Pristine Grace

The Day You Were Converted
by Brandan Kraft
The Day You Were Converted

    I've noticed amongst some believers, there tends to be a great focus on the actual day one came to believe the Gospel, and some have even stated that if you can't pin-point it, you may not even be a believer!  I certainly do not agree with this assessment at all.  But I think I can explain how this understanding came into being, so allow me to explain. And if you find yourself struggling with assurance, I hope that this short article will help clear some understanding up for you.

    It is my opinion that it simply does not matter exactly when you came to believe the truth.  The thief on the cross came to love the Lord while he was in the final moments of his life.  And others have believed nearly all of their lives.  Both types of believers will be in heaven with Christ and there will be no differentiation amongst them.  Both types of believers will enjoy Christ as their heavenly reward.   So if you believe the Gospel now, you are one of God's people.  And if you are one of God's people, God has always loved you, cared for you, and provided for you.  And you believe because you have been given  the gift of faith which you will persevere in until you are taken home in glory.  Our focus should never be upon the day where we first believed... or the day we were baptized... or anything else we might perform in service to our Kingdom.   Our focus is and should always be Christ Crucified.  We do not and should not look to an experience for our assurance.

    Maurice Montgomery said it best regarding those first moments when we begin to believe...

WHEN did the Lord first begin to deal with my soul? WHEN, exactly, did I first begin to believe? At what point in time did I actually become a Christian—a child of God? I gave up trying to answer these questions a long time ago, as being totally unimportant. George Whitefield once said, “I have heard of a person who was in a company with fourteen ministers of the gospel, some of whom were eminent servants of Christ, yet not one of them could tell the time when God first manifested Himself to their soul.” It is quite sufficient to me that I DO BELIEVE in the Christ of Scripture, and I, as a sinner, continue to pray for grace to CONTINUE to believe to the salvation of my soul. (Hebrews 10:38-39)

    There is nothing wrong with examining our faith to ensure that it is genuine.  There is nothing wrong with examining our beliefs to root out wrong ideas in hopes that we grow in knowledge of the truth.  And there is nothing wrong with even realizing that maybe what we held to before was wrong, so wrong in fact that we admit to ourselves that what we once believed was false, and what we believe now is truth.  But is our salvation dependent upon knowing and being able to articulate all the implications of our current beliefs?  Is our salvation dependent upon knowing the pitfalls of our former religion and being able to tell others exactly where we were wrong and now where we are right?  Perish the thought!

    As ridiculous as it sounds, there are some that will state unequivocally that yes, we must admit to others that when we were involved in a church that doesn't meet their standards of orthodoxy, we could not possibly be a saved individual resting in the righteousness of Christ..  And if we don't admit this, we may not be admitted into some of their circles as "one of them."   They call this position of theirs "gospel repentance."  And while I agree that Gospel repentance is necessary, I think that this position or attitude is incorrect.  And it's incorrect because it's in my opinion an addition to the Gospel.

    The purpose of this paper is to deal with the idea of the need for Gospel or Evangelical Repentance in addition to belief in the truth.  The key word here is "addition."  It is indeed true that the flip side of saving faith is evangelical repentance.  And I'm not talking about what many churches emphasize when they speak of repentance, which is a moral reform, like turning from drinking, smoking, or whatever vice that one might struggle with...  What I'm talking about is a turning (repenting) from all forms of striving to attain any aspect of or blessing of salvation.  This is true repentance.  And I say to you today that to truly experience conversion to Christ, you must repent.

     Imagine a coin with the word "faith" on one side of the coin, and the word "repent" on the other side.  Flip it in the air, wait for it to land in your hand, and no matter what side it lands on, you will still have both sides and thus both words.  If it lands with "faith" facing up, turn it over, and you have "repent", and vice versa.  It doesn't really matter how it lands.  Faith and repentance are corollary to each other and you can't have one without the other.  It's simply impossible to remove faith from repentance.

     Allow me to explain further what I mean by repentance.  Many believers, prior to understanding and embracing the Gospel of Grace without conditions fulfilled on the part of men were caught up in the religion of freewillism.  That is, they were looking to their faith as a condition for salvation, even if it was indeed a very small part of salvation within their mind, they still treated it as a fulfilled condition.  They looked back to the day they "decided for Christ", and "prayed the sinners prayer" or "walked the aisle."  THEY did something.  They did something to MERIT something.   They fulfilled a condition to receive within their mind a heavenly reward.  After all, in the common understanding of what is called christianity today, it is believed that Christ died for all men everywhere without exception, and the only reason one isn't saved from their sins is their refusal to accept the gift of salvation.  That is a failure to fulfill a condition.  It is taught that this is why people aren't saved.   And thusly, they have taken the focus off of God and put it on the sinner.

