Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Repentance

At the heart of the gospel is the issue of what constitutes saving faith. If gospel means "good news", then the question becomes what is this good news? All evangelical christians would agree that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit and is brought about by the grace of God. Further to that we would all agree that the only requirement for salvation is faith. Our works have no bearing or place in the act of justification. Christ completed His finished work once for all time by taking our place on the cross at Calvary and paying the full price of our redemption.

So how and where does repentance fit into the picture? Many would argue that unless repentance is present a person has not been saved and born again by the Spirit of God. Now if we define repentance as simply agreeing with the promises of scripture as opposed to our natural thinking than I would have to say that repentance is therefore present in all true conversions.

However, there is a much greater aspect to the work of repentance. Without the shadow of a doubt it is impossible for any christian to continue their walk with Christ unless there is an active process of repenting. Repentance is not a one time thing but rather a continual dealing as the light of God's word exposes our natural thinking and self centered focus. Unlike confession which is simply agreement with the Spirit's conviction in our conscience, repentance is the act of turning from that sin and walking in the light we have received.

Failure to repent of known sin will cause us to become more hardened and fall into greater sin. It is impossible to continue a life of walking by the Spirit when we consciously and knowingly spurn the truth of God's word.

Sadly, I have seen this too many times. Christians who began well and had the fruits of the Spirit evident in their lives but failed to repent when the Spirit revealed sin. They allowed their sin to lead them astray and soon were cast shipwreck in the sea of life. What follows is broken marriages, scarred children, and a worthless testimony for Christ. This is of course not what God desires for our lives. We are not puppets however and the Lord gives each one a choice to follow. This is no excuse to live a carnal and loose life as we will give an account of our lives on the day of judgement. So let us be sober.

8 comments:

Bhedr said...

Amen brother. Good post.

Daniel said...

Jim said, Repentance is not a one time thing but rather a continual dealing as the light of God's word exposes our natural thinking and self centered focus.

If the "repentance towards God" that Paul preached as half of his gospel (c.f. Acts 20:21) is in fact the ongoing process you describe, then we must conclude that justification is a process that is completed after we die, as it depends upon a completed regiment of repentance.

I think you are confusing justification and sanctification?

Repentance, first and foremost is something God grants , and we must understand what it is and what it is not.

The unbeliever, above all else, denies God's rule over his life. That is the nature of rebellion, and it is a nature that no man can overcome by himself. But those whom God draws to Himself are granted repentance, that is, they are granted a change of mind from that of the closed "I will not have this man to rule over me" heart, to that of an open, receptive heart. It is into this God-prepared receptive heart that faith takes root.

Repentance, as I understand it, is a one time thing.

Notwithstanding - the nature of repentance is that one has changed masters - no longer do self and sin rule as master, but Jesus is Lord. That being the case, the believer thereafter is driven by the indwelling Holy Spirit to no longer walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Failure to do so results in chastening in the hear and now for as many as God loves.

I agree, there is no excuse to live a carnal and loose life given that we have truly been set free from that, but it is not the fear of judgment that ought to drive us - for no one has ever been sanctified by fear of judgment, and frankly, it is a beggarly motivator at best. Rather we are cleansed and made righteous by faith.

We walk (righteously) by faith, not by sight. When this is understood properly, fear is replaced by love as the motivating factor of our walk, and we escape the legalistic pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstrap mentality that rises from an understanding of the Christian walk that blurs the line between justification and sanctification.

Which is not to argue that we sit around and wait to be made holy - we are commanded to walk in the Spirit by faith. We ought not to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit by Whom we are sealed unto that day, we are to walk in the good works prepared for us beforehand by God, but that in the strength that -He- supplies.

If we do all the right things in our own strength, we get the glory, and not God, and even these acts that seem righteous, and maybe even make us feel "good and right with God" so long as we do them - these same acts become the very thing that keeps us away from God, because rather than resting in the finished work of Christ, we look to our own righteousness to propitiate God and in doing so we turn away from all that Christ alone has done for us, and our second state is worse than our first, because from thence forth, unless we are sorely shaken from that path - we will always pursue God through our own righteousness, and the constant failure will only wear us out, or make us so arrogant we cannot be reasoned with.

Jim said...

"I think you are confusing justification and sanctification?"

Daniel, I thought you knew me better than to think such things.

I am also not advocating a pull yourself up by own bootstraps scenario. I admit that I probably don't see my own self righteousness clearly enough and perhaps come across as demanding sometimes.

