Today, many people have heard the gospel of grace, which is good. Many preachers preach it, but they also proclaim that if you only believe and confess Jesus as your personal savor, you will get into heaven and you will have eternal security.
Many churches seldom teach about repentance. When I inquired about this, the answer I got from them was that repentance after conversion was a separate deal from the salvation package, that it is about Christian living, and that some “experts” (i.e. revivalist) can preach about that if they got a special calling. (There are but a few revivalists in the last hundred of years)
But the Bible clearly teaches that if we don’t repent, we are not saved. Repentance isn’t just a one time act. It is necessary to repent whenever one commits sins. Otherwise, one will live in sin and risk dying in it.
What happens if we die in sin? We won’t go to heaven. Let me explain.
Repentance Is One Of The Initial Conditions To Salvation
17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. [Repent, and then believe. Not vice versa]
When Jesus began to preach, he didn’t ask people to confess and believe in the gospel and then repent, but he first asked people to repent. Repentance is the first thing that Jesus asks of us.
If we don’t repent, which is the first thing Jesus asked for, then how can we receive the rest of the “salvation package”?
Later, Jesus revealed other truth to his disciples, but the first step was to repent.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
20But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples received the Holy Spirit, and they too began to preach. The requirement to repent didn’t change. They still asked people to repent before anything else after the Cross and Ascension.
No repentance no forgiveness. And no forgiveness no salvation.
We Should Repent Of Our Past, Present, And Future Sin Whenever God Convicts Us
Repentance is as needed. Anytime the Holy Spirit convicts you of a particular sin (John 16:7-8), you have to repent and confess it right there and then, no matter how long ago you have committed it before. (1 John 1:8-9)
Refusal and negligence to do so would be quenching/grieving the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:3)
This doesn’t have to be a passive process. If we want to maintain an intimate relationship with God, we have to seek God’s guidance on this actively. In time, we will become closer to God and sin much less.
Some teachers might tell you that God has forgiven us of our past, present, and future sin at the point of time when we become a Christian. That is very misleading— a big but subtle error.
The atonement of Jesus Christ is effective for the past, present, and future, but it is not automatic and once-and-for-all. We can still reject His atonement anytime if we choose to give up our belief in the pure Gospel, or to not repent of certain sins.
Some teachers also tell you that salvation of the Old Testament is different than the New Testament. In fact, in both Testaments, the saints receive salvation through faith, in Christ. Nothing that we do is good enough for us to earn our salvation, whether a believer is from the Old Testament era or the New Testament era.
See how King David from the Old Testament era deals with his sins from the psalms below:
12Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. [David confesses and asks for forgiveness even for hidden sins that he isn't aware of]
13Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins [willful and prolonged sins] ; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
David prays for divine interventions and protections to keep him from future sins, while he trust God to blot out his past, hidden sins that he couldn’t even remember and be aware of.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
David is always careful. He is watchful and alert. He never stop asking God to convict him of any leftover sin or secret sin that are outside of his limited awareness so he can stay on the narrow path to heaven. (Matthew 7:14)
Sometime, David goes through heavy convictions. Maybe God is doing a major spiritual surgery to him — He is bringing many hidden sins to light:
12For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
13Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.
The heavy conviction of sins is a spiritual crisis— if you refuse to repent, then it becomes deadly, but if you repent, it becomes an opportunity to a great spiritual breakthrough.
I have been there from time to time before. This is not condemnation from the enemy, but genuine convictions from the Lord. Sometime it’s both.
The solution to this spiritual crisis isn’t positive thinking or distraction, which leads to false peace but real spiritual danger, but to really humble ourselves like David and ask for help and forgiveness:
2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
In the scripture above, David is specifically confessing his adultery and homoicide before God. He goes very deep this time, even trace back to when he was still a fetus.
Then, he goes on to ask for restoration of the joy of salvation! It clearly indicates that David knows that salvation is not automatic, nor is it “once saved always saved”:
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
On the other hand, David knows that God will forgive and deliver him from his sins if he sincerely asks for it. He didn’t just believe and confess some easy, general, and broad term sins in an one-size-fit-all, one-and-only-once-in-a-lifetime prayer, but he actively seeks forgiveness from God when God convicts him of specific transgressions.
Do I Still Need To Repent After I became A Christian?
The following passage will make it clear.
23Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
24But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
25Yet ye say, The way of the LORD is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
26When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
27Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
28Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
If the wicked turn away from his transgressions, he shall live. But if the righteous turn away from God’s grace and forgiveness, but sin deliberately and die in them, then he dies in sin!
In summary, if one has been living in sins for 10 years, then even though he was saved before, he would have ended up in hell if he died during that 10 years. If the period of unrepentant last only 10 minutes, it’s still a window of vulnerability when the sinner might die in sin during that 10 minutes and thus go to Hell.
Does it sound scary? Too scary to be possible? Read this verse.
3Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
This verse talks about how we should watch out for the Rapture. But the principle is the same for salvation. We don’t know when we will die, so it is wise to stay out of willful and prolonged sins lest we die in them.
How Do I Know That I Am Saved?
You can be sure that you are saved RIGHT NOW. As long as you are not refusing to repent of any known sin, as long as you have a good relationship with God, and as long as you believe that salvation can only be obtained by grace, through faith, in our lord and savor Jesus Christ, then you can be absolute certain that you are being saved. If you shall die at this moment, you are going to heaven. (not by suicide, of course)
How Do I Make Sure That I Am Not Going To Die In Sin?
We can all learn from David’s prayer, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalms 19:13)
This is a matter of faith. If we always worry about the future, what we worry about will tend to come true, but if we have faith in God, His power will manifest. Have faith in God and His words. Study God’s word and proclaim His promises frequently. The more you do it, the more truth will sanctify you, change you, and strengthen you. (John 17:17; James 1:21; 1 John 1:7)
Your willpower and best intention in the present can never guarantee the final condition of your heart, not even the present condition! Only the power of biblical faith, which can unleash the power of God, can accomplish that. That’s why we have to pray, praise, fellowship with other Christian, and study the Bible diligently. The more we do them, the more likely that we can endure to the end because these activities can increase our faith, cover our blind spots, keep us close to God, unleash the power of truth, and help us retain more truth.
And finally, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)