Believe In Jesus

I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t sit under some of the Bible teaching I’ve heard lately. Don’t get me wrong. I respect the preachers and I believe what they say, but it’s not what I needed to hear as a young, immature Christian who often doubted my salvation.

The message these pastors are giving is a counter to “easy believe-ism.” This false teaching wasn’t familiar to me, but apparently some people claim that as long as you say “the sinner’s prayer” you’re going to heaven no matter what you do thereafter. It sounds sort of like a “works” salvation, with “works” reduced to one — saying a prayer “accepting Jesus into your heart.”

I understand why pastors are standing against this approach to salvation. There’s so much it leaves out. Where’s the part about repentance, about taking up our cross and following Christ, about entering into a relationship with Him, about obeying God, loving Him first and loving our neighbor more than ourselves?

The truth is, though, I became a Christian by asking Jesus into my heart.

I was young, a small child. I don’t remember the specific time I first prayed to receive Christ (yes, first — I’ll get to that in a bit), but I do remember asking a Sunday school teacher how Jesus, pictured as a man on a flannel graph, could fit into my heart.

Chuckle if you must, but I think that’s a good question. It’s not normal to invite a person “into your heart.” Anyone who does so without understanding what he’s doing, very well might not actually be doing it.

That poor, dear, wonderful teacher did her best to explain that it wasn’t Jesus’s body that would come live inside me but His Spirit. So, I wondered, why don’t we say we’re accepting the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think I actually asked that question, possibly because the teacher explained that it was Jesus who died for me, Jesus who paid for my sins.

I got it. But I had another question. Again, I don’t have a clear recollection of the sequence of these events, but at some point when I was six or seven, I wasn’t so sure if I agreed that all had sinned and come short of God’s standard. I knew a few Bible stories by this time, so I figured if I could just think of one person in the Bible who hadn’t sinned, then maybe I could be like him. (I shared a little more about this incident in a post last fall, “My Deceitful Heart.”) I mean, what evil had I done, at six? Obviously I hadn’t yet learned about pride and self-righteousness.

I was probably in fifth grade, maybe fourth, when I came across John 3:18. I was playing alone in my room, pretending to be a preacher (I hadn’t learned yet what the Bible says about women and teaching in the church, either 😉 ). I opened my Bible to about the only passage I knew by heart, John 3:16, and started in explaining what it all meant to my pretend congregation. But when I got through that verse, I had more sermon I wanted to preach, so I went on to verse 17, then verse 18. And when I explained the part about Jesus not coming to condemn but that those who didn’t believe in Him were condemned already because they didn’t believe, I got it.

Salvation wasn’t about toeing the line, because none of us could. We were all condemned. Believing in Jesus gave us a pardon.

I was still confused about a lot of things — most particularly why I continued to sin. It gave me no end of doubt about my salvation and contributed to my “accepting Jesus” any number of times because I just didn’t know if it was enough that I meant it when I said it but later acted like I didn’t.

What was it I meant? That I knew I was a sinner, that I knew Jesus had died in my place, that He would forgive me if I believed in Him, and that I would have everlasting life, which meant I’d go to heaven.

I didn’t want to go to heaven particularly. Everything I heard about it made it sound kind of boring, but I knew I didn’t want to go to hell, so I pretty much just wanted to keep living on earth.

That changed, many years later when I read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce and came to understand that eternal life is Real Life.

I could go on and tell how one by one God added to my understanding and corrected my misunderstanding. But the point is, my “faith journey” — actually my walk with Christ — started because someone asked me if I wanted to pray to accept Jesus into my heart.

Are there false conversions, people who prayed “the prayer” and who have not continued with Christ? I’m sure there are. That’s what Jesus said in the parable about the sower and the seed. Some seed sprang up, but weeds choked it. Some seed fell on the side of the road and was trampled or the birds snatched it away (Luke 8:5-7). Jesus explained it this way:

Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
– Luke 8:12-14

So who, then, believes in Jesus? I’m convinced I was “born again” when I first put my trust in Him as a small child. My faith wasn’t grounded in theology and it wasn’t mature. It didn’t need to be. It only need to be, because the work wasn’t mine. It was and is Christ’s.

After all, that’s what Scripture says:

but these [signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
– John 20:31

And after [the jailer] brought [Paul and Silas] out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved
– Act 16:30-31a

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm  Comments (28)  
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28 Comments

  1. On one hand, It is refreshing that people, all over the world, still experience the overarching fear of God I had, in my childhood. I had heard so many “hell fire and brimstone” messages that I used to agonize alone at night, over what would happen if I died that night. The church consensus I had grown up hearing was that you could lose your salvation. I now believe that you can’t lose it, in the sense that you can lose a shoe. That is,Hebrews 6 makes it plain that there are many things you would have to do, to so completely turn your back on Him, that you would never allow Him to work in your life again. And the Lord makes it plain that no one can snatch you from the Father’s Hand. So that is a “loss” you volunteer to have. Fortunately, most people don’t make that choice. The Lord says He is persuaded better things of us. In the beginning, however, we are properly in awe of God, without fully understanding His mercy and grace.

    On the other hand,if we don’t understand the Lord’s grace and mercy, we hide from the Lord, as Adam and Eve did in the garden and won’t come to Him to heal the rift. We can nurse our grievances until we repeat our sins in tortuous cycles.

    Here are some “Aha!” moments that helped me with that. I was blessed with a Bible teacher in college who explained that the word for “cleanseth” in 1 John 1:9 means “continually” in the Greek tense. Wow! No more agonizing, over what would happen, if . . .

    As I studied some child evangelism materials, I came across an explanation of how to be sanctified. Apparently, this happens the same way a person is saved–through faith! Well, honestly, it had never occurred to me that a person’s life could be changed through faith. I’d prayed for help and had a measure of accidental success, but I had always thought it was about what I did–not what I believed. As it had not worked that way, I was willing to try simply believing God, for His help. For the first time in a long time, I began to grow!

    Soon after, I discovered that if I looked to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, I tended to repeat what He did and does and not the mistakes I had made before.

    Before, I wanted to write my own story. Now, I want Him to be my Author and my Publisher.

