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January 14, 1999

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Re: The Last Domino has Fallen!

After finishing the commentary "Only Believe..?" I went back to the website cited. My thoughts have troubled me regarding this subject. We are talking about a "conservative of the conservatives" here. Those who, of all people, should know Truth. I wanted to -BE SURE- I had not missed or overlooked their reference to "repentance" because the rest of their Salvation presentation is so good. So this time I went through with a fine-tooth comb, and what I found was even more disturbing...

Not only did they -not mention- "repentance", they actually proclaim that it is NOT -necessary- for salvation. In a little paragraph I had skimmed over the first time, they list some things that salvation "is NOT." And as they list them off.. "not repenting" is amongst them.

To leave out this most crucial element is like having a future complex Pentium III motherboard, having zillions of megs of RAM, running at 1000 Mhz. If a jumper is placed across the "reset" pins and left there, there is nothing you can do to make that computer work. It won't! Out of all the billions of transistors embedded in those chips, super speed and tons of cache, all it takes is -one- jumper to keep it from working.

I've been in a kind-of "stupor" the last couple days with the impact of what this means. I've been "numb." While I -hope- that not all GARBC or Bible Baptist teach this, I was remembering back to my times in those churches. With these labels, we are talking about many years of -my- background. Sin was proclaimed with all "hell-fire and brimstone." Jesus' death on the cross for our redemption was faithfully proclaimed. Scripturally. And error was diligently evaluated and exposed. But it wasn't until the Lord had led me to a place of being "on sabbatical" from ministry (and from these groups) that He also caused my path to cross, for a time, with an individual who in one letter wrote about "repentance." And my eyes were suddenly opened -wide- as I realized that I had not been preaching it!! Are -all- these churches preaching like this? I don't know. But it was in that fellowship that I learned -not to- preach it. Nobody said not to. Simply, nobody did. But when this webmaster proclaims that salvation does -NOT- include repentance, it brings all these other places flooding back into my memory. And now, suddenly, a LOT of -things- about these places make a lot of sense. These places had other -problems-, too.

And thus, we get to the title of this Portion. Over the past few years the Lord has been allowing me to see first -this-, and then -that-, and then the -other- entity, people, organization/s that I had assumed, along with everybody else, to be "Christian" ...were really -not-. It's been like dominos set in motion; one falling, knocking the next down. All in a row, falling... one after another. And with this recent realization, we have come to the "last domino" and it is fallen. Actually, it has been down a long time... I am only -now- realizing it.

As with any group, denomination, church... there -are- Believers within it. But they are -individuals-.

Let's review Scripture on this most important doctrine:

When Jesus commissioned the disciples, the -message- He capsulizes that they are to proclaim is "repentance and remission of sins...in His name..." (Lk24:47) Notice, He does not mention "faith." While we know from other passages that -faith- is an integral part of salvation, that "without faith it is impossible to please [God]"(Heb11:6), we cannot even get to the -faith- stage until we've been to the -repent- stage.

At Peter's preaching the people were not feeling "good about themselves" being full of -faith-. They were "stabbed in the heart" (Acts2:37) and when they ask what they must do, Peter replies, "repent." If you think that "God saw -worth- in you" and -that's why- He saved you, you are NOT SAVED. "Our righteousnesses are as a menstruous cloth." (Is64:6) When we come to Him we must come with "I am not worthy to be called your son..." (Lk15:21) as we cry out, "be merciful to me, a sinner" (Lk18:13) Like the thief on the cross recognized that he was "worthy to die" he then turns to Jesus, mustering to ask, only, to be "remember[ed]." (Lk23:42)

If we have not repented with "I am nothing. I've sinned...I'm sorry for my sin. I deserve every punishment God could mete out to me" then "salvation" has no meaning. And also "faith." If we have not repented and realized that we cannot save ourselves, -faith- in Christ's salvation is meaningless, because we are still going on "self." What is there to be saved from? And so then, naturally, we will live lives of obeying "lists." That is not true Faith. If there was not true repentence, what is the -NEED- for "receiving" Christ? There isn't, is there...

