June 19, 2019

Riffs: 08:20:07: The White Horse Inn on Dying With Unconfessed Sin

logo1.gifThe August 19th edition of the White Horse Inn contains a large segment of interviews asking people at a Christian conference what happens to a person if they died with unconfessed sin.

Whatever you do, get this podcast/mp3, listen to it and keep it around. The answers may or may not shock you, depending on your experience with and perception of evangelicalism. In my experience, this is how the majority of the evangelicals that I know think of salvation, right down to the overt appeals to good works. When Rod says that 75% of Lutherans turned out to be functioning Roman Catholics on soteriology, I find myself wondering if the numbers would be any different among my Southern Baptist friends.

logo-wi.gifA few years ago I was showing an R.C. Sproul series on justification, and one man who had been studying the Bible with me for about 5 years got so angry he stormed out. Why? A standard explanation of the reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone. This brother- a fine Christian man with a real servant’s heart- was determined that repentance and good works were necessary to be declared right with God. When R.C. set down that we are justified by grace alone, with repentance and confession in vital, but non-saving relation to that declaration, he couldn’t deal with it. Where was our part? Where was what we did to keep salvation? Where were the works we did- like confession and repentance- that God would look at and say we were “worthy” to be Christians? (I hear that prayer all the time.)

Around the same time I heard a seminary trained, smart, conservative SBC pastor tell our students that salvation was “90% God’s work and 10% our faith.” The percentages started the problem, but this preacher sincerely believed that we are saved, in part, by our faith as a contributing factor. Faith isn’t the empty hand. Faith, to him, was an active contribution of merit.

I could tell these stories all day. If you ever take a group of evangelicals who have heard the gospel for years and ask them to explain it to you as if you’d never heard it, get ready for a real wake-up call. If you apply a question like the WHI folks did- “What if you die with unconfessed sin?”- you’ll hear a cafeteria of works, merit, synergism, cooperation with God, credit for good intentions, God waving the standards, points for sincerity and so on.

What will really shock you is how seldom Jesus is ever mentioned. I hear testimony after testimony from people who have grown up under Baptist preaching- preaching that I know is about Jesus a good bit of the time- and they speak of God in terms most any Mormon, Jew or Muslim would not find particularly offensive. The person and work of Jesus is like wallpaper. We know it’s there and we don’t have to talk about it.

The big question is this: Why are evangelicals so ignorant of the basic, fundamental concepts of their own gospel of salvation? How is that so many of them sound like they’ve been catechized in a pre-Vatican II Catholic setting?

Here’s a few of my answers. I’d be interested in yours.

1. A lot of evangelicals don’t preach or teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ anymore. They do life-coaching, health & wealth and motivational speaking based on some manipulation of scripture to assure God’s blessing. From Paula White to T.D. Jakes to Joel Osteen, many evangelicals are preaching another Gospel, plain and simple.

2. Many evangelicals preach the culture war, moral decision-making and life-coaching in a way that presupposes Jesus but hardly ever gets down to the Gospel.

3. Millions of evangelicals don’t know what the Gospel is because they are unregenerate. They are unsaved and they don’t understand salvation. They are religious and understand religion. They are moralists and legalists and they understand morals and law. They aren’t saved by the grace of God in Jesus and they don’t understand it.

4. The cross has been used sentimentally for so long- thank you Mel Gibson- that evangelicals don’t get the message of faith. They are looking for something to hook the emotions.

5. Much worship music is devoid of the Gospel. (I know many of you tire of me saying this, but the focus on music to the denigration of preaching is a major reasons evangelicals are starting to sound stupid when you ask them questions. How many of the answers you heard on this program were, in fact, remnants of song lyrics?)

6. Many preachers don’t know the Gospel themselves, especially in some circles where relevance, culture transformation, psychology, church growth and “Getting blessed” are the emphases.

7. Many evangelicals think the Gospel is boring. They prefer to focus on practical, personal and cultural topics in teaching.

8. Legalism and moralism are more comprehensible to unregenerate human nature than the grace of God. Grace simply is offensive to many people who need God to run his business in a way they can understand.

9. We are entertaining people in church. We aren’t teaching them. We’re entertaining them.

10. As has been true right back to the time of the Bible itself, the Gospel is opposed by those who despise the message of sovereign, free grace. When I hear someone like Peter Kreeft- a fine Roman Catholic brother- speak contemptuously of Biblical justification as a “legal fiction,” I know we have deeply different perceptions of the truth that is the heart of the Gospel.

