Summary: Some ministers are nullifying the doctrine that salvation depends on repentance by twisting the doctrine so that it will be compatible with their faulty conception of God’s grace.
The Minister’s God-given Goal – Part 3
Some ministers are nullifying the doctrine that salvation depends on repentance by twisting the doctrine so that it will be compatible with their faulty conception of God’s grace. By their new definition, repentance is a change of the mind about who Jesus is and may not necessarily affect a person’s behavior. When the apostles called people to repent were they calling people to change their minds about whom Jesus is, or were they calling people to change their behavior?
Paul believed that true repentance required a change of behavior. He told King Agrippa,
“I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance (Acts 26:19-20).
John the Baptist also believed that repentance was more than just a change of mind about certain theological facts. When his convicted audience responded to his call for repentance by asking what they should do, he enumerated specific changes of behavior (Luke 3:3, 10-14). He also derided the Pharisees and Sadducees for only going through the motions of repentance, and warned them of hell’s fires if they did not truly repent (Matthew 3:7-10).
Jesus preached the same message of repentance as John (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). He once stated that Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching (Luke 11:32). Anyone who has ever read the book of Jonah knows that the people of Nineveh did more than change their minds. They also changed their actions, turning from sin. Jesus called it repentance.
When a minister preaches the gospel without mentioning the need for a genuine change of behavior that authenticates repentance, he is actually opposing the desires of Jesus. Moreover, he deceives his audience into believing that they can be saved without repenting, thus potentially insuring their damnation if they believe him. He is working against God and for Satan, whether he realizes it or not.
If a minister is going to make disciples as Jesus commanded, he must begin the process with a call to repent.
Jesus not only called the unsaved to turn from sin, He also called them to commit themselves to follow and obey immediately. He never offered salvation on lesser terms, as is often done today. He never invited people to accept Him, promising them forgiveness, and then later suggested that they might want to commit themselves to obey Him. No, Jesus demanded that the very first step be a step of whole-hearted commitment.
Sadly, Jesus’ call to repent and commitment are often ignored by professing Christians. Or, if they are acknowledged, are explained away as being calls to a deeper relationship that are supposedly addressed, not to the unsaved, but to those who have already received God’s saving grace. Jesus’ call to repent and commitment is often interpreted to be a call to a deeper walk, supposedly addressed to those who are already saved. Is this call to repent and commitment, Jesus summoned the crowd with His disciples and said to them “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
First, notice that the people Jesus was speaking to consisted of “the crowd with His disciples (v 34). The crowd did not consist of His disciples. Jesus called them to come with His disciples, He wanted them to hear what He was about to say to His disciples. Jesus wanted everyone, followers and seekers, to understand the truth He was about to teach. Notice also that He began by saying, “If anyone, this included the disciples and the crowd.
The expressions, “come after Me,” “deny himself,” “take up his cross,” “save his life,” not “forfeit his soul,” and be among those whom He will not be ashamed of when He “comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” All of these expressions indicate Jesus was describing people who desired to be saved. He was talking about gaining eternal salvation.
We need to heed what Jesus said in this passage of Scripture.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). This is the only relationship Jesus initially offers to those who want to follow Him. Some people want to be Jesus’ friend without being His follower, but such an option does not exist. Jesus did not consider anyone His friends if they did not obey Him (John 15:14).