2nd Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Yes! One of my favorite sermons by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001) is titled: "Your Salvation Did Not Change You One Bit." In that sermon Dr. Hyles likens getting saved to the church purchasing a strip joint (which the First Baptist Church of Hammond actually did). When the real estate transaction was complete, that house of ill repute now belonged to the FBCH. The church owned it, but the building wasn't able to be used as it. The new building needed to be converted to make it useful, so that the church could use it for the Lord.
Likewise, when we get saved we become God's property (1st Corinthians 6:20), but God cannot use us the way He wants to until we've been changed to be fit for service (Romans 12:1-2). So there is SALVATION, and then there is SERVICE. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Dr. Hyles is right that salvation does NOT change a person's character, sinful habits or ways). The only thing that getting saved changes is that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit living inside of us (Romans 8:9; 1st John 3:24).
However, having the Holy Spirit of God inside of us DOES change things. When I got saved at age 13, no one told me that I had to turn away from my sinful ways. If they had, I couldn't have been saved that way. I just heard the pastor preach that "If you can sin without any conviction from the indwelling Holy Spirit, you need to get saved." I knew that day I wasn't saved, so I got saved. The Holy Spirit has been convicting me about the sins in my life ever since.
In hindsight, as I think back, all I see is darkness in my life. Before age 13 I remember attending Sunday School with my Mom. I remember attending a few different Christian schools, and public school in between. But there is no awareness of God in my life before I got saved. But ever since I got saved at age 13, I have felt the presence of God's blessed Holy Spirit in my life. The first thing that I remember when I got saved, is that the Holy Spirit started to convict me about sassing my Mom. Before I was saved I used to cuss and talk back to my Mom all the time. When I got saved, I could hear that still, small, quiet voice of God's Spirit in my soul saying, "David, I don't want you to talk to your Mom like that anymore." I started reading my Bible when I got saved. Nobody asked me to, I did it on my own because I was hungry as a newborn baby, desiring the milk of God's Word to grow (1st Peter 2:2).
I used to fall asleep reading my Bible late at night, with my nightlight above me still on. My Mom would turn off my light. I remember one night a few months after I got saved, that she said: "You've changed." I didn't see it, but she did. Looking back, I am so glad that my Mom said those words to me, which confirms in my mind that something had changed in my life. We read in John 3:20-21, "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
Carefully notice in verse 21 that the Bible does say, "But he that turns away from his sins" comes to the light. No, it says, "But he that DOETH TRUTH" comes to the light. Bible repentance is NOT forsaking one's sinful lifestyle, it is acknowledging THE TRUTH that we are a guilty sinner in God's sight. A man must realize why he needs to be saved, and from what he is being saved. All men are sinners and are under the condemnation of God's law, hellbound in the wages of sin (Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8). 2nd Timothy 2:25, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;"
Again, carefully notice the words, "repentance to the acknowledging of THE TRUTH." Repentance concerning getting saved means to acknowledge THE TRUTH. I love this quote from Pastor Harry Ironside (1876-1951) about what is repentance...
“Which comes first, repentance or faith? In Scripture we read, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' Yet we find true believers exhorted to 'repent, and do the first works.' So intimately are the two related that you cannot have one without the other. The man who believes God repents; the repentant soul puts his trust in the Lord when the Gospel is revealed to him. Theologians may wrangle over this, but the fact is, no man repents until the Holy Spirit produces repentance in his soul through the truth. No man believes the Gospel and rests in it for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance.” ("Except Ye Repent," p. 16)
I love that! "No man believes the Gospel and rests in it for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance." I fully agree. That is what Romans 3:19-20 teaches in the Bible. Verse 20 says that, "For by the law is THE KNOWLDGE OF SIN." God's Old Testament LAW shows humanity our sinnership. Galatians 3:24-26 teaches the same thing, that the LAW is our schoolmaster which brings us to CHRIST in the New Testament, to be saved by faith alone. The whole Bible can be divided into two parts of: LAW and CHRIST; or, respectively, OLD and NEW Testaments.
