Monday, November 12, 2007

Repentance: Witnessing God's Grace

Christian religions have debated for centuries over the place of grace and works, faith and repentance, in man's salvation. One side points to scriptures which suggest that the mear action of confessing that Jesus is Christ or accepting Christ as your Savior is all that is necessary for salvation from hell. Matt. 10: 32, Rom. 10: 9-10

However, this over-simplification neglects many other scriptures which speak of repentance, baptism, and obedience to the commandements. Philip. 2: 12, Heb. 5: 9 Looking past the obvious false dichotomy present in such arguments, the Book of Mormon clarifies how the doctrine of faith and repentance work together unto salvation. 2 Ne. 25: 23, Rev. 1: 5, Hel. 5: 10, 41.

The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Consequently, LDS doctrine focuses on repentance and obedience as well as faith in Jesus Christ. Now, some professors of religion argue that teaching obedience, repentance, and ordinances as a part of faith in Christ is somehow denying Christ's grace. However, the Bible clearly teaches that we show our faith in and love for Christ though obedience and repentance. James 2: 14, John 14: 15

It is misguided to consider a call to repentance a denial of God's grace. The gospel of repentance should not be construded into the idea that man can somehow save himself. That is not the point. The point of repentance and then obedience thereafter is for the individual to witness the grace, power, and mercy of Christ's Atonement in his life. No man could repent without God's grace. But as we actively engage in the process of sanctification, we can become a witness to the power of God. The power of Christ's Spirit which enters into our hearts washing away our sins, purging us of any desire or disposition to do evil, and changing our hearts that we become new creatures; disciples of Christ, sons and daughters unto God.

And through our faith in Christ, we can experience the miraculous transformation and realize that God is still a God of miracles who is intimately involved in the details of our lives. Personally, I appreciate the consistent exhortation by my church to good works and repentance. I need the daily reminders. The better I can, by God's grace, align my life with the will of God, the happier I am.

Active participation in the repentance process by confessing our sins, setting positive goals, making restitution for wrongs committed, and removing negative external influences does not deny God's grace or power either. Since he created my body, anything I do good with my physical body is a manifestation of God's grace and power. Did not Christ teach us about removing negative influences when he taught, "if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out." Matt. 5: 29

The same principle applies to helping others. Is it denying God's grace to serve food at a soup kitchen to the poor or to teach children how to read. Is it somehow greater faith to sit at home and pray for the poor only or to actually get out there and use our God-given abilities on their behalf. Isn't it generally accepted that God answers prayers through the kindness of others and that random acts of kindness is a manifestation of the goodness of God. Isn't it generally accepted that we should act like everything depends on us and pray knowing everything depends on God. Isn't it generally accepted that we are expected to both talk-the-talk as well as walk-the-walk, in Christ. In the same way, repentance doesn't detract from God's grace or power. Rather, repentance is the power of God's grace unto salvation.

2 Thes. 2: 13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

1 comment:

Michael John said...

Thank you for this insightful explanation of Repentance. It brought to my mind the this question: would we not want to be freed from the influence of bad choices? Would be not want to see as Christ sees so that we can do as Christ does? I am grateful that you described repentance as an opportunity to witness the power and grace of God. I love that. Repentance makes so much more sense now.
Michael Murray