Thursday, September 6, 2012

Faith, Repentance, Salvation and Obedience: Do they all Go Together?

What is the relationship between faith (repentance), salvation and obedience? This question has always been foremost in understanding our faith and often misunderstood. The president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, recently claimed that unrepentant gays are fellow brothers in Christ and will therefore go to heaven:

  • Is there condemnation for those who are in Christ? There is not! There are people out there living a gay Christian life, an active Christian life. God is the one who called them and has their heart and they are in relationship with Him. And do I believe they will be in heaven with me? I do! 
Chambers, who heads an organization which helps gays exodus the gay life, evidently separates repentance from salvation. Although he seems to believe that this lifestyle is sinful, he doesn’t believe that repenting of this behavior is necessary for salvation. He claims that unrepentant gays will go to heaven regardless of their lifestyle commitment.

Sadly, for many Christians, Chambers’ stance makes a lot of sense. If we are saved by grace through faith, apart from any good deeds or works of the law (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:27), then it would seem that their refusal to repent shouldn’t disqualify them.

We also recognize that we sin daily, even though we are called to be perfect as He is perfect (1 Peter 1:15-16), and yet we are still forgiven and assured of salvation. How then can we point the finger at the unrepentant gays? And isn’t it hypocritical to do so!

No! Faith contains repentance – a willingness to turn from the old life and follow Jesus everywhere. It is impossible to turn to Jesus (faith) if we don’t turn from something (repentance) - our old ways. The two go together as the opposite sides of the same coin go together. You can’t have the one side of the coin without the other. If we are not willing to repent, we are also not willing to trust in Jesus, and this represents a lack of saving faith. Consequently, we find that many verses associate repentance with salvation and a lack of repentance with an absense of salvation:

  • You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev. 2:4-5)
  • Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Rev. 2:16
  • I have given her [Jezebel] time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. (Rev. 2:21-22)
  • Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. [20] Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:19-20)
In each of these verses, salvation depends on repentance (as it also does on faith). After we realize that we are in sin – and homosexuality is clearly delineated as a sin – we must repent. Jesus also required repentance:

  • “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:3-5)
Repentance and faith are so inseparable that the Bible uses these terms interchangeably. Clearly, Chambers wants to show Christian love to the unrepentant gay community, but love requires warning:

  • If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26-27) 
Repentance and faith are inseparable. The homosexual therefore cannot say, “I have faith even if I don’t repent of my gay lifestyle.”

While obedience isn’t the same thing as faith, it too will accompany a true faith. While the Reformers declared that we are saved by faith alone, it is a faith which is not alone. Faith and a changed life should go together, at least eventually. Consequently, if faith doesn’t produce any changes, it isn’t really faith. If I have faith in my doctor, I’ll do what he tells me to do. Likewise, if I have faith in my Savior, how much more will I do what He tells me to do!

Obedience is closely associated with faith. This is why James claimed that he could show off his faith by his works:

  • What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. (James 2:14-19)
According to James, a saving faith is a living faith – one that, along with the Spirit, produces deeds. A living seed will germinate. So too a living faith! While obedience isn’t the cause of salvation, it should be the fruit of salvation. According to Jesus, a good tree will produce good fruit (Matthew 7:17). While the fruit doesn’t make the tree, it indicates what kind of tree it is. It also exposes false teachers for who they are.

As James indicates, there are numerous kinds of belief. The devil believes but evidently lacks a saving faith. Instead, a saving faith will produce fruit. Therefore James can boast that he demonstrates his “faith by what I do.” They are that closely associated.

Obedience should follow faith. If we truly believe, we will keep His Word:

  • Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (John 14:21-24)
If we do not abide in His Word, He will not “make [His] home” with us, and we will not abide in His saving love:

  • If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)
At this point, many will balk, “Well, this sounds like salvation by works or obedience –that we have to obey up to a certain level of perfection in order to remain saved.”

It might sound that way, but if we have saving faith, we will be obedient and remain. If I believe that someone is waiting outside to shoot me, I will be obedient to this belief and call the police. At least, when we fail to be obedient – and we will – we can confess and repent and find restoration and forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

This is because our Savior has promised to keep us (Romans 8:38-39). John claims that because we have His seed within us, we can’t continue sinning as we had (1 John 3:9; 5:18). Consequently, we don’t earn our salvation. Instead, He earned it for us and will keep us.

He also promises that He will work all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). This means that nothing will be able to deprive us of our salvation (Phil 1:6).

Besides, there are great blessings in obedience that the faithful would not want to forsake. There is great “delight” in doing the will of God (Isaiah 11:3). There is also great confidence and assurance in obedience.

John promises that as we walk in love and obedience, fear of judgment dissolves, because we see we walk in the footsteps of Jesus (1 John 4:16-18). The unrepentant gay cannot have this.
Chambers is extending a false hope and a false love to the unrepentant gays. A true love will confront the willfully unrepentant in hope that they will repent. A false love will indulge, perhaps complimenting themselves that they are “good people” for doing so. We must pray against the apostasy that now racks the beloved church of our Lord.

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