True Conversion and Wholehearted Commitment - page 2

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From then on, human nature ceased to be centered on loving God and neighbor and became curved in on itself. Since that time, men and women have been born into the world alienated from God, and they find themselves spiritually dead, centered on themselves, and wanting to go their own way. Because of their darkened hearts, they willfully sin and ensnare themselves in patterns of behavior that further corrupt the already shattered image of God in their lives. Idolatries develop, leading to compulsive behaviors that become deeply ingrained and difficult to change. The world system, that is, human life organized without reference to God, expresses the values of fallen humanity and reinforces and gives them social sanction. Thus people are blinded to their plight and trapped in their sins. This tragic result of original sin has been at the root of all human misery from that day to this.

Yet all along God has been at work, reaching out to lost people with his grace. Through Abraham, he established a chosen people. And through Moses he delivered them from bondage and gave them “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Through priests and prophets he called Israel to trust him (faith) and when they strayed to turn back to him (repent), receive his forgiveness, love him wholeheartedly and obey his good commands (commitment), and enjoy his blessings. With steadfast love and faithfulness, he blessed them with his grace. Some responded in faith and loving obedience. But the majority either succumbed to the idolatrous, immoral pagan culture around them (as many nominal “Christians” are doing today) or reacted to it with a form of holiness that degenerated into moralistic self-righteousness (as others are doing).    

True Conversion
Into such a world, filled with sin, suffering, sorrow and death, came Jesus of Nazareth. He came not to make bad people good but to make dead people alive! He came to “deliver his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He was “Immanuel, God with us” (Matt. 1:23), who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). His mission was reflected in his message. John the Baptist announced it by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). After John was arrested, Jesus began to preach “the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). In him, the reign of God was breaking into the world in a new way with a fresh offer of grace, calling for a radical decision. Obedience to the command to repent and believe was the only acceptable response, for these were the essential requirements for true conversion to Christ and submission to God’s reign.

Today when we hear the words repent and believe, our tendency is to think we know what they mean. But do we really? In spite of being widely used in the American church, few people undertake a careful word study. As a result, many in the church are confused or misinformed. But help is at hand if we will examine the true biblical meaning of the words and refresh or revise our understanding as needed.

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