Last night I went to pick  Zach, my three-year-old, up from his class at church. When I dropped him off, the sign-in sheet asked, “Any special instructions?” I hesitated, then left it blank. I suppose that this was a mistake. When I went to get him, I lifted him up and sat him on my hip only to quickly find out that he, at some point in the night, had failed to utilize his potty training abilities. The smell was terrible and I was embarrassed.

All of my kids have gone through this stage. Right when we think the training is over, they revert back a couple of months later. When it happened with Katelynn, the doctor told us that we have to just let her do it. He told us that she will be both annoyed and embarrassed by the feeling and smell. This will be enough to make her stop. Sure enough, that is what happened. Same thing with Kylee. Same thing with Will. They would have an accident and come in crying due to the uncomfortable feeling and smell. They recognized it and wanted it to change, even though they were not sure how to take care of the problem. But I don’t know what is going on with Zach. He just does not seem to care. It has been over a month and nothing has changed. It is like he does not recognize that there is urine all over him and the smell, somehow, does not bother him. He can go all day with wet pants and not think twice.

Where am I going with this? I’m getting there.

Pop Quiz: What does one have to do to be saved?

1. Repent (i.e. turn from/give up/cease) of sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

2. Repent (i.e. feel sorry for) of sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

3. Repent (i.e. change the way you think about) of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

4. Repent (i.e. change your mind) of their former rejection of Christ and trust him.

Most people would be willing to say that repentance is necessary for salvation so long as it is properly qualified. There is a big debate that exists around this issue. In modern day Evangelical theology, it is called the “Lordship Salvation Debate.”


Those who hold to the Lordship position are concerned with the “easy-believism” that permeates our Christian culture today. Belief with minimal commitment. Trust without repentance. The mind without the will. Christ without a cost. In essence, they’re concerned about salvation without a life changed by the Gospel. We might term this “nominal Christianity.” Everyone believes that they are saved due to simple intellectual assent to the facts of the Gospel. But no one has Christ as the Lord of their lives. For advocates of Lordship Salvation, the Holy Spirit not only brings about trust, but commitment as well. This commitment will be evident in change in lifestyle and passion.


Those who hold to Free-Grace believe that while “nominal Christianity” is a problem, a compromise to the simplicity of the Gospel is not the solution. For Free-Grace advocates, the Lordship position adds human effort to the Gospel, thereby compromising the gift of grace not unlike the the Roman Catholics do. Repentance, for the Free Grace position, is a change of mind about who Christ is, our own self-sufficiency, and our attitude toward sin. However, this does not mean that we are required to make a commitment or “turn from” our sin. This would be a work which would make grace no longer grace. More than this, it would be a work an unsaved person does not have the ability to do.

While there is a spectrum of belief that bridges these two positions (and I am not necessarily suggesting that you make an either/or distinction here or attempt to put yourself in one “camp” or the other), the key difference exists in one’s view of repentance. What does it mean to repent?

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I believe that the Bible teaches that repentance is a part of faith. Among the many passages which speak directly to this we find Matt.9:13; Luke 3:3; Luke 5:32; Luke 24:47; Acts 11:18; Acts 20:21; Rom. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9.  But I also believe that repentance is difficult to define. The Greek word repentance is metanoia is taken from the Greek meta “to change” noos “mind or thinking”. As with anything, the context, both Biblical and theological, must help us determine with more accuracy the meaning of Biblical repentance.

While the Gospel of John does not use the word, I believe that we can see repentance as an assumed part of the faith about which John speaks. Repentance is the other side of the coin of belief. If one is to trust Christ, this assumes that they are changing or “turning from” something else. All would agree that biblical faith requires a turning from our previous belief about Christ. This requires a change of mind which would certainly qualify for repentance. We have changed our minds about who Christ is. Not only this, we turn from an attitude of self-reliance to Christ-reliance. We no longer believe that we are self-sufficient to stand before God. This would also involve a change of thinking or mind. Finally, we would all agree that this turning from self-reliance implies a recognition of our sinful condition. At this point, we call upon the Lord for mercy.

So far so good?

However, the issue comes when we begin to add requirements involving a change of life to repentance. Do we add to the list above a “turning from” individual sins? Most specifically, do we add to repentance the “fruits of repentance” involving a cessation from at least some sins. John the Baptist condemned the religious leaders of the day for having a sort of repentance that is false. He calls on them to bring forth the “fruit of repentance” (Matt. 3:8). It seems reasonable to assume that the “fruit of repentance” includes a changed life, a real commitment, and a cessation from that which brought about the need for repentance. Shouldn’t our calls for repentance be the same? Shouldn’t we say that our repentance involves a “turning from” our sin as well?

