June 21, 2021
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
When Jesus first began his public ministry, even before he called his first disciples, the book of Mark tells us that he went into Galilee.
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Jesus’s message, and the message Paul spread to the disciples he encountered in Ephesus was the same. Repentance is a critical step in following Jesus – but it’s only a first step. The second step, every bit as critical, is to believe. Repentance paves the way, but belief is what marks a true follower of Jesus. And finally, in the story of the Ephesian believers, we see that once they believe in Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit and immediately begin demonstrating his power. So the journey from repentance to action goes like this: repent, believe, receive, act.
What I love about this process is the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit squarely in the middle of it. I have a tendency to see my brokenness, repent, and then immediately think of all the ways I am going to do better, be better, and try harder. But if I skip over the belief in Jesus as the agent of change, and don’t take time to receive the encouragement, direction, and power of the Holy Spirit, I’m not actually living the life Jesus wants me to. The actions may look “right,” and I may be truly repentant for my wrongs, but I’ve put my will, my plan, and my effort in the place of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Today, as you find opportunities for repentance, don’t jump straight to a solution. It’s painful to sit in acknowledgement of sins and failures. But instead of moving on as quickly as possible, reorient your internal monologue to affirm the lordship of Jesus, and then invite the Holy Spirit to give you the desire and strength to change. In my own life, placing God in between my failures and my fixes has dramatically changed my ability to embrace lasting change, offer grace to others, and to accept grace for myself.