Thursday, September 25, 2014

In a letter, to my daughter, after a sermon. (Part 2)

Audio: 41 sec.

"So here's the question ... What's the going price for a happy resurrection? Now the bible consistently answers that question with one word, Faith. But what is faith? How do I recognize if I have true faith? True faith is not cheap. No, true faith is very costly.

So what's the key word here in Peter's call? ... Repent. Right away we see something of faith's nature in that word, don't we. For the apostles often use repentance as a synonym for faith."

Dear E.,

It is certainly true that faith and repentance go hand in hand. To quote Charles Spurgeon once more, he says:
"Repentance goes well, side by side with believing. If I were asked whether a man repented first, or believed first, I should reply, 'Which spoke in a wheel moves first when the wheel starts?' When Divine life is given to a man, these two things are sure to come — repentance and faith."

And yet, we must be very careful not to think of repentance as a kind of sacrifice, or payment that we offer in order to secure God's mercy.

As I have shared in the past, John Piper makes this important distinction between faith and repentance.  Repentance must never be viewed as something we bring to the table as a qualification for God's blessing:

Audio: 30 sec.

"Faith is the peculiarly receiving grace, which none other is.  Were we said to be justified by repentance, by love, [or] by any other grace, it would convey to us the idea that something good in us is the consideration on which the blessing was bestowed."

And yet I'd like to suggest that even Piper might be missing an important quality of repentance here. He seems to characterize repentance as a positive virtue that represents "something good in us". I would suggest that repentance is not defined by what it offers, but rather it is better defined as being born out of the essence of our emptiness. It is only best understood in the context of what we lack, not what we bring. It is the receiving of Christ into our emptiness that germinates repentance in our being. Let's consider Spurgeon's words again to help us better understand repentance:

There are some who think that repentance is a preparation for Grace. They hope they shall receive the Grace of God if they repent. There are others who think that repentance is a qualification for faith in Christ.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The only qualification a physician seeks in his patient is that he is sick. The qualification for imparting His fullness is your emptiness — that is all!

The ground of a man’s belief that he is saved is not that he repents, but that he has trusted Jesus Christ, who is able to save him, and that God has declared that whoever trusts Christ is saved!

Nothing is to be trusted but the finished work of Jesus Christ upon Calvary’s bloody tree! No feelings, no emotion, no believing, no conversion, even, must ever be put into the place of that one eternal Rock of refuge. Cast your guilty self on Christ and rest there, for there alone can you find salvation!

Learn this lesson — not to trust Christ because you repent, but trust Christ to make you repent — not to come to Christ because you have a broken heart, but to come to Him that He may give you a broken heart — not to come to Him because you are fit to come, but to come to Him because you are unfit to come! You are to be nothing, in fact, and to come to Christ as nothing — and when you so come, then will repentance come!

We do not repent in order to be saved, but we repent because we are saved. We do not loathe sin and, therefore, hope to be saved, but, because we are saved, we therefore loathe sin and turn altogether from it.

Now, dear seeking Soul, do you see the tack to go upon? Your business is to believe in Christ Jesus just as you are and to trust Him to save you — and then to believe what the Word of God says concerning those who trust in Jesus, namely, that they are saved, forgiven, loved of God and at peace with Him. Do you believe that? As you believe it, you will feel, “My heart melts under a sense of this superlative love. Now I can and do repent of sin — the very thing which seemed impossible to me before.”

Finally, Pastor Fisk concurs:

All is grace,

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