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  2. Hi, Becky, so glad your discussions of late led here to this topic today. This is THE question, isn’t it? “What must I do to be saved?” I too have wrestled and wrestled and wrestled with this issue. I too have said salvation prayers a zillion times. I’ve found myself disillusioned by my own sin and doubting that I ever could be saved. I’ve had my faith shipwrecked by those who teach sinless perfectionism. And even now I’m terrified that I’ve somehow missed Him, missed Jesus, that is. I have unbelievable confidence that God is real that Jesus is real and that He is who He said He is. I truly believe that Heaven and hell are real and that we need to believe in Jesus to get eternal life. But I am still very worried because I doubt myself. I don’t get the spiritual warm fuzzies that many Christians talk about: the “God led me this way” or “God gave me this word” or “God spoke to me this morning.” I have ecstatic, rapturous desires to hear Jesus at the end of this life say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But seriously, at this point, I’d settle for Him to say “C’mon in.” My pastor did a series where he explored the nature of “belief,” and based on his deep research into the languages, he came to the conclusion that the word “believe” the way it’s used in almost every salvation passage simply means believe–as we use it today: to be persuaded that something is true. It makes sense. How could people who are enemies of God at heart manage anything more than simple belief? I sure hope that’s right. I’m just not sure what else it could be or what I could do about it if it’s something different.

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  3. If you have ever read any of my posts on facebook or on my blog, you know that I speak against the “say a prayer for salvation/ accept Christ into your heart to be saved” false gospel quite often. I have been influenced by Paul Washer, and I would encourage anyone who is concerned about what it means to truly be saved to check out some of his sermons on youtube about salvation and against saying the sinner’s prayer.

    The problem is, “asking Christ into your heart” is unbiblical. It doesn’t do anything for you. Faith and repentance is simply coming to the end of yourself, despairing of all efforts to be good enough, because you know you are not, and turning to Christ and asking Him to save you from your sins. And the key is to be saved from sin itself, not hell, but sin. Romans 6 explains to us very clearly that when we are saved, we are saved from slavery to sin, not just hell. In other words, we are not capable of “choosing” Christ and deciding to live for Him unless God first regenerates us. It is God who gives us the desire to live for Him and to put off sin IF the motivation for living for Him is simply that we love Him and His righteousness. To desire to do what is right because it gets you out of hell or gets you into heaven will not save you, for that is a sinful motivation. But unless God works in our hearts, and saves us from our willing slavery to sin, we will never desire to live for Christ from the right heart motivation- and the right heart motivation is simply that we want to glorify God because He is God and He is righteous and we love His righteousness from the heart, in and of itself, not because we get something good out of it (like not going to hell). And clearly, with our sinful hearts and fallen wills, we will never desire this from the heart, unless God changes our hearts/regenerates us.

    So, when we look to Christ knowing all this, and when we trust Christ to save us from our sins truly, as in not just getting forgiven and getting out of hell but also being freed from slavery to sin and given a new desire to struggle against the sinful flesh by the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, then we are truly looking to Christ in faith and repentance, as Lord and Savior. But if we are just looking for an escape out of hell, we will wind up in hell. The bad news is, we can’t make ourselves love God from the heart. The good news is, God can, and we must trust Him to do so in order to be saved.

    Like you pointed out in your post, “saying the prayer” will cause you to doubt your salvation, andrightfully so. This is because, when you say a prayer to God for salvaion, promising to live for Him, then the factor that determines the security of your salvation is YOUR decision to live for Him rather than Christ’s work on the cross. If you are tryin to make God promises in a prayer for salvation, you are not looking to Christ as Savior, but rather as someone who will “grant forgiveness” based on your “good decision/work of committing your life to Christ.” But a person who is truly repentant and truly regenerate realizes that they cannot commit their lives to Christ because they are sinners and need God to do a miraculous work in their hearts to change them and give them a passion and desire to love God and serve Him from the heart.

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  4. I know several godly, spiritually active people who can’t say exactly when they “got saved”. There was no one moment where they were stabbed by a powerful conviction that led them to drop to their knees and pray. Rather, they became gradually aware over the course of weeks, months or even a couple of years that they believed all the things the Bible says are necessary to salvation — they were ready to confess with their mouths Jesus as Lord, and they believed in their hearts that God had raised Him from the dead. But could they point to a specific time and place when they became aware of that fact and made a dramatic conscious decision to acknowledge it? No, they couldn’t.

    I know some zealous Christians who would argue that those who can’t “name the day and the hour” when they believed are not truly saved. But I think it’s very wrong and very unbiblical to take that attitude. I personally can say how old I was and what exact circumstances led me to become conscious of my guilt before a holy God, and caused me to pray a prayer of confession and ask for forgiveness of my sins on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross. But if other people can’t be so specific, I don’t see any scriptural reason to believe that matters. What matters is what they believe now, and the confirming evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts and lives (by which I mean a work of conviction and ongoing spiritual growth, not some dramatic sign or miracle). And whether or not they have been willing to be baptized is often a far better indicator of how genuine their profession of faith actually is, than whether they can recall saying a “Sinner’s Prayer”.

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  5. Peggy, my doubts ended when someone spelled out to me that I simply needed to believe that God meant what He said. I didn’t have to wonder whether or not I was forgiven or if something I’d done or attitude I had would prompt Him to withdraw His offer.

    Thomas, I guess the main point I wanted to make in this post is that coming to grips with salvation is a process. I don’t think salvation is a process, but our apprehension of what it means and how it affects us, both now and for eternity, is something we understand over time.

    I suppose if someone is an adult when he becomes a Christian, he may spend more time learning about salvation before making a commitment to Christ. But I never knew I was making a commitment to Christ. I didn’t know about taking up my cross and following Him. I learned more and more as I matured in my relationship with Him.

    As I’ve looked at the people who became Christians in the New Testament, I don’t see a nice, neat formula. Some came to Christ because of preaching, some had individual encounters with a Christian, some were miraculous, some were a result of reading Scripture.

    I’m at the point where I don’t think anyone can say to anyone else, This is the way it has to be. If I was drawn to Christ as a child because of the promise of spending eternity with Him in Heaven, my salvation is just as valid as the person who is drawn to Christ first by a realization of his wickedness and need for forgiveness.

