We are going through a series, called Metanoia, where we are looking at the relationship between discipleship and repentance. Here, students will find practical ways to put into action the repentance Christ is calling them to throughout this series.
Metanoia IV: Repent and Be Baptized
- Baptism is a gift, not an accomplishment. In baptism, God offers us His covenantal promises: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) the gift of the Holy Spirit. We receive these promises in faith, and in baptism we express to God and others that we have indeed received these promises! Since God is the One who freely makes these promises to us in Christ, it’s clear that there’s nothing we did to earn them.
- Obedience in discerning, disobedience in delaying. If you’ve accepted Christ as Lord, and have put your trust in Him for salvation, then scripture says don’t delay. But if we’re still unsure about all of this, then there’s obedience in discerning one’s faith. However, if it’s clear you know God and trust Christ, then there’s very little reason for you to not get baptized. Don’t over-think, don’t chase feelings. Just entrust yourself to Christ.
- Trust in the Holy Spirit. There’s no such thing as having faith without doubt (Mark 9:24). Because we are sinners, doubt remains near by, and we continue to deceive ourselves. “Well, doesn’t that disqualify me from getting baptized?” No. When we say that baptism isn’t about you, it means that not even your sins or forms of self-deception can keep you from the love of God. The Spirit is the One who will bring you to Christ, not you. Rather than thinking too highly of yourselves by constantly obsessing over your sins, trust in the Spirit, whose power and love outweigh all of these things.
Metanoia III: Finding Forgiveness
- Identify your moments of failure and denial. Like Peter, we find ourselves in moments of trial, moments of opportunity to bear true witness about who Christ is in our lives. Yet, we resort to denying Him in all sorts of ways, for instance, by keeping silent when we should speak, or by speaking in ways that distance ourselves from Jesus. What were some moments when you were given the opportunity to speak, and you couldn’t because you were ashamed of Him? Why were you ashamed?
- Look to the One who does not ever deny you. When Jesus is on trial, there is a period where he keeps his silence. A silence he could easily keep in order to avoid his pending crucifixion death. However, when his time comes, Jesus speaks. He bears witness to the truth of who He is, and in doing so he accepts the cross to restore us from sin and shame. He speaks for you even when you don’t speak for him. And because of that, we are forgiven, indeed, no matter how many times we fail. Are you like Peter who lunges himself into the sea, swimming towards forgiveness? Or, are you like Judas, unable to believe that forgiveness is out there?
- Live in the power of Christ’s forgiveness. Later on in the New Testament, we see the transformative power of Christ’s forgiveness in Peter’s life. It’s the sort of forgiveness that leads him from once denying Christ to now boldly proclaiming the name of Christ, because he has found repentance. He speaks because he sees in Jesus a merciful savior, a savior who spoke for him even when he would not do the same. Knowing that Christ is now your heavenly advocate, how does that encourage, inspire, and empower you to speak for him? How can you boldly proclaim his name in this upcoming week?
Metanoia II: Inviting Us In
- Learn to say no, learn to say yes. Entering into a community means saying no to some things, in order to say yes to other things. The Kingdom of God is no different. We must learn how to say no to sin, in order to learn how to say yes to God, and we do this through the invitation of repentance. Are you willing to say no to sin? Which specific sins in your life do you need to say no to?
- Live in the Kingdom-Community. We enter into the Kingdom-Community by accepting God’s invitation of repentance. However, repentance is also the means by which we stay in. (It’s like the Kingdom membership card!) So, how do you know you’re in God’s kingdom? By taking the initial step of repentance. And how do you know you’re living in the Kingdom? By making repentance a daily habit as well as a lifelong practice.
- Hope to despair, and despair to hope. Repentance brings us into a greater awareness of our sin; thus, the only appropriate response to sin is despair. However, repentance should also provide us with great hope, because it is Christ’s righteousness, and not our own, that keep’s us in the Kingdom-Community. Do you hate your sin, while despairing over your own inability to stop sinning? Yet, are you encouraged by the fact that Christ holds you secure and is gradually freeing you from sin through the grace of his Spirit?
- Remember where you’ve fallen. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” This requires us to cultivate a life of deep contemplation and introspection, to see what is going on inside of our hearts, and to see where we’ve gone astray. Do you presume upon God’s grace by taking your sin lightly? Or, do you take seriously the things that are killing you from the inside out? What are you going to do about it?
- Take heed the warning. Do you actually believe what you claim to believe, that only Christ can satisfy? If so, does your life actually bear Kingdom fruit in keeping with repentance? In Hebrews 6, Christians are given a warning. It says there is always the potential for us to fall away even after having experienced God’s love and mercy. For such people, salvation and repentance have run out. Thus, if you’ve tasted God’s goodness, and are living in His kingdom, don’t stifle the Spirit’s work in you. Bear the holy fruit of good works.
Metanoia I: Turning To God
- Assess which direction your life is moving in. Is your life aimed at the world, or is your life aimed at Christ? One of the best ways we can answer this is by looking at how we manage our time, because the things we give our time to shows what’s most important to us.
- Look at what sort of person you’re becoming. Do the ten year challenge. By that, I don’t mean comparing old photos with new photos of yourself. Rather, if you were to take a picture of your heart from ten years ago, and compare it to a photo of what your heart looks like right now, what would you see? Have you grown to look more like Christ, or like the world and all of its vain pursuits?
- Evaluate your spiritual goals. Is your goal simply to be a good person and do good things? Or, is your goal to be transformed by the love of Jesus Christ? No one has to follow Jesus in order to be a good person. Anyone can do that, and there are plenty who do. But to be made new, that will cost you everything. It means losing your life for the sake of finding it.
- Consider how you respond to God when you sin. Our tendency is to rationalize sin, by tossing our hands up in the air and saying things like, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” Or, we like to justify sin by saying things like, “Well, that person deserved it, and it’s not nearly as bad as what other people are doing.” But do you actually take ownership of your sin, and with humility admit them before God? Or, do you wallow in self-pity and make yourself out to be the victim?
- Ask yourself, “What am I more impressed by?” Are you more impressed with your sin, or are you more impressed with Christ and what he has done on the cross? In other words, when you feel overwhelmed by the gravity of your sin, which you should, and when you’ve come to the end of yourself, where do you run? Do you find yourself running towards Jesus, or do you find yourself running away from him?