Repent and Be Baptized

Many people who are convicted of their sins and long to be restored to harmony with God are burdened because they have absolutely no idea how to do this and have no one to show them. The little book Steps to Christ, explains how to have an experience with Jesus Christ. Beginning with God’s love for man, it teaches to behold Him daily by reading about His life from birth to the cross and then to the resurrection. As we behold Him, we will see our need of a Saviour and will be brought to repentance. Without Christ we are nothing; it is impossible to surrender our sins without Him.

Preaching Christ brings conviction to those who hear. “Now when they heard this [Peter’s preaching], they were pricked (convicted) in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37, 38).

Peter gave the answer to those who had a desire to be right with God, “Repent, and be baptized.”

True repentance is a sorrow for sin and a turning away from it in the heart, which is only possible when sin is seen in its true sinfulness. Repentance is a gift from God and it is He Who places this gift within us as we daily commune with Him.

Repentance is not merely a feeling as some may believe. Some may think that repentance is crying or mourning over sin; however, often times this mourning is because of a fear of punishment. Some may come before God crying and pleading for forgiveness because they have been caught in sin and now fear the punishment, i.e., they have committed adultery and their spouse has found out and they feel bad and ask for forgiveness from their spouse and from God. But had they not been caught, would they be asking for forgiveness? Sin is a matter of the heart.

Esau is an example of this. He gave up his birthright for a morsel of food and when he realized what he had done, he cried and lamented, but it was not a true sorrow for what he had done. He was sorrowful because he had lost the blessing (Genesis 25:29–34).

We also see the example of Judas who, when he had betrayed the Son of God, confessed to Christ that he had sinned and betrayed Him (Matthew 27:3, 4). That was not a true confession and Judas was not converted. He had beheld Christ and he was convicted many times, but he did not surrender that of which he was convicted. He saw the love of God and loved Jesus, but he held on to his sin, his pride, and his love of money. When he got up to leave after eating the last supper with the other disciples, he turned his back on Christ and headed right out into the darkness. At that point it was too late for him; he had completely surrendered himself to Satan. After he had led the soldiers to arrest Jesus and Jesus made no attempt to escape, he became frightened. He then realized what he had done and sensed that he would be severely punished. His experience was not true heart sorrow; his confession was forced from a sense of guilt.

True repentance recognizes and acknowledges that it was our sins that put Christ on that cruel cross. Personally feeling responsible for causing the death of Christ will cause hearts to be changed.

King David had a relationship with Jesus but he fell because he failed to watch and pray. Unknowingly, he had slowly let go of the hand of God and found he had no strength to resist the temptation before him. This happened gradually. We do not come to Christ and are holy all of a sudden, and in the same way we do not fall all of a sudden. It is a gradual process. When David let go of the hand of God, he committed a sin, which led him to take another man’s wife. In an attempt to conceal his sin, he gave orders for her husband to be placed in the thick of battle so that he would be killed. Nathan the prophet was sent to him and on hearing a parable relating to himself, David was truly convicted of his sin and brought to repentance (II Samuel 11).

Psalm 51 gives us the expression of David’s heart, for he truly had an experience with God. Verse 1 says, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” David had experienced and knew the love of God. Verse 3 says, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” This was true repentance—an acknowledgment of sin without making excuse.

When God went into the garden looking for Adam and Eve after they sinned, he asked Adam what he had done. God wanted him to confess his sin but instead he blamed his wife. “This woman that you made for me caused me to sin” (Genesis 3:12). When God asked Eve, “What have you done” (verse 13)? She blamed the serpent. Ultimately, the blame went back to God for making the serpent; neither acknowledged their sin but instead blamed others.

Many spend their lives blaming others for their sin but true repentance acknowledges that we have sinned against none other than the spotless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

We have been playing the blame game since the Garden of Eden. We cannot make excuses for sin. We will be held accountable for the opportunities that we had to learn truth but rejected it. God gives us many opportunities to repent.

The Bible goes on to say in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” When the word create is used in Genesis, we see God creating the world through His word. He spoke and it was. He could have created the world in one day but He took six. So when we ask God to create in us a clean heart, we must realize that this creation comes through His word. As we read and behold Him in His word, the change will become manifest in us. This is a daily experience, drawing closer to God by yielding, surrendering, beholding and praying.

Over our lives we have developed habits. There are also hereditary things that need overcoming. In coming to Christ we surrender these heart sins. It is not just the way we eat or speak or who we hang out with but also includes the deep things of the heart, the bitterness, the lingering resentment, the lying and jealousy, these so-called small sins that are not always obvious. Nothing is small in the sight of God—sin is sin. We must desire God to create in us a new heart that we may be born again. We need a new mind because when we come to God, we come as we are with our old habits. The difference is that now we have power through Christ Jesus to overcome. Do not be discouraged if you slip. As we surrender our life to Jesus day by day with the plea to “create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” He will answer that heart cry.

