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Repentance Unto Salvation: A One Time Thing or an Every-Time-We-Sin Thing?

In discourse with those in Law ‘keeping’ sects, this question inevitably comes up, “Don’t you ever sin after you’re saved?” or the statement, “You must repent over and over when you sin.”  In legalistic circles in churchianity, one might hear the phrase, “Well, if they sin, they must not have been saved in the first place!”  There is this idea out there in both churchianity and in Law ‘keeping’ sects that we must repent over and over to in effect maintain our salvation.

Actually, a Jew of Judaism asked the following similar question about Christians with more clarity than I had seen it asked before:

Originally Posted by Dreidel at CARM:
Don’t Christians still have to repent to Jesus when they sin? If you didn’t repent, it would indicate you were not really saved. And being saved doesn’t mean you don’t sin.

Kind of seems to put the believer in Christ in a ‘catch-22’ dilemma, doesn’t it?  Or does it . . . 

This is one of those times when it is so important to have a good grasp on who we are in Christ and what that actually means:

Ephesians 1:3-14
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Do Christians need to turn away from sin in their lives? Yes. Out of love for God and love for others, but not as a ‘maintenance payment’ on our salvation.  And that love is a Fruit produced by the Holy Spirit living through us.  Love is not a work that we perform, we bear His Fruit (His yoke is easy, His burden is light) that the Holy Spirit produces as He lives through us – and sometimes good Fruit takes time . . .

After reading the passage above, let me put it this way:

If you adopt a child, and that child disobeys you, does that child cease to be your child until they repent of that particular transgression?

No.

While there is disciplining and shepherding going on in the life of that child, they are yours, for you have made a commitment of adoption and a promise of an inheritance to them. Your commitment and promise to them at the time of adoption is not conditional on the future behavior of the child.  But neither do you go into that commitment or give that promise blindly, for you know that you will have significant influence in the steering and training and LOVING of that child!

So it is with we who are adopted into sonship by God through Jesus Christ.

While a flawed human parent can disown ANY child – natural or adopted – from their inheritance, the cool thing is that God has made a promise guaranteeing our inheritance by marking us with His seal, the promised Holy Spirit!  We are a New Creation in Him!  And with that seal, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, comes the work of sanctification . . . the ever changing of the believer from the inside out, making us more and more a reflection of the character of Jesus Christ.

God has not made the commitment blindly – for He knows that He will have significant influence via His Holy Spirit in the steering and the training and the LOVING of His adopted.

Just as with the adopted in the natural world, God does not reject what HE has done when WE mess up.  He lovingly and firmly disciplines His children, faithful to complete the work He began in us.

Philippians 1:3-11
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

This is the goal of those in Christ!  Without constant fear of God disowning us when we fail.

For more perspective on this issue, here are a few excellent audio teachings that go into greater depth in describing who we are in Christ, our relationship to God and to sin, and the common arguments using specific Scriptures.  Lots of Scripture references and study notes are included.  The following teachings are well worth the time to take a listen and are highly recommended.

The Clear Message of Grace Part 3 – Unbroken Access to God – Is forgiveness a once-and-for-all thing or do we need to keep asking for forgiveness?  Part 3 of a 5-Part series on the simple Truths of the Gospel which can be found HERE.

Teaching on 1 John 1:9 – 1 John 1:9 is a staple verse in Law ‘keeping’ sects about how when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us.  Who was John talking to in that passage?  If God is faithful to forgive us for our sins, why would we keep asking Him to do something He has already done?

Predestination – I threw this one in since there are references to predestination in the Ephesians passage above.  This is just a really good, common sense teaching on what election and predestination mean Biblically, and takes away confusion (and a tendency toward elitism!!) about the issue.  About 23 minutes long.  [Note:  This teaching is currently unavailable; many of Bob George’s teachings which are archived at People to People Ministries are in transition to the new BobGeorge.net site.  I hope that this particular teaching will again be available in the future.]