I think we need to be very careful here. I do believe that such a requirement is getting the cart before the horse and ends up in a place not so different from any typical works-based salvation. “Turning from” our sin can be interpreted as a work unless heavily qualified. We believe that the Gospel message has no relation to works. Paul says that God saved us “not by deeds done in righteousness, but by his mercy” (Titus 3:5). He also tells us that “If it is by grace [an undeserved gift], it is no longer of works. Otherwise, grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). Finally, he says that “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. It is not of works, least any man should boast” (Eph.2:8-9). Any addition of works adds an element of self-reliance which is the very antinomy of the Gospel message. Once we begin to define faith as involving a type of repentance that is full of commitment and an unqualified turning away from our sins, we have, in my opinion, added the idea of works to the Gospel. While this might feel as if it prevents nominal and passive Christianity, it destroys a key essence of our message.


It is important to note at this point that I am not against preaching repentance that goes beyond a “feeling sorry for” sin. Let me attempt to explain using my illustration I began above (and please forgive the crassness of this illustration, but I think it works).

Zach has new saying that he has become fond of. All of these three-year-old phrases are priceless and are among the things that cause me to want to freeze time and keep my kids just the way they are. Every time he does something wrong, he immediately says, “Sorry.” It is his new favorite word. However, it has become so overused that some of my other kids have begun to call him on his sincerity. Sometime when I was not there they responded to his “sorry” with “Sorry is not enough.” Now, every time he does something wrong he says, “Sorry. Sorry is enough, right?”

Now, back to the urine. Every time Zach has an “accident” and we find out, he says “Sorry. Sorry is enough.” Then he goes his merry way. But sorry is not enough. Zach is only sorry because he got caught. There is no true remorse. He is not wrestling with the issue. His conscience remains unaffected. He does not even recognize the smell and uncomfortable feeling. You see, as I said before, my other children had accidents months after they were trained as well. Yet their accidents eventually produced true sorrow. They hated the smell and the feeling of urine on their clothes. Their “accidents” were legitimate and eventually remedied due to their true remorse.

The smell of urine is not unlike the conviction brought about by the Holy Spirit. The ability to recognize and hate sin is not unlike the ability to recognize and hate having urine soaked in your clothes. When a person comes to Christ, they smell their own stench of sin for the first time. However, they truly don’t know what to do about it but call out for help. Repentance for sin may or may not produce immediate change or commitment. It is simply a dramatic recognition of the problem and our inability to remedy it. We come before God soaked in our urine and ask for mercy.

God immediately grants mercy in all cases because there is a true sorrow and hatred for sinfulness (repentance). Our attitude has changed with regard to sin. Our nostrils, for the first time, are just beginning to be able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to recognize our stench and we don’t know what to do about. We call on God to help us.

This does not mean that we no longer smell. It does not mean that we present before him our clean clothes. It does not mean that we turn from our sins if we mean by that we stop sinning. That is impossible. We call on God to forgive us for our stench. Implied in that call is the first seed of what will be an ever-growing desire to smell no more.

God immediately gives us the clothes of Christ to wear. Before God, we are clean. But practically speaking, we are still soaked with urine. “While we were still sinning, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). After this, some people clean up faster than others. Some of us learn to tolerate the stench once again. Some of us clean up our pants, but not our shirt. This is called “sanctification.” It is the lifelong process of smelling less and less like urine.

In the end, this is what repentance is: Recognizing you smell like urine, hating the smell, realizing you cannot do anything about it, and calling on God for mercy.

Luke 18:10-14
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

My translation:

Two urine soaked men went to church to pray. The first one said, “Lord, thank you that I don’t smell like others. Most of the time I make it to the bathroom and have no accidents. Normally, I make it through the night.” The second was scared to enter the church due to the shame of his smell. He stood outside and said, “Lord, have mercy on me. I stink.” I tell you, Christ said, the one who recognized the smell he had went home smelling bad, yet clean.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    28 replies to "Urine"

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      Wow, Michael – that was right on time! I am a single dad, and I recognize the various permutations of the potty training dilemma as my son grows older. I used to applaud him for not defending himself when he does wrong, but now, I want to see more understanding that some things are wrong even if I don’t react to it immediately.
      In like manner, I don’t want to become complacent to my own spiritual condition. I am almost 50, and got saved at 13, but that doesn’t mean that I have it all together. I know that I am still growing in knowing, and I don’t want to stop. I also know that I am getting better at defending myself regardign things that I want to do, and God sometimes really has to shake my collar to get my attention. Sometimes, in the words of Keith Green, it seems like “my eyes are dry, my faith is old. My heart is hard, my prayers are cold…”
      I don’t want to be as ignorant as I was in my 20s, but I would like to have that same innocence, that same zeal. Maranatha!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Man, I love this illustration!

      I Love it, Love it, Love it!!! I’m going to share this with my Bible Study Group.

      Thanks CMP!!