When a person gets saved, there IS going to be a change inside of them, and that change is the presence of the HOLY SPIRIT. But this does not guarantee that a saved person will change their behavior. It depends on whether that individual person chooses to WALK IN THE SPIRIT, that they not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Pastor Hyles taught that even though we cannot sin when we choose to walk in the Spirit, we won't always make that right choice, because we are inherently sinful. Even though we have the new nature as a believer, the old nature (the flesh, which is where the Spanish word "carnal" comes from, as in Carna Asada steak... my favorite) is still present.
That is why the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:24-25 that he struggled with the flesh daily. There is a constant battle in every believer between the flesh that desires to sin, and the indwelling Holy Spirit of God (now united with our human spirit) which desires for us to do righteousness. When we choose to sin, we do so in THE FLESH.
That is why we read in 1st John 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." When we sin, we do so in the flesh, never in the Holy Spirit. God's Spirit cannot sin! Also, Jesus has already paid for all of our sins with His precious blood (1st Peter 1:18-19). So we cannot sin as far as redemption is concerned, because God only sees Christ's imputed righteousness, which is through faith in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9; Romans 10:3-4; Romans 4:5-6).
Albeit, when we sin as God's redeemed children, we can only fall "in grace" but never "from grace." Only unsaved Christ-rejecters, and those unsaved religious people who are trying to get to Heaven by their own works, have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). Romans 6:1, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Notice the words "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" I love that Bible verse! When we choose to sin as believers (which we ought not do), God's grace abounds more, so that we can NEVER lose or risk losing eternal life.
Eternal life is the "free gift" of God (Romans 5:15-18, 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). So we see that it is IMPOSSIBLE for a born-again saint to ever lose God's gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Having said all that, a man who was formerly a cold-hearted murderer is very unlikely to continue killing people. But keep in mind that King David was saved when he murdered Uriah, to cover-up his adulterous relationship with Uriah's wife, Bath-Sheba. David got her pregnant and couldn't hide what he had done. Uriah was away in battle for one year, and now his wife was pregnant, David panicked. So he had Uriah deliberately murdered in battle.
This is the man whom God called: "a man after mine own heart." All God has to work with are dirty sinners. ALL saints are still sinners. The only different is that God has freely redeemed us by faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus. The ONLY thing that makes you, me or any other believer any more righteous in God's sight, than mass-murderer's Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy is the precious blood of Jesus that washed ALL our sins away. We have no righteousness of our own (Isiah 64:5). Our righteousness as saints is GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. That is why Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and "HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
We need God's imputed righteousness to get into Heaven, because we don't have any goodness to offer God. Cain failed to understand that truth. Abel offered up to God a blood sacrifice from the innocent animal he had just slain, which pictured Abel's faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus. But Cain brought some corn, bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables from his field, which God rejected. Cain failed to grasp that salvation is of the Lord. Interestingly, that is the very truth that Jonah was pondering in the belly of the whale (Jonah 2:9). Anyway, yes, a person who is saved CAN commit murder, rob a bank, and do other wicked crimes and still be safe in God's free gift of eternal life.
I know of a college Bible professor who was sentenced to 114 years in prison for his crimes. Another youth director was sentenced to 200 years in prison for his crimes. That is so scary and sad. There but for the grace of God go you and I. That is why my favorite Bible verse for many years has been Proverbs 4:23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Put another way, "Watch your back Jack!" The Devil roams about as a roaring lion, seeking his next victim to destroy their life (1st Peter 5:8). Thankfully we can hear his roar and run away first.
From my own experience of watching people, MOST people who get saved show some evidence of salvation. However, it is heresy and wrong to mandate such changes to prove that someone is saved, because some people came out of difficult situations and broken homes, and will never be all that God desires for them to be. And for that matter, even unsaved people usually show some degree of growth after attending self-improvement classes. The truth is that not every person who comes to Christ has some radical life-changing experience as did Saul (who later was renamed Paul, Acts 9:1-5).
