I want to say a few things about a sister who was struggling to understand what God was saying in his word, and the struggles she had trying to wade her way through a language she didn’t know, to find the truth. You know that is not a little mistake, brothers and sisters, to hold a language so high that it blinds people from knowing the truth. That’s not a little mistake, but a big one! That is as big a mistake as the Catholic Church made back in the 1500s when they kept people in darkness by giving them the scriptures only in Latin. It was a sin that they did that, and it is a sin to do it today, to keep the people in darkness by giving them the Bible in a language they do not understand and warning them not to read it in English. God have mercy!
I also want to say one other thing. I have been challenged from time to time by loving brethren that I am not an Anabaptist. That kinda hurt, and I have a tendency to take it somewhat personally. But you know, I have been continuously studying the Anabaptists for three months now, and I have to give this testimony—I am not an Anabaptist. I want to be, but I do not think I am. So, you pray for me that I will be able to live up to what I have been studying.
The title of my message basically boils down to the issues of the head and the heart. The days of the early Anabaptists were filled with many debates. The Reformers came to these debates with their arguments and their theologies. The Anabaptists came with an experience backed up with the scriptures. If you put the two of these together, I guarantee that you already know who won those debates! When you take a host of theological arguments and put them up against a man or woman who has an experience backed up with the scriptures, you already know who won those arguments! It was already done. There was no contest in those arguments.
However, in the stories I read, the Reformers always said they had won and the Anabaptists had lost. One thing I noticed was that many executions of Anabaptists stemmed from sheer anger and exasperation because the Reformers did not know what to do with the wisdom spoken by the Anabaptists.
In John 7, we see the difference between having something in the mind and having it in the heart. This chapter is a beautiful example of what we are considering. It is speaking about the Lord Jesus but surely it can be applied to the early Anabaptists as well as to us. “Now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying; How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”
I’m sure the Reformers many times said these very same words: “How can these men know so much about what they’re talking about when they never went to school?”
Well, they didn’t understand that there’s more than one school you can attend! There’s the school of seminary and theological education, and there’s the school of the Lord Jesus Christ (by the way, those are very different schools). “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will [or will desire to do his will], he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory [God’s glory] that sent him, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him.” That is exactly what won many of those debates before and after 1525.
Those early Anabaptists came with a heart willing to do the will of God! They came with a heart that desired to obey, with a heart that was walking in the light of the truth God had showed them. When you walk in the light of the truth that God shows you, guess what—God shows you more!
Oh, brothers and sisters, can we grasp the truth and reality of what that really means? If we walk in the truth of what God has showed us, God will show us more. God will illuminate our heart, and we will know with a deep intimacy what is right and that what we are learning comes from God. That’s the way it was in those days and in those debates.
Those early Anabaptists came with the power and the anointing of a Bible experience, and it prevailed in one debate after another, to such a point that their antagonists gnashed upon them with their teeth at times, just as they did with Stephen in the Sanhedrin.
Theology in its simplest form is this: What we believe about God and His relationship to man, and how that affects our everyday life. Some say that the Anabaptists didn’t have a theology. After my studies these three months, I would say they did have a theology, but their theology was not out front. I think sometimes they were moving so fast, so many things were happening, and there were so many trials and sufferings coming their way that they didn’t have time to figure it all out! But bless God, where they didn’t understand exactly what the theology was, they had the reality, and blessed be God—if you have the reality, you needn’t worry so much about the theology!
I personally believe the early Anabaptists did have a theology. I believe that it developed as the years went by, and it was more of a hidden or implied theology rather than something they could put out in the front all the time. When you look at the lives of the early Anabaptists, it is very obvious that they had a belief about God and his relationship to man, and how that affects a man’s everyday life. There is no question about it. They had a theology.
So what was the difference between the Reformers and the Anabaptists in this whole area of theology and reality? They both saw that they had believed wrongly. They said, “All this time we thought that we are justified based on all the things we do and now all of a sudden we realize with Martin Luther and others that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. We have believed wrongly!” There was some truth to that.
However, the Anabaptists admitted that they also had lived wrongly. They said, “We have sinned against the Holy God, and what shall we do?!” They were like those people in the book of Acts when they heard Peter’s famous sermon and said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” You know why they said that? It dawned upon their hearts by the conviction of the Spirit of God, and they said “we have lived wrong!”