What do you believe is the reason so many of this week’s White Horse interviewees were so far from the truth on the question of dying with unconfessed sin?

UPDATE: I realized that I should say something about the main question: What about those who die with unconfessed sin? I know that some of you belong to churches where you’re terrorized by this.

First, read Hebrews 10 a couple of times. Then Read I John 1:8 and realize that confession is for YOUR sake. Not God’s. Agreeing with God that sin is sin doesn’t forgive it. It allows the experience of forgiveness to happen.

Jesus is a mediator whose sacrifice perfectly forgives all the sins of all his people. All. All. All. Like I forgive my children for all they would ever do, but the experience of realization and confession allows forgiveness to flow.

Then remember this: You could never say enough. You could never be sorry enough. You could never confess sincerely enough or completely enough. At the end of your confession, God would say “All your righteousness is filthy rags in comparison to my laws demands.” Not the labor of my hands- or my best attempt at confession- can fulfill thy law’s demands. Christ’s perfect confession for us is “It is finished.” From there, “there is no condemnation,” deathbed or otherwise.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Comments

  1. Michael –

    Bottom-line you simply can’t make pigs bleat like sheep! What did you expect? Pigs oink and grunt; the responses you speak of here sound a lot more like oinking and grunting than bleating. And, likewise, pigs won’t listen to a shepherd, either.

    I found the same true in my churches; and I know I preach sola fide Ad nauseam … the blank looks and stares, the sleepy eyes and yawns, and the unfocused comments and questions speak volumes about a congregant’s DNA – and there’s no blood sacrifice in it!

    If anything is not being preached it’s hellfire and damnation.

  2. Elvis Elvisberg says

    Michael– Thanks for your insight.

    Now, first off, I have not yet convinced myself to become Christian, despite my efforts.

    So, for whatever it’s worth, at least eight of the ten items on your list seem at a glance to be incontrovertible.

    However, I have some reservations about your claim that others are “so far from the truth” about this issue.

    It seems to me that when we’re dealing with mysteries like this, with disagreements that back centuries, we can offer opinions, but we cannot know the mind of God, and we cannot rule out the possibility that the good-faith views of others that differ from ours may well be correct.

    I’m no expert, obviously; I’d be pleased to be proven wrong.

  3. Ach, the topic that first got me commenting here @ your magnetic site, Michael! (Maybe I shouldn’t say anything lest I sound like a broken record…)

    Everything you write in the passage “You could never…deathbed or otherwise” sounds absolutely WONNNNNderful, and it makes 1000% sense. And I hope in that with all my heart (I know all too well how rotten my own “righteousness”, even post-conversion, is). But what consistently upsets the applecart of my spiritual equilibrium, what always gnaws away at me way, deep down, in the back of my soul, is verses like this:

    Jesus: “I have not found thy works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:2)

    Paul: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, **according to what he has done** in the body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

    “Since we have these promises [j.b.g.t.f.], beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”

    Peter: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…” (That one always SHOUTS and is accompanied by fingerwagging.)

    John: “He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” (Do you hear what he’s *SAYING* there? Who in the world can walk they way He walked? And yet that is the template, the goal, the standard.)

    James: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?”

    So, even tho there may well be 100s of 1000s of churchgoers who misunderstand justification by grace thru faith, there are others, like me, who “in hope against hope” (ROMANS 4) believe and cling to that, all the while racked by the other verses that just don’t mesh with it.

  4. Do you think the self-confessed “chief of sinners” in whom “nothing good dwells” had any doubt what his hope was at the judgement seat of Christ?

    Of course God will judge perfectly and fairly. And he’ll judge me…..or the one who stands in my place by his grace.

    If God judges my ANYTHING by his holy law, I’m toast.

    If God judges Jesus in my place, I’m saved.

  5. ahemmmm!! Or I mean amen, and amen Michael! It’s either Law plus nothing or Grace plus nothing!

  6. As the remarkable boy says in response to Scrooge’s offer of a sovereign for speedily getting down to the baker’s for the prize goose:

    Whoooooooosshhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Gene Baker says

    Michael,

    I would love to hear how you think someone gets “saved” or “born again.” I don’t think I have seen your thoughts on that anywhere on your site. If you have previously posted on that subject please point me to that post.

    Thanks.

