and foundational (c.f. Hebrews 6:1), this is the gospel - the foundation of which Christ is the Cornerstone, and upon which Christ is building His church.

When I say that a person cannot be saved by a faith that does not come wrapped in repentance, how I am understood will depend upon how repentance is understand; so let's start with a description of what repentance isn't, and then look at what it is.

Repentance is not the stopping of sinning and the starting of doing good works. That is called "works", and while genuine repentance always produces good works, one can perform works that seem good without ever having repented.

Repentance is turning away from self as your master and ruler, and surrendering that rule to Christ.

One does not need to be a Christian to do things that are of benefit to others - things that the world would call, "good works". There are other world religions wherein good works are the necessary wages of a better afterlife. Almost every religion teaches that if we do good it will go well for us both in this life and the next. Which is presents a point that is critical: One does not need to repent (in the Christian sense) in order to do what the world regards as good works.

This morning I asked my son why he obeyed me. Was he afraid of me? Was he afraid of the consequences of not obeying me? Did he obey me in order to purchase my favor? His answer was that he obeyed me because he loved and trusted me. I asked him if obeyed me in order to generate this love and trust, and he said no, he loved and trusted me, that was the fountain from which his obedience sprang.

Although I was the one directing our conversation, I wanted to see if my young son was able to discern between the cart and horse of repentance and obedience. He didn't have any trouble, so as I lay it out here, I hope you too will see it.

Repentance is not an obedience that we produce in order to demonstrate love and trust; repentance is a surrender that is produced by and through loving and trusting our Lord.

In the moment my Lord saved me, a lot of things happened seemingly all at once. In the moment that sin truly condemned me, I hated God with all my being. I wondered at how anyone could be saved, into which the truth of the gospel dawned in my heart like light in a great darkness. God would forgive if I turned to Him in faith. But I didn't want to turn to God - that would mean becoming <GAH!> one of those sickly goody-good Christians that I really couldn't stand - and more than that; I didn't want to let go of sin. I loved my sin, and refused (in my heart) to set it aside for anything, and that thought brought me great despair, because it really was in that moment that I understood that I wasn't just bad - but that I was wicked to my core, and loved my wickedness more than the God who created me and even in that moment was sustaining me. I knew I didn't want Him, and I knew I would never want Him more than I wanted sin - that is, I knew I could never give myself to Him "for real" - and I knew that I couldn't fake it, and that filled me with great despair. Yet into that despair, and hatred, and frustration came something unexpected - and in came in like a flood - love and trust.

Suddenly where moments before I had only loathing for God, and an utter inability to desire Him, now I had a desire that came upon me as contrary to my being as it was life giving to my soul. Suddenly, unbidden, a love for Christ came into me that I could not deny - I suddenly didn't want to deny - and I found myself suddenly, inexplicably able to do in that moment what I have never been able to do since - I gave myself heart, mind, soul, and strength utterly to Christ.

This was an utter surrender of self, and in the moment I received that grace to believe - I believed.

Now, I want to be clear here. Prior to that moment I certainly assented to the facts. There was a God, devil, hell, Jesus, etc. These all were as they are presented in scripture, there was a gospel, the gospel was such and such. blah. blah. I believed all that was true, but I certainly wasn't trusting the person Jesus to save me.

Can I go back a ten years prior to that.

There I was, in the Billy Graham crusade children's ministry (as a child), reading off the back of a little booklet how to be saved. Pray this prayer, and you will be saved, and not only that - you will receive a free KJV of the bible! The words were clear enough that even as a ten year old I understood them. Jesus I confess that I am a sinner, and ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died to save me from my sins, and I ask you to blah, blah, blah. I believed at that time that Jesus was the only Savior, that He did indeed die on a cross to save me from my sins, and that saying this prayer obligated Him to follow through on His promise.

But I wasn't believing Jesus - I was believing about Jesus. Not to put too fine an edge on it, but it is one thing to believe that everything said about Jesus is true, and to trust that these true things apply to you, so that if you pray to Jesus, he will hear you and answer your prayer, and quite another to believe that Jesus Himself has truly forgiven you. This is subtle, so I will continue: believing that it is true that Jesus will save you, and believing Jesus is going to save you may sound the same in print, and may well be so subtle that only those who already know the difference will see it - but I lay it out there anyway. The one is an assent to the facts, the other a living agreement with God Himself in the person of Jesus. One is trusting in the facts, the other is trusting in the Lord - but I know that there are some who think the one is the other - or even go further and say the latter is not necessary.

Which brings us back to the topic of repentance.

You see, one is a faith that has no repentance, and the other a faith that was born of it. Here is why we must understand what repentance is - because if I say that a faith does not have repentance, I do not mean that it lacks good works, I mean that it lacks that the surrender that flowed out of the love and trust we received in the moment we received Christ. I believe that no one who has shut the door to this love and trust has come into life, regardless of whether they believe the truths are true.

That offends people.

In particular it offends those who have sought to reconcile their continuing sin with the profession of faith, by reducing the gospel to an intellectual assent, and all this for the sake of assurance - for it is the lack of assurance that most upsets the sinning Christian.

I believe this "solution" is misguided, but compelling because it does give assurance to people who are genuine Christians. The problem however is that it also gives assurance to people who are not Christians, but have made a false profession of faith.