There are MANY false prophets today (e.g., Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, John MacArthur, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, Ken Ham, Joel Osteen, et cetera) who falsely preach that you must turn away from your sinful bad habits to get to Heaven. The Bible doesn't teach that. We are saved by faith and faith alone, not by living a changed life. My life did change when I got saved, but I grew up in a home with Christian parents. They weren't perfect (far from it), but they cared about me enough to put me into a Christian school. So I was blessed to have positive influences on me during Jr. high and high school.
Evangelist John R. Rice (1895-1980) said something great, which I quote in this helpful article. I love what Dr. Rice said. Many people assume that professed Christians are not really saved because they are still worldly, and don't seem to care about pleasing God. Dr. Rice correctly says that such rebellious teenagers need to be taught. Many preachers are sick and tired of seeing professed Christians continue in wild sinful living, so they foolishly corrupt God's simple plan of salvation, requiring lost sinners to "turn away from their sinful ways" to get to Heaven. But they have changed and perverted the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).
The Apostle Paul plainly defines THE GOSPEL in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4 as three things:
- Jesus DIED on a cross for our sins.
- Jesus was BURIED.
- Jesus bodily RESRRECTED three days later.
That is why we read in 1st Thessalonians 4:14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." There we see the Gospel. The Bible doesn't mention anything about surrendering control of our life over to Jesus as "Lord." The Bible doesn't mention anything about turning away from our sins to be saved. We are simply taught to "believe" THE GOSPEL.
Repentance is included in believing, which Pastor Curtis Hutson (1934-1995) rightly teaches...
I Hate The Repent Of Your Sin Heresy!
I hear critics accusing free grace Gospel preachers like me of preaching "cheap grace." Oh no, eternal life is not cheap, it is completely free! But like everything else in life, there are no free meals. Somebody had to pay for it. Jesus has already paid for everyone's sins with His blood. That is why we don't have to "ask" Jesus to save us. God is already freely offering His gift and wants us to simply take it, by faith in the Good News (Gospel) of His only begotten Son, Jesus. Jesus doesn't forgive sins, He has already paid for them. It is a gift. All we need to do is receive it, by taking God at His Word as written in the Holy Bible.
I quoted to you earlier John 3:20, "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." The Bible teaches that people who love their sinning won't come to the light of the truth of the Gospel to be saved. In the Bible, "evil" is deliberate sin. Sin is doing wrong, or not doing right. But evil is planned sin. For example: If someone blows up in sudden anger, that is called "a crime of passion." If someone kills another person, in sudden anger, that is legally called "second degree murder." But if it was a planned killing, like an abortion, that is called legally "first degree premeditated murder.
So the Bible in John 3:20 is teaching that lost sinners who love sinning won't come to Christ. Let's say that a mobster goes around killing people, as ordered by the mob boss. The Bible teaches that such a wicked man won't come to Christ to be saved, because he hasn't repented. Here we see the function of repentance in salvation. Repentance is NOT a willingness to stop sinning (reformation), nor sorrow for sin (penitence), nor is it a desire to do better (penance), nor to better one's self. Repentance is a change of mind toward God (Acts 20:21), in which a lost sinner admits that they are a guilty sinner in the sight of a holy God. It is obvious from John 3:20 that repentance to some degree involves a change of mind toward sin. For salvation to remain of grace, and not works or debt, this change of mind is limited to acknowledging the knowledge that one is a guilty sinner (Romans 3:19-20).
I wrote a whole webpage to teach what repentance is, which is helpful. Here is an excellent and needful writing by Dr. Mark G. Cambron (1911-2000) on the subject of REPENTANCE.
Please read the following quote carefully, because Dr. Cambron is one of few theologians who gets it, that is, he understands the simplicity of the Gospel and that repentance does not mean turning from sin as proponents of Lordship Salvation foolishly teach...