  8. Wow. The results of this impromptu survey are disheartening, indeed. But, they are in keeping with the results of my own reflections upon doing and observing ministry in evangelical contexts (in addition to growing up evangelical). My time at seminary has made me increasingly Reformed theologically, bringing these sort of questions into focus.

    I would fault most of all the lack of serious catechesis in churches of any kind (not just evangelicals) for this depressing dearth of understanding.

  9. 7 Years of Internet Monk essays and I’ve never said:

    By simple faith alone in Jesus Christ alone?

  10. “By simple faith alone in Jesus Christ alone”

    Well, yes, of course. But that’s not really what people mean when they question faith alone. They are trying to understand how exactly that all works out, what the quality of that faith should be, and how to know if the quality of their faith measures up.

    No?

  11. With the addition of definitons, adjectives, qualifiers, explanations and so forth we can have entire reformed Baptist theological texts. Before long someone will write books explaining that faith is works and repentance is faith and it’s all very hard, etc.

    Since I invite hundreds of people to become Christians every week, I’m pretty adamant on this one.

    What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

    If someone wants to discuss how repentance is related, how confession evidences, etc. that’s fine, but on the “how,” I am adamant that we keep it as simple as possible.

  12. Do you think it is the new Christian who asks those questions, or those of us who are trying to make sense of the experiences we have had in the Christian life? Trying to piece it all together?

  13. I think the question can come from a variety of sources, but these days it’s increasingly asked by those who believe sola fide needs “help,” so they make something else essential or equal to faith. How much one’s faith is confirmed or uprooted has a lot to do with the kind of preaching/teaching a person is under. Many churches specialize in uprooting assurance and terrorizing the doubting conscience.

  14. Michael,

    I think all of those are good reasons. I too come from a SB background and converse constantly with them in our family. But I even see it sometimes in the PCA now, can’t speak for other denominations I’ve not been in. I think the reasons are many:

    First, we, broadly American Christianity speaking, are fairly versed in “Jesus died for sins”. We even are pretty good on “he died for our sins past, present and future”. But we are pathetic in preaching the active obedience of Christ FOR US so that “it is finished” and there is exactly NOTHING left for us to do. That one gets almost if not completely NO play and not just in the doctrinally weak SB churches I was in but even in the more doctrinally rigid SB churches I was in. The fear is that THAT much grace will kill the good works, but NOTHING could be further from the TRUTH. We have almost no concept of the active obedience of Christ for us. THIS MAY BE THE BIGGEST ONE!

    Second, salvation is reduced to a one time experience, there is NO real simul Justus et peccator today.

    Third, the heart of the Law, namely the REAL requirement of the heart, is never really preached.

    Fourth, sin is reduced to the negatives, the open sinners, not the good sins. We have no concept that the thing that REALLY holds a man from free grace is not his murderous sins but his pretty sins, especially the high church works. After all if I’m a missionary how could that be a sin?

    Fifth, sin is mostly presented, if at all as the deeds, the nature of the fallen man is not preached, which is enough to condemn without one single deed performed.

    Sixth, pietism always speaks of some future time of getting it allllll together, hence the Law has not really been heard.

    Seventh, sanctification is preached as “me doing better”. Nobody sees that that is the very essence of sin. When I DO things to ‘sanctify’ myself or assure myself that I’m converted, elect, saved…nobody sees that that is yet more sin and evidence of a failure to really DO the Law, the heart, the altruistic love of neighbor without the religious hidden agenda for myself.

    Eighth, there is no doctrine of vocation whereby TRUE good works are known. Especially the inglorious ones. Today the average Christian must scratch their heads when you say, “mowing the lawn is a good work if in faith”, while, “evangelizing the world without faith is a sin worthy of hell”. Eating a good meal and sleeping are good works, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and did these too, are head scratchers for most. Thus, so called ‘good works’ are narrowed more and more and more the opinions of men rather than from the Word.

    Ninth, it is NOT understood that the Gospel is to be preached TO the believer constantly and not just when evangelizing unbelievers.

    Tenth, there is a complete LOSS of the Gospel FOR ME. In theory its there for someone else but how do I know it is for me. I’m thrown back to works and fruit, but none ever pass the smell test of the Law. Why is the ever crucial FOR ME lost, for that is the essence of the Gospel for a man, to hear it is not just FOR YOU but FOR ME? Well, therein lay the part of the Sacraments coming TO ONE.

    Eleventh, the victory of ‘subjectivity’ over the objectivity of the Gospel. We forget that the Law is natural to us, on our fallen hearts (Rom 1-3), but the Gospel must constantly come from outside of us to us (Rom. 10).

