August 25, 2016

5 ways to discern true and false repentance

by Jesse Johnson

Every Christian will likely encounter this scenario: someone you know and who professes Christ has a major sin in their life exposed. As a result, relationships are harmed, their reputation is destroyed, and their heart is broken. You, as their friend (or pastor or spouse) are left wondering how to respond.

You know that Christians are called to forgive and restore other believers who have their sin exposed, but you also know that this is only true if they are repentant over their sin. For example, the command in Galatians 6:1 to “restore” a fallen believer is paired with an exhortation about the importance of self-examination (vv. 2-4). Or Paul, in 2 Corinthians 7, tell the Corinthians that he stands ready to forgive them, because the exposure of their sin produced godly sorrow as opposed to worldly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

So what are you supposed to do? The person in front of you says they are repentant. They say they are sorry about their sin. But is that enough?  

The Bible contains several aids that are designed to help believers distinguish between true and false repentance. It is important that we are able to distinguish the two, because the difference between them determines how we respond to our fallen brother or sister. If we are to bring law to the proud and grace to the humble, then it is essential that we are able to discern between pride and humility.

For example, as I mentioned above, Paul extended the Corinthians grace (instead of law) because he judged their sorrow to be a sign of godly repentance as opposed to worldly sorrow. But how did he know the difference? After all, the person who sits in your living room weeping about their now known sin may or may not be truly repentant, so how could Paul know?

He tells us that godly sorrow leads to repentance because it is accompanied by indignation, fear, deep longing, zeal, and justice (2 Corinthians 7:11).

Why did he choose those words? Well, taken together they represent someone who is broken over the nature of their sin more than the consequences of it. They provide five marks that the person is sorry they sinned, rather than sorry they got caught.

Indignation: Godly sorrow is a form of godly anger. This is an anger at sin—not the consequences of sin, but at sin itself. The broken believer is sorry about their sin, but they are more than sorry: they are disappointed and grieved that the depravity brought into the world through Adam resides in their own heart.

Some people are angry their sin was exposed. Their concern is to cover their sin and convince others to do that as well. Like Saul who only wanted Samuel to go with him for appearance’s sake, these people are not grieved over their sin. True repentance doesn’t create anger at those who know the sin, but rather anger at the nature of sin itself. This is why Paul describes true repentance as a form of indignation.

Fear: Godly sorrow is a form of holy reverence only found in those who fear the Lord. If a person fears man, they may grieve over how their sin has affected others, but fail to view their sin as an offense against God. But if a person fears God, then they grieve over their sin because they recognize that it was against a holy God. When David was confronted by Nathan, his response was “I have sinned against Yahweh.” He understood that sin is primarily against God.

If you are trying to discern between true and false repentance, this is a good question to ask: “is the person sorry they sinned against God, or sorry that their sin has been uncovered? In response to their sin being exposed, are they repenting like they fear God, or are they in damage control because they fear the world?

Deep longing: This Greek word captures the idea that the repentant person wants to receive forgiveness. They realize their sin has broken relationships, and they want those relationships restored. It is deeper than the person who wants things to go back to the way they were. Instead, it speaks of a person who wants reconciliation that only comes through forgiveness.

Worldly sorrow wants offenses ignored and overlooked. Godly sorrow wants offenses forgiven and relationships strengthened. Paul could tell the Corinthians that his heart “stands open” for them, because they love him, and want to be brought together with him again in a spiritual relationship (2 Cor 6:11, 12, 13, 7:1). This desire for unity through forgiveness is a hallmark of true repentance.

Zeal: True repentance is eager to resolve the sin and move on. Paul uses this word because it captures the attitude of the penitent person to demonstrate their repentance. Elsewhere the Scriptures say that a believer is “zealous for good works” (1 Timothy 2:14, 1 Peter 3:13). Here, the idea is that the good work the believer is eager to do is to ask for forgiveness.

What a contrast with worldly sorrow! I’ve never seen a worldly person zealous to confess areas of his life where he has failed. In the world, failures are overlooked by some sense of mutually assured destruction. But in the church, when a true believer is caught in sin, he is zealous to be restored.

Justice: Godly sorrow comes from a heart that is willing to accept the consequences of sin. David was broken by his sin, and while he mourned the death of his son, he also understood that this was the consequence for his sin, and he worshiped. A broken believer does not run from sin’s consequences. Rather, he receives them knowing that if they are for his discipline, then they must be from a loving father.

Worldly sorrow is often feigned to escape consequences. The husband might apologize for the affair if it means keeping his wife. The speeder might fake a tear to avoid the ticket in the same way a child might cry to avoid a spanking. But those actions do not come from a repentant heart. Godly sorry sees justice as being from the Lord, and because it is godly, it is good.

Paul knew the Corinthians were truly repentant because they were angry over their sin, they were longing to restore their broken relationships, they were zealous to make things right, and they trusted in God’s justice for their sin.

It’s true that these are all somewhat subjective, but taken together they indicate a heart that is “pure,” and that pursues repentance out of “diligence” (vv 11-12). When you find yourself ministering to someone caught in a sin, it is essential that one of your first acts of Christian love is to try and discern if their tears are from the world and for themselves, or if they are from the working of the Spirit and for the glory of God.

Jesse Johnson

Posts Twitter Facebook

Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • James Wells

    Best proof text on repentance Psalms 51, written to be sung with musicians (exposing David’s sin and true repentance to the entire congregation).

    • True. And next week I’ll blog on a lesser known passage that describes this difference as well.

  • robertetozier

    “The Bible contains several aides….” Aids. Hopefully a good church will have aides.

  • Josh

    Excellent Jesse! Thanks! Very helpful, particularly in an age of apostasy.

  • calebkolstad

    Thanks for this article Jesse

  • KPM

    Interesting. A good friend of mine had a sister who was caught up in sin. She went to her Reformed Baptist church elders to confess her sin and seek counsel. As a result, she was excommunicated from the church. Soon afterwards, she committed suicide.

    I’m glad the elders there were so diligent to distinguish between true and false repentance. Better to cast out sinners who are confessing their sins and seeking absolution, then to risk having them hang around and defile your assembly of the righteous.

    Maybe you should take Christ’s words about letting the chaff grow up with the wheat a bit more seriously. The damage that is being done by fruit-detectors is devastating in the lives of so many Christians. This kind of thinking does little but tear out the wheat which is mistaken as chaff. I’ve seen a lot of people cast out of the church or treated with disdain because they weren’t evidencing enough “fruit of repentance” to satisfy whoever it was that made it their mission to separate the wheat from the tears.

