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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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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Just as I am...
I was reading earlier a post over at Rose's blog wherein she said,
Praise the Lord! Sinners don't have to repent or reform before they can come to the Lamb of God.
To give some context to that quote (in case you didn't follow the link) Rose was excited about how much joy she felt while singing "just as I am" - because she saw in it a message that resonated in her own heart - that God saves unrepentant sinners. I had originally typed up this post as a comment to that post, but it became rather large for a comment, so I decided to make a post out of it here instead.

Now, nothing is so loathsome to those who love the gospel as the idea that man must in some way "prime the gospel pump!" The idea that one must live a "good life" or do good deeds or in some other way earn the right thereby (or gain the ability to believe thereby) is about as "works based" a gospel as you can get! So if by repent and reform Rose meant this sort of works based preamble then I add my hearty -AMEN- to her observation. Truly, good works add nothing whatsoever to the gospel, nor does any manner of repentance and reformation prepare one for to obey the gospel.

Like most of you, when I consider "the gospel" I am sometimes reminded of Paul's second letter to Timothy wherein Paul speaks of the gospel as being the agency by which Jesus Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light (c.f. 2 Tim. 1:10). Really, the promise of the gospel is that we will be saved from sin and consequently gain eternal life.

It is worth our while therefore, I mean if we are serious about understanding the gospel - to find passages that speak about either facet (either salvation from sin or how to obtain eternal life) - when we find a passage that speaks to one of these we have found a passage that sheds some light on the gospel.

Not that every mention of eternal life (justification) or sanctification in scripture is going to translate into a full presentation of the gospel, but that we should take note of those passages that speak about either, and make certain that whatever we believe the gospel to be - we do not fail to include in our understanding all that is said on the matter. I think that is called "intellectual honesty" - and it seems to me a good place to begin.

I am therefore drawn after reading a passage such as 2 Timothy 1:20 to texts such as Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 10 and Luke 18 wherein we see men asking Christ what they must do to inherit eternal life. We note that the question is not what must we do to purchase eternal life - but rather what must we do to inherit it - that is, to ensure our "sonship" if you will- so that we inherit the kingdom.

There are two instances especially where the question about how to inherit eternal life is asked - the first is the rich young ruler and occurs in three of the gospels, and the other is the lawyer we read about in Luke. When I find a passage wherein a person asks Jesus to his face, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" - well, let me just say that I would not want to regard whatever answer Christ gives to that question as something outside the gospel (as though eternal life could be had without the gospel!)

Consider again the rich young ruler. Recall how he came before the Lord? He ran up to Jesus whom he recognized to be the Annointed one - the Christ - the Jewish Messiah - He believed that Jesus was whom He said He was, and because of this, this rich young ruler prostrated himself before Jesus. Can you imagine? That must have looked like a very humble thing. Jesus wasn't exactly rich you know - to have this rich young ruler prostrate himself before a peasant was not somethin you would see every day. This young man was sold out - he didn't need to start "believing" that Jesus was whom he said he was - he already believed all that. The rich young ruler was way past mental assent to the truth, now he just wanted to know what else he had to do in order to become a child of God - that is, in order to inherit eternal life (and thereby avoid eternal damnation.)

It strikes me as very instructional in our understanding of the gospel - that Jesus didn't say, "I accept you just as you are, but instead examined the very heart of this man -- what we might describe as the nature of this man's "faith."

Recall that Christ immediately went to the law with the fellow. Had he kept the commandments? Christ knew that he hadn't - He was asking the question so that the man might see that he was in fact, a sinner - Christ was using the law to condemn him but the slippery young ruler didn't feel condemned - in fact, he was so deceived that he actually believed himself to be keeping the law.


The purpose of the law is, after all, to condemn all of us so that none of us will be disqualified from the promise that comes only through faith. Christ, out of love, needed to kick out the crutches (self deception about keeping the law) that were keeping this rich young ruler from really turning to Christ. He didn't need a Savior so long as he imagined himself to be righteous - for Christ didn't come to save the righteous, but the unrighteous. Had the rich young ruler been sincerely seeking God, the law would have condemned him as a sinner - but clearly he wasn't really interested in seeking God, he was interested in avoiding hell. The lawful use of the law might have opened his eyes, but because he was deceived, he likely believed the lie he responded to Christ with - that he had kep the law since his youth!

