I could also ask the question as follows: What does it mean to get converted to follow Christ? This is the theme throughout this section of the book, but do we really know what it means? Do I have to get baptized? I think just about every person and every religious grouping has his or her own meaning for this principle. But who is right?
As I said earlier, this is the subject that is central to this book. Why? I think the main reason is that because repentance and conversion is the one subject the church is trying to avoid. The church would rather preach messages of grace and love, but not about the first principle as mentioned in Hebrews. When someone does touch on the subject, it is a watered down version, as the preacher really does not want to upset you by saying that there is something wrong with you. No, you were born perfect. The Lord made you that way. No, all you have to do is say this little prayer and all is well.
This is the message I hear day after day from so many religious groupings. No, you do not have to change at all. All you have to do is bring your children to church and have them baptized and they are part of God’s Kingdom. Someone might try and convince you that infant baptism doesn’t work, and that children have to decide for themselves to be baptised. As long as they have done this, they are all right. As long as you are baptized, that is what counts. That is why the roman church allowed infants to be baptized, as they were saved after baptism. The same applies to the dead being baptized by the same church, as you will still be saved. These are just some of the viewpoints.
The viewpoint of the reformed churches are that you must be baptised as an infant as soon as possible after birth as they need to become part of God’s Kingdom. All children have to be baptised as they belong to Satan’s kingdom at birth. The basic Pentecostal viewpoint is that only people who have repented from their sin and have been baptised, are saved. The charismatic viewpoint is based on the reformed fault in that all you have to do is accept Jesus as your saviour and you will be saved. Nobody would expect you to do anything more.
The question I initially asked, is what is repentance, or as I would prefer to call it, when does one become converted from being a lost sinner to becoming an inheritor of God’s Kingdom? Why did I ask all these questions on baptism and repentance? The reason is that the Bible declares that only people who have decided to get reborn will be saved. Not members of this or that churched are saved; no only people who have received a heart of flesh will be saved. The subject that follows this action, baptism, is the one that everyone shouts about.
But what does this conversion actually mean? The one word or phrase that I would like to replace it with is to be changed. I must allow the Lord to change me in order for me to be acceptable to Him. No, it is not about how you feel; it is about being acceptable to Him.
Originally when I started to ask the Lord about this subject and what I should use a scripture reference for this article, I though of using chapter 5 of the Gospel according to Matthew. However, when I opened my Bible the one morning, it opened up in the book of Amos. When I started reading from this book, I suddenly realised that this book is about been changed. It is about Israel not being acceptable to God anymore, and Amos is given the task of telling them that they have to change their ways in order to be acceptable to God. I will use this book as a basis for discussing what it means to be converted, changed, or to repent from one’s earlier life.
But first, who was Amos? He was a herdsman who was called by the Lord as a prophet. He was called to bring a message to Israel and Judah. Did they listen to him? No, as he was not seen as a prophet by them and was told to go away from them as they did not like what his message. Amos 7: “10 ¶ Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. 12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court. 14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: 15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. 16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.” Unfortunately for both Amaziah and Jeroboam, the words spoken by Amos were fulfilled.
What was his message? A quick summary of what Israel was accused of is as follows:
because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: 1:9
because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border:.1:13
because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime. 2:1
because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the ways which their fathers have walked: 2:4
because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;2:6
That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, 2:7
But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not. 2:12
Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. 4:1
We can see from the above that the LORD did not like the way they acted. Their actions had to change. They had to do what He wanted them to do. They had to stop oppressing the poor and needy.
Another accusation against them comes from Amos 4:10 “I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.” The LORD informs them that it was He who caused their young men to die, but still they would not change their ways. They still did not want to become acceptable to the LORD.
So the first principle we learn from Amos is that we have to change our ways in a manner to be acceptable to God. I must start by doing what is acceptable to Him. This must be the starting point. I have to do justice to all, especially the poor and needy. I must allow myself to be changed by Him.
But this was the problem with the people in the book of Hebrews. They thought that they could become acceptable to the LORD by doing everything right. But we know, and they were told, that I must repent from trying to do everything right as the LORD must be allowed to do the work. I must allow Him to have control of my life. I must be able to proclaim like Paul that it is not I that live, but it is Christ who lives in me. The LORD tells us in Ezekiel that He will change our heart of stone for a heart of flesh; I will never be able to do it myself.
How do I know that? The LORD declared through Amos the following: Amos 4 Verse 4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: 5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.” This passage shows us that Israel thought they only had to do that which was proclaimed in the law. They brought their tithes and offerings and attended the services at the temple. We do exactly the same thing. As long as I go to church every Sunday, bring my offer or tithe to church, work in a ministry, or whatever, I will be acceptable to the LORD. But the problem is right there; it is what I am doing. The LORD does not need me to accomplish anything on earth. He only requires obedience. This I can only do by asking Him to change me.
How is this achieved? By following Him to the cross. By laying down my life at the cross and declaring that He can do with me as He pleases. He will do it if you ask Him in all sincerity. He will then start a process in you of showing you everything that is not acceptable to Him.
The following passage in Amos really had a huge impact on me: Amos “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. 13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.” Are you ready to meet your God? If not, the LORD also provided the answer for us in Amos 5 verse 4: “For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:” Seek the LORD with everything that is in you, and you will live and be ready to meet your God, that is what the Bible declares.
You might argue with me that it is not necessary as you have such an anointed church assembly. Your services are so lively and the music and worship is terrific. What does Amos tell Israel when they had the same question? Amos 5:21: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. 25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?” The LORD wants us to be righteous, and to be able to judge the way He does. Israel never gave an offering to the LORD while in the wilderness. We have to do what is acceptable to Him.
How do we treat someone who tells us that our lives must change? Probably the same way Israel did. Amos 5:10: “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.” Did it surprise you? So next time someone utters a word on repentance, listen to him, as the LORD probably sent him.
Let us listen to the LORD, and ask Him to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Then we will be able to understand what Jesus meant in John 3 verse 5 and 6: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This confirms for us that we must die of our selfish nature and be born again. I have to believe that what Jesus did for us on earth is all that was required by the Father. But I must be changed. You have to decide that you need a Saviour. That can only be achieved if you know how far away you are from God. Read some of the other questions later on in this book concerning righteousness, and the one on finding out if to believe in the LORD will cost you anything. There are many other questions that also deal with this subject.
I would like to end this article with what the book of Amos ends with. This is what happens to us if we decide that we have to be changed, and allow the LORD to change us. “11 ¶ In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. 13 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. 14 And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.”