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The Need for Renunciation
by Rev. Dave Roberts.+

As of today, May 30th, I have completed 27 years in Utah and have acclimated to it by the grace of God. It wasn’t always easy but it has kept me on my toes and always ready to defend the Faith because, well, we have to here. Because we are in a minority here where the Christian population is about 2%, we have learned how to adjust and be strong, but it doesn’t come without a sacrifice on each one’s part if they’re going to make it. That sacrifice starts with a renunciation of who and what you have been to make room for being whom God called you to be when you were born again of the Spirit.

You see, in these past 27 years in Utah, I’ve seen a lot of people come to a personal relationship with the real Jesus of the New Testament and the key to their survival was to repent of their sins and to renounce the things that would have had that often kept them away from God. It has not been easy for some of them to stand in opposition to their past heritage and affiliations and start anew with the Lord but it has made a difference.

What I am describing is asking people, at the time of their baptism into the Christian Faith, if they are willing to renounce their habits and addictions, their affiliations and affections for anything that would hinder their relationship with Christ. I know that sounds radical and even fanatical to some of you and you’ll probably want to stop reading this message now. But if you’re still bearing with me, here is an example of what I have asked people to renounce when they, by their baptism into Christ, are announcing to all their desire to be born again into a new life with Jesus Christ. If they have been Baha’i, I ask them to renounce Bahá’u’lláh and his teachings. If they have been addicted to heroin, they renounce it and ask God to heal them. If they have been Jehovah’s Witnesses, they renounce the Watchtower and all of its teachings. If they have been Mormons, they renounce Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, their Patriarchal Blessing, their temple vows from the Endowment and so on. If they have been addicted to the Ouija board or occultism of any form, I tell them ahead of time to expect me to ask them to publicly renounce it all. Once this is done, I ask each one to declare why they are then being baptized and to repeat the Nicene Creed after me line-by-line. It is then that I immerse them in water in “Jesus’ Name, in Whom dwells the fullness of The Godhead Bodily, The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost.” That way I satisfy those who believe in baptism in Jesus’ Name as well as those who demand the Trinitarian Formula. But the renunciation should be done by the baptismal candidate, not someone standing in for them, because a reality takes place in the spiritual realm in this declaration of that individual’s faith to everything above, below and on the earth.

Unfortunately, we have far too many people who are whisked through a quick baptism with no public inquiry being made as to why they’re standing in the water in the first place. Is it because they turned a certain age and it is expected? Or because their family demands it? Or you see your best friend doing it so you will too so as not to feel left out? Or because you want to make sure you’ve covered all the basis “just in case?” Or because your girlfriend wants you to do it “for her?” I’ve heard every kind of reason from baptismal candidates over the years and I have to say that they’re not reasons, they’re often excuses. But the above have one thing in common: They’re probably not doing it because it is what God commanded for genuine believers who have died to their old lives. Maybe some of you who have been relying on your infant “baptism” are having a problem with what I’m saying right now but I’ve stood on this ground in the face of fierce opposition before and I’m not surprised at the arguments I hear against the immersion of only those people who have really desired to die in Christ and be in His Likeness in His Resurrection.

Here’s why I’m so adamant about it: I am tired of trying to minister to people who claim that they are “born again” when they never died to their old lives in the first place! You can’t be born again if you haven’t first died to your old life in Him. Many times when I’m counseling people who claim to be Christians but just can’t get it together with Christ, I ask them if they have been baptized SINCE they believed and 90% of the time I hear them say they haven’t. It’s a tough call, though, because some folks seem ready and I suspect that they won’t make it if they don’t get baptized so I’d rather immerse them now which can give them the power of God to overcome and maintain.

Timing can be everything.

I have seen people come to Christ and turn their backs on serious issues that could have kept them half-hearted and weak had I not addressed it at the beginning and explained the need for repentance. What made me decide to write this this month was something I stumbled upon on MSNBC when I was channel surfing one Sunday night, a program called “To Catch a Predator.” It is one sting operation after another of guys getting caught by Chris Hanson and his Dateline NBC crew at a home stakeout where the perp comes to the house to have sex with an underage kid they think they’ve met on the Internet. When they finally realize that they’ve been discovered in their game and that the police are waiting outside to make the arrest, the deer-inthe- headlights look is what I’m sure most viewers are watching for. It makes me wonder how many of the viewers are glad they didn’t get caught because they might be harboring the same drives in their own hearts but, either way, it’s a moment that you don’t want to vicariously feel because your life is going to be seriously altered at that point and you never saw it coming. How does this tie into my message?

Well, it amazed me how many of these people start calling on God at that moment, start getting and spewing an instant dose of religion and it sounds as though they are rehearsing for an upcoming jailhouse conversion they’re likely to profess once they’re behind bars. What was particularly sad for me, though, was one all-American appearing guy in his 20s who looked like he could have been the decent neighbor kid next door. His Internet screen name was Jesus Rocks and he had been active in an evangelical church somewhere in Georgia. He got a four year sentence in prison plus years of probation for solicitation of what he thought was a young teenage girl. I looked at that kid and realized that he could have been anyone’s son or Sunday school teacher but he was caught up in this. This was a need for renunciation as well as repentance but don’t expect to see it happen anytime soon because most pastors of evangelical churches, as well as most churches, period, won’t confront people in their flocks; job security is the issue as well as popularity.

In Utah, I have to make sure that a person really knows what they’re doing because they could lose everything if they become baptized Christian believers. Are they ready to count the cost? Some folks want to try to become Christians but will leave one last bridge to their old life unburned because, well, I guess if they decide to go back to their old lives once they feel they’ve been offended by God or “this Christian life isn’t what I thought it was going to be,” that bridge will still take them back to their former vomit. I knew a Christian girl years ago who would not burn the bridge to her old life of self-hatred and a life-long suicide wish. When she wanted to punish one of her friends for a misunderstanding, she killed herself. Her family asked me why. I told them what I knew: She refused to burn that last bridge by renouncing it. That part of her was never born again and she paid the ultimate price.

The kid from Georgia who got caught in the sting operation suffered his public humiliation here and now. Those things of which we haven’t repented and renounced will come up before us at God’s Throne when we stand before Him. I don’t believe in Purgatory because Jesus never mentioned it and it’s not anywhere in the Bible so, by my reckoning, there is no place where we go to be purged of any remaining sin. While Jesus forgives and cleanses us from ALL sin, what about those sins we don’t want to repent of, renounce and hand over to God? If we have harbored them in our heart until the time we meet Him Face-to-face, I’d be mortified to have them evident to The One Who cannot look upon sin. Is it worth it? Or would you rather renounce it now and save the Doomsday rush when everyone will be trying to divest themselves of those things that cannot stand in God’s Presence?! A long-standing question Christian theologians and others have had for centuries has been, “Will Jesus forgive and cleanse us of a sin for which we will not repent?”

Copyright 2011 by Rev. Dave Roberts.+

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