Conversion And Repentance

Transcript May 11


Weekly Bible Study 11TH May 2021 Week 4 Topic: CONVERSION AND REPENTANCE Text: Acts 17: 30 We have previously examined how God Himself through human preaching of the Word issues the gospel call to us and by the work of the Holy Spirit regenerates us, imparting new spiritual life within, we will now examine our response to the gospel call. Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. The word conversion itself means “turning—here it represents a spiritual turn, a turning from sin to Christ. The turning from sin is called repentance and the turning to Christ is called faith. We shall examine saving faith first, and then repentance. A. TRUE SAVİNG FAİTH INCLUDES KNOWLEDGE, APPROVAL, AND PERSONAL TRUST 1. KNOWLEDGE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH. Personal saving faith, in the way Scripture understands it, involves more than mere knowledge. Of course it is necessary that we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14). But knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us is not enough, for people can know facts but rebel against them or dislike them. For example, Paul tells us that many people know God’s laws but dislike them: “Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). Even the demons know who God is and know the facts about Jesus’ life and saving works, for James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). But that knowledge certainly does not mean that the demons are saved. 2. KNOWLEDGE AND APPROVAL ARE NOT ENOUGH. Moreover, merely knowing the facts and approving of them or agreeing that they are true is not enough. Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, for he said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus had evaluated the facts of the situation, including Jesus’ teaching and his remarkable miracles, and had drawn a correct conclusion from those facts: Jesus was a teacher come from God. But this alone did not mean that Nicodemus had saving faith, for he still had to put his trust in Christ for salvation; he still had to “believe in him.” King Agrippa provides another example of knowledge and approval without saving faith. Paul realized that King Agrippa knew and apparently viewed with approval the Jewish Scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament). When Paul was on trial before Agrippa, he said, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe” (Acts 26:27). Yet Agrippa did not have saving faith, for he said to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian!” (Acts 26:28). 3. YOU MUST DECİDE TO DEPEND ON JESUS TO SAVE YOU PERSONALLY. In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person. We may therefore define saving faith in the following way: Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God. This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save me. We may rightly summarize the two major concerns of a person who trusts in Christ as “forgiveness of sins” and “eternal life with God.” Eternal life with God involves such matters as a declaration of righteousness before God (part of justification,), adoption, sanctification, and glorification, which we will study later. We need to emphasize personal trust in Christ, not just belief in facts about Christ. Because saving faith in Scripture involves this personal trust, the word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.” The reason is that we can “believe” something to be true with no personal commitment to it. When a person comes to trust in Christ, all three elements must be present. There must be some basic knowledge or understanding of the facts of the gospel. There must also be approval of, or agreement with, these facts. Such agreement includes a conviction that the facts spoken of the gospel are true, especially the fact that I am a sinner in need of salvation and that Christ alone has paid the penalty for my sin and offers salvation to me. It also includes an awareness that I need to trust in Christ for salvation and that he is the only way to God, and the only means provided for my salvation. 4. FAİTH SHOULD INCREASE AS OUR KNOWLEDGE INCREASES. Saving faith is consistent with knowledge and true understanding of facts. Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). When people have true information about Christ, they are better able to put their trust in him. Moreover, the more we know about him and about the character of God that is completely revealed in him, the more fully we are able to put our trust in him. Thus faith is not weakened by knowledge but should increase with more true knowledge. In the case of saving faith in Christ, our knowledge of him comes by believing a reliable testimony about him. Here, the reliable testimony that we believe is the words of Scripture. Since they are God’s very words, they are completely reliable, and we gain true knowledge of Christ through them. This is why “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). In everyday life, we come to believe many things when we hear testimony from a person we consider to be reliable or trustworthy. B. FAİTH AND REPENTANCE MUST COME TOGETHER We may define repentance as follows: ‘Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ’. This definition indicates that repentance is something that can occur at a specific point in time, and is not equivalent to a demonstration of change in a person’s pattern of life. Repentance, like faith, is an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and a hatred of it), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead). We cannot say that someone has to actually live that changed life over a period of time before repentance can be genuine, or else repentance would be turned into a kind of obedience that we could do to merit salvation for ourselves. Of course, genuine repentance will result in a changed life. In fact, a truly repentant person will begin at once to live a changed life, and we can call that changed life the fruit of repentance. But we should never attempt to require that there be a period of time in which a person actually lives a changed life before we give assurance of forgiveness. Repentance is something that occurs in the heart and involves the whole person in a decision to turn from sin. It is important to realize that mere sorrow for one’s actions, or even deep remorse over one’s actions, does not constitute genuine repentance unless it is accompanied by a sincere decision to forsake sin that is being committed against God. Paul preached about “repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) A worldly sort of grief may involve great sorrow for one’s actions and probably also fear of punishment but no genuine renouncing of sin or commitment to forsake it in one’s life. Hebrews 12:17 tells us that Esau wept over the consequences of his actions but did not truly repent. Repentance and faith are simply two different sides of the same coin, or two different aspects of the one event of conversion. The person who genuinely turns to Christ for salvation must at the same time release the sin to which he or she has been clinging and turn away from that sin in order to turn to Christ. Thus, neither repentance nor faith comes first; they must come together. John Murray speaks of “penitent faith” and “believing repentance.” C. BOTH FAİTH AND REPENTANCE CONTİNUE THROUGHOUT LİFE. Although we have been considering initial faith and repentance as the two aspects of conversion at the beginning of the Christian life, it is important to realize that faith and repentance are not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. They are rather attitudes of heart that continue throughout our lives as Christians. Jesus tells his disciples to pray daily, “And forgive us our sins as we also have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:12), a prayer that, if genuine, will certainly involve daily sorrow for sin and genuine repentance. And the risen Christ says to the church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19; 2 Cor. 7:10). Although it is true that initial saving faith and initial repentance occur only once in our lives, and when they occur they constitute true conversion, nonetheless, the heart attitudes of repentance and faith only begin at conversion. These same attitudes should continue throughout the course of our Christian lives. Each day there should be heartfelt repentance for sins that we have committed, and faith in Christ to provide for our needs and to empower us to live the Christian life.

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