Thursday, June 21, 2007

The "Altar Call" Pentecost Style - Acts 2

As I was reading the accounts of Pentecost, the process of conversion took center stage in my thoughts. What did conversion look like on that day? What happened that added 3,000 followers of Christ that day? That was quite an altar call. Here is what the conversion process looked like with the Apostle Peter officiating:

First of all, Peter presented the Gospel message (the redemptive story) and underscored the life, death, burial, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus Christ which was proclaimed by the prophets of old. At this, the people were “cut to the heart and asked what shall we do?” The people believed. They had faith in Jesus Christ. But Peter didn’t just close the service with a song of praise at that time. No, he responded with the instruction that they must “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins”. What is repentance and why did Peter feel it was necessary?

Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. Paul talks about repentance when he states that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation”. Repentance is truly letting go of who you once were and turning from your sinful ways as you turn to your new life in Christ. If you don’t turn from your old ways and leave them behind, you cannot turn to Christ. There is no turning to, if there is no turning from. True repentance weeds out those who are just “coming” to Christ so that their lives can taste better as if he were the icing on the cake. Jesus is not a side dish.

What about baptism? Why did Peter tell them that they must be baptized? I thought baptism was just an outward expression of what Christ has done in our hearts. Isn’t baptism optional? If it were optional, why would Peter tell them it had to be done? Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to just skip this step? After all, there were a lot of people there that day. And besides, it is just creating one more hoop for them to jump through. Shouldn’t he have made it easier on everyone and suggested that they just consider baptism at some time in the future? Obviously Peter felt that baptism was of the utmost importance and should be done at the time of conversion. In fact, Acts 2:41 states that the 3,000 were considered to be added to their number that day only after they believed and were baptized. Over the past 2 years I have been convicted that baptism is more significant than we tend to think in evangelical circles.

Reading on in Acts 2, I find it very interesting to see that the result of this massive conversion was people devoting themselves to the apostle’s teachings, to fellowship, to meeting together daily, and to praising God. And out of this it says that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. I submit that we should take a lesson from Peter, on whom Christ said he would build his church, as we instruct and lead people through the act of conversion and lead them into the fellowship of the saints.

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