I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. – Galatians 2:21
In a revelatory experience, Bob was shown how our enemy has deceived many Christians in such a way that they are essentially functioning as if they were members of a chain-gang. He saw in a vision how Christians were bound together with chains laboring under a heavy burden they were not equipped to bear. It looked identical to the images we have seen of early 19th and 20th century prison labor gangs working along roads and fields.
A chain gain is defined as a group of prisoners chained together for the purpose of conducting outdoor labor. Our adversary has effectively created this scenario by convincing Christians to do “penance” instead of repentance. Many are deceived into doing things for God in order to remove the guilty conscience of sin, instead of faithfully receiving forgiveness of sin through repentance.
Penance is defined as punishment or tokens remitted in exchange for the forgiveness of sins. It is a form of disciplinary action in order to gain the removal or absolution of an individual’s wrongdoing. Penance is actually a form of self abasement in order to atone for unrighteous acts. Paul said,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Salvation is the gift of God and the forgiveness of wrong actions after we have become believers is derived the same way. We cannot continue with works, what began by grace.
Bob watched as the enemy continued to escalate the demands of penance in order for people to feel a sense of relief from the conviction of their sins. Eventually, this burden was so great that it became impossible for their conscience to be free from the weight of sin. The chains of condemnation and shame resulted; these snares then produced a fruitless life.
True repentance is more than Godly sorrow; it is also a change of mind. In its truest form, spirit granted repentance will:
1. Produce genuine sorrow for unrighteousness.
2. Produce a disdain and forsaking of the acts unrighteousness.
3. Produce a surrendered heart to God’s will, resulting in fruitful works
In reality, it is simple faith in the completed work of the cross that cleanses us from the violations of sin. If we do not accept that plain truth, then we are not coming to Him on the basis of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. No matter how our natural mind attempts to override this literal reality, we must come to the realization that faith in the cross sets us free from the “chain gang” of deception.
Free From Chains of Failure
The Lord is seeking repentance so that the chains of failure can be dismantled. It is unbelief when we continue to feel guilty for something the Lord has completely forgiven and erased.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – I John 1:9
Penance is another expression for the works of the flesh. Clearly, there is a place in God that we do works to validate our faith in Him. Nevertheless, our works can never pay the price for the remission of sin.
In Bob’s encounter, he was given 1 John 1 as a reference to highlight God’s love for us and the purifying of our unrighteous acts. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. That is His word!
Without this revelation we become like slaves living in continual penance without ever coming to the knowledge of the truth. Penance is not pleasing to the Lord, but repentance is.
Great faith is required for the maturity needed to accomplish our latter-day mandate. This is the first step in the process — simply believe God’s Word and move on to fruitfulness.
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God -Hebrews 6:1