So the Reformers admitted that they had believed wrong, whereas the early Anabaptists admitted also that they had lived wrong. Brothers and sisters, there is a huge difference between these two admissions! Ponder those two statements. They are foundational, and their results are very, very different.
First of all the Reformers: they had believed wrong. That needs to be acknowledged. All of a sudden, it began to dawn on Europe that the Roman church was very wrong! But the Reformers began on the foundation that they had believed wrong. They said, “What we need to do is change our belief about how man is saved. We’ll swing the pendulum from ‘man is saved by works’ way over here and say that man is saved by faith alone” (Luther added the word “alone”).
You may say, “We have believed wrong, and we acknowledge that we have believed wrong.” But you can’t start there and say, “We have believed wrong. Now let’s change how we believe. First, we believed that it’s by good works we are saved. Now we just believe in justification. That’s how we are saved.” And that’s where the Reformers stopped!
But you can’t start there. Paul didn’t start there. Read Romans 1 through 3. For three chapters, Paul so beautifully lays the foundation stones: We lived wrong, until sin became exceedingly sinful and the whole world became silent before God, in guilt and condemnation over the fact that it had lived wrong! Paul laid the foundation stones of wrong living and God’s desire for righteousness as well as man’s innate desire for righteousness. He laid the foundation stones before he ever told them that there was salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. So it comes out very differently than to say, “We have believed wrong; let’s just tell the people about justification.”
Saying “we have believed wrong” had some good effects. There was some rejoicing, I’m sure, as the people sat and gathered by the hundreds in church buildings and heard the Reformers stand up and tell them they had believed wrong. I believe there were some conversions there. They believed that man was a sinner, such a sinner that he was hopeless, and there was nothing he could ever do about it. I do believe that some of them found repentance there. It is interesting to me that in many of those Reformation churches, the sincere ones who did truly get though to God in the midst of that confusion eventually left the Reformed church and joined the Anabaptists. But the overall results did not change lives. Many of the Reformers admitted this toward the end of their lives. They realized that basically, the moral conduct of the people had not changed even though they changed what they believed.
With the Anabaptists it was different, however. To them, sin was exceedingly sinful. They cried out “we have lived wrong; what shall we do!” They went from village to village preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” There is a big difference between “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and “believe that everything is in Jesus.” They went from village to village preaching “we have sinned against the Holy God.” But they didn’t stop there. They also taught that one could be delivered from his sin if he wanted to live a new life! They said, “You can be delivered from your sin if you want a new life, through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” That was their message.
The people in the villages broke down under deep conviction and began to weep. It was amazing to read some of the beautiful testimonies of how men’s lives were changed. The Anabaptists didn’t go around and say, “Come to an altar and pray a prayer.” I’m not against that—we do it—but they didn’t do that. The conviction was so strong upon the people that had never heard anything like that. They came under such conviction that they just broke down in weeping and repentance over the condition of their lives! What a beautiful posture to hear the good news that Jesus Christ can change your life and gives you a whole new way to live.
The early Anabaptists preached repentance. The Greek word is metanoia. It means “to change one’s mind or purpose,” to make a 180-degree turn in the other direction. It is a turning away from and a turning to. There is always a negative and a positive side of repenting. Maybe you never thought about that, but I urge you to consider it. It is a turning away from, but it is also a turning to. Some would say that we need to turn away from our sin and turn to God. I agree with that. You can find Bible verses on that. Yes, repentance is a turning away from our sins, and it is a turning to God. But what does it mean to turn to God?
One of the most beautiful descriptions of repentance in the whole Bible was written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:8: “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it was but for a season.”
Paul is speaking about his first epistle to the Corinthians and the rebukes that he gave to them when he told them that “your glorying is not good,” when he reproved them for the sin in the church and corrected them for the false doctrines they believed. He wrote them an epistle, and it made them sorrowful. “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that you sorrowed unto repentance.” It was a change of mind and purpose, a turning away from this and a turning to something else. Paul said, “I’m rejoicing that you sorrowed unto repentance.”