    • Skeptic Heretic

      Just wanted to share that my youngest son did this same thing.

      There’s actually a condition (not bad but recognized) where the nerves in the bladder in some children aren’t as sensitive so they’re not as aware they need to go as other children.

      Our youngest is 10 now and he occassionally has accidents still and its purely biological.

      I just hope you’re keeping that in mind. A lot of parents really overreact on this issue and embarrass their kids when they really don’t have the control other kids have.

    • Greg Shunk

      It sure gives me something to stink about…sorry I mean think about…Phew what’s that smell:(
      I am guilty.

    • Jill Reed

      I must say, when your page first came up, I thought something was wrong with my server on my mobile phone. That’s what I get for taking a quick glance at things. Much like we tend to do within our daily lives, and all to often we miss out on the substance or shall we say in this case the meat of the artical.
      Thank you for your time, and most valuable scripture brought forth in living in Christ. At one point when you mentioned the stench of our own sin. How we ourselves can smell it. You brought to mind a conversation I recently had with a dear friend and sister in Christ. As we were discussing our theology class notes. Somehow that exact issue came up. We were speaking about the presence of the Holy Spirit. When she asked, if I ever knew of anyone that sometimes gets the smell of something burning, but there is nothing at all burning. It can happen, outside, inside, shower, everywhere. So until now I never thought of it.

    • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Patton, Evangelical. Evangelical said: Urine | Parchment and Pen #Jesus #christ #god […]

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Gives new meaning to the phrase:

      “I’m pissed.


    • bethyada

      Michael, have you polled these 4 repent options before?

    • Brandon

      Thanks for this post. I’ve struggled to try and explain these issues of repentance and true remorse for sin many times, always trying to show that a mere agreeing to the facts and a half heart-ed sorry isn’t true repentance and belief. Your illustration is perfect. I will definitely use this the next time the issue comes up.

    • Spencer Barfuss

      LOL. Great illustration, Michael! Praise God for urine soaked children that help us illustrate God’s amazing grace and mercy! Ha ha!

      I must say, I think this illustration would work great with kids, too. Although, not sure if they could hold it together from laughing so much. I can see it now… “Have you ever peed in your pants, and then you were too afraid to let anyone know, or decided that you didn’t care enough to get rid of that nasty smell?…”

    • Cory Howell

      I think Martin Luther would really have appreciated this illustration! Describing the gospel in terms that we can all identify with…

    • Sam Smith

      Very interesting post. As a dad of four, I can appreciate the illustration:). As someone who has struggled with the clutches of Lordship theology (i.e., works-righteousness), I appreciate your keen insight. Thank you.

    • jim

      Thanks for this CMP

      I get a little confused over the whole concept of me making Jesus my lord. Christ is Lord over all, even Satan. But what about Saviour? I don’t think making him Saviour is a work but a faith process. Raised Baptists I confess pointing fingers at others and claiming “Not Christian” based on particular visible sins that they continued to struggle with. The doctrine of Lordship salvation in my view revolves somewhat around the issue of expecting others to have a visible outward forsaking of practiced sin(discipleship salvation). Thus the sacrifice (ex; give up movies) becomes there measurement of other Christians. The problem with this is found in Matt: 7: 21-23 where ones actions don’t always reveals the true heart. Having said all this, you would expect a progression or maturing of faith through ones actions, but I would agree with you Michael that it continues all of ones life. I feel that repentance is a change of mind but also the spirit

    • jim

      the spirit crys out against our sin. We are convicted, sadened and struggle with our sinful nature. Sometimes we have victory and sometimes not, but Christ still remains Lord and his blood still cleanses.

    • Ryan Schatz

      Great illustration.


      God immediately gives us the clothes of Christ to wear. Before God, we are clean. But practically speaking, we are still soaked with urine. “While we were still sinning, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

      Is this not mixing contexts? I thought the point of this passage was to note that while we were still unregenerate, Jesus died for us. In other words, it wasn’t on account of our goodness that He did what He did, but on account of His promise and His love. Before God, the righteousness of Christ is attributed to those who put their faith in Him, so we were not clean before God at the moment of Christ’s death. On the other hand, we should not be “still sinning” now in the sense that Rom 5:8 is speaking, right? I believe “still sinning” means serving the flesh (acting in rebellion against God). It is not just accidents or acting in ignorance (what is called “unintentional” sin in Num 15:28-31).

    • @TimDrushal

      So I’m standing here all wet and smelly!

      It takes a very special kind of love to deal with our children when they get like this.

      I am sorry Father and I know that’s not enough…

      Thanks for the message Michael.

    • Ryan Schatz

      It takes a very special kind of love to deal with our children when they get like this.

      I don’t find this that difficult. I have to clean up after them (and myself) all the time. This is just one more thing. What I find really hard is when they do what they know you don’t want them to (and have told them many times), but they do it anyways and they are not sorry. Those are the really difficult times.