The law had failed to penetrate the hardness of this fellow's heart, but Christ wasn't deterred. If one is deceived about the law it is usually because one has turned the law upside down so that it can be kept - so, because Christ was full of mercy and grace, He went to the heart of the matter gave the rich young ruler a single, simple command. The man's reaction to the command would reveal the true nature of that man's heart - it would reveal the calibre whether or not this man wanted to be saved from sin or simply avoid its penalty.

You see, the rich young ruler was perfectly willing to call Christ "King" as long as he only had to do so with his lips - as long as he didn't actually have to obey Christ from an obedient, submitted, (and therefore repentant) heart.

This critical flaw was surgically drawn out by Christ by giving the rich young ruler that fateful ultimatum - an opportunity for the rich young ruler to demonstrate the genuiness of his commitment to "follow Christ." We don't just toss that in because we like the way it sounds by the way - at the end of the exchange Christ explains what must be done to follow Him - and that implies strongly that inheriting eternal life has something to do with following Christ in some way.

The ultimatum that Christ gave to the rich young ruler was a simple command, as we have said - a command that would demonstrate whether the young man had actually kept the law in his youth, for if he had really been able to keep the law since his youth he would have no trouble obeying this command of God either. You see, the law shows us what the life of God looks like in a person. It isn't that you can generate God's life in you by keeping the law, it is that if God's life is in you, you will obey the law. That is what Romans six through eight is all about. Had this rich young ruler been keeping the law obedience would have been natural. When Christ commanded the rich young ruler to give all of his wealth to the poor, it was a test - not the kind that you are given that if you pass you get a reward - but the kind that you are given so that you learn something by its failure - a diagnostic test that is given to point out what is wrong.

It wasn't that Christ hated wealth - rather it was that Christ understood that this young man loved something more than he loved God, and I am not talking about the money - the money was just the tip of the iceberg - the rich young ruler really loved himself more than he loved God, and because he loved himself more than he loved God he was unwilling to relinquish control of his own life to God.

That needs to sink in.

He wouldn't trust God to provide for his needs because, really, he...didn't...trust...God.

The rich young ruler believed that Jesus was whom He claimed to be, and was even willing to publically humiliate himself in prostrating himself before Christ - if it mean that he could get something out of Christ - yet the same young ruler refused to actually trust God to control his life in a way that would satisify him. This refusal to trust God (unbelief) cannot be separated from his unwillingness to surrender to Christ - the two are sides of the same coin. Being unwilling to surrender to Christ (that is, being unwilling to change his attitude about who ruled whom) was the rich young ruler's real problem -- the money just pointed to it: he was a rich young RULER after all, and would not believe that God could do a better job ruling his life than he himself was doing. Really, it wasn't so much a question of whether or not God could do a better job - it was that the ruler refused to be ruled.

This was where the proverbial chariot-wheel met the cobblestone.

This man was willing to call Jesus Lord with his mouth, and even submit himself to outwards expressions of humility (bowing before this peasant etc.) but deep down he was in fact quite unwilling to surrender control of his life over to Christ - and Christ regarded a faith whose mouth cries, "Lord, Lord" but whose heart is far from Christ as insufficient - that is, the fellow could not follow God and continue to rule his own life. The kind of faith that caused him to believe all that was true of Christ, to even humble himself openly in public - that sort of belief was not saving faith, it was really just a man who knew better, but was still unwilling to surrender himself to Christ and obey the very gospel that he now knew to be true.

Really, the Lordship of Christ is often the gospel "deal-breaker." Everyone wants to enter into the kingdom of God, but very few are willing to pay homage to its King - Jesus Christ. The rich young ruler was no exception - he was unwilling to let go of his imagined "right" to rule over himself. We could say that another way - he was unwilling to turn from himself and turn towards God. We call that unwillingness to turn "unrepentance."

