Posts Tagged ‘repentance


Authentic Evangelism/The Message/The Gospel Call


Less or More?

  • One gets the impression in listening to soteriological synergists [Arminians, Semi-Pelagians, Southern Baptist Traditionalists, and those who flirt with Pelagianism like Leighton Flowers] that they think Calvinists believe God has done less to bring all sinners to salvation than they believe he has done. In reality, Calvinists believe God has done nothing less to bring sinners to himself than they believe he has done. Both groups believe God has flooded sinners the with the revelation of his glory, in creation, conscience, commandments, Christ’s redemptive work, and conviction by the Holy Spirit. We both believe he has clearly expressed his desire that sinners repent and bow before him in humble submission to his sovereign reign and that he has promised to pardon freely all who thus return.

    If you should ask about prevenient grace, my questions would be what is there that is accomplished in this mysterious work of God about which the Scriptures never once speak, that is not accomplished by what Calvinists would call common grace? If someone should answer that it grants to the sinner the power of free will, we would have to ask how the speaker understands the concept of free will. If we should take the definition the Traditionalists have given, i.e., “the ability to choose between two options,” we would have to ask whether all do not concede that all rational beings have that ability as a part of their constitution as human beings. Do we mean by the term, the ability to choose other than we have chosen? If so, we would state that this ability is not granted either by prevenient or by effectual grace as long as we do not mean that we have the ability to choose that for which we have no desire and to which every fiber of our beings is totally averse. This ability does not need to be granted to any sinner. Additionally, the same would apply to the concept that sinners act voluntarily and not by compulsion. No one should deny this. The problem is that all the prevenient grace in the world will not remedy the sinner’s indisposition to choose what he ought to choose and reject what he ought to reject. The problem is not his inability to choose the right if he so desires but his lack of desire to choose the right. There is no evidence that prevenient grace, whatever it may be, does anything to change a sinner’s inmost desires

    The difference is that Calvinists believe God has done more to bring some sinners to himself than he has done to bring all sinners to himself, and synergists don’t think he has the right to do that. He is not free to do for one sinner what he does not do for another. When one boils all the fat out of it, the issue is whether God has the right to be God or not.

  • 28

    Divinely Caused Love: Is It Genuine?

    One of the soteriological synergists’ favorite lines is that if God caused people to love him [they usually prefer inflammatory terms like “forced”], that love would not be genuine. My question is whether they consider divinely caused obedience to be true obedience. In Ezekiel 36:25-27, Yahweh promised to give a new heart and a new spirit [disposition] to hard-hearted sinners. Additionally, he promised to put his Spirit within them and cause them to walk in [obey] his statutes and keep his rules. It seems to me this becomes especially significant when one considers that every law God has ever given depends on two commandments [see Matt. 22:36-40] and obedience to one of those commandments [love for God] results in obedience to the other [love for one’s neighbor]. Genuine obedience to God reflects genuine love to God. Now, if divinely caused obedience is true obedience, would it not follow that the love from which that obedience results would also have to be genuine and divinely caused as well?


    God’s Message to You #1

    The God who created the universe and who governs that universe according to his perfect plan has chosen to reveal himself to you. He has done this in two ways. He has revealed himself in the things he has made, and he has revealed himself in the Bible. In this tract and in those that will follow, I would like to share with you what God wants you to know.

    God’s Purpose

    The first thing you need to understand is that your life is not without purpose. God made you and everything in the creation around you for himself. His purpose in making you was to make himself known. One way or another, his purpose will be realized in you. You will either live to magnify God’s grace and mercy or you will live to demonstrate his righteousness in condemning you for your treasonous rebellion against him. God has designed you in such a way that you can never live life the way he intended unless you consciously aim at reflecting his glory to those around you. He did not intend for you to be the center of your own universe. If you are beautiful, he intended your beauty to reflect his beauty. If you are intelligent, he intended your intelligence to reflect his intelligence. You are kind, in intended your kindness to reflect his kindness. If you are using anything God has given you to promote your own self-interests, you are failing to do that for which God made you.

