Evangelicals & Salvific Repentance

Let there be no mistake. The Bible explicitly reveals if someone confesses their sin that God is faithful and just to not only forgive the transgression but God is able and does cleanse the confessor from all unrighteousness (1 John1:9). This is an indeed a glorious and one of the few absolute promises in all of the Holy Writ. Yet, the implicit nature of this promise is contingent upon the confession being genuine and heartfelt. We know this to be true because of John the Baptist’s pronouncement when he admonished the Pharisees that their repentance needed to bear fruits (Matthew 3:8). If it did not (bear fruits worthy of repentance) then the professed confession would have no benefit accrued to the confessor. Very recently disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has been back in the news. Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping by the International Cycling Union in 2012, told NBC Sports he “wouldn’t change a thing” about the doping that helped spearhead a historic run and made him the face of cycling and a movement fighting cancer. Armstrong told NBC Sports, “We [Armstrong cyclist team] did what we had to do to win. It wasn’t legal, but I wouldn’t change a thing — whether it’s losing a bunch of money, going from hero to zero,” Armstrong explained as part of a 30-minute special tabbed “Lance Armstrong: Next Stage,” slated to air on NBC Sports Network on May 29. Armstrong appeared on a national broadcast with Oprah Winfrey on January 13, 2013 (broadcast later in two parts) where he admitted for the first time publicly he had indeed taken performance enhancing drugs while winning seven Tour wins. Fast forward to the present and Armstrong recently revealed in an article with USA Today (May 24, 2019) that he’s not living in a world of regret surrounding his doping history. One of the basic questions that confronts mankind is, “What do we do with our guilt?” We can attempt to ignore it or suppress it but we do so to no avail. Ask a person in an honest moment of reflection and each of us readily admits there is something nagging at our conscience. Every human accepts the adage “To err is human.” Every rationale person acknowledges they are not perfect. The only problem with this acknowledgement is the God of the Bible reveals Himself to be someone who demands 100% fidelity to be in relationship with Him. Two essential tenets of authentic Evangelicalism are the utter holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of man. I cannot emphasize the extreme nature of both of these propositions. God is not mildly concerned with righteousness. He is not mildly displeased taking a “boys will boys” view toward sin. God is so holy He cannot, even for one nanosecond, abide in the presence of sin. He is so holy He cannot even look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Man’s containment with sin does not render him spiritually injured or sick. It leaves him spiritually dead and morally bankrupt. If unredeemed sinners are to ever begin to appreciate the necessity of the Gospel it will only take place if they understand the ”bad news” that confronts them. Even now, the wrath of God presides over every unredeemed sinner who does not presently possess a covenantal relationship with God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (John 3:36). This covenantal relationship is only activated upon repentance. We have to acknowledge our sin. We have to agree with God when He pronounces us as sinners. We have to acknowledge Jesus Christ came into the world to become the second Adam and secure the right to serve as our substitute. We have to acknowledge we believe by faith that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). If there is no genuine repentance then there is no genuine regeneration. If there is no genuine regeneration there is no genuine faith. If there is no genuine faith there is no genuine justification. If there is no genuine justification then there can no genuine sanctification. If there is no genuine sanctification then there can be no genuine glorification. Without any of the component pieces, in this precise order, there is no salvation. Yet, all of this reality is first contingent upon repentance. This is a more detailed Ordo salutis (Latin: “order of salvation”). There are other components that I did not include like calling and predestinated as they are exclusively in the domain of God’s actions. The components I have included are actions, while empowered by God, are still actions humans have to perform. God does not believe for me. He grants me the ability to believe but I actually demonstrate “faith.” I actually believe in my heart and confess with my mouth (Romans 10:9). But, remember none of this is possible if it does not begin with repentance. For the Evangelical repentance is not a static, fixed one-time event. It is a fluid, ever present necessity to maintaining a thriving, vibrant relationship with God. Initial repentance makes justification possible with God while ongoing repentance allows the Evangelical to grow in Christlikeness (sanctification). After first looking inward and acknowledging my own sinfulness and repenting I look outward and call all fellow Evangelicals to ask God’s help to search themselves and reveal where they are falling short of God’s Word. Yet, even more pressing I call all unredeemed sinners to deal decisively TODAY with their sin problem. You can do so by acknowledging you are a sinner who has transgressed God’s righteous demands for absolute holiness. You can claim, by faith, God’s only begotten Son’s atoning work on Calvary’s cross as your substitute. I beseech you to do so today, for today is the Day of Salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2) for tomorrow is not promised to you or me. I beseech Lance Armstrong and all the Lance Armstrongs of the world to repent of their sin because it is truly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God (Hebrews 10:31). I would love to hear what you think of my blog. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think. If you are blessed by the contents therein please spread the word to those in your sphere of influence. Until the next time keep your hands to the plow and continue seeking to serve for an Audience of One!
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