Sometimes I think we miss that. We think repentance is feeling bad about our sins. That’s not repentance. That’s only a part of repentance. Maybe we are feeling bad over the consequences of our sins. That’s not repentance. But Paul said, “I am rejoicing that you sorrowed unto repentance, unto a change of mind and purpose.” “For ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation”—worketh repentance to the reality of salvation in my life. Godly sorrow worketh repentance, a turning away from and a turning to the reality of an everyday salvation in my life. That’s what godly sorrow does. It worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. You don’t have to turn around and do it again! How many times are you going to go to the altar? “Not to be repented of,” Paul said. But the sorrow of the world worketh death. I have written in my Bible, That’s just simply depression and discouragement.” Judas sorrowed after a worldly sorrow, then killed himself and went to hell. That’s what the sorrow of the world will do, but “godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of.” And that is what the early Anabaptist message was: repentance.
Let’s look a little deeper at this repentance in verse 11 and following: “For behold this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you.” That’s a positive. The people are not looking back now. They are looking at something in their life today, but it’s there because of the repentance they had earlier. But Paul goes on to say “Yea, what clearing of yourselves.” That’s looking back. “Look how you cleared yourselves, you turned away from all those things.” “Yea, what indignation.” That’s now! I am indignant.” “Yea, what fear.” “God, I’m not going back there anymore, I’m going this way.” “Yea, what fear”. That’s the positive side. A turning away from and a turning to, that’s what repentance is.
Repentance is a change of mind and purpose. The Corinthian believers said, “Before, we had a godly sorrow; now we have a heavenly desire. We looked at our lives and the things we had done wrong in the Corinthian church [the things Paul corrected us about], and we repented; we turned away from those things. And now we have a vehement desire to go this way.” That’s repentance, beautiful repentance!
“Yea, what zeal.” ”Look what it has done to me: I am full of the zeal of the Lord!” “In all these things you have proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” That’s metanoia. This is the kind of repentance the Anabaptists believed in, preached, practiced, and held the people to. The Anabaptists said that true repentance will produce amendment of life. That’s on the positive side. It’s not enough to say “Look what I’ve done, and look how I’ve lived. I’m sorry Lord. Please forgive me for this.” That’s not enough. The Anabaptists said true repentance will cause a 180-degree turn, and you will be able to see that true repentance by a change of life.
Remember the beautiful things that God did through twelve men in the book of Acts? Do you remember those twelve men and their prayer? After their prayer, they got up off their knees and separated themselves, broke off from all evil works, and dedicated themselves to the service of the gospel. They began to teach and hold the faith with truth and reality in their lives. Because of that, Christ had twelve men He could use.
Those twelve men didn’t waste any time. They knew what metanoia was. There was repentance going on that night up there in that room. That repentance brought such amendment of life that after they walked out of that room, they went out in the world and began to preach the gospel everywhere they went. And it was a gospel of repentance: “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “The kingdom of heaven is available for you, and the reality of a beautiful life in Jesus Christ is yours, if you will repent!”
According to the accounts that I read, people just began to break down and weep over their sins everywhere. It was a revival! It was a powerful moving of God’s spirit. It was the fullness of time. The dark ages had gotten full, and it was now time for the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine on the people. They went out preaching the gospel from village to village.
Conrad Grebel gave this testimony: “I am full of words, and the spirit of my belly constrains me; my belly is a new wine without avenge.” It is very clear that the prophetic spirit of Jesus Christ was upon those early Anabaptists. It’s very clear by the testimonies they gave of what was going on inside their hearts. It’s also very clear when you see the effect those men’s words had. They hadn’t been to any seminary. They didn’t go to any Bible school anywhere, yet they were full of the spirit of the living God! They had the word of God. It wasn’t just in their head; it was in their heart. Just as Conrad Grebel said, “My belly constrains me.” Oh God, give us a couple dozen men like that.
Hans Deck testified to the reality of Christ in his life when he said these words: “I open my mouth against my will. I speak reluctantly about God, but he compels me to speak, and I cannot be silent.”
In this reality and spirit they went forth. They were dead, and Christ was living in them. When we are dead and Christ is living in us, beautiful things begin to happen! Brothers and Sisters, it applies to us today just as much as it did to them. Like the apostle Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet it’s not me that’s alive, but Christ is living in me!” Paul wasn’t giving theology there. He was giving his testimony.
