Thanks, God, that I'm not like them!

Derek Leman relates his first experience in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. As he entered the place where Jews were praying, repenting, and beating their chests, Derek relates,

I expected to go into the synagogue, see how confused and sadly lost these Jewish people were, and exit more resolved than ever to convert all Jewish people to Jesus.

I had brought in the attitude of the Pharisee. In a paradoxical reversal, I was now the Pharisee and these modern day Pharisees were the tax collectors. I was thinking to myself,
“God, I thank you that I am not like these Orthodox Jews but that I know my sins are already forgiven.”

I thought, how sad that people would beat their chest. What a pathetic and wasted display of ritual and emotion when simple faith in Jesus would do!

Yet as I watched, my mind was changed. I started praying for them to be saved, but the spirit of repentance was contagious. Didn’t I have enough failures that I should also beat my chest before the Living God? Or should I expect that grace makes all such displays of contrition irrelevant?

There is a Grace Myth to the effect that we are automatically alright with God because of the cross and that we are in need of very little repentance.

My experiences with Christians leads me to concur: There's an abuse of grace in the Christian Church today. Some have gone as far as to say repentance of sin isn't even required; you're automatically forgiven in Jesus. That is, if I sin, say I committed adultery, I would have no need to go to the Lord and repent; I would be forgiven without repentance because of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I'm going to stop there; this isn't a let's-bash-Christians post. I only want to say, each person who loves the Lord needs repentance and forgiveness.


Because everyone fails, even the best-intentioned, upstanding Christian -- even me. Even you. Each knows what evil is in him. So let's have a heart of repentance as we near the final 3 Feasts of the Lord this year.

These final 3 Feasts are a shadow of Messiah's return in Yom Teruah, his judgment and atonement in Yom Kippur, and finally his coming to live with us in Tabernacles.

Given this light, as His feasts draw near this year, keep in mind his quick forgiveness. Remember how His mercy has no end, just like the psalmist said. Come humbly before the Master of all Creation, the one who formed you. Repent -- turn your back on those ways of darkness you keep to yourself -- and come clean to the One who loves you.


  1. There is a little known verse that sums this up…

    Phil 2:12 … work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

  2. Ahh, thanks for that, Lou. Working out your salvation, with fear and with trembling.

    I'm reminded of one of Marty Goetz's psalms... Marty Goetz - Hope of Glory

  3. Judah,

    I wonder if we overvalue beliefs ... I mean you can't overvalue believing upon the Lord, but it seems that my struggles with this type of phariseeism (and trust me, I have these struggles too) .. coincide with a subtle notion that orthodox beliefs set us apart - a lofty and flattering notion ... but one that I am questioning.

    The demons believe, do they not? Yet to be delivered there must be more to it than having our doctrinal beliefs. I can train a computer to have the right beliefs or to regurgitate scripture, but the computer isn't walking with the Lord.

    I guess the point is that we can't dumb-down reconciliation. It isn't just reckoning within our mind the Gospel truth ... but it is a vital restored relationship ... reconciling two living beings - God and man ... in an ongoing relationship. Sure there is belief involved, but so much more.

    As it is written: """The beginning of wisdom is knowing I am God, yet still the threshold is not crossed. To cross the threshold, leading up the highway called holy, one must first believe in Me, then proclaim He who I sent to die for them. Still must they continue, for belief and proclamation are the first steps in joy leading to salvation. The gift is must be accepted, fully, through acknowledgment of one's deep desire to know God, and to have their sins lifted and forgiven through Christ. Then come works in your life, as a proof of faith, originating from your belief which started you on the path to salvation. // So then, by your works, not by your mouth, do you solidify your proclamation that indeed Jesus is Lord and His ways do you accept and follow forevermore. Faith without works is no more faith, and works without faith is no more works...all is in vain. // I am coming very quickly. Many of the lost are becoming found, yet do not belong to Christ; nor can He lift up those who believe, who still belong to themselves and this world. """


  4. Judah,

    I think that it must be a common myth that grace teachers don't preach repentance. It is to easy to label as myth, things which we do not understand. From my perspective, repentance and faith are the cornerstones of grace teaching. We turn from wanting things our way to wanting things God's way; we turn from doing things in our power to relying on God's power working in us to "will and to do;" we turn from unbelief to belief. We place our faith in His sufficiency to meet all our needs and to accomplish His will in our lives and through our lives.

    I know that you and I have had a discussion in the past about what repentance is and isn't. Of the many things we disagree about, I thought repentance was one of the things we did agree on. Repentance isn't rolling around on the floor in anguish over our sins. Contrition can certainly lead us to repentance, but contrition isn't repentance, nor is contrition required for repentance.

    You can depend upon your works to keep you "right" with God if you wish, but I choose to live by faith.

    More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith

    What do you suppose that verse means? It doesn't stand alone from verse 13.

    In Christ,

  5. Gary,

    The saints talk a lot about co-labor with Holy Spirit. That is the second part of the passage. I love how Mike Bickle puts it, “God will not do our part and we can’t do His part.”

    So in short, we must not only be in agreement with Holy Spirit, but we must labor to do the will of God. We make the decision, God provides the power. Very often it is a struggle with the flesh that is the proof of our labor of love.

    To quote a Misty Edwards song, "There's a war on the inside, it's the arena to demonstrate my love for you". (IHOP Limited Edition Volume 9, War on the inside (Rev 3) ).

  6. Trent,

    Thanks for that. It is reconciliation between God and you. Faith is belief and trust that God will do something, in this case, that God will forgive you. Repentance is turning oneself around in a very physical and practical way. I think both are crucial to reconciliation after sin.

  7. Gary,

    I realize that many folks who teach grace still are big on repentance. Once again, I was making a generalization.

    I blogged the other week about a Christian guy I was talking to about religion, Torah, etc. His stance was precisely this abuse-of-grace stance that God forgives automatically because of the cross; no repentance required.

    It's not the first time I've heard it. There's a "full gospel" radio network here in the Twin Cities, and I've heard Christian teachers say essentially the same thing.

    I stick to my assertion that there is an abuse of grace in the Christian church. It is sad that despite John and Messiah's key message being "REPENT!!", some are now to the point of saying we don't need to repent because God is so good.

    Contrition isn't required for repentance, you say. Hmm. Let me think about that one and study it.

    Shalom Gary.

  8. Just stopping by to say as a Catholic convert I think you are generally right on this. I'll now depart and put on my flack jacket...shields up preparing to get flamed :-)


  9. Hi Todd. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope you stick around.


  10. Consider 2 Corinthians 7:10.

    Think about it logically. If I am worried about something, I am doing so even though God's Word tells me I shouldn't be. Repentance for me, in that instance, would be to change my mind about that worry and what's causing it and give it to God and trust in Him to take care of it. Do you really need to be sorrowful about it in order to have that change of mind? Judah, you choose to be sorrowful if you want to, or you can simply choose to believe God and His promises.

  11. I do believe there is no guilt once forgiven. I believe Messiah's sacrifice covered both sin and guilt.

    I'm unsure about contrition about sin. Isn't it entirely righteous to feel sorrow and be contrite for rebelling against God? I don't know.

    Let me study the Scriptures for this one.