A closer look at what it means to believe and repent



When we fall prey to our own stinkin’ thinkin,” it may be necessary to examine our theology to see if some corrections are necessary. Regarding salvation, we must be reminded that Jesus has already done everything. The flesh often tempts us to add something of our own—something, often subtle, that we must do to complete the “transaction.” We may be tempted to think that when we believe (in the person and work of Christ), we are saved. The truth is that we aren’t saved by believing; we realize that we are saved when we believe. Similarly, we’re not saved by repenting. Our repentance is the sign that we realize what Christ has already done for us, and we are moved to respond.

Just Believe

Think of all the children’s stories with the “Just Believe” message. Don’t forget about Santa. This sells books, movies, and merchandise, but think about what this subtle trick has done to our society. It used to be that we believed something because it was true. In our postmodern world, believing something makes it true. Everything about the “social justice” of our woke culture repeats and shouts discredited claims (like “Hands up, don’t shoot”). After Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted, the false narratives continued. Their “truth” overrules the evidence. Similarly, our believing doesn’t save us.

We make the same mistake when we think the more we pray, read our Bibles, and serve others, the more we are improving our standing before God. The truth is that through our co-crucifixion with Christ, He becomes our new life, not some improved version of the old us. With Christ as our life, He is our standing. Since we are now in Christ, when God looks at us, He sees Christ. Regardless of our efforts to prove our worth, we are accepted by God because of what Christ has already done, not anything we may do.


This, of course, can only happen to a new believer if his co-crucifixion with Christ has been a part of the gospel presentation being offered. Let’s assume this is the case. Upon believing the message, he realizes that Christ has not only purchased his forgiveness by dying in his place, but He has been given everything he will ever need when Christ gave him Himself. Therefore, his new identity is a complete, perfect new creation—a combination of Christ’s life and his unique personality and body through which Christ will manifest Himself. The new believer’s responsibility is to learn to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Repentance is the Result

In a previous article I stressed the need for genuine repentance and its absence from most gospel presentations today. Today’s post focuses on repentance as the result when the truth of the gospel sinks in. Once again, it’s not something we must do to be saved. It’s the consequence of realizing that we are saved. When a brand-new believer realizes how wretched and helpless he is apart from Christ, he will be sorry for rejecting Christ all those years and will gladly turn away from his old life. Repentance is the effect, not the cause of his new life in Christ. Repentance is essential only in that it offers evidence that he is, indeed, a changed man.

Repentance is Necessary

When repentance is not part of one’s salvation experience, there is no evidence that the new believer realizes what has already been done for him. Without this transformative truth to step into, the new believer will assume that it’s now up to him to measure up, so he wants to know what he’s supposed to do. He has no idea that it’s all been done for Him. By believing in the whole truth, Christ’s work on the cross brings the miracle of the atonement to his life. He is made right with God and given a new identity with Christ as his life.

I hope you can see that this is more than splitting hairs. I think this explains why so many Christians are struggling so much to become something God has already made them to be. I seriously doubt if many new believers have any idea of all the Jesus has already done for them.




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