I have been studying and teaching Bible doctrine for over 48 years and the shepherding teacher for home based Churches. Sola Scriptura
What is repentance?
If one should hand out a questionnaire to a thousand churches and ask the question: What does repentance mean? The ‘many’ of the responders would equate repentance as an act of their own volition by being sorry for their previous messed up lives, confessing they need a change and their newfound Christianity will assist them to make better of themselves in the future. They will seek to live a life that is free of their previous bad habits [i.e. drugs, alcohol, pornography, and even illegal activities, etc.], all of which is a great idea … if they can just follow through with their newfound desire. To show their intent they will follow with water baptism, regular church attendance, possibly with some church ordained bible studies, tithing and joining in on the associated functions of the congregation like outreach, youth activities and volunteering for special events. They become part of one big happy family. None of which means they are saved; they are just acting like they think someone who is saved should act.
The ‘few’ would respond much in the same way, except for one major difference. The ‘few’ will continue to grow deeper in love with our Lord and learn to eschew the worldliness that like cancer has infested so many churches that have forsaken the Gospel and turned to being crowd friendly so as not to offend anyone … except our Lord. They will begin to live the life of faith as 2 Peter 1:5-7 so perfectly states it: “ … giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue [repentance]; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” This is what a changed lifestyle of a true born-again believer looks like; it is not overnight changes but irreversible changes over time as God has preordained for His own. As verse 8 adds, this is pleasing and fruitful in our service to God. Remember, per Proverbs 16:9 we make the plans but God guides the steps.
What are the true characteristics of the repentant?
- As Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, the burdens of this life that had weighed us down with fear, depression, wickedness, disease and death, dissolved in the Light of His grace. We no longer look back but press onward, driven by a new Spirit within.
- Constant hunger for the Word, always learning and sharing what we have learned. Finding the Word to be new and fresh each and every time we delve into its depths.
- Learning to control one’s appetites for the worldly and seeking that which honors God.
- Finding a long missing patience with yourself and others, especially other believers. This is a very difficult task for anyone this side of heaven and would be impossible without our Lord watching over and guiding us.
- Beginning to look at the world through God’ eyes and tempering ourselves to please Him.
- A joy inexpressible when in the company of others of like heart and mind. A true brotherly love that longs for one another’s company.
- Charity [agape] begins to blossom and everything you strive for is to serve God with a pure heart, honor the brethren before self and give your life that others may live.
This is not a walk of perfection, but of one whose heart desires to be perfect in all things godly and to be doing all things to the best of our ability, relying on God’s undying grace. I have been a Christian for over 52 years and I am still a work-in-progress. Neither I or anyone else that can rightly claim Christ as their Savior will ever be able to claim perfection, for perfection lies within Christ alone.
The Question That Must Be Asked
The World Has a Problem. - What Must We Do To Be Saved?
Here is where improper understanding of repentance can actually be used to deceive someone into believing they are saved, when in fact they are not. Church systems, whether denominational or cultic in origin, have several things in common. Churches usually have a set plan of what is required to be saved or join the local congregation, along with what must follow for the saved individual to remain acceptable to the local church. This usually entails:
- The majority of congregations teach that one must accept Christ of their own free will and have a desire to live as the bible instructs.
- A statement of faith detailing how they became a believer verified by church elders or staff. In this statement they explain how they have repented of their past life and seek to live a new life. They usually provide a testimony of their new life post-repentance.
- Water baptism for the new believer and for those whose prior baptism is unacceptable in format to insure they are or have been saved properly.
- What happens post baptism is up to each individual denomination, cult or congregation.
Sounds simple enough, but like most things that appear simple on the surface, it is the fine print that actually defines one’s life within the gathering. What actually begins to surface in many circumstances is that life is not that simple and the personality of the gathering becomes more obvious. Intolerance for beliefs other than their own; despising examination [questions]; the unity on Sunday is an act for the cliques become evident; required reading and use of specific church materials over scripture; and the biggie - the words of the leadership carry more weight than that of the Word itself. If this is church life, the Elks club is more friendly and accepts people for who they are; not what the congregation determines as acceptable.
What does the Word teach?
Most everyone knows John 14:6 that Jesus is the only way to the Father; but very few seem to know how to get to Jesus. If the ultimate goal is the Father, how does one come to Jesus? Solution: John 6:44,65 - Jesus said in verse 44, that ‘No man can come to Him, except the Father, which hath sent Me draw Him.” He repeats this in verse 65. The saved are drawn to Jesus by the Father and as per verse 44, Christ accepts us, not the other way around. Per Ephesians 1:6, the saved are the accepted ones. Romans 3:10-18 teaches us that everyone, including all the saved from creation until today, want nothing to do with God … until, the Father intercedes in one's life.
Every born again person can testify how God drew them to the Savior. I was a stubborn mule and God used a 2x4 across the bridge of my nose to get my attention. God’s drawing of His own is a story in itself for every believer; as God is infinite, so are His ways in dealing with those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before creation. I have seen so many come to Christ and each with a unique story. I have witnessed death bed conversions, marital problems driving one to their knees, satanic forces within one’s family causing them to turn to Christ while others seemed to come out of the blue, unexplainable in human terms.
Moral of the story, if any congregation has a set formula for salvation or boasts of their saving power, flee. Your fleeing false teaching could very well be God driving you to the Savior.