September 5 – Faith and Repentance


Series Intro (in case you missed it last week)
As you read through the Bible you’ll notice that salvation is described with a lot of terms. To be saved is to be adopted by God (Eph. 1:5), to be justified before him (Rom. 5:1), to be in the process of sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18), to be destined for eternity with him (2 Cor. 5:18), and more. And notice that not all of that occurs at once; though a Christian has already been justified (cleared of guilt before God), they are in the process of sanctification, and will one day be glorified in his presence. Theologians call these different steps the order of salvation or ordo salutis, but saying it in Latin makes you sound like a snob.

There are a couple different ways you can break down this order, but our series will progress through it this way:

  • Week 1 – Predestination
  • Week 2 – Calling
  • Week 3 – Regeneration
  • Week 4 – Repentance and Faith
  • Week 5 – Justification
  • Week 6 – Transformation
  • Week 7 – Glorification

That’s right, week one we’re coming in hot with predestination. You’ll notice the order is somewhat chronological, starting with God’s actions in eternity past, predestination, and ending in our eternal future, glorification. All the steps in between, weeks 2-6, happen at the point of someone’s conversion; God calls us out of darkness and into the light of the gospel (1 Pet. 2:9), and all of a sudden we’re made alive (Eph. 2:4), we accept Jesus’ work in faith (Eph. 2:8) and repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), we’re made right with God (Rom. 5:1), and the Holy Spirit indwells us to transform our hearts, minds, and affections (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; John 16:13). Though, to be fair, transformation has both an initial aspect in our salvation and an ongoing aspect in our sanctification, which progresses through the rest of our life.

Our hope for this series is that from seven points of view we’ll see the panoramic grandeur of God’s work in salvation, and that we’ll leave with at least seven reasons for being utterly, eternally grateful for God’s loving kindness towards us in Jesus. Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us the ultimate purpose of salvation is to the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:14). And may we finish knowing that God sent Jesus into the world to save sinners, such that 1. we proclaim God’s infinite goodness for saving our poor, needy souls and 2. we are full of every hope that he desires the salvation of our lost neighbors, coworkers, and friends too.

Passage Intro
This week we pick right up where we left off last week in John 3, with Jesus and Nicodemus’ late night chat. Last week we looked at the step in salvation that’s often called regeneration, or as Jesus puts it, being “born again.” That’s when Jesus calls us out of our spiritual death and we’re made spiritually alive in him. This week we’ll look at what happens right after that: faith and repentance.

That might look like two steps, but faith and repentance are often called two sides of the same coin. You simply can’t have one without the other. Jesus uses a masterful metaphor in this passage to help us understand that. He calls himself the light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12), and when his light shines into the darkness of this world it calls people out into his light. So following Jesus requires both turning away from darkness and turning towards his light—in the process of salvation we turn away from our works of sin and we turn towards him in faith that he will save and accept us. You simply can’t do one without the other, you can’t turn to Jesus without also turning away from your sin and vice versa.

But, if we’re honest, repentance is perhaps our least favorite spiritual practice. The idea of Jesus shining a spotlight into your life and exposing your sin, particularly in a public way, probably makes you cringe. We spend so much time convincing others, and ourselves, that we’re not engaging in “evil” when we sin, but that’s precisely what Jesus calls it here. And he tells us that we prefer the dark because it obscures our works of evil, allowing us to keep doing them and keep convincing ourselves that it’s not really that bad. So more than anything, our slowness to repent is likely just a product of our evil desires seeking to perpetuate themselves.

So praise Jesus that he shines his light into our dark world anyway! Sometimes we think of salvation as this sort of dance where we take a step closer and God takes a step closer until we get saved. But for many of us, Jesus starts illuminating our lives when we don’t want anything to do with him! And praise Jesus that he keeps doing that for his followers, that he relentlessly pursues our allegiance and obedience, even when it exposes our lives and we cringe over the experience. Praise Jesus that the light has shined into our darkness, and our darkness is overcome by it.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read John 3:16-21 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• How does this passage help us understand salvation?

• What role does faith and repentance play in salvation?

• Why do you think Jesus talks about being “exposed” and “seen” here?

• How does the idea of being “exposed” by Jesus’ light make you feel?

• How does this passage help you better understand God’s work in your life?

• How can this passage lead us in praying for others?