    The Problem

    Our greatest problem in life is that we are broken. The Bible describes us as pieces of broken pottery. What was once a magnificent creation as it came from the hand of the sovereign potter, now lies in ruins.  When God created our first parents in the Garden of Eden, he made them in his own image. In Psalms Eight, the psalmist tells us that God crowned them with “glory and honor and set them over the works of his hands.” As long as they continued in their integrity, they were perfect reflectors of his glory. God had given them everything the heart could wish. Adam and Eve could have lived forever and been perfectly content with God had provided.

    The problem is that God left Adam to the power of free will and Adam chose to rebel against him. In doing so, he plunged his entire race [That includes all of us], into a state of guilt and sinful corruption. He acted as all of us would have acted had we been left to ourselves as Adam was. Additionally, we have all freely chosen to follow in his footsteps and rebel against God.

    In Roman 1:18, Paul describes the problem between God and sinners as follows: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” When we read about God’s wrath we must not think about an anger that is boiling over. God does not act in fits of uncontrolled anger. The “wrath” of God the apostle wrote about is a settled indignation against sin and sinners that is the only reaction God can have to that which is contrary to his holy nature. This wrath may be revealed in different ways and in different degrees but the reaction itself never changes.

    The apostle cites two reasons God is wrathful toward sinners and these reasons are related to his universal law. The first reason is related to the sinner’s ungodliness or impiety. This is your greatest problem. It is the problem from which all other problems flow. He is talking about your failure to fulfil the purpose for which God created you. Jesus said the greatest commandment in the law is the mandate to love God. Since that is true, the greatest sin we can commit must be our refusal to love God with our entire being. The other reason God is wrathful toward you is that you are unrighteous. This relates specifically to God’s second great commandment, “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” It follows that if we do not love God as we should, we will not love those who are made in God’s image.

    The result of our failure to love God is that we have suppressed his truth wherever he has revealed himself. Paul’s argument in this indictment is that you are without a legal defense because you have acted contrary to everything you know to be true about God. Only God’s redeeming work can remedy this condition, and it is his intention in saving sinners to do exactly that. The message of God’s salvation is about more than forgiving you so you can go to heaven when you die. Though it certainly includes that, it concerns far more than that. It is about God preparing you to live in a way that reflects his glory to those around you.

    You have refused to love and glorify God. You have failed to gratefully acknowledge his kindness to you in allowing you to live on his earth and breath his air. You have worshipped other gods instead of worshipping him. You have exchanged his truth for a lie, and, ultimately, you have decided that he is not worth knowing. Instead of responding to his acts of kindness toward you by leaving your way and returning to his way, you have persisted in your stubborn rebellion against him and have treasured up even more wrath for yourself in the day of his judgment.

    God’s intention in saving sinners is to turn God-haters into God-lovers. Ultimately, he intends to restore all his redeemed people to a place of glory and honor in which we will seek his glory above all else. His saving work brings us to the place that we focus on him as our highest good and our most precious treasure.

    God is calling you right now to turn from every idol to which you have looked for happiness apart from him. He is calling you to leave every refuge in which you have made yourself comfortable apart from him. He is calling you to leave your sinful way and return to his way. His promise to you is that if you will return to him, he will fully pardon you. Isaiah wrote,

    Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:6-7).


    El Mensaje de Dios a Usted #1

    El Dios que creó el universo y que gobierna ese universo según su plan perfecto ha elegido revelarse a ti. Lo ha hecho de dos maneras. Se ha revelado en las cosas que ha hecho, y se ha revelado en la Biblia. En este tratado y en los que seguirán, me gustaría compartir con usted lo que Dios quiere que sepa.