    I came to a point (many points) where I realized my sinfulness (and realized it anew) which allowed me to praise God for the forgiveness He’s provided.

    The person coming to Christ first for forgiveness will one day also learn of the hope he has of heaven and he can thank God for the provision he has to look forward to.

    In the Old Testament, God told Israel of the rewards of obedience and the punishment of disobedience. I see a similarity regarding faith in Christ — there’s a blessing to look forward to and a release from bondage. Why must only the release from bondage be what draws us to Christ initially?

    Here’s the truth: there is only one way to spend eternity with God in Heaven — that is, to accept the work that Christ did at the cross to wash away my sins. And there is only one way to be released from the bondage of sin — that is, to accept the work that Christ did at the cross to wash away my sins.

    I don’t see why one motive needs to be elevated and the other denigrated when both depend on Christ’s work and require the same faith.

    Becky

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  6. I would say that the sinless perfection doctrines and the sinner’s prayer have obscured really what it means to believe in Jesus, but I don’t think it’s hard at all. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” and later on states, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” (10:38) So a Christian lives by the substance of things hoped for and not seen. What is it that’s not seen? Jesus, of course. “…whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) So the Christian lives by believing in Jesus, whom we have not seen, and he lives by that, meaning he believed yesterday, today, and how many days until he shoves off the mortal coil. It’s not that you prayed a prayer and that one act in that moment of time secured your salvation. It’s the everyday reality that Jesus is Lord and Savior. If I know that, what room do I have for doubt?

    I can tackle this whole works salvation right here and now. The Galatian Christians were being told they had to add the commandments to their faith, and Paul practically blew a gasket. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” (Galatians 3:10-12) If you’re under the commandments, you’re cursed by definition even if you are a Christian! How can I be sinless under the law if Paul just said to believers that they’d be cursed by it? Then he points out, no man is justified-declared or reckoned-as righteous because the righteous are justified by…faith! The very thing I talked about just above. As Paul says, the law has nothing to do with faith. If I have to obey the law perfectly, then I’m the man that lives by the law, but that’s not the man that lives by faith. How can breaking one of the commandments cause me to lose my salvation? I’m not under the law! I live by faith!

    The problem is people are confusing the exhortations in the New Testament to right living with a letter of the law that would condemn you if you transgressed it. John says no way: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” John goes on to say that he who is born of God cannot sin-ergo, not transgress the law. No wonder. You’re not under the law! Paul says in Romans 4:14-15, “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” No law, no sin. Christians cannot be counted as sinners, and if we live by faith, then what remains to deprive you of your salvation?

    As far as I’m concerned, I have no more question to this whole salvation thing. It’s over. I don’t have to pray another salvation prayer or be scared that something I did is going to shut the doors of Heaven on my face. Our problem is that we don’t fully understand what Jesus did for us, and as a result, we’re gazing at our navels and not seeing perfect performances in good works in ourselves, so we don’t feel worthy to come before the throne. Hey, if God declares you worthy, who am I to argue?

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  7. R. J., I used to cringe when I had to give my testimony–something required when I was looking for a teaching job at a Christian school. Was I saved when I first asked Jesus into my heart? Was I saved when I first got the picture that condemnation was for all who did not believe in Jesus? Was I saved when I apprehended how sinful my pride is and repented anew?

    I now believe I experienced new birth that first time I believed — the one I don’t remember. But that doesn’t bother me any more. How many of us remember our physical birth? And yet we know we were indeed born, because we’re alive! 😀

    I have the same knowledge and assurance about my spiritual birth. What’s more, I can look back and see how God worked to bring me to incremental places of deeper faith and knowledge of what Christ has done for me. In other words, I can see, looking back, how He worked in my life. Call it evidence of the Spirit. That’s what John said would be the indicator of our faith.(“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (I John 4:13).

    Becky

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  8. Hi, Wayne, thanks for your comment. In part you said “But I am still very worried because I doubt myself. I don’t get the spiritual warm fuzzies that many Christians talk about.”

    I can so relate. One of the things that was a hang up for me was that my mom had such a vibrant testimony — of “hearing” Christ say to her, I did this for you.

    I never had such an experience on any of the occasions when I repented. I even went forward in a church service once because I wanted to be sure. Still no inner voice telling me I was saved. No feeling of a weight taken off my shoulders. I didn’t feel any different.

    Somewhere along the line, I learned that feelings don’t matter. The truth is the truth whether or not I feel it to be true.

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, my surety came when I decided to take God at His word. If He said I needed to repent and believe, He certainly knew I’d repented and did believe, so then I was saved. I’ve not questioned that fact since.

    And you know what I discovered? For me, the “fuzzies” came as part of a maturing relationship.

    Like any other relationship, ours with Christ will grow and mature — if we nurture it properly. God tells us in James that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. And that is simply true.

    Another thing I struggled with once I enjoyed a “mountain top experience” with God — I came to my time with Him looking not for Him but for another mountain top experience. It’s another way of saying I wanted the joy of the Lord more than I wanted the Lord. I wanted the experience of His presence more than I wanted His presence.

    He will not be cheated. He wants NO idols before Him, not even the idols of religious experience.

    Becky

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  9. Rebecca you said,

    “I’m at the point where I don’t think anyone can say to anyone else, This is the way it has to be. If I was drawn to Christ as a child because of the promise of spending eternity with Him in Heaven, my salvation is just as valid as the person who is drawn to Christ first by a realization of his wickedness and need for forgiveness.”

    What could you have possibly been saved from as a child if you just wanted to go to heaven because you thought it would be neat to go to heaven with God? That’s not salvation. Salvation is from sin, from our own wickedness.

    I’m not saying that a person who turns to Christ for salvation doesn’t do so in part because they want to go to heaven and not go to hell. Of course that’s part of it. What I am saying is that, if that is your driving motivation, your foundational motivation, then that is not repentance from sins and that is not truly looking to Christ to save you from sin.

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  10. This conversation reminds me of the Chris Rice song “Smell the Color 9,” which is still a personal favorite because of how it addresses this very issue in the lyrics:

    Now I’ve never felt the presence,
    But I know You’re always near,
    And I’ve never heard the calling,
    But somehow You’ve led me right here,
    So I’m not lookin’ for burnin’ bushes,
    Or some Divine graffiti to appear,
    I’m just beggin You for Your wisdom,
    And I believe You’re puttin’ some here.

