True Repentance

Michael Lawrence: False Repentance Leads to False Conversions Repenting means exchanging our idols for God. Before it’s a change in behavior, it must be a change in worship. How different that is from how we often think of repentance. Too often we treat repentance as a call to clean up our lives. We do good to make up for the bad. We try to even the scale, or even push it back to the positive side. Sometimes we talk about repentance as if it were a really serious, religious New Year’s resolution: “I’m not going to blow up at my kids anymore.” “I’m not going to look at pornography ever again.” “I’m never going to cheat on my hours at work.” “I’m going to stop talking about my boss behind his back.” False repentance But even if we clean up our behavior in one area or another, our hearts can still be devoted to our idols. The Pharisees illustrate this problem. They

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If All My Sins Are Forgiven, Why Must I Continue to Repent?

Stephen Wellum: It’s an understandable question: If we’re justified by faith and forgiven all our sins—past, present, and future—then why is it necessary to continue seeking forgiveness? Aren’t our sins already forgiven? Both Saint and Sinner  There are at least three biblical truths that must be kept together simultaneously. First, for those who have repented of sin and trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior, God declares them right before him on the basis of Christ’s righteousness and substitutionary death (Rom. 3:21–26; 5:1; 8:1, 30,33–34). As a declarative act of God and not a process by which we are infused with righteousness, justification takes place in the believer once for all time (Rom. 5:12–21; Phil. 3:8–9; 2 Cor. 5:19–21). Although everyone will stand before Christ’s judgment seat and hear the public verdict of whether or not we are in him (2 Cor. 5:10), for believers this end-time verdict has now been brought into the present. We have already crossed from death to

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10 Things You Should Know about Repentance

Sam Storms: Repentance is a massively important spiritual issue that calls for careful study and clear articulation. Here are ten things to remember about what it means to repent of our sin. (1) Genuine repentance begins, but by no means ends, with heartfelt conviction of sin. That is to say, it begins with recognition, which is to say, an eye-opening, heart-rending awareness of having defied God by embracing what he despises and despising, or at minimum, being indifferent towards, what he adores. Repentance, therefore, involves knowing in one’s heart: “This is wrong.” “I have sinned.” “God is grieved.” The antithesis of recognition is rationalization, the pathetic attempt to justify one’s moral laxity by any number of appeals: “I’m a victim! You have no idea what I’ve been through. If you knew how rotten my life has been and how badly people have treated me, you’d give me a little slack.” True repentance, notes J. I. Packer, “only begins when one passes out

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12 Signs of Genuine Repentance

Jared Wilson: I have sinned against you. I have apologized. But how do you know if I mean it? How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance: A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.

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Hyper-Grace and Repentance

Sam Storms: Among the many things often heard by advocates of what I’m calling Hyper-Grace is that too many Christians are focused on repenting of their sins. We are excessively “sin-conscious,” so they say, and should instead turn our attention to the finality and sufficiency of God’s saving grace to us in Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which this is a good and important reminder. Some Christians are excessively sin-conscious and have failed to recognize the glory and peace that come from trusting wholly in what God did through Jesus to remove the guilt and condemnation or our sin. But what they fail to recognize is that it is precisely because of the wonder and majesty of God’s saving mercy in Jesus that we should be sensitive to our sin and quick to repent of it. We do not repent in order to curry God’s favor or to make it possible for us to be reconciled to him.

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Two Often Missed Gospel Essentials

Kevin DeYoung: It’s amazing how often people think they are giving the Christian message or have heard the gospel and yet there is nothing about sin and repentance. The message of the gospel is not simply an invitation to know God’s love or enter his family or to live forever. That is all true. But the call to saving faith must always include a call to repentance. Acts 13:38-39 “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses.” The Law of Moses cannot free you. You cannot go to sleep at night knowing for certain that you are righteous before God based on your observance of the Decalogue. The law cannot set you free of your condemnation, that is why the High Priest had to offer sacrifices year

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What saving faith looked like in Cornelius

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’”  Acts 10:34-35 Ray Ortlund: Peter’s point is not that Cornelius had earned his way into God’s good graces by his own highmindedness or performance.  His point is that Cornelius, the Gentile, did not have to become a Jew to be kosher with God.  As a Gentile in Christ, Cornelius was clean and complete, for God shows no racial or national partiality. But Peter’s words say more.  “Anyone [of any race or nation] who fears God and does what is right” is acceptable to God.  Again, this is not legalism.  This does not displace the life and death of Jesus.  But it is moral sincerity.  It is the mentality that lies at the foundation of gospel faith and repentance.  It is not a moral demand made of God, but it

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How Do You Know When Someone Is Repentant?: 12 Signs

From Jared Wilson: How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance: A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships. (p. 72) These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more. Here are

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Drawing near in 2012

  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8 Great stuff from Ray Ortlund: How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty. One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws

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What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

