Re-Conversion vs. Repentance and Sin in Believers

In this episode of the Holy Joys Podcast, Dr. David Fry and Johnathan Arnold discuss an article by Samuel D. James, “Why is ‘Re-Converting’ Easier than Repenting?” and discuss ways in which the church has made it difficult for sincere but struggling believers to confess sin and find help, restoration, and accountability from the church.

Topics Discussed

  • Repentance of believers 
  • Sin
  • The church and church discipline
  • Restoration
  • Restitutions
  • Re-conversion vs. Repentance
  • Struggling

Resources Mentioned

Quotes from David Fry

  • There is a shaming culture that seems to lie behind all of this.
  • As Christians, we need to realize that there is grace and gentle restoration if we sin. We don’t have the option of saying sin doesn’t matter. Sin does matter. If a believer happens to sin, there is a proper way of responding that God tells us. That is to make confession and allow others to restore you and hold you accountable.
  • Pastors, a person who does not want to lose face and reputation because of their sins know the churches they can go to and get by with that.
  • God places people in our care so that we may provide care, not condemnation.
  • God deals with us as persons in relationships. He knows our hearts.
  • This sort of thing flourishes in a culture with a theology that does not allow repentance in a believer. John Wesley wrote a sermon entitled “The Repentance of Believers.”
  • This will end in a culture of liars and a culture where severe abuse and sin against other believers will never be acknowledged. Relationships will be broken and never reconciled. Because a re-conversion expects that everyone will accept this person just as they are. 
  • You don’t get a pass on all the people you’ve hurt, whether you know Christ or not. Yes, Christ accepts you as you are, but part of your walking with Christ now is repairing relationships you have damaged and making restitution where that is proper and called for in your past. 
  • Sometimes we have made the distinction between two definitions of sin. Sometimes our whole framework is wrong, and we need to go back and read some more Wesley or the early church fathers and get a new framework. No matter how you define it, sin is always destructive to relationships and drives us to isolation. But the idea that “one strike, you’re automatically out” doesn’t fit with what Scripture says and what the Gospels give us.
  • I understand Scripture to unequivocally set out the expectation that as believers, we do not have to sin. Sin is not in any sense necessary. We may live a life of holiness. With that understood, it is just as unequivocal in Scripture that it is possible that a believer may sin.
  • A person who knows there is sin in their life must actively seek to resolve that sin, which is evidence of a heart of faith and belief.
  • We cannot will our way out of sin. The struggling Christian needs what God has provided for them in the Church. They need brothers and sisters who are godly and gentle enough to come alongside someone else and realize they need gentle correction, instruction, and support to recover and be restored from sin.
  • It is paramount for all of us who are following Christ, wherever we are, to foster relationships where people can speak into our life, point things out that may not be pleasing to Christ, or address the things that we are aware of and not let us get by with them.
  • For a person of faith, like Peter (to whom Jesus repeatedly spoke about unclean and clean things), it may take two or three admonitions, but they will walk in the light.
  • To the person who is right now struggling within the Church context and wants to serve God with all of their heart, they find themselves being drawn back to failure and plagued with the thoughts, “give it all up.” I want to say there is Hope; there is reason for you not to give up your faith.

Quotes from Johnathan Arnold

  • We as a church need to create a culture in which people are not so ashamed and fearful to acknowledge and confess their sins. They have to struggle alone and either live defeated or discouraged Christian lives or ultimately walk away or think they need to get saved again. When in reality, what they need is the Church as a means of grace to come alongside them and help them to overcome sin.
  • The genius of John Wesley, in many ways, was his recognition that holiness had to be pursued in community. 
  • If we don’t obey Jesus and pray corporately and individually, “Forgive us our sins” (as He taught us in Luke 11), and if we don’t give people an opportunity to confess and acknowledge their sins, what we will have is people who will give up and walk away, or people will hide their sins. 
  • We don’t have to fall into carelessness about sin to pray prayers of confession and create a culture of openness and transparency. 
  • Most new Christians struggle with sin, and they need to have safe ways to come forward and ask for help without fear, suspicion, and shame. Christians need to have the spiritual desire in them affirmed by us saying, “The fact that you are coming forward is a sign that you are a Christian.”
  • I don’t believe that any Christian struggling with sin should throw their hands up in despair and say this is just what the Christian life is. Neither of us are wanting to in any way minimize sin or normalize sin in the Christian life. Instead, we are trying to promote real holiness.
David Fry
Senior Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church. PhD in Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). MDiv in New Testament Theology (Wesley Biblical Seminary).