Repentance, Conversion, and Faith

by Eberhard Arnold

Note: Spoken September 22, 1935.

Introduction

Everything to do with repentance, conversion, and faith takes place before God and is directed toward Him; for He must become all in all to us, He alone must rule. These three things are part of an indivisible process; they belong together and cannot be separated. This means that the keeping of a certain chronological order cannot do justice to this whole process, because it is a living, comprehensive one; nor can the isolating of individual events from one another. It is a matter of everything at once. For it has to do with God. The following individual aspects are only reminders to help us understand and clarify the seriousness of this whole experience. It should bring man face to face with God. God's thought includes the whole of life. God wants a complete transformation of the fatal "living in death" to a truly vital life in the living God and His life-giving Spirit. What matters is that from now on man no longer wants men to be important and to rule, but only God, God and nothing but God, and never again himself.

Repentance

1. Repentance means insight into what man is called to, namely to represent that God's living and working in human life means the lordship of God's Spirit over man's spirit, soul, and body. It means the transformation of the inner life and all matter according to the will of this Spirit; it means that the love of the Spirit should direct and control everything.

2. Repentance means insight into how far and how deeply man's life up to the present has belied this call, especially in those deeds which--albeit on an elevated level--man has opposed the love of God's Spirit. Repentance means insight into how far and how deeply he has fallen prey to the unrighteousness of the Mammon spirit, the duplicity of the lying spirit, the unfaithfulness through lust for variety in the sensual sphere, whether purely sexual or more refined. In all this man has fallen prey to a soul-killing and ultimately murderous spirit, to the covetous will that desires enjoyment or power, though possibly in a very subtle form. In so doing, man has shown in his life an image of the Devil and his demons instead of an image of God.

3. Repentance means that a man feels disgust and surfeit with his whole sinfulness and with each of his separate sins, making them utterly obnoxious to him. It is the pain of being absolutely repelled by these things; the remorseful feeling that he would give his life if only by doing so he could undo them; the pervasive sense of horror, of wanting to die rather than go along with any of these things again even to the slightest degree. It is remorse, a complete emotional break with the wrong life that was trying to put demon-ridden man in the place of God.

4. Repentance means a complete change of the emotional life in its attitude toward God. Now the whole heart is turned toward God, so that from now on no other interests count except the interests of God's heart. Then the human heart will beat together with God's heart. Then this deep inner feeling will revolutionize the whole of life and make it utterly different, quite new--a life for God and for the reign of His love.

5. Repentance means a complete change of feeling toward men, so that the man with a penitent heart never again wants to have power over his fellowmen; instead he longs to serve them in the true love of the Spirit and can never again claim any privilege for himself. Then his heart will be ready, before God and in God's strength, to see to it that his fellowmen who have been wronged or harmed physically, emotionally, or spiritually through his guilt are led to true life, a life in which no one but God counts or rules.

6. Repentance means the reversal of a person's emotional life in his relationship to himself. Anyone with a truly repentant heart can no longer think highly of himself. He is humbly grateful for the gifts he has received and recognizes his limits in clear-eyed humility. For anyone with a humble heart knows how limited he is in relation to God and will never again succumb to the delusion that he can ever make amends for his guilt through his own efforts or undo the sin and injustice and injury that have been done. Feeling the extent and weight of his sin in his heart, he throws himself upon God and God alone in his longing to make amends.

This same reversal of all a person's thoughts in repentance makes him feel one with the guilt and need of all men, all over the world. His attitude to the unrighteousness of the world will be like Christ's attitude.

Conversion

l. Conversion means the heartfelt determination to turn away for good from everything that through repentance has been recognized as detestable, that has been very deeply regretted. It means wanting to make a final break with everything that up till now had given way to the powers of Mammon, lying, impurity, and murder. The will turns away from all sin.

2. Conversion means deliberately rejecting all covetousness, all self- -love, all egotism and striving for power, no matter in what noble or spiritual form it appears. It means rejecting all self-idolatry, all pride in one's own efforts, all glorification of self. This turning point of the will is decisive. Man turns away from idolizing man.

3. Conversion means deliberately rejecting all the ways of a world that makes man the center of every event and action and still leaves him fettered in injustice, murder, lying, impurity, insincerity, and inertia. In particular it means rejecting a piety or Church life that has not truly left behind all these things. It means turning with one's whole will away from the spirit of this world, from the Zeitgeist.

4. Conversion means deliberately rejecting all subordinate spirits, all demigods and demon princes, rejecting any form of magic, sorcery, or power of suggestion. It means the determination to reject all idolatry of created things, all worship of a multiplicity of gods or spiritual beings--a deliberate turning away from the error of paganism.

5. Man turns with his whole will to God--God alone, the one and only God, who is the Creator of all things and the Father of all who have a childlike spirit, God who is the Ruler of His eternal Kingdom, the approaching reign of His peace, justice, and love.

6. He turns with his whole will to Christ, the historical Jesus of the four Gospels, the Christ, who through His Holy Spirit fully reveals God's heart, God's nature, God's character and will. Conversion to God is conversion to Christ, God's Regent in the rule of His Kingdom.

7. He turns with his whole will to the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of Jesus. The converted heart expects everything from this Spirit, who has nothing to do with the self-willed spirit of man. The man with an undivided heart listens concentratedly for this Spirit because he wants, from now on, to be directed, led, and ruled by this Spirit alone, and no other.

Faith

1. Conversion means turning toward God, toward Christ, and toward the Holy Spirit. What is faith? Faith in God is given in experiencing the truth. To the willing heart that is sincerely and earnestly repenting, God reveals Himself as the sole God and Creator of all things, the loving Father, who bestows the heritage of sonship and of the childlike spirit. In the conversion of a repentant and believing man, God reveals Himself as the One who wants to show Himself to all men just as He now does to this one man.

2. A man's faith in Christ is founded on his experience of turning away in true repentance from everything that opposes Christ. His faith in Christ is the experience of a man who has turned to the unadulterated image of Jesus with a sincere and loving heart. And faith grants him the gift of experiencing the pure image of Jesus Christ, all His words and deeds, all His power, and the whole purpose of His life.

3. Faith in the Holy Spirit is what a person experiences who has renounced all other spirits. For the Holy Spirit encamps over the entire chaos of tortured and disunited mankind, ready to impart Himself as faith to anyone who has renounced all other spirits. Faith in the Holy Spirit is identical with the imparting of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the fire and gift of the Holy Spirit. Faith in the Holy Spirit shows us clearly that faith is not a human function or characteristic, but something given by God.

4. In our time and our world, faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is faith in the invisible. If all this were visible now, it would be seeing. But it is faith. Faith is a power from God realizing in our present life, through us the believers, the invisible world as far as we are able to grasp it in faith. Faith is the realization of the unseen and is therefore our firm basis, the foundation given us for our life. It is invisible, and yet it is the sole basis for our life as believers; without it we could not carry on. So we see that faith understands the nature and working of the invisible world. Faith means experiencing the character of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. It is convincing proof of the working of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Faith is the power of love. There is no faith apart from the one faith that is active in love because it believes in Christ. Faith is love. There is no faith known to us that does not reveal God as love.

5. Faith, then, because it materializes the invisible and puts love into action, is deed. There is no such thing as a passive faith, although faith is something that is received. There is no such thing as an inactive faith, although faith is not a human activity. Faith is deed because it begins and continues life from God in the life of believers. Faith is God's action, Christ's work; it is the Holy Spirit's constructive work in believers' lives.

6. Faith overcomes the boundaries of matter, time, space. Faith gives shape here and now to the ultimate reality that is beyond these boundaries. This is why faith is in complete agreement with all such long-past historical events as in the life of Jesus or in the times of the prophets, apostles, or Hutterians. Golgotha represents the point on earth in human history where faith is one with the whole of God's history.

7. This means that faith is in unity with God's future as well. Faith expects and is certain of the future, that is, what God is and will do, what Christ is and will do, what the Spirit is and will do. Yes, for those who believe, this future of the Spirit is present now. Wherever such faith is found, God's Kingdom, God's final reality, has come very close, so close that it can be seen in present events--demons are driven out by the Holy Spirit, and all other forces are crushed and defeated by the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and His Spirit. That is faith.

Conclusion

To summarize what has been said about repentance, conversion, and faith: it is important to keep in our hearts the central question whether every part of our life is one with Christ crucified, with Christ risen, with Christ at His return; the question whether our present lives show the reality of Jesus' words and Jesus' life, of the historical Jesus as well as of Christ in the future and His Kingdom that will come--the eschatological Christ. We conclude that there is but one faith--the true Christian faith. There is but one repentance--the repentance that leads to faith in the message of Jesus Christ. There is but one conversion--the conversion to Christ and therefore to God's Kingdom and to the receiving of His Holy Spirit.