  Ray Ortlund Writes: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  1 Thessalonians 1:9 You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons.  Our hearts are multi-divided.  There is something like a board room in every heart.  Big table.  Leather chairs.  Coffee.  Bottled water.  Whiteboard.  A committee sits around the table.  There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others.  The committee is arguing and debating and voting.  Constantly agitated and upset.  Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We are like that.  We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities.  The truth is, we are indecisive, held back by small thoughts of Jesus. Such a person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.  One way is to invite him onto the committee.  Give Jesus a vote too.  But then he becomes just one

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“I flee afresh to the Mediator”

“…my obedience is neither the basis for my justification nor the ground of my approach to God as a sinner who has been besmeared by sin, and I flee afresh to the Mediator of the New Covenant. Every exposure of sin in the life of a true believer drives him afresh to his Saviour, and anything that drives him afresh to his Saviour makes his Saviour more precious.” From The Practical Implications of Calvinism By Albert N. Martin (HT: Monergism)

Repenting of Our Good Works

Tim Keller from his book The Prodigal God on the need to repent, not simply of our unrighteousness, but our righteousness also: What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things. It is

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Not Without Jesus

From Anthony Carter at the Gospel Coalition blog: At a recent prayer meeting someone asked the question, “How do people make it in this world without Jesus?” The answer to that question is that they don’t. There is a sentence of death over every one who has not professed faith in Jesus Christ. This sentence is executable at any moment. And the only reason that it is not executed and the sinner is not immediately experiencing the terrible judgment due for sin is because of the grace and mercy of God. Yet, even more is the reality that instead of having the sentence immediately executed, millions of people experience the grace and mercy of sunshine and rain; seed time and harvest. The fact that there is any light or joy in the life of a sinner is owing to God’s desire to show mercy and to be longsuffering. Nevertheless, those who have come into the knowledge of the truth and

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A Great Disturbance: repentance as a way of life

“Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying ‘Repent,’ intended that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Martin Luther, Thesis 1 According to Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VII:160, Luther was attacking the medieval notion of sacramental penitence. That kind of “repentance” could be limited to isolated outward acts, leaving the rest of our lives safe from the mega-upheaval of true repentance. Luther contended that real repentance opens us up to endless personal change, leaving nothing about us untouched. When Luther posted his Theses, he undermined self-reinforcing Christianity, which is no Christianity, and he launched a new era of self-challenging Christianity, which is the power of the gospel. In Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans, he entitles his section on Romans 12-15 “The Great Disturbance.” The whole world needs gospel disturbance. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Spiritual Life & Faith in Jesus

“Spiritual life and faith in Jesus come into being together. The new life makes the faith possible, and since spiritual life always awakens faith and expresses itself in faith, there is no life without faith in Jesus. Therefore, we should never separate the new birth from faith in Jesus. From God’s side, we are united to Christ in the new birth. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. From our side, we experience this union by faith in Jesus.” – John Piper, Finally Alive (Scotland, UK; Christian Focus, 2009), 32. (HT: Of First Importance)

Where is the Call to Repentance? [Where is the Change?]

This is excellent from Peter Mead: So many deeply challenging messages fall short of their intent.  After preaching through a powerful passage, the final few minutes often undermine everything.  All sorts of conviction has been achieved, then at the end all open wounds are smoothed over, rather than following through to excise the growth of ungodly matter in the life of the listener.  The sermonic surgery ends in comfort and the problems persist.  Why? One reason is that too often preachers are too careful to offer balance and comfort too soon.  In effect, the message finishes flat with something along the lines of, “But what if you haven’t lived up to this?  What if you’ve failed in this area?  Well there is grace, God forgives, etc.”  And people go away having felt convicted, but reassured that all is well.  Whether or not all is well, all is back to normal and lives move on relatively unchanged by the encounter with

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Spurgeon on Repentance

“Remember that the man who truly repents is never satisfied with his own repentance. We can no more repent perfectly than we can live perfectly. However pure our tears, there will always be some dirt in them; there will be something to be repented of even in our best repentance. But listen! To repent is to change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God. There is sorrow implied in this; but the main point is the turning of the heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever cast their shadow upon your mind.” C. H. Spurgeon, All Of Grace, page 70. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

3 questions with Tim Keller

By Garrett E. Wishall Tim Keller serves as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, N.Y. Question: What do pastors need to be doing to lead their flock out of idolatry and into Christlikeness? Tim Keller: The subject of idolatry is a lot more nuanced and complex than I could possibly get across in my talk at the Gospel Coalition conference. I made an allusion to the fact that idolatry sometimes is talked about in the Bible under the heading of spiritual adultery. It is also sometimes talked about under the heading of spiritual mastery and slavery. When Paul talks about those who are slaves to sin: all of those categories are actually talking about idolatry. Most preachers feel like “If I’m going to preach about idols, I have to tell people what an idol is.” What they don’t have in mind is: idolatry is at the root of all of our psychological problems, moral problems, cultural issues, our

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Hearts More Deeply Gripped

“At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness. The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him.” – Timothy Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 61. (HT: Of First Importance)