The tagline of this blog is the first statement Jesus makes in the book of Mark. "Repent and believe the Gospel" is, I believe, the framework for Jesus' entire ministry- the basic point, if you will.
There is a common sentiment I've been hearing/reading a lot lately, that I'm sure is not new. That's that grace minus repentance equals license. "You can't just believe the Gospel, you have to repent of sin and 'turn away' from it." Sometimes this effects the person's view of salvation, other times it's just a strong recommendation for how you should live after you accept the grace of God in Jesus. Either way, the underlying assumption is, we can't have a bunch of immoral Christians running around, and this methodology(of preaching a qualified gospel) is supposed to take care of that.
Remarkably, this may miss the most important thing in the whole issue. It's that to believe the Gospel is a repentance. We are all born humanists, so to speak, and the basic repentance that needs to take place is the change of paradigm from "I can be good," to "I need Jesus to be good for me." In other words the initial faith in Jesus is not possible without repentance, when we understand the word "repentance" correctly.
So my issue is that Jesus, in the first chapter of Mark, says "repent and believe Gospel" not "believe the Gospel and repent." I'm guessing this is because he is a wily psychologist. He knows that the paradigm shift that it takes to believe the Gospel is the same shift that is necessary to produce the "turn" away from sin. Could our lack of understanding here be the reason that we keep saying things like "now that you've accepted the grace of God, you need to, additionally, repent and turn away from your sin," as if they were in separate categories? Which, in turn, consistently produces converts who accept Jesus as a matter of "getting right wth God" or "going to heaven when you die" but not disciples who continue to bask in the glow of his grace in such a way that drains the desire to return to addictive, self-serving behaviors. Pretty much because they've been taught(implicitly, by the command "now that you're saved, you should also repent") that it's possible to believe without repentance. And thus simultaneously(I see this all the time) act and talk moralistically about others' lives and see no change in their own destructive behaviors?
Just some thoughts. Conversation welcome.