How to…Repent

 

(I believe that I cannot by my own reason or understanding repent =

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or understanding believe.)

 

How does repentance work? Most think: first I become aware of my sins, and then I am sorry for them. Then I name them and make amends. More or less. You have to do the best you can and God will do the rest. That’s what repentance and forgiveness is about. In the Roman Catholic system, defined at Trent: Under the supervision of the priest, first you are contrite, then you confess, and then you make satisfaction.

But are we truly aware of our sins? Do we see ourselves as we really are? Are we sorry enough? And what if we forget some sins? And can we ever really make things right again? Here Luther is a first-rate example. He tried to confess all his sins and then repent and make it right. He realized, when he was brutally honest with himself, he ended up either in spiritual pride or in spiritual despair. There was no way to catch up and get ahead.

Presupposed in all of this is that we can and want to know our sins and do something about it. God’s grace provides everything we need, but first we have to repent. That is to say, there is in us something that can turn toward God, a divine spark or a “bent” toward God in our very nature. (“The heart is restless ’til it rests in thee.” Augustine)

When you come down to it, however, sin is rebellion. We never want to repent and never want to make it right. To be sure, people do change their lives. In the left hand kingdom we do repent and make changes. But in the right hand kingdom, before God and the true burden of holiness, we end up either misled by the evil one into spiritual pride or, like Luther, unable to be dishonest with ourselves, we sink into spiritual despair. We may, of course, be aware of and even ashamed of being caught in our sins. But to change in our heart of hearts is not possible.

You will remember from confirmation Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.” But the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies.” We may paraphrase this by stating: “I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot repent…” and that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings me to repentance.

We who live in a world of modern psychology can help ourselves by distinguishing between psychological guilt and theological guilt. [1] We may feel terribly guilty but that does not mean that we are necessarily guilty before God. Or we may feel innocent and still be guilty before God.

The same is true for faith. Faith can be analyzed psychologically, as by Fowler in six stages (from childlike faith to mature faith), but that has nothing to do with theological faith, which is based on what God does. A good example is infant baptism.[2]

Again, we may repent in all sorts of ways psychologically. But that is not what Christian repentance is about. Repentance is a gift of God. It does not depend on us, on how sincerely we repent, or what changes we make in our lives, or whether we make it all right.[3]

In the New Testament there is no pattern or sequence for repentance and salvation, such as call, repentance, conversion, adoption, justification, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. In Romans 8:29-30, Paul writes:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined . . . And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Faith and repentance are not mentioned and everything is in the past tense.[4] This is because it is all God’s doing, and it is all really one act of God.

For example, note the curious sequence of sanctification before justification in 1 Cor 6:11: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God.”

Thus in the theme verse for the Gospel of Mark (1:15): “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel,” it is important to realize that God delivers the kingdom just as he brings us to repentance and gives us faith.

We stand in awe at what God has done, is doing, and will do.



[1]Alcoholics Anonymous is an example of a therapeutic use of repentance and belief in a higher power. AA is a very effective program, but it is not Christian repentance.

 

[2] “Thus faith is a gift, purely and simply. All are in the same situation when it comes to faith, just as all are in the same situation with respect to sin. That means that adult baptism is simply delayed infant baptism,” Joseph A. Burgess, “Faith: New Testament Perspectives,” American Baptist Quarterly 1(1982) 147-48; read it here.

[3]“Repentance” is not unique to Christianity but exists in other religions. How then is Christian repentance different? Is it because Christians repent in Jesus’ name? To be sure, we pray in Jesus’ name, but the name does not “work” like a magical formula. Rather, God elects us through the cross. As Luther says, the righteousness of faith is a purely passive righteousness. God does it. Thus Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Creed.

[4] The Greek verb here is the aorist tense, which does not exist in English. It is not a simple past or a past participle. Rather it means “now and forever,” as in Ephesians 1:4: “… [H]e chose us in him before the foundation of the world….”

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From CrossAlone Lutheran District  http://crossalone.us/

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Thanks to flickr and forwardstl, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What in the world does Jesus calming the storm have to do with YOUR baptism?

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Well…listen in and find out:

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click> Jesus calms the storm…

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Thank you, Pastor Mark.

And thanks to flickr and agonist, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Assurance, Baptism

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”   – Ephesians 2:8

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The young man called out of the blue and wanted to talk. The next morning found him in my study, wringing his hands, full of doubt. He had been baptized and grew up in a Lutheran congregation. During his college years, a friend convinced him that his baptism meant nothing and that he must make a free-will decision to accept Christ. The next few years found him in a so-called non-denominational church.

