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No doubt you have greatly anticipated various events in your life. Perhaps it was the day you received your driver’s license or the impending day or your graduation from high school or college. Maybe it was your wedding day or the day of the birth of your child. Indeed, there are many exciting days and times you may have looked forward to with great enthusiasm, or will in the future.
I have also personally waited expectantly for various stirring occasions, but there was one that I anticipated more than all the others. I’d like to tell you why it was so meaningful to me in the hope it may inspire those of you who have yet to experience this to look forward to it in your own life. What was the event I had anticipated most of all? It was the day of my baptism, which took place nearly 47 years ago on Oct. 21, 1972, when I was 23.
Now, you may be asking, why baptism? Well, for about 18 months prior to that day, I had studied and learned a tremendous amount from the Bible and Church of God literature, which included a highly illuminating Bible study course. I had also listened regularly to the Church’s radio program, which added still more information and inspiration to what I was discovering.
Throughout that period I was awakened to the critical realization that much of what I had been taught previously about Christianity was completely erroneous. Plus, I came to see that the self-absorbed way I was living was not only detrimental to me and others, but was profoundly displeasing to God.
God’s calling to repentance
How was I able to come to this understanding? It was due to the miraculous and merciful spiritual calling of God the Father (John 6:44). Through that He helped me to begin recognizing my need for repentance from sin—which is not only the violation of His holy laws but the cause of a separation from Him (John 5:17; 1 John 3:4; Isaiah 59:2). As to repentance, the Scriptures define it as deep, heartfelt regret and sorrow over one’s offenses against God and commitment to change (Psalm 51:4; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30).
Because of God’s generous calling and guidance, I slowly came to see that I required a spiritual overhaul—a complete turnaround in the direction of my life—from following my own ways to actively and consistently pursuing God’s priorities.
I also started realizing just how much I needed to become like Jesus Christ, who during His human life on earth set the perfect example of obedience to His Father and selflessly and willingly died for humanity’s sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Besides this, I began learning how imperative it was for me to begin building a strong and enduring relationship with God the Father and Jesus, recognizing Christ as my cherished, personal Savior and spiritual brother (Romans 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Matthew 12:50).
Furthermore, God offered me the enormous prospect of being fully reconciled to Him (Romans 5:8-10; Isaiah 5:3). In addition to that great gift