I wrote a blog post in June titled True Biblical Repentance. It was a hard-hitting piece that had quotes by both Henry Ironsides and Charles Spurgeon and was an indictment on what today’s churches tout as the gospel. “Just believe in Jesus,” “Ask Jesus into your heart,” and “Just accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior” are today’s clichés to get saved in our modern evangelical Christian church. None of these are Biblical, none of these address the crux of the issue, and all of these have created a countless number of people who are false converts and have false assurances of salvation.
I received a comment from my writing which is below and I would love to address these comments line-by-line in a follow-up to Biblical Repentance.
It seems as though you are claiming that you have to first rid yourself of sin to receive Christ. I don’t understand how you can do that on your own when it is only through receiving God’s grace that we have any power over sin at all. If what you say here is accurate, then by inference I might assume you believe that Paul is describing his unregenerate self in Romans 7 when he says “the good I desire to do, I do not do, the sin I do not want to do, that I keep on doing.” But if that is the case how is it that Paul would desire to do what is good and right, and yet be spiritually dead? For if he was sinning still, he obviously had not renounced it.
I am missing God’s grace in your view — even though a righteous man falls seven times, he get’s up and tries again. He remembers our frame, that we are but flesh. It’s not an excuse to sin. But if receiving salvation is dependent upon the level of dependence you describe here, in my opinion we’re all doomed.
True Biblical repentance is not a “get yourself clean” campaign or “rid yourselves of sin” endeavor, it is a full turning from sin and abandoning of yourself. You can’t do it on your own and you ultimately have no power over sin. It is a work in your heart done by God. It’s not something we do or a human work. It is something that God does in us, not apart from our will, but it is something God does. (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25) People on their own will not believe the gospel at all since it is foolishness and stumbling blocks and God’s message of grace is spiritually discerned. And yet the Bible calls on us to preach the gospel. In the same way, the Bible calls on us to urge and reason for people to repent of their sins. To turn away from all that they are and all that they love and turn to the One who saves. Unbelievers are currently dead, blind, lost, children of wrath and yet the Holy Spirit works through the gospel proclaimed by people to regenerate people. The gift of God is repentance and faith in which God saves the sinner.
Paul in Romans 7 is not describing an unregenerate person but one who is a Christian. He is in a battle with sin and a battle with the flesh. He is not spiritually dead (or what he was writing would not be Scripture and inspired by the Holy Spirit), but he was spiritually alive. He understood his sinful flesh and understood that he was not made perfect until Heaven. But he was not living in a lifestyle of sin. He did not dive into his sin, but when he fell into sin he repents and confesses that sin to his Savior (not the initial repentance that led to salvation described above) and got back to work in glorifying God.
God’s grace is present in that it is not up to what man does. If it was up to him trying and trying, it would be of works. But God’s grace is the unmerited favor that we do not deserve anything but the wrath of God. Out of His grace, He chose to save us through the preaching of the gospel. He granted us the repentance and faith that justified us before God and Jesus took all of our sins past, present, and future upon His back. And His righteousness was imputed or credited to our account so that we would be in Heaven glorifying Him for all eternity.
Holding onto sin with one hand and Christ with the other does not suffice. As Spurgeon said, it is like a small hole that will take down the whole ship. Repentance must be full and there will be inevitable fruits of that repentance in the Christian life. Regeneration is making what was once dead now alive, what was once blind can now see, what was once lost is now found, what was once a child of wrath is now a child of God. It is a radical change to a new heart with new desires, a new creation. If there is not complete repentance, then one is doomed and not a new creation. But if one completely repents of all of their sin, everything that is hidden below the surface, everything that is self-exalting, every obstacle that separates you and God, and turn to Jesus alone in trust for His saving work on the cross and to thus submit to His Lordship over you, then God is faithful to save. No doom, just beautiful grace.