"Repentance is necessary for salvation. The Greek word for repent is metanoeo, which, translated into English is: to change ones mind. It does not mean to turn from sin. That would add works to salvation.Repentance for salvation means a change of mind from men's ideas of salvation and religion, to an acceptance of Gods only way of salvation.This results in a completely new creation, not a reformation of the old. The old nature remains as evil as ever after salvation and has not been reformed . . . The old nature can now be controlled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.God guarantees salvation. This is His gift to us. God guarantees reward and fruit to the obedient son. God guarantees chastening and loss of rewards to the disobedient son.God does not cast out disobedient children, but in some cases, does take them home. He does not permit His children to live as they please without His discipline and guidance.Many teach repentance for salvation incorrectly, by including some form of human effort or righteousness, such as willingness to turn from sin, or turning from sin. This is heresy and has confused many people. It adds works to salvation and causes many to not understand Gods great gift. It is probation, not salvation. It is completely unscriptural. It is Galatianism and a counterfeit of the gospel.It is a tragedy that many Christians live shallow Christian lives. The Cambron Institute is dedicated to the task of training Christian men and women in the importance of total dedication and making Jesus the Lord of their lives not to be saved but because they are saved.Shallow Christianity cannot be cured by adding works to salvation.Salvation is not the result of what we do, but is by receiving what God has done for us. Acts 13:38, 39; Acts 20:20: Gal. 1:8,9; Gal. 2:4; Gal. 2:21; Gal. 3:1.3; Gal. 5:1-4; Eph. 2:8-10; II Cor. 5:21;John 3:16-18; Phil. 3:9; Titus 3:5-8:11 Cor. 11:13-1 5."SOURCE: The Cambron Institute
Dr. John R. Rice is correct that a change of mind toward sin is necessarily involved in repentance, but the total extent of that change of mind about sin is simply that someone acknowledge that they are a guilty needy sinner, so that by believing the Gospel they will be saved. Repentance cannot mean anything more than to realize one's sinfulness, otherwise salvation would be by WORKS. Without REPENTANCE, no sinner would ever come to Christ to be saved. We are not saved by repenting, but by BELIEVING. John 6:47, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."
Repentance is necessary to be saved, but repentance is included with believing. Repentance and faith are not two different STEPS to be saved, they are two parts of ONE STEP. Dr. John R. Rice is correct that the man who repents has believed, and the man who believed has repented. Repentance and faith are inseparable, like two sides of the same coin. I hear corrupt preachers talking about fake Christians who believe, but have never repented. That is impossible! Those pastors don't understand repentance.
There is no such thing as believing on Christ without repenting, unless you errantly think that repentance means to give up your sinning. That is a false plan of salvation. Bible repentance is just a change of mind unto the Gospel itself. What must we change our mind about? Anything and everything that has been hindering us from "BELIEVING ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST" (Acts 16:30-31).
Anyone who comes to God by faith as a needy guilty sinner, receiving Christ's sacrifice on the cross as payment for their sins, believing that Jesus was buried but is risen from the dead, is saved. That is all God requires to obtain eternal life. If someone has the horrible attitude that they are glad they can be saved and keep living in sin, that ought not surprise us, because in fact THAT IS EXACTY WHAT WE ALL DO. Every person who gets saved continues living in sin.
We tend to categorize sins as humans, esteeming murder and bearing false witness as being REALLY BAD; but then most people dismiss and trivialize sins like divorce, lying, public nudity at the beach, fornication, drunkenness and gossip. These sins in God's eyes are just as bad as murder. So in fact, every born-again believer still sins. I agree with you that it seems wrong that someone can come to Christ by faith, while still having the wicked attitude that they can continue in sin. But this is where repentance comes into the picture at the time of salvation.
A lost sinner wouldn't come to God by faith, unless they had been convicted by the Holy Spirit about their wickedness. The Bible teaches in 2nd Timothy that God works repentance in a sinner's heart. I get criticized often by crazies who hate Pastor Charles Spurgeon and pick apart every word from his sermons to attack him. I am not a fan of Spurgeon because he was a partial Calvinist. Spurgeon taught that Jesus didn't die on the cross for everyone, only for the saints. 1st John 2:2 plainly says that Jesus is the propitiation FOR ALL MEN, and not just for the saints. Calvinism is so blatantly false! Albeit, Spurgeon made some great quotes, like this one...
