Must we spend all day, every possible moment in repentence?

Dear Sir,

I would like to say thank you for your insight on this 2000 year old debate. However, I do have a scenario that you might be able to help me with. First let me introduce myself. I am in the US Air Force, currently deployed. I am a Christian, who has seen his share of backsliding. I thank God that even as I ran away, he has always been there, ready to pick me up when I fell. I will also admit that I share the same views as Charles Stanley, however you, and a few others have challenged that theory on the subject of OSAS. So here is the scenario:

A man lives a good life and becomes a Christian, by accepting the free gift of Salvation. So we both agree that he is saved. He lives an upright, honest, Christlike life. He loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind, and loves his neighbor like he would have them love him... as much as humanly possible. But this man is not sinless, for all have fallen short of the Glory of God. So he sins, and repents. Say he is a soldier deployed over in Afghanistan. And lets say he offends his brother, or lies, or does something that you would consider sinful. Conviction settles in, and he knows that he sinned, but suddenly a shot rings out in the night, and you find this soldiers life was ended instantly. So he acted in sin, and before he really had a chance to repent, he dies. Now he is at the throne of God, and because of that sin that was with him when he died, does he suffer eternal punnishment? This doctrine seems to suggest that there is a certain standard that we have to meet, up to 100% purity, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I can understand someone on their deathbed, whos last breath is spent in repentence, he is pure before the judgement seat. So what about the soldier? Better yet, what about the millions of Christians worldwide, when Christ comes again, at the time and the hour unbeknownst to man? Must we spend all day, every possible moment in repentence? What if you are the unlucky This is the basic truth of the Arminian school of thought on this debate. I have not read, or been shown a single verse from the Word that directly supports this teaching. There are many verses that would fuel both sides of the debate, I dont think anyone can deny that.

I am actually in discussion with a group of men, who are challenging both schools of thought. It is an issue that we believe has HUGE implications on ones eternal life. Please let me know what you think about this.


My response is in Green:

I would agree with you that this debate has eternal consequences and that is exactly why I have decided to address it on my website. I won't fit into a neat little theological box for you, however. I believe that both views are off the narrow road and in the weeds, just on different sides. Stanley on the one hand (I will use him since you mentioned him) believes that a person can be a Christian and never show any fruits at all and can live a life full of sin and even live a worse life then they did before believing in Jesus Christ and still get to heaven. Those are tall weeds. The strict Arminian view on the other hand is that if a believer lusts in his heart and dies of a heart attack they will go to hell. Those are high weeds, just on the other side of the road.

I take it you have not read many of the discussions I have had with people or you would understand that I don't fit either of those theologies, so I will try to quickly explain my view and then address the specifics of your message.

Let's start with salvation. I think we can both agree what it takes to be saved. To understand that we are sinners under a spiritual death sentence from a holy God, and there is nothing we can do to change that. Yet in His great love and grace He provided a perfect lamb to die in our place, Jesus Christ. Jesus took the punishment for our sins when He died on the cross and all we have to do is repent of our sins and believe that Jesus did die for our sins and rose again on the third day. I think, at least I hope we are still in agreement at this point.

Now let me go on to explain how I see our salvation. If you look at the temple before Jesus died you will see that the Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a giant curtain and only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and he could do so only once a year with a sin sacrifice. The Holy of Holies represented God's presence. This is where the mercy seat was and God's glory dwelt.

Okay now go to the moment of Jesus death. Let me quote:

(Matthew 27:50-51 NIV) [50] And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
[51] At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

Notice that the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This opened up the Holy of Holies to everyone. This is a picture of our salvation. Jesus, by His death opened up the way for us to approach God the Father. We see this also in the story Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man. Notice that both men, after they died, went to Hades. Lazarus went to what is called Paradise or sometimes Abraham's bosom. The rich man when to hell, but it was in the same place as Paradise. Jesus even told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in Paradise that day. Now look at this:

(Ephesians 4:8 NIV) This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."

When Jesus resurrected He took the people in Paradise to heaven to be with Him. Now when a believer dies he goes directly to be with Jesus in heaven. The believers from the Old Testament were not allowed into the presence of God the Father until Jesus opened the way.

Now you are probably asking what this has to do with OSAS, but give me a moment to explain. So you could say that Jesus bought a relationship with God the Father for us with His blood. But we as humans do not automatically get that relationship, we must place our faith in Jesus Christ and that gives us that relationship.

Now if we view our salvation as a relationship bought by Jesus but secured by our faith, then is it such a step to believe that we must maintain that relationship with the same faith we had to start with? I don't think so. I don't believe that sin separates us from Christ after we believe in Him. That might surprise you to hear me say, but wait and see what I mean by it. Sin is only the symptom of the disease. Just like a fever is just the symptom of some other disease.

Sin shows that there is at least the start of a problem in the relationship between the person and God. If it is stopped soon enough the relationship remains in tack and might even grow stronger, but if it is not stopped the crack in the relationship will grow (meaning that the believer's faith grows colder and colder) until there is a complete separation. Did sin separate them, or was sin just the sign that it was happening? I say it was the sign.

