Steps to Initial Repentance and Conversion

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MP3 Audio (9.04 MB)


Steps to Initial Repentance and Conversion

MP3 Audio (9.04 MB)

First, a person must be spiritually called or drawn by God. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).

To call someone, God causes him to hear (or read) the preaching of the "gospel" (the good news of God's plan for the salvation of mankind) while using His Holy Spirit to enlighten and convict the person with spiritual understanding (compare Romans 10:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Matthew 13:11; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14).

To become a real Christian, you must believe, repent, be baptized, experience the laying on of hands from one of God's ministers, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Once God calls a person, He expects a twofold response expressed by Jesus in Mark 1:15: "Repent, and believe in the gospel." Faith and grace are gifts of God (Ephesians 2:8). Likewise, God grants repentance, especially when a person prays for it (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). And Paul said, "The goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4).

As we read in Acts 2:38, once a person repents and believes the gospel, he must then be baptized to receive forgiveness of sins and spiritual conversion. The word baptize means immerse or submerge, and other scriptures clearly show that Peter meant total immersion in water as a sign of one's repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Master.

Why is this important? Because of what baptism represents. Being put into and underwater pictures a burial, and rising from the water pictures a resurrection.

Baptism actually pictures three deaths, burials and resurrections.

1. Baptism symbolizes our faith "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

2. Baptism symbolizes our acknowledgement of the need for our old sinful way of life to be "put to death" and be buried forever (Colossians 3:5; Colossians 2:12). And our rising from the water symbolizes our beginning to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-6). Of course our spiritual character isn't immediately transformed in those few seconds. Baptism is a sign of our lifelong dedication and commitment to that goal.

3. Baptism symbolizes one's faith in the hope of the literal resurrection to come—"that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15).

Baptism is a vital step. God holds each person guilty of every sin he has ever committed until those sins are blotted out at baptism (Acts 3:19; Acts 22:16). At the moment the repentant person is immersed in water, all his past sins are forgiven! What a joy it is to stand clean before God!

But we are not forgiven just to go back to the way we were. We must be changed. And that comes through the next step.

Acts 2:38 states that after a person genuinely repents and is baptized, he will receive God's Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit does not come during the baptism. Scripture shows that God gives His Spirit immediately afterwards during the laying on of hands by one of God's ministers as he prays for the baptized person to receive the gift of God's Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; Acts 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6).

Once you have the Holy Spirit, you have "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27). You are "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27). You abide in Christ and He abides in you (1 John 3:24). You are among the "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). You have a "new heart" and are becoming a "new man" (Ezekiel 18:31; Ephesians 4:24).

"Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His"—he doesn't belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). He is not a true Christian or "son of God" (Romans 8:14). To become a real Christian, you must believe, repent, be baptized, experience the laying on of hands from one of God's ministers, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Once a mature person has spiritual understanding and faith and has repented of his sins, he should not delay baptism. When God is offering you a gift, why not accept it? Jesus warned against rejecting God's offer: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). As Ananias said to Saul (later referred to as Paul), "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16).

After one receives the Holy Spirit, that is when real spiritual growth begins! (To learn more, read the free Bible study aid Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.)