One morning after finishing my spiritual devotions, I visited awebsite and on the discussion board I came across a post which said, “Gaining eternal life through faith in the Lord is the longing of many Christians. But do you know what the way of repentance and the way of eternal life are? What is the difference between them? If you want to figure out these questions and gain the way of eternal life bestowed by God, come and join our discussion.”
Upon seeing the post, I thought of the’ words, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). So I got confused: “Since we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior and had our sins absolved, haven’t we gained new lives and the way of eternal life given by God? What exactly is the difference between the way of repentance and the way of eternal life?” With these questions, I decided to view the discussion.
Soon there was a reply popping out, “It’s indeed very important for us to understand these questions because they are directly related to the big issue of how our faith in God can really enable us to attain eternal life. To figure them out, we must first know what the way of repentance is. As we all know, when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption, He preached the message ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4:17). Which is to say, we should confess our sins and repent before God if we want to. After we confess previous sins, they will be forgiven. We will no longer sin but repent and be born again. This is repentance. At that time, the Lord Jesus taught us to confess our sins and repent, not to commit sins or do evil, and to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him. And He required us to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, to love others as ourselves, to be humble, tolerant and patient, to forgive others seventy times seven times, and so on. These constitute the way of repentance. When we confess our sins and repent before the Lord Jesus, our sins will be forgiven, which qualifies us to pray before God and enjoy the bountiful grace and truth given by Him. But what we can’t deny is that even though our sins have been forgiven, our sinful nature still exists; we are unable to practice what the Lord requires of us, and live in a constant situation of committing sins and confessing them. Look at our actual situation: We often tell lies and engage in deception; our hearts are full of arrogance, self-righteousness, self-importance, as well as greed and evil thoughts; we can still hate and envy others; we also follow the worldly trends and cling to wealth; especially when we encounter trials or disasters, we can complain against, judge and even betray the Lord.
“I once read a passage of words in a book which I feel are spoken very well. Here, I’d like to share them with you: ‘The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation’ (‘The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)’). As we all know, the Lord Jesus incarnate was nailed to the cross as the sin offering for us mankind, took on all our sins and redeemed people at that time from the condemnation and curses of the law. From that point on, we have been qualified to come before the Lord to confess our sins and repent, enjoy His grace and gain peace, joy and comfort in our spirits. However, though we have been forgiven of our sins, our sinful nature has not been resolved. That is why we still constantly sin and offend God. It is said in the Bible, ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14), ‘Be you holy; for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). And in the Book of Revelation, there is a prophecy about what kind of people can enter the kingdom of heaven, ‘And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God’ (Revelation 14:5). From these verses, we can know that those who enter the kingdom of heaven and gain eternal life are honest people who do not have any lies in their speech, who are purified without blemish, and who fear God and shun evil. We, however, haven’t had our sinful nature cleansed and can still constantly commit sins, so it’s obvious that we haven’t attained eternal life and are not eligible to enter God’s kingdom. As the Lord Jesus only did the work of redemption and gave us the way of repentance, which merely allows us to confess our sins, repent, return to God and enjoy His grace, if we want to thoroughly cast off our satanic nature, attain purification and become people who know, obey and love God, we need to understand many more aspects of the truth.”
Seeing this fellowship in the post, I couldn’t help but begin to reflect on myself: In real life, bound by my sinful nature, I indeed live in and can’t escape from a cycle of committing sins and admitting to them. For quite some time, I’ve been jealous of my co-worker, Wang, because she gives better sermons than I do and wins the admiration of the brothers and sisters. Though I’d prayed to the Lord to confess my sins, whenever I saw the brothers and sisters cast gazes of admiration upon her, in spite of myself I would become jealous of her and sometimes even develop a hatred for her. To protect my status and face, I often tell lies to deceive others. Sometimes when I encounter unfavorable environments, I can still complain against God. … Not only I myself, but the brothers and sisters in my church are also living in such a state—they tell lies and engage in deception, say false words in prayers to cheat God, and some even follow the worldly trends to pursue money, losing interest in attending meetings. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And the Lord Jesus said, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Since we live in sin every day, unable to escape from the endless cycle of committing sins and confessing them, and can still rebel against and resist God, how can we be considered people who have gained purification and eternal life? It turns out that the reason why we are unable to escape the bondage of sin regardless of how we confess and repent to the Lord, is because the Lord Jesus only did the work of redemption, and what He gave us was the way of repentance, not the way of eternal life which can allow us to cast off satanic nature and attain purification. So, what on earth is the way of eternal life? How can we obtain it? I was eager to find the answers to these questions.
Then I saw another reply, “So, what is the way of eternal life? When we talk about the way of eternal life, we’re not talking about simple confession of sins and repentance; we’re talking about the way of truth that gives us everlasting life. More specifically speaking, how we thoroughly break free from sin, how we gain the truth as life and have our life dispositions changed to various degrees, how God’s words become the compass for and code of our conduct as well as our life’s reality, and how we become compatible with God, no longer resist or betray Him, and are completely gained by Him. This is the way of eternal life. So, those who attain the way of eternal life are those who have gained the truth, achieved dispositional change and escaped sin and the influence of Satan, which means they no longer sin, oppose God or betray God. They have true knowledge of God, are able to obey, worship and love God, and become someone who is compatible with God and obeys His will. Only people like this are qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Then how can we gain the way of eternal life? The Lord Jesus prophesied many times ‘I come quickly’ and told us, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come’ (John 16:12-13), ‘And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47-48). From these words we can know that when the Lord comes again, He will bestow upon us the everlasting way of truth and thoroughly purify our sinful nature through the work of judgment and chastisement by the word, so that we can throw off Satan’s influence and finally achieve dispositional change and be gained by God. Only when we act in accordance with the words expressed by God—living out some likeness of a real man, and become people who genuinely love God and obey God, can we truly gain the way of eternal life and be qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. At this point, you may ask: ‘Why didn’t the Lord Jesus express the truths for the purification and salvation of mankind in the Age of Grace?’ Well, that is because at that time, we humans had just come before God and were small in stature. As we are full of satanic corrupt dispositions, it’s not that we can cast away our corruption and gain truth and life as soon as we hear God’s words and are willing to repent. Therefore, God’s work in the Age of Grace merely allows us to come before Him to confess our sins, repent and enjoy the Lord’s grace. It is when the Lord returns in the last days that He will express all truths for cleansing and saving us, telling us how to cast off our sinful nature and what we should do to become people who obey God and love God. At that time, as long as we practice in accordance with these truths and gain them as our lives, we will be thoroughly purified and cleansed. From this, it can be seen that it’s based on the needs of us mankind that God does different work and bestows upon us different ways in different ages.”
Reading up to here, I immediately opened up the Bible to the verses mentioned in the post, where I found the Lord Jesus had in fact spoken those prophecies. I then saw the following verses in the Bible, “Sowas once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation” (Hebrews 9:28), “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). I thought: “Aren’t these verses telling us that when the Lord comes back, He will speak again and do the work of thoroughly purifying man and saving man from sin? It seems that only if we accept all of the truths God expresses in the last days, gain them as our lives and cast off our corrupt dispositions can we truly obtain the way of eternal life.”
Thinking of this, I felt illuminated in my heart and typed with excitement, “Thank the Lord! Through this fellowship, I understand that the Lord Jesus only gave us the way of repentance, but not the way of eternal life. Only by accepting the way of eternal life that the Lord will bestow upon us when He returns can our corruption be thoroughly cleansed. Now I finally understand the true meaning of the Lord Jesus’ words, ‘But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:14). Thanks be to the Lord!”