Evangelizing the Christianized Culture: Is there repentance toward God? Part 1
Whenever I preach the gospel, I am constantly reminded of my limitations. I cannot turn a sinner to God, bringing him into the faith, or going into his heart and making him think correctly about the truth. Even as I was out today making contacts for gospel studies, I was saddened as I saw young men who really had no desire to know the truth. These moments remind us, that this is God’s work, and He will save sinners and use us if we are faithful.
My desire is not to discourage you in your evangelism; rather it is to help you to be wise in your approach, so that you will have been faithful, and God alone will get the glory in the conversion of souls. We can “mess up” and see God work in spite of us. We can be absolutely correct in our approach yet see no conversions. God simply calls us to faithfulness. I was reminded of this today as I was reading Isaiah 6. When Isaiah saw God in His glory and His holiness filled the Temple, he fell on his face in fear and said “woe is me.” When he volunteered to go to Israel as God’s messenger, how did God encourage him? He told him that his ministry would be to a hardened and unrepentant nation. When Isaiah lamented, “How long LORD,” God said till the land is destroyed and the people are gone. Ezekiel experienced the same thing in Ezekiel 2. It is not about us, rather it is about Him.
Let us strive to keep the apparent tensions of God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities in evangelism in perfect balance. Both aspects are involved in a correct understanding of evangelism. Let us passionately appeal for a humble dependence upon Christ in prudence. With a desire to maintain this delicate balance and an appeal that reflect both passion and wisdom, we will carefully approach the next issue of our discussion, concerning evidences of repentance toward God. First, what is repentance toward God, and second, are their limitations to our ability to diagnose this aspect of evangelism.
What is repentance? I know there is a tremendous debate about the issue, so let me give you two tests. First, does your definition of repentance add works to faith as a necessary condition to be met prior to conversion? If it does this, then your definition is wrong. Genuine conversion does produce spiritual fruit, see James 2, however this fruit is not the result of a willed turning from sin to God, as much as it is the evidence of a new life that comes from God. Conversion is a new birth in which we receive a new nature, with new affections. The change that is accomplished in a young believer is a marvelous work of God, which cannot be hidden. Christ told Nicodemus that it is like the wind, which is invisible, yet its affects cannot be hidden. The fruit of the Spirit produced in sanctification is not a part of the condition of salvation; rather it is the evidence of salvation. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Secondly, if your definition of repentance involves self-reformation which must precede conversion, then your definition is wrong. We do not clean up our lives to come to God. We are powerless in our unconverted state to be sanctified in any way. Our next post will go further in clarifying the nature of repentance as we look as some passages that give us its scope, it will look at several practical questions we should ask ourselves as we consider repentance in evangelism, and it will address the issue of limitations in evangelism.