Thursday, July 06, 2006

Repentance and Faith: two necessary sides of the same saving coin

I was listening to some different pastors preaching about true salvation and the life-changing ripples that necessarily flow out from it. It rekindled my desire to affirm what the Bible says as opposed to what many people think and many churches teach.

Perhaps one of the reasons that sin is taken so lightly today and there is so little brokenness among God's people is that this truth is not taught in the church. Instead people are taught that your assurance of salvation has no relation to whether you obey God or not. We are taught that saving faith is such a weak and powerless thing that it cannot guarantee any changes in life, and therefore to look for those changes as the evidence of saving faith is wrong.

If that is so, the First Epistle of John is going to have to come out of the Bible. Because no matter how hard they try, the easy gospelers cannot make it mean that. Chapter 3:14 says, "We know (i.e., we have assurance) that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death." You cannot have assurance of having passed out of death into life if you are an unloving person. Persistence in sin destroys the assurance of salvation.

A whole branch of "evangelical" theology has come into existence to provide assurance of salvation to lukewarm, disobedient people who call themselves Christians. And this book was written to blow that theology out of the water. Sin is serious because it jeopardizes our assurance1

Perhaps you have never been confronted with this debate, but whether or not you have, I am going to discuss it now because it is of great importance. There is a teaching, and a fairly pervasive one, in evangelical circles that says that as long as you accepted Jesus at one time in your life, you can be assured that you are going to heaven. I heard a conversation between a Lutheran pastor and a Baptist church member where the discussion of confirmation class and infant baptism was addressed. Now, the other issues raised aside, Pastor Tom Brock made a comment that I have adapted into a personal saying of mine.

The saying: The Lutheran heresy is that people get saved through confirmation whereas the Baptist heresy is that people get saved by asking Jesus into their hearts.

Explaining the saying: I use the word “heresy” in a hyperbolic fashion primarily for shock value. Once the conversation is initiated, I can then articulate more clearly what I mean by it. Any good Lutheran church preaches the same saving gospel message as any good Baptist church, but the key here is that they must be “good” churches. The practices of infant baptism and confirmation are traditional2 expressions and a format for instructing the people about the gospel. I will say that one thing, and that is that those of us who don’t have this format for youth (or general member) education could possibly take a note of the importance placed upon the deeper things of the Christian faith that are taught in these classes.

Again, the reason that I bring this up is because of the pervasive idea that if I pray to accept Christ, that is all that is needed for salvation. If we take that at face value, then the gospel is boiled down to knowing and saying the magic words! This is ridiculous, of course, but how far off is that from how many churches articulate the saving message of the gospel. Many churches that preach this horrible mockery of the gospel use the language of “accepting Jesus into your heart” or that the reason that Christ came and died was that He loved you. While we do need to rightly put our faith in Christ (one may say “accept” but I don’t think that this is the best term to use) and it is true that Christ does love people, the primary reason that Christ had to die on the cross is not clearly mentioned, and that is sin. In much of evangelicalism when sin is mentioned, and it is not always addressed using the term “sin”, it is danced around instead of being driven home as humanity’s greatest problem and the chasm that separates us from a holy God.

One does not simply mentally agree with the fact that Christ is Lord, and the Bible addresses this fact (even going further) in the letter of James. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) I heard a great sermon by a man named Paul Washer where he gave, what I thought to be, a profound metaphor as to the difference between saving faith in Christ and other faith or knowledge of Christ. “You say the most important thing on the face of the earth is to know Jesus Christ. That is not true. The most important thing on the face of the earth is that Jesus Christ knows you. I am not going to get into the white house tomorrow because I walk up the gate and tell everybody, ‘I know George Bush.’ But they will let me in if George Bush comes out and says, ‘I know Paul Washer.’”3

The difference could not be more astounding. If someone hears the message of Jesus and “accepts” the message, they may know who Jesus is, but the only way to be known by Jesus (in the sense of being saved from eternal damnation by Him) is to do what Jesus says. He tells us that we need to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Many people may kind of understand what this means, but they do not understand what Jesus’ audience did. His Jewish audience reverenced (even if in an incorrect manner) the Law of Moses or the 10 Commandments and they knew that when Jesus or John the Baptist or any of the Apostles told them to repent that they were clearly saying that they needed to repent of the transgression of the law given by God. And that is what sin is – it is a transgression of the law of God, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4). A Greek word used for sin (hamartia) means to miss the mark, and a good way to understand this is not that sin is just a jump that doesn’t quite get you high enough to dunk a basketball, but “sin was not simply missing the right mark, but hitting the wrong mark.”4

Once we understand what sin is, and how pervasive and horrible sin is inside of us, then we have need to know that the only just way for God to deal with sin and sinners is to be eternally condemned to hell for the offense against God. Now that someone understands what sin is and how God views sin and then we look at the cross to see what God had to do in order to reconcile a sinful humanity to him, that same person now has the correct frame of reference to approach the cross of Christ and plead for forgiveness at His feet. Once true forgiveness is received and the person is born again, it should now appall this same person to contemplate willingly living a sinful life and this forgiveness should fuel a continuing life of confession of and turning away from sin as we live the rest of our lives.