Now let me address one more thing before I address your message. Another thing that bothers me about the OSAS doctrine is its view of sin. You came very close to stating it in your message to me. That view is that sin is a normal characteristic of the Christians everyday life. I have heard it stated that believers sin daily in deed, word and thought. This is an unbiblical view. Let me show you why I say it is unbiblical:

(Hebrews 12:14 NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

(1 John 3:9-10 NIV) [9] No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. [10] This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

(Romans 6:16-18 NIV) [16] Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. [18] You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Now part of the problem, I believe, is the definition of sin that is used by OSAS. Let me show you what Paul says are the sins of the flesh:

(Galatians 5:19-21 NIV) [19] The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [20] idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [21] and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Notice that all of these are more then just one lustful act, or one indiscretion, but rather a lifestyle. Is that important? I think it is and here is why. Even though the Christian's life should or I should say will not be characterized by sin, we will all stumble at times and commit sin, but the way OSAS defines sin, as a common occurrence in the believer's life makes it impossible for a believer to be free from it. This tends to do two things. First it down plays the importance of sin in the believer's life, since there will always be sin, there is no reason to deal with it in any important way. Secondly, it tends to down play the holiness demanded of the believer by God, since it is impossible.

I am not trying to say that a lustful thought is not sin, but I am saying that is different then these so called sins of omission, that the person might or might not even know they committed. It belittles sin and makes it something that we all just have to put up with. That is not how Jesus viewed sin:

(Matthew 5:29-30 NIV) [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I would say that Jesus felt pretty strongly about sin. The other problem is what people think they are responsible for and what they don't think they are responsible. For example if a television commercial comes on with a women half dressed and the person has a lustful thought, they are convinced that they have sinned. I don't believe that. I believe it depends on what you do with that thought. We can't help but see some things which will put thoughts in our minds, but we can decide how to deal with that thought when it appears. If we put it out of our mind, I believe we have not sinned, but if we foster it, then we have. My point is that OSAS teaches that all these things are sins, but as I said this idea belittles real sin in the believer's life and makes it something that is just a normal part of life in this world. God does not view sin that way.

Okay, finally I am ready to deal with your soldier. I went through all that for a reason. In your soldier story, I would not call offending someone a sin, but since you said something that we would agree is a sin, so we will take it from there. Let's say that he purposely steals from another soldier. Let's say that while he is stealing the item he is killed. Would he go to heaven? The problem is that you have to have more information, and that is why I dealt with this before addressing it here. Was his relationship with God intact? In other words was he following Christ.

So let me go through what I believe happens when a believer sins. When the believer sins, I believe that the Holy Spirit convicts them of that sin and if the believer is following Christ they will be grieved and it will be a natural process for them to repent and feel remorse for that sin. When this happens the relationship (salvation) remains intact. However, if the believer does not want to repent of the sin, the Holy Spirit will continue to deal with their heart and call them back to repentance. But they have not lost their free will and can choose to either continue to follow the sinful path or repent and follow Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road. Let me show you Scripture which I believe says this very thing:

(James 5:19-20 NIV) [19] My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, [20] remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Notice that James tells us a couple of things. First we know that he is speaking of a believer because he calls them brother and he says they wandered from the truth, you can't wander from somewhere you were never at. Secondly he says that when another believer brings the person who wandered away back they have saved a sinner. But let me show you another example:

(John 15:6 NIV) If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

The person who decides to ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit is exactly who Jesus is speaking about. It is someone who refuses to remain in Christ. Here is another:

(James 4:4 NIV) You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

This one too is from James. Look at the passage very closely. Who can become an enemy of God? Can a sinner "become" an enemy of God? No. Why? Because sinners are already enemies of God. You can't become something you already are to start with. The only person who can "become" an enemy of God is someone who has been reconciled to Him and that has to be a believer.

But again this does not happen at the instant of sin. If I die as I lie to my wife, I won't automatically be kept out of heaven, it all depends on my heart. Was I following Christ but stumbled and sinned or was I following the world and in effect rejected Christ? That is the question. One sin won't separate a true believer from God, but a sinful lifestyle just shows that the person has chosen to follow the world instead of Christ and therefore has broken that relationship with God the Father which we call salvation.

So I can't answer whether your soldier would go to heaven or not, only God knows the heart. But Jesus did tell us that we can judge a person's heart by their actions. So if this was an isolated incident, he most likely will go to heaven, but if this soldier has been lying and cheating and sinning openly, then his fruit is rotten and this last sin is just one more which shows the disease in his heart.

Here is the bottom line. I believe in eternal security but not as taught by OSAS. I believe that as long as I continue in the faith and follow Jesus Christ that I am eternally secure. No sin can separate me from Him, only I can separate me from Him, by not wanting to follow Him any longer. Now sin can dull my senses and if I refuse to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit I will become more and more dull to Him until I will have wandered away and rejected Christ, even if it was not a decision I made at one instant in time, it would be one I made over a period of time.

OSAS separates discipleship from salvation, but the Bible never does. OSAS claims you can be saved but not be a follower of Christ, this is unbiblical and will lead many people to hell. Again let me show you what I mean:

(1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV) [9] Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders [10] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

(Revelation 21:7-8 NIV) [7] He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. [8] But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

Now here is my question. Why doesn't Paul in 1 Corinthians and Jesus in Revelation just say that those who are unbelievers will not get to heaven? Why list these sins instead? Could it be to make sure that believers know they can't live like this and still claim a place in heaven? I believe so. That is contrary to what Charles Stanley teaches, but I will follow the Bible on this count.

I know this is long, but I wanted to give you as much detail as I could for why I believe as I do. I am glad you are seeking the truth, it is there you just have to find it.

Ralph

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