Is Repentance Necessary to be a Christian?

I used to know someone, we’ll call him Fred, who boasted about his Christian faith while talking about his party lifestyle. He would do whatever he wanted all week long and party hard on the weekends. But he always made time to go to confession on Saturday to make sure he was “all set” before God. But my question is this: does that work?

Is it enough to believe in your mind certain truths about the gospel and lay hold of the promise, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1)?

Here’s the short answer: Saving faith in the gospel moves us past confession into repentance.

The Difference Between Confession & Repentance
The heart of confession is telling the truth. Telling the truth about God, and telling the truth about yourself. There are two kinds of “confessions” necessary:

  • Confessing the truth about God. If we don’t know the truth about who God is and what he’s done, then we cannot place our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. At minimum, we need to understand who Jesus is, what happened on the cross, why it was necessary, and what God expects of those who confess faith in him.
  • Confessing the truth about yourself. We need to admit to God and to others that we realize our complete inability to save ourselves. When we come to recognize the severity of our sin, and the wrath that is rightfully ours, then we confess our great need and God’s greater provision.

Meanwhile, repentance is a change in behavior. Where confession has to do with the mouth, repentance addresses the hands and feet.

  • Repentance is a change in direction. It’s an about-face: whereas before you were walking in one direction you have stopped, confessed “I’m going in the wrong direction!,” turned around, and begun walking in the correct direction.

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Christianity Without Repentance?

Imagine a man who gets married but continues to live with bachelor-priorities. He may be in love, but he’s not ready to become a husband. Marriage requires a change in priorities and in lifestyle for both husband and wife. Decisions will be made differently, money will be shared, and each person’s actions affects the other.

In the same way, no one becomes a Christian without repentance. It is not enough to hear the gospel and intellectually believe it. Faith in Christ leads to confession of sin and repentance. Sin must be confessed and repented of, or Christ will merely be viewed as the safety net to protect us from hell.

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Every Christian Has Baggage

In fact, not only does every Christian have baggage… every Christian NEEDS baggage! You simply cannot be a Christian if you are unaware of the skeletons in your closet. Maybe your baggage isn’t severe, you’ve never been to jail… but every Christian need to be aware of their own sin and great need for God.

Some people say that Christianity is only for the weak. They’re right! If you think you have your act together and that you don’t need to be forgiven, you don’t need mercy or grace, and you don’t need God’s strength to make you strong… then you may call yourself what you want, but you cannot truly be a Christian.

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