To "receive" Christ (Jn1:12) is not like Bill Bright's published testimony, that he had a "void" or "emptiness" in his life. He studied creation and saw all the awesomeness of God, and wanted God 'in-his- life'. And so we end up with a gospel that so many preach, that Jesus "came alongside me, and took my hand, so that where I was going, He was there right beside me...and that's how He came-into-my-life." That's not repentance. Repentance means -stopping- going in the direction I'm now going, -changing- directions, and going in -God's- direction. Rather than "God going -with- me" we respond with, "Lord, what will -You- have me to do?" (Acts9:6)

True salvation begins with "death." A -dead- person isn't -going- ANYWHERE! When that -seed- the "sower" (Mt13:3) planted starts to grow, it first has to "die" (Jn12:24) It must loose its -hard- shell, and become soft (the beginning stages of rotting - death) before the germ springs to life. As Paul teaches, "Foolish one! What you sow is not made alive unless it dies." (1Cor15:36)

Thus, salvation does not make us "better" people, as many -prayers- word it, as they promise, "I'll do -better- (legalism) from now on." We "count [our]selves also to be truly dead to sin" and when we cry out to God in Christ, He makes us "alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom6:11)

When there is true salvation, like this, then the "lists" are no longer needed, because we "do not let sin reign in [our] mortal body, that [we] should obey it in its lusts..." (Rom6:12)

But it all starts with "repentance" and -then- comes "remission of sins." (Lk3:3,Acts5:31) If there is no repentance, God will NOT hear. "..your iniquities have come between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, from hearing." (Is59:2) NKJV/KJV words it "He -will-not- hear." This is purposeful on God's part. Against rebellious Israel, "[God] has -withdrawn- Himself from them" (Hos5:6b) as He says further, "I will go; I will return to My place until they confess their guilt and seek My face;" (vs15)

"Therefore repent and convert so that your sins may be blotted out..." (Acts3:19)


Addendum: What is Repentance?

The commentary "Only Believe..?" stirred up quite a few replies and questions. I expect the "Last Domino..." will answer some questions that came up. It will stir up others. At first I thought to make another "Q/A" out of these replies, but this time, instead, I think it's appropriate to write this way. The commentary and portion were like me "rarin' back and preachin'." Now, if you will, let me just 'talk' with you all. And I'll try to fit in the various questions that were raised. And to you who wrote, please accept -this- as my reply to you, rather than a -personal- note...

First of all, the people who responded this time are different from the usual ones. When we speak about charismatic or new-age issues, many retorts obviously contain -anger-. This time, however, I sense that many of you are 'squirming' in your chairs a bit. The message is no longer about "them" -out there-. But it is hitting squarely between the eyes at "home" in -your- heart. It is uncomfortable, because you realize you haven't submitted to God in this way...but you know you -must-. And yet, you are trying to -hold-out- with excuses ...uh, sorry..."explanations." Some of you are trying to explain "faith only" to me...trying to claim that -repentance- is a "work". You are trying to -reason- your way around and round-about the Truth.

In your squirming, you might also be trying to -excuse-away- repentance as though "it doesn't apply to me." Because repentance was a "Jewish -thing-" and so Paul 'graduated' from -repentance- to -faith- as he gravitated from 'Jewishness' to 'Gentileness' in his teachings and writings. (first time I've heard -that- one!)

OK...so, let's talk...

First of all, repentance IS -for- EVERYONE. "..now [God] strictly commands -all- men everywhere to repent.." (Acts17:30) Paul uttered these words to "Gentiles" on the Hill of Aries in Athens. When he -reviewed- the Gospel message in Acts 20:27 "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" he was "testifying both to Jews, and also to the Greeks" (27a) ..as he actually spoke these words to the church leaders he had called together from Ephesus. (Gentiles) If you look up that long list of verses I sent to the webmaster (who, by the way, has not replied to my note in the two weeks since I wrote him) you will see they are to both Jews -and- Gentiles. Furthermore, Jonah (a Jew) was sent to Nineveh (Gentiles) where they repented. Job, while likely a descendent of Esau, was not a "Jew" (from Jacob) but -repents-. (Job42:6)

So... is -repentance- a "work"? It continually amazes me -the- "God" we have! This morning, in my personal reading, again, -before- I retrieved these responses to the commentary, was God's reply to this question. When I read it I knew it would be related to answers I would be giving, even before I knew what the questions were, or 'how many' there were.

