Posts Tagged ‘repentance


Be Sure of Your Justification


    One of my favorite parables is the one Jesus told of the Pharisee and publican.  It is recorded in Luke 18:9-14. 

     “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

      Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

     And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

     I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

     Whenever I read or hear this parable, I become so reassured.  It cuts right to the chase.  Being justified – being declared not guilty by God – depends on nothing but God’s mercy.  The publican performed no works of penance or followed ant prescribed plan of repentance.  But he was immediately justified.

     I find that so reassuring because, no matter how hard I try, I can’t consistently do good.  Many are the days when I don’t carry through on my good intentions.  Then there are the days when my intentions aren’t even that good – when I really don’t even want to help others – when I think I need time for myself.  On and on it goes.  Everywhere I look I see mixed motives, uncompleted tasks, and half-hearted efforts.  It’s not a pretty picture.

     But then the brightness of God’s love shines through.  With these and so many other passages he reassures me that being right with him does not depend on what I do, but on his mercy.  On the mercy he put into action at Christmas by sending Jesus to be our Substitute – to life a perfect life in our stead – to die as payment for all our sins.

     Because of that I can rejoice even as I confess my sins.  Because of that I can be confident I will be living with Heavenly Father for all eternity in spite of all my failures.  Because of that life is so good!


Death Bed Repentance


     In my last post about Paradise I quoted a couple of LDS sources concerning Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross.  For convenience sake I quote them again:  “To the thief on the cross who asked to be remembered after death, the Savior responded to give him what hope he could:  ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, ‘ That is to say, today you shall be with me in the world of spirits, where you will be taught the gospel and your inquires will be answered. (See Smith, Teachings, p.309)  Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance or (sic) the malefactor.  What Jesus did do was give recognition to the seeds of faith and repentance which were evidenced by a penitent man.  As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto that everlasting light.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p. 186, emphasis added)

     The LDS Bible Dictionary says this:  “For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’, the Bible rendering is incorrect.  The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the word of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.”

     I especially want to focus on two things in those quotes.  The first is the statement that Jesus’ words to the malefactor do not give any credence to a death-bed repentance on the part of the malefactor.  I assume that this statement was made in response to the common Christian teaching that people can repent on their deathbeds and, as a result, enjoy living Heavenly Father for all eternity.

     The second statement is one from the LDS Bible Dictionary stating that the thief was not ready for paradise.

     Numerous Mormons here and elsewhere have stated that Mormonism teaches that salvation is all about Jesus and what he has done – that the differences in how Mormonism and Christianity view salvation are really not that major.  It is has been my position, and the position of many other Christians, that the differences are major.  I submit that the quotes above illustrate that difference.

     As a Christian pastor, I have had the privilege of ministering to people on their deathbeds – including some who had shown no interest, much less, faith in Jesus.  But staring in the face of death does something to a person.  On more than one occasion, I had the extraordinary privilege of bringing people the message that Jesus had paid for all their sins – that, through Jesus, they could live with Heavenly Father – that they were saved by grace alone.  And the Holy Spirit caused them to trust that! Through Christ, they were ready for Paradise – the Paradise of living eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Mormonism – “did not lead any credence to a death-bed repentance, . .”not ready for paradise.” 

     Christianity – believe and you will be with God forever – because Jesus has done everything for you.

     To me that’s a big difference.


Repentance and Marriage


     One of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity is that each defines repentance differently.  A key characteristic of repentance as defined by Mormonism is the abandoning of the sin of which a person is repenting.  For example, the popular True to the Faith manual says:  “Abandonment of Sin.  Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough.  The Lord has said, ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them.’ (D&C 58:43).  Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression.  When you keep this commitment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.”

     In spite of this definition, numerous Mormons have responded to the abandonment of sin as an ideal to shoot for, but not as real requirement to attain.  In other words, many Mormons quickly reject the thought that their repeating the sin they repented of reveals that their initial repentance was not genuine.  But isn’t that what that says?  If they truly repented according to the definition cited above, they would “never experience the pain of that sin again.’

     Spencer W. Kimball said:  “There is one crucial test of repentance.  This is abandonment of the sin.”  (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 163) He then proceeds to quote the same D&C passage quoted above but strengthens it by emphasizing the words “forsake them”.