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Edited to add 4/18/12 – Some in the Hebrew Roots Movement have tried to use this article to accuse me of teaching that Christians should just go about sinning willy-nilly because all of their sins are forgiven.  That is NOT what the post above is about.  The post above is about Christians being securely forgiven.  Believers in Christ do not drift from a saved to an unsaved state depending on whether or not they have unconfessed sin at any certain point in their lives.  That IS what the post above is about; repentance unto salvation.   At this point I will add a forum post I wrote which explains my view regarding the role repentance in the life of one already saved:

[A poster at Survivalist Board] ‘temu’  likes to mischaracterize my view on repentance unto salvation and make it look like I believe that someone can just go about their merry way and sin willy nilly for the rest of their lives. He knows that’s not what I believe, yet he persists in flat out lying about my position. Part of that comes from temu’s inaccurate definition of the word, ‘repent’ and part of it comes from Law keepers’ ceaseless attempts to demonize me.

So here comes the part where I re-post what I’ve posted (and re-posted ) before:

Repentance unto salvation IS a one time deal, temu.

As you’ve read me write elsewhere in an answer to armourbearer:

Here’s the thing: You’re basing a doctrine (having to ask for forgiveness over and over for sins bled and died for – a practice not taught anywhere in Scripture after the work of the Cross) on a false definition of the word repent.

As both Vectorwoman and I have proven, repent never means ‘turn’, return or ‘turn back’.

You’re using a Hebrew root word common to both teshuwbah and nacham – the root word, ‘shuwb’, and inserting that root word’s definition into a text and throwing out the actual definition of the actual word used in a text! What you’re doing is akin to defining the word ‘butterfly’ by its root words, ‘butter’ and ‘fly’, neither of which go to the actual definition of the word, ‘butterfly’!

It’s also changing the Word of God as He ordained it .

Not only that, but you are then taking that same HEBREW root word’s definition and applying that to GREEK words with their own definitions !

You cannot do that! Remember, God ordained that certain words be used in certain places – you cannot just go ’round substituting words here and there to make/fit a particular theology! The funny thing is that the Hebrew words for repent and the Greek words for repent are in agreement in their definitions – there is no need to substitute a root word in the first place!

The kind of repentance that leads to salvation IS a one time deal. Once we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, all of our sins are forgiven. That is what the Scriptures tell us! To ask for forgiveness for sins already forgiven by the Blood of Jesus is unnecessary and not taught in Scriptures written after the Cross.

Some will jump to 1 John 1:9, citing that as a perpetual practice for those in Christ, but it says that God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

So did God do what He said He would do or not?

Colossians 2:13
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

How many trespasses?

Is there still place for repentance (the change of heart and mind, remorse for sin) in the life of the believer? Absolutely. But it has no tie to salvation or the securing of God’s forgiveness for the believer in Christ. As the Holy Spirit sanctifies those in Christ repentance by those in Christ has to do with the renewing of our minds:

Romans 12:1-2
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

No more forgiveness for sin is required for those in Christ. Jesus’ Blood covered all sin for those in Him. You are either a forgiven person or not. The only continuing sacrifice mentioned after the Cross for those in Christ is us offering ourselves up as living sacrifices – submitting to the Holy Spirit, letting Him do His work of sanctification in us. Will that require some ‘changing of our minds and hearts’ and ‘remorse and sorrow for sin’ along the way? Of course it will – but it does not go to forgiveness already given for sins already cleansed and cast as far as the East is from the West by the shed Blood of Christ at the Cross.

Please don’t confuse, “Oh God, I messed up, I’m so sorry. Please help me to not do _________ again and live the way you want me to” with “Oh God, I messed up, please forgive me of that sin.”

If you are in Christ, you ARE forgiven !

About that definition of repent. . . we’ve also been over this a NUMBER of times, temu:

Answered here:
And more completely with the following post (I’ll post it again here in case you missed it):

Originally Posted by JGIG
The question was asked,

. . . and temu likes to pester me about what repentance means, what defines sin, and if I repeatedly repent of my sins.

I’ve been crazy busy – sorry for the delay on answering this, but here ya go:

No – I do not ask for forgiveness. Before everybody starts freaking out, keep reading.