    It is my belief that those that have accepted this gift and fulfilled the condition aren't necessarily resting in Christ Alone for salvation, but partially resting in their ability or decision to believe.  And if so, this is a subtle, yet terrible and flat-out perversion of the Gospel.  So if you came to believe the Gospel as is taught on this website, then you repented of this form of religion you may have once held.  You may not have articulated it, but this repentance occurred when you were brought to saving faith.  You may not have told people of how or where you came to repent.  But you did come to realize how your former religion was a form of self-righteousness, and you now count all your former religious doings in that belief system as dung.   That is evangelical repentance.  You turned from your former religion of striving to resting solely in Christ.  This wasn't in addition to saving faith, but this happened simultaneously with saving faith.  After all, repentance is a gift, just like faith.

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)

    It is my experience that many folks after they come to believe the truth will sometimes claim that they were "saved" maybe even when they were attending a free-willer church. It should be quite evident that not all of God's people were raised in the clear admonition of pure Gospel teaching.  Some of us had to go through a few things to hear the truth in clarity!    And while I agree that God's people were always redeemed and safe in Christ, they haven't always rested and experienced salvation in Him.  And these people are sometimes attacked as unbelievers by some modern day pharisees because they haven't repented (at least not sufficiently in the minds of their critics) of their former religion.  I believe these attacks are unwarranted though.  I'm not one to judge if one has sufficiently repented of their former strivings to attain blessing (works idolatry essentially) as evidence of salvation.  If they believe the Gospel, then they have repented (as repentance is a corollary to faith) and they don't necessarily have to articulate it with a perfection that would satisfy the most ardent of free grace adherents!  And to not embrace these people as brethren would be unloving, and anti-gospel in my opinion.  If one can articulate the Gospel of Salvation Conditioned on Christ Alone (SCOCA), express their belief and love of it, then they have repented.  You can't have one side of the coin (faith) without the other (repentance).  We are to embrace believers upon their Gospel profession.  We are to walk with those the Lord has given us with which to walk!

    The Gospel of free and sovereign grace, by its very definition alone, condemns free-willism and all other forms of religion as anti-christ.  All professors of the Gospel by implication reject free-willism as false.  We do not need to subject them to the inquisition, asking them when they came to believe and if they have sufficiently repented...  We do not need to test them and make sure they can articulate to our standard of perfection their understanding of the date of their conversion... But we are to embrace them as fellow heirs and rejoice with them in our mutual love of the Gospel.  We need to stop trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, and simply rest in the Lord to do this work.  Trust me, those that do not believe will not persevere (1 John 2:9), and these pretenders will eventually fade away in time.  The simple fact is if people come to us professing belief in the Gospel as we understand and express it today, then this means they are our elect siblings in Christ.   Let's give them the benefit of any doubts and pray for them that they might begin to express with further clarity their understanding of the Gospel.  

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. (2 Peter 3:18)

    None of us have the corner on the truth, and all of us should be continually learning and growing in GRACE and knowledge.   It is fitting here that our Lord had Peter pen the word "grace" before "knowledge."   Growing in knowledge without first growing in grace can lead one to becoming a "Gospel Karen."  It can and will lead to being divisive, looking for issues to criticize, never encouraging, but always finding fault.  But before we can truly grow in knowledge, we must be brought way down by our God.  Our pride must first be wounded where we are brought to a low point in our lives as humbled mercy beggars.  We must first be brought to see that it is only His grace and mercy through His blood that can bring us closer to God.  Only then can we begin to grow in knowledge.

    And only by growing in grace and knowledge, can we learn patience for others.  Charles Spurgeon once said, "I do not know how else we could care for some poor creatures, if it were not that Jesus teaches us to despise none and despair of none."    Oh that we would take that to heart and see that as we aim to teach others of what great things the Lord has done for us.  Oh that we would be patient with others just as the Lord has been patient with us.  What do we have that hasn't been given?  What knowledge do we have that wasn't granted by His grace?  We do not need to despise our past, our years of striving, or our newborn faith as it is somehow less important than our seemingly greater faith now.  I'm thankful for all my experiences, and even my years in false religion and false theological systems.  And I'm even more thankful for the patience of my Heavenly Father where He teaches me something new each day, whereby each new nugget of truth and each new step of growth is received with gladness and thankfulness.  

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (2 Peter 1:10)

   Instead of examining others, and obsessing over their profession, let's instead examine our own faith.  Let's examine it to make our calling and election sure.  And may the Lord bless us as we look by faith to Christ crucified and turn away from all false ways.   Our faith is not a one time event, but it is constant.  The Scriptures are clear that faith is an ongoing gift of assurance, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Let's not look to that "time" where we first believed or repented, but let's "turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face as the things of earth grow strangely dim in light of his glory and grace."

    Grace and Peace!
    Brandan