When I say that this is the gospel: repent and believe; and another says, No, this is the gospel: Believe! We may be saying the same thing, but chances are we aren't. The fault line (geothermically speaking) typically falls on the word repent, because the one side reads repent - and they read into that the idea that you are saying that in order to be saved you must [1] produce good works, and [2] have faith - and they want to argue that good works will not save you - and while the point is true (good works will not save you) it is being misapplied here. They will also describe this as teaching works plus faith - and reject the notion without every really considering whether it applies or not.

But when I say this is the gospel: repent and believe; I mean only turn away from your self rule and allow God His rightful rule and believe that God will receive you when you do.

I think there are genuine believers out there hawking a different (stilted) gospel than the one that saved them - and they are doing so because they are looking for assurance.

Here is a right assurance: I love God and in the strength of that love I do His will, so that when I find myself obeying God in a strength He Himself only provide to His children, I am assured that I am His child.

Here is a wrong assurance: I do good deeds in order to prove that I am saved so that when I feel doubts about my salvation I know I am saved because I do good works.

Repentance (turning to God) is not something you can generate in your own strength. Yet doing the sorts of good deeds that this world regards as "good works" -is- something anyone can do in their own strength. If we equate repentance with works, we have totally confused the horse for the cart.

The gospel is not do good works and believe the facts - for one can do that and not be saved at all. The gospel is turn to God and believe Christ - two things you cannot do yourself because the desire to do so is spiritual, and we are all spiritually dead until Christ gives us life.
posted by Daniel @ 11:13 AM  
4 Comments:
  • At 7:32 AM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Baptist Girl said…

    Daniel,
    What you said about folks believing "about" Jesus, thinking that saves them is SO true. My parents are loving, giving people, just wonderful parents but that is where they are, they know about Him but don't know Him. They read their bible and a devotional we gave thm every morning, they pray every day but I still do not have the assurance they know HIm personally, they KNOW about Him.

    Cristina

     
  • At 9:20 AM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Scripture presents the bible believer with a conundrum: apostasy. People who profess faith can and do stop fall away from that profession.

    What do we do with that?

    John the apostle gives us the clearest understanding of this when he says that they went out from us because they weren't of us. That is, They became apostate because they were not genuine in the first place. We understand then, that salvation is eternal, and cannot be undone - God's gifts, such as eternal life, cannot be repented of.

    But some twist that. They correctly believe that once you are saved you eternally secure, but they use that the wrong way. Scripture tells believers to make their call and our election sure, in other words, to make sure that they really are believers, to make sure that their faith really is genuine.

    Those who twist the doctrine of eternal security tell people that once they regard themselves as saved it is sin for them to ever doubt that salvation. So these people, when they do doubt their salvation, are coached to remember their profession of faith as a means of assurance - which is (IMO) not only ridiculous, but possibly deadly, for if someone is not genuine this teaching (which is contrary to the plain instructions of scripture) may keep a congregant in the assembly, but will bar them from genuine salvation - since who desires what he believes he already has?

    Yet there are those who say that people who fall away are no less genuine than those who remain - and they believe this because they reject what the bible says about eternal security. They believe you can have eternal life, then poof, you lose it, then tada, you have it again - and the best you can hope for is to die when riding the right wave. These (essentially) believe that you are saved whenever you feel saved. That is, when they feel like their saved, their "faith" is full, but when they feel like the sin in their life disqualifies them, they don't feel saved anymore, and they regard this feeling as being without faith - and so they are not saved in that moment.

    Again there are some who read "only believe" as it were, and say, the gospel is not repent and believe, it is just believe - and they imagine themselves to be champions of the one true faith, when in fact they are corrupting the same.

    We are saved by grace through faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone - meaning it isn't the works that accompany salvation that save us - but that salvation by grace through faith is always accompanied by works. In other words, we are saved by a faith that comes bundled in repentance.

    Can a faith that lacks repentance save you? James, the brother of our Lord didn't think so, and neither do I. Can a person be united to Christ in the moment of salvation if he refuses to come to Christ in that same moment? The idea is preposterous. If I believe all the facts the facts themselves bring me to the cross where I either surrender, or reject Christ. If I reject Christ, but accept the facts, and tell myself that Jesus is going to save me because I accept these facts - I am sorely confused, and lost because of it.

    Notwithstanding, I don't know the hearts of others. Perhaps there are some who believe the facts but never repent - consider themselves Christians, but are not saved, but later on come to a place of genuine surrender and are saved. I expect that happens often enough for people to believe they were saved all along, but when from being disobedient to obedient - carnal to spiritual. In fact, I wonder if that isn't more common than my experience?

    Either way, no one can open their heart but Christ - and fervant prayer is far more effective - even more effective I think than instruction in the matter, since without the Lord, all the instruction in the world won't matter, and with the Lord all things are possible.

    Thanks for your thoughts Cristina

     
  • At 3:04 PM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Jude said…

    Daniel, posts like this are why you shouldn't quit blogging. Your thoughts on repentance are right on. Thank you.

     
  • At 1:15 PM, April 13, 2009, Blogger Mitch said…

    Daniel,

    When I think of the Gospel, I think of it as something that is past and completed. The good news is that Christ died for our sins according to the Bible, that Christ was buried and that Christ rose again on the third exactly as the Bible states. That is the Gospel in all its glory and simplicity. The true Gospel is the good news of something that happened in the past and is completed, we can add nothing to it nor would it be right for us to do anything other than to proclaim it.

    To me you are conflating a fruit of the gospel with the Gospel; the fruit (in this case repentance) is not the Gospel. We should not confuse the Gospel with the effects that result from the Gospel.

    Grace & Peace

     
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