    El Propósito de Dios

    Lo primero que necesita entender es que su vida no es sin propósito. Dios lo hizo a usted ya todo en la creación alrededor de usted para sí mismo. Su propósito al hacerle era hacerse conocer. De una manera u otra, Su propósito se realizará en ud. Usted vivirá para magnificar la gracia y la misericordia de Dios o vivirá para demostrar Su justicia al condenarle por su rebelión traidora contra Él. Dios te ha diseñado de tal manera que nunca puedes vivir la vida de la manera en que Él pretendía, a menos que usted vive conscientemente apuntas a reflejar Su gloria a aquellos que te rodean. Él no tenía la intención de que fueras el centro de tu propio universo. Si eres hermoso, él pretendía que tu belleza reflejara Su belleza. Si eres inteligente, él pretende que su inteligencia refleje Su inteligencia. Si eres amable, Él intentó que su amabilidad reflejara Su bondad. Si estás usando algo que Dios te ha dado para promover sus propios intereses, estás fallando en hacer aquello por lo que Dios le hizo.

    El problema

    Nuestro mayor problema en la vida es que estamos rotos. La Biblia nos describe como piezas de cerámica rota. Lo que una vez fue una creación magnífica como vino de la mano del alfarero soberano ahora está en ruinas. Cuando Dios creó a nuestros primeros padres en el Jardín del Edén, los hizo a su propia imagen. En salmos ocho, el salmista nos dice que Dios los coronó con “gloria y honor y los puso sobre las obras de sus manos”. Mientras ellos continuaran en su integridad, eran perfectos reflectores de Su gloria. Dios les había dado todo lo que el corazón pudiera desear. Adán y Eva podrían haber vivido para siempre y estado perfectamente contentos con lo que Dios había proporcionado.

    El problema es que Dios dejó a Adán al poder del libre albedrío y escogió rebelarse contra El. Al hacerlo, hundió a toda su raza en un estado de culpa y corrupción pecaminosa. Actuó como todos nosotros habríamos actuado si nos hubieran dejado a nosotros mismos como lo fue Adán. Además, todos hemos elegido libremente seguir sus pasos y rebelarnos contra Dios.

    En Romanos 1:18, Pablo describe el problema entre Dios y los pecadores de la siguiente manera: “Porque la ira de Dios se revela desde el cielo contra toda impiedad e injusticia de los hombres, quienes por su iniquidad suprimen la verdad.” Cuando leemos acerca de la ira de Dios no debemos pensar en un enojo que está explotando. Dios no actúa en ataques de ira incontrolada. La “ira” de Dios sobre la que el apóstol escribió es una indignación establecida contra el pecado y los pecadores que es la única reacción que Dios puede tener a lo que es contrario a su santa naturaleza. Esta ira puede ser revelada de diferentes maneras y en diferentes grados, pero la reacción en sí nunca cambia.

    El apóstol cita dos razones por las que Dios está llena de indignación contra los pecadores y estas razones están relacionadas con su ley universal. La primera razón está relacionada con la impiedad o la falta de conformidad del pecador a la imagen de Dios. Este es su mayor problema. Es el problema del cual fluyen todos los demás problemas. Él está hablando de su fracaso en cumplir el propósito por el cual Dios  creó a ud. Jesús dijo que el mandamiento más grande de la ley es el mandato de amar a Dios. Dado que esto es cierto, el mayor pecado que podemos cometer debe ser nuestra negativa a amar a Dios con todo nuestro ser. La otra razón por la que Dios se enoja contra usted es que usted es injusto. Esto se relaciona específicamente con el segundo gran mandamiento de Dios: “Amarás al prójimo como a ti mismo”. De aquí se deduce que si no amamos a Dios como debemos, no amaremos a aquellos que son hechos a imagen de Dios.

    El resultado de nuestro fracaso en amar a Dios es que hemos suprimido su verdad dondequiera que se haya revelado a sí mismo. El argumento de Pablo en esta acusación es que usted está sin una defensa legal porque ha actuado en contra de todo lo que sabe que es verdad acerca de Dios. Sólo la obra redentora de Dios puede remediar esta condición, y Su intención en salvar a los pecadores es para que hagan exactamente eso. El mensaje de la salvación de Dios es más que perdonarte para que puedas ir al cielo cuando mueras. Aunque ciertamente incluye eso, se refiere mucho más que eso. Se trata de que Dios prepare a usted para vivir de una manera que refleje Su gloria a aquellos que rodean a usted.