The early Anabaptists never gave theology. They just lived it! They were dead, and Christ was living in them. They stood in the reality of the narrow way, of following Jesus Christ, and preached to the people that were standing on the broad way. They invited them to repent and join them. Imagine the power of their testimony! Their hearts were clear, and their lives were full. They had repented, and their lives were turned to God. They were “sold out” for the Lord. Their lives had met metanoia, and they turned away from their sins to serve the living God in truth and reality! And in the midst of that, they began to call to the people and tell them, “Come and join us; we are following Jesus Christ.”
By the way, when they invited the people to repent and join them, multitudes did so. They were not responding to a humanistic message about all the good things that are going to happen to you if you come to Jesus. In those days, if you decided you were going to follow Jesus Christ, you might live only ten days. You might have only ten more days before they put you in prison on a “glorious” diet of bread and water. You might have ten days. “Oh, come to Jesus! We are following Jesus Christ. Who would like to join us?” And amazingly, multitudes followed them and joined them in those days.
It was a matter of free choice to them. One favorable place where a few of those men went to preach started with five baptized disciples. One and a half years later, there were one thousand people in that city who had gotten the faith this way! It was a favorable city. Not all cities were favorable in those days. They didn’t have all the technology that we have, and it took a little while for the news to spread around. I guarantee you that we won’t have that much time if we ever get like this again. We won’t have as much time as they had.
In a year and a half, one thousand people had joined them, saying, “You’re following Jesus Christ. We also are coming in repentance and believing on Jesus Christ. Would you disciple us in the way of God?”
“Yes, yes come join us. We follow Christ!”
And they came—whole multitudes came. Yes, Christ was in the early Anabaptists, imparting to them a life of vital reality.
Do you see, dear people, that salvation is much more than just an escape from hell or a ticket to heaven? It’s an invitation into the kingdom of God! Do you see the difference? “You may say “I believed just to escape hell”. Oh, what a shallow move and choice that would be. But if that’s all you can do, then do it. Flee from the wrath to come! But that wasn’t the appeal in those days of the early Anabaptists. they didn’t say ‘just escape hell’, they said ‘come and follow Jesus. We have entered in to the kingdom, come and join us!’
I would say the same thing to you. If you’re not born again, you will go to hell if you die. And if you love the Lord Jesus with all of your heart, and you continue in that kind of a frame, you will be in heaven some day. But it’s not about heaven, and it’s not about hell. It’s about the glory of the God who made us, Brothers and Sisters! And you, my sinner friend if you are reading this, it’s about the glory of the God who made you! And he owns you—whether you have acknowledged that he owns you or not—he owns you! He gives you the very breath you are breathing. Your heart is pumping blood because God is allowing it to be so! He made you and brought you into this world. It’s not about heaven or hell. It’s about the glory of God in your life!
These are the kinds of things that gripped the hearts of those people when the Anabaptists came out of that fiery dedication up there in that room in Felix Manz’s house. “Yes, there is a fire burning inside of me, and I cannot be silent. It’s much more than heaven or hell. It is a whole new regenerated life in the disciples who are following Jesus Christ.” That is what God wants, disciples who are following Jesus Christ.
I have a question for you. Have you repented, or have you half-way repented? Have you repented, or did you merely cry about your sins back there? Have you truly repented? Are you a clear disciple of Jesus Christ without question? Do you know that it’s God’s will for you to be a clear disciple of Jesus Christ without question?
I know we have some young ones, some that have just got a start. But I fear that we are lowering the standard of what true salvation is to such a point that we have to give you two or three years before you get on fire for God! That’s not right! If God is living inside of us, people are going to know that God is living inside of us. I don’t care if it’s a twelve-year-old body or a twenty-five-year-old body. When God comes to live inside that twelve-year-old body, you are going to know it! I am afraid we are lowering that thing down. We want to give the young ones a chance and all that (and we should want to give them a chance). But whatever happened to metanoia? “I turned away from my sin. I saw how wrong it was. I saw my rebellion against my parents. I saw my rebellion against my ministers, and I turned away from that. But I didn’t stop there, I turned over here to Jesus and said, ‘Take my hand here we go’.” That’s metanoia!
