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God is absolutely sovereign; He can do whatever He wants, and there is no one who can obstruct Him. When God created man in His image, He created him with a limited free will. Man is free to do what he wills, within the boundaries laid out by God. This free will is limited practically in many ways because of manís own physical and mental limitations and also those of his circumstances, with the result that man cannot do whatever he likes to do. However, within those limitations man still has a lot of freedom, and he can choose to do the things that are pleasing to God or himself. The first man and woman made the wrong choice, to please themselves and disobey God. Afterwards, all of us who are born from them have continued to please ourselves even when it meant disobeying God.
God has made salvation available to all people, while at the same time requiring those who want it to make a deliberate choice for it. Godís Holy Spirit is working with people just as He brooded over the chaotic emptiness that existed in the world when God started His creation (Gen.1:2). He works through manís conscience, which is a gift from God that all men are born with, and He also works through the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation. God does not choose some people for salvation while rejecting some others, and neither does He force anyone to be saved. But when a man is convicted in his heart by the Holy Spirit about his sinfulness, he can respond to God with repentance.
Repentance includes recognition and acknowledgement of oneís sins, sorrowing over it, and turning away from a sinful life to God (2Cor.7:10,11). If any of these elements is missing, something will be lacking in the experience of salvation. It is not that the man who repents stops sinning, but he gets a strong desire to stop sinning and makes a firm determination in his heart not to sin anymore. He may fall into sin again, but that would be against his own desire to stop sinning. When he Ďfallsí into sin, he goes to God and receives forgiveness from Him, renews his determination not to sin again, and asks God for help.
When he truly repents, there will some fruit that people can immediately see in his life. He feels sorry for his sin, apologises to people for sinning against them, makes restitution wherever he has caused loss to the others because of his sins, and makes every attempt not to sin again. Due to incomplete preaching of the Gospel, many who think they have become Christians have not really repented from their sins, and so their conversion experience is incomplete.
This repentance will be an ongoing process in our life because we have to deal with sin all through our life. From Godís side, our Ďold maní (our old sinful nature) has been crucified with Christ (Rom.6:6). But our old sinful nature is put away in practice only as much as we deny it and puts it to death through the power of the Holy Spirit daily in our life (Eph.4:22,23). As a spiritual baby who is growing slowly to maturity, when we start out we do not even recognise all the sinful tendencies that are in us. Many times we discover our sin only after we have fallen, and our repentance continues.
One of the ways we seek to gain strength for overcoming sin is by reading the Bible and seeking to understand God and His ways better. We also learn to spend more time in prayer as a means to cry out to God for help. Another thing that we do is to seek the fellowship of other believers for comfort, encouragement and guidance in the new way of life we have entered into.
When a man comes to experience salvation in this way, one of the immediate results in his life is an increasing assurance from God that his sins have been forgiven and that now he is a child of God. He begins to grow from one level of faith to the next, increasingly enjoying the promises of God as they work in his life and the fellowship with God as His Father.
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