Here it is...
"..return to the LORD your God, for you have fallen by your iniquity.

    Take with you words, and turn to the LORD. Say to Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, that we may repay with the calves [sacrifices] of our lips." (Hos14:1-2)
...as this prayer goes on to recognize that salvation does not come from self or any other human means...
    "..for in You the fatherless finds mercy." (vs3)
This is God's definition of "repentance." Is this description a "work"? Well, if you want to call the process of "appearing before God and saying 'I'm sorry'" a "work" then, I suppose it is. But I think we all know better. Let's see if we can paint a visual image of what this is like... (please don't nit-pick every doctrinal detail from this sketch. remember...we are talking about "repentance" with this..)

Isaiah "saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up" (Is6:1) Since I doubt we can really fathom what Isaiah saw, let's borrow from Hollywood and archaeology. A pyramid/ziggurat with hundreds of steps going upward. At the very top, in golden splendor sits the King on His throne...attended by dozens of servants. Rows of guard angels up near the throne, coming down the sides of the stairs, and out the walk-way to the gate of the palace. Along comes raggedy, dirty sinner...and he sees all this splendor. And as the angelic beings make the place shake thunderously when they cry out "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts..." the ground under "sinner" shakes, and at the foot of these hundreds of stairs he falls to the ground, face-down, prostrate, "Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips..." (vs5)

-THAT- is the 'place' of repentance. Is that a "work"? Not hardly.

He is prostrate with his face in the dirt. He has no means to 'get up'. He is without strength." (Rom5:6) Was "faith" involved up to this point? Well, he -knows- God exists (Heb11:6) because it is He to whom he has come. "repentance -towards- God" (Acts20:21) But this "faith" isn't any more than what satan has. Satan also knows this scene...he's been there many times. (Job1:6) While it may involve -a- faith, it is not "Saving Faith." He has merely come, recognized, admitted and confessed his guilt.

    Perhaps some of you are confusing "repentance" with the catholic "penance"? The little I know about RCC, one must do -good-deeds- to "compensate" and "tip the scales" towards the good. If bad deeds have been done, good deeds must be done to 'outweight' the bad. And thus, "protestants" ...still -of- "Rome"... carry over the same concepts. And then, Evangelicals fall into a -legalist- "list keeping" scenario. But true -repentance- sees the sin, and the hopelessness to be able to do anything about it. He knows that any attempts to 'tip' any scales are impossible. He knows he cannot possibly -do- anything to measure up. He knows himself...and sees God's holiness...and along with Isaiah wails..."WOE IS ME!" I've HAD IT! I'm doomed!
The seraph touches a live coal to Isaiah's mouth to cleanse him. (Is6:6) 'Here, this cleanses you. Now you are clean.' Isaiah did -nothing- no "work". He -received- the cleansing which was offered him.

Well, in -our- scenario here, God looks down at -dirty-sinner- and speaks a word to His Son sitting next to Him. 'Go down there, clean him up, and bring him up here.' So "God..sent His only-begotten Son" (Jn3:16) and Jesus comes next to -sinner- and says, 'I need to wash you. (Jn13:8) If I wash you, you will become a part of Me and I'll take you up there. (Jn14:3) God is calling and wants you to come. (Jn6:44) But I must wash you with My blood so that your clothes will be white. (Rev1:5,7:14)