    I too believed in Jesus before I can even remember. I have no real earth-shattering testimony, no exact date to name as the moment Jesus came into my heart. I remember when I was baptized, and I can name specific points in my life when I drew closer to God, but I can’t tell you the exact moment that my life changed. That fact used to bother me when I was young (for similar reasons to what that Becky mentions), but I fortunately had parents who didn’t belabor the point and instead taught thatit was more important to develop our current relationship with Christ rather than stress over when and how it got started.

    The example in Scriptue I always go back to is the thief on the cross who entered into paradise. When we look at his salvation, it was in some ways very shallow: he didn’t say a specific prayer, he didn’t spend a lot of time studying theology, he didn’t even “ask” for it in any formal sense. He simply acknowledged Christ’s sinless, godly nature in contrast to his own, and begged for mercy. According to Jesus (the ultimate authority), this man was then saved. We can argue over the thief’s motivations and beliefs the same as we can quibble over those of professing Christians of the present, but ultimately, I believe salvation is a personal relevatory experience between an invidiual and God.

    Hey, if Lot can make it into the Hebrews hall of faith, there’s hope for anyone.

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  11. Thomas, my point is that God meets us at our point of understanding. As a child I understood heaven a lot more than I did my own personal sin. I was an obedient child, at least in my own eyes, went to church regularly. But I accepted what I was told that I needed Jesus’s forgiveness to go to heaven.

    As I mentioned in my post, my understanding that I personally had sin was something I grappled with a few years later. That I grappled with it is something I see now as the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

    And here’s another point, more important than my own personal experience — if, as you and the preachers I was referring to are right and repentance is the thing that reveals true belief, then why didn’t Scripture say at every turn, Repent? It does in places but in others simply says, Believe.

    I think some of this teaching is teetering dangerously toward a works kind of theology — an ironic fact since it seems to stem in part from a desire to counter the “pray a prayer” works theology of “easy believe-ism.”

    Please understand. I believe repentance for sin is a vital part of what it means to be a Christian. I know now more fully how offensive my sin is to God and what Christ’s sacrifice has done to release me from its bondage. If I was still looking at salvation merely as a “fire escape,” my lack of growth would indicate that my conversion was false, not the fact that God drew me to Himself first with His promise of Heaven. But I haven’t stayed there. God has brought growth in my life, and as I look back, I have no reason to doubt that God initiated new birth in my life when I first turned to Him.

    Becky

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  12. Michelle, I’m glad you shared your experience, too. I’ve wondered before if we who were raised in Christian homes don’t have unique issues to deal — one being this fundamental point.

    You said “salvation is a personal relevatory experience between an invidiual and God.” I agree as long as we’re talking within the context of Scripture — that we are to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). In other words, there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12.

    Becky

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  13. “And here’s another point, more important than my own personal experience — if, as you and the preachers I was referring to are right and repentance is the thing that reveals true belief, then why didn’t Scripture say at every turn, Repent? It does in places but in others simply says, Believe.”

    That’s an excellent point, Becky, and it illustrates a huge misunderstanding Christians have about the word “repent.” The word “repent” in the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word metanoia, which means a change of one’s mind. When someone is telling you to repent, they’re telling you to change your mind about something. The word “repent” actually has nothing to do with sin, and you won’t even find the phrase “repent of your sins” in the NT. What’s at stake is the object of your repentance-what do you change your mind about. In Acts, Peter was telling the crowd to repent and believe, but he didn’t say repent of their sins. He was telling them that the Jesus they crucified was Lord and Savior, and then he told them to repent-change their minds-and believe. In this context, repenting is changing their mind about who Jesus is. That’s why they can now believe. The reason why some salvation passages mention belief but not repentance is because it’s implied. To believe, you must repent. It’s the logical order.

    We should repent of our sins, but that kind of repentance is not mandatory to receive Christ. In fact, the word “repent” is barely used in the NT in conjunction with sins. Certainly Christians are exhorted to change their minds about all kinds of vices. Paul frequently wrote to churches to instruct them on putting off bad deeds that they had while they were unsaved. But this concept that you have to “repent of your sins” to become a Christian is every bit as mythical as the sinner’s prayer. It’s “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” not “believe and be sorry for your sins” or “believe and vow not to sin any more.”

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  14. Rebecca,
    Thank you for your blog. I have just started one and have included a story i wrote. I would be honored if you experienced people would read about a man’s unique experience with our Savior. Dont get me wrong, this is not self-promotion. Gloryteller.wordpress.com.
    May God richly bless you and your other readers.
    Len

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  15. Wow. In all seriousness, do you guys even read your Bibles?

    Yes, I can assure you I am fully aware that repentance means a change of one’s mind. I find it quite funny that you think change of mind, whatever it means, surely doesn’t mean a change of mind about one’s sins.

    Earlier Rebecca Miller said:

    “And here’s another point, more important than my own personal experience — if, as you and the preachers I was referring to are right and repentance is the thing that reveals true belief, then why didn’t Scripture say at every turn, Repent? It does in places but in others simply says, Believe.”

    It does say at every turn to repent. Jesus’ very message was to repent and flee the wrath to come!

    Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heave is at hand.’

    Again, in Matthew 9:13 Jesus says that He came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance. This is the very reason Jesus came. If you miss this, you miss Christ.

    And how about Mattew 11:20-24? Jesus pronounces woe on the unrepentant cities, and says,

    “20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be[d] brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

    You must repent, turn from your sins, in order to be saved. Yes it is a change of mind, it is a change of mind about your own sinfulness! Jesus said to “repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). I don’t think Jesus was being redundant, do you? He wasn’t saying, “believe, and the believe the gospel!”

    This one here should settle it, but I think some people just want an easy-believism. But, the Scripture is clear, there is no excuse. Notice in Matthew 12:41 Jesus says to the Pharisees “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

    Ok, the question is, what does this “repentance” of the men of Nineveh look like? Well, it is pretty clear what it looks like in Jonah.