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (verse 12). When we experience true repentance we will say, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee” (verse 13). Before we can lead others to Christ, we need this conversion experience. There are people today who are lost because they cannot find someone to lead them in the right direction. We need to be that witness. Instead of going to church to find somebody who we think is holy, or trying to find somebody to call a hypocrite, we can be that witness, beholding Jesus instead of the defects of others.

Looking upon Christ is like looking upon the sun in its meridian glory. When we look away, all that we see is the image of the sun in everything that we look upon. But if we remove our eyes from the sun long enough, the old images will be restored. While looking upon Christ, the Son of God, His image will be in our mind. Thus when we look at others, we will see the image of Jesus Christ in them.

By beholding we become changed (II Corinthians 3:18). By constantly beholding sin in others and constantly speaking error, those things will become manifest in us. Talk faith and cultivate those things that are true, honest, just, pure and lovely and continue to meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Stay constantly in touch with God by offering prayers to Him; when you are alone or when you are working, stay in communication. You may not at all times be able to get on your knees to pray, but speak to God in your mind and in that way you will not focus on the sins of the world or on your own sins. We must have this experience so that we can be a witness for Christ. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:13).

Hearts must yield to the Holy Spirit. To yield means to make a decision. The same power we use to sin is used to surrender hearts to Christ. When we are in a situation where we are tempted, it is decision time. We can yield to that temptation or yield to the voice of the Holy Spirit. When we yield to God, He then has permission to take control and to bring us into harmony with His thoughts.

The plan of salvation is to restore us back to harmony with God, the condition of Adam and Eve before their fall, covered with the glory of God. That glory is His character. When Moses asked God to show him His glory, He revealed His character. He made His goodness pass before him. God wants us to have His image restored in us. It can only be manifested and restored by cooperation with His plan of salvation. Our salvation is not dependent upon our works but secured by our humanity and Divinity working together.

When Jesus was on this earth, He was constantly in communion with the Father, fully depending upon the power He drew from Him. This must be our experience—dependence on that same power. Every day we must ask God for a fresh supply of His grace and as we yield to His Spirit, our conscience will be quickened, made alive, and will discern the depth and sacredness of His holy law. Those things that were once dark will become light—our understanding now being quickened.

As we yield to God, He draws us to Him and we begin to see sin as it is in the Light (James 4:8). We will see sin through the eyes of Christ and begin to loathe it. Beholding the love of God, we will desire to be cleansed from our sins. Our prayer will be, “Lord, what must I do to be saved?” It is a false belief that you must first repent before coming to Christ. Some know they have things in their life that must be put away and think they need to get right with God first before giving God their heart. That is not correct. We need to come to God just as we are, because we have no power in ourselves to overcome sin.

Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve had dominion over the earth but after they sinned, Satan then had dominion and power over them. They had absolutely no power to overcome sin. Christ, in His mercy, had pity upon the fallen race and knew that unless He paid for our sins, our situation would be hopeless. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and God’s law demands the life of the sinner but by Jesus taking our place, all of the power of heaven is available to us if we would simply ask.

In Matthew 11:28–30 we are given an invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Heavy laden refers to the yoke of bondage, the yoke of sin that is upon us. The invitation continues, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” This yoke of Jesus is the yoke of rest. Jesus wants to have this exchange with us. He wants us to behold Him by studying His word, His life, and His character. We simply do not have time to read things that are not going to help us spiritually. We must begin by studying the love of God, sitting like Mary at the feet of Jesus. There is a work to do, as Martha did, but we must first learn of Christ, become converted, and give Him our hearts. We must ask to be purified through the blood of Jesus. This He has promised to do. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). All He asks of us is our sin-polluted hearts.

“… and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29, last part, 30). Here is an invitation from Christ for us to give Him our burdens and He will give us His rest. Many lives are so busy with even the Lord’s work that they neglect time with Christ. Soon Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). Do you know Christ? Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

John 12:32 says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The sad thing is that Jesus was lifted up on that cross and only a few will respond. If we do not resist we will be led to the experience of true repentance and Jesus will be revealed to us as that Lamb of God Who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). It is only at the cross and only as we see what sin has done to Christ that we have a little understanding of the plan of redemption. We must respond as God draws our hearts to Him. God does the work in the heart. As we respond to that drawing our outward actions will reveal the results. As we spend a thoughtful hour and behold the life of Christ, specifically the closing scenes, a ray of light will shine into our hearts and a transformation will truly begin (see The Desire of Ages, 84). The thief on the cross was converted because he beheld the Saviour and His love. The thief had no choice but to witness how Jesus was treated in the judgment hall, being spat upon and mocked. At the first he joined in with the crowd, but as He saw the response of Jesus he marveled at His love. Christ came to this earth to reveal His Father’s character of love to the world and to give us power to overcome sin as He did (Luke 23:39–43).

