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Tag Archives: Faith
“Just what is repentance?” is the question I was asked away from the blog yesterday. I’ll answer first using the summary of scriptures provided in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.
I mentioned in the previous post on this topic that repentance is of the same coin as faith. The reasoning is that we do not turn to Christ (faith) if we are not turning away from sin (repentance) at the same time. In most cases I hear this within the context of a onetime decision or choice to follow Christ. In this manner we speak of getting “saved” or becoming “born again” in most evangelical circles. But this repentance is more than a onetime event. It is regular part of the Christian life.
I’ll start with faith, being we are more familiar with it. We do not say that I needed faith just that one day to believe, and since I have voted for Christ, I do not need faith any longer. No. The whole Christian journey is one of a walk of faith. If our Christian walk is so involved with the concept of faith, why then is there a disproportionate amount of teaching on repentance? If we are striving to walk each day by faith, then we should have an equal and opposite striving to put off our old sins.
What this looks like on a daily basis is quite simple. When we call to mind our actions, or are about to go to God in prayer, we realize that we have not been as holy as we should be. This “true sense of sin” should once again remind us that we do not deserve anything from the hand of God, apart from the mercy of God in Christ. We have nothing to boast of. So in prayers and our reflections of things to do, we praise God for saving us from the high estimations we have of ourselves (pride).
It is also an ongoing process in our sanctification. We, working with the Holy Spirit, have a real and honest “full purpose” or drive to reach the goal of new obedience every day.
Martin Luther the reformer (not King) was quite distraught when he was told that to be holy all he had to do was repent of all his sins. Well, that sounds easy until you stop to see if you can remember them all. What about ones you can’t remember? What about sins you repent of, but then your repentance is so reflex and dry that it needs repenting of? There would be no end to such a robotic way of viewing repentance.
Now the more specifically you can recall and repent of specific sins the more in tune you might be to seek to avoid them in the future. Ever notice yourself asking for forgiveness for the same sin(s) over and over again? Maybe it’s time to take that sin seriously. Maybe it’s time to get the elders of your church, or a best friend in on the situation to help you fight against and make a valid effort to turn from that temptation. And just to answer the question, “when does temptation become the sin?” It is when you give the temptation a second thought, look, or give in to some action that takes you in that direction. It’s not enough to tell the temptation “no,” we need to say “yes” to things above.
So with repentance we are not on an introspection hunt of sin until we have routed out each and every one. That is a lifetime process that will naturally occur as we walk and focus upon Christ, following Him by Faith. In walking this journey we will notice the pull, drag and diversions of sin. They will not need hunting down; your sins will pretty well stand out for what they are. Putting on the new and shedding the old man, is one of cutting our ties to those things then that seek to prevent us from walking at all.
In the discussions between denominations there has been, and likely will continue to be, the discussion over grace being a gift and man’s ability (or inability) to “receive” that gift. The argument goes something like this; like any gift held out to you, you have the decision to receive it or decline it. One side states that persons, who will receive the gift, do so because God as has regenerated them, and so the acceptance flows from the new life and living heart they have received (my position). The other side states all persons have the ability to receive or reject the gift (typically because of grace) and some do and don’t choose correctly based on their own free choice, partly due to the extent of God’s wooing them towards the right decision. In this fashion it is the choice to receive that enacts the regeneration process.
The usual arguments discuss the nature of Faith within the passage of Ephesians 2:8-9. I’d like suggest a different approach to the problem by taking another look at the word “receive.” In the Americanized sense we see this word primarily in the context of the individual having a right to receive something or not. There is also the viewpoint of whether or not the object being offered is of value to me personally (what’s in it for me, or what will it cost me). But there is another way in which to view this word that benefits the discussion. The word can also be use in the indicative sense of things. In other words, it can be use to simply make a statement of fact, not insinuating choice or action at all on the part of the recipient; except that they now have in their possession something they did not have before (1 Corinthians 4:7).
James 5:7 talks about the earth receiving the early and later rains. The ground has no choice in the matter of rain, God pours it out from the clouds, and the earth simply receives it. Something the earth was lacking was provided and the earth absorbed, received or got it. Like the symbolism in Baptism, God pours out His Spirit upon us as illustrated by the water, and we receive a wet head. It’s not our action (our obedience) being illustrated, but God’s. Think about someone who has been dead and brought back to life by a defibrillator. They performed no action and made no choice, but only “received” an electrical shock that gave them new life. So too my argument here is that when we are said to have “received” Christ, the Holy Spirit, Grace and even our faith, we did not do so with the assumption of having a choice or performing an action first, but these were poured out upon us by a merciful and gracious God. So in saying I received Christ, Yes, I have made the decision to accept the gift of grace, believe and follow Him, but this only because I first “received” Him, as God so poured Christ into my heart and mind, regenerating me thus granting me the willing and ability to believe. In this way both grace and a faith that knows, assents to, and rests in Christ, is the gift poured out upon us (Acts 2:33).