“Changed mind equals changed life.” I’ve heard that line, or some variation, many times. They will say that “repentance” is all about turning one’s life around for salvation or promising to turn one’s life around after salvation. “It’s a change in motives,” they say.
Well, I have a question. What percentage of changed actions are enough to prove your salvation? 100%? 75%? 51%? Are all your motives suddenly pure? Do you suddenly start serving Christ with pure devotion, out of your heartfelt love? If not, where’s the cut off line between those who say they believe and those who “truly believe?” How can we even say we are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone if we are constantly trying to measure our faith by our efforts, either before or after “salvation?” Aren’t we really just saying, “I can pay you back, God. All I need is a small loan to get me started. I promise I’ll pay you back. I swear. I just need to get my foot in the door.”
Is God some cosmic loan shark? Do we receive grace on an installment plan?
Repentance isn’t a work. Yes, it does indicate a change in of mental attitude that results in a change of direction. But not from sinning to not sinning, at least not in the way it is often expressed in the Lordship salvation camp. Repentance is a change of mind regarding whatever it is that is that is keeping us from faith in God. Repentance, in relationship to salvation, is ALWAYS about a change of mind from unbelief to faith toward God, through Jesus Christ.
Maybe our unbelief is because of an idolatrous heart, because we are trusting in a false god or religious system. Maybe it’s because we are trusting in our dead, self-righteous works. Maybe it’s because we are trusting in our genealogy or national identity. Maybe we simply have a rebellious heart and love for sin that keeps us from acknowledging a need for salvation. There can be many different obstacles to faith in Christ alone. Repentance is not a promise to stop sinning. Repentance is to change our mind about our unbelief or false belief and turn to God in faith.
Yes, good works should follow. God desires for His children to walk in the Spirit, in obedience, and holiness while performing good works. Sometimes God will even chasten his children, out of love, because they have drifted far from the path He desires for them. But, the fact that they need chastening, doesn’t imply lack of salvation.
The Biblical Jew always had the mindset, “If I don’t see it, it isn’t real.” Why? Because all he, or any of us for that matter, can see is one’s actions. God, however, sees into the heart of men. Only God knows if a man is saved. Of course, there are disciplinary steps churches can take to deal with sin within their ranks, but that certainly doesn’t mean those individual or individuals aren’t saved. Unfortunately, we can only go on what we see. God, alone, is able read the contents of the heart.
So, while a believer ought to live a life of obedience, using obedience as a measure to prove salvation is a slippery slope. It forces believers to establish a standard to determine how much obedience is enough. If perfect obedience is that standard, we all fall below the line. If it’s 51%, we’ll have the entire church divided over what acts fall within and outside that 51%.
No, salvation cannot be of works. It can only be of grace, A GIFT that cannot be earned, else we will each find ourselves boasting of our own accomplishments rather than boasting of the work Jesus performed for us. Any effort to add to or take away from His work, is to undermine the Gospel of grace.