Are you a clear disciple of Jesus Christ? Do your friends, neighbors, and relatives know that you are following Jesus Christ with all your heart? I challenge you. Do your friends know, do your neighbors know, do your relatives know that you are clearly without question a follower of Jesus? There is no other thing in the Bible. There is no other testimony, and there is no other standard in the Bible than that! As I study the scripture, I see that a disciple is a Christian and that one who is not a disciple is not a Christian.
There is even a despicable teaching out today that claims you can come to Jesus and He can be your savior, but He doesn’t have to be your Lord. That’s heresy! If Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all! You can’t go back and say “I prayed, and I cried out to God back there, but I’m going to have a little time here for two or three years. Then I’m going to get serious about God.” If you do that, I question whether you are really born again. Come on and get out of the closet and declare yourself for who you really are!
That’s the way it was in those days. Those early Anabaptists had an experience of vital reality. Jesus Christ was living in them, and the love of Christ was constraining them. Their bellies were full of the word of God, and they couldn’t contain themselves. Do your friends, relatives, and neighbors know that you have decided to follow Jesus? That is the question, who do your neighbors think you are?
I want to say a little about the biblical concept of church. Let’s consider the Reformers for a minute, the Reformers who didn’t believe right. What was church to them? It was a place where you got theological sermons so you could learn how to believe right. That’s what it was.
There are many churches like that in the United States right now. You gather together in a preaching center where you can go to hear theology and learn what you need to believe. You go there and say, “Okay, now I believe.” That is how the Reformers looked at church. Go there and hear sermons on theology so you can believe right!
The people who responded to the call of the Anabaptists to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t view church that way. They joined the brethren to be discipled in this new life of following Jesus Christ. There is a big difference between the two.
If you study the early Anabaptists, you’ll know that they hardly had the privilege of church. They were on the run all the time! But they knew more about church than most of the people in the churches of our country. There were a few places where it was safe to have church, so bless God they did have church. They ordained elders, submitted themselves to them, and did all the things we find in the New Testament.
Although these early Anabaptists were on the run all the time, people joined themselves to them, after repentance (metanoia) and believing in Jesus Christ, because they had a desire to be discipled and to continue following Jesus Christ. That’s a very big, big difference from the Reformer’s idea of church. I wonder how we look at church.
One man said to me a couple of years ago, “Don’t make me leave. I don’t agree with everything you are doing, but the preaching is good.”
You can get good sermons all over the United States today. Lots of men have been to seminaries. They can cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s and give you all the verses, and they will even do it eloquently. But they say, “Don’t talk to me about my life. Don’t disciple me. Don’t come alongside me and say “How are you doing today.” No, we don’t want any of that. We just want our Sunday morning sermon. Make it good, and keep me awake. Then let me go on my own way, and I will decide what I will do with what I heard.”
That’s not the way the early Anabaptists looked at church. It was a discipleship program whereby a brotherhood of suffering men and women gathered to edify one another, to keep one another accountable, and to encourage one another. They broke bread together. They did it at night, so much so that they called it the night meal instead of communion. They never had a Sunday morning communion service. It was a night meal. They joined the brethren to be discipled in this new life of following Jesus Christ because they knew that they could be in prison in ten days, and they needed all the help they could get. What a beautiful way to join the brethren. “I want help”.
Maybe some of you have wept over your sins, and that is good and right, but you have never embraced the faith of your fathers and your ministers. You have wept over your sins. You look back to a time when you felt bad and you cried to God, and you told God about your sins. Maybe you turned away there and said, “Oh, no! I don’t want that.” But over here, you are kind of in limbo about where you are going. Where you are is right in the middle. You’re in between negative metanoia and positive metanoia, and you are missing it! O, you’re missing so much. You have not embraced the faith of your parents or your ministers. You are not prospering, and you know you’re not.
In the letter of I Thessalonians there is a beautiful example of this dual concept of repentance, Paul was reminding the Thessalonians, reminding them, encouraging them, and blessing them for how their lives had changed. He says“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as you know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” Do you see what he is saying there? “Yes, we came with the glorious message of the gospel. We told you about repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, but we didn’t just come with words. We came in demonstration of the Spirit and in power! We didn’t just come in demonstration of the Spirit and in power. We came in demonstration of a holy life, a demonstration of the life of a disciple. You saw the way we lived; you heard what we said; you sensed the conviction of the Spirit of God; and your life changed. Metanoia took place in your heart. ‘You became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word of God in much affliction, with joy and the Holy Ghost: so that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’.“ That is metanoia!