    Te has negado a amar y glorificar a Dios. Usted ha fallado en reconocer con gratitud su bondad hacia usted al permitirle vivir en su tierra y respirar su aire. Has adorado a otros dioses en lugar de adorarle. Usted ha cambiado su verdad por una mentira, y, en última instancia, ha decidido que no vale la pena saberlo. En lugar de responder a sus actos de bondad hacia usted, abandonando su camino y regresando a su camino, ha persistido en su obstinada rebelión contra él y ha atesorado aún más ira para sí mismo en el día de su juicio.

    La intención de Dios al salvar a los pecadores es convertir a los que odian a Dios en amantes de Dios. En última instancia, él tiene la intención de restaurar a todos sus redimidos a un lugar de gloria y honor en el que vamos a buscar su gloria por encima de todo. Su obra salvadora nos lleva al lugar en que nos concentramos en Él como nuestro sumo bien  y nuestro tesoro más precioso.

    La promesa de Dios

     Dios está llamando a usted ahora para que se desvíes de cada ídolo al que has buscado la felicidad aparte de -Él. Él  está llamando a usted  que dejes todo refugio en el que te hayas apartado de Él. Él está llamando a usted que abandonar su camino pecaminoso ya volver a Su camino. Su promesa a usted es que si regresará a Él, Él le perdonará completamente. Isaías escribió:

    Buscad al SEÑOR mientras sea hallado; llamadle mientras está cerca; dejó el malvado su camino, y el hombre inicuo sus pensamientos; que vuelva a Jehová, para que tenga misericordia de él y de nuestro Dios, porque él perdonará abundantemente (Isaías 55: 6-7).






    The Real Issue in Gospel Preaching



    One of the great problems with modern “evangelism” is that it attempts to deal with the wrong issue. The question with which most evangelistic conversations seem to begin is “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” Then, the “mark” is told that Jesus died for everyone without exception, and if they will just believe that he died for them, they can go to heaven when they die.  Aside from the fact that no apostolic preacher ever made such statements in early New Testament evangelism, there are several fatal flaws in this approach.


    The first problem is that it ignores the sinner’s ignorance of the nature and character of God. This is one reason the “drive by” approach to evangelism is faulty.  True evangelism cannot take place in a theological vacuum. To assure sinners that God loves them when they have no concept of that God’s character and attributes will be a futile exercise. When they learn who God is and what he demands, they may not wish to be with him in heaven for one minute, much less for eternity.


    Additionally, it ignores the true nature of the sinner’s condition in sin and rebellion against God. I recently heard an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor explain what he called the gospel. When he spoke about the universality of sin, he said this, “You have to know that you are a sinner because you have done bad things like everyone else.”  Such statements glaze over the true problem. The psalmist understood and stated the true problem when he wrote, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psalms 14:1). The remedy God’s redemptive work accomplishes reaches beyond the sinner’s abominable works to the sinner’s corrupt nature.  Since all the unregenerate sinner’s actions result from his corrupt nature, it is not merely that he has done wrong things but that everything he has done has been displeasing to God since all his actions have sprung from the heart of a corrupt rebel. The Scriptures tell us the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord and the plowing of the wicked is sin.  God’s redemptive plan intends to remedy not only the sinner’s guilt but his corruption.


    Paul understood very clearly the commission Jesus had given him.  This is what he said Jesus had sent him to do. Jesus sent him to the Jews and Gentiles “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified through faith in me [Christ]  ( See Acts 26:16-20). Does this not indicate that unless sinners are turned from darkness to light, there will be no forgiveness of sins and no spiritual inheritance?