    Take head, shepherds, you will be responsible for the souls you’re destroying.

    • I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss. It sounds like there was obviously a lot going on in that situation, and I”m glad for your discretion in not posting it all in a blog comment. I agree with you: I’m glad the elders were diligent as well.
      And you totally are right with the warning for shepherds: God holds us accountable to how we shepherd. If we fail to follow Christ’s commands to pursue church discipline/restoration, or Paul’s command (to the Corinthians no less!) to expel the immoral person, then we will most certainly face the rebuke of Christ himself. On the other hand, if church’s fail to recognize genuine repentance, they fail to heed the commands of Galatians 6 to restore the fallen person in gentleness and grace.
      I’ll add this (agian, not knowing the details of your friend’s sister’s situation), my personal experience has been that if someone uncovers his own sin, he is usually repentant. Its harder when the person’s sin has been discovered by someone else. And obviously if the person is repentant, there is no “excommunication.” That’s reserved for situations where the person refuses to repent.

      • KPM

        The problem with Lordship Salvation and those who adhere to it, is that they always see themselves in the position of being able to discern who is “really” repentant, and who in isn’t. In many situations, people are confessing their sin, even grieving over it, and they’re told that they aren’t really repenting, because whoever it is who is listening has decided that he knows best.

        I experienced this myself on many occasions, where I had spent time fasting, punching myself, and praying for long periods of time because I hated my sin so much. When I confessed my sin, I was told, “I’m not sure you’re really sorry that you sinned. I think you’re just sorry that you got caught.” or something along those lines.

        I’ve heard all the rumors, “So and so might not really be a Christian because they committed xyz sin.” Did any of those back-biting, gossipers approach that person about their sin to see whether or not they were repentant? Would those same people confess that their sin of gossip is just as bad? Wouldn’t that mean that they’re not “really” repenting?

        You continue to perpetuate this situation with posts like this. Lordship salvation adherents shut their ears and their eyes to those who are hurt by their approach to the Christian life. They generally conclude that anyone who disagrees with how they preach and apply the law is “not really a Christian at all,” or at the very least has some kind of personal sin they are trying to cover up. They lie to themselves when large groups of people leave their church, all saying essentially the same things.

        I seriously pray for your churches. I used to be big on “Lordship Salvation.” I was incredibly judgmental of everyone who didn’t live up to my standards of a “true Christian,” and I have found this to be the case with most in those circles. I still experience this with members of my extended family who go to churches run by Master’s seminary grads. They’re very quick to make determinations as to who is “really” a Christian. It’s great because you get to pat yourself on the back for all of the fruit that you’re evidencing, unlike those people over there…. O God, I thank you that I’m not like other men…

        I started to see where this approach was skewed and had seriously departed from the Reformation tradition when I did a report on Martin Luther for a history class in college. Reading Luther’s “On Christian Liberty” was a paradigm shift for me. The way Luther talks about Christian Freedom is certainly a lot different then the way MacArthur talks about Christian Slavery.

        I also think it’s quite telling that Lordship Salvation folks always love to talk about church discipline, but they never talk about announcing or giving the forgiveness of sins. Lutheran theology is centered on receiving the forgiveness of sins in the sacraments and absolution. Church discipline is not a true “mark” of the Christian church. Blessing people with the undeserved forgiveness of sins is.

        The forgiveness of sins is God’s lavish gift in Jesus Christ that is to be distributed to all who believe. When all kinds of conditions must be met before you will declare that someone is forgiven in Christ, I start to wonder if you really believe that eternal life in Christ Jesus is the free gift of God, or if it’s dependent upon faith plus works.

        I would encourage you to look in the mirror and ask yourself that question. Do you really believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone, or is it conditional?

        Check out this video. Doesn’t their approach to the Christian life seem awfully familiar? They’re Reformed Baptists, too. Coincidence?

        • I really am sorry for your experience, and I hope you see that the problems you had in confessing your sins seem to be with the relationship with your church, and not with the distinction between true/false repentance. I mean, your comment (which I shortned, and took out the video link) actually does sum up “Lordship salvation” very well: the Bible makes it clear that there is a distinction between true/false repentance, but man that is hard to live out. Of course salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and of course it is conditional! Even Jesus describes it as conditioned upon genuine faith; Not all that say to me ‘Lord, Lord,” or “if you refuse to forgive, you yourselves will not be forgiven” or the other dozen passages on this. So let me plead with you to see the truth that Jesus does command church discipline, and that not all who claim Christ are genuine–Saul went his way, and David his, and they both sinned, they both said so, but their hearts went in opposite directions. Again, I’m sorry for how your last church treated you, but the issue is with them, not with the Bible’s teaching.

          • KPM

            What ever happened to “Theology Matters?” Isn’t that what you said when Tullian Tchividijian committed adultery? Theology doesn’t matter, apparently, when churches that teach Lordship Salvation use it in an abusive fashion, because it’s not their theology that is the root, it was just some bad eggs, right? CJ Mahaney’s abusive leadership and the sexual sin that was covered up by his church, probably with his knowledge, that had nothing to do with his theology, or the theology of T4G, or TGC, or whatever acronym is being used, right?

            My contention is NOT that church discipline isn’t biblical. My contention is that it doesn’t have the kind of primacy that 9 Marks, or GTY, or the Cripplegate give it. You guys speak practically nothing of pronouncing the forgiveness of sins in Christ (absolution), but you speak much about the importance of practicing church discipline. It seems you believe the church’s role is to pronounce that someone is still in their sins, but never to pronounce that they are forgiven.

            Like you guys always say, theology matters! This isn’t one church that I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the church that my wife went to in college where they sent guys to TMC for training and everyone carried a MacArthur Study Bible. I’m talking about the church I attended for practically 10 years. I’m talking about the church I attended in Taiwan for a year when I studied abroad. I’m talking about the church where my friend’s sister committed suicide. I’m talking about the church in SoCal where my wife’s sisters and brother attend today. Theology matters, and Lordship Salvation/obsessive fruit-checking/trying to separate the wheat from the tears always has very similar results. I’ve seen it time and again. I can give many examples of how people are abused in these churches, often times with “are you really a Christian if…” kind of language. It’s a pattern, not one church.

            If you go to your local, Confessional Lutheran Church, you’ll talk to many people who left either Reformed or Evangelical Christianity exactly for the reasons I’ve described above. In a sense, the Lutheran Church has become sort of a haven for those escaping the confusing, disoriented, un-rooted, shifting and changing sands of American Evangelicalism. The New Calvinism is having its day right now, but there will be another legalistic, or antinomiam, or charismatic, or whatever trend that sweeps through in a couple of years.