Do I apologize/regret/feel sorry for my sins?

Yes!

Do I humble myself before God and ask for His help and strength to not sin?

Yes!

Do I remember the sacrifice that was made for me and strive to honor that sacrifice and not to grieve God by my behavior?

Yes!

God says that my sins are already forgiven – put away as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12) – and that He remembers them no more (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12).

Does He say just a few of my sins, or just a certain type of sin, or just the sins that were committed up until a certain time but that all sins after that time are not forgiven?

No!

The word repent as it is used in the New Testament has 2 related meanings – one having to do with a change of mind, the other having to do with regret:

metanoeō (repent)
1) to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent
2) to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins

“Repentance (metanoia, ‘change of mind’) involves a turning with contrition from sin to God; the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept the divine forgiveness.” (F. F. Bruce. The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary], London: Tyndale, 1952, p. 97.)

and:

metamelomai (repent)
1) it is a care to one afterwards
a) it repents one, to repent one’s self

One place I looked used the word ‘regret’ to help describe repent/metamelomai.

For those of you who like to look at the etymology of a word, New Testament usage of repent traces back thus:

metanoeō (repent)
From μετά (G3326) and νοέω (G3539):
Strong’s G3326 – meta

1) with, after, behind

Strong’s G3539 – noeō

1) to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding
2) to think upon, heed, ponder, consider

and

metamelomai (repent)
From μετά (G3326) and the middle voice of μέλει (G3199)

Strong’s G3326 – meta
1) with, after, behind

Strong’s G3199 – melei
1) to care about

(Source)

Now those who adhere to a Law ‘keeping’ paradigm will tell us that repent means to return, and in the context of their belief system, that means to return to Law. First, let me make clear, based on what we see above, that is NOT the meaning of the word repent used in the NT, or even, as we will see, always in the OT!

When looking at the word repent in the OT, repent has 3 different Hebrew words with lots of meanings, all which need to be evaluated by context. HRM teachers like to exclusively take just two Hebrew words return (Strong’s H8666 – tĕshuwbah) and repent (Strong’s H7725 – shuwb), both which have the same Hebrew Root word (Strong’s H7725 – shuwb), and try to make them interchangeable with each other, regardless of context, and regardless of the clear Greek meanings for repent as stated in the NT.

To repeat: Not only do they do so within the OT itself, but they take that Hebrew word for return, tĕshuwbah and its root ‘shuwb’ and replace the Greek words for repent, which are in line with the three other Hebrew words for repent, Strong’s H5162 – nacham, Strong’s H3820 – leb, and Strong’s H3824 – lebab (from Strong’s H3823 – labab). To be clear – they take a Hebrew word which does not mean ‘repent’ anywhere in the OT and apply it to where the word repent is used in the NT!

I know that word studies can be tedious, but stick with me and let’s look at the Hebrew definitions of the five different words/roots used for repent, in order of appearance in the OT (you can look at a list of the occurrences of the English word repent in the OT and their corresponding Hebrew counterparts and click on the Strong’s number to see meanings matched with context HERE):

No. 1:

Strong’s H5162 – nacham (repent), a verb, and a primitive root (which you can’t just go switching ’round with other roots!)

1) to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted

a) (Niphal)

1) to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion
2) to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent
3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
4) to comfort oneself, ease oneself

b) (Piel) to comfort, console
c) (Pual) to be comforted, be consoled
d) (Hithpael)

1) to be sorry, have compassion
2) to rue, repent of
3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
4) to ease oneself

No. 2 (This is one you’ll see in HRM teachings a lot, you may also see it spelled as shoov or shoob:

Strong’s H7725 – shuwb (repent), a verb, and also a primitive root
1) to return, turn back

a) (Qal)

1) to turn back, return

a) to turn back
b) to return, come or go back
c) to return unto, go back, come back
d) of dying
e) of human relations (fig)
f) of spiritual relations (fig)

1) to turn back (from God), apostatise
2) to turn away (of God)
3) to turn back (to God), repent
4) turn back (from evil)

g) of inanimate things
h) in repetition

b) (Polel)

