Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is a radical shift of our life orientation. Before Jesus, we were self-focused and independent. In Christ, we become otherfocused and God-dependent. Fundamental to the whole undertaking is change. In Acts 2, Peter gives us the broad outlines of how that change takes place. Today, I will expound Peters steps of change and teach some important principles of repentance.
Peter is teaching us the three critical steps we must take to initiate a Christian walk, to become followers of Jesus Christ, not just fans. Then a fourth step is implied that literally takes the rest of our lives.
Step One: Initial Repentance
Many dictionary definitions focus on sorrow and feelings. The Greek word, metanoia, is translated into English as repentance. What does metanoia mean? It means to change ones mind. In the Bible it relates specifically to turning from sin (rebellion against God) toward God and His Rule of ones life.
Genesis 1:27, 31 Everything God made was good. Everything lived under His blessing and His approval. God gave value and acceptance to everything He created. It was good. It was holy and whole.
We were made to enjoy and feel His love and acceptance, to feel that we were good and complete. When Adam and Eve failed to trust God, disobeyed and rebelled against Him, they (and by extension all humanity) lost that love, completeness and acceptance from God. The One from whom we derived our value was now estranged from us by our own choice. After the fall they were nakedexposed as no longer complete (Ge 3:6-10).
To fill the void of incompleteness we replace God and His love with: pleasure, fame, approval, money, power, intense spiritual experiences, pain relievers, beauty, wisdom, knowledge, prestige, etc. None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they are not capable of filling the God-shaped void in the human heart.
Change your mind
Repent of our rebellion against God as the source of blessing and acceptance and goodness and fulfillment and joy. Adam decided he wanted to be independent of God. We are now all born with this basic tendency. We have to learn how to trust and depend on Him.
Making that purposeful step to repent of running my own life, my own way is the first nonnegotiable step to becoming a Christian, a follower of Christ. Without this step you are going nowhere!
Step Two: Water Baptism
Water baptism is a wedding. The public statement that I belong to this one and no other. The Jews understood baptism to be a step of repentance and purification. When a person was baptized they were turning away from their old life, becoming a new person and, when baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, receiving Him as their Messiah and Lord.
Step Three: Baptism in the Holy Spirit
On the cross Jesus has addressed the sin (rebellion) problem that separated us from God. Now we are in a position to receive Gods acceptance. He wants to fully reengage us in relationship. We are not only saved and going to heaven, we are reattached through the Spirit to our Creator. As such we now have fellowship and communication with Him. We are also now enabled to act as conduits of His supernatural power (1Co 12-14).
Step Four: A life of growth and change ongoing repentance (Eph 4:17-23)
People, ever since the fall, have been deeply damaged. By our free will we decided to cut ourselves off from the source of life and love. Our Christian life is a life of repentance from that decision. We are allowing the Holy Spirit to retrain us. We make the initial choice to repent and turn to the Lord, and then we keep repenting in every area of our lives that doesnt conform to Christs likeness.
Application: How do we repent?
Habit is overcome by habit:
We come into our Christian walk with loads of habits, some good, some neutral, some bad, some conscious, most of them unconscious.
Behavior doesnt change until thinking does!
Listen and obey:
The Holy Spirit: The Spirit will show us, if we are willing to listen, how to overcome destructive thinking patterns and habits, even the unconscious ones. He will show us all sorts of places where change needs to take place, and He will go deep down to the experiences and reasons why we do what we do.
The Bible: It can be a strange book thats hard to understand, but if I persevere and study and understand it, His book will show me all sorts of places that I am damaging myself and others. It will also show me how to think and behave. I will receive guidance in objective principle form (e.g. Proverbs will set you straight).
The church: We find, after becoming a follower of Jesus, there are other people on this same road. Many of them have been on this road for awhile and they have learned a thing or two. If I will take the time to listen to them, I can save myself a lot of trouble. I have also found that if I work alongside the wise I become wiser simply by being with them. Withness is critical to our growth.
Close relationships: Your family and friends will tell you stuff about yourself if you are willing to listen.
Conclusion and response
God can and will change us and form us into Christ-likeness, if we will cooperate with Him. But it wont just happen any old way. We must take the steps He has laid out for us, then we will reach His goal for us.
Have you made that initial step of repentance? Today is a good day to do it. Give your life to Jesus, turn the steering wheel over to Him.
Have you repented in the past, said yes to Jesus, and then turned away from Him? Today is a good day to come back to His side and recommit to listen and obey.
Where have you successfully changed your thinking? What did the process look like?
Which principles do you need to apply today as you work with God to become like Jesus?