    Jonah 1:1-2 ” 1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

    Jonah disobeyed, got swalled by the fish, spit back out, and then we see in Jonah 3 God says,

    “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey[a]in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
    The People of Nineveh Believe

    5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

    Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

    10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

    So God relented BECAUSE THEY TURNED FROM THEIR EVIL WAY. And what does Jesus call this in Matthew 12:41? Repentance. He calls it repentance.

    What about Matthew 17, where Jesus says that if you do not deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him, that you will lose your soul?

    Jesus preached repentance for remission of sins. Luke 13:3 says “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    And it is clear what we are to preach, it is not “just believe the facts that Jesus died on a cross for sinners.” That does nothing for you. Even the devil believes this. Jesus says in Luke 24:46-47

    “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginnign at Jerusalem.”

    And just in case some of you are hyper-dispensationalists or something like that and think now that Christ died we no longer have to repent, Paul and Peter and Acts preach repentance just as loudly as Christ did. I went through and highlighted nearly every verse in Acts that I could find where repentance is commanded, and its prevalent. I still find verses that I miss sometimes. I will just share a few.

    Acts 2:37-38 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the resot of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Now it is true, belief implies repentance, and repentance implies belief. That’s why you don’t always see them together, though you DO seem them together sometimes which shows that they are NOT the same thing. For instance, we just saw in Acts 2 that you must repent to receive forgiveness of sins, and then we see in Acts 10:43 that

    “whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”
    So yes, we must repent, AND believe. Its not pick which one you want to do, and they do not mean the same thing. Remember Mark 1:15, Jesus went around preaching, “repent, AND believe the gospel.” Not repent OR believe the gospel, and not repent, which means to believe the gospel.
    Paul makes it clear that repentance is directional. It is not, as Hebrews 6:1 points out, trusting in our own works or ability to live for God, in fact Hebrews 6:1 teaches us that repentance is from our works themselves! Repentance is directed Godward, and faith is directed toward our Lord Jesus Christ , according to Acts 20:21. And notice this is what Paul was preaching to everyone, this WAS his message.
    Finally, Paul explains what his message was, which was given to him by Jesus Christ in Acts 26:16-18, which was to open the eyes of both Jew and Gentile, “in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”
    And Paul then says in the next verse to King Agrippa:
    “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”

    In order to turn TO God you first must repent, which would be turning from your self, your own sinfulness. And to do works befitting repentance means to simply bear fruit in keeping with repentance as Jesus says in Matthew 3:8 to the Pharisees. In light of this, what Jason said makes no sense regarding repentance, for if repentance just means to “change their mind about who Jesus is” then how do you bear fruit/do works befitting with this kind of repentance? Certainly we must change our mind about who Jesus is, but that is not all that must be done in order to be saved. Most people believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins, but that belief in historical fact does not save them, for they have not yet repented and put their faith in Christ for salvation.
    This is already very long, but I know what you are saying Rebecca when you say that repentance can become a work-righteous salvation. You are right, but that is because you do not understand what I mean by repentance, and because many people today who do preach repentance preach it wrongly. We cannot repent unless God gives us the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26). And we cannot produce/create saving faith unless God first regenerates us and gives us faith as a gift (Ephesians 2:1-10, esp. v. 8-9). So faith and repentance are not works, they are not a change of heart that we create, they are in fact a change of heart that God creates through regeneration. Yes, I believe Scripute is quite clear that regeneration precedes faith and repentance. It must, for as Romans 3 says, no one is righteous, no one does good, no one seeks God, and we are dead in our sins. A dead man can do nothing.
    So, faith and repentance aren’t works, and they certainly are not trusting in your own ability to live for Christ. Making a decision to “live for Jesus” is not repentance. Making a “commitment to live for Christ in order to be saved” IS a works salvation and is NOT repentance. Repentance is a change of mind, a giving up of trying to earn God’s grace, and simply turning to and trusting in Christ to save you from your own sinfulness, from your own inability to do good. You look to Christ in true faith and repentance to be strengthened and enabled by the Holy Spirit to love God and live righteously. This is true faith and repentance. But until a person recognizes their slavery to sin and that they must repent, turn to Christ in order to be saved from slavery to sin, they have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.

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  16. Thomas, I’m having a hard time responding to you for a couple reasons. Your opening line is unjustified for one. For another you apparently have chosen to ignore a good part of what I’ve said.

    I agree with you that we are slaves to sin, that God calls us to repentance. All I’m saying is, I came to God with the faith of a little child. Oh, and it seems that’s what Jesus seems to say to the adults He was teaching. 😀

    You talked earlier about motives for coming to Christ, that wanting life with Him for eternity wasn’t enough. I’m sorry you can’t see that God’s regeneration can draw people through His promise of eternal life just as much as it can through freedom from the shackles of sin.

    Thomas, you are limiting God by saying “But until a person recognizes their slavery to sin and that they must repent, turn to Christ in order to be saved from slavery to sin, they have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.” You are requiring a certain “proper” way of coming to Christ, the very thing that the “easy believe-ism” people do. Theirs is a prayer, yours is also apparently a prayer. They say I believe in Jesus, you say I believe I’ve sinned. Both can be works and both can be lies. What indicates that the birds of the air haven’t snatched away the seed from rocky ground is what happens next.

    And please, don’t reword things I’ve said. I never talked about salvation as a commitment to “life for Christ.” Those are your words in your earlier comment and again in this last one.

    Salvation has nothing to do with what I am doing apart from believing that Christ’s shed blood is efficacious for the remission of sin and that I, a sinner, need what He provides.

    I don’t have to conjure up some kind of pure motive or have the right desire to be freed from the shackles of my sin. I may not even understand how serious my sin is. In fact, the longer I walk with Christ, the MORE I understand how egregious my sin is. But if I’d had to wait until I got it, I never would have. That’s something the Holy Spirit teaches. He doesn’t teach it all in that moment before new birth, just as you didn’t physically come into the world a grown man.

    Why is this even a discussion?

    I am mystified why you and others like you find simple faith in Christ to be heretical.

    Becky

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  17. “Yes, I can assure you I am fully aware that repentance means a change of one’s mind. I find it quite funny that you think change of mind, whatever it means, surely doesn’t mean a change of mind about one’s sins.”

    No one said that. What I said was the word “repentance” inherently has nothing to do with sin. You have to join it specifically to sin to make it about changing your mind about sin. In many places in the NT, the object of repentance is not sin.

