I have a few things that bother me from time to time and I can't seem to be at peace with it.
The topic of repentance comes to mind. I have read through some of your articles, as well as other articles, regarding repentance and its necessity for baptism (which I understand). My problem is how much repentance is enough for all the sins you have done in the past before a person can get baptized? And if repentance is a change in mind that leads to a change in action, when do we know our repentance is valid?
I am a member of the body. I just get scared at times about repentance. For example, some of the articles talk about a couple living in adultery or a drug addict and how they have to repent before they get baptized (which I get). What I don't understand are those things that we need to repent of, such as attitudes and character flaws, that doesn't need to be changed right away before being baptized.
Should those teaching others interrogate the person about their sins before they baptize them? If so, why? Another question is if Christianity is a growth process, and we are supposed to be ever learning, are we forgiven for the sins we did after we got baptized, but didn't know were considered sins? Or is our baptism not valid?
I think all my questions stem from me being scared about death. I always get nervous about death and if I'm good enough to get into heaven. I understand that we are not perfect, intellectually, but at times I don't feel like the promises mentioned in the Scriptures pertaining to everlasting life apply to me.
We had a brother that just passed away in our congregation, and I just get sad all over again. Sometimes I find myself trying to figure out if those who died in Christ went to heaven or not. I know that I am not the judge of that, and we have hope that he did because he was in Christ, but sometimes what we think is "a good Christian" may not always be what God thinks. I always find myself being confident about my choices, then I start to doubt myself and wonder, "Well, I think it's fine, but what if I'm wrong according to God?" It's like I can't even enjoy being alive or living because I'm so scared of messing up or making mistakes.
I need help and prayer because I find myself crying sometimes because I'm scared or just get down about it. Am I lacking in faith, or beating myself up?.
I look forward to your thoughts. My apologies if I didn't relay my point well.
In Acts 2, Peter charged the Jews in his audience with killing the Christ: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:35). They were cut to the heart by the charge and asked what they needed to do. Peter's answer was "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Following further teaching, 3,000 people were baptized that day. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:40).
Now, I want you to notice that these people were saved, so they both were baptized and had repented. Yet, there was no demand for proof that they would not kill the Christ again, or perhaps not kill one of God's prophets. Repentance was shown because these people changed their ways. That proof of a change had not been demonstrated in their lives at the point of their baptism doesn't matter. A change was required and their baptism into Christ showed their acceptance.
If I was teaching a person about the sin of fornication and he declared that he was going to stop having sex until he was married and he asked to be baptized, I would joyfully do so. The problem I've been seeing is that some, knowing they are in sin are either not told about the sin or they are baptized first with plans to address the sin later. Such doesn't follow the example Peter set forth in Acts 2. A person who is stealing should not have the expectation that they can continue to steal after being a Christian. A person in an adulterous relationship should not expect to stay in adultery after baptism. Becoming a Christian is about conversion, not getting a person wet.
There may be sins that the new Christian commits but is unaware it is sinful and which the one leading him to Christ is also unaware of. Eventually, as a Christian grows he will learn of his mistakes and the proper response to make a correction in life so as not to continue in sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). And just because a person is a Christian, it doesn't mean he won't be tempted with new sins either. We are at war with Satan, and it is a constant battle. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:8-9). God doesn't say we have to be baptized again. He gives us the means to gain forgiveness of the sins we commit after we have become His children through baptism.
You seem to view Christianity as being perfect. It is not; it is striving for perfection. "Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It is a process of constant growth.
And how do you know if you are acceptable to God? He's told you. Nothing has been hidden from you.
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).
Finally, I want you to consider a few more verses:
"But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end" (Hebrews 3:6).
"For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (Hebrews 3:14).
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works" (Hebrews 10:22-24).
Satan's trying to undermine what you know with seeds of doubt. If you let those take root, it will destroy your faith.