The Basics ~ Adoption: Step 2

Step 2: Repent and Be Changed

What is repentance?  It is more than just saying you’re sorry for the things you’ve done wrong.  It is a conscious choice to turn away from doing those things.  This step is very important.  Repentance is where change begins.  Without it, your sins will bring you down to eternal death.  (Luke 13:3, 5.)  You see, sin is a fatal disease.  The only cure is found in Jesus.  He lived on Earth as a human, among humans.  He endured the same weaknesses and challenges we all endure, and He was tempted by Satan the enemy to give in to sin.  In fact, Jesus has been tempted in all the same ways you have been tempted, without failing even once! So He knows exactly how you feel when you are tempted to sin.  The Father didn’t give Him any extra special help that is not available to you.  (Hebrews 4:15.)  Jesus remained sinless, because the sacrifice for sin had to be completely pure and spotless.  If He hadn’t been, He couldn’t have died for our sins and you and I would be doomed to eternal death from this disease.

Jesus bought us back from the enemy at the price of His life.  When we accept this gift, we must leave behind the old life of sin and be changed by His power into His likeness.  This is very important!  He can’t bring us home unless this whole process is completed, because if we could bring even one sin with us into our heavenly home, it would become just as bad as or worse than this crazy world we live in right now.

If you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins, let me give you the simple version of how this works:

You have sinned.  You realize that you have sinned and you are sorry that you did.  So you go to Jesus in prayer and confess your sins.  Maybe you don’t remember them all by name, but you know you’ve sinned and you tell Him so.  Then you apologize and ask Him to forgive you.

In heaven, there is a record in a book of all the things you’ve ever done, good and bad.  It is from this book that God will judge all people.  (Revelation 20:12.)  When you ask forgiveness of your sins, He erases them all from this book and writes your name in another book, the Book of Life.  Everyone whose name is in this Book is a candidate for heaven.  (Revelation 21:10, 27.)  
So when the Father forgives you of your sins, He doesn’t remember them anymore.  (Isaiah 43:25.)  Yes, you will still feel bad for what you’ve done, but don’t cling to the guilt.  You are forgiven, and He looks at you as if you hadnever sinned before!  And if you sin again, He is just waiting for you to repent and come back to Him, and He is more than happy to forgive you again and help you change.  But you mustn’t think you can just do whatever you want because He’ll always forgive you.  He can only take to heaven those who repent of their sins, are baptized, and are converted.

Where does baptism fit into all of this?  It is a public symbol of your commitment to God.  It shows that you accept Jesus’ sacrifice for you, and you want to follow in His footsteps, giving up your life to Him.  The act of baptism symbolizes your death to sin when you go under the water.  When you are raised up out of the water, it signifies the birth of a new you, a new creation in Christ.  The old you has died and a new you is resurrected the same way Jesus was resurrected.  (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:4-6; Colossians 2:12, 13; Galatians 3:26, 27.)  You are reborn, given a new chance to live your life differently than before.

Conversion means a changed life.  It involves turning to the worship of the one true God with your whole life and returning to loving and obeying Him.  This conversion takes place as you spend more and more time with God.

You may ask how you can spend time together with Him when you can’t see Him.  Let me explain.  Many years ago, God inspired some of His prophets, apostles, and others to write a guide book or text book of sorts to direct you through life (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16).  You guessed!  It’s called the Holy Bible, sometimes referred to as the scriptures or God’s Word.  Every word in it is God-inspired.  It has everything you need to know to pass the final test before the great Home-going.  Read and study God’s Book.  He’s put so much information in there to help you.  Read wisely and you will learn from the mistakes and experiences of some of His other children who’ve been adopted before you.  You will also learn all about Jesus, and how He lived so that you can follow in His footsteps.

God’s word speaks directly to you and your daily situations.  There are principles to direct you in every area of your life.  Your responsibility is to look for them.  They will change your life!  You will become more and more like Jesus, and more and more ready to live with Him in heaven.  But don’t just read God’s word; study it carefully every day.  As you do this, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about what my Father and Savior are like?” In this way, you’ll get to know the Father and the Son very well.

Also, talk to Him!  Continuously.  God never gets tired of hearing from you! In fact, He longsto hear from you.  There’s so much He can tell you, so much help He wants to offer!  Just ask Him for anything you need.  Anything.  True, He doesn’t give you everything you ask Him for.  Not everything you ask for is in your best interest.  Sometimes you ask for things that would do you more harm than good.  However, if it’s in your best interest, He is more than happy to supply it (1 John 5:14)!

