Don’t Count on Deathbed Conversions

J.C. Ryle writes that Judas Iscariot’s repentance, after betraying Christ, was too late. In our day, we have become accustomed to thinking that one can repent at any time in our lives, but when we look at the life and death of Judas Iscariot, we see that his repentance was too late, and the remorse he experienced was not repentance unto salvation. Here are Ryle’s words:

It is a common saying, ‘that it is never to late to repent.’ The saying, no doubt, is true, if repentance be true; but unhappily late repentance is often not genuine. It is possible for a man to feel his sins, and be sorry for them, — to be under strong convictions of guilt, and express deep remorse, — to be pricked in conscience, and exhibit much distress of mind, — and yet, for all this, not repent with his heart. Present danger, or the fear of death, may account for all his feelings, and the Holy Ghost may have done no work whatever in his soul.

We must not think of repentance as a work that we perform. Unless the Holy Spirit is moving in our hearts, making us a new creation, all the remorse we can conjure up for our sins will do us no good. Repentance is a means of grace because it takes the Holy Spirit enabling us to truly repent (and believe) in the first place. Lots of people have remorse over their sinfulness, but that is not repentance that leads unto life. This is the example we see with Judas Iscariot. He was truly sorry for what he had done, but it was not repentance unto life and he remains known to this day as the son of Perdition (John 17:12).

This reminds of when Mickey Mantle died back in the 1990s. There was news of his deathbed conversion and the evangelical world rejoiced. “We got one!” This has always bothered me because when you heard about what Mantle said concerning his faith, it wasn’t very comforting. Realize, I’m not saying that Mantle was not saved, just as you cannot say he was. But what he was reported to have been saying, asking about salvation over and over again, asking to have the Bible read to him, and never really saying anything showing solid belief, led me to question the deathbed experience all together. (I’ve never actually read anything on this supposed conversation, just remember some pastors speaking about it).

Just compare Mantle’s lack of a clear statement to that of the thief on the cross. In faith, the thief said “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The man made a pure statement of faith. There was no questioning the reality that He would come into His kingdom. The thief was asking Him to be a part of that kingdom that truly existed.

That kind of confidence only comes from those who are born again, renewed in the Spirit, and given a heart to believe and repent (the thief had already demonstrated repentance unto life, in that he told his fellow thief that both of them were under the same condemnation.)

What the story of the thief tells us is that there is the possibility of a deathbed conversion. But far too many people are counting on that instead of trusting in Christ while it is yet “Today.”

As Ryle continues:

Let us beware of trusting to a late repentance. ‘Now is the accepted time. To-day is the day of salvation.’ One penitent thief was saved in the hour of death, that no man might despair, but only one, that no man might presume. Let us put off nothing that concerns our souls, and above all not put off repentance, under the vain idea that it is a thing in our own power.

And finally, let me post the WCF’s Larger Catechism on repentance unto life with Scriptural proofs embedded.

Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace,[320] wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[321] and Word of God,[322] whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger,[323] but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins,[324] and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent,[325] he so grieves for[326] and hates his sins,[327] as that he turns from them all to God,[328] purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.[329]

“No Bad Children, Just Bad Choices”

This past week, as a fellow teacher and I were talking about the many discipline problems we have in our classes, a third teacher came along and told us her solution to all these problems was to tell the children, “There are no bad children, just bad choices.” I couldn’t help but share the thought on my Facebook page and it generated quite a bit of buzz.

As for my response to the teacher who said this, I simply smiled, nodded and bit my tongue fighting back the deep desire to bring some actual biblical truth to bear on the conversation. Knowing that whatever I said would be rejected, I went back to my classroom full of “non-bad” children, who make horrendous “decisions.” Of course, the goodness of these children just abounds. I get tingly goose bumps just thinking about it…no, wait, that is actually a recurring rash I get as a result of stress.

The reality is that the statement the teacher made and my beliefs about human depravity are on a collision course. No, that isn’t right. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the woman’s view is the only one that is allowed. My worldview has been completely removed from the school system. The powers that be have deemed a Christian worldview completely unacceptable in our educational system, especially in regards to our view on the nature of man.

What this means is that the orthodox Christian view that children are born into sin, with an original sin nature (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12, 18), is not permitted. This view of total, or complete, depravity, has been with us and considered as orthodox Christian doctrine since the early church. Augustine and Pelagius debated it for years.

Pelagius had the view that children are born as clean slates, good even, and it was up to us to train the children in their goodness. He denied original sin and said we had the free will to choose between right and wrong. Our morality was completely determined by us. The center of who we are was found in the heart of man (never mind that Jeremiah declares the heart wicked and deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 17:9, along with Proverbs 17:20). I realize that this a brief summary of Pelagius’ view of sin nature, but I don’t have time to dig any deeper. The point is that this is the view held by the school system, today’s culture, and sadly, much of the church.

Augustine’s view was that we are born into sin and this is why all men sin. In other words, we are not born with a good nature, but born sinful and need correction from the beginning. Not only does Romans 5:12 declare this truth to us, we see it in reality when we have children. I never taught my children to lie, yet they lie (Romans 3:4). I’ve never taught them to hit, yet they hit. I’ve never taught them to be disrespectful, but they are. Not that my children are all that bad in comparison to some of the children I deal with every day in the public school system. They are not. But they are sinners, in need of a Savior.

