“I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3
“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.” Matthew 4:17
Moving from Montana to Michigan has proven to be quite a difficult transition so far. Schematics, income, housing, you name it, it has been difficult, but God has been providing for our family in the midst of the storm. Yet finding a Church to attend has also been difficult.
While I simply consider myself just being a Christian, not dependent on a particular named organized Church institution, in regards to finding a Church, I have found the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) to be very close to the Truth in most all regards. Yet each IFB church is different. While most of the Baptist doctrines are in align with the Word of God, there are more and more IFB churches that have become way of the mark, usually in regards to refusing to be separate.
“Now I exhort you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and snares, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-18
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 2nd Corinthians 6:14-17
There are however a few red flags that I will automatically stay away from even IFB churches. While I understand that there are different levels of spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2, etc.) and that, as I am wrong sometimes, it is possible that even the leadership at a Church might be wrong (Acts 15:1-31), as there were corrections even during the early days, there are a few things that I simply will not compromise on.
While not a Baptist church, when I was younger I walked into a church in Phoenix, Arizona, and despite the fact that not one person (there were a several there in the lobby) greeted us newcomers, we proceeded to the ‘sanctuary’ where the setup was ready for the evening rock n’ roll event. That was the shortest visit I ever had in a church. So not having traditional music is a red flag that there has been much compromise. Yet truly the biggest one I have is regarding Salvation and the preaching of the Gospel correctly.
Nearly a couple of years ago I felt led by the Lord to provide for a pastor in Venezuela. I didn’t know any pastors or missionaries in Venezuela, so I did some searching on the internet and was looking up IFB Churches in Venezuela. I found a little list and sent off three emails to three different pastors, all with one question, ‘what must I do to be Saved’?
One of the emails instantly bounced back to me as undeliverable, so there were just two that got sent out. A couple of weeks went by and I began to assume that I was just wrong about the Lord speaking to my heart regarding such an ordeal. I had used that question, because that is the same basic question that I use in finding a Church to attend.
While I could have a whole list of this and that, I realize that because I am not perfect, I am also not going to find the perfect Church. What I am looking for is a Church whose heart is after God and one who knows how to properly explain Salvation and the Gospel, which is key to properly adding to a Church in a biblical manner. After three weeks of sending out those emails, I just assumed I was wrong, when suddenly I got a reply for a Church in Venezuela.
Apparently the whole Church had worked on a response and carefully translated their response into English, as well as giving me the response in Spanish. I read through their response and praised God, sure enough they properly explained what someone must do to be Saved, repent and believe (Acts 20:21). If you want to see their response you can view it on this page.
…”testifying both to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21
So I looked around in this area of Michigan, partially using an online directory of Churches that are supposed to have correct doctrine, as well as personal research. I’m willing to travel a bit, if need be, but was hoping that there was one closer than further. I managed to find an article from a local pastor who had mentioned the word repent in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. So I gave the pastor a call and asked him the same question, what does a man have to do to be Saved?
I got a response of Ephesians 2:8-9 (personally I would usually include verse 10 as well, as listed below).
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Ok, so far in agreement, I have no disagreement with using those verses, but I than asked whether or not someone needs to repent and what he thought about it. His reply was that it is true that God did say to repent (he mentioned a few words of Acts 17:30-31), but he thought that it was also possible for people to get saved without repentance.
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has established a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has appointed. He has given assurance of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
So, let’s go ahead and take a look at such a perspective of an idea. Why would one neglect to preach repentance, for the possibility of those who might get saved without it, essentially ignoring such preaching for those who would need it??? Ahhh! It makes no sense. I decided to go ahead and attend a Wednesday night service and went to the church, a couple of minutes early, hoping to meet some of the members. I waited.
Tears filled my eyes as no one showed up. I had remembered that the pastor was going to be gone that week, but I would assume that some mature brother in Christ would be able to handle the Wednesday evening service for a week. I left a message for the pastor and he called me back, apologizing, as they now meet at the parsonage, as there wasn’t many people who attended…fair enough.
So I made it to the Wednesday night meeting finally and there is the pastor and his wife, as well as three others. The one person, I was told was just saved the previous Sunday, hopefully so. A few days later I happened to run into the pastor again, who told me that someone else had just been saved. As I was managing a restaurant at that time, I told the pastor that what was truly sad was that most people in the restaurant at the moment were not Saved and they were on their way to Hell. I added that the sad thing was that out of those there, most (as the customer base was mostly seniors) probably thought they were.
Now I am not trying to weed out the tares from the wheat, that is not my job, that is Christ’s job (Matt. 13:18-30). However, if there is not sound doctrine in regards to Salvation, then I simply go with the you ‘follow me’ philosophy (John 21:22). Though I must ask where are all of the people who got Saved throughout the years?