When you talk to God, you can tell Him your deepest thoughts, desires, and secrets.  He cares about every single thing that has anything to do with you.

Another way you can learn about Him is by studying nature.  God’s creation gives you a view of His personality and character.  They show you how He feels about you.  You see, He thought of you when He created nature.  It’s not perfect as it was when He first made it, but some of its original beauty still shines through.  So when you take time to enjoy the glory of a sunrise or the tranquil beauty of a mountain stream, you can know that He made it with you in mind because He loves you.

Yet another way to learn about God is through the various experiences He permits in your life.  He knows that some of your experiences were difficult and even painful, and you wonder how He could allow them to happen to you if He loves you so much.  But all your experiences, the good and the bad, are meant to prepare you for Home.  Your experiences show you the differences in character between that of your Savior and that of the enemy, Satan.

It is important that you realize that Satan only seeks your destruction, no matter how “good” the things he offers seem to be.  God wants you to have life, and to have it abundantly (John 10:10).  Remember:  not one taint of sin can enter God’s Home, so your loyalty must lie with Him alone.

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The Basics ~ Adoption: Step 6

Step 6:  The Test of Love

My dear friend, when you reach this step, you’re nearly home!  This is the final step before the great Homecoming, but it’s not an easy one.  In all the epic love stories there is always some test of love.  In the same way, your love for Jesus must be tested.

You see, God must know that you want Him because you love Him; not just because He’s rich and you’ll live eternally in a mansion and walk on streets of gold.  Your love for Him is shown in how you keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6).  Remember I said earlier that obedience is important?  This is why.

God’s law (the commandments) is His character.  Everything it in points to the loving, just, and merciful God that He is.  His law is who He is.  That’s why keeping it is important.

Now, you might be frustrated and wondering, “How can I keep all God’s commandments?  Some are easy enough, but others are so hard for me.  Nobody’s perfect.  No one can keep the whole law.  Why did God make the test so difficult?”

Well, clearly none of us can keep all of God’s commandments on our own.  Our greatest efforts are pitiful and our willpower is weak.  But with Jesus’ help, anyone can keep all of them.  Remember, I told you that God’s law is His character?  And do you also remember that you must develop a character like His?  Well, guess what?  That’s the key!  God wants to write His law on your heart.  God’s law will be in you!  (Jeremiah 31:33.)  It will be your character, a part of who you are, seen in the way you live!

Some people will tell you that this is impossible because they’ve never seen a person who never, ever sinned anymore after coming to God.  Well, check out the book of 1 John.  God’s Word makes it clear that we should live our daily lives in the way that Jesus has revealed to be right.  This is the essence of walking in the light.  It’s all about obedience to His Word, the day-to-day, moment-by-moment choices to follow in your Savior’s footsteps.

So Jesus invites us all to be reborn, to start our lives afresh with Him, walking in His light.  As long as you are walking in that heavenly light, you can’t stumble.  But if somewhere down the road, you walk away from the light and choose to do your own thing, don’t stay in your fallen state and continue living in sin.  Repent!  Run straight back into the arms of the One who loves you and gave His life for you!  He will forgive you, clean you up again, and put you back on the lighted path.

So putting the two concepts together, when you walk in obedience to Jesus, you are developing His character.  His law is being written on your heart.  Your heart is being knit together with His heart, the natural result of love  which is displayed in obedience (John 14:15).  And this is what puts you on the enemy’s radar.

You see, the enemy has created his own counterfeit of God’s law, a false law that reflects his own selfish, cruel, and evil character.  In this test, he will try to persuade you that his counterfeit law is superior to God’s true law.  He’ll come at you with lying arguments and fake miracles, and if all else fails, he’ll resort to force.  He will even go so far as to take your very life if you won’t follow his law.

Yes, your love for Jesus will be tried in the fires of some very hard experiences.  Jesus spoke of those who love Him being arrested, beaten, persecuted, and even killed by those who have chosen to follow the enemy and his laws (Matthew 10:17-22; Matthew 24:9, 10).  Some of the persecutors you face may even be people you once cherished as close friends, or even family (Mark 13:12).  They will hate you because you love Jesus, and you will feel it keenly (Mark 13:13).  Jesus never sugar-coated this bitter reality; but He did include a beautiful promise to all who would be faithful to Him even it means dying for their faith.  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10, NKJV.  Jesus won’t leave you to face this alone.  He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20, NIV.  So be strong!  Hold on to your faith and keep trusting your Savior to keep you to the end, because the reward is totally worth it!