There is a sneaky doctrine around in the church at the moment that is a mixture of Grace and law. It puts the church back under bondage to the law in a very deceptive camouflaged way. Most Christians are quick to say they are not under the law, but many through church traditions and lack of knowledge are under this law.
What is this mysterious law? It’s the law of repentance!!
This really needs to be exposed in the Church, however it is second nature to us and taboo to criticise it. My aim is not to give blatant wilfully sinning Christians a reason to feel secure in their backsliding, but to expose the spirit of religion that binds us and prevents the sons of God from walking free and right. Because of this doctrine many end up just like Adam, hiding because they are ashamed.
Nearly all Christians agree that you must come to Christ by repenting and believing, that you are under the law of sin and death until you come to Christ. However this sneaky doctrine manages to cling on many people’s doctrines after they have come to Christ. We all agree about we need repentance to come to Christ: Where we differ is what we have to do once we are in Christ.
Here is a quick look at the differences…. Grace Christianity vs. Repentance Christianity. First let me point out we get our identity, power and security from three places,
- Where we draw our identity from,
- Where we get our acceptance from,
- Where we get our approval from.
- Grace Christianity – God gives you value, declares you righteous by Christ alone.
- Repentance Christianity – God gives you value, says you are righteous by Christ and continual repentance. (subtle aye).
- Grace Christianity – Accepted by Christ alone.
- Repentance Christianity – you are accepted if you remove sin far from you and stay repentant and stay in Christ.
- Grace Christianity – you are righteous before God by Christ’s work.
- Repentance Christianity – you have to get righteous by repenting and getting cleansed by the blood of Jesus. You are only as righteous as your last cleansing.
- Grace Christianity – you have approval from God because of Jesus.
- Repentance Christianity – you have approval if you cleanse your heart of all sin, turn back from the sin and live the best you can, (its all about living the best you can to qualify for the grace of God). If you do your best you are accepted and if you don’t you are rejected.
Right-standing (right with God, backslidden),
- Grace Christianity – you are right with God because you are in Christ, you have been given Jesus right-standing, you are seen by God as hidden in Christ and accepted only because of Him.
- Repentance Christianity – you are given right-standing if you repent and keep a repentant heart, then you are washed by the blood of Jesus and the grace of God.
- Grace Christianity – repentance is only for renewing your mind, purging your heart, renewing your identity and relationship with God. In Christ we repent from forgiveness not to be forgiven, (repentance means a changed mind, I live a life of repentance but not to get saved again and again and again…., I’m just renewing my mind).
- Repentance Christianity – repentance gets you right with God because you have fallen from grace. This mindset says in Christ repentance gets you forgiven, if you don’t repent you are not forgiven (which brings your salvation down to the standard of your own effort to live sinless, also called self righteousness).
- Grace Christianity – salvation is freely given gift with no strings attached, there is however instruction for living right before God.
- Repentance Christianity – if you are continually repentant you are continually forgiven, if you are trying you are covered by grace, but if you are not trying then you are on your own. (It is just another form of self righteousness).
- Grace Christianity – Jesus qualifies you for all the full grace of and blessings of God
- Repentance Christianity – Jesus qualifies you only if you repent and stay repentant.
- Grace Christianity – God made a covenant with His son, you are a beneficiary not a trustee, you can’t break His covenant.
- Repentance Christianity – God made a covenant with you, keep repentant so you don’t break it.
- Grace Christianity – Behaviour of your heart doesn’t earn or even qualify you for salvation.
- Repentance Christianity – Your repentance qualifies you to be cleansed, if you have failed to be perfect since the last time you repented than you are condemned.
The key difference is repentance Christianity makes a person only as secure as their repentance and their best effort. It is a work of man that has to be done for God’s unearned grace (which makes it an earned grace), it is no longer a gift of righteousness but earned by repentance. If you are having a bad week with many temptations your eternal life is always hanging in the balance and changes from eternal life to hour by hour salvation.
The continual repentance doctrines are all about feelings, feeling good about your effort and the state of your heart. Feelings like you have or haven’t crossed the invisible line called the “right with God line”. Feelings are grey and subjective, God has put you on a solid rock not a subjective grey feelings based salvation, a salvation which comes and goes according to the battles you are facing. Its just another form of self righteousness to earn acceptance from God.
It says if you are holding onto sin in your heart then you are lost, then it goes further, not just sin of things you have done, what about sins of things you haven’t done, (called sins of omission). It says God hates sin (which He does) and if you are not stopping sin with all your effort (sin = not being perfect) then repent lest He smite you. So because being perfect is almost impossible, it calls for a life of continual repentance to stay saved.
It is salvation by conscience, when I think I am doing ok then I am ok with God. My heart is clean, however this all depends on your magnifying glass, are you loosely wired or hyper sensitive, is your magnifying glass crystal clear or slightly cloudy? Your conscience is not how we get saved, it is only a guide to the state of our battle.
The focus is all on sin and the state of your struggle towards it. Whether you have good behaviour, average behaviour or terrible behaviour the blood on the mercy seat is the price to save you and it has been declared more than enough. Paul said in Romans 7 and 8, if I want to do good, but end up doing bad, there is no condemnation for I am in Christ and the law of the spirit of life in Christ sets me free from the law of sin and death.
We need to understand the problem with the law of repentance is people come under bondage to it, grace can’t have its perfect work, Jesus doesn’t become the good news any more as the persons own ability to repent does. If the person doesn’t have the ability to repent and get temptation out of their heart then the Law of Repentance condemns them, they are left judged, guilty and condemned.
Grace isn’t a licence to sin – its a licence to come to God freely by a gift and not religious performance. Sin is just a slap in the face of grace, its abusing grace, there is no excuse but there is forgiveness, a lack of condemnation and a hope you will rise out of the sewer.
The law of repentance is all about which way you are facing, if your back is to God then you are lost, if you are facing Him, looking to Him repentantly then you are found. If you have given up fighting sin this week you are lost but if you are still fighting you are found. All born again Christians in their heart of hearts (new life) hate sin and are sorry for the whole mess of it, but some repent all day for years and are still not free, and turn their backs in shame. Perfection is virtually impossible to live up to, that is why we have a saviour.
There are two types of sneaky religious performance in the family of God, they are both about doing your best and some churches are flat-out preaching, teaching and expecting this of their followers or there is disapproval. This biblical family illustrates God’s family, the church. They are the oldest sister Martha, and Mary her sister who loves Jesus so much she is not cleaning up, and Lazarus their brother whom Jesus raised from the dead.
- The first one is Martha, the church that does stuff to show love and gain approval, the church that is passionate about doing their best, helping wash up the mess. The catch cry is “its all about action”.
- The second one is Mary Martha’s sister, she shows love and gains approval through adoration, commitment to relationship and sitting at His feet attentive to His word, she is the church that has great worship and excellent adoration music. Their cry is “its all about relationship”.
- Then there is a third type, Lazarus their brother, he doesn’t have to do anything, he is free to work or to adore, his approval is not based on how he performs, even how he smells, they are just the death clothes that he still has wrapped around him. He was dead and now Jesus made Him alive, Jesus did the performing, Lazarus knows he is accepted, loved and approved of. However there is one group that hates this miracle, hates that he is alive and free from death – its the Pharisees, the religious performance based – earning their salvation crowd. We are neither Martha or Mary we are Lazarus, free and alive, we are just getting the death clothes off. Of course action and relationship are not bad in themselves but used to gain approval makes them stink like Lazarus’s death clothes.