Point of Reference
by Fred Price
“Shallow preaching that does not grapple with the terrible fact of man’s sinfulness and guilt results in shallow conversions; and so we have myriads of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that ‘faith without works is dead.’”1
So wrote Dr. H.A. Ironside in 1937, decrying the watering down of the gospel during his lifetime much as still happens today. Despite the fact that Christ’s first public utterance was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17; some refrain from doing likewise out of fear of offending someone. And yet, this clarion call to repentance was sounded throughout His ministry, reiterating his purpose in calling “sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 Insisting to doubters of his day that, .. “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:3
It’s not fashionable in many churches today to preach a gospel that has expectations, especially if that message includes a call for a turnaround in behavior; ignoring the fact that those were not only the first public words uttered by Jesus but that they were likewise the essence of the very first Christian evangelistic appeal by Peter. His reply to a question concerning salvation at a gathering during Pentecost in Jerusalem being a decisive appeal by him for his listeners to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”; and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
And yet, repentance at conversion is not a one-time act, but a progressive, life-long process (See 1 John 1:3); which produces the poverty of spirit, mourning and meekness Jesus spoke of in the Beatitudes. ( Matthew 5:3-6) Necessitating more than a mere changing of one’s mind or gaining a new perspective or opinion of Christ, which is certainly part of the process of salvation. But some in the modern church adamantly refuse to move past this first step, denying ample scriptural evidence that there is an expectation of change that goes hand-in-hand with this new perspective of Jesus as Lord and Savior. That change of mind creating a change of attitude as well, which likewise produces a change of conduct. (A common thread running throughout all of scripture – In the Old Testament see 2 Chronicles 7:14; Is. 55:6,7 & Jonah 3:10. In the New Testament see Matthew 3:1-8, Matthew 7:15-21, Luke 3:10-14& Matthew 25:35,36)
The Greek for repentance is metanoia, literally translated as after- thought or change of mind. In the New Testament, it always speaks to a change of purpose – specifically in turning from sin – as a result of that change of mind. For example, Paul, the champion of grace, defended his ministry while on trial before King Agrippa by stating, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” Acts 26:20
Repentance is not a call for us to correct our lifestyle before turning to Christ for salvation. It is rather a command to acknowledge one’s sinfulness and loathe it – as God does ( Hebrews 1:13), turning one’s back on it in conviction and sorrow ( 2 Corinthians 7:10), in doing so fleeing to Christ and his promise of redemption ( 1 Timothy 6:11 & 2 Timothy 2:22), embracing him then in heartfelt devotion and appreciation. ( 1 John 2:3-6 & 17) This occurring as a result of a personal spiritual crisis – our being convicted of sin – driving us to our knees before that only Being who can save us; Jesus Christ. Again, some churches disassociating themselves from convicting anyone of anything, even though that actually occurs through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, occasioned by the preaching of the gospel vigorously from the pulpit. Their mission being to make people feel at ease and comfortable rather than leading people to a radical change of heart, mind and will.
The goal of the church should never be to soothe the conscience of people, enabling sinners to feel content and comfortable where they are. We convict and convince by preaching the gospel of repentance, thereby leading them to the source of their salvation; in which they can indeed feel contentment. In point of fact, Jesus most pointed criticism was unleashed on those whose religiosity made them complacent about their own shortcomings but hypercritical of others. Jesus’ judgement on them being, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you…", (because) “…you did not repent…” Matthew 21:31,32
Again, Paul, the vehement expositor of faith as the sole “qualification” of salvation, wrote the Thessalonian church commending them for their dutifulness afterwards by saying, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (For)… your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Which supports Paul’s acknowledgement in his great treatise on faith of the need then for faithfulness, insisting on “…the obedience that comes from faith.” Romans 1:5. (See also Ephesians 2:8-10, which insists we are indeed saved through faith – God’s gift – not through the benefit of works. But as a result of God’s saving “workmanship”, we are likewise “…created in Christ Jesus to do good works…”, in response to our salvation.)
The warning, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21; should give us all pause and create in us a diligent desire to discover what his will is and a resolve to accomplish it without question and hesitation. The encouragement then found in Matthew 7:24-27 is likewise pointed and instructive. “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Which withstood the torrential testing of time. Those who don’t “…put them into practice…” foolishly building their lives on the shifting sands of personal preference and public opinion, fall “…with a great crash.”
James succinctly summing it all up with, “Do not merely listen to t1:he word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”! James 1:22
1 Except Ye Repent , Zondervan Publishing Quoted by John MacArthur in The Gospel According to Jesus , Zondervan Publishing.
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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