    “Again, in Matthew 9:13 Jesus says that He came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance. This is the very reason Jesus came. If you miss this, you miss Christ.”

    No one’s disputing that. That’s simply describing every human being who’s ever lived. As Jesus himself showed in a parable, the man who thinks himself righteous and does not cry out for mercy is not justified. The question, though, is how much you must recognize about your sinfulness in order to believe in Jesus. How, for example, does a young child approach Jesus? Are they supposed to confess their sins and repent of them, considering they may not even know or understand the concept of sin? How complicated should this be? I submit that it’s not meant to be complicated at all.

    “You must repent, turn from your sins, in order to be saved. Yes it is a change of mind, it is a change of mind about your own sinfulness! Jesus said to “repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). I don’t think Jesus was being redundant, do you? He wasn’t saying, “believe, and the believe the gospel!””

    As I’ve already established, repent means to change one’s mind, so Jesus would be saying, “change your mind, and believe the gospel.” You can’t believe unless you’ve changed your mind about the Gospel and chosen to believe it’s true. That goes for your examples in Acts. When Peter was speaking to the crowd, he was telling them to change their minds about Jesus, not sin.

    “Ok, the question is, what does this “repentance” of the men of Nineveh look like? Well, it is pretty clear what it looks like in Jonah.”

    You’re taking this out of context. Jesus was drawing a comparison of Israel of that day to Nineveh in order to warn them of a specific judgment. Both communities were wicked, but why was Nineveh spared? Because they “believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” It was their faith that drove them to change their ways and be spared, and Jesus in invoking that instance to warn the Jews of that day of a similar, physical judgment if they reject him as Messiah. Remember when he wept over Jerusalem? Or when he prophesized that not one brick of the temple would be left? Jesus was looking to the future judgment of Jerusalem by the hand of the Romans in 70 A.D. This is not referring to an individual’s repentance of his sins.

    “What about Matthew 17, where Jesus says that if you do not deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him, that you will lose your soul?”

    Actually, it’s Matthew 16, but close enough. 🙂 Again, context matters. Jesus is talking to his disciples about his coming death, which greatly upset Peter and Jesus had to rebuke him. That’s when he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus is referring to the possibility of being put to death for following him in that time period. There is nothing at all here about turning from sins. He’s preparing his disciples for what that can expect as far as physical persecution.

    “In order to turn TO God you first must repent, which would be turning from your self, your own sinfulness. And to do works befitting repentance means to simply bear fruit in keeping with repentance as Jesus says in Matthew 3:8 to the Pharisees. In light of this, what Jason said makes no sense regarding repentance, for if repentance just means to “change their mind about who Jesus is” then how do you bear fruit/do works befitting with this kind of repentance?”

    Because if I change my mind about Jesus and recognize that he’s Lord and Savior, then I’m now abiding in him and able to tap into the promises made to the believer. Here’s what Jesus had to say about producing fruit: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Faith is important because of the object we’re putting our faith in. We’re putting our faith not in a sterile, dead force that does nothing for you, but in a dynamic, energetic God who gives grace to those who believe in him for the work of the kingdom. That grace does include moving in you and convicting you of any sin you may have in your life, but that’s not what saves you. Faith saves you apart from works, but right believing can produce right behavior.

    Now, let me address this question of not repenting of sin. You can believe in Christ and be saved, but if you do not change your mind about your lifestyle choices or about certain sins in your life, those sins can turn around and choke your faith until you deny the one that bought you. Paul said that Hymenaeus and Alexander shipwrecked their faith and became blasphemers (1 Timothy 1:20). “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Peter warned that false teachers would “secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” and warned “if they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” Sin can overcome the believer and cause him to no longer believe in Jesus for his salvation, and in turn he’s worse off than he was before.

    It’s the grace of God that educates and matures a believer to give up sin and live righteously, but it is not necessary to turn from all sin to receive Jesus. It’s that simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!”

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  18. I’m often torn by this. I do believe in Lordship Salvation (i.e. The Lord is the Lord over my life), but at the same time I know that the first step is repenting and asking Christ into your heart. It’s that first step that brings you on a journey that doesn’t end until you meet Him in Heaven. Thanks for pointing out that scripture. It’s a continual growth process, but if Christ isn’t really in your heart and it was just an emotional response, the newness will wear off like any crush. I don’t think it’s an accident that the Bible talks about Christ being the groom and us being the bridegroom.

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  19. Jason, thank you for giving Thomas’s comment such a thorough and Biblical answer. As I was reading, one more thing came to mind — that the people John the Baptist preached to, repented, but that was not sufficient for salvation.

    The issue came up later when Apollos was teaching:

    And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

    Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
    – Act 19:3-5

    Clearly, the people had repented of their sins, but they had not believed in Jesus — that is, they had not recognized that He was the Promised One.

    More complex is this passage:

    Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John
    – Act 18:24-25

    The baptism of John, as Mark explains, was the baptism of repentance of sins:

    John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
    – Mark 1:4

    Consequently, it seems there was something more that people needed to believe, not just that they were sinners and that they needed to turn from their sin. They needed to believe in Jesus, that He was the One sent from God, the promised Messiah, and that BY JESUS a person’s sins are forgiven.

    Again, as I see it, Thomas’s emphasis is on our sin and our need to repent of it, more than in believing in who Jesus is and what He’s done.

    A child’s faith trusts that what a parent says is true, even if he doesn’t see it or understand it for himself. Consequently, when Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Luke 18:17), He was pointing to the dependent nature of coming to God, but also to the trust we need, to believe that what God says is true — about our sin nature, about our need for a Savior, about who Jesus is, about Christ’s work on our behalf.

    We do NOT need to understand each and every one of our sins or lay them at His altar one by one in order to be saved. How can we? In our sinful state, we don’t understand how offensive our sins are to God. We may not even know, as I did not, that our attitudes or actions might be sins. That’s because we can’t know how pure and holy God is (nor can we accurately apprehend that even now) and consequently how far short we fall of His perfect standard.

