In 1914, Firm Foundation published a book of sermons E.M. Borden preached in Neosho, Missouri. At the end of the book is a section of extracts, including one entitled “Change of Heart and Remission.” In this short article, Borden writes, “One very common occurrence in this age of the world is for people to mistake a change of heart for the remission of sins” (307). Later in the article, he adds, “There is a feeling that comes with the change of heart, which is the result of making up the mind to quit the wicked habits. Too many times that is taken for salvation” (ibid.). Borden’s correct conclusion is that change of heart happens on earth, but remission of sins takes place in heaven in the mind of God.
No doubt, there are many today who come to church services and worship with us. They are exposed to teaching that effects their heart and causes them to want to live better. That change in how they view life and the world, that appreciation for Bible teaching, and the other good things they feel and experience are necessary things. However, a changed outlook, mentality, or worldview, alone, will not change one’s eternal destination. However, the right state of heart and thinking will surely lead one to do what God says to do in order to receive His forgiveness.
When does remission (or forgiveness) take place? All we can do is trust scripture for the answer to this. When people 2000 years ago first asked the question, “What shall we do?”, they were told by Peter, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). They had to repent, a change of heart leading to a change of life, and be baptized, immersed, in order for God to forgive them. Mankind tries to complicate matters, but it is truly that simple.