“When Man Repents, God Relents.”
Last week, I was sitting in a bright yellow waiting room, waiting for my Ford Taurus to get an oil change. While I was there, a minister that had fallen into sin a few years ago was on television. I couldn’t help but watch, interested to hear his heart. This was the second time I had seen him on TV since his moral failure and every time I have seen him, he states that he has gone through extensive therapy, heavy counseling and has finished the restoration process.
He is still married to his wife and finds himself struggling with thoughts of homosexuality to this day. Concerning his failure he states the classic line, “No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.” Homosexuality is not a mistake. A mistake is when you forget to close the refrigerator door or forget to take out the trash. This was a gradual hardening of the heart that led to such a moral decline. A heart that has no conviction for lusting for a passing stranger is in a bad state, but a heart that enters a continual affair, with a man is a heart that is need of a deeper work of the Spirit, especially because he was a minister of the gospel (James 3.1). The red flag for me was that I never heard him mention the word repentance or the power of God in his life to overcome, or most importantly the blood of Jesus. Nor did he mention taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ or anything about putting off the old man and putting on the new (2 Cor. 10.5;Romans 13.14). Is this horrible mindset alive in other Christians living in America? Is there forgiveness without repentance? Read these words from William Booth’s prophecy one hundred years ago.
“The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, “salvation” without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.”
Notice in the middle, General Booth speaks of, “forgiveness without repentance.” I believe in forgiveness and reconciliation to all no matter what social class or level of wickedness they come from. But there is a difference between what we have seen in this pastor and the repentance seen in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke chapter 15).
For those of us who are not familiar with the parable, there are two sons. The younger of the two said to his father, father, “give me my portion of goods; my inheritance, I am entitled to the money that is to come to me” (paraphrased).
The word of God states that not many days after that, the younger son gathered all his things together, took his journey into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all of his substance, there arose a mighty famine in the land and he began to be in want. His situation got so bad that he went and joined himself to a citizen or joined himself to a total stranger of that country; and he was sent into the citizen’s fields to feed pigs.
Here is a young man who was once rich and now is in poverty. On top of that, there rose a mighty famine. Things have gotten so bad that he had to join himself to a citizen of that land. The word, “join“ here means, “to cleave to or to be glued together.” It has the same meaning as when a man joins himself to a woman in marriage.
At this point the young man hits rock bottom longing to fill his stomach with the food that the pigs were eating. In the proceeding verse, it states that the young man starts to come to his senses and he begins to remember his Father and his Father’s house. He asks himself, “Why am I here starving to death?”
I believe a lot of individuals, especially the young, are starving to death, maybe not from a physical hunger but for the Word of the Lord. They are wondering, “Are there any absolutes in life?” There are absolutes in life. It is the word of God.
In the book of Amos, it describes that there will come a day when there will be will be a famine not of food or of thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. America is at this point.
This young man heard the words of his Father and he didn’t cry out, “Father I have made a mistake” or “nobody is perfect.” He cried out, “I have sinned” and “I have sinned against God.” Not the church. Not his family. But, “I have sinned against heaven and against God.”
Notice the same response from David in Psalm 51, “against You and You only have I sinned.”
At this very point the restoration process began and the young man was restored to his Father’s house and he was clothed in his right mind.
Now, back to the anonymous preacher, not once during the interview did this pastor state that he sinned against God or against heaven. He did not, at all, seem to be concerned about his relationship with Jesus. How do I know that? Well, he didn’t mention Him once. He spoke like a man who was only sorry because he got caught. I know this because; his sorrow didn’t cast him upon the blood of Jesus, but on a “restoration” process. My friend, this is worldly sorrow, which leads to death.
To the individual that is reading this, ask yourself, with a sincere heart, “Have I truly repented of my sins and turned to God?” Do I really know Jesus? Do I really have a relationship with Jesus, not just with a church or a religion? Jesus states that He is the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through Him (John 14.6). Jesus is the door. Now I charge you, to walk through Him, but before you do, make sure you COMPLETELY close the door to your past.
“Repentance must be a change of mind that produces a change of conduct and ends in salvation. Have you forsaken your sins? Or are you still practicing them? If so, you are still a sinner. You may have changed your mind, but if you have not changed your conduct, it is not Godly repentance…False repentance is the sorrow of the world; sorrow for sin arising from worldly considerations and motives connected with the present life.” (Charles Finney, “You Can Be Holy”)
“Jesus doesn’t save you in your sins but from your sins.” (Dr. Michael L. Brown, “How Saved Are We?”)