How would you define a believer that is disobedient to the known will of the Lord? What is the process of his returning to obedience called? How about the believer who is sinning unknowningly but then sees the truth and forsakes(repents?) their sin?

I agree that fear is not the motivator we should look for in seeking Christ. But fear is mentioned a few times in the epistles in regarding to the salvation of our souls. The apostle John explains that perfect love casts our fear. As we love the Lord more perfectly all fear of judgement is eradicated and we simply obey and follow because we desire to please Him Who bought us with His own blood.

But you and I have both seen numerous christians who's lives do not demonstrate the practical aspects of walking by the Spirit? How do we explain their behaviour?

Daniel said...

Jim, I don't think you confuse justification and sanctification in your own practice, but I think you have confused them in your writing.

In answer to your questions, in order of appearance:

[Answer #1] I define a believer that is disobedient to the known will of the Lord as spiritually immature.

[Answer #2] The process of moving from disobedience to obedience is called sanctification.

[Answer #3] The believer who comes to understand that a thing is sin and forsakes it, may do so in one of two ways:

[a] He forsakes sin by "keeping the law" in order to become/remain righteous in God's sight. This is the pulling himself up by his own bootstraps thing I was talking about. It isn't an act of faith, but an act of unbelief, as what is driving it is not the certainty that he is right with God in Christ, but rather the fear that he will not be "right" with God until he acts righteously; or

[b] He forsakes self by faith, and in doing so walks in the spirit so that he does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

The former does not sanctify the believer, but rather is a polishing of the exterior, and has no power whatsoever to sanctify him. The latter however, is the Christian walk in summary.

[Answer #4] Numerous Christians do not demonstrate the practical aspects of walking by the Spirit because they have not been discipled properly, nor disciplined biblically.

The repentance that leads to salvation - (that is: the turning away from open and hostile rebellion and instead embracing the reconciliation offered by God in Christ) must not to be confused with the many acts of turning away from individual sin after one is justified. To do so confuses the repentance that together with faith justifies the believer, with the repenting that characterizes a mature spiritual walk in Christ.

Let me know if that untangles it.

Jim said...

"He forsakes self by faith, and in doing so walks in the spirit so that he does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh"

Exactly, I agree. This is the key and yet I find so many believers ignorant of actually how it works.

"To do so confuses the repentance that together with faith justifies the believer, with the repenting that characterizes a mature spiritual walk in Christ"

Well that is basically what I was trying to say. Maybe I'll get you to write it next time. :)

Lack of that repenting will keep a believer from maturing, that was my point.

Thanks for you forensic examination of this post.

Daniel said...

Jim, I was pretty sure you knew where you were going, it was just that one sentence that threw me.

I am glad we are on the same page.

Todd said...

Hey Jim,
I can sure relate daily penance, repenting, whichever, in my life. That seems to be what Paul is refering to here:

2Co 4:16
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.


Oh, it doesn't speak soley about repentance, it has plenty of useful applications, but there is that daily surprise appearance of my old nature when I have to, for a moment, turn back away, or push to the side some old decaying habit or lust. I don't think there will come a time in this life when I'll be able to say, "ah, there, fully decayed", nor, "ahhh, fully renewed". There are moments of just about everyday when I do something that produces sorrow which leads to repentance. The cheap lusts of the flesh squaring off against the desires of the Spirit.

I see how repentance is as much of my original saving faith as it is my constant fight of faith. Seems like it remains an integral part of the ongoing life in the faith. It seems particularly actively ongoing with the decietfulness of sin always there ready for the chance to harden us or choke the life out of us. Oh, the times when I've looked known sin in the face and just couldn't get comfortable with the double-mindedness of it all. It's was never easy to go the speed limit until I learned that, "oh yeah, that's where truly honoring God begins". I still can't quite drive 25mph, but it's coming. It's decaying, I can feel it. and when I remember who God is my appetite becomes satisfied by the fruit of the Spirit. Whoa, hallelujah! Thanks Jim.

Jim said...

Hi Todd, thanks for stopping by.

You know, as long as we carry this mortal flesh about we will struggle with the sinful nature. This is expressly why we are commanded to take up our cross daily. The battle of putting to death the lusts of the flesh will not end until we lie in the grave or this mortality puts on immortality. This is why some brethren fail; they assume that they have conquered a certain sin and therefore are immune to its temptation.

But you are right, our hope lies in seeing Who our God is and rejoicing in Him. Look away to Jesus today. Amen!