    Please understand this does not mean sinners must quit all their sins before Jesus will accept them. What it means is that they must understand they are so corrupt that they will never be able to break the bonds of sin’s dominion by their own efforts. If they are to be saved from their bondage and corruption, only Christ can save them. They must bring their sins to Jesus that he might break those bonds. It is the promise that they will be fully pardoned and justified when they turn to God, that gives them confidence to approach him.


    There is not the slightest hint in the New Testament Scriptures that it is God’s purpose to exonerate sinners of their guilt but leave them in the  state of sinful corruption out of which those sins have flowed.


    If you are interested in reading in greater detail about this issue, I would urge you to read my book, “Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit.”  It is available at


    The Bonfire–Daily Straw Man#2

    Today’s “straw man” is the assertion that Calvinists teach believers must maintain their standing before God by their obedient behavior until the judgment. If they fail to produce the level of obedience necessary to maintain their justification, they will be lost.

    If I hadn’t read this stuff myself, I would never believe anyone could be sufficiently ignorant to make such a statement. A corollary to this prodigious misrepresentation is the idea that when we insist that sinner’s must bow to Christ’s Lordship at the point of initial faith, we are calling on sinners to do good works that will contribute to the merit needed to justify them.

    Our view is that the only work that maintains our standing before God is the finished work of Christ. Since our justification depends totally on his gracious work for us, not only is there nothing we can do to keep it, there is also nothing we can do or fail to do that would cause us to lose it. The only place our obedience has in our lives subsequent to our initial justification is to give evidence of the reality of our faith. True faith produces obedience. Even this obedience on our part is never meritorious. Not only are our works without justifying merit; the faith and its accompanying repentance from which those works spring is also without merit.

    Apparently, these people believe that if a sinner comes to a “moment of genuine faith” in Christ, he will be eternally secure no matter what happens subsequently. The issue is that genuine faith is not momentary faith. These two terms should never be used together in the same sentence concerning faith. Genuine faith is ongoing faith. The writer to the Hebrews tells his readers we have come to share in Christ if “we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:14). When Jesus described those to whom he gives eternal life, he described them as those who hear his voice and follow him (See John 10:28). There is no reason to believe we have eternal life and that we will never perish if we have no desire to hear his voice and follow him.

    When we call on sinners to repent, we are not calling on them to stop sinning and begin a new life of obedience. We are calling on them to acknowledge that they cannot stop sinning and become obedient servants of Christ. We are calling on them to bring their sins to their new master that he might break the bonds that have held them captive and produce in them, by his Spirit, the obedience he desires.


    The Good Son Is Going to Perish

     Interpreting Parables

    Jesus used parables to teach one primary lesson for each parable. Those who teach principles of interpretation rightly caution us against trying to make parables walk on all fours. If we try to press all the details of a parable, we are destined to teach doctrines that are contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture. This is an important rule of biblical interpretation concerning parables of which many seem to be unaware and many others simply choose to ignore. If we find teachings clearly delineated in didactic, theological, passages, there is nothing wrong with recognizing allusions to those teachings in the parables. Still, those doctrines must first be established by didactic passages. Like all illustrations, parables break down in points of detail. Our task is to discern the primary lesson Jesus intended to teach in each parable. This is more difficult to discern with some parables than with others.

    The Parables of Luke Fifteen

    In the case of the parables of Luke fifteen, the primary lesson Jesus is teaching is easy discover. Jesus spoke the trilogy of parables we find in this chapter in response to a charge made by the Pharisees and scribes. “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, . . .” (Luke 15:1-3). Jesus was always approachable. Sinners did not shy away from him but felt comfortable in his presence. He received them and ate with them. From the perspective of the Pharisees and Scribes, this complaint was perhaps the worst insult they could have hurled at Jesus. In reality, their complaint is the best news we sinners could receive. This man receives sinners. He does not wait to receive us until the grace he infuses as the result of his redemptive work produces obedience to his commands. He receives us as sinners with no righteousness of our own. The main point of the parable is that Jesus is interested in seeking and saving the lost. In all three of these parables [or all three parts of the parable], Jesus speaks of lost things. The first is a lost sheep, the second a lost coin, the third is a lost son. It is important that we understand that the distinction Jesus draws between the righteous and sinners in the Gospels is not one of reality but one of perception. In reality, there is no one who is righteous, not even one. Jesus speaks of those who perceive themselves to be righteous and those who understand themselves to be sinners. Those who perceive themselves to be righteous are without hope. Jesus only came to redeem the lost.