There are some who are teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like fancy pearl that God gives to be added to our existing (just-as-it-is) collection of pearls; that the Kingdom of heaven is a treasure buried in a field, that we unearth and join to the rest of our (just-as-it-is) treasures; that the kingdom is leaven put into three measures of barley - that never, ever changes the nature of that barley so that the barley remains (just-as-it-is) flat and unleavened - that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that only grows into a little herb no bigger than any other herb so that the garden can remain just-as-it-is, with no mustard tree dominating it. I kid you not - there are even genuine believers today who walk right past the gospel that saved them, and (in trying to articulate the gospel for themselves) they articulate it poorly to others (even believing wholeheartedly that it is the gospel that saved them!)- in such a way as to remove those things which they failed to understand - those things which now offend them.

If a person's embraces a gospel that turns Jesus into just another patch they sew into their existing "just-as-it-is" garment - if they embrace a gospel wherein Jesus is just a new wine they pour into their old "just-as-it-was" wineskin; they may well rejoice whenever they imagine their own treasured theology is being reflected in song or prose. Who wouldn't?

When I gave my life to Christ, I came in off the street, a sinner full of my sin. I neither reformed or repented prior to hearing the gospel - how could I? I wasn't even sure that I needed a Savior, since I didn't think I was condemned already - I thought that God wouldn't decide that until judgment day - and that no one, not even God, could say for sure if anyone was going to be saved. It was because I held out hope that God would look kindly upon my sin, that I wasn't interested in the gospel before.

It was only when I heard the gospel -- when I became the rich young ruler - only when the truth was suddenly thrust before me that the real stakes became clear. I knew that I was standing on the edge of an eternity in hell, and that the Lord Jesus Christ had made provision to save me from the sin that was already condemning me. I knew for the first time that I really was a sinner and there really was no hope for me but to put my trust in Christ the Savior/King.

I suppose it is fortunate that I never had been exposed to this sort of teaching that taught that one could enter into Christ for salvation from sin, but continue to remain outside of Christ with regards to Christ's reign in my life. Had I heard such a tantalizing story, there is no doubt that I would have used Christ like a wino uses a bottle opener - Christ would have been nothing more to me than the Tool by which I would have generated my escape from sin's sting.

To be sure, the gospel is simple enough - if you trust that God sent Christ to take into Himself all who turn to God in faith - that is, all who repent of their rebellion and accept the only reconciliation God offers - then Christ will put you into the Holy Spirit (baptize you with the Holy Spirit) through whom you become united with Christ and thereby adopted into the family of God - so that the benefits of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection become yours by faith - then all the blessings in the heavenlies (not the least of which is eternal life) become yours.

The notion that it is possible to believe yourself into the same Christ whose rule you openly rejected throughout the process is a little much for the intellectually honest to swallow. When I reject the rule of Christ in my life I demonstrate that I don't really trust that Christ will control my life the way I want it run - this rebellion and unbelief is darkness - and there is no way that Christ who is light, can enter into a union with anyone who continues to walk in darkness. It should be plain and simple - but really, there are some who have trained themselves to be blind on this point. That isn't to say that once a believer commits himself to Christ that he will thereafter remain in the light - but it is to say that the relationship cannot begin until/unless both parties are in the light - and that means you cannot hold onto your rebellion and treason, and expect to be unified with Christ.

Here we must pause too. This in no way suggests that you must generate your own repentance. The reality is that you cannot, you don't have the power to do that. But God will use the gospel itself to quicken you so that you can repent/believe. You cannot surrender your life to Christ in this way by yourself - but everyone who does is regenerated by God as they put their faith in the gospel.

We are not saved by chanting some salvation mantra, we are saved when God has mercy on us and quickens us so that the gospel can be believed. It isn't something we generate before hand, it is something God does on the fly. I knew that Jesus was God, and that His offer of salvation was genuine. I knew that Christ was a King, and somehow I surrendered to Him giving him all I was and all I would ever be. I don't know how I did that, because, well, that sort of surrender wasn't natural - it wasn't possible. But God enabled me to commit myself to Christ, and I did.