    Twelfth, pastors are chickens to press the Gospel. A Gospel that has a “but” in it is another Gospel.

    Thirteenth, nobody wants to be a REAL sinner, just pretend sinners and mostly, “I once was xyz…but God took that away from me” past tense sinner, never TODAY and NEVER really.

    Those are some reasons I think,

    Larry KY

  15. Hi Michael

    These truths never stop to confuse me. I see faith not as anything I do but only as my response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to accept what Jesus has done as enough for my salvation. I discover the truth that I have been saved. How and when and where, I do noy for surely know. The only day and date is 2000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem.

    I also sometimes get the impression that some saved people regret leaving behind the works of the flesh and then take it out on people who claim to be saved, but have not (yet) turned their backs on the world in full. “Punish them by making them doubt their salvation.”

    Salvation is saying: Yes Lord!

  16. This riff reminded me of when I was teaching my eighth grade bible class back in ’05 and one of the kids asked me about sola gratia — she pitched a hypothetical evil person, who had denied Christ all his life, and at the last second on his deathbed confessed Jesus as Lord. Is he saved?

    My first response was almost no. Thankfully I didn’t say it, but I came mighty close. Where did that come from?

    I know better — salvation is through grace; if this evil person is actually repentant and trusts God to save him, God will. God’s attitude is more “I’ll take what I can get” than “You blew your chance; to hell with you.” Jesus accepted a thief in mid-crucifixion; God could even have accepted Adolf Hitler into paradise if Hitler had begged Him for mercy before shooting himself. (And I know — lots of Christians still believe suicide is a one-way ticket to hell. That too is part of the problem.)

    It is our perfectly normal human nature that responds to such an idea, “If God has let even Hitler into heaven, I’d rather go to the other place.” Grace is inherently unfair. We who have been following Christ all our lives, and have given up everything (or at least a lot) for Him sometimes convulse at the idea that God will accept anyone who comes to Him, even the worst of all sinners. I use Hitler as an example ’cause he’s as bad as they come; Paul used himself because he persecuted the Church.

    If God weren’t so accepting, so forgiving, so full of grace, then I would have no chance; and I would rather share that grace with others than deny it. Even though I might falter a bit here and there… but God is gracious to me too.

    Larry included this reason in his list; I just think it’s the most common one.

  17. What does it mean to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”?

    The phrase “believe on” isn’t one that has immediate meaning to me. Conversely “believe in” says something that I understand, however I think this phrase tends to communicate a state or an attitude of the mind. It doesn’t imply any kind of action in the physical world.

    I’ve been a Christian for a long time and I think I understand that in the time that Jesus lived on the earth, and in the cultural context in which he lived, this distinction between “believing” and “doing” didn’t exist as it does for us here and now. So, simply saying “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is not enough. This sentence needs to be “unpacked” for the sake of clearer understanding.

  18. Sure. Through Genesis 15:6 we are told that Abraham is the living example of faith.

    Trust. To depend upon. To consider worth loving, submitting to.

    Not the knowledge demons have, but the dependence, trust and worship they do not have.

  19. This discussion highlights an area where I think Karl Barth’s work is very helpful. Instead of thinking of salvation as something that is available on the basis of Jesus Christ and that must be applied to us in the present in order for us to be ‘saved’, he thinks of salvation as something altogether complete in Christ and argues that we come to recognize that this is the case through the work of the Spirit.

    When did you become a Christian? About 2,000 years ago…

  20. I hate it when you post up a subject i can’t finish before I have to go to work. GRRRRR.
    I’ll be back to finish reading later. 🙂

  21. There was, I thought, one good answer in the pack, which was the chap who said something to the effect that he was trusting in God’s grace and mercy as his only hope. The “correct” answer directs us to faith in Christ, but I found that answer very helpful in showing faith in action.

  22. Great post, Michael.

    I had a similar dicussion with some friends a few weeks back. I got the sense from them that faith in Christ allows one to establish a ledger sheet with God, in which one of your sins is crossed out for every corresponding confession. If, at the end of your life, the two columns don’t zero each other out, you’re in serious trouble.

    Not only were they adamant that unconfessed sin at the moment of death would lead to damnation; they were equally certain that it was actually possible to confess every sin in one’s life. They must be holier men than I.

