Salvation does not come through belief alone, or through one's belief system of the memory, but rather it comes through repentance, which is turning away from evil. In the New Church, the central doctrine of salvation is that Jesus saved humanity by uniting His human form with the Divine, to become a Divine God-Man. This salvation is effected when we repent of our sins, for it is the Lord who fights against evil within us when we repent. For when Jesus glorified His human form, He fought against all the hells to do this; and as He resisted and fought against the hells in His human form, so He enters our heart and mind to help us fight against falsity and evil. This is the real reason for how Jesus saved humanity, and not through vicarious atonement or "automatic sin transfer." Sins are not transferred or removed until one repents. Do not be deceived: sins are not transferred or removed until one repents.
Vicarious atonement was a doctrine that was introduced into the Catholic Church in the 11th century and the Protestants inherited it, the original doctrine was that of Christus Victor, or Jesus conquering the hells to deliver humanity. It has to be called out here: the theology of vicarious atonement is a false doctrine, which is not in agreement with repentance. It is because of this false theology that a New Church is needed. For this see A Rational Explanation for Atonement: Christus Victor, the Divine Human. The Divine Human is the central doctrine of the New Church which declares that Jesus united the Divine with the human in One Person by which humanity is saved. I thought I would cover here its corollary doctrine: that salvation is effected through repentance through the Lord, who had united His human with the Divine in His person.
THE PATH OF REPENTANCE
The path of repentance is first laid out in Swedenborg's work, The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines. It is easy to understand, but hard to do. No one likes looking in the mirror, and people tend to get comfortable with their habits. But habits lead to an endless cycle that repeats, to break the cycle of behavior, one must repent. Swedenborg summarizes the steps as follows:
"To confess sins is to know one's evils, to see them in himself, to acknowledge them, to account himself guilty, and to condemn himself on account of them. When this is done before God, it is confessing sins.
"To do the work of repentance is, after having thus confessed one's sins and made supplication from a humble heart for their remission, to desist from them and lead a new life according to the precepts of charity and faith." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 160-161)
STEP 1: ACKNOWLEDGE THE SELFISH EGO IS THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
Each person's selfish ego is the origin of evil. Paul said "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). This is only partially true. In the New Church, it is known that the love of self is the root of all evil - the love of money and the world is secondary. This truth is what distinguishes Christianity from "self help" programs, and certain religions that elevate the self to godhood. Elevation of the self was actually the sin of Adam. Christianity goes in the opposite direction: it acknowledges that each selfish ego is the origin of evil. Swedenborg was shown what the selfish ego looks like and it is not good:
"With regard to the rule of the regenerate man over lusts, it is to be known that those are in the greatest error, and are never regenerated, who believe that they can of themselves rule over evils. For man is nothing but evil, he is a mass of evils, all his will is merely evil — which is what is said in the preceding chapter (viii. 21), that "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." It has been shown me by living experience that a man and spirit, even an angel, in himself regarded, that is, as to all that is his own, is but vilest excrement; and that left to himself he breathes nothing but hatred, revenge, cruelty, and most foul adultery.The philosophy of men likes to tell everyone to say "I am wonderful, I am great." In Christianity it is the opposite: "The LORD is wonderful, the LORD is great." Thus the corollary of this is, the Lord alone is the source of all good and truth within us. For the Lord alone is the God-Man, and we are but small images or reflections of that inasmuch as we receive good and truth in our will and thoughts. This is the reason why there should be worship of the One God: without God, everyone is in the worship of their pride of their own self and in the pride of their own intelligence. The worship of God withdraws one from the love of self - worship is demanded not for the sake of God, but for our salvation.
"These things are his own, these are his will, as may also be evident to every one, if he reflects, merely from this, that man when born is the vilest creature living, among all wild animals and beasts. And when he grows up and becomes his own master, if not hindered by outward bonds, of the law, and bonds which he imposes on himself for the purpose of gaining great honor and wealth, he would rush into every crime, and not rest before he had subjugated all in the universe, and raked together the wealth of all in the universe; nor would he spare any but those who submitted to be his humble servants." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 987.1-2)
STEP 2: IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC SIN IN ONE'S LIFE
It is not enough to declare one's self a sinner and not perfect. We all know we are not perfect. The next step is to explore one self, identify a specific sin, call it out, and desist from it. This requires humility, and requires for one to go against one's self pride. This is important:
"He who only acknowledges in a general way that he is a sinner, and accounts himself guilty of all evils, and does not explore himself, that is, see his sins, makes indeed confession, but not the confession of repentance. Such an one, because he has not known his evils, lives afterward as before." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 162)I want to point out a bad habit that is the opposite of repentance: always pointing out the faults of others. Jesus said first try to point out the fault in yourself:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)As with all scripture, there is a hidden spiritual sense behind the words. One's eye represents one's understanding of the truth. One's internal sin blinds one's self to the truth, for truth is from good, and evil blocks what is good. The reason why Jesus uses a "speck" and a "log" is that wood in scripture refers to one's good or evil. Also a brother is not simply another person, but in the spiritual sense it represents someone who is in a similar good or evil to yourself. It also represents, that when one clears out one sin, further light is given to clear out others.