So when I read about a gospel that doesn't include repentance - I must say, it disturbs me. Not that I presume the person or people championing it are not saved, or even well meaning - I am sure that most who do so are entirely genuine, love the Lord as much as they are able, and believe with all their heart that what they are pawning off is the real McCoy. But I still think they are missing it.

It is possible I suppose that Ms. Elliot really believed an antinomian gospel I can't really say - but I like to think that when she said, "poor, wretched, and blind" - she was describing what a repentant heart looks like, and that gives me some hope.
posted by Daniel @ 4:07 PM  
  • At 11:58 PM, October 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good post and thorough thinking. Thank you for sharing.

    I have often wondered if the Rich Young Ruler interupted Jesus. Our Lord mentioned all the latter commandments--except the last one. When the Lord told him to go and sell all, that was basically asking the last one "Thou shalt not covet" exposing the man's true god -- greed, which Colossians tells us is idolatry. So he didn't really worship God as outlined in the first few commandments -- he was an idol worshipper. So in his self-deception he thought he was right and ready. In reading his heart, Jesus knew who was really his god.


  • At 12:12 AM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Surely the vehicle by which "the self" imposed itself upon the rich young ruler was the sin of avarice - which you rightly remind us is as idolatry (since it is the worship of mammon). The root problem, that is, the reason we worship mammon is because we want to trust it to feed, clothe, house, and protect us. We want to say when we eat, what we eat, what we wear, where we live - we want to rule ourselves with regards to these things - and it is because we desire to rule ourselves that we desire the means to do so - money. Idolatry always boils down to self worship.

    Good observation Iris - I am thankful someone read it - since it took forever to write... lol.

  • At 6:43 AM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Garry Weaver said…

    This is a very thoughtful and balanced post. I agree totally. When one comes to Christ for salvation, He will always put His finger on the defining sin in that person's life. If he or she is unwilling to turn from that sin, he/she will not be saved. Jesus did the same thing with the woman at the well in Jn.4. He dealt with her sin. The difference is that she was repentant and the rich young ruler was not.

    Sorry to be so wordy.

  • At 9:51 AM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Garry - right you are (about the woman at the well in Samaria). When Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God His command was to, "repent and believe in the gospel." (c.f. Mark 1:15) Christ plainly said of Himself that he had not come to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent (c.f. Luke 5:32) and on more than one occasion Christ intoned that "unless you repent you will likewise perish" - He made it plain by teaching that there is joy in heaven over even one sinner (an unregenerate person) who repents (turns to God/is saved).

    I mean we read in Acts 11:18 the description of what happened at Cornelius' house - in describing the salvation of the Gentiles Luke records that God had "also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." Not repentance to "life more abundantly" as though you had it and repentance only makes it nicer - but rather that you don't get life without it.

    What do we do with a verse like Acts 3:10 ("Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out")? Clearly conversion hinges upon repentance - at least according to a plain reading of scripture.

    I think the most clear, concise description of the gospel is given in Acts 20:21 - where Paul describes the gospel that he was preaching everywhere in this way: ...testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I think what happens though is that people either forget that God grants repentance at the moment the gospel is received or they never understood that that was how it happened for them. Such as these (I suppose) would be correct in railing against the strawman - the idea that we "repent-first-then-believe" - as though repentance was a human work that we do in order to produce saving faith.

    I think what goes on at the moment of salvation is difficult to articulate, such that in an effort to identify exactly how one believes unto salvation some describe repentance as preceding faith - as though the two could be separated or were not related. These only mean to describe that the nature of true saving faith includes God given repentance - and having poorly articulated the matter they inadvertantly produce in their audience the idea that they really think repentance is a human work that they must produce themselves in order to believe, and indeed prior to ever believing. That usually isn't how they understand it, but it can come across that way. If you asked these same people if they believed you had to repent in your own strength in order to believe they would quickly assure you that it doesn't work that way.

