Monday, January 31, 2011

Repentance and Faith -- Two sides of a Coin

When the level of faith grossly exceeds the level of repentance in a person, then it turns out that what appears to be "faith" may be mostly "easy believism."  The consequence of this state of mind can be a slow slide into sin.  In the midst of ease the hardness of heart grows stronger.  When a person slides long enough, sins can begin to break out into the open and be seen by others.  There can be discipline from the Lord and from his church.  A slide that continues long enough can end in departure from the faith and excommunication by the church.

The reason for all this is that "easy believism" is not real faith.  It is not real faith because the warfare between flesh and spirit has been forgotten.  This "easy believism" is not real trust in Christ to forgive us our real and recognized sins, and to give us victory in a real war.  The warfare has been forgotten in the midst of battle, the heart is hardened, and the enemy achieves quiet victories.  "Easy believism" is not the gospel, because The Gospel is only the gospel in the midst of a real war.

On the other hand, when the level of repentance grossly exceeds the level of faith in a person, then it turns out that what appears to be "repentance" can become legalism, or a monk-like religiosity that cannot enjoy the gifts of God.  This can be connected with self-righteousness and pride -- great sins in the midst of all that "righteousness."  For the elect and the true believers it can lead to sadness, spiritual depression, and even despair.  There is no relief in the midst of the spiritual warfare, which is filled with failure.

The upshot is that dividing repentance and faith, and allowing one or the other to atrophy, is in either case a route to sin.  Success lies only where both repentance and faith are coupled in a Scriptural manner.  The gold coin of spirituality has two sides.  One side of the coin, by itself, is not the coin at all!  Faith without repentance is not real faith.  Repentance without faith is not true repentance.  Faith is only faith when coupled with true repentance.  Repentance is only possible when founded in faith.

As believers we ought to love righteousness and hate sin.  We must have faith in the definition of sin found in the Moral Law and the teaching of Christ.  We must recognize the evil within ourselves, and begin the fight against it, and we must trust in the total forgiveness of sin and the spiritual power against it, both given as a gift by our Savior through his sacrifice for our sins.

As soon as we come to know the Lord, a fight should break out between sin and righteousness in our souls.  It is a war -- even a death struggle.  In this war, the Spirit begins to give us victory through faith in Christ as he is clothed in the gospel.  It is not as if we ourselves achieve victory in the fight, but the Lord gives victory while we fight.  Recognition of the enemy, and the fight against him are integral to the process of repentance.  This recognition of sin, and the resulting war against it, is made possible by the omnipotence of Christ, who is engaged in the battle with us and in us, and who is totally on our side!  In the midst of the struggle with sin, there is the exultant knowledge of our victory in Christ, and our total acceptance, even today!  There is mourning for sin, but there is even greater joy in the gift of Christ!  This is the kind of life where hardness of heart begins to be put away, where sin is seen as ever uglier, and where Christ and his grace are seen as infinitely more precious.  Joy rules in the midst of mourning, and victories begin, in the Name of the Lord.

I've likened the spiritual life to a coin with two sides -- repentance and faith.  Another useful analogy might be to an airplane with two engines.  Trying to fly that spiritual airplane on only one engine is going to lead to a crash!  Things weren't meant to work that way.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The previous post spoke of the "dual foci of the Christian life as being 1) home, and 2) church."  This continues to be true for singles.

The home of preference for singles is the home they grew up in, especially for females.  In any case, if a single person finds it necessary or proper to move away from the family place, a firm association with the church and with families in the church must be established.  The single life can be a lonely life, and single friends, while appropriate, are no substitute for the God-created paradigm of family life which is offered by fellowship with families in the church.

This imposes a responsibility on the church, as well.  Singles of any age need friendly and spiritual care.  We are all responsible for this, but families are especially responsible.

Let us remember, too, that "singles" need good families around them in order to provide models for the formation of their own families, if they desire to marry.

The help and counsel of a family may help them achieve this goal!

