I was having a meeting with a young man recently who is not yet a Christian. On a previous occasion, I sent him God’s Story, which I wrote to summarize the story of the Bible and the gospel in 3 ½ pages. You can find it on my website on the Resources page. We’ve been meeting to discuss various elements of what it means to become a Christian.
So, he asked me straight out, “What is the next step? How do I become a Christian?”
“It’s actually three steps,” I said.
You have to be convinced that Jesus Christ is God, died on the cross for your sins, so that you can become a child of God.
Ask God to forgive you and repent of everything in your life that God prohibits.
Then pledge your highest allegiance to God and his kingdom agenda for the rest of your life.
Repentance “What does it mean to repent?” he asked. Apparently I had not covered that thoroughly enough. “It includes having deep regret for having rejecting Jesus and for the sinful things you’ve done. It means not just ceasing those sinful things, but doing a 180°. Repentance is a moral about face, doing just the opposite of what you used to do.”
“You use to be embarrassed to identify as a follower of Jesus, you can no longer be ashamed. You used to take advantage of women. You now must honor them and never use them. You used to drink too much, now you ought to drink in moderation. You used to live for your own enjoyment. Now your mission in life is to make life better for others. Success and money was your god. You have a new one now.”
Why is repentance so important? Because God says so!
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 3:1-2
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 4:17
“‘The time has come,’” he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” Mark 1:15
Jesus preached a gospel of repentance more than two dozen times, as did Paul, and as have all true Christians for 2,000 years. But why is repentance so important? The Bible isn’t super specific. But when people are born again, they become children of God. When we do not repent, but behave as we always have, we embarrass God. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Hallowed be your name,” it means we’re wanting God’s name to be revered. When we claim to be Christians, but act like we’re not, God’s name is shamed, not revered.
Virtuous living is the uniform of all true Christians. They tell others what team we play on and are loyal to. The Beach Boys have a great song, “Be True to Your School.” You betray your school by not being proud of it or by acting dishonorably and as the song says;
I got a letterman’s sweater With a letter in front I got for football and track I’m proud to wear it now When I cruise around The other parts of the town I got a decal in back So be true to your school Just like you would to your girl or guy Be true to your school now And let your colors fly Be true to your school.
Paul uses this same “clothing” imagery as well when describing Christian virtues.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
But just a few verses before that he says this;
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
“Put to death” (Repentance!)
I’ve been appalled by “gospel presentations” that do not talk about the need for repentance. On Pentecost, when Peter preached his first Holy Spirit inspired sermon, here’s how the people responded;
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘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 2:37-38
Repentance should never be out of vogue. It is essential for salvation.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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