Identification of a particular sin is important, because what one sees as a single sin, actually contains within it a mass of evils and falsehoods that are attached together:
"...there are numberless evils interiorly in man; yea, that there are numberless evils in every lust. Every lust of which man becomes conscious, is a mass and a heap of many things. These things the man does not see, but only the one mass. When, therefore, the man by repentance removes this, the Lord, who sees the interior and inmost things of man, removes them. Unless, therefore, a man approaches the Lord, he labors in vain to render himself free from sin." (Invitation to the New Church, n. 8)
STEP 3: RESIST TEMPTATION, AND ASK THE LORD FOR DELIVERANCE
As our selfish ego is the origin of evil, it in itself has no power to resist evil. However the Lord, the one God-Man, operates within our will and thoughts to resist and remove evils. If the evil is strong, one will then go through a period of temptation and sadness, even to the point of despair and losing hope. Here, trust and hope in the Lord can help in deliverance. Resist the temptation, but acknowledge it is the Lord who does this through your own will and thoughts.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)Undergoing temptation is spiritual warfare and combat. The wars described in scripture are but historical and symbolic representations of the spiritual warfare we must all undergo. What we experience as internal temptation, is actually an experience of spiritual combat in the spiritual world between the Lord and the evil spirits of hell. We are but in the middle of the conflict:
"For temptations and afflictions in the state of vastation and oppression are nothing else but combats of the Lord with the devil respecting man, that is, respecting his soul, which shall possess it. And of that state it may be said that the God of Israel, or the Lord the Messiah, stands on one side, and Beelzebub and the serpent the devil on the other, and that the latter casts forth blasphemies against the Lord out of his mouth like a river, but that the Lord turns them aside and removes them, and thus delivers man from spiritual captivity and servitude. This combat is felt in the man as if from himself. That temptation is such a combat, and there is such a perception by man, and hence cooperation, I can testify upon oath, for, having often experienced it, I know it. That it is carried on outside the man, and is felt in him as from himself, and that man is standing in the middle and cooperates, is for the end that reward may be imputed to him when he conquers; but that man alone conquers who looks to the Lord, and trusts in him alone for help." (Coronis, n. 3)The ancient and modern parable of an angel standing on one shoulder, and the devil on the other, is actually true. But it is true in the spiritual dimension, which we experience internally:
“As regards temptations, they take place when man is in the process of regeneration; for no one can be regenerated, unless he also undergoes temptations, and they then arise from evil spirits who are about him. For man is then let into the state of evil in which he is, that is, in which is that itself which constitutes his proprium; and when he comes into this state, evil or infernal spirits encompass him, and when they perceive that he is interiorly protected by angels, the evil spirits excite the falsities which he has thought, and the evils which he has done, but the angels defend him from within. It is this combat which is perceived in man as temptation, but so obscurely that he scarce knows otherwise than that it is merely an anxiety; for man, especially if he believes nothing concerning influx, is in a state that is wholly obscure, and apperceives scarcely a thousandth part of the things about which evil spirits and angels are contending. And yet the battle is then being fought for the man and his eternal salvation, and it is fought from the man himself; for they fight from those things which are in man, and concerning them. That this is the case, has been given me to know with the utmost certainty. I have heard the combat, I have perceived the influx, I have seen the spirits and angels, and at the time and afterward have conversed with them on the subject.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5036.2)There are two kinds of tempations: the first is temptations of our understanding or mind, and this is light. The second is temptation of the will, and this is severe. Swedenborg describes this in his spiritual interpretation of the flood of Noah:
"There are two kinds of temptations, one as to things of the understanding, the other as to those of the will. When a man is tempted as to things of the understanding, evil spirits call up only his evil deeds that he has done — which are signified here by the unclean beasts — and accuse and condemn him; they do indeed also call up his good deeds — signified here by the clean beasts — but pervert them in a thousand ways. At the same time they call up what he has thought — here signified by the fowl — and such things too as are signified by "everything that creepeth upon the ground."So I want to stress here: temptation is normal in the process of repentance. It requires discipline and internal focus on the Lord. It is "uncomfortable" to point at one self for one's faults. But the person who does this is wise. Those who point out the faults of others are foolish. To fight against temptation, one must make use of the knowledges one has from the truth of scripture. The Word is a sword against falsity. Use it. But always acknowledge it is the Lord who fights for us within us, with our cooperation:
"But this temptation is light, and is perceived only by the recalling of such things to mind and a certain anxiety therefrom. But when a man is tempted as to things of the will, his thoughts and doings are not so much called up, but there are evil genii — as evil spirits of this kind may be called — who inflame him with their lusts and the filthy loves with which he is imbued, and thus fight through the man's own lusts — which they do so maliciously and secretly that it could not be believed to be from them. For in a moment they pour themselves into the life of his lusts, and almost instantly invert and change an affection for good and truth into an affection for evil and falsity, so that the man cannot know but it is done of his own self and comes forth of his own will. This temptation is most severe, and is perceived as an inward grief and tormenting fire." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 751.2-3)
"It is the Lord alone also Who fights in men who are in the combats of temptations, and Who overcomes. Man from his own power can effect nothing at all against evil or infernal spirits; for they are so connected with the hells that if one were overcome, another would rush in, and so on forever. They are like the sea which presses upon every part of a dike; if the dike should be broken through by a cleft or a crack, the sea would not stop, but would burst through and overflow, till nothing would be left standing. So would it be unless the Lord alone sustained the combats of temptations in man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1692)
STEP 4: DESIST FROM EVILS
The next step is to live a life where one desists from the sins and evils of one's former life. Don't try to do good until evil is first rooted out. Evils and falsehoods have to be removed first, before the Lord can dwell in our heart. This is represented in the history of the Jews, where they first had to drive out the Canaanites in order to possess the land of Israel. The Canaanites represent the evils within that possess and control us; driving them out is the combat of temptation; possessing the land of Israel is becoming a part of the kingdom of heaven. Do not trust ministers who use the Bible to support the apartheid policies of the State of Israel. Israel does not refer to the Jews, the Jews were just a representation of the spiritual Church. At the time the Jews were quite evil, and spiritual truths could only be given to them in external representations and rituals. The land of Israel is symbolic of the internal kingdom of heaven.
Self examination is hard, but there is an easier kind of repentance, where one keeps temptation in check:
"...an easier kind of repentance will be here presented, which is, that when one is considering evil with the mind, and is intending it, he should say to himself, "I am thinking of this intending it; but because it is sin, I will not do it." By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. It is wonderful that one can find fault with another who is intending evil, and say, "Do not do that, because it is sin," and yet it is hard for him to say so to himself; this is because the latter moves the will, but the other only the thought nearest to the hearing. Inquiry was made in the spiritual world who could practise this second kind of repentance; and they were found as rare as doves in a vast desert; and some said that they could indeed do this, but that they were not able to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. But still, all they who do good from religion avoid actual evils; and yet how very rarely do they reflect upon the interiors, which are of the will, in the belief that they are not in evils because they are in good, yes, that the good covers the evil. But, my friend, the first of charity is to shun evils; the Word teaches this, the Decalogue, Baptism, the Holy Supper, and also reason; for how can any one flee from evils and banish them without some self-inspection? and how can good become good unless it has been inwardly purified?" (True Christian Religion, n. 535)
STEP 5: LIVE A NEW LIFE
As one begins the process of repentance, one will start to live a new life. As evils and falsities are rooted out, one will begin to desire and be affected by good and truth. It is important that one's religion is not one of belief alone: belief alone is the origin of senseless religious wars. One must live a life according to good and truth. Note that the Decalogue, the 10 commandments, always begin with "Thou shalt not." This is because evils must be removed first. Inasmuch as one withdraws from the self, one turns to the Lord. Inasmuch as one does not kill or hate the neighbour, one begins to love them. Inasmuch as one turns against adultery, one begins to love marriage with one wife. Inasmuch one does not steal, one does what is right towards others. Inasmuch as one does not lie, one begins to love and testify of the truth. Inasmuch as one does not covet, greed is removed, happiness begins to dwell in the heart.