“You say, “When so and so preached, I got saved.” Well, what are you saved from? Are you saved from lying? Are you saved from cheating? Are you saved from lust? Are you saved from rebellion against your parents? Come on! What are you saved from?” (Leonard Ravenhill, Audio Messages)
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: Charles Finney, homosexuality, How Saved Are We, Leonard Ravenhill, minister, repentance, television
Author’s note: This is the first article in a mini-series of articles reviewing Almost Christian by Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean. All quotes without direct links are directly from the book’s first few chapters. To hear Dr. Brown’s review of this book, click here.
A large-scale departure from a biblical understanding of what living as a follower of Jesus looks like in the lives of modern adults has brought about an epidemic of young people whose basic concept of religion is centered around a sense of enhancing their own, and others’ emotional well-being, which has almost created a new religion, though its “followers” still outwardly identify with the name of an existing religion. Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton’s theological seminary, published a book called Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church that explores the emerging ramifications of the lack of passion and faith in God in previous generations. This book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton which gave this new religion the name of moralistic therapeutic deism:
As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:
1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
These recent studies testify to the fruit that decades of a consumer-driven, therapy mentality have brought into our churches. Dr. Michael Brown’s books, How Saved Are We and The End of the American Gospel Enterprise, point to a very similar attitude that was already entrenched in the American Church over twenty years ago:
The American Church at the end of the twentieth century is experiencing a crisis. For years we have preached a cheap gospel and peddled a soft Savior. We have taught salvation without self-denial and the crown without the cross. We have catered to the unsaved and compromised with the world. Now we are paying the price. (How Saved Are We.)
Our contemporary gospel has bred complacency instead of compassion, success instead of sacrifice, prestige instead of Prayer. We no longer ask what we can do for Him, but rather what He can do for us. (American Gospel Enterprise.)
Dean says there are four things that deeply religious teenagers, whose faith affects their day to day lives have in common:
Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.
Recapturing a passionate, articulate faith in teenagers and young people requires not simply a new “method” to reach them, but rather a revitalization of faith and devotion in the day-to-day living of adults. According to Dean,
Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but yours… So we must assume that solution lies…in modeling the kind of mature, passionate faith we say we want young people to have… We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people… Yet these young people possess no real commitment to or excitement about religious faith.
What is the one thing that truly differentiates faith from religion? Dean says this:
Faith is a matter of desire, a desire for God and and a desire to love others in Christ’s name…Love gives Christianity its purpose and meaning. Religion functions as an organized expression of belief… Yet Christianity has always been more of a trust-walk than a belief system…Faith depends on who we follow, and that depends on who we love.
John Wesley, whom Dean quotes, experienced in his own life a time when he called himself “almost a Christian,” while living with the same kind of approach many do today:
I did…good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace…and…doing all this in sincerity… Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian... The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”?… Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?
Another crucial question is this: how can we experience this passionate love of God if we have not seen the man Jesus tortured, bleeding, dying, and abandoned because of the depths of sin in our own hearts? The only true knowledge of the incredible love of God that evokes such devotion can come through a changed heart which has been wrung by a deep conviction of sin and repentance, and has seen the cost God afflicted on Himself in order to rescue us from the power of sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.
Dr. Michael Brown reviewed the first few chapters of Almost Christian on his Line of Fire Radio show, and here is a quote from his closing remarks:
We are fundamentally off: with much of our preaching, with much of our emphasis…we’ve been in the wrong direction for years. We have soft-peddled the gospel, we have by-passed the cross. We haven’t preached a faith which is glorious and wonderful, and a savior who is so extraordinary, who delivers us from a wrath which is so terrible, that we JOYFULLY give up everything to have Him!
Changed hearts in the church as a whole is the only way to see the transformation that so many adults in the church have said they desire to see in their children, as Dr. Brown stated in The Jesus Manifesto:
The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.
Posted in Culture, News Tagged with: Almost Christian, apologetics, Christian Smith, Church, Dr. Michael Brown, faith, fake Christianity, How Saved Are We, Jesus Manifesto, Kenda Creasy Dean, loving God, moralistic therapeutic deism, National Study of Youth and Religion, Princeton, religion, Revival, teenagers, The End of the American Gospel Enterprise