They turned away from their idols—and praise God for turning away from idols—but it’s not enough to turn away from idols! They turned to the faith of the apostle Paul and the apostle Timothy, and whoever the other apostle was. Those three of them who went together, they turned away from worshiping their idols and turned to God. They followed Paul and his apostles in the things that they told them. That’s metanoia.
And what happens? Lives get so changed that Paul doesn’t need to tell what happened. He didn’t say, “Oh, what beautiful things God has done.” He didn’t need to tell those stories. Their lives were telling the stories everywhere they went.
The sound of beautiful testimonies of changed lives was going out. Paul heard it, and he rejoiced. Can’t you imagine how much he would be rejoicing? He didn’t labor in vain in that place.
Maybe you have never understood this dual concept of repentance, but it’s all throughout the Gospels. Think about the life of Peter. He was out there on that boat, toiling all night, with no fish. Jesus came and told Peter and his fellow fishermen to cast the net on the other side, and they caught so many fish that their net broke. What did Peter do? He fell down on his knees in brokenness and said, “My Lord and my God, I am not worthy to be around you!” Do you know what Jesus said to him? “Henceforth you shall catch men, Peter.”
I believe when Jesus spoke to those fishermen, it was God speaking to their hearts. He just simply said, “Follow me”. Think about what that means. That means turn away from your fishing boats, your name, your reputation, all the money that you make, and all the food that you have. Turn away from all those things and follow Me. That’s metanoia.
But Peter lost his way. He lost his life of repentance. The Christian life is a life of repentance. It’s not just something you do back there. It’s something you do all the time. It sanctifies you and shows you the needs in your life. There he was. Having lost his way, he was fishing again. That’s metanoia the other way around. “I don’t know about this Jesus, I don’t know about all the things that he said. I am confused. I will go fishing.” Turning from and turning to, that’s what he did. Jesus knew that’s what he had done. That’s why he challenged him: “You love these, Peter, more than me”. Feed my sheep for that is your calling.
You can find this twofold repentance all throughout the Gospels. Jesus went everywhere preaching against sin. But he didn’t just preach about sin. He also said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “If you continue in my word then are you my disciples indeed.” That’s the positive side of metanoia. Turn away from your sin and turn to God in such a way that you become a follower of Jesus Christ. Then people will know that you are a believer by the way live, the way you act. Your demeanor, your spirit, your attitude will tell. The way you look, the way you talk, where you go, what you do with your free time will show people that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. And on and on I could go. O yes, I know him, I know her, he is a disciple of Jesus Christ without question. This Jesus did to the multitudes everywhere he went. It is just another way of saying turn away from your sins, turn from going your own way, turn away from your rebellion, turn to God as your Lord and Saviour. Turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life.
I want to say something about a believer’s baptism. It’s one of the first steps on the positive side of this repentance. It was that way with the early Anabaptists, and it also was that way with the early church. In fact, baptism and repentance were so close together, it is hard to separate them. Many times, the one meant the same thing as the other with the Anabaptists. The fires were hot, and the persecution was hot. The climate was hot, and it was a troubled time. If you stepped forward and said, “Yes, I want to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” you might lose your head the next day! If the climate is like that, you don’t need to find out if believers are sincere. All you have to do is say “Does anyone else want to be baptized today?”
When those men heard that sermon by Peter, they said “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” All Peter had to do was say “Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt receive remission of your sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.” That’s all he had to say because the climate was set. “Step forward and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will lose everything you ever had. You will lose your name, reputation, inheritance, family—you will lose everything. Does anyone want to be baptized?” That’s metanoia.
Believer’s baptism is one of the first steps on the positive side of repentance. Many times the Anabaptist preachers called the people to baptism as an open confession of their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Dear friend, you cannot keep walking in the light of what God has done in your heart if you hide in your church and comply. You cannot keep walking with God! It’s only a matter of time. You cannot keep walking in the light if you refuse believer’s baptism. You cannot keep walking in the light if you hide your light under a bushel. You cannot keep walking in the light if you do not testify of your newfound faith in Jesus Christ! You cannot keep walking in the beautiful things God has done for you unless you walk in the reality of who you are in the midst of the people who are around you. You can’t do it.
