[Fictional story taken from various real life events:]
“For the rest, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you truly is not tiresome to me, but safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil workers, look out for the concision party. For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, and who glory in Christ Jesus, and who do not trust in flesh. Even though I might have trust in flesh; if any other thinks to trust in flesh, I more; in circumcision, the eighth day, of the race of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; according to Law, a Pharisee; according to zeal, persecuting the assembly; according to righteousness in Law, being blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss because of Christ. But, no, rather I also count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be trash, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, having the righteousness of God on faith” (Philippians 3:1-9).
Christian: The apostle Paul counts all of his former life and deeds, whether religious or irreligious, as dead works, evil deeds, and fruit unto death.
Shapeshifter: What’s the time frame on this supremely radical realization?
Christian: Philippians 3:1-9 shows that when God had regenerated Paul, Paul counted all his former religion as trash, refuse, or dung. Just like faith, repentance is also an immediate fruit of regeneration. In other words, faith and repentance are immediate fruits of being born again, being given eternal life, being made alive in Christ, becoming a new creation in Christ, etc. And of course, Jesus gives this repentance to whomever He wills:
“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
In the Scripture passage cited above Paul shows that he counted his former self-righteous religion as loss. He made no claims of having continued in his former religion for a time after regeneration — in fact, he made it clear that he counted himself unregenerate when he believed this false gospel. Paul said that he was a zealous, moral, religious man. Yet he counted all of his zeal, all of his morality, and all of his religion as nothing more than dung to be thrown on the dung heap. This shows that Paul had truly repented upon conversion.
Why did Paul count himself lost when he was in this false religion? It was because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. When God saved him, God gave him the knowledge that his salvation was conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, Paul’s works totally excluded. And when God gave him that knowledge, he counted his former religion as nothing but self-righteous dung, because he recognized that in his former religion, he believed in salvation conditioned on the sinner.
What Paul did was actually repent of dead works and fruit unto death. What most who come in the name of Christianity do is to “straighten things out a bit.” That is, they “reform, retract, or adjust” damnable doctrinal errors. What Paul admonishes damnable heretics to do is actually repent and believe in Jesus. But that’s way too radical and cultic. What many who call themselves “Christian” (e.g., tolerant Calvinists) admonish damnable heretics (i.e., their muddled brethren) to do is “repent” in order that they may hold to slightly less heretical views, believe in a slightly less idolatrous god, and believe in a slightly less false christ. They would NOT have them to do something as radical as repenting and believing in Jesus Christ. Rather, they would have them to take a “more sane and balanced approach” of gradually, slowly, shifting, transforming, and incrementally-creeping towards a “more orthodox perspective.” What they pervert as “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ,” God calls through the apostle Paul a Satanic transforming into a superficially orthodox angel of light who refuses to repent of damnable falsehood:
“For such ones are false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light? It is not a great thing, then, if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Shapeshifter: But isn’t straightening out some theological errors and becoming more and more orthodox a good thing?
Christian: No. Not when you remain in damnable falsehood. There is quite the difference between people who believe in Jesus and are caused to repent of dead works and idolatry as God shines into their hearts the light of the knowledge of His redemptive glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and people who are unbelieving, unrepentant, Satanically-shining, shape-shifting, slithering-slowly-towards, and embracing “increasingly more orthodox” views regarding the grounds of acceptance with God.
For more regarding the “soberly-balanced” and “slowly-creeping-towards-orthodoxy perspective,” please read the following articles:
“Slide on over”: