We can either be humble before God, willing to agree with Him about who we are in our heart of hearts...or we can resist the idea that we have any sin that needs to be forgiven. It is this decision that either opens us to the Lord, or closes us to God's work in our lives.
The same was true in Jesus' day. John called people to repent and be baptized. Those who were willing to repent, walked down the banks of the Jordan River and got wet. Those who weren't, remained on the shore, arms folded, feeling pretty good about themselves. It is interesting to me that Luke says it was that decision that set the stage for how people would later respond to Jesus. He writes: "All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John." (Luke 7) If they weren't willing to be baptized by John, then they closed themselves off to the purposes of God. What caused them to reject Jesus? Their unwillingness to humbled themselves and be baptized.
It was their failure to know their own hearts, their failure to recognize how far short they actually came from being righteous, that closed them off to God's work.
So the question to us is: Am I willing to get wet? If I'm too arrogant or embarrassed to identify as a sinner, then I close myself off to God. If I want to grow in my spiritual life, then the journey begins with repentance.
What was true in Jesus' day is still true today: Repentance prepares the way for Jesus.