The false teaching that makes me so angry is the one that separates repentance and faith or that calls repentance legalism (adding something to salvation), and therefore decries this as being heretical. The Bible is very clear that not everyone who claims the name of the Lord will be saved. When speaking about false prophets, Jesus said that false prophets, who can be known by what they do, will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Christ is specifically referring to religious leaders who will lead many astray, but I think that the broader implication is that anyone who holds to and confesses Christ but yet denies Him by how they live will be thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:19) Continuing, Christ said that if you (having heard this message) do not act upon it (by repenting of sin and putting your trust in Christ), your faith will be shown to have been built upon the sand instead of being built upon the saving rock of Christ, and you will not be saved. (Matthew 7:24-28).

If we claim to be saved and yet our lives are not distinguishable from the world or that our hearts are not distinguishable from the Pharisees, then we lie to ourselves, and we have never been saved by God. (see John 14:15; 1 John 2:3; 5:3) “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 John 1:6)

James, in the second chapter of his epistle, is saying this very thing. "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) It is not our works that reconcile us to Christ, but our works are an evidence of the inward work of grace that has truly been done. When giving an analogy, Paul Washer was telling a youth conference that he was late because he was run over by a 30 ton logging truck going 120 miles per hour…and that is why he was late to the meeting. His concluding statement was very powerful, “You would say, ‘Brother Paul it is absolutely absurd…it is impossible, brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.’ And my question would be to you, ‘What is larger, a logging truck or God?’ How is it that so many people profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and yet are not permanently changed?”5


1 “Jesus Christ Is an Advocate for Sinners” a sermon by John Piper (2/10/85)

2 I mean that this is traditional in the sense of the Lutheran church’s heritage. Whether or not it is historical in the sense of the Christian church since the apostles is seriously questioned and debated.

3 I transcribed (attempted to) Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society speaking at a youth conference. I heard this on the Monday, July 3, 2006 Way of the Master Radio program (2nd hour).

4 “The Doctrine of Sin” by Lehman Strauss , Litt.D., F.R.G.S. http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=399

5 I transcribed (attempted to) Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society speaking at a youth conference. I heard this on the Monday, July 3, 2006 Way of the Master Radio program (2nd hour).

2 comments:

return to righteousness said...

Have you ever questioned Paul?

Paul says we are not under the law, but the Bible says God's
commandments are forever and ever (Psalm 111)

I seriously believe Paul was a false apostle as:

1. He wasn’t ordained an apostle by Christ (Mat 10)

2. He didn’t qualify to be an apostle (Acts 1:16-26)

3. Paul’s doctrine is proven false:

After Christ died and rose he appeared to his apostles. The gospels record him as appearing to the “eleven” (remember, Judas had died), but Paul’s doctrine is in clear error as he tells us that Christ appeared to the “twelve”:

Paul said twelve:

1 Corinthians 15:4-6

4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve

Mark said eleven:

Mark 16:14: Afterward he (Christ) appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat

Matthew said eleven:

Matt 28:16-18:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Luke’s mentions the “eleven”:

2And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8And they remembered his words, 9And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

Acts mentions eleven:

Acts 1:26:

26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Paul is a liar, and a proven false witness. Christ, in Revelation 2:2 commends the church of Epheus for figuring out false aposles. He said, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apsostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. Remember, Paul preached at Epheus.

Fact 4:
The apostles did not believe Paul was a disciple:

Acts 9:26
26And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

After Barnabas told the apostles that Paul had “seen the Lord” and that he preached boldy in the name of Jesus, the Apostles didn’t tell him to join them, but they sent him home to Tarsus. Remember, Jesus told us (Mat 13:57) that a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house . The apostles sent Paul to a place that no one would believe him.


Paul's caught in a lie about his conversion:

There are 2 different stories. In one version he said that Christ told him to go to Damascus and that it would be there that Christ would reveal more to him. In the other version, Christ did the opposite. Compare Acts 22 with Acts 26

Jesus tells apostles to "heal", Paul blinded a man:

Acts 13:11, Paul said:
"11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand."

Jesus, confirms twelve apostles, not 13:

Revelation 21:14:
14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Jesus told the church of Ephesus they knew who the false apostles were:

To the Church of Ephesus, Revelation 2:2:

2I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Paul told Ephesus he was an apostle:

Ephesians 1:1
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus

Paul admits his doctrine had troubles being accepted in Ephesus:

Acts 19:8,9:

8And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

I have much, much more on my website going into faith works and law too. If you want to see more, just go to my site: www.returntorighteousness.blogspot.com

EJ said...

my next post will be the response "comment" to the one by the blogger "return to righteousness"

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