1) to bring back
2) to restore, refresh, repair (fig)
3) to lead away (enticingly)
4) to show turning, apostatise

c) (Pual) restored (participle)
d) (Hiphil) to cause to return, bring back

1) to bring back, allow to return, put back, draw back, give back, restore, relinquish, give in payment
2) to bring back, refresh, restore
3) to bring back, report to, answer
4) to bring back, make requital, pay (as recompense)
5) to turn back or backward, repel, defeat, repulse, hinder, reject, refuse
6) to turn away (face), turn toward
7) to turn against
8 ) to bring back to mind
9) to show a turning away
10) to reverse, revoke

e) (Hophal) to be returned, be restored, be brought back
f) (Pulal) brought back

No. 3, with roots:

Strong’s H3820 – leb (repent) , A form of לֵבָב (H3824)

1) inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding

a) inner part, midst

1) midst (of things)
2) heart (of man)
3) soul, heart (of man)
4) mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
5) inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
6) conscience
7) heart (of moral character)
8 )
as seat of appetites
9) as seat of emotions and passions
10) as seat of courage

Strong’s H3824 – lebab, From לָבַב (H3823), meanings identical to leb.

Strong’s H3823 – labab, A primitive root

1) to ravish, become intelligent, get a mind

a) (Niphal) to take heart, become enheartened, become intelligent

b) (Piel) to ravish the heart, encourage, make heart beat faster

2) (Piel) to make cakes, bake cakes, cook bread

Now for the really interesting part of how those in Law ‘keeping’ sects turn the NT word repent (with its clear meanings in the original Greek which are in agreement with the Hebrew meanings for repent in the context of the changing of the heart and mind – please go through and read these Scriptures in context to see how the Greek and Hebrew agree about what repentance is) into the word return.

It is the classic progression of the redefinition of Biblical terms.

I’ve written this before but it’s worth repeating here:

One of the things that is really important to be aware of regarding this and other heretical movements is that they engage in the re-definition of terms. Once that is accomplished, those re-defined terms become fields in which seeds of questionable doctrine can be cultivated.

At HRM websites and in HRM teaching materials a consistent technique is employed to bring the reader to where the writer wishes them to go, and I can’t stress this enough:

Faulty definitions, examples, analogies and reasonings are constructed, then those same faulty definitions, examples, analogies and reasonings are built upon as FACT to take the reader to the next doctrinal place the writer wishes the reader to go.

A popular HRM teacher referred to here at SB is a master at this technique, and does so regarding the word repent HERE. He takes the Hebrew word tĕshuwbah, (you’ll also see it spelled teshuvah in HRM teachings) which means return, ‘expired’, or ‘answers’, and is NEVER used as ‘repent’ in the OT, which has its primitive root, shuwb (shoov, shoob), and builds a whole doctrine about how repent in the NT means to return back to Law as the act of repentance!

Strong’s H8666 – tĕshuwbah From שׁוּב (H7725) (primitive root shuwb, see above)

1) a recurrence, an answer, return

a) return

1) completion of a year, return of a year

b) at the return (construct)
c) answer, reply

Word studies really can be tedious, and eyes tend to glaze over when they’re presented, but folks, getting a grasp on this is important, because it’s really important to be clear about what particular words God ordained to communicate specific concepts.

To sum it up: The concept of repentance in light of the Gospel is a change of heart and mind, a realization of the truth of the Gospel and the putting of one’s faith and trust in Christ. The Law has NOTHING to do with it, except to point out our sin and to point us to Christ. Good works, defined in the NT as works of faith, are the result of repentance, not the vehicle for it.

This short article lays it out nicely (from GotQuestions.org):

Question: “What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation?”

Answer: Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Copyright Policy: While all of the material on the GotQuestions.org website is under copyright protection, the only purpose of our copyright is to make sure people copy it right. As long as you always clearly reference and/or link to www.gotquestions.org as the source of the material, you have our permission to copy, print, and distribute our material.)

I added in a later post that the gotquestions article was a little ‘Calviny’, but got the basic point across.