    I don't know of anyone who imagines that in order to believe the gospel we must start repenting first so as to prime the pump of faith - that isn't it at all.

    Truly, it is difficult to try and articulate the fact that one cannot believe in a vacuum, but that faith and repentance are intermixed - and that both are granted by God in the very same moment - being generated not of man but by and through God - and are given to the man as a gift at the very instant God determined to make the gospel salvific in that person's life.

    There are some who hear this articulated poorly, and project into it the idea that someone is teaching that -the person- must repent in order to believe, instead of understanding what is really being said - that God produces repentance in everyone in whom the gospel is producing life. God doesn't produce life except through the repentance that He himself gives at the very moment of salvation.

  • At 1:21 PM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Craver Vii said…

    Maybe that's why I appear to "care more about converting believers to Calvinism than the lost to Christ."

    Easy believism is so prevalent that whether it's doctrinal positions, or signs of repentance, I get more excited because there is evidence that this thing is true, whereas, I cannot discern men's hearts.

  • At 1:54 PM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Craver VII - I hear you. I get excited when a long time believer suddenly "gets it."

  • At 2:50 PM, October 16, 2006, Blogger Rose~ said…

    An "antinomian gospel" ... that is a new one, Daniel. I have heard the word "antinomian" plenty in the last year, but not as a descriptor for "gospel." When thinking about the bare definition of the word "antinomian", it kinda makes me chuckle that you would combine those two words.

    Hey, and no fair to stop commenting on someone's blog for weeks and then do a post linking to them. I feel like you were talking behind my back!
    (just kiddin)

  • At 4:43 PM, October 16, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Rose, as I mentioned in my post, I wasn't originally planning on posting - in fact, most of what is written here was actually copied and pasted out of the comment section of your blog. I was in the process of posting a comment over there, when I reasoned that the length of my post would make your meta too long and clumsy.

    So I began working on it over here, and by the time I posted it, the conversation over at your blog had moved on, and honestly, I didn't want to debate the idea as though my comment had to do with you, or Ms. Elliot in particular - it didn't. Your post merely was the catalyst to my own post - such that I wasn't so much "replying" to anything you said but rather I was using your post as a springboard to my own thoughts on the matter.

    So I had considered posting one of those "that's nice - here's what I think <link> <link> kinda posts - but that really isn't my style.

    To be sure, I wanted to discuss the idea that repentance is granted at the same time that faith is granted, and your post just ignited that for me. So instead of commenting over there, I just used all that energy and posted it here. I mentioned what I was on about up front - to give the post some context, and even to point people back to your blog should they want to know how I came to discuss that - but I didn't think of it as clandestine, I wasn't writing to rebut, but to explain what I think the truth is.

    You have never heard the term "antinomian gospel" before?

    I wish I could take credit for coining it, but it is hundreds of years old (at least). Any gospel that leads to, or makes provision for, or merely excuses post-conversion "lawlessness" is correctly labeled an "antinomian gospel."

    When we talk about a receiving Christ as a business transaction that leaves us "just as we are" we are not talking about a tranformation or a new creation - we are talking about an intellectual persuasion that results in perpetual stagnation. It isn't that one must do good works to demonstrate that their salvation was genuine - it is that anyone who thinks they are saved who hasn't been granted a repentant faith by God is not obeying the gospel - they are just assenting to the facts.

  • At 8:19 AM, October 17, 2006, Blogger Rose~ said…

    Daniel dear,
    I was merely feigning offence. I am sorry if it came across as though you had to go into all that explanation about the comment and the post.

    "God receives us just as we are, but He loves us enough not to leave us just as we are." Is that how you would put it?

  • At 1:45 PM, October 17, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Rose, I am glad I gave no offense.

    I wouldn't put it the way you did, but more like:

    "God receives us through a faith and repentance that He Himself grants to us."

    The point is not that we have to repent in order to believe, but rather that every legitimate faith is accompanied with genuine (though not necessarily consistent) repentance.

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