    I believe dealing with sins as opposed to our sin nature is the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

    As I said to a friend, my repentance as a child was for being a sinner, something I took on faith to be true. After all, I was a human, sans any work on my part. I was a girl, not because I chose to be. Hence, I was a sinner because I was born that way. I trusted those who told me this was so. I also trusted that, as they said, Jesus loved me and died for me to wash away my sin so that I could have everlasting life.

    I don’t know why we have to make salvation more complicated than that.

    Clearly, if we do indeed believe in Jesus, then we’ve met Him and are beginning a relationship with Him. Learning to know Him and follow Him and obey Him and serve Him and love Him and suffer for Him are all part of the sanctifying process.

    Becky

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  20. Rebecca said,

    “Consequently, it seems there was something more that people needed to believe, not just that they were sinners and that they needed to turn from their sin. They needed to believe in Jesus, that He was the One sent from God, the promised Messiah, and that BY JESUS a person’s sins are forgiven.

    Again, as I see it, Thomas’s emphasis is on our sin and our need to repent of it, more than in believing in who Jesus is and what He’s done.”

    No I am not trying to raise the need to repent above the need to have faith in Christ, what I am saying is that both are needed. You however, at least initially, seemed to be saying that we do not need to repent, but just “believe” in Christ.

    But then you said,

    “A child’s faith trusts that what a parent says is true, even if he doesn’t see it or understand it for himself. Consequently, when Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Luke 18:17), He was pointing to the dependent nature of coming to God, but also to the trust we need, to believe that what God says is true — about our sin nature, about our need for a Savior, about who Jesus is, about Christ’s work on our behalf.

    We do NOT need to understand each and every one of our sins or lay them at His altar one by one in order to be saved. How can we? In our sinful state, we don’t understand how offensive our sins are to God. We may not even know, as I did not, that our attitudes or actions might be sins. That’s because we can’t know how pure and holy God is (nor can we accurately apprehend that even now) and consequently how far short we fall of His perfect standard.”

    I agree with all of that. I do not know why you think me saying that you must repent would negate what you say here. Of course when I was saved at four I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be a sinner, not even close. I probably did not realize that my attitudes or motives themselves could be sinful, but I did have an understanding that at root I was a sinner, wicked, and had offended God, and in order to be saved I needed a Savior, who was Jesus Christ, and that faith in Him would save me from my sins. All I am saying is that whenever a person is saved, they are looking to Christ in faith to be saved from their own sinfulness, their own wickedness, even if they do not fully understand how deep and how wretched their sinfulness really is. Of course, the more we grow as Christians the more we see just how sinful we are and how at the most fundamental level, our very heart motives, we are fallen and utterly depraved. I am not disputing this. What I am vehemently disputing is that a child, an adult, or anyone can truly be saved from their sins without having a change of mind about their own sinfulness (repenting) in such a way that they now see themselves as sinners, and are trusting in what Christ did on the cross to save them from their own sinfulness. If you are not looking to Christ as Savior from your own sinfulness, you are not trusting, or “believing” in Christ as Savior at all, because He saves from sin. What else did He save us from? It makes no sense to say that you do not have to repent, you just have to “ask Jesus into your heart” in order to be saved. What does that even mean? Its certainly not biblical- you will not find that in Scripture anywhere.

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  21. I am not going to address everything you said Jason, but I do want to address your last paragraph first. you said:

    //It’s the grace of God that educates and matures a believer to give up sin and live righteously, but it is not necessary to turn from all sin to receive Jesus. It’s that simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!”//

    It would seem from what you have said that you believe a person can lose their salvation, lose their faith in Christ. Scripture says that God is the author and finisher of our faith, and that He loses none whom the Father has given Him. If God elects us, we are saved,we will persevere. He who began a good work in us will finish it. Those who fall away from the faith, as Paul says, shows that they never were of the faith. They never truly repented and believed the gospel for salvation.

    Not necessary to turn from all sin in order to be saved? I do not know what you mean by this. Obviously a person may not fully understand everything that is sinful. We still debate even as Christians on certain things that may or may not be sinful. If that is all you mean I agree, but to say that we can KNOW that certain things are sinful, tell God we will not turn from that, tell God that we still want that AND want salvation from the very sins that we refuse to turn from, that is unbiblical. You are not wanting Christ to save you if you still want a particular sin. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. A regenerate heart hates sin and wants God to cleanse Him from it all, even the sins that he or she is not aware of. When I was saved at four, although I didn’t know what every single sin was or even how deeply depraved I was, I did know that I wanted God to save me from sin itself. Whatever sin was, I wanted God to save me from it and forgive me for my sins. Anyone who wants to keep certain sins yet be forgiven is not a Christian.

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  22. Oh I didn’t see where you said I was limiting Jesus Rebecca lol. So you said Jesus is the only way for salvation? Why, how narrowminded and God-limiting of you 😀

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  23. “It would seem from what you have said that you believe a person can lose their salvation, lose their faith in Christ. Scripture says that God is the author and finisher of our faith, and that He loses none whom the Father has given Him. If God elects us, we are saved,we will persevere. He who began a good work in us will finish it. Those who fall away from the faith, as Paul says, shows that they never were of the faith. They never truly repented and believed the gospel for salvation.”

    It’s probably obvious by now that I don’t hold Calvinistic beliefs, which includes the “Perseverance of the Saints.” 🙂 Yes, I’d say that a person that believes in Christ but then decides to become a Buddhist, a Muslim, a New Ager, a Scientologist, etc, can lose his salvation and end up in Hell.

    “Not necessary to turn from all sin in order to be saved? I do not know what you mean by this. Obviously a person may not fully understand everything that is sinful. We still debate even as Christians on certain things that may or may not be sinful. If that is all you mean I agree, but to say that we can KNOW that certain things are sinful, tell God we will not turn from that, tell God that we still want that AND want salvation from the very sins that we refuse to turn from, that is unbiblical.”

    I am saying the sine qua non for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. It is defined solely by that. Yes, it is important to know that he is the son of God, that he is God, that is the Savior, and that he saves us from our sins. The way you go about taking hold of that, however, can vary from person to person. Many children, who do not fully understand sin, will believe, but they won’t make detailed repentances of specific sins. Many teens and adults, however, who have a more developed sense of right and wrong, will be intensely convicted by the moral law and will come to Jesus at the same time repenting of their sins. As Paul said, the law is intended to be our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. But not everyone will have received the law in as complete a form as it is in the Bible, so people may believe while having a more limited understanding of sin.