     That word forsake reminds me of the marriage vows people take.  They vow to forsake all others and remain faithful to each other.  I don’t think any wife would accept the following from our husband:  “I agree that forsaking all others would be ideal, but I don’t think it’s very practical.  You will have to expect me not to always forsake all others.”

     Forsake.  Abandon.  Those are absolute terms.  If Mormons takes Mormon scripture, seriously, then they better take seriously the fact that it says repentance means forsaking the sin.  Spencer W. Kimball also said:  “Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin.  To try with a weakness of attitude and effort is to assure failure in the face of Satan’s strong counteracting efforts.  What is needed is resolute action.” 


What Is Repentance


     In my post of September 15th  I focused on how Mormonism defined repentance and contrasted that with the Christian view of repentance.  But I did that only briefly.  Therefore I want to focus on the Christian view now since the idea of repentance repeatedly is brought up in comments.

     The Greek word for repentance literally means a change of mind.  The command to repent in the Bible is mainly (but not exclusively) used in mission settings and is addressed to non-believers.  In that context it’s helpful to remember that the root meaning of the word is to change your mind.  In those contexts the call to repentance is a call for people to change their mind from thinking that salvation depends on their efforts and seeing that salvation depends on Jesus’ efforts. 

     One thing that aids that change of mindset is seeing the extent and seriousness of our sin.  When we see how thoroughly sin has corrupted us and how serious each and every sin is, then we are primed to look for help outside of ourselves.  That is why when people think of repentance, they often think of being sorry for their sin. 

     But if that sorrow over sin doesn’t result also in a turning to God it is not repentance.  Judas was extremely sorrowful over his betrayal of Jesus but he didn’t think God could forgive him.  His sorrow didn’t end up in repentance.  Still today there are a lot of people who are sorry for their sins, but they aren’t repentant because they aren’t looking to Jesus.  Now compare Judas to Peter who also was very sorrowful over his denial of Jesus.  But he trusted that God would forgive him.  He was repentant.

    The question has been asked more than once if repentance is a one-time event or a process.  I like to think of it as a state believers are in.   When the Holy Spirit caused me to see the truth about my sinfulness – and Jesus, my Savior, I repented.  That is, I had a new paradigm, a new mindset.  I changed from thinking I had to earn salvation to trusting in Jesus saving me.  That mindset of trusting in Jesus for salvation is the state I now am in.  That is now my mindset.  Therefore I don’t have to daily or weekly or monthly or what have go through the process of repenting by turning away from myself and looking to Jesus for salvation.  As a believer, that is now part of my being – that is my mindset. 




     Repentance is another word that is defined differently by Mormons.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, lists the following elements in the process of repentance:  1) Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; 2) Sorrow for sin; 3) Confession; 4) Abandonment of Sin; 5) Restitution; 6) Righteous Living.  I would like to focus on the 4th element: the abandonment of sin.

     This is what True to the Faith says under that heading.  “Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough.  The Lord has said, ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins – behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43).

     “Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression.  When you keep this commitment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.”

    Over the years, numerous Mormons have repeated this idea to me.  For example, one member of the stake presidency explained it to me this way.  He said that if he took the name of the Lord in vain when he was 16 and repented of it – but then took the Lord’s name in vain again when he was 17 – that would show that he truly wasn’t repentant when he was 16.

     In striking contrast, the Bible talks realistically.  It says that because we still have a sinful side, we won’t be able to perfectly fight off temptation or abandon the sin.  Even St. Paul confessed that the good he wanted to do, he often could not do and the evil he didn’t want to do, that is what he did!  In the Bible, repentance is not abandoning the sin.  Rather it is a change of mind. (That’s the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance.) It’s the abandoning, not of sin, but of trust in ourselves precisely because we see the extent of our sins and the fact that we can’t perfectly abandon them.  Repentance is abandoning trust in ourselves and instead placing all our trust in Jesus and the fact that he perfectly abandoned sin for us.  Repentance is turning away from ourselves and turning to our Savior.   It is not a “painful process” as True to the Faith describes it.  It is joyous relief as exhibited by Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

August 2022

Blog Stats

  • 184,226 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 997 other followers