I have had quite a few conversations lately with a few people about repentance… What it is and what it isn’t. And because of some of those conversations I have felt led to write this post. The people who I have had these discussions with have been primarily from the modern “Hyper-Grace” movement (Even thought they argue vehemently against the idea of thinking of grace that way as something possible).
In my talks with them, readings, and listening to what the most
well known preachers of this camp preach and promote, I don’t see a big difference between most of the things in which they preach and promote than what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once rightfully warned the Church about and labeled, “Cheap Grace”. The Hyper-Grace camp has tried to dress it up a little bit more but if you look at it beyond the rhetoric it is really just the recycled version of the cheap grace Bonhoeffer described.
I could spend my time preaching multiple sermons or write countless blogs on the Biblical error of this movement, but that is not my heart for this blog post at all. My heart is simply to discuss what the Bible actually teaches us repentance is and how it should or shouldn’t be applied to our live before and after coming to faith in Christ.
The Hyper-Grace guys like to say that repentance is just a change of mind and that we die to ourselves just once. They have argued with me multiple times that repentance is not necessary once you have repented onto salvation and that the idea of dying to self only means we die to ourselves when we first put our faith in Christ. (Even though the context of dying to self and picking up our cross in everyone of the Gospels it is said in uses the word DAILY in the verse)
They are right when they say that repentance is a turning away from or a change of mind and that we must have this when we come to Jesus in faith. We indeed must change our minds about who He is, what He has accomplished and our need for redemption.
Where they veer away from the Truth is when they say that it is only something we do when we first coming to Christ.
Once you truly repent with godly repentance as described in II Corinthians 7:10 for the first time you are saved, sealed and forgiven completely for past, present and future sins you will commit. Jesus is our perfect propitiation and He alone is enough. We are saved completely and full by His grace through faith as a gift.
And when we are saved you we are supposed to “go and sin no more” but since we are still within the earthly tents of our human flesh that was born into sin it doesn’t really happen that way…Even Jesus said through Solomon in the Proverbs that even a righteous man falls seven times (Proverbs 24:16) and John said in his first epistle that “anyone who says they are without sin is a liar and the Truth is not in him.” (I John 1) or said another way, if you say you don’t sin anymore because you have Jesus, you are a liar and the Truth is not in you… The reality for all of us is that even after we come to Jesus we still sin every single day and we should confess, repent and by His grace alone should restore ourselves daily.
Here are a few Scriptural examples to drive this truth home a bit. All of these examples are written in relation to those people in Scripture who were already following Jesus and who had trusted Him. I point that out only to again drive home the emphasis on dying to self and repenting daily as a lifestyle after we have repented onto salvation.
1 John 1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Revelation 2:5 ~ “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Said by Jesus Himself to the CHURCH in Ephesus)
And how about when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray? One of the things that he told them to pray for was forgiveness (which implies the need to have a lifestyle of daily repentance which I will explain a little more clearly below) So despite what the “Hyper-Grace” cats like to try and say about this, if Jesus has told us that men ought to always pray and ask for forgiveness, then shouldn’t we be praying for forgiveness too? Shouldn’t we be repenting too?
Luke 11:4 ~ “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”
And how about David the man after God’s own heart? He was constantly asking for forgiveness and many of his Psalms are his prayers of repentance…Meaning he lived a lifestyle of repenting of his sins and wrongs before God. Aside from the famous Psalm 51 here is another verse worth quoting.
Psalm 25:18 ~ “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”
Psalm 19:12 ~ “Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.”
If we follow the examples set in the scripture and think about the words of Jesus, we know that we should repent for every known sin…And as David desired as well, even the ones we are unaware of. The act of sins after we are in Christ does not separate us from God like we were before Christ, but that doesn’t mean that when we sin that the Holy Spirit in us is not grieved, that the conviction we feel from Him we should quench and say some unbiblical statement that when we are in Christ we should be less conscious of our sins and not repent. The more Jesus conscious we are the more sensitive to the ways in which we offend Him (which is our sin) we become. And when we sin repentance restores our fellowship with Him and brings that feeling of harmony that we have when we live out the identity we have in Him properly.
Here is another way to think about it: When, not if but when, we do something to hurt someone we love; a spouse, a child, a loved one or dear friend, even though that offense doesn’t make them stop loving us, don’t we still turn back to them eventually and apologize to them and try not to hurt them again because we love them? God will never cease to love us when we wrong Him but He wants this type of love of running back to Him and reciprocating the same kind of love to Him as we would to our loved ones…actually He wants us to love Him even greater than all of those people (Luke 14:26)
In summary, repentance onto salvation is a turning from our sins and our dead religious works (Hebrews 6:1) and fully trusting in Christ’s work alone for our salvation. And true genuine Biblical salvation does result in works as well as an ongoing lifestyle of repentance. Lifestyle repentance because we are constantly needing to run back towards Christ and His Gospel when we sin. In other words we fall back into our old sinful habits and sinful mindsets and need to turn back or change our minds and run back towards Christ in confession and repentance. So daily dying to self and repentance does become a lifestyle for the true Christian.
So again let me be clear… Lifestyle ongoing repentance is not what produces our salvation but is rather the fruit of it. But that lifestyle repentance is not something that is required in the sense that you will somehow be more forgiven for your sins than when you first repented onto salvation. Jesus’ Blood continually covers all sin for those who are truly in Him and He tool on the fullness of God’s wrath for sins past, present and future. We are either in Christ Jesus and a forgiven person or we are not. Jesus was already crucified for our sins so the idea of lifestyle repentance should never be us crucifying ourselves in the condemning sense of the word in place of what He has already done. In fact the only continuing sacrifice mentioned after the Cross for those who are truly in the faith is in Romans 12:1 where it tells us to “…offer ourselves up as living sacrifices” – dying daily and picking up our crosses as we submit to the Holy Spirit, letting Him do His work of sanctification in us as He enables us to work our salvation out with fear and trembling.
Will offering ourselves up as living sacrifices require some ongoing transformation but the renewing or ‘changing of our minds and hearts’ as well as ‘remorse and sorrow for sin’ on the road to being conformed into the image of Christ? If you read the Bible for what it is and take it in its full counsel then the answer is undoubtedly a resounding yes – but that has nothing to add to the forgiveness that has already been bestowed upon us when we came to Christ in faith… Our sins past, present and future have been cleansed in full by the shed Blood of Christ at the Cross where God’s Justice was satisfied in full.
If you are truly in Christ and you have genuinely repented onto salvation, you ARE forgiven! And there is nothing you can do to increase the favor of God on your life
But we must not misunderstand that to mean that we shouldn’t come to God daily and pray something like, “Jesus, I messed up, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. And please help me to not do _________ again and transfrom me by the renewing of my mind. Help me to live the way you want me to and in a way that conforms with your image that I have identity in”
As a preacher I am fond of likes to say, “The evidence that you have truly repented onto salvation is that you are still repenting today and growing in repentance.”
Here is an additional resource dealing with the topic of repentance: (from GotQuestions.org) It is a short but decent article that lays some more understanding on the idea of repentance out nicely.