I am afraid there are many who had a beautiful start maybe ten years ago. Then some minister came to them and said, “Okay, that’s good. We all believe in being born again. Yes, we need you here, but settle down and go with the flow and be a help here.” And you know the truth and the reality of it. You dried up since then! You cannot keep walking in the light and not walk in the light of what God has done in your heart and your life. You can’t do it. I challenge you to show me that you can! Believer’s baptism is the first step on the positive side of repentance. It’s as simple as that.
I know people from different church backgrounds who didn’t have the courage to defy the sacred baptism of their church denomination. They just settled down and kept it low. Among the Hutterite people, if you get a believer’s baptism, you will have nowhere to sleep the next night and no food to eat. Some of them step forward and get baptized, and they go on with God. They are disciples, and they love God. Their lives prosper, but others look at the same situation and say, whoa! “I am not sure that I am willing to pay the price, and I think I’ll just rest in the unbeliever’s baptism that I had back there because the ministers count that as a sacred baptism.”
Sometimes I think some of these Anabaptist churches believe in sacramentalism. That means there is some spiritual power, something sacred about their baptism even if there was no true belief. Therefore, you don’t dare to touch that sacred baptism. That’s not right. We are called to a believer’s baptism! Go through the scriptures yourselves. Get a concordance and go through the New Testament looking up the word “baptism.” You will find that in every situation, it was a believer who came to the Lord and was baptized!
I think about the Reformers. They were the same way. They said to the early Anabaptists, “Look! Your child baptism was a sacred baptism, God was watching it. God knows the sincerity of your heart and life. You don’t need to be baptized now that you have become born again.” That’s what they told them! And some of them would not pay the price. They stayed in those dying little churches because of it.
But others said, “No, I want a believer’s baptism. Baptism is for those who have repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and become followers of Jesus! I want to be baptized like the Lord Jesus was baptized!” And they paid with their life, multitudes of them.
We look back to them, and we honor them, but we are not willing to follow them. Something is not right in our minds if we think that’s acceptable. It’s not okay! It is not a little issue. Listen, the devil will keep you from that public believer’s baptism for years, if you let him!
I will never forget a dear Brother I talked to who was baptized after years of wrestling with all of this. I said “Brother, how’s your conscience?”
He looked at me with a big smile, and said “It’s finally quiet.”
It’s the answer of a good conscience toward God. Amen! I wonder how your conscience is… Is it noisy in there today as you read this? Is the Spirit knocking at your door?
You cannot keep walking in the light if you hide in your church and comply to the status quo. You cannot walk in the light if you refuse believer’s baptism. You cannot walk in the light if you hide your light under a bushel, because it finally runs out of oxygen and goes out. Through the years, many have come to a measure of repentance, faith, and forgiveness. But they hid their light underneath a bushel. They have been paying for it ever since! Why did they keep quiet? They didn’t want to be persecuted. But let’s not throw stones at them. We don’t want to be persecuted either.
For many of them, the light is almost gone out, and it’s like a little smoking flax. Its just smoldering there. Dear friend, won’t you light a fire on that wick again? True obedience and true repentance! That brings forth fruit meet for repentance. I guarantee that wick will spring up with fire again, and you will begin to glow with new light and life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some may say that I’m preaching salvation by works. No, I’m not! The Anabaptists were preaching salvation that produces works in the midst of a church that preached salvation that didn’t produce works. Which one do you want: the one that produces a life that is vibrant and clear or the one that gives you a good feeling and a pat on the back? I don’t know about you, but I want the one that is clear and right and vibrant. Praise God for the righteousness that is imputed to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. But Brothers and Sisters, true imputed righteousness will bring imparted righteousness with it! And if you have no imparted righteousness, you know nothing of imputed righteousness! True imputed righteousness will produce a change in a life!
I want to read just a few little writings about what some of the Anabaptist brethren believed about salvation and repentance. Menno Simons wrote these words: “We shun carnal works and desire to conform ourselves in our weakness to God’s word and his commands. This we do, not because we would be saved by our own works and merit, but because he has taught and commanded us, for whosoever does not walk according to his doctrine testifies by his deeds that he does not believe in him nor know him and that he is not in the communion of the saints!” He is saying that there must be a life that changes.
