A recent discussion over repentance prompted the inclusion of this article. It complements several earlier posts examining doctrines regarding Biblical salvation, works verses grace, predestination, eternal security, and the relativity of the Law for Christians. As always, the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential to receiving a proper comprehension of these matters. Before reading further, please pray for the Lord to reveal HIS will regarding this.
Specifically, the idea of changing one’s mind is only an accurate scriptural interpretation with a more proper etymological comprehension of the Greek term ‘metanoia’ within the original context of its use.
I know, I can hear the cries of accusation – “according to whose opinion?” But the reason so many fail to effectively apply scriptural conversion is that they do not really enter into a right relationship with Christ in the first place, and then think that the building of a relationship with Him is mostly on THEM, not realizing the mutual exchange includes God – THE primary influence and source. As if God speaks to us? I certainly hope so – what ‘relationship’ is possible otherwise?
Years ago a notable Christian apologist – Leonard Ravenhill – published a treatise on ‘false conversions’. A great read, and quite worth looking into, but my reference here is limited merely to the FACT that ‘false conversions’ exist. They are the result of religious or ‘churcian culture’ NOT properly stressing the scriptural doctrine concerning the born again experience that Christ Himself said is a MUST (Jn. 3:7).
Throughout scripture (and life as we now know it), there are many examples of change that reveal a permanent cessation of one thing that results in the beginning of another: I once blind, NOW I see; I was deaf, NOW I hear; lost, but NOW found, etc. When it comes to spiritual birth, the proper understanding and resulting teaching about becoming born again is severely lacking. Such experience is initiated by God, maintained and perpetuated by God, similar to the involuntary constant pumping of the physical heart.
Ergo, the many scriptural references to the ‘heart’ as the spiritual center of an individual (“… if in your heart you say; … believe in your heart…” etc.). Spiritual birth (becoming born again) quite literally creates a NEW ‘heart’ within an individual, one that was previously non-existent, which the Holy Spirit indwells, sanctifies, and seals – perpetuating its life through an incorruptible ‘seed’ [Christ’s Spirit]. Fulfilling God’s promise to NEVER leave nor forsake the truly born again (Heb. 13:5).
“…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…” – 1Pt. 1:23.
The result is a proper attitude towards ‘metanoia’ related to true conversion. The ‘change’ produced by sincere repentance is PERMANENT. Unlike other changes of the mere natural mind, preferences – clothing, which tooth-paste to use, what brand of bottled water to buy, or car to drive, etc. – spiritual METANOIA is irreversible. Once a butterfly has undergone metamorphosis, it can NEVER return to its former existence as a caterpillar. Of course, it is a matter of spiritual predestination AFTER a true conversion that NEVER changes. Other mundane matters of THIS present life remain in constant flux, which has perpetuated much confusion and debate over this issue.
In other words, a truly born again believer still continues to be mortal and subject to the same temptations and problems of of this present life. But their eternal destiny is fixed and a right relationship with God has commenced.
I’ve heard many of the popular arguments against this theology and the mundane debates over implications that such ‘theory’ strips away free-will, as if a subsequent change of mind can negate a right relationship with God. In the natural (the godless realm of human mentality) this can and does happen. Of course the ‘churchian’ remedy is endless responses to altar calls.
But scripture says such ‘repentance’ (secondary change) is IMPOSSIBLE (Heb. 6:4-6). Who to believe – scripture or man-made doctrine? Trying to convey spiritual truth to a merely ‘natural’ mind is equally impossible. Apart from revelation from the Holy Spirit within, the ‘best’ person cannot rightly comprehend anything spiritual.
“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” – 1Cor. 2:14.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” – Jn. 15:5.
The idea that any ‘good works’ (even perfect obedience to Christ) either establishes right standing with God, or maintains it is NOT scriptural. The major problem is that it continues under an old covenant persuasion that has been replaced (as is common with ALL covenants). No two covenants are considered valid and in force between same named parties. Any new covenant automatically VOIDS the former – that’s just how covenants work – period. Another example of natural law relevant to spiritual reality.
