It was on a Holy Day during lent, almost two decades ago, that I returned to church. “Jesus, Remember Me” was sung over and over and over as I kept weeping uncontrollably. If tears were coins I would have paid the choir to stop the insanity. Ah, but it was necessary and it felt good when the tears stopped flowing.
I had struggled so much with so many minor issues of my particular church’s teachings that I threw the baby out with the bath water for awhile. I couldn’t sort out doctrine so my spiritual development took a pause.
Like so many returns to home, it was met with many, many tears. I felt like I was “home” that night at church, yet I felt completely undeserved in being there. I felt like the prodigal son. I knew Jesus was pleased that I was back but I had a tremendous amount of repenting to do… I even had to figure out what I had to repent for. … I was riddled with guilt but unsure how to untangle the mess.
I am so thankful that my shepherd is tender with his sheep.
I still struggle with doctrine and some of the basic principles that divide the Christian religions. Lately, it’s the “once saved always saved” philosophy. While I realize many times over it says in the Bible that I did not choose God, God chose me; That there is nothing to do to receive salvation; That once a person is born again, they shall see God.
I struggle with this simple concept because Jesus himself stated that a person might call His name and He won’t answer.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21
There are stories about believers who couldn’t follow His teachings and thus couldn’t get into heaven.
“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:21-24
While I realize that acceptance into the kingdom cannot be earned, I’m still left scratching my head.
HOWEVER, I will say this… Without repenting and turning from our evil ways we are, at the very least, sabotaging our receipt of the fruits of the spirit.
… walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:16-24
If you choose to ignore the last verse, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it passions and desires” or the one that says “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” we can still see here that to continue to live in sin keeps you from walking in the spirit. It is impossible also to experience the fruits of the spirit if we are struggling with fruits of the flesh… we cannot fully experience joy, peace, love, etc. How depressing!
John the Baptist called people to repent. To change their ways. He knew that Jesus was coming and to simply call oneself “Jewish” or be an elder in a synagogue would not be enough. People needed to be radical and live radical lives in that they needed to adhere to the teachings of the Bible.
I’m not certain if repentance is necessary for salvation but with Jesus having said so many times over that we needed to repent, I’m just going to err on correctness and try my best. I can’t simply live knowingly a sinful life to turn around and repent when and if I feel like it.
Per Wikipedia, “Repentance is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally involves a commitment to personal change and resolving to live a more responsible and humane life.”
Let us repent, receive fully the gifts of the spirit and join each other in paradise.
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. – Luke 15:7