  23. Nicholas Anton says

    Michael

    Though I thoroughly agree with your article, I nevertheless am still left with a few questions.
    1) What then is saving faith?
    2) Can a person be saved against his/her will?
    3) Is the “will” a requirement for salvation?
    4) Is the “will” an emotional, or rational, cognitive quality?

  24. Is believing only a mental process? Or do our actions reveal what we believe? Perhaps they do and that is why the sheep were welcomed while the goats weren’t? Not because of their works, per se, but because of their faith in a WAY that is True and they lived that Way because they believed it. (And were still miserable sinners nonetheless.)

  25. I appreciate this post a great deal. One of my greatest joys has been realizing there is nothing (NOTHING!) I can do to merit God’s favor. My salvation is rooted in the finished work of Jesus alone… nothing more. Nothing less.

    Common Christian/church practice puts a premium on good works which are visible. We are uncomfortable trusting God and feel that we must do something. We forget that Christ alone provides forgiveness of sin and fellowship with the Father.

    Here’s some ideas:

    1) We think we need to “do something… anything” to help God along in the process. While we have no ability to save ourselves we think we’re cleaver and can help God out.

    2) Leaders desire to see action in churches, therefore, emphasis is given to action, obscuring the finished work of Christ.

    3) Christians don’t understand that they are to be confident and sure in their salvation. I liked how the WHI guys placed an emphasis upon confidence in their talk.

  26. Michael,

    N.T. Wright — you’re a “fan” as I recall — makes much of Romans 2:6-8:

    6 For he [God] will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury (NRSV).

    Wright states directly in several books/articles/ that God’s judgment is based upon the totality of a person’s life, including obviously what that person has done. He contends that the presence of a person’s faith “in the present” is the assurance that, when God judges the totality of that person’s life “in the future,” the judgment will be “righteous.”

    He also contends that we are not “saved by faith,” but that the presence of faith is the present sign that God has declared us in the right before him. His ordo salutis goes something like this:

    1. We hear the Gospel proclaimed.
    2. The Holy Spirit works and we find that we believe it.
    (1. and 2. he refers to as “calling.” At this point, or after the next one — it’s a bit difficult to be sure in his writing — we are justified before God on the totality of the life we will live.)
    3. We enter the Body of Christ through confession, baptism, etc.
    4. We take our place in the Kingdom of God and join in the mission of the church.

    If I understand Wright, he says we are saved by the faithfulness of Christ, i.e., Christ being faithful to the will of God. I suppose that would correspond more to grace (Christ’s) alone than to faith (ours) alone. Faith is the sign that we have responded to that grace.

    Care to comment?

    Peace of Christ,

    John

  27. I’ve been a lurker here for quite some time. Thanks, Michael, for the great topics and candid discussion. This one raises some good questions for me. I grew up Fundamentalist Baptist, then switched to an independent Bible church in high school. Over the last few years, for reasons too long to document here, I’ve been exploring the RCC (much to my mother’s horror).

    It seems to me that one problem is when faith gets talked about so that it sounds basically like intellectual ascent to a fact. And thus, I’m sure not intentionally, it can get separated and made distinct from action. I think faith and works are actually inseparable.

    I’m a thinker (my brain is always “on”), and an engineer. A damning combination, believe me. I have days when I have trouble accepting that God is real and not just a figment of my imagination. I’m afraid that when I pray, I’m actually just talking to myself. Yet I still pray.

    So, on the days when I don’t believe–give intellectual ascent–that God is real, but I still pray, isn’t that faith? What makes it faith? Isn’t it the action of my praying that makes it so?

    Genesis 15:6 is a good verse. But then in Hebrews 11, the “faith hall of fame”, everywhere it mentions Abraham’s faith, there a big long list of works that accompany it. In fact, the whole chapter is about what people did, not what they believed.

    Larry talked about the fear that too much grace will kill the good works. I’ve come away from some sermons that seemed full of fear that the slightest mention of good works in a positive light would kill everyone’s faith. It’s almost as if the work “works” is a bad word.

  28. “What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Love it! Keep it simple, like Jesus.

    Now, I’ve heard enough of your podcasts to know you’re anything but simple, and I love that, too.

    It’s like Dr. Gene Scott used to say, “Jesus saves, with no but’s attached.”