Continuing under old covenant law strips Christ of His glory, removing the need for His sacrifice for our sins. If the old covenant was sufficient and eternally binding, the new would never have been introduced; Christ would NOT have had to suffer.
“By so much more, Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant” – Heb. 7:22.
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” -Heb. 8:6.
“To Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel…” – Heb. 12:24.
Currently, there is a debate in America over the ‘Affordable Health-Care Act’ (Obama Care). Some seek a compromise, a mere amendment to certain parts of it. Others who seek the entire repealing of it, are more closely aligned with the scriptural concept of covenant – NOT to imply their motivations are biblical – merely that any NEW covenant automatically repeals ALL of the older one or ones. A dear friend of mine just went through a most exasperating time settling his deceased father’s estate. Newer wills with more current dates kept coming up, rendering each earlier one legally ‘null and void’. How frustrating and endlessly subverting the actual intentions of the ‘testator’ when any former testament is considered over its rightful successor.
The point being, true conversion is far more about God coming into a person’s life, than a person deciding (choosing) to enter into a more godly lifestyle. In order for conversion to be real (in scriptural terms), God creates a new ‘heart’ and indwells it. The Spirit of God then confirms this reality, NOT in church necessarily (for such individuals have become the church), but by a conscious abiding awareness from deep within.
Church was NEVER intended by Christ to be an ‘organization’, but rather an ‘organism’ compiled of individual ‘members’, born again believers untied together in HIS universal spiritual body.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. … Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” – 1Cor. 12:12, 27.
“Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” – Lk. 17:21.
“The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth” – Ac. 22:14.
“They said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” – Lk. 24:32.
“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” – Mt. 19:26.
The rational, logical mind of man too often approaches spiritual reality under a preconception influenced largely by confusion and doubt, fear and frustration. Mythologies, fantasies, and false belief systems constantly compete for our affections and convictions. Until TRUTH is reveled, a person is sadly relocated to the applied deception of the devil. True conversion FOREVER remedies this because of Christ’s liberating promise.
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” – Jn. 8:32.
Missing from false doctrines and not discerned by the natural mind is the scriptural realization of TRUTH. Greek philosophers considered truth in terms of it as a matter of accurately copying what is known as ‘objective reality’ and then representing it in thoughts, words and other symbols. The Jews thought of truth as moral integrity – a possession absolutely consistent with a righteous standard. Both have greatly influenced human cultures, but neither employs scripture’s revelation – TRUTH is a PERSON, not an applied or accepted intellectual perception.
“Jesus said to him, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” – Jn. 14:6.
Notice the emphasis [mine] placed on the definitive article ‘THE‘ in the verse above. Christ’s declaration points to ‘THE’ – as in ONE and ONLY – WAY to God, TRUTH of all, and LIFE eternal. Accepting Christ the person is much more than an ascent by which His teachings are applied and attempted to be adhered to. True conversion, becoming born again, is heeding the PERSON of Christ (Immanuel, God with us – God Incarnate) at His invitation to come into your life. It is the transference of ‘my will’ in full surrender to and eternal acceptance to the superior will of God.
“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me“ – Rev. 3:20.
“Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” – Jn. 3:5.
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” – Ro. 8:9.
“The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you” – Jn. 14:17.
It is the literal, actual presence of God Himself indwelling you, enabling you, preserving you, guiding you. Much confusion and resulting false beliefs are based on the lack of realization that it is GOD within you that ultimately determines the legitimacy of any ‘metanoia’ related to true conversion. It is NOT ‘feelings’ that validate this; the just live by FAITH.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” – Phil. 2:13.
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” – Ro. 3:28.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” – 2Cor.. 5:7.
“I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me” – Gal. 2:20.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES; it is the gift of God” – Eph. 2:8.
Hopefully, the significance of God being the active ‘agent’ is NOT ignored. The last verse indicates [emphasis mine] that it is God who produces even the ‘faith’ through which we’ve been saved, properly converted, and exist as perpetually born again believers predestined for eternal life. It is quite dangerous, and often heretical, to wrongly place credit for that which God has done, on one’s personal responsibility to conform to any dogma that replaces what God has already accomplished with the idea that it remains within the realm of man’s abilities.