            My other contention is that you ABUSE the heck out of the scriptures. For example, Paul describes the reaction of the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 7. What he does not in any way do is tell churches that they need to use this as a criteria to determine who is “really” repenting and who is only being deceitful. I don’t think you’re qualified to make that judgment. You are using the scriptures in a way they were not intended to be used.

            Most of the proof texts that you used are totally ripped from their context. Matthew 7 is talking about recognizing false teachers. It isn’t talking about you, as the pastor, deciding whether or not someone in church is really repenting, or only feigning repentance. Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, we shouldn’t go looking for reasons to declare that someone is only falsely repenting. If someone is confessing their sins, the default should be to believe them, not doubt them, or try to find ways that we can prove their repentance isn’t sincere enough.

    • Maranatha

      @KPM: Please do not savage me saying so, but your sad story reminds me spontaneously of Matthew 27,3-5. Both of the two parties claimed to serve God (in some way), and both were not saved/newborn according to Matthew 7,21. Thus, self-righteousness was dominating, not forgiveness in Christ Jesus: For both, the reformed Baptists AND the suicide woman.

      • KPM

        That’s a pretty harsh thing to say. Both to the Reformed Baptist Church Elders and the girl who committed suicide. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that neither of them are true Christians, or that they are just like Judas and the Sanhedran.

        This is exactly why I think this approach to the Christian life is flawed. It’s not our responsibility to go on witch hunts trying to determine who is really saved and who is just pretending. We are not really competent to make that decision.

        There may be time when people claim to be repentant, but they give very clear evidence that they are not. For example, someone who says, “yeah, sure, I repent, whatever.”

        What you’re doing above is a great illustration of why I think Jesse Johnson’s approach is flawed. You look at people and make quick judgments based on scant evidence that neither party is “really” a Christian.

        This is the attitude that tends to predominate in churches where a TMS grad teaches, or where everyone in the church carries a J Mac Study Bible and lay teachers use the MacArthur Bible Commentary to prepare sermons. I’ve seen many people isolated and driven not only from a particular church, but from the Christian faith in general because they were truly sorrowful over sin, truly wanted to live a righteous life, but they were struggling and needed a word of grace and comfort. Instead, they were told that they might not really be a Christian because they weren’t evidencing enough fruit to prove that they were repenting, or to prove that they really loved Jesus with pure motives.

        I’m not the only one who has pointed this out or experienced this.

        Check out this thread from Puritan Board, if you have time:

        http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/72762-Soteriology-Lordship-Salvation-and-Michael-Horton-s-book

        Some of the people in the thread describe the damage that they’ve seen done as a result of people being turned on to the theology of John MacArthur, particularly his Lordship Salvation. Many of the people on their also saw there friends and family members turned into “fruit detectors” who were always looking for a reason to declare that someone isn’t “really” saved.

        Jesse’s post just represents more of this nonsense. How to tell if someone is “really” repentant, or just faking it. It encourages Christians to not simply have little bit of discernment, but to actively try to punch holes in peoples stories when they say they are repentant, or when they say that they do not want to sin anymore.

        One of the biggest problems is that the passages of scripture that they use to justify their actions don’t actually encourage them to do what they’re doing.

        2 Corinthians 7 was written as a means of comforting the Corinthians and encouraging them. To take that and to turn it around and say, “if you don’t clearly see these fruits when someone confesses their sins, they’re probably just faking it,” is to use the scriptures in a way that they were not intended to be used. If my first son does something really well, and I tell him that I am proud of him, does that mean that I am automatically disappointed in my second son if he doesn’t do the exact same thing? It wouldn’t necessarily follow.

        • Maranatha

          Sorry not being able to keep on this theological debate. I know what you mean but am not judging, just asking the bible and not trusting men but God only. Jesus Himself was accused to “speak harsh” – the reason why many disciples did not follow him anymore in John 6,66.

          In your special case, the bible speaks quite clearly: look here http://illbehonest.com/can-a-christian-commit-suicide-tim-conway

          This might sound harsh to you, but it is biblical truth. God bless!

          • KPM

            Wow. I skimmed the article. That is really a terrible position to take. If you have a friend whose close relative commits suicide, you will turn to that person and tell them that their relative is hell, because a “true” Christian wouldn’t commit suicide.

            I really hope you’ll reconsider this position. It’s horrible.

    • Jason

      How do you understand the mandate to confront a brother in Matthew 18 and the apostles encouraging congregations to remove the unrepentant from their fellowship in their epistles (ex: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11)?

      If you are okay with excommunication in certain circumstances, can you explain what they are, and why you are being any less judgemental with your standards than you believe Jesse is being with his?

      I know internet posts can come off as passive aggressive, but I’m
      genuinely hoping you can explain how these passages are understood from a
      different perspective.

      • KPM

        Each passage is different. For example, what is the purpose of 2 Corinthians 7? Paul tells the Corinthians that he was encouraged by their godly grief because it produced in them sorrow leading to repentance.

        Here is what this passage does not do. This passage does not say that when a person confesses their sins it is our responsibility to question all of their motives and pull out a check list to see how many of the fruits of repentance they are really showing.

        Jesse said, “After all, the person who sits in your living room weeping about their now known sin may or may not be truly repentant, so how could Paul know?”

        He then goes on to list the ways that you can determine whether or not someone weeping over their sins is truly repentant. I think this is a really bad way to approach pastoral care, and it is not what Paul was encouraging or commanding in 2 Corinthians 7. Certainly, Paul was encouraging them by saying that they showed many fruits of repentance and that he was glad to see that, but Paul doesn’t tell us to interrogate people, or question their motives when they are weeping over their sins.

        Doesn’t Paul tell us that love believes all things? Sure, we’re not supposed to be suckers, but if someone is weeping over their sin, our general approach should be to give them the gospel – immediately.

        A completely different situation would be when someone is caught in sin and called to the floor for it. If there response is, “whatever, man, we’re all sinners, isn’t that what grace is for,” then there is a clear sign that they are abusing the grace of God and using it as a license for sin. This is a completely different situation than someone weeping over their sins. In one instance, it’s rather obvious that a person doesn’t care if they continue in sin or not. In the other instance, a person is giving the outward appearance that they are repentant, so it’s not our responsibility to try to flush out all of their inner most motives and determine what is really in their heart. That is a practically impossible thing to do.

        Again, I just want to emphasize, what Jesse advocates here is not something that is called for in the text that he is using. If I tell my son that I’m proud of him for something good that he does, that does not automatically mean that my other son must also do that same thing or I will not be proud of him. Yes, the Corinthians are commended for the evidence of repentance in their lives, but no, the text in question does not tell us to use those evidences as some kind of test to determine whether someone is really in sin.

      • KPM

        The other thing I would say is that church discipline is supposed to be exercised in cases of clear, unrepentant sin. If you have to say, “well, it kind of seems like they’re repenting here, but they missed number two, so maybe it’s not genuine,” then you’re in really rough territory. Also notice that in 1 Corinthians 5 there is a case of clear sin, a sin that is even shocking to pagans, everyone in the church knows about it, and yet it is being tolerated.

        I’ve seen church discipline exercised because a man was “proud.” After declaring the excommunication to the church, it was pronounced that we ought not to inquiry into any further. Hmmm… They took it upon themselves to judge the motives of a man’s heart, something very difficult to do, then they excommunicated him and said, “don’t ask any questions.” That is where the craziness of this leads. People think they are equipped to judge the true motives of a person’s heart, rather than only practicing church discipline for clear cases of unrepentant sin.

        As far as Matthew 18 goes, notice that the case in question is when your brother sins against you. How many people have taken this as a justification to approach their brother anytime they think their brother is in sin? I had a couple of brothers approach me to tell me I was proud because I answered too many questions in Bible Study. Glad they didn’t move forward with church discipline when I said I thought they were off base.

        Again, though, this is how the church discipline crowd typically goes off the rails. They ignore the part when Jesus says “against you,” and then they take it upon themselves to judge the thoughts and intentions of another man’s heart. That’s too far.

  • Adam

    True repentance – “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Lk.16:18)

    Point
    (1) He desires to turn from his ways – “I will arise and go to my father”
    (2) He desires to confess his sin – “and will say unto him, father…”
    (3) He understands the extent of his sin – “I have sinned against heaven and thee”
    (4) He expresses humility – “I am no longer worthy…”
    (5) He has no desire for his former life – “make me as one of thy hired servants”

    • KPM

      Hey Adam,

      Does Christ tell us in Luke 15 that we should use this parable as a means of determining whether or not someone is truly repenting?

      The primary purpose of the parable is to illustrate the lavish love that the Father bestows on all those who repent. I don’t think it’s intended as a “test” of who is really repenting, and who is just a sham.

      If you really want to push the parable beyond its intended meaning and mine it for every little detail, you’ll also notice that in the parable, it is the son’s hunger that drives him to return to his father. In other words, the son was sorry because of the miserable condition that he was in, and he felt desperate to escape. That was his motivation for returning to his father.

      If we’re going to push the analogy and try to determine what this tells us about true versus false repentance, then we would have to say that true repentance is only a result of wanting to escape the consequences of our sin, rather than actually hating our sins. So, we could falsely conclude, those who actually hate their sins and don’t just want to escape the consequences aren’t actually repenting… wouldn’t that be a strange thing to say?

      To say that this parable is a test for true repentance versus false repentance simply doesn’t work, because that is not what the parable was given to teach us. It’s pretty poor exegesis to say that the son’s response is given as a “test” of true repentance.

      • KPM: Adam didn’t use the word “test.” His comment actually makes a good point–a narative Jesus told to illustrate joy in heaven when a sinner “repents” actually matches what Paul said in 2 Cor 7. Jesus himself says the parables in Luke 15 are about repentance (Luke 15:7, 10). So, I think you are allowing your experience to cloud out what is clear in scripture.

        • KPM

          Jesse, read Maranatha’s post above. Doesn’t this illustrate my point perfectly?

          She compares a poor girl who committed suicide to Judas and says that’s evidence that she was being self-righteous, rather than receiving the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. She strongly implies this is evidence that the girl was not saved, and neither were the elders who mistreated her.

          This is the kind of attitude that you’re modeling and teaching people to emulate. It comes through all the time when you talk with people in the Lordship Salvation camp. If you don’t see that, I’m afraid you’re not paying attention.

        • KPM

          By the way, I’m not sure if you know this, but we’ve actually met. You preached at my former church a few years back. I’m sure you wouldn’t remember me, since we only met briefly, but I though you might find that interesting.

          • Thanks for pointing that other exchange. I deleted the whole exchange because it (by that point) was pretty far off our topic here.
            I’m glad to know we’ve met. I’d love to know if I remember you… you can always email me: jarbitro at g mail.
            Thanks for your interactions here KP.

          • KPM

            I’m disappointed that you’ve deleted my other posts. Especially since I pointed out exactly where this theological mindset goes south.

            You also deleted Maranatha’s posts. It seems that you’re scrubbing the comments section of anything that would make your position look bad, or support my broader point that there really is a skewed emphasis, if not misunderstanding of the scriptures, when it comes to Lordship Salvation.

            This is really dishonest and deceptive, if you ask me, but whatever.

          • KPM

            I guess you can delete these as well.

          • Look man: I deleted them because they were wildly off topic, and because they shared links to outside posts/videos that weren’t helpful, and I made it clear where I deleted them. It got into an unhelpful discussion about a situation none of us know about, and that wasn’t edifying. Plus, I *left* the one about Lordship salvation. You made you point. I interacted with it. So, advance the conversation, or leave it, but I don’t want it going in the direction about the suicide where it was headed. I hope that makes sense.

          • KPM

            It’s really sad that you can’t see how Maranatha’s comments are perfectly relevant to the discussion at hand.

            My contention is that constant talk about how “you might not really be repenting/saved if…” leads people into some really bad places (i.e. suicide means you’re not really a Christian).

            Whenever I start interacting with people who take this approach to the Christian life, it’s ironic how they deny that this is where their theology leads, yet they either contradict themselves and tell me I must not really be a Christian (as Jane Hildebrandt said to me last time I brought this up), or someone else on the website comes out of the wood works and says, “well, a girl who commits suicide must not really be a Christian.”

            This is always where the discussion goes. It’s a pattern that is evident all throughout your churches. Start listening to the gossip in your church and see if that isn’t a regular theme.

            I’ve heard all of the following:

            “Well, my dad took me to church every week when I was a kid, and he still goes to church regularly, but I’m not sure he’s really a Christian, because he doesn’t serve the church enough.”

            “Are you sure so and so is really saved? He was talking about how he struggles with assurance because he’s not sure he’s really elect.”

            “You’ve been a Christian how long and you still struggle with that sin!? Are you really repenting?”

            “I hear he goes out and drinks with the guys after work, his mother doesn’t think he’s really saved.” Despite the fact that the person in question is open about his struggles working in the construction field and being surrounded by temptation, and the regrets that he has for giving in.

            The same kind of stuff gets thrown around all the time. This is part and parcel of the church culture that you’re fostering.

            I don’t see how you can advance the conversation when you see Maranatha’s comments right in the middle of the conversation that we’re having, and then you say it’s irrelevant, so you delete it. Her comments are the perfect case in point.

          • KPM, I think the hole in your position/argument(s) is twofold: (1) there really is such a thing as false conversion; (2) there really is a volitional component to true repentance.

            There are people who genuinely believe they are saved and who are not. And these are not the people who say, “Yeah, sure, I repent, whatever.” They’re the people who say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” Just like you’re concerned that Lordship salvation advocates might too quickly snuff out a smoldering wick, we’re likely to be concerned that you might bestow assurance too quickly, and inoculate people from salvation by convincing them that they’re converted when they’re not. Profession of faith is not sufficient evidence for one’s salvation, because Scripture indicates the proper evidence is God’s grace at work in us in obedience (e.g., 1 John 5:1-3; cf. 2 Pet 1:5-10).

            So, for someone to suggest that “a girl who commits suicide must not really be a Christian” isn’t really all that outrageous of a claim. It may very well be that true Christians can so neglect the means of grace that they forget who they are in Christ and plunge to such a depth of despair that they take their own life. If they are truly saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Christ’s blood is sufficient and precious enough to atone even for the sin of suicide.

            But what do you do with 2 Corinthians 7:10 which says that it is worldly sorrow that leads to death? That’s precisely where the comparison with Judas is apposite. In fact, I wonder on what basis you’d deny that Judas was truly saved. He felt deep remorse, in a real way he “changed his course” by returning the 30 pieces of silver, and he confessed his sin as sin. For someone who believes as you do, on what basis would you deny that Judas was genuinely repentant? Or at least should have been treated as a smoldering wick, rather than what he was: an apostate eaten up by a guilty conscience and consumed by a worldly sorrow that leads to death.

            The fact is, the vast majority of persons who take their own lives are manifesting behavior that Scripture identifies as explicitly contradictory to what the Spirit produces in those whom He indwells. It doesn’t mean that suicide disqualifies you from salvation, but it does raise legitimate questions. The faith that saves is a repentant faith, and true repentance includes not only an intellectual acknowledgement of sin and an emotional regret/remorse for having sinned, but also a volitional turning from sin and actually changing course. That doesn’t mean perfection, but it does mean an identifiable change of direction. It doesn’t mean the end of struggling with sin; it means the beginning of struggling with it, and laboring against it, and putting it to death. Not just talking about struggling, but going to war by the power of the Spirit against the lusts of the flesh.

            The reality is, some of the people whom you’ve interacted with have likely judged some persons to be unsaved when they actually were saved. That’s wrong. But that’s not the fault of the biblical doctrine of Lordship; it’s the fault of Christians who are poorly taught and discipled and lack wisdom and charity. At the same time, it is also reality that some of the people you seem to want to demand that we admit are Christians — at least in some cases — actually aren’t Christians at all. And from your comments — as well as the comments of others who share you’re position that I’ve interacted with — it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some of it stems from not wanting to deal with the scary reality that one might not truly be saved despite their protestations to the contrary. “If so-and-so isn’t saved because they refuse to turn from their sin, and I, knowing my own heart, am as wicked as I am, am I not really saved either?”

            The answer to that question is not to water down the biblical definition of repentance or to define it away with catechesis. It’s to examine oneself, and by the power of the Spirit through the means of grace to apply all diligence, and with your faith supply moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Pet 1:5-11).

          • KPM

            Hey Mike, please allow me to clarify.

            I don’t deny that there is a difference between true repentance and false repentance. I deny that you can use 2 Corinthians 7 as a “test” of true versus false repentance.

            Jesus commanded us to let the wheat grow up with the tears. He told us not to actively try to root up the tears, unless by mistake we also root up the wheat. When someone is caught in sin, and their response is to cry and to say that they repent (like the situation described by Jesse in this post), your response should be to believe them, unless their is clear evidence to undermine their claim. What you should not do, is pull out a checklist and start trying to make a determination, based on your perception of a person’s “true” motives. I don’t think we’re capable of assessing a person’s true underlying motives, and I don’t think we’re called to try to figure out whether what a person says is actually a contradiction of their underlying thoughts and the motivations of their heart. That gets into really subjective territory and I believe it will lead us to root up a whole lot of wheat along with the tears.

            You guys act like this is just one bad experience, but there are many people who have had the same experience with other TMS grads or with Grace Community. Jesse, unfortunately, deleted my other posts where I directed people to go where they could find multiple people with stories and experiences very similar to mine. If anyone’s interested, I can direct you to a number of places where other Christians, who are now part of other church bodies, say almost exactly what I’m saying here.

            The problem with the way you use Matthew 7 is that you ignore what Jesus tells you about “the work of God” in John 6. What is the work of God that we must do? Primarily, it is to believe in Jesus Christ. That’s not to say that God does not also desire our sanctification, but it is to say that we are not saved by our sanctification, or by our commitment, but by grace through faith.

            Look at all the people who call Jesus Lord and do mighty works in His name, but are actually false teachers. Joel Oestein calls Jesus Lord. Arius called Jesus Lord. Charles Finney called Jesus Lord. To say that Matthew 7 teaches that Christians are somehow saved by grace plus works is a terrible position to take. It contradicts other clear passages of scripture, and it isn’t really necessary to read it that way. I don’t think Jesus intends that we should go through the church and try sorting out who is really converted and who is only falsely converted. If a person believes Jesus is the Son of God, if they are confessing their sins, if they are seeking to turn from them, we have no reason to doubt their salvation. The false professors who call Jesus Lord are not to be understood as orthodox believers who struggle with sin. Paul clearly struggled with sin in Romans 7. You also have Jesus clearly reference false teachers when he is talking about “fruit checking,” just prior to what he says about those who call him “Lord, Lord,” but are not truly saved. We are to examine the fruit of those who would presume to be teachers in the church to determine whether they are in fact true teachers. Matthew 7 does not justify “Lordship Salvation.”

            Likewise, 2 Peter 1 is not about judging whether or not someone is “really” saved. That is a terrible use of that passage. Start at the beginning of verse 3.

            “His divine nature HAS (past tense) granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness…

            by which he HAS granted us his very great and precious promises…

            HAVING (past tense) escaped from the corruption of the flesh…”

            When you read 2 Peter 1, start off on the right foot. Jesus has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He has already given us his great and precious promises. We have already escaped the corruption of the flesh. We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2), now Peter tells us to supplement our faith with virtue, godliness, brotherly love, knowledge, etc.

            We do not do these things in order to gain salvation. Nor are required to do these things to prove our salvation. We do these things because it is the natural desire of one who is born again to want to obey and honor Christ. If we fail to do these things, what will be the result? We will forget our salvation and grow cold.

            If we do these things, what will be the result? We will remain steadfast in the faith (as opposed to falling away), which will bolden our confidence in the fact of our election. However, Peter does not say that we should create tests that we can use to judge the state of everyone else’s heart. That is going beyond the text.

            As far as self-examination is concerned, I’ve spent many hours in self-examination. I used to pray for an hour a day (when I was single and in college). I tried to examine all of my most inner thoughts and motives to determine if I was really truly repenting, and if I really truly believed, but in the end, I found this to be a fools errand. The problem is that I was always looking to myself, rather than to Christ. That is the problem with this way of thinking in general. When we are looking at ourselves to see if we’re really saved, rather than looking to the promise of Christ, we’re in serious trouble.

            Christ said that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. Do you believe that Jesus was telling the truth when he said this, or do you believe that he was lying? I believe. I am baptized. I shall be saved. It is a simple equation. Sure, there’s a possibility that my faith is not real, but I’ve remained in the faith for about 11 years now, and I really have nothing to gain by being a Christian if I don’t “really” believe. I don’t have any reason to doubt that my faith is real.

            I don’t struggle with assurance now that I’m a Lutheran. In fact, I don’t struggle with depression either. I struggle with sin less, because I’m not always being told to doubt my own salvation from the pulpit and from personal counseling, so I have more confidence and joy in God.

            As far as the issue of suicide is concerned. In a sense, you’re right. Godly grief leads to repentance, not worldly sorrow. Here’s the rub, though. Isn’t it possible for a genuine Christian to also display worldly grief at times. Of course. So you can’t say that’s evidence she wasn’t really saved. That’s out of bounds.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            There are those (one particularly famous name I won’t mention) who seem to have decided they can determine who is glory-bound and who isn’t. I’ve always admired that ability, as it’s always been a talent I found hard to apprehend. (I did manage, a long time ago, to buy a call option on MCI stock that made me a few hundred dollars in a couple hours. But that was a fluke. It hasn’t happened since.)

            So don’t feel bad if your eternal security is sometimes called into question by others. They probably wouldn’t have bet on Secretariat, either.

          • Thanks for your clarifications. Some preliminary comments. (1) I would really appreciate if you actually answered all the questions I’ve asked you. (2) Ironically, you’ve assumed my own motives, imputed to me positions I don’t hold, and perhaps on that basis have even spoken to me a little harshly. (If I was a sensitive soul battling with depression, and the result of my interaction with you was to be sent into an emotional tailspin, could I fault you for that as you have done with the church leaders who have dealt wrongly with you?)

            I don’t deny that there is a difference between true repentance and false repentance. I deny that you can use 2 Corinthians 7 as a “test” of true versus false repentance.

            I think that’s a little ridiculous, to be honest with you. Paul describes two kinds of sorrow—one that masquerades as true repentance, and another that leads to true repentance.
            If the Apostle is so clearly giving us discriminating features of a true and false repentance, why shouldn’t we use that Scripture to properly shepherd the body of Christ?

            See, you think I want to use 2 Corinthians 7:10 to beat someone over the head with. That’s an assumption of motives on your part that you need to repent from. Perhaps an immature or unwise church leader who struggled with shepherding people graciously used 2 Corinthians 7 that way in your experience, but that does not mean it’s a principal feature of Lordship salvation or that anyone else claiming the name intends to repeat those mistakes.

            When I use 2 Corinthians 7 with respect to true and false repentance, I’m working with a guy who’s shriveling his own soul and devastating his family with habitual use of pornography (for example). I’m trying to help him determine whether his remorse for sinning with porn is godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life, or the worldly sorrow that leads to death—and the repetition of more sinning. If that
            guy is sorrowful, but also taking measures to root out sin in his life—like getting accountability software, only using the computer in public places, or throwing out his computer all together—I’m more likely to encourage him as a brother in
            the faith fighting against sin, and counsel him as a justified sinner who stands clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

            But if he’s still making provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts and not actively taking steps to guard himself from his sin, nevertheless he’s coming and crying to me in my office, I’m going to tell him I appreciate his remorse but that it has to translate into action. And I’m going to take him to 2 Corinthians 7 to show him that—that there is such a thing as genuine remorse that is not indicative to spiritual life. And in that case, it may be that I counsel him not as a brother clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, but as a sinner who has absolutely no ability to put to death the deeds of the flesh because he’s not yet partaken of the Holy Spirit. Yet in that instance I’d point him to Christ just the same—the sufficient Savior who has purchased all our righteousness, and who offers justifying righteousness freely, which becomes the ground and basis for our fight for practical righteousness.

            That is emphatically not pulling up the tares with the wheat. That’s laboring with either straying sheep or deceived unbelievers and trying to help them get to Christ in a way that accords which their actual spiritual needs. It does no one any good to too quickly give false assurance and lead them to believe either (a) that they have spiritual resources to battle sin that they don’t have; surely that only will lead to frustration and despair; or (b) that they can just calm down
            and relax in the battle against sin because hey, we’re all messed-up spiritual failures, and we will be till Jesus comes back. That courts a deadly apathy that robs the true believer of the joy of communion with Christ and inoculates the false professor from self examination and true repentance.

            Jesus commanded us to let the wheat grow up with the tears. He told us not to actively try to root up the tears, unless by mistake we also root up the wheat.

            Yes, of course.
            And yet Scripture also commands us to expel the wicked man from among us, asking us explicitly, “Are you not to judge those inside the church?” (1 Cor 5:9–13).

            When someone is caught in sin, and their response is to cry and to say that they repent (like the situation described by Jesse in this post), your response should be to believe them, unless their [sic] is clear evidence to undermine their claim.

            Of course. We would all agree on this principle. What we might perhaps disagree on is what constitutes “clear evidence.” I think a stubborn refusal to take practical
            action against one’s sin is clear evidence that undermines the claim of true repentance. In other words, if a guy cries about how he can’t stand how much he looks at porn, and yet doesn’t get rid of his computer—of if he cries about how
            he can’t stand that he keeps abusing alcohol, and yet casually makes the liquor store a stop on his way home from work—I’m saying that’s making provision for
            the flesh in regard to its lusts, and is not indicative of true repentance.

