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The right responseto the Gospel

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, guest column | March 26, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

-- Acts 2:41-42

Every time the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, every hearer (or reader) responds. Some respond with faith, most with unbelief. Some respond with acceptance, most with arrogance. Some experience a great change and a new willingness to worship and obey God, most remain unmoved, self-willed, and centered on their own pleasures.

A proper profession of faith is the only right response to the gospel. But how does one make, or better yet, live out a saving faith in Christ? A confirmation class is not enough. An altar call causes more confusion than clarity. The only things that can prove your faith in Jesus Christ is sincere and saving are repentance and commitment.

The Apostle Peter, like Jesus and John the Baptist before him, preached repentance. He did not say believe, for faith is the implicit response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter told them about Jesus and promised whoever believed, whoever called upon the name of the Lord, would be saved (ref. John 3:16). But saved people must show it, and when they asked Peter what to do to show their faith was real, Peter preached "repent."

Repentance is a change of mind that changes the heart and changes the will. It starts with the mind, which is why gospel presentations and worship services must take the word of God and aim at the intellectual mind, not the emotional heart. When the mind is changed, when Jesus is no longer irrelevant, nor merely human, nor misunderstood, but Lord and Christ, the changed mind changes the heart. The emotions may range, but there is always mortification for sin and a magnification of love for Jesus Christ. Then the human will is changed and desires to please God and display a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

An uncommitted Christian is an oxymoron. Yet it is the uncommitted, nominal, so-called backsliders that comprise the largest percentage of professing Christians today. The uncommitted are the people who responded to the gospel in the wrong way. They were told to walk an aisle and pray a prayer, to simply ask Jesus into their hearts, or to just be good, none of which are in the Bible.

Committed Christians begin with baptism. The doctrine of "grace alone" prohibits me from believing one has to be baptized to be saved, but those saved by grace have to then be baptized. Some traditions let believing parents take care of this for their yet-to-believe children, and there is some covenantal merit and historical evidence in their favor. But what is clearly happening in the first church is a credo-baptistic experience, cognitive people professing their saving faith by being baptized according to God's commandment. Baptism is a work, a beautiful work, that pictures of the grace of the gospel, promises a new life lived for Christ, and pledges to join Christ's church.

Committed Christians, baptized believers, flow from the river of baptism into the ocean of responsible church membership. They gather for worship, study God's word, share the Lord's Supper, and love one another. Committed Christians, baptized believers, responsible church members, lovers of God and people, also led other people to Christ.

In this short essay, I have not left much room for mystery, for God does work His saving grace in mysterious and providential ways that are unique to every child of God. I have not discussed genuine backsliding, the loss of one's first love, that can happen for a season in the life of a genuine Christian. I have not warned against legalism, the means by which a person can outwardly do all of these things while remaining rotten, prideful, sinful, unregenerate in mind, heart, and will. But please take this simple sermon and see it is taken from the plain truth of Scripture. Peter preached a model sermon and this is the model response: repentance and commitment.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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