In the picture to the left a young man is preparing to be baptized.
In Christian churches all over the world this symbolic re-enactment of Christ burial and resurrection is performed as a rite of passage into the Christian fellowship. Yet I wonder, are we as the body of Christ assuring that the initiates who accept this act truly understand what it is that they are committing to. And, furthermore, do our churches have discipleship programs that will guide these young in Christ to mature Christian living?
I question this because in my own experience, I would have to say a resounding "No" to both questions.
I accepted Christ on the last night of church camp, during a moving and powerful rally. I didn't know what overcame me as I began to cry, not just a few tears but torrents of tears, when the call was made my legs moved as if they were not my own and before I could object I was standing before the other campers with several others, wiping tears away. After that all is a blur but, before I knew it I was in the pool getting dunked as I was told I would be made a new creature through the death, burial and resurrection with Christ.
Then I arrived at home.
My parents had had a bad experience with the church and when they found out I had been baptised they had a fit. No one had prepared me for this kind of experience. The fire that had been light that night soon became a barely warm coal. Sunday school alone was not enough to keep that fire lit. The coal never went out and over the next few years it kept trying to reignite and did for a brief period of time until I rebelled, purposefully. The following years from 13 to 21 were filled with witchcraft, drugs, alcohol, and sin of all kinds.
At 21 years old I was broken. I was a hopeless drunk, living in the backyard of my mothers house in a tent. My then wife of 4 years with my two children had disappeared with another man. I was bankrupt in every sense, yet even in this condition I refused to come home to the Lord. I think I may have prayed while I was in jail that year for drunk in public and other charges and in hindsight I now see how God began changing me at that time.
Christmas Day 1979, Christ gave me a gift, a gift of grace. That was the day He began slowly reeling me back into His Kingdom, that was the day I had my last drink. I credit the prayers of my Grandmothers for that gift as they had been praying for me and even though I did accept the gift of sobriety it would take another 25 years before I would fully recognize who gave me that gift and begin the slow process of growing and maturing in the Lord.
This blog is already getting longer than I had planned so I will split it into two or three parts, for this part I want to focus on the word repent.
The Greek word that was translated as repent in the above passage is:
think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent.
Our English definition from the 1828 Webster Dictionary is:
REPENT', v.i. [L. re and paeniteo, from paena, pain. Gr. See Paint.]
1. To feel pain, sorrow or regret for something done or spoken; as, to repent that we have lost much time in idleness or sensual pleasure; to repent that we have injured or wounded the feelings of a friend. A person repents only of what he himself has done or said.
It is clear in the speech that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost that what Peter had been asking the crowd to do was to repent from their disbelief. Peter convicted the crowd by first reminding the Jews that God had made a promise to King David that one of David's descendants would sit on David's throne forever, He then demonstrated through the Old Testament scriptures that they had rejected and allowed their King to be killed, that they themselves bore that guilt. That message, "pricked their heart" (v 37) which is a term that comes from a Greek word that means, "to pierce thoroughly". That message filled them with such sorrow that they asked the disciples "what should we do?" About 3000 of them repented, they admitted their wrong, then they were baptised.
In English the word repent is a verb and as we all know from our school days a verb is an action word.
Our first action is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised one of God. That is then to be followed with baptism for the remission of sins, another action.
But this is only the beginning of what should become a lifetime exercise. An exercise that will be in concert with the Holy Ghost.
What do I mean? Well, tune in next week and I shall attempt to explain.