Whether or not it has always been that way (as I am new to the area) or if it had something to do with our discussion, I have noted that the sign at the church simply quotes ‘whosoever believes shall be saved’. Is not such a belief that of the full message of Salvation both repentance and faith?
Our job as Believers is to preach the Gospel, to tell people about Salvation, in a manner that is accurate in regards to the Holy Scriptures. Certainly we tell people about by faith that they are Saved (Eph. 2:8-9), but we also tell them about repentance (Acts 17:30-31) or at least teach the essence of repentance, whether or not we use the word repent anywhere.
“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not purposing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2nd Peter 3:9
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”… Acts 3:19
I have scoured tons of web pages of IFB churches and often look at their beliefs, as well as their Salvation message. While I am thankful that there are some here and there that preach Salvation as repent and believe, they are the minority. If it wasn’t for preachers and ministries, like that of A Voice in the Wilderness, Way of Life and others, I myself would question whether or not I was wrong on the issue. As many pastors I have talked to will either brush the topic likely or simply not give a clear answer, others will just say that repenting is not necessary.
There may be those pastors who are being carried away with such an apostate doctrine and are not even aware of what they are doing, despite the fact they themselves are Saved. Perhaps if they strongly considered it, they would realize that when they accepted Christ, they in essence repented, not by turning from unbelief to belief, but rather by realizing that they were a sinner (Ro. 3:23) and that they were guilty before a Holy and Almighty God (Ro. 6:23) and acknowledging that in their hearts, they also desired to change and no longer want to do those things (Ro. 10:9), but they wanted to accept the free gift of Salvation (Ro. 5:15) and believed into Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Ro. 10:10). For certainly one can not say that someone can not be Saved with a sinner’s prayer, as it is a heart issue, a matter of the individual before God almighty.
Recall it is repentance towards God and faith in Christ Jesus. There has been a pretty extensive article on repentance done before that can be found HERE. So let’s just cut to the chase regarding this matter of believe only.
“You believe that God is One. You do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder.” Jacob (James) 2:19
So why not take it to the full extreme. Let’s just go ahead and go with what many churches teach:
“So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
So we will ignore the fact that the text of the passage would very strongly suggest that the jailer had repented in his heart towards God prior to asking about how to be Saved. I’ve been in the South Side of Chicago off and on for years and know that there are some churches around there that simply state:
“For everyone, whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
They ignore the verses right before that verse:
“But what does it say? The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the Word of Faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich toward all who call upon Him.” Romans 10:8-12
So why make things so complex. While some pastors would shy away from going door to door with a weak Gospel message and trying to get someone to repeat a prayer, instantly stating that they are Saved, many others will not. Is it really that simple? Well Salvation is simple (Acts. 20:21), but the problem is men don’t want to repent (Rev. 9:21). So taking away that mandate I ask this: Why not simply take and go out there and just briefly explain to people who Jesus was and is (John 1:1), telling them that if they believe in Him (Acts 16:31), that He is the Son of God (John 20:31), who died on the Cross for their sins (1 Pet. 2:24) and rose again from the dead (Ro. 6:4), that they also can be Saved.
Simply put, you explain it to someone, tell them that they can know for sure where they go when they die and ask them if they believe. Why even have them pray about it? At that point, as long as they seemed to sincerely believe, what difference would it make if they continued on their lives living in absolute sin and never once contemplated the things of God?
Well you see, that is exactly what most are going to do, because they haven’t repented. While from time to time they might think about the things of God, they are going to live their life, without surrendering to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And far be it from me to be one who tells such a person that they are for sure (giving them assurance when I do not know the heart) going to go to Heaven when they die, despite their lives not having any evidence of being changed!
Imagine watching as someone who you witnessed to and proclaimed to be Saved stands before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15), being cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity! What sorrow and despair, for but a moment, as you stand at the judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), knowing that that man who will stand before the Creator (Ro. 14:12) is doomed for all eternity and you assured him that he was not! This is serious business! Is it any wonder that Jesus said the following:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many entering in through it. Because narrow is the gate and distressing is the way which leads unto life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them from their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces excellent fruit, but a corrupt tree produces evil fruit. A good tree is not able to produce evil fruit, nor is a corrupt tree able to produce excellent fruit. Every tree that does not produce excellent fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore from their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many works of power in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work out lawlessness!” Matthew 7:13-23
So I ask you, which of these didn’t believe! Those who cast out demons, those who did works of power in His name or those who prophesied in His name? Answer me that.