    “but to say that we can KNOW that certain things are sinful, tell God we will not turn from that, tell God that we still want that AND want salvation from the very sins that we refuse to turn from, that is unbiblical.” First, if you intend to mouth off to God that you plan to keep a lifestyle that you absolutely know to be wrong, then it is highly unlikely that that person has very warm feelings toward Jesus in the first place. People who practice openly sinful lifestyles generally hate Jesus or hold so many heretical beliefs that they cannot be called Christian. I am, however, saying that a person may put off a final decision about certain sins in their life and receive Christ, and later be convicted or be empowered by the Holy Spirit to give them up. I’ve heard several people testify that they remained smokers even after they got saved, and not too long after, they gave up cigarettes.

    I’ve partially answered this question already when I said that believers who do not change their minds about sins are in great danger of having their faith choked out. So if all else fails and they believe but shun discipleship or conviction, they are in danger of being judged with the world. Paul said as much when he found that believers at Corinth were getting drunk at the Lord ’s Supper and making spectacles of themselves at what should be a holy observance. “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.” The discipline of God against sinful behavior in the believer will keep his faith strong so he does not ultimately re-enter the corrupt world he had previously left.

    Repenting of sin is important, but its time and place is variable. Better that it be sooner rather than later.

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  24. It makes no sense to say that you do not have to repent, you just have to “ask Jesus into your heart” in order to be saved. What does that even mean? Its certainly not biblical- you will not find that in Scripture anywhere.

    Thomas, if I gave you the impression that I don’t believe we have to repent of our sins, I’m sorry. That’s not what I believe and I don’t think that’s what I said.

    Here’s the part of my post that deals with “asking Jesus into your heart”:

    The truth is, though, I became a Christian by asking Jesus into my heart.

    I was young, a small child. I don’t remember the specific time I first prayed to receive Christ (yes, first — I’ll get to that in a bit), but I do remember asking a Sunday school teacher how Jesus, pictured as a man on a flannel graph, could fit into my heart.

    Chuckle if you must, but I think that’s a good question. It’s not normal to invite a person “into your heart.” Anyone who does so without understanding what he’s doing, very well might not actually be doing it.

    That poor, dear, wonderful teacher did her best to explain that it wasn’t Jesus’s body that would come live inside me but His Spirit. So, I wondered, why don’t we say we’re accepting the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think I actually asked that question, possibly because the teacher explained that it was Jesus who died for me, Jesus who paid for my sins.

    Here’s the part of your comment that I was countering in my last comment:

    But until a person recognizes their slavery to sin and that they must repent, turn to Christ in order to be saved from slavery to sin, they have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.

    I simply did not have that clear understanding.

    But it seems you agree that we don’t have — actually <b<can't have a mature understanding of our sin. I simply took it on faith that yes, I was a sinner, and that yes, Jesus died for my sin, and that yes, the only way I would have eternal life would be if I accepted what He did on my behalf, allowing His Spirit to live in me.

    But like I said, why are we having this discussion, as if we are in disagreement?

    Becky

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  25. //I’ve heard several people testify that they remained smokers even after they got saved, and not too long after, they gave up cigarettes.//

    Smoking is a sin? Who knew. I do not understand how you can believe that we can lose our salvation or lose our faith given what Scripture teaches, but I doubt I am going to change your mind. Faith itself is a gift of God, He makes us willing to believe by His grace, I know you probably do not believe this but I think Scripture is quite clear on this. Otherwise, at some level salvation is a work. If we create the desire to place our faith in Christ, even if, as you seem to make it out to be, not even repenting of all our sins, its still some sort of “righteous” and “good” desire, yet Romans 3 says none are righteous, none does good, and none seeks God. Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws Him.

    Rebecca,

    I am not sure how you are defining repentance. I did not know when I was a child that I was a “slave” to sin either, not by that word at least. What I did know, however, is that I could not do anything to save myself, and I needed the Holy Spirit to convict me of sin, that I needed God’s grace in order to be saved and to live for Him. I think a person must realize at least that much, that they contribute nothing to their salvation and that it is God Himself who works in us and gives us a conviction against our sins. If we do not understand this, we will be coming to Christ thinking we can, or should, contribute to our salvation in some way, shape, or form, rather than simply crying out to God for Him to save us and change us.

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  26. Thomas, the point of my post was that we may use different words to mean the same thing. I believe what you have said in every one of your comments, but because I came to Christ using a set of words that you have determined mean something other than what they mean to me based on how they were explained, you continue to debate this issue.

    This is what I mean by your limiting God. You have given Him only one set of words to use in His process of drawing people to Himself. I’m here to say, He drew me using the term you so denigrate — I accepted Jesus into my heart.

    In addition, I did so because I wanted the hope of heaven. I understood clearly that I would not go to heaven unless I accepted Jesus. What did that mean to me as a 3 or 4 year old? I’ve tried to reconstruct as best I can, but it’s hard to filter out what I know now. I remember clearly questioning the whole idea of this miniature man living in my heart. I don’t remember as clearly all the teacher said in explanation.

    But I believe I would have asked questions about being a slave to sin, too, if that’s what someone had told me. I would have had no clearer idea of what that meant than of Jesus living in my heart.

    Becky

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  27. And all I am saying is that unless you turned to Christ to be saved from your sins as a child, you were not saved then. Scripture is clear that we are saved when we trust in Christ as Savior. And Christ saves from sin. If you were not trusting in Christ in some sense at some level to save you from your own sinfulness, then you were not trusting in Christ as Savior. I am not saying it is bad or wrong to want to go to heaven, what I am saying is that, if as a child you just wanted to go to heaven and not hell and had no idea that you were a sinner and that Christ saved from sin, then you were not trusting in Christ and had not heard the gospel.

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  28. If by “accept Jesus into your heart” you mean that you “asked Christ to save you from your sins” then great, but most people, the way they use “accept Jesus into your heart” today, does not mean this. It just means that you are asking God to be in you, in some sort of way, and normally that you are going to do your best to live for Him, and this combination somehow saves you. This is why it is best to stick to biblical terminology, such as repent and believe the gospel, when it comes to things like this, because it can cause confusion.

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