I recently read a book called The Rest Of The Gospel: When The Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out. If you haven’t read it, you should definitely put it onto your reading list. It has forever changed the way that I look at Christianity as a whole, and in my personal walk with God. In this book, the author, Dan Stone shares an experience he had as a pastor. He said that a couple of the young deacons in his church would pray for the forgiveness of their sins every time that they prayed. At the end of their meeting one Sunday, he confronted them as to why they were praying for that. (I’m paraphrasing here) “Have you done something wrong that went against the Holy Spirit? Is the Spirit is now encouraging you to repent of something that God hasn’t already forgiven?” Their answer was no. He continued to explain to them that Jesus Christ died for our sins once. We died to our sins once. Our sins are once and for all time forgiven. They concluded to place more purpose in repentance and to have the faith to accept what has already been forgiven. I will attempt in this article to clear up this muddy subject because I believe it is one that is often times overlooked or misunderstood. We will start with Galatians.
Galatians 2:17-21 reads: “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…. for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly.” Two parts to this: (1) Our sinful selves were sacrificed on the cross with Jesus. This is perhaps the most important thing that we as Christians can try to comprehend. Imagine if you were on a cross next to Jesus and you died and rose again with Him. That is what he did for us. He made the unobtainable obtainable and died in our place. Rejoice that you are dead! All your nasties and dirties were taken upon Him back when He was the only one who knew of you. He was our proxy. That’s the gift. If we are dead, can we die again? If we are dead to sin, can the sin then be risen in us again? If so, I would argue that we were never truly saved to begin with. God doesn’t forgive with a grudge and he doesn’t forgive looking for pay back. He knew that no matter how far we go in our walk with Him, that we would always fall short, but he loved us enough to do it anyway. These are the eternal realities and perspectives that are so difficult for Christians to grasp. Time is all the same for God, we are only able to see what He allows us to experience and take hold of. Does this mean that we won’t sin? No. Our natural man-or woman is still in us as long as we live in a fallen and corrupted world. Which brings us to: (2) Christ now lives in you. You can not live the “perfect Christian life”, but God can and will for you. You may be able walk the walk or talk the talk, but without Him in you, you can never obtain the life. Faith is necessary for this to happen. If you don’t believe in your heart of hearts that He has already forgiven you of your sins long before you were born, then you have not yet been saved. It sounds simple, but the answer is harder than it seems. Acceptance and allowance. Accept the fact that you are no longer a corrupted soul, but a spotless and holy being that He has chosen as His vessel. Far too often we can get side-tracked into the things of “the Law” that we can’t uphold and we forget to see the entire picture. You and every minor detail about your life here has already been decided. Dan Stone also referred to a disposition about himself that he disliked. He said he struggled with impatience. He prayed regularly for God to “fix” this “problem” that he had. One day, the conclusion came to him that this was not something that needed to be “fixed”. He basically said that his impatience was sometimes what gave him the energy to continue God’s ministry as pastor of a church. It counter-acted his laziness. We are all unique expressions of God Himself. He chose every detail of our personalities, our circumstances, and our dispositions. Who are we to try to “fix” something that isn’t broken? Rather, our entire self (once we have been saved) is a blameless and Holy masterpiece created in His image. In conclusion, repentance is a necessity in putting off the old self and freeing ourselves from the initial bondage. It is an action of invaluable depth when speaking in terms of the initial conversion to Christianity. We can also be called to repentance by word of the Holy Spirit. My take on these circumstances would be that this is a personal relationship thing that is between you and God. No two people are alike. Likewise, no two relationships are alike. Do what you feel He is leading you to do. However, when it comes to praying on a regular basis for things that you feel guilty of, that is where there may be cause for concern. Then we would be removing the focus from Him,from His saving Grace, majesty and love, back onto us. The focus then is no longer what a great work God is doing in you, but how you could have done better.