  29. I have another reason, hinted at in your #8: “Legalism and moralism are more comprehensible to unregenerate human nature than the grace of God. Grace simply is offensive to many people who need God to run his business in a way they can understand.”
    We want to boast of our accomplishments. But God said, through Paul, in Romans 3:27-28: “27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. ” Also, Romans 4:2-3: “2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

  30. You know, it’s not hard to figure out why the Roman Catholic Church is growing. They tell you everything to believe AND take away that nasty assurance business. 😉

    We proclaim the Gospel as the mediator and the mediation. (Person and work.) We proclaim the Gospel as faith receiving, repentance turning, confession proclaiming, works evidencing, but it is justification by FAITH alone, but not by faith that is alone.

    If I start dissecting the will, it’s Jesus + the paperwork. Theologians get to do that, but I’m telling my students to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Cross and Kingdom) and to believe (trust, depend, give worth to) it.

    We join the church, are baptized and come to the table for assurance. We go to the cross and the Gospel for remaining sin.

  31. “Works evidencing” seems to be the place where everyone trips up, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Chaldean, Coptic, Ethiopic, etc. People seem to be so results-oriented that they think they turn “works evidencing” into somehow doing the works to be saved. Even some Reformed folk have this tendency. Catholics say it must be a “faith formed by love”, but that’s a mistranslation. The *expression* must be love.

    Yes, the works must be done (but by whom), and our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (but how do we get that righteousness), but Jesus and John both answered “believe” to the direct question of what must *I do*.

    You see this not just in Salvation, but in the things of ordinary life. People get envious when they see some kind of success (in business, or in art, or whatever) and think that imitation of the real thing *is* the real thing. “Fake it until you make it.”

    People (okay, *I*) get nervous and don’t always rest in the finished work of Christ, and start thinking about the checklist.

  32. Patrick Kyle says

    Michael, you said

    I realized that I should say something about the main question: What about those who die with unconfessed sin? I know that some of you belong to churches where you’re terrorized by this.

    I am privileged to count Rod as a friend and mentor, and your quote above touches one of his life passions- proclaiming “that the death of Christ is enough even for Christians.” I have spent many late nights on his back balcony, with good drinks and food discussing this very thing. A good portion of his career has been spent pulling believers( like myself) back from the brink of despair concerning their faith and standing before God. Every time he teaches or speaks, he never fails to address the despairing believer with the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Thank God for faithful men like him in whose breast burns the Gospel of Christ.

  33. Speaking of which, Michael, did you know that Osteen’s book in in paperback now? I cringe involuntarily anytime someone buys it – I’m just glad I’m not working at the bookstore much while I finish my thesis…

    I think I’m going to do what I did with Spong’s book – display a book about Christianity next to it…

  34. Michael,

    This is a belated comment regarding the Update to your initial post in which you write:

    UPDATE: I realized that I should say something about the main question: What about those who die with unconfessed sin? I know that some of you belong to churches where you’re terrorized by this.

    First, read Hebrews 10 a couple of times. Then Read I John 1:8 and realize that confession is for YOUR sake. Not God’s. Agreeing with God that sin is sin doesn’t forgive it. It allows the experience of forgiveness to happen.

    As you suggest I’ve read Hebrews 10 a couple of times. Do you care to comment on verses 26-31 — verses addressed to those who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus’ one-off sacrifice?

    Also, I read 1 John 1:8. But I went farther and read 1 John 1:9 which clearly links forgiveness to confession. I’m not sure how this addresses “experience of forgiveness” only. I’d like to hear your exegesis of this passage, again noting that it is written to the church and not to those who do not know Jesus.

    Thanks for keeping us thinking with provocative posts.

    Peace of Christ,

    John

  35. The Gospel is an essential to me. I hesitate to call anybody my brother in Christ who believes in a different Gospel. Where do you draw the line on this?

  36. John Roop:

    Thank you for that summary of Wright. Which is, I think, a far more accurate reading of the reality presented to us than the Reformation Project.

    What I have never understood is how the Reformed-minded figure that the Apostles got everything so horribly wrong, and no one figured it out for 1500 years.

    I still don’t get it.

  37. WTM,

    You said, “When did you become a Christian? About 2,000 years ago… “.

    I confess I don’t really understand what you were trying to say by that.

    I think my point still stands: the division between belief and obedience that exists in people’s minds which allows this conversation to take place at all did not exist for Jesus and his contemporaries. It wasn’t until some time later (I’m sure someone here knows about when) that James had to address this divorce between faith and deeds (James 2:14-26). He’s pretty clear that these two things are not and can not be separated.

  38. classic Arminisim

  39. What jazzki said.