Menno goes on to say, “The truly regenerated and spiritually minded conform in all things to the word and ordinances of the Lord, not because they suppose to merit the propitiation for their sins and eternal life, by no means! For this, they depend on nothing except the blood and merits of Christ, relying upon the short promise of a merciful father, which was graciously given to all believers which brought alone the only eternal valid means by which reconciliation can come to the heart of man. For this can never fail. Where there is true faith, there is also dying to sin, a new creature, true repentance, a sincere regenerated unblameable Christian. Wherever there is true faith, one does no longer live according to the lusts of sin, but according to the will of him who purchased us with his own blood and drew us by his own spirit and regenerated us by his word, namely, his name is Jesus Christ. True faith which avails before God is a living and a saving power which is through the preaching of the holy word bestowed of God on our heart, moving, changing, regenerating it to newness of mind. It destroys all ungodliness, all pride, all unholy ambitions and selfishness and makes us children of God full of righteousness. Behold such is the faith which the scriptures teach us and not in vain and untruthful illusion as the worldly churches would be.”
Martin Weniger wrote these words: “If Christ’s kingdom is truly within us. We obtain grace to do the will of God and serve him acceptably with reverence and Godly fear, not in foolishness and nonsense. We serve in reverence and Godly fear because God’s fear comes upon us. If we are under grace, sin cannot reign in our mortal bodies, for Christ died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and arose again!” John said if we say we have fellowship with him and we walk in darkness, which is in sin, we lie and do not the truth.
Pilgrim Marpeck said these words: “We recognize as true Christian faith, only such a faith through which the Holy Spirit and the love of God come into the heart and which is active and powerful in all outward obedience and commanded works. We believe that one is made a child of God and free from the law and the bondage of sin only through such a faith by which the spirit as the power of God lives in the heart and does his word.”
Corinthians says: “There then is liberty; to such liberty one comes by abiding in the words of Christ, and through the law of the spirit of life through one is made free from the law of sin and death,” but not from the law of Christ or from the obligation of obedience in the things that He has taught and commanded. This is disowned by some men who deny the need of practicing the Christian ordinances. That is just a little of the writings that the Anabaptists wrote concerning what they believed about salvation. If I were you, I would go for that kind of salvation, a life transforming salvation so clear that everyone knows your life has been changed.
If you are a youth and you have come to the age of accountability. You are no longer innocent. If you are making trouble and difficulty in your home, You are no longer innocent my dear ones. If you are reading this and know that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that he died for you and that he is calling you and you’re not willing to follow him you’re no longer an innocent soul. You’re a guilty soul and in rebellion before God. You need to come to Jesus because He wants to change you. Yes, God loves you, John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Yes, this is true, I beg you don’t reject the love of God don’t reject the grace of God. God said “My spirit will not always strive with man”.
Here is an invitation for you. The invitation is twofold, first of all maybe you’re one of those that God’s Spirit is hovering over you and He is speaking to you and you know it, you are guilty, there is conviction upon your heart. Maybe your heart is thumping so loudly that you almost think someone else could hear it, that is because God is calling you. You know you are not right with God, but you say “I don’t want to give up my friends, I don’t want to be shunned.” Our forefathers back there in the 1500s did not want to face torture and execution either, but do you know what? In spite of the persecution they believed and were baptized by the thousands. As they were obedient to that still small voice, God gave them Grace to stand up against the religious system of their day and be rebaptized, and he will do the same for you. If only they would only have been willing to stop preaching, teaching and rebaptizing they could have gone free. However they had to live with a guilty conscience until they again repented before God. As they were obedient to God he gave them a Holy boldness to teach and to preach and to make disciples. If in your heart you are being convicted God is saying, come and be saved tonight. If you need someone to pray with you we at Fountain of Life would be glad to come and pray with you.
Second, the invitation is to some others here that might have had a half way repentance. You are just kind of floundering out there. You say that I have been born again and even been baptized and said that I am going to follow Jesus. But you know in your heart that you are still not right with God. You don’t have that reality in your life, there is something missing. I want to encourage you to come and give it all to Jesus Christ. Don’t hold back anything.