So, does a believer need to repent? In many churches the call to repentance is repeated every Sunday, no matter who is present. Believers and pagans alike are warned of the consequences of sin and called to repent of their evil works. But does a believer need to repent?
There’s so much to say about this. It is no wonder that many believers lack assurance of their salvation. If they hear the call to repentance every week, they can only assume that they either are not really saved or that they have somehow lost their salvation during the previous week. If they are conscientious, they probably respond to the call each Sunday and hope that this time it will stick. But, because they have been conditioned to think that any sin will endanger their salvation and because they continue to struggle against the flesh patterns in their lives, they never find the peace and rest Jesus offers.
But does a believer have to continually repent in order to stay saved? Certainly not! Jesus saves and Jesus alone. Our salvation is based on his actions, not ours. I can’t initiate my salvation and I can’t maintain it. Salvation is a fact based on a relationship with God through Jesus. Sin may not be consistent with that relationship or the life that comes from it, but neither is it able to nullify that relationship and life.
On the other hand, it is important for a believer to understand that he no longer has to sin in order to meet his needs. In fact, sin causes all kinds of problems that the Lord would have us avoid. He loves us and He hates sin because sin hurts us. It usually also hurts others, and the Lord wants us to reflect His heart to others. So a continual “change of thinking” is important for a believer. Because the flesh is a learned and long-practiced system, we have to unlearn it in order for our daily lives to consistently reflect the love and holiness of God. The Christian life is necessarily a life of introspection. The serious believer opens his life to the Spirit and asks the Spirit to reveal wrong thinking and the actions that come from it.
So, we have a problem. If we preach repentance to believers, they will almost certainly lack assurance simply because they will assume we are talking about getting saved. Yet, the Scriptures continually call believers to new thinking, the thinking that is consistent with the mind of Christ. My suggestion, and practice, is to use the word, repentance, for a call to salvation and to call believers to “walk with Jesus.” I believe that those who seek to draw near to their Lord will know what actions and attitudes are inconsistent with a relationship with Him. Because the Spirit is active in their lives, the call for change will be spoken into their lives.
Does a believer have to repent? No, not by my definition. But a believer should cultivate new thinking, a rejection of the flesh patterns of his life and an open heart to the leading of the Spirit.