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" Only Believe...? "

Recently a subscriber sent me some information obtained at another website, and when I went to that site I discovered quite a detailed series of files presenting the Gospel. The visitor is shown the way to salvation, the consequences for those who reject Christ. For the most part, a very good presentation. In fact, it was so good, I compared what I present at VW's website to it, to see if I had "left anything out" that, perhaps, should be there.

However, as I was checking this site, there was a key element about "how to be saved" that was missing. It reminded me of that same element I neglected to preach years ago, until a friend reminded me of it. So, along with some other things I wrote to the webmaster of this site, I'd like to share here the portion of that note dealing with their salvation presentation, and then, make further comments at the end:

The item of concern has to do with your "how to be saved" file. You have presented VERY WELL the sin, Christ's provision, and receiving faith. But you have neglected the message as the early church preached it. Paul sums it up "I kept back nothing that was profitable...testifying to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, -REPENTANCE- toward God and -FAITH- toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts20:20-21) You've got the "faith" in there, but not the "repentance." In Mat28:19-20 Jesus tells them to -go-; and in Luke 24:46-47 the -message-... which is: 1) Christ's death and resurrection (provision), 2) repentance (response) & 3) remission of sins (result). Notice, He didn't include "faith/believe" in that summary. Check these passages: Mt9:13;Acts2:38,5:31,26:20; Rom2:4;2Cor7:10;2Tim2:25;Heb6:6,12:17; 2Pt3:9

You know... faith, alone, is not enough. The demons "believe and tremble." (Jas2:19) ...they have no place for repentance.

I do not fault you for this. I was caught in this same trap for years. I knew of repentance, but did not preach it. Just "faith, believe, receive." But you see, when there's only "believe", then the Christian life is limited to "legalism." The "Christian" is busy trying hard to live right before God, never having "put to death" the flesh. (Rom6, Col3:5) And so he comes up with his lists of "touch not, taste not, etc" (Col2:21) I know... I've been there. But we must be "crucified with Christ" (Gal2:20) and such a "death" puts away the past, and puts on the new (the very definition of "repentance") as we become a "new creation" (2Cor5:17) And then, the "life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith..."(Gal2:20) ...not the works of the law.(Rom3:20) So, while we live by faith (Rom1:17) Paul's order in Acts 20:21 is correct... 1) repentance towards God [first] and [then] 2) faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. If we've not repented, we cannot make a claim to faith.

We cannot -do- faith. That is a "gift" from God. (Eph2:8) All we can DO is to beat on our breast and cry out "God be merciful to me, a sinner." (Lk18:13) Jesus said that the person who cried out thus, was the one who went home "justified." We must realize that we have NOTHING GOOD in us (Rom7:18), "I abhor myself and repent.." (Job42:6) and that we are totally helpless to save ourselves. (Rom5:6) That is the point at which He...

"...bowed down to me...heard my cry. He brought me up..out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay...set my feet on a rock, and gave sureness to my steps...He has put a new song in my mouth, praise to our God..." (~Ps40:1-3)

Since my past included many years in GARBC/Bible Baptist churches, and even today, if someone were to corner me and ask me -what label- of church would I recommend as being a place where the Gospel was likely to be preached, and where they could hear God's Word, it would likely be these labels. This website to which I wrote this note is a good KJV-only "Bible Baptist" site. With this as background, I would like to direct these comments to -you- who are associated with these churches... You are people from my past. You are the ones (collectively/generically) with whom I have fellowshipped. I've preached from your pulpits, have sung your solos, have directed your choirs and led your song services, and assisted in "invitations" by leading the song/s while the pastor met those coming forward. -You- are deeply on my heart!

It was in your churches I learned to preach "faith, believe, receive." In fact, one of the invitation hymns went, "Only believe, only believe; All things are possible, only believe.." And people would come forward. Trouble is, that's the WRONG FAITH! If you look at that song again, it begins, "Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne..." You see, those words "only believe" are to the Believer living along the Christian life. When Paul quoted, "the just shall live by faith" (Rom1:17) that is not "saving faith." He was speaking of "just[ified]" -ones- who are [now] continuing to live "by faith." But you see, before we can "live by faith" we must be "crucified with Christ." (Gal2:20) We must be dead. It should be obvious that a dead person cannot have faith (of any kind).