He went on to describe a Christian life, as it had been presented to him, that was a source of chronic uncertainty. It began with the demand that he make a free-will decision. Then, the message he heard continually prodded the will to keep choosing, setting up Biblical principles for living, ladders of spiritual achievement, rules for godly living. The questions poured out of him. Am I doing what God wants? Am I praying often enough? Am I loving enough? Do I have enough faith? Am I sincere in wanting to love God or am I just afraid of judgment? When I die will I have done enough to escape God’s judgment? Am I really a sincere Christian? He had reached his limits. “If the Gospel is Good news”, he remarked, “why do I always feel so unsettled and uncertain?”

After listening to his litany of questions, I replied; “I don’t know you, but I can say with certainty that the answer to all your questions is ‘no’. At the same time, I can say with even more certainty that the answer to your doubts is Christ and what He has done for you. Basing faith on your decision for Christ is a formula for uncertainty. Basing faith on Christ’s decision for you in your baptism plants you firmly in the Gospel.”

What the young man who came to me was discovering is that when we look to ourselves, to what we have done, to our willing, all God will show us is our unwillingness. God deliberately drives us to uncertainty, doubt, despair, or, even worse, to pride. What I hoped he would see is that when we begin with baptism, with God’s decision for us, God shows us the righteousness that is His gift to us by faith, deliberately leading us away from ourselves to the foot of the cross, to the forgiveness that flows from His merciful heart.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From Pastor Mark’s blogsite:

http://www.lightofthemaster.net/apps/blog

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Acts 4:12

“And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”

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At first glance the picture above may appear to be the tower of some great English cathedral. Actually, it’s a photo I took at Yale university on the occasion of Kristin’s graduation.

The vast amounts of energy and resource poured into institutions such as Yale testify to a supreme sense of self-importance. Indeed, the academic culture speaks from what we have come to characterize as the ‘Ivory Tower’ with the sense of the royal ‘we’, claiming an expertise and superiority that is meant to be the latest, if not the last, word.

For the most part, theological seminaries have cast their lot with the academic culture. A glance at the faculty lists of main-line seminaries will reveal names followed by the abbreviations of academia, symbols of their expertise. But they can also be symbols of something else, something that academics in the church have a hard time confronting. Namely, conformity to the values of the academic culture.

I have joked, (actually, I have been quite serious) that every person who serves on a theological faculty should be mandated to teach confirmation classes and visit nursing homes as part of their job description. What does a Biblical theologian resplendent with a PhD have to say to a teenager in love with Ipods, laptops and pop culture? What does a high flying systematics prof have to say to a woman living out her last months in a nursing home on some nameless side street, neglected or forgotten by her family and the ‘progressing’ world around her?

If professional theologians have nothing to say to the teenage pop culture addict or a dying woman, then I have a hard time understanding what they have to say to a classroom full of seminarians destined for the trenches to do battle with “sin, death and the power of the devil”. The fact is, many of these religious professionals don’t have anything to say. They give hot air a bad name. Naturally, many would object to this. But the course descriptions of a typical mainline seminary today, Lutheran or otherwise, reveal a simple fact: the ‘schools of the prophets’ have become graduate schools in religion where the religiously diverse and inclusive values of the academic culture have made Jesus just one more option on the religious salad bar.

Theological faculties and congregations would do well to remember that it is what the church has to say to the fallen world, in its state of perpetual bondage and lostness unto death that finally matters. The academic culture and the wider society, with all their generous diversity, have no answer to these. Jesus does. For Christ, and the salvation that is in Him alone, is the heart, soul and substance of the Church’s message. It is in the sounding of this one, glorious note that the Church finds its voice, and the world its hope.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From Pastor Mark’s blog:

http://www.lightofthemaster.net/apps/blog

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Sacraments, Calvinism, “free-will”, ministry of the Word, stewardship, the “ministry of death”, the priesthood of all believers, and more…

An excellent class  (do not adjust your set – this one recorded in mono…but don’t let that cause you to miss this barn burner):

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listen in to >  The Ministry of the Word vs.The Ministry of Death

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Thank you, Pastor Mark.

Thank you to flicker and imkukie, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

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Still handing Christ over…50 years and counting…

Pastor Duane Berg, member of our congregation and our preacher when Pastor Mark is away, celebrated his 5oth anniversary of his ordination of ministry, by once again, handing over Christ Jesus and His forgiveness of sins:

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listen> Being in Christ – Christ being in you

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Thank you, Pastor Berg, and congratulations on 50 years of ministry proclaiming Christ and His cross for sinners!

 

And thanks to flickr and cake-creations, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

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Sanctification – The Theology of the Cross – and the similarities between Evangelical and Roman Catholic theologies

Where does the Christian life start?  From the resurrection…or the cross?

A good one. It will no doubt ruffle a few feathers…but then the pure gospel always seems to do that.

Enjoy:

Listen to >Sanctification vis a’ vis the Theology of the Cross

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Thanks, Pastor Mark.
And thanks to flickr and mirandoll, for the photo.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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