            Now, that doesn’t mean that I kick those guys out of the church next week, and no one is advocating that. But it also
            doesn’t mean that I chalk that up to indwelling sin and leave those guys to destroy themselves. Both quick-triggered “discipline” and negligence tolerant of sin are pastoral malpractice.

            What you should not do, is pull out a checklist and start trying to make a determination, based on your perception of a person’s “true” motives. I don’t think we’re capable of assessing a person’s true underlying motives, and I don’t think we’re called to try to figure out whether what a person says is actually a contradiction of their underlying thoughts and the motivations of their heart.

            I think what I outlined above—i.e., finding out what action steps the person is taking to fight their sin apart from just saying that they feel bad about it—is one way we can get at someone’s heart condition. It’s never infallible, and we have to be extremely wise and careful, but it is possible. A man speaks from that which fills his heart. And certainly what one actually gives his time and energy to bespeaks his estimation of that thing in his heart. There are legitimate
            evidences of a person’s heart condition, and we as pastors
            have been called to shepherd the flock, which involves helping them assess their own heart. We’ve also been called to protect the flock against false teachers and influences who would corrupt both the doctrine and the lives of the sheep, and therefore need to be vigilant in expelling the wicked man from among us.

            And even in that case, we do not just to protect the flock but for that wicked man himself. He is to be “handed over to Satan so he may be taught not to blaspheme.” In other
            words, self-discipline is to be salutary, just like all discipline is, hoping that the sting of being put out of fellowship with the people of God would shake the apathetic sinner into concern for his own soul, so that he might take sin seriously and be welcomed back into the fold. At our church, we call church discipline “church restoration,” because we recognize the goal is the restoration of the sinning brother, not just his punishment. And we’ve been delighted to see and hear numerous reports of those under discipline returning and repenting, and being restored to full fellowship in the body of Christ.

            Jesse, unfortunately, deleted my other posts where I directed people to go where they could find multiple people with stories and experiences very similar to mine.

            I think it’s wise for him to have deleted them, and foolish for you to have shared them. How in the world can you square that with biblical principles? That’s complaining, harboring and encouraging bitterness, dwelling not on that which is true, honorable, right, and praiseworthy, and in some cases slandering true brethren. And in the worst of cases, it’s fodder for those who truly were in need of discipline to ignore the God-ordained, Christ-instituted means for their confrontation, sanctification, and restoration. Nothing good comes from those forums. Deal with broken relationships biblically, not by gossiping about them to others who will be the echo chamber you couldn’t find at your former church.

            The problem with the way you use Matthew 7 is that you ignore what Jesus tells you about “the work of God” in John 6.

            How in the world could you presume to know that? I do no such thing.

            That’s not to say that God does not also desire our sanctification, but it is to say that we are not saved by our sanctification, or by our commitment, but by grace through faith.

            Of course. No one has said we’re saved by our sanctification or commitment. What we’re saying is
            the grace that saves is grace that also inevitably and of necessity sanctifies. The faith that saves is a faith that works through love, and therefore doesn’t just say “Lord, Lord,” but does the will of the Father who is in heaven. That’s not salvation by doing. That’s salvation
            by truly believing which necessarily results in doing. Which means that if there is no doing, there is reason to question the genuineness of the faith.

            To say that Matthew 7 teaches that Christians are somehow saved by grace plus works is a terrible position to take. It contradicts other clear passages of scripture, and it isn’t really necessary to read it that way.

            Of course. No one is saying that Matthew 7 teaches that Christians are saved by grace plus works. But the grace by which we are saved is grace that not only imputes forensic righteousness to us, but also works practical righteousness in us. Matthew 7 teaches not that we’re saved by works, but that we’re saved by a faith that works—faith alone, yet never a faith that is alone. So if you say you believe, but don’t do
            the will of the Father who is in heaven, you have no evidence of grace at work in you, and at the very least should be concerned about that. Any interpretation short of that neuters Jesus’ own words in that passage.

            I don’t think Jesus intends that we should go through the church and try sorting out who is really converted and who is only falsely converted.

            Not like we’re on a mission to pry into every single person’s heart, no. As if I schedule appointments with every member of my church so I can prosecute them as to the genuineness of their faith. But surely, as a pastor, if I observe patterns of sin in a particular member of my flock, surely it’s my responsibility to shepherd that person, to come alongside them and strengthen their hands to battle sin and to put on righteousness. And if in the course of that ministry they do
            reveal the motives of their heart and it becomes plain that they have no intention of battling sin and pursuing righteousness, then it is also my responsibility to obey Matthew 18:15–18 or 1 Corinthians 5:9–13 or Titus 3:10 or 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

            If a person believes Jesus is the Son of God, if they are confessing their sins, if they are seeking to turn from them, we have no reason to doubt their salvation.

            What if they’re not actually turning from them? Does the grace of God empower us only to seek to turn from sin, or is it grace that actually enables us to put off sin and put on righteousness?

            Again, it depends on what you mean by “seeking,” too. If by seeking you mean someone who is actively taking practical steps to battle sin—learning to walk in the Christian life, so to speak, even if stumbling—and yet nevertheless coming up short, then of course I agree with you. That’s what we’re there for—to help struggling believers pursue maturity in Christ. But if by seeking you mean someone who’s remorseful about their sin and says they want to fight it but don’t actually fight it, well then you’ve got to wield the sword of the Spirit with wisdom and help them examine their heart (Heb 4:12-13).

            The false professors who call Jesus Lord are not to be understood as orthodox believers who struggle with sin.

            No, not those who struggle with sin—by which I mean those who actually battle against it. “Struggling” is not just “sinning and feeling bad about it.” Struggling is entering the war and struggling, wrestling, putting sin to death. So yes, show me someone who is struggling against sin the way Paul is in Romans 7 and I’ll show you one who has all my compassion and sympathy. I’m the guy in Romans 7.

            But there’s no reason to think that the false professors of Matthew 7 aren’t orthodox. They address Jesus as Lord—they’re orthodox there. They know that ministry is to be done “in Jesus’ name”—orthodox there. You can have the right doctrine and yet fail to truly believe and treasure that doctrine in your heart, and therefore be absent of the fruit that true faith necessarily yields. There’s a way to
            believe with the head and not with the heart, and that’s when such belief leaves out the hands.

            Likewise, 2 Peter 1 is not about judging whether or not someone is “really” saved. That is a terrible use of that passage. Start at the beginning of verse 3.

            First of all, nothing that I’ve commented on that passage suggests that I think we ought to ignore verses 3 and 4. I have a book on sanctification which emphasizes those
            passages pretty insistently. I know they’re there, love them, and understand that they’re the foundation for what comes later. But verses 5 to 11 do come later. We have been given everything we need, and for this very reason, make every effort to add to what you’ve been given. Again, Christ not only imputes forensic righteousness to us (vv. 3-4), He also works practical righteousness
            in us (vv. 5-8).