    • Derek

      “We believe that the Gospel message has no relation to works.” That’s not true. The Gospel message of free grace received by faith has works all over it! Where people get heated under their panties is when they blindside themselves to think that works someone comes before grace. Fruit of repentance is clearly required to show that repentance happened at all.

      Interestingly, while you define the “Gospel message” by appealing to passages which speak of “righteousness” or “salvation” (these terms are not interchangeable) by grace or mercy and not by works – i.e. the “Gospel message” has been reduced to a two-step progam on how to get saved – Paul simply defines the Gospel message as the Story of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

      People who play “grace” and “faith” against “works” are creating a false dichatomy out of fear of sneaking “works-salvation” in through the back door. It’s a “drown the baby before we empty the bath water” scenario. So I agree with…

    • Alex Guggenheim

      I know of no one that teaches “intellectual assent” and in your attempt to describe those that reject the err of Lordship you have failed to fairly represent their teaching. Their teaching is to believe not to give “intellectual assent”. You have imposed this onto their use of the word “believe”. When one believes, they have repented of whatever it is they have held to that has kept them from believing.

      You may not agree with the latter but you must consider the former and that your representation of those that teach “believe and you will be saved” mean just that, “believe” and at no point do they use the term or concept of “intellectual assent”. Your arguments do have the responsibility to fairly represent your theological antagonists.

    • Chris B.

      It is touching to see children emulate adults: the little boy in a fireman’s outfit, complete with the oversized helmet, is often cherished.
      In martial arts movies, the young student often must repeat apparently useless things (wax on, wax off), the value of which is recognized later in the actual practice of the art.
      And so it is that we are admonished to “be as little children” in following God and trusting that what He wants from us is also the best for us.
      The solution is not independent will (works), but voluntary obedience to God and His Word. This is part of the “working out” of a secure salvation that yet needs maturity and development. God want spiritual grown-ups!

    • Diane Sellner

      Oustanding! :)I have been trying to reach a few young believers during the last week, that seem to be very excited with a specific pastor teaching “Lordship Salvation” and various youtube titles like “Are you a Christian” or “Are you really saved.” I absolutely agree to the necessity of speaking out against some of the “Easy Believerism” ideas you mention as far as the liberal sin problem in many churches, I do see and agree with you that what has happened now are so many moving to adding works or believers confused and questioning their salvation.
      You defining what repentance actually means is a key. It has been rough reaching some of the young people that are becoming so caught up in “works” righteousness taught as repentance. I have been in prayer recently in hoping we can reach them. I saw the title of your paper first on FB, didn’t click on it till reading the newsletter today. So happy you are dealing with this right now, answer to prayers, the example was excellent. AMEN!

    • […] Michael Patton, in a post I’ll admit that I’m fascinated by, if only halfway through, discusses the debate around Lordship Salvation. […]

    • george57

      be as little children,phil johnston give a great part i and part 2, on christ in johns gospel, he is the true shepard, the grace is given to wake up us dead sinners, then we move towards his voice, calling us, then if we hear it then its in to his fold, with the other sheep, enjoying his voice, and via the holy spirit, giving us his love, day by day, my heart is sore for all the catholics out there who hear many voices, and most of them are false, yet trying to get tem and other cults to cut all the others off and just trust in christ, its not helped with c colson, and b graham, and others, who insult christ, with mary, and lots of added stuff, we know, true born again, believers, sit back and cry, that god grace, is to much for words, what a savour, god bless to you all.

    • John Lollard

      Brilliant analogy. Thank you so much.

    • James S

      I am in the habit of saving audio and text that I deem as good and helpful teaching.
      When I began reading I could tell this was a piece that was going somewhere good I only got down about half way when I was sure that this one merits a saving.

      I file all my stuff by author, so I was surprised that I hadn’t had a ‘Patton, C Michael’ folder ye started, since this isn’t the first piece of material that I’ve deemed saveable by the author.
      I realized though that it was my audio folder that already had the ‘Patton, C Michael’ folder.

      This one goes in my ‘New Text’ folder, an offshoot of a larger folder simply called ‘Text’ that I began 6 years ago but pretty much stopped adding much to once audio became big and easy to find.

      But I had another folder in ‘New Text’ simply titled ‘Misc’ which I now see already did have a couple pieces from this blog by ‘Patton, C Michael’.

      So this is the piece which marks the making of a new separate ‘New Text’ folder for…

    • James S

      All this to say that this was an excellent illustration and I am glad to have happened upon it this early morning before work. Thank you for your insight, an awesome post!

      (apologize for the length).

    • DeMontagnae

      Now I understand, everything you said made sense in my current situation. I looked up on Google ” spiritual meaning of the smell of urine”. Thanks 😊!

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