The general principle today is that I should put them in time out when they do transgress, and tell them that they are making “bad choices.” Yet, what screams at anyone with a bit of thought in this matter is that if you do not have any standard by which to judge bad or good, then how can you declare a choice as bad or good? How can you say that little Johnny is being bad when he decides to disobey my instructions, when there is no real standard of right and wrong in the worldview of the school? Remember, little Johnny is born good, according to the Pelagian model of understanding. But again, by what basis do we say they are born good? Where is this standard in the public school system?

This is one of my struggles I have as a teacher. I do have a standard, but I cannot use my standard, which happens to be God’s standard, to judge right and wrong. Just having the Law of God posted in the classrooms would have a restraining effect. (This is one of the three purposes of the Law, to restrain evil in society.) I know some might call this an illogical conclusion, but I will say it anyway: the children in our classrooms are not restrained because there is nothing there to restrain them. We are virtually powerless to do anything.

This is becoming more evident to all the teachers as we progress through the year. Our avenues to deal with disruptive, disobedient, and deceptive children are extremely limited. We can…move them from one chair to another, take them into the hallway and discuss our vague concepts of right and wrong, call their parents (who are powerless as well), and write them up. This last tactic means that the principal will have a discussion with them, and they might get placed in lunch detention, or spend a day in ISS (in-school suspension). In the end, so what? What punishment is that for a kid that really doesn’t want to be in the classroom in the first place? We are powerless.

I admit the the Law of God, meaning the Ten Commandments, is powerless to convert the soul. It is not powerless to bring restraint to society. Remove the Law of God, as we did so many years ago, and there will be no restraint. Reminds me of the first few verses in Psalm 2.

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

Since I cannot bring the truth to bear on the situation, I’m left with powerless platitudes such as telling the children how good they are, and to not to make “bad choices” which, as I’ve stated above, is silly in the long run. The problem is that I don’t like to lie. Telling these children that they are good when they are not, is to lie. I will let the rest of the school system tell them that. I will continue to hold my tongue and trust as Daniel did, that if the kings of world are to recognize the truth of God, it’s going to take God doing it.

Dear World

Dear World,

I saw your little letter to us and found it quite fascinating. I readily admit that for many of us, we struggle with you. You have been quite clever in coming up with ways to distract us from our purpose in life and our goals. After all, I was even captivated by your statement, “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” You are far more clever than we are. But you forget yourself.

Remember, that our Savior has overcome you. You work double-overtime, but since we belong to Him, you will never completely have your way with us. Yes, we do admit, your lure is strong. But Our Savior’s love, grace and Spirit are even stronger. You may entice us for a time, but the longer we walk with Him, the more we see you for the shallow satisfaction that you truly are. You can never really satisfy us. Even if we have all that you have to offer, that offer is empty and short lived.

Continue reading “Dear World”

Raising the Bar on Salvation

We live in a day when a morbid charity induces many to exaggerate God’s mercy, at the expense of His justice, and when false teachers are daring to talk of a ‘love of God, lower even than hell.’ Let us resist such teaching with a holy jealousy, and abide by the doctrine of Holy Scripture. (J.C. Ryle’s commentary on Matthew).

I remember my church history professor, John Hannah, telling us about the early church and the practices they had for joining a church. If I recall correctly, a person that wanted to join the fellowship had to go through several years of instruction while the leaders of the congregation got to know the new acolyte. Then, after supporting a credible profession of faith, the new convert would be baptized and allowed into the congregation.

Continue reading “Raising the Bar on Salvation”

“When We Were Without Strength”

“When we were without strength,

in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

William Gurnall writes:

Here is a word for Christians. Knowing your strength lies wholly in God and not in yourself, remain humble–even when God is blessing and using you most. Remember, when you have your best suit on, who made it and who paid for it! God’s favor is neither the work of your own hands nor the price of your own worth. How can you boast of what you did not buy? If you embezzle God’s strength and credit it to your own account, He will soon call an audit and take back what was His all along.

From The Christian in Complete Armour: Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare, edited by James S. Bell, Jr.


There is No Reason to Suspect Donald Trump is a Christian

A debate was raging on FB via an Eternity Matters post about Donald Trump’s profession of religion. Neil Simpson just came right out and said that the Donald was not a Christian, but was posing as one in order to court evangelicals.

Of course, there were a few who brought forth the ignorance card, “you can’t know. That is between God and the Donald alone.”

Continue reading “There is No Reason to Suspect Donald Trump is a Christian”

Happy New Year from “Lucifer”

This is the third part of a series that I did on what The World, Flesh and the Devil want for us during the coming year. I’ve been quite hesitant to write this one because I have been using the technique of personification, which worked well from the standpoint of the World and the Flesh. It doesn’t work well for the Devil. The Devil is a real, created being who is set on the destruction of all things, especially those who are in Christ. Writing from his standpoint makes me uncomfortable. But I will give it a shot, resting in the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ or rip me out of His hands. My hope is in nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness for my salvation, hope, sustenance and future.

With that said, here is what Lucifer might say to us:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I hope that you have a wonderful New Year, much better than the one you just had. I have so many things to say to you for the coming year. It’s hard to pick one. But however I come to you, know that I want your happiness and well being more than anyone. So let me get started:

Continue reading “Happy New Year from “Lucifer””