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Unrepentant “Believers”?5 min read

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Wasted Jesus Creed has posted the content of Chapter 5 of Jim Elliff’s Wasted Faith, and I found the text of it both convicting and instructive.  This subject is often referred to in evangelical circles as making sure you have "saving faith", not just some other idea of faith.  The snippets below are good.

Referring to John 2:23-25, the author remarks

They believed or trusted in Christ, but He did not entrust Himself to them! Why? Why this wasted faith? Because these were unrepentant “believers.” They wanted to have Christ added to their lives—a wonderful and needed benefit. Who would not appreciate such miracles and excitement? And everyone was coming to Him. So they believed . . . but Christ knew their hearts. They were full of themselves, their religious pride, lust, anger, etc.

Is it not true that Christians can commit sins such as the above even after believing in Christ? Yes, but there is a significant difference in how a true believer comes to Christ. The repentant person comes because he is a sinner, desperate for deliverance from hell and from the sin that is dragging him there. The false believer also comes to avoid hell, but with essentially no desire for a thorough change from his life of sin. He may hate the consequences of sin, both earthly and eternal, but he has no true hatred of the sin itself.

Like the genuine Christian, the false believer may also experience a sense of comfort. The two may initially look alike to those around them. But they can usually be distinguished by what happens in the months and years after they believe.

Following his initial faith in Christ, the genuine Christian will display the fruit of repentance in his increasing rejection of sin and love of holiness. Many false believers, on the other hand, will eventually drop out of Christian pursuits altogether and return to their life of sin. Those who continue will often experience a measure of outward moral reform due to their association with Christians or other factors. They learn to repress their sinful behavior because it is unacceptable among the company they keep. But in their hearts, their affection for sin is unchanged. Their continuing love for sin may be cleverly concealed most of the time, even from themselves. But God sees the heart.

He continues on to discuss the Apostle Paul’s definitions of godly v. worldly sorrow (kind of like really being sorry for doing wrong v. being sorry for yourself because you got caught)

2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Read the passage again: Godly sorrow . . . salvation; sorrow of the world . . . death. What is the difference between these sorrows? Four words turn on the light of understanding—”not to be regretted.”

My understanding of this also includes the fact that God only wants us to feel guilty so that our hearts and behavior will change, not so that we are motivated by perpetual guilt into service.  If we are motivated by perpetual guilt, perhaps it is not God making us feel guilty!  Maybe it’s a legalistic church.  Either that, or we are actually resisting God’s call for us to forsake sin.

One specific way you can determine the source of guilt (God or otherwise) is by asking this question – is the conviction about something specific, and is there a way for me to right what is wrong and be done with the guilt, or is the accusation against our soul something general, from which there is no obvious out?  If the latter, we may want to consider the source.  This doesn’t mean that we will never feel conviction about thing that are hard to forsake (like addictions or deep seated emotional hurts), but it does mean that we don’t have to walk around guilty all of time.

For sins that we are having a hard time forsaking, God certainly understands that healing is a process, and that we all stumble.  But he’s more worried about what direction we are headed in than if we have some perfect record. 

The author concludes nicely:

It will be no surprise that the Spirit presses hard on your particular idol, the first love of your heart, for all you touch must become His. This is your “change of mind” and the true inward “turning from sin.” Christ saves those who come that way, and no one else. So what about you?

All or nothing baby.  Repentance means all.  May I forsake my own idols today!