Saving Faith -now- comes into play. Sinner must believe what Jesus is telling him. While he doesn't understand "how" it can happen that clothes will be made "white" from being washed in -blood- he "trusts in" Jesus that He is able to do what He is claiming to be able to do. (2Tm1:12) However, this trust/belief comes from Jesus speaking with him. And of course in the mean time, God has sent the Holy Spirit who is convicting -sinner- in the inner recesses of his heart [conscience] (Rom2:15-16, Jn16:8) Because "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Rom10:17) This "faith", however, is being infused (Rom10:8,10) -into- the sinner as God's "gift" (Eph2:8)

But none of this -salvation- scenario comes about if sinner does not find his way to the bottom of those stairs... -willingly-. If he is not at the base of the stairs, he is "outside" (Rev22:15) and when he eventually is -brought- before the throne, Jesus won't be coming down to offer Eternal Life, but judgment will be handed down as the "books" are read. (Rev20:11-15)

You see... repentance is a -place- ...not a "work". It's a place of realization and confession. A place of "nothingness" and utter "worthlessness." A realization that one is helpless of one's self to do anything about it. The realization that Jesus Christ is the only -One- Who can. But, until the place of worthlessness is reached, there really isn't any concept that salvation is even a -necessity-. So, then, "faith" is non-existent. What is the -need- for faith, if the need for salvation isn't realized? So, you see...repentance -does- come 'first'. THEN, in the process of realizing that Christ is the only One Who can save, "Faith" is given by God to "receive" Jesus as -the- Savior. (Jn1:12)

When -sinner- 'believes in' and 'receives' Jesus Christ, it is -BECAUSE- he has repented. -Because- he realizes that he's a sinner. Without the realization of -sin- God's -grace- (through faith) is meaningless. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom5:20)

    Perhaps some of your are also confused about 'faith'? When faith -only- is believed, without repentance, the faith you -think- you have is not true "faith unto salvation" (2Tm3:15) Many of you are striving to "have faith" because you've been told "only believe" because of being "justified by faith" (Rom5:1) and talk about not being "weak in faith" (Rom4:19 -out of context) So there is a kind of "straining" to have -enough- faith. But, because there wasn't true repentance -first- that faith is false. And so this non-existent 'faith' is continually being "proved" by the 'list' by which one lives and compares everybody else to. But you're -NOT- Saved...

    Others of you are continually "wondering". You are -NOT SURE- you are saved. You faithfully read your KJV-only, and have this "appearance" (1Th5:22) of righteousness, and "abstaining from evil" by the 'lists' you keep. But, since you have never been to the base of those 'stairs' (foot of the cross) on your face before God, you have not -truly- experienced forgiveness. "Blessed (happy & at peace) is the man whose transgression is forgiven.." (Ps32:1) You don't know -what- that experience is....so you continue to wonder. You don't -know- because it didn't happen. And in the end, all you have is your KJV and -appearances- It's not -real- in your heart.

Therefore, if you have not repented...you are -NOT- Saved! Because without repentance, by the very definition, there is no admission of guilt/sin. Without sin, there is no forgiveness of grace. Without grace... "salvation" does not exist...! In other words, if you are already "pretty good" and -merely- want Jesus "in-your-life" you are -NOT- saved. If you are living the 'good' Christian life, righteously adhering to your 'list' you are -NOT- saved. Jesus didn't come for you, as He says, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mr2:17)
    How much -time- goes by from 'repentance' to 'faith'? It likely various from person to person. For one, the two will be almost instantaneous. For another, repentance will occur...and there may be a time of "seeking" the solution, or of the Holy Spirit working on the conscience...for the message to reach him that it is, in fact, Jesus Christ who saves. But even in that, it is Jesus Christ who does the work, because it is He who knows the "thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb4:12)
But once sin has been repented of (confessed and renounced), -then- "Faith" believes (Acts16:31) that Jesus Christ is the -only- means of salvation (Acts4:12), and the "gift" (Eph2:8) is -received-.(Jn1:12)

Amen!

Follow-up: What about the Reformers and "Sola Fide"?
Related article: Repentance and Emotions?

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