Thursday, July 12, 2012

True Repentance

"Faith decision". "Asking Christ into your heart". "Hearing the four points and praying the sinner's prayer". "Repentance". Call it what you like, but it's a pretty big deal in American Christianity, especially in the evangelical community. And why shouldn't it be? It's when we cross from death to (eternal) life, the beginning of our relationship with God, the impetus for another ecstatic party in heaven! (Luke 15:7) This is the big mission of [Campus] Cru[sade for Christ], which I was fairly involved in during college. Considering this a direct application of the "great commission" in Matthew 28:18-20, they hold numerous outreaches and mission trips during breaks, equipping students and teaching them to share their faith with others. The number of decisions to follow Christ is carefully noted for recordkeeping purposes.

Now don't get me wrong; evangelism really is important and there really is rejoicing in heaven when another of God's lost sheep is found. But I think it is possible to focus too much on the importance of one critical moment and lose sight of the lifelong, difficult journey that follows it. I remember hearing a story from a friend at church camp when I was about twelve or thirteen about when he accepted Jesus and felt chills running up and down his body. There is so much focus on one moment of repentance, but repentance is not just one moment. As Luther put it in his first thesis, "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ...willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance." That decision to follow Jesus you made years ago--was that it? Are you still living by it? Do you need to make it again? The thing about eternal life is that it goes on...forever.

This also gives a glimpse of insight into how our salvation can be God's doing when we freely choose to follow Him. Jesus taught that the mark of true, saving faith is that it lasts until the end (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, &c.). Yes, we can choose Jesus, but it's a choice that we need to keep making every day, every moment. True repentance is not simply a choice we make (or repeatedly make) but becomes a part of who we are, and only God is capable of making this change in us, of making us people of faith (Ephesians 2:8).

This is a preview of a post (or, more likely, series of posts) going over predestination yet again. My notes for this one are about twice as long as this post, so I think it's going to be an adventure.

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