Part of why you keep asking me the same question over and over about repentance is that you define repentance according to Brad Scott’s definition, which, as I have proven above, is false.

And either you’re getting senile or you’re playing the ‘she still hasn’t answered the question’ game to try to make me look bad when I have answered the question – several times. You just don’t like the answer .

If we lived before the advent of the work of Christ, you’d have a point. But we don’t. While you’re resting your bones after a hard day of bulldozing, take some time to read this article:

Old Testament Believers and New Testament Christians

It’s a meaty read. Enjoy!

To repeat, regarding continuing repentance, not regarding salvation, I believe this:

No more forgiveness for sin is required for those in Christ. Jesus’ Blood covered all sin for those in Him. You are either a forgiven person or you are not. The only continuing sacrifice mentioned after the Cross for those in Christ is us offering ourselves up as living sacrifices – submitting to the Holy Spirit, letting Him do His work of sanctification in us.

Will that require some ‘changing of our minds and hearts’ and ‘remorse and sorrow for sin’ along the way? Of course it will – but it does not go to forgiveness already given for sins already cleansed and cast as far as the East is from the West by the shed Blood of Christ at the Cross.

Please don’t confuse, “Oh God, I messed up, I’m so sorry. Please help me to not do _________ again and live the way you want me to” with “Oh God, I messed up, please forgive me of that sin.”

If you are in Christ, you ARE forgiven !

So temu, you just keep repeating the mischaracterization about what I believe about ‘repentance’. Not very integral of you. You go ahead and keep posting lies about what I believe and I’ll keep proving you wrong . . .

-JGIG

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May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

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Other articles of interest:

For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Discernment in Action (Chicken Wing Theology Applied)

So how does one “eat the meat and spit out the bones” when it comes to spiritual things?  (Click here to read “Chicken Wing Theology” in its entirety.)

Some exerpts from that post:

When the Holy Spirit Who is your Counselor nudges you or speaks to your heart or raises a red flag or pricks your spirit or does whatever He does to get your attention, LISTEN TO HIM.

. . . . it takes time and effort to sort truth from error; it can be time consuming and messy, but necessary for good spiritual health. 

Pray for wisdom and discernment and direction.  Be faithful to press on in that which the Holy Spirit is challenging you.  Be willing and faithful to step away from things He shows you are not for you, even if they are attractive to you. 

It’s your responsibility.

We are all called to leadership in some form, whether it be in our families, churches, Bible studies, work places, or just to lead our little old selves as we go through life.  Where I think our impression of the role of leadership requires the skill of direction, it more accurately requires the skill of navigation.  Navigation is the art of safely following a planned course.

To safely navigate a planned course, you need to know where you’re going . . .

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”                    Jeremiah 29:11-13

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Psalm 25:4,5

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;  I will counsel you and watch over you.”  Psalm 32:8

“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.  Correct me, Lord, but only with justice – not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.”  Jeremiah 10:23,24

 Relationship with the Living, Loving God

That’s the first thing!  Click here if you want to know the basics of the awesome plan of redemption God has gifted to you.  Click here to read a really good testimony and a beautifully communicated picture of the restored life that God imparts to us through Jesus Christ. For those of you who already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, remember that it is your relationship with God that will provide you with wisdom and discernment. 

Your membership in a particular church or alignment with a particular belief system within the many streams of thought throughout Christianity will not guarantee you a discerning heart or the wisdom to sort truth from error.  The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are the source of those things. 

Ask God Specifically for Wisdom and Discernment

When God came to Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”, Solomon recognized the enormity of that to which God was calling him, and also the reality of his inability in and of himself to carry out that calling.  So Solomon asked for discernment.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:7-9a

So God gave Solomon wisdom and discernment.   

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.”       James 1:5

Just ask God for wisdom.  He said He will give it to you.  Generously.  And God is faithful to do what He says He will do.

Filter

You’re sitting in a church service, a Bible study, at a conference of some sort, talking with a friend or acquaintance, or surfing the web.  When some new teaching, concept, or perspective comes your way, learn to filter it through healthy skepticism, and put in on the table for consideration, not taking action until after you’ve had a chance to pray specifically about that thing and test it against Scripture.  Asking God for wisdom and discernment will give you that “filter”.