And, there are other singles that also require care!  Widow(er)s, divorced, and single mothers, too.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It seems to me that the dual foci of the Christian life are 1) home, and 2) church.  Nowadays, this concept has a lot of competition.  In the old days, a farm family could labor hard at times, and watch the crops grow (and pray for the right rains) at other times.  One could go fishing, or one could have company.  There was often time to sit and talk.  Overarching all was Church and the Pastoral and Christian fellowship for mutual support that centered there.  This life could be very busy, but it was in tune with God's creation of the Family and of the Earth and of the Body of Christ.  In spite of the busy-ness at times, and the absolute dependence on the providence of God, this life was intrinsically "quiet" in a serious sense.

Nowadays, it's hard to find a family that has a quiet home life.  Not only are there media that can distract the attention of those who use them (and may be addicted to them), and which, taken to excess, destroy real life.  But, those who refuse these addictions via media may be caught up in a round of other ceaseless activities -- often child centered.  It could be too much sport.  It could be too much debate.  It could be too much politics, or too much music (and I say this as an amateur musician).  It seems that it is almost always competitive.  It almost always will involve activities not always connected with development of the virtues leading to a quiet life.  Fame, glory and ambition may masquerade as the virtues of "getting the best educational opportunities for my children."  The result is that many families are scarcely at home.  A quiet home life may be unnerving, or be viewed as a kind of deprivation.  Having been a "home-schooler" myself, I must say that my indictment applies to many in this movement, also.  The original idea behind "home-schooling," namely, that "home-schooling" is centered in a quiet and godly family life, may now be hard to find in our environment.

Developing a quiet home life requires sacrifices -- even sacrifices of good things, because many of the activities I've indicted ARE good.  The problem is that they have become the CENTER.  But, living in the world does not mean living like the world.  Good things can become idols.  Competition to be seen as the "best," in terms of power, is not a Christian virtue. 

May God help us to see the light, and to focus on things above, where our real life is centered in Christ!  This is not a call for nostalgia.  It is a call for the survival of the family.  When the home is a motel, and not a quiet refuge, and when the home is not the home of spiritual virtues and the contemplation of God's grace in Christ, then children grow up not knowing a home, and parents hardly know each other.  We are not living in this age, to get the fleshly glory that can be given by this age.  What pleases men is not what pleases God.  Dedication to "good things" can be idolatry, when the better things are displaced in our affections and understanding.

God helping us, let us have peace -- at home.  In our busy culture, this may require strong repentance and wrenching changes, but receives the divine enablement and reward.

Next time:  About "grown children" and single adults not in families.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Divine Humor

When the stunned Saul entered Damascus, blind, the Lord sent Ananias to heal him and (probably) baptize him:

Acts 9:10-16  Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."  11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  12 "And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."  
13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  14 "And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."  15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  16 "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

The Lord has been being persecuted by Saul, so now Saul will serve the Lord, and ironically be persecuted himself.  Tit for tat.  Eye for an eye.

This persecution for the name of Christ is, of course, a blessing and worthy of all reward.

So the Lord laughs as he blesses Saul in his divine "revenge."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let There Be Light!

"Let there be light!"
     The world was made!
     Adam, murderer, killed it.

"It is finished!"
     A New World made!
     Jesus, Savior, Victor!

"Let there be light!"
     Souls alight!
     Made again in resurrection,
     Unfallen and infallible,
     Sprung new from His creating hands!

     No more death, no more sin,
     No more cursing Law!

     Alive to God, forevermore!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ideals Hiding Idols?

The deception of sin is such that sin can masquerade as righteousness.  Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light in order to achieve his ends.  Wrong masquerades as right, and, to those who are deceived by this, their righteousness in their own eyes hides from themselves a multitude of their own sins.

Our flesh is so weak that we are unable to discern the hidden idol at the heart of what appears to us to be righteous in our own selves.  Therefore it behooves us as believers in Jesus Christ to implore the help of God to reveal to us our own idols, and to give us the power to disable and destroy them.

Every one of us ought to look over all our bright and shiny personal ideals and high-sounding personal goals, and look for dark sides that we haven't clearly seen before.  These secretly empower our lusts, discontent, and personal conflicts.  Only the power of Christ can deliver us from all this and bring peace.