    Both Sons are the Focus of the Parable

    The so called “parable of the prodigal son” is really as much about the older son as it is about the younger son. It is the contrast between the two that Jesus intends to grab our attention. The older son clearly believes he deserves a party thrown in his honor. In his view, the younger son deserves nothing but the Father’s disgust and rejection. In reality, he is right. What he fails to understand is that he, too, deserves the father’s rejection. We clearly cannot deduce that fact from the parable since there is nothing that would indicate that he was undeserving; we must learn it from other biblical passages. Remember, it is the sinner’s perception of himself that Jesus is talking about, not the reality of the sinner’s standing before God. In Jesus’ parable, it is the one who knows he is lost that the father receives and showers with his good things. The older brother receives nothing. In truth, he is the one who is lost. He saw no need for a Savior. In his perception, he had merited the father’s blessing since he had never left his father’s house. The Pharisees and Scribes, as religious as they were would die in their sins because they saw no need for a Savior.

    An Illustration of Repentance

    Our Lord’s account of the younger brother’s experience in the far country provides an excellent illustration of the nature of repentance. The younger son, in his arrogance had received his inheritance and left his father’s house. He traveled to a distant country and there threw away his inheritance with both hands, living with harlots. When he had spent all the money, a great famine began in that region and he began to be in need. He even went so far as to get a job feeding pigs and was so hungry that he would have eaten the pig food rather than return to his father’s house. Sinners will do anything to avoid returning to the Father. Then, the text tells us he came to his senses. The rest of the New Testament Scriptures teach us that sinners do not just “come to their senses” on their own. This must be God’s work. But, this is not the primary lesson taught in the parable. At this point, Jesus was not concerned with how he came to his senses. His point was that this young man began to understand that he would perish if he did not return to the father’s house. Consider what was involved in his return.

    1. He decided to return to his father’s house. Someone has said, “Repentance is not something God requires us to do before we can return to him; it is returning to him.”

    2. He acknowledged that he was not worthy to be called the father’s son.

    3. He was willing to be treated as a hired servant in his father’s house. The passage says nothing of performing meritorious works to earn the father’s favor. It says nothing about doing penitence so that he might be freed from his post-baptismal sins. It says nothing about keeping the sacraments so that grace might be dispensed to him through them. It says nothing about making a pilgrimage to gain blessings for himself Verse twenty simply says, “So he began his journey and went to the father. He returned with empty hands. He returned without arguments as to why the father should accept him. He returned without any right to the inheritance. He returned with the purpose of serving in the father’s house as an obedient servant for the rest of his life. This is the way sinners repent. We return to the Father without any intention of offering anything as an incentive for his acceptance. We have no arguments of our own as to why he should receive us. We return understanding that we have squandered our inheritance and now deserve no inheritance at all. We return with a heart purpose to serve him for the rest of our days as obedient servants. There is one great difference here between his experience and the sinner’s return. This young man returned without any promise of acceptance. He had no reason for confidence. He returned with a fond but unfounded hope that he would be received. When, as sinners we return to God in saving faith and godly repentance, we do so with a well founded confidence based on God’s salvation promises. He has said, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). The heavenly Father cannot turn sinners away since to do so would make him unfaithful to his promises. The good news is that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. He doesn’t ask you to change yourself; he simply commands you to return. He invites you to come just as you are so that he might cleanse you from your sins and conform you to his likeness. If you continue to insist you are worthy to receive God’s blessing and the eternal inheritance because you are worthy in yourself, you, like the good son, will perish in your sins.