How Often Do You Have to Repent in Order to Be Sure?

679216_w185As a follow up to my review of J.D. Greear’s book, I would like to share with you a question that one of my church members asked on my Facebook account the other day.  Greear wrote, “Great “recipe” for reflection here! I’ve read it three times and will probably read it again before this day is through! My only question is, how much of the repentent behavior is enough to cross over the line of being assured and not being assured? I guess that what I am asking is, when is the repentent behavior “good enough”? I’m a little unclear on that point!”  I shared the following response with him and he gave me permission to post it here.  I hope this helps:

“That is a great question Keith. The Scripture shows us that “repentance” and “faith” are not one time events but rather the two primary ongoing activities of the Christian life. While they each have a clear and definite beginning point at our conversion, we never really grow past the need to repent and believe. In our lives, the fact that we continue to come to Jesus in repentance and faith provide the evidence that we have truly been converted. Let me show you from the Bible what I mean.

In Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The two words “repent” and “believe” lay out for us the response to the message of the gospel. In the original Greek these words are both in the present tense, indicating that they are not just actions that we take in the past but instead represent ongoing activities. These actions have a definite and clear beginning point, but they continue throughout the lifetime of the believer. In his book, Greear states it this way, “Salvation is a posture of repentance and faith toward the finished work of Christ in which you transfer the weight of your hopes of heaven off of your own righteousness and onto the finished work of Jesus Christ. The way to know you made the decision is by the fact that you are resting in Christ right now… The posture begins at a moment, but it persists for a lifetime.”(p.48)

Greear points out that the Apostle John almost always spoke of faith in terms of an ongoing (present tense) activity. For instance, in John 3:36 he writes, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God remains on him.” One of my favorite instances is in 1 John 5:13 where John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (see also John 9:36-38; 10:27-28) In each of these instances, the Bible is not referring to something that we do only once in our lifetimes but rather to an ongoing posture.

This should not be taken to mean that there is not a moment of salvation or conversion. Greear is careful to point out that the Bible speaks of salvation as occurring in a moment: we are “born again” (John 3:1-3); our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16); Christ;s righteousness is credited to us (Rom 4:5); w are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Col 1:13)…” (p, 44) But he states, “The way that you know you made the decision, however, is not by remembering with absolute clarity the moment you made it, but because you are seated now. Many people know exactly when that point of decision was for them…For others, however, the moment is less clear….Either way, what we are to do now is to maintain the posture of repentance and faith.” (p.44-45) In other words, the evidence or assurance of our salvation is not gained from being able to point to one specific moment in our lives, but rather that we are continuing in a posture of repentance and faith.

Now back to your specific question, “My only question is, how much of the repentent behavior is enough to cross over the line of being assured and not being assured? I guess that what I am asking is, when is the repentent behavior “good enough”?” There is not a formula for measuring out the amount of repentance and faith in a person’s life. Both of these are postures of our hearts. Throughout our lives as Christians we will become aware of certain behaviors or attitudes that are sinful must turn to Christ in repentance and faith. The fact, that we are willing to “repent” and “believe” is the evidence or assurance of our salvation.

I hope this helps. For another helpful review of this book, please see  Tim Challies.

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5 thoughts on “How Often Do You Have to Repent in Order to Be Sure?

  1. Pastor Joe:
    Donna and I have been considering moving our official church membership from Antioch Baptist Church in Rosebud, IL, (about 20 miles north of Metropolis) to First Baptist here in Metropolis. Do we need to meet with you before we come forward during the actual church service and invitation? I am ready to join First Baptist, but Donna is still having difficulty because her father was the pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Rosebud for about twenty years before he passed away in May 2012. I was inquiring about the moving of our membership so that we will know what to do when the time comes.

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