What is Christian Conversion?

Lesson 8, Part 6

7/8

Is Our Conscience Important?

When we genuinely repent of sins committed after baptism, God forgives us just as He does at the time of baptism. The key lies in our repentant attitude of our heart.

Should we strive to maintain a clear conscience after we are baptized?

“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

“Therefore you must be subject [to governing authorities], not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5).

“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19).

Will God forgive us if we sin after baptism?

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, NRSV; compare 1 John 1:7-9).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

We should diligently strive not to sin, especially after we are baptized. But we are not yet perfect beings. As Paul said: “I know that I have not yet reached that goal” (Philippians 3:13, New Century Version). Therefore, when we genuinely repent of sins committed after baptism, God forgives us just as He does at the time of baptism.

The key lies in our repentant attitude of heart. After having rebuked the members of the Corinthian church for certain ungodly attitudes (1 Corinthians 3:1-4), Paul commended them for repenting. “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).

How great are God’s mercy and forgiveness?

“ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ ” (Isaiah 1:18).

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalms 86:5).

King David prayed: “Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O LORD” (Psalms 25:7). In other psalms he praised God for the kindness and mercy shown him. From David’s words we, too, can learn to appreciate God’s abundant love, mercy and forgiveness.

David writes: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, … who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalms 103:2-4).

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy … He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:8-12).

David continues: “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust … But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him … [and] keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (Psalms 103:13-18).

So great is God’s mercy we also should be able to say, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 118:1-2).

A Stirring Example of Faith

We find an inspiring example of God helping His faithful servants in a time of crisis in the book of Daniel.

Three Jewish captives were ordered by the king of Babylon to bow before an idolatrous image or be killed. Their situation could not have been worse. Yet their commitment to God was unwavering. They believed His promise to help them. They trusted Him.

Notice their response to the king: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’ ” (Daniel 3:16-18).

The king carried out his threat and had them thrown into the fire. But God miraculously spared their lives. Then, in amazement, the king summoned them to walk out of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:26). “And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!’” (Daniel 3:27-28).

This and other biblical examples of God’s love and faithfulness are preserved in the Scriptures to give us the courage and faith to believe He can help us with difficult circumstances that may arise in our lives. These young men did not know whether God would intervene to spare them or not.

Nevertheless, they were determined to remain faithful to Him regardless of the consequences. Their outstanding example of faithful obedience remains an inspiration for us today.

If we always put God first He has promised never to abandon us. Regardless of whether He chooses to intervene for us when we want Him to, “… He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Faith, Choice and Commitment

God wants us to put obedience to Him and seeking His righteousness and His Kingdom ahead of everything else in this life.

What should be our top priority once we repent and are baptized?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:33).

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

God wants us to put obedience to Him and seeking His righteousness and His Kingdom ahead of everything else in this life. Our commitment to serve Him wholeheartedly, however, may present us with difficult choices. Paul explains: “… All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Therefore we need to evaluate, ahead of time, how strong our commitment to God is so we will be prepared to make the choices He wants us to make.

Does God promise to help those who trust Him when they face difficult choices?

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NRSV).

God tells us that “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORDdelivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34:19). For an excellent example of God delivering His faithful servants from a crisis, be sure to read “A Stirring Example of Faith,” page 13.

How does God respond to those who refuse to trust Him?

“Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies … But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:29-33).

Our commitment to God is necessary (Mark 8:34-38). He tells us, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2, NASB). His response to us depends in large part on whether we trust Him, whether our faith in Him is solid.

How Important Are Our Choices?

Will you make the choice to put God first in your life and follow His example?

In His parable about the sower and the seed, Jesus illustrates that people make different choices when they hear God’s Word explained to them. In this parable each participant hears the Word of God. But each responds differently to what he hears. You can read the parable in the 13th chapter of Matthew. Jesus recites the parable, then tells what it means.

First He explains the response of one whom God has not yet called. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it , then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside” (Matthew 13:19). He never gets the picture.

Next Jesus explains three different responses from those who understand His message—those whom God has called. God has opened their minds. All three grasp the meaning of Jesus’ message. But each one responds differently—and for different reasons.

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21). His first response is one of joyful acceptance. But his enthusiasm is quickly quenched. Why? He reacts to pressure from others. He cares more about pleasing people than pleasing God. He is afraid to rock the boat. Conforming to the customs and expectations of his family, friends and society is more important to him than serving God. He wilts under pressure and eventually rejects God’s calling.

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). This person is somewhat different. He is not as concerned about the opinions of his peers. But he does have a problem: He, too, refuses to put God first in his life. He is distracted by other things. Satisfying his personal needs and maintaining his status consume his interest, time and energy. He is too busy serving himself. He has no time left for God, so, through simple neglect, he also rejects God’s calling.

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). This person not only understands God’s Word but takes it seriously. He puts it into practice. He changes his life! Of all the examples in this parable, only this person is chosen for salvation. He puts God first in his life. He makes a commitment to God and keeps it. Will we follow His example?

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