What is crucifixion? It was probably one of the most horrendous kinds of death the Romans could devise for regular consistent predictable use. The subjects were first beaten up when the soldiers ganged up on them and used them as punching bags. Then, they were whipped till the flesh was hanging, often exposing internal organs. And then, nailed through the wrist and ankle joints, and hung out buck-naked on a roughly hewn cross. The whole purpose in this process was -humiliation-. That's why it says that Jesus "humbled Himself...unto death...of the cross." (Phil2:8)

If you have merely "believed in" Jesus, you are not saved. Remember, the demons also believe... If you have merely "received" Jesus to become "-PART OF- your life", you are not saved. Many wanted to follow Jesus but were not willing to leave -ALL- behind. (Lk9:57-62)

When -repentance- is left out of the equation, a person has not fully come to himself. Has not fully seen that "in my flesh dwells no good thing" (Rom7:18) So we have the Oprah Doctrine. Just believe "in yourself." Just have faith "in yourself." She celebrates "people-hood" by showering them with -things-. Vacations, debts paid, limousines, trips with Tina Turner, make-overs and shopping sprees. Anything is possible... if you only have faith (in yourself).

And those (formerly me) who wish to be "Christian" keep laws. If repentance and self-abhorrence have not been faced, and a "new creation" been "born again" (2Cor5:17,Jn3:3) there is a need to -fix- one's life. In an effort to make one's self -right- before God, in the absence of that -new nature- and the "witness of the Spirit" (Rom8:16) [Ed: maybe that's why they don't talk about the Holy Spirit much? ..they don't know Him!], a whole set of rules are kept. "touch not, taste not, handle not." (Col2:21) And notice, Paul recognizes "these things indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility, and unsparing severity of the body..." (vs23) They "appear" to be good, but as NKJV words it, it's a "false humility" and "are of NO VALUE" regarding keeping pure.

If all you've got is "faith, believe, receive" and are legalistically being a faithful "list keeper" ...you ARE NOT SAVED. You have side-stepped -repentance- on your way to -faith-. You have never given up self. You've never given up -control- to your life. You've never come to realize that you are, on your own merits, worthless and rotten in God's site. (Is64:6) You have not realized that you are totally helpless. You still have PRIDE. You have not been "humbled before God" but typically you "speak against one another" (Jas4:10-11) as you compare everybody else to your -lists-. Such judging is the very emulation of pride. You correctly preach that sin exists and that Jesus came to save, but you, yourself, have not taken the first step that gets you from sin unto Faith.

You are busy -doing- to be a "good Christian." Someone came to Jesus and asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?." And when Jesus told him the conditions, he went away "sorrowful" (Lk18:18-26)

You see, the JUST shall LIVE..by faith. (Rom1:17) He's living by faith, BECAUSE he's -just-. Where does justification come from? Righteousness? The Righteousness is "OF GOD." It is God's righteousness, which He "gives" to us. (Eph2:8) We don't keep -lists-. Or -law-. God's righteousness is "apart from the law." (Rom3:21)

But we must start at the bottom, with NOTHING. That's where repentance takes us. Like the thief, we are on that cross with Christ "in the same condemnation" (Lk23:40) realizing that we "receive the due reward of our deeds" and that Christ was sinless and righteous, the spotless Lamb of God (1Pt1:19) recognizing "I deserve death" ...in fact, "I AM DYING! I am dead!"... all we can do is plead with Christ, in Your mercy "Lord, remember me..." When we have done this, then Jesus assures us, "..you shall be with Me.."(vs43) and... "I will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also." (Jn14:3)

Once this has happened then we can truly sing, "...Only believe...all things are possible, only believe" -because- we have been "From the Cross" (repentance and death), and are now on the way "to the Throne" (Eternal life)


Follow-up to this commentary: The Last Domino has Fallen! what is Repentance?
March, 2000 - Conversations with the above-mentioned webmaster

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