Thursday, November 30, 2006

Repentance: A Biblical Definition

I've heard it said that if you believe that the Salvation of a Christian is secure--that is, he cannot lose it--then you must believe that a Christian can sin in anyway and still get to Heaven. Theoretically, that could be possible, but in reality that is a far-fetched conclusion, one that is derived from a misunderstanding of the Gospel, often made possible by a poor presentation of it.

Here is the Gospel in a nutshell:

First the Bad News: You are a sinner. If you don't think so, take the test. The fact of the matter is, you deserve to go to Hell. You are no better than me--and I know I definitely deserve to go there. Why do I say this? Because God's standard of "good enough" is perfection. Are you perfect? Nope. Neither am I. So how can anyone get into Heaven? That's the

Good News: God sent His only begotten Son to suffer the penalty that we had earned for ourselves for all the sins that we have committed. Now He offers a free pardon to all who call upon His name.

But there is a catch: You have to repent of all your sins in order for Him to save you. What does that mean? Let me illustrate this with the following anecdote:

Imagine that you're out to sea in a pleasure craft (yacht, fishing boat, whatever you'd like) and there is a fierce and dangerous storm coming that you cannot outrun. Knowing the plight of all vessels in the area, the Coast Guard sends helicopters out to save the people the storm hits. The helicopters will fly everyone to safety--but not the boats.

When the Coast Guard helicopters come, do you:

A) Wave them off and have them come back in two hours because you're having too much fun right now -or-

B) Insist that they save your boat, too--it represents many years of hard labor and sweat and "climbing up the ladder of success rung by rung" -or-

C) Send your family and/or friends along, but you'll stay back and try to ride out the storm -or-

D) Stay with your family and friends who don't want to leave the boat (they have all kinds of excuses, like, "Oh, it's too cramped in the helicopter" and "Wouldn't it be fun to swim with the fishes and sharks and killer whales"?) -or-

E) Abandon the ship and all who cling to it and go to the safety of the helicopter, no matter what you spent on it or their efforts to call you back down?

Well, let's look at the consequences of each action:

If you chose A, then the question becomes, what if they don't come back in time?

If you chose B, is the boat worth more than the lives of the others?

If you chose C, are you too proud to be with your family in safety? The Coast Guard is providing the heroes, you know.

If you chose D, what kinds of friends demand that another person drown with them?

If you chose E, then you are ready to understand the Christian walk.

The ship is your life right now. The Storm is the Wrath of God. The Coast Guard is Jesus. The turbulent waters in which all will perish who do not embrace the Savior represent Hell.

When Jesus offers you the gift of salvation, you have two choices: let your sins perish and while you live, or perish in your sins.

Many people want to put it off--"Well, when I've had my fun, then I'll get saved." You fool! Many people die while "having fun"; salvation is now!

Most people don't receive Jesus because they don't want to let go of their old lives--"If I become a Christian, then I have to stop doing this, and that, and that other thing I do with the buds once a week, and..." So those things are worth perishing for? They aren't beneficial anyway--not to you, not to the people you sin against by doing them, not to your friends. Ultimately, anything that stands between you and salvation is an idol, a violation of the First and Second Commandments.

Some say, "Oh that Christianity is good for you, but I don't need it. I'll make it my way, you make it yours." Dude! You cannot outrun the Wrath of God! Jesus promised that God will make us give an account for every idle word we say!! That is how thorough the Judgment of God will be! You cannot escape! Jesus said that just looking at a woman with lust is all the same to God as adultery, and that unjustified anger is just as bad as murder--unjustified meaning both degree of anger and reason for it. Later, the Apostle John wrote that hatred is murder (1 John 3:15). One lie makes you a liar--and the Bible says that all liars have their part in the Lake of Fire. One stolen item--no matter what the value is--makes you a thief, and the Bible promises that no thief can enter Heaven at all. Man, you do need Jesus.

Others say, "But my friends!" Man, it's time you showed your friends a good example, for a change. If they don't follow you, then you are off the hook--but if you follow them, then you are responsible for their deaths, too, because you knew the truth and did nothing about it.

And, finally, there are those who leave their former lives behind, and serve the King of kings. If there is not a radical change in your behavior following your "conversion experience," then something is deathly wrong with the Gospel you accepted. Jesus requires that you let your sins drown in perdition, that you submit to Him--not merely "accept" Him, submit to Him for the God He is. If your coworkers, buddies, family members, friends, etc. cannot tell the difference that Jesus makes in your life, then you are not saved.

The Bible makes it very clear that there are vast differences between the way the world lives and the way that true servants of Christ live:

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law [because grace makes you better than the Law ever could, Romans 6].

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts
" (Galatians 5:16-24). If you haven't crucified your flesh with its affections and lusts, then you are not saved. Period.

What is the difference? Lusts are always evil desires. Affections may or may not be evil, they are just uncooperative with the Will of God for you at the moment. Asking for a wife is not a sin. Making obtaining a wife the goal of your life is a sin. Disobeying God in order to obtain a wife is a sin. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you," Jesus said (Matthew 6:33).

"But the context is not about marriage." No, but it is about basic needs. Jesus did say that there are men who need to get married (Matthew 19:10-12) and so did Paul (1 Corinthians 7). So, a spouse is definitely included. If you seek God first.

But anything that comes between God and you does not belong in your life if you are now His.