            And further, I’m talking about leading a particular person in self-examination, not examining them for myself. But are you really going to tell me that a passage which urges
            us to make our calling and election sure—in other words, “Be sure that you’re saved, people!”—by exhorting us to abound in good works and not become slack in
            practicing these things, isn’t legitimately applied to examining the genuineness of one’s calling at least partially on the basis of the obedience that God has worked in them? That’s a position in search of an interpretation, not an honest reading of the text.

            We do these things because it is the natural desire of one who is born again to want to obey and honor Christ.

            So if it is the natural desire of one who is born again to want to obey and honor Christ, and one does not obey and honor Christ, is that not a reason to question whether they have been born again—that they do not possess the nature which makes obedience natural? It’s not a surefire test, but does it not raise legitimate questions?

            The problem is that I was always looking to myself, rather than to Christ. That is the problem with this way of thinking in general. When we are looking at ourselves to see if we’re really saved, rather than looking to the promise of
            Christ, we’re in serious trouble.

            No, self-examination was not the problem. The problem is that you were doing self-examination wrong. Yes, for every look at self, take 10 looks to Christ. But you simply can’t
            ignore that Peter calls us to assurance at least partly on the basis of whether we have supplemented our faith with virtue according to the sanctifying grace of God, or that John writes a whole letter about assurance in which he says
            things like, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Your position hasn’t adequately dealt with those very biblical emphases.

            Christ said that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. Do you believe that Jesus was telling the truth when he said this, or do you believe that he was lying?

            First of all, the long ending of Mark is not original, and so there’s doubt as to whether Jesus even said this. Or do you handle venomous serpents and drink poison without dying?

            Secondly, you’re begging the question. I do believe that we’re saved by faith alone. But the whole point in question is what the character of saving faith is. Scripture teaches that it is a repentant faith. If the “believing” you do for salvation isn’t a “repenting” kind of “believing,” then you’ve not been given the saving grace of God which works repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25) as well as faith (Eph 2:8). For goodness’ sake, Jesus’ own Gospel message is: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

            I don’t struggle with assurance now that I’m a Lutheran. In fact, I don’t struggle with depression either. I struggle with sin less, because I’m not always being told to doubt my own salvation from the pulpit and from personal counseling, so I
            have more confidence and joy in God.

            I’m genuinely happy for you, there. My only prayer is that your confidence and joy in God are well-grounded, and have not come from defining away your sin. I don’t know one
            way or the other. I’m not your pastor. But I certainly would hope that one who has confidence and joy in God might be possessed of a more gracious spirit than you’ve shown on this and other threads on this topic.

            Perhaps it’s wise to leave it there for now.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            I never said you were not a Christian. I asked when you had been born again. Your answer was you were water baptized and depended on the sacraments. The reason I even asked was because of your admission of severe depression and ongoing guilt.

        • KPM

          Read Maranatha’s follow-up comment as well. She doubled-down with “you’re friend’s sister is in hell, because she committed suicide.”

          What was that about theology matters? Is it just a coincidence that Maranatha is also defending your post?

          I doubt you would take the same position that she does regarding suicide, based on what I know about you and have read from you over the past few years that I’ve read Cripplegate, but doesn’t this make you wonder if maybe the general approach of “you’re not a Christian if…” mentality will naturally lead people into all kinds of harsh and judgmental places.

          I really hope you’ll consider what I’m saying here. Maybe you disagree with some of the points I’ve made, but please at least consider that this is where your general approach is leading people. It is really hurting people sitting in the pews, and its not just me who is pointing this out.

          [Edited]

      • Adam

        All the parables that Jesus teaches in Luke 15 have to do with repentance, and therefore the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin set the interpretive context for the parable of the lost son. To depart from this theme in the parable of the lost son would therefore be an interpretive inconsistency.

        It is clear that the hard times experienced by the son brought him to his senses and his confession of sin reveals he wasn’t driven just by a material loss as you are implying. He abused the gifts provided for him by his father and has understood this to be sin against not only his earthly father but heavenly father as well. If this was not the case, why not just say, ” I am sorry.” But Jesus is careful to interject the confession of sin so we are clear that the lost son was indeed sorry for his sin. The father’s rejoicing at the return of his lost son is akin to the angels rejoicing over lost sinners who repent (vv. 7 and 10) Do angels rejoice over those who “superficially” repent or those who genuinely repent? It is not necessary for Jesus to say the lost son repented because the principle is already established in the two preceding parables. The theme of the lost being found is, however, repeated and therefore it is very consistent to safely interject the theme of repentance as well as this is in keeping with the previous parables; hence, the lost son exhibited marks of true repentance. The lost are not truly “found” while wearing a mask of insincerity. Their repentance must be real and life changing as in the case of the lost son.

        You said that the primary purpose of the parable is to show the love the Father has on those who do repent. This, however, is subjective. One could easily argue based upon the principle of context and the preceding parables that the central point is that lost sinners can indeed be found but that repentance is a necessary aspect of this .I agree the unconditional love of our heavenly Father is seen in the parable of the lost son, but keep in mind the Father doesn’t receive lost sinners who have not genuinely repented. The conclusion therefore is the lost son did truly repent and we can thus use his example to learn what genuine repentance looks like. I furthermore never said this was a test for true repentance as Jesse also noted, but merely that true repentance is seen in the parable. There may be other traits associated with genuine repentance as shown in Jesse’s article, but my point was that here were some aspects put on display before us.

    • That’s a good point Adam. In fact, in much of the Bible the description of repentance is consistent and heartfelt. Thanks for this example.

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Discern True and False Repentance()

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Discern True and False Repentance -()

  • Pingback: The Daily Discovery (August 26, 2016) - Entreating Favor()

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Discern True and False Repentance | TLG Christian News()

  • Jason

    Volunteer editor here. “same -say- a child might cry to avoid a spanking”.

  • Karl Heitman

    Thanks, Jesse. I’m preaching thru James 4:1-10, so this is helpful. Particularly, vv. 9-10 would also be good signs of genuine repentance, wouldn’t ya say?

  • Pingback: 5 ways to discern true and false repentance | A disciple's study()

  • Pingback: 2 Samuel 19: A Case Study in True and False Repentance()

  • Pingback: 2 Samuel 19: A Case Study in True and False Repentance | TLG Christian News()

  • Pingback: 2 Samuel 19: A Case Study in True and False Repentance -()