Many inquire, why, if He is a God of love, is there so much sin in the world; why didn’t He just get rid of Satan; why did He even create him? Since sin came into existence God allows things to take place so that the true nature of sin is revealed. Had Satan been eliminated, the angels would then have worshiped God out of fear. Satan’s character had to be fully developed for other created beings to see the result of sin. It was only at the cross that the heavenly host of angels saw the true character of Satan and the hatred exhibited toward their loving Master. God wants us to see the difference in character. When the thief heard Christ say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), he was convicted that this truly was the Son of God. The thief asked the Lord to remember him and prepare a place for him (verse 42). By beholding the scenes on Calvary and witnessing the love of God the thief was converted. He repented and was assured of salvation.

We may have this same experience by beholding and recognizing Jesus as our personal Saviour. He died for a world that did not love Him. Do not be one of those who resist His love.

Revelation 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Christ is addressing us personally so that He can fill the void in our hearts. Ask God for the power to stay focused and as you continue to study and behold the word of God, it will become living bread and living water to your soul. Before his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul thought he kept God’s law. With an impeccable outward appearance, he went about killing and persecuting those who were following Christ. Through his blindness, the glory of God shined into his heart and he was convicted of his sin, bringing him to repentance. He was converted. God constantly draws our hearts. His Holy Spirit changes the hearts of those who respond.

Stephen stood before the leaders of the church and preached Christ. Though they were deeply convicted, they did not want to hear the word of God. Aware that he was about to die, Stephen looked up to heaven and saw the Son of man standing beside the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:55, 56). Saul, later Paul, saw the glory in Stephen’s face and could not get this out of his mind. After Stephen was dead, Saul’s conviction kept him from peaceful sleep. Enquiring of the church leaders of the validity of Stephen’s speech, he was told that Stephen was wrong in his interpretation of Scripture. A Pharisee, Saul wanted to believe the teaching of the church, but God would not allow his conviction to go. On the road as he was about to enter Damascus, he was blinded by a brilliant light. Jesus spoke to him and Saul responded, “Lord, what will you have me to do” (Acts 9:6)? For three days he was blind. Because the Scriptures were in his mind, he was able to analyze them to determine that it truly was the Son of God Who had paid him a visit. He knew that it truly was the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for Whom he had encountered, the Promised One Who came to deliver us from our sins. He was changed from that experience and given a new name. Saul became Paul. He had experienced true repentance. He blamed nobody for his sins but acknowledged that he had sinned against the spotless Son of God. Once converted, he went about preaching and many were converted. When you behold God’s glory, you will see yourself in a different way and understand that you cannot do anything without Christ and will long to have this new experience that God wants to give you.

As Daniel described his vision in Daniel 10:8, he wrote, “Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” When Daniel saw the Lord’s glory, he had no strength left in him. Daniel’s experience with God continued to deepen. This can also be our experience.

The closer we come to God the more we will see our sinfulness. Like looking in a mirror, the closer you get to it the more clearly you see the flaws in your face. As we behold Him and come closer to Him the light shows us our deformities and that we are nothing without God. There is no good in us and it is only as we behold Christ that we can have this experience.

Many excuse their sins saying, “God knows my heart,” or “We can’t keep God’s law.” Christ did not come from heaven to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could continue in sin. He came because there was no other way for us to be saved. We cannot make ourselves better. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23)? No matter how hard we try, we cannot change ourselves.

There is a difference between “being tempted” and “entering into temptation.” Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10) wanting you to believe you are a hopeless sinner. But raise your eyes to heaven and recognize that Christ came and died for sinners and became righteousness for you.

Make it personal; hold tight the hand of God. Do not procrastinate putting off things you should be doing today. A time is coming when God will no longer strive with man and all will be left to the desires of their hearts. Life is uncertain; today is the day of salvation (11 Corinthians 6:2) and it is very dangerous to put off a commitment to the Lord.

Every wrong character trait or sinful desire cherished will eventually neutralize the power of the gospel. We need to come before God asking Him to search our hearts. Psalm 139:23, 24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The word of God searches hearts. It is a light and convicts. It is not to be read as a rebuke for others but to provoke you to examine your own life. Ask God to search your heart. The Word says, “lead me in the way” (Psalm 139:24). This is a prayer asking for complete surrender and dependence upon God. Day by day go before God in the morning and commune with Him. Do not let the thoughts and cares of this world distract you from communing with Him.

We do not have much time. We need to behold Christ. Repentance is a gift which God will give to us if we come to Him in prayer and sincerely ask. It is the will of God for us to repent. Claim His will. He loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son. Let’s take the time to behold that love and to share it with our families.

Today is the day. If you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts (Hebrews 4:7). Today is the appointed day for you to make a decision.

Maria Cofer works with her husband, John, who is currently engaged in establishing training schools under the name, The Schools of the Prophets for the youth. They have established a digital media company to create and promote video media teaching the unique message of Adventism using social media such as Facebook and Youtube.