I’m not saying that you must become a cynic!  Some things will come your way and you’ll know right away that they’re okay.  Other things will immediately show themselves worthy of the trash heap.  Then there are things that sound okay, look okay, and are intriguing in their content, but something seems just a bit off  to you.  Those are the things to put on the table and investigate further. 

Pray about whether you’re just uncomfortable with a particular concept because of your background or baggage, or because there is truly error present.  Maybe God is trying to get your attention in a certain area and wanting you to change a wrong attitude or shift your paradigm in a certain area.  Be careful not to mistake the conviction of the Holy Spirit and slap a label of false teaching on something just because you don’t want to deal with an area of sin in your life.  Or maybe you aren’t willing to go in a direction God is calling you to or away from ’cause, well, you just don’t want to go.  In other words, don’t use the phrase “Well, I just don’t agree with ‘thus and so'” as an excuse for disobedience to God.

Once you’ve integrally purposed to get your personal “stuff” out of the way, if something still seems “off” to you, that’s where the work comes in.

If it’s a new philosophy or movement or organization that’s come across your path, research the statements of faith that the leadership has posted.  Measure that statement of faith against the Word of God.  Two immediate disqualifiers when I’m evaluating something are these two things, one or both of which are always present with false teaching:

1)  False teaching will deny the deity of Christ – this may be as subtle as saying we are “all sons of God” or something more obvious like denial of the Trinity.  Someone  has to lose their Deity if the Trinity is denied . . . the Gospel falls apart if any of the Three are not God. 

2)  False teaching will in some way incorporate the Original Lie“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:4,5

Identifying false religion is fairly easy, using the criteria above.  Identifying extra-Biblical teaching can be more difficult, because it usually sounds good, and will often use lots of Bible verses to support its point of view.  Be cautious of philosophies that are formula based, philosophies that claim to have the only “right” way to do things, or philosophies that claim that their way is “God’s way”. 

The New Testament is full of examples where the apostles were constantly pointing believers back to Christ and the Gospel – that is where redemption and life and wisdom and discernment and power and direction come from – from God Himself!  We have His Word and His Holy Spirit.  We have spiritual ears and eyes that have been opened.  We need to remember to look and listen for God.

Learn to discern and navigate lest you find yourself in a place of bondage and commited to a way of life that will wound you or those around you.  The Law of Love must be present for a teaching, movement, church, or  organization to be good.

Paul addresses how there are different “parts” to and giftings in the Church (Body of Christ).  God’s design is incredibly diverse in order to provide the Gospel and minister to all tongues, tribes, nations, cultures, castes, colors . . . you get the idea.  Paul gives the wonderful metaphor of one body, many parts in his first epistle to the Corinthians . . .

“The body is a unit,though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  1 Corinthians 12:12,13

Then Paul goes on with the metaphor, talking about how each part is important and needed and “that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”      1 Corinthians 12:25,26

Then Paul lists spiritual giftings (parts) in the Church designed to minister within the Body.  And then the last last verse says: 

And now I will show you the most excellent way.”     1 Corinthians 12:31b

Then Paul seamlessly transistions straight into the “Love Chapter”.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.      1 Corinthians 13  

There are many different facets and personalities and backgrounds in the Body of Christ, and I believe that God has taken that ALL into account as He has established His Church.  He raises up Godly men and women and ministries all the time to minister to the diversity that is “us” collectively – to the Church and to the world at large.  

Whatever you come across, measure it by the Word and listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you.  Love has to be the underpinnings and motivation for everything we as the Church do.  Research the whatever it is until you feel like you have a good grasp of what is really being taught and the integrity of those who are teaching it (REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT).  If the integrity of the teacher is in serious question, or obviously lacking, chances are the teaching that they bring is deeply flawed as well.

Eat the meat and spit out the bones.  And if it’s bad altogether, throw the whole thing out.

And every once in a while, God will provide you with a wonderful feast!  With NO bones!  

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