“Repentance will not make you see Christ; but to see Christ will give you repentance. You may not make a Christ out of your repentance, but you must look for repentance to Christ. The Holy Ghost, by turning us to Christ, turns us from sin. Look away, then, from the effect to the cause, from your own repenting to the Lord Jesus, who is exalted on high to give repentance.” —Pastor Charles Spurgeon; “All Of Grace,” Chapter 11 - “Alas! I Can Do Nothing”
The very act of turning TO Christ for salvation, involves turning FROM the consequences which sin brings, eternal damnation in Hell. There are some false teachers today (most on YouTube) who would completely remove the reality of sin from God's simple plan of salvation. NO ONE has ever been saved who didn't admit that they are a guilty sinner (1st John 1:8-10). I hope some of that information is helpful. I wanted to share a bunch of Bible with you, to lay a foundation to help you understand what repentance is for salvation.
Getting saved necessitates a change of attitude toward sin, but only to the extent that a person understands and now admits that they are guilty for breaking God's commandments, and consequently realize they are condemned to the second death in the Lake of Fire. Thus seeing their need for the Savior, they BELIEVE and are saved. I heard a cross-dressing man who professed to be a born-again Christian. But Ray Comfort provokes people. So I don't know if the man was being serious, or just upsetting Ray Comfort. Could that man be saved? Sure he could. The Bible is full of ungodly saints who did horrible things.
In Acts 5, God killed Ananias and Saphira for lying about a property they had sold, reneging on a promise to give money to the church. When Jesus raised up from the dead, He found Peter completely naked in public. Noah went from being the captain of his ship, to a drunken sailor. These are God's brightest saints. We're all a mess! I have had numerous people ask me over the years if a person can have the bad attitude that they have no intentions of departing from their sins, and still be saved. It is a loaded question, because where do we draw the line? Does a person have to be willing to give up their sins to be saved? If so, then it cannot be a gift. Cartoon evangelist Jack Chick teaches that heresy in all his Chick Tracts. For salvation to remain a free gift, there can be NO stipulations or obligations before, during or after bring saved. That is what a gift is!
The ONLY change of attitude that a person must have to be saved, is that they are guilty as a sinner and need the dear Savior to escape Hell. But once that sinner gets born-again, God's indwelling Holy Spirit will immediately start working on them, convicting, scourging and chastening them as God's adopted child (Hebrews 12:6-8). God is not an absent parent! A believer who lives in gross immorality will be of all men most miserable.
If a man can sin and win, he is not in! That is, if a person can live in sin without any conviction whatsoever from the Holy Spirit, then he is not saved. Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." There is SALVATION (1st Corinthians 15:1-4), and then there is SERVICE (Romans 12:1-2). One thing has nothing to do with the other.
The truth (whether you like it or not) is that a person CAN have the bad attitude that they intend to keep sinning, and still be saved. Critics of easy-believism immediately think of murder, and they have a hard time wrapping their brain around such a thing. But dear friend, if you were required to stop doing even one sin, salvation would be by WORKS! John 3:20 teaches that those who love evil will NOT come to Christ to be saved. So we see that the problem takes care of itself. Nobody comes to Christ until they have judged themselves as a guilty sinner in the sight of almighty God, and that is repentance.
In 1st Corinthians 5:1-5 we read about a wicked man who was living in open fornication with a woman in the church at Corinth. The Apostle Paul was in a different city and heard about the matter, which upset him. So Paul writes to the church at Corinth to rebuke them strongly. He says to confront the man living in open immorality and ask him to stop it, or ask him to leave the church. In 1st Corinthians 5:5 Paul makes clear that if the man had refused to repent, he still would be safe in God's free gift of eternal life. This teaches us that, yes, a man CAN have the wrong sinful attitude that he intends to continue living in sin, and still be saved. That is why the Holy Bible repeatedly calls God's blessing of eternal life a "free gift" (Romans 5:15-18).