STEP X: REPEAT REPENTANCE DAILY
It is not enough to repent once, declare one self a sinner, and then assume "one is saved." There is no such thing as immediate salvation from instantaneous mercy. Repentance is continual:
"He who lives the life of charity and faith does the work of repentance daily, reflects upon the evils that are in him, acknowledges them, guards against them, and supplicates the Lord for help. For of himself a man is continually falling away, but is continually being upheld by the Lord and led to good. Such is the state of those who are in good." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 160-161)Repentance takes place in succession:
"...there are innumerable lusts inherent, rolled up as it were, in every evil, and they cannot be moved in a moment, but successively, as the man suffers himself to be reformed and regenerated." (Ture Christian Religion, n. 559)And here, we need to call out the false belief that one is merely saved by a lip confession, that it happens immediately from Divine mercy:
"They who are of the church at this day know so little about regeneration, that it is scarce anything. They do not know even this, that regeneration goes on through the whole course of the life of the one who is regenerated, and that it is continued in the other life; also that the arcana of regeneration are so innumerable that scarcely a ten thousandth part of them can be known by the angels, and that those which they do know are what constitute their intelligence and wisdom. The reason that they who are of the church at this day know so little about regeneration, is, that they talk so much about the remission of sins and about justification, and believe that sins are remitted in a moment, and some that they are wiped away like filth from the body by water, and that man is justified by faith alone or by the confidence of a single moment. The reason why the men of the church so believe, is, that they do not know what sin or evil is. If they knew this, they would know that sins can by no means be wiped away from any one, but that they are separated or rejected to the sides that they may not rise up, when man is kept in good by the Lord; also that this cannot be effected unless evil is continually cast out, and this by means which are indefinite in number, and for the most part ineffable.Here again, we see how the current modern theology of Christianity has falsified the truth of Christianity. Again this is the reason why a New Church is needed, to withdraw from the errors and falsehoods of the former churches.
"They in the other life who have brought with them the opinion that man is justified in a moment by faith, and wholly cleansed from sins, are astounded when they see that regeneration is effected by means indefinite in number and ineffable; and then they laugh at and call insane the ignorance in which they were in the world as to the instantaneous remission of sins and justification." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5398.1-2)
BEWARE OF FALSE THEOLOGY IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
The doctrine of repentance is the corollary doctrine to the Divine Human, the Divine God-Man, in the New Church. What I am saying here is what many preachers say in their sermons. But what is hidden from the public is that there is a false theology with Christian churches that subverts and destroys the gospel of Christianity. It is important to have one's focus on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and to repent of one's sins. There are innumerable falsities in the modern theology of Christian churches. Let's enumerate some of them:
THEOLOGICAL FALSEHOODS THAT DETRACT FROM JESUS CHRIST:
1. A trinity of three persons. There is one person, Jesus, who is Jehovah in human form.
2. Praying the Lord's prayer to a Father god that is a distinct person from Jesus Christ.
3. Offering prayer to Mary and the saints.
4. Teachings that emphasize a succession of a human priesthood, where the clergy have claim that which belongs to the Divine.
THEOLOGICAL FALSEHOODS THAT DETRACT FROM REPENTANCE
1. The belief in vicarious atonement, that sins are "automatically transferred" to Jesus.
2. The belief that the passion of the cross saved humanity. It was actually the union of the Divine with the human in the Lord; the passion of the cross was the last temptation.
3. The belief that one is saved instantaneously from Divine mercy.
4. The belief that mere lip confession and baptism saves. Baptism is but an external witness or testimony, it represent that one must cleanse one's sins by the truth, represented by water.
5. The definition of faith as "belief" is FALSE. It is a false theological definition. Faith is living by the truth.
6. The definition of grace as "unmerited favour" is FALSE. It merely means "favour." Grace and mercy are given to those who repent and live by the commandments. See The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace"
7. The definition of "works" in the writing of Paul as works of charity, works of one's life, is FALSE. Paul was talking about the works of the Jewish rituals. All will be judged according to their works, and how they lived their life (see Matt. 16:27). See A New Perspective on Paul and the New Church Perspective on Paul
So, the doctrine of repentance seems obvious and simple. But what is not obvious, and what is hidden from the majority of Christians, is that there is a false theology among ministers that destroys the gospel from within. This is the hidden reason for the modern decline of Christianity, where many are now identifying themselves as "spiritually independent." Ministers don't see the root cause because they cannot see their own theological falsehoods, and they are not willing to see or admit they are wrong. It is because of the falsifications within that have destroyed the churches. This is the reason for the revelations of the New Church - to withdraw from the falsehoods of old Christianity, and to join with the truths of New Christianity: acknowledging that Jesus Christ alone is God in one person, in human form, and that one must follow the 10 commandments and repent in order to inherit eternal life.
This is, the New Jerusalem foretold in the Apocalypse. For those who follow the falsehoods of the former churches, the Lord says: Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues (Rev. 18:4). The former churches will pass away, the New Church is the new heaven and earth: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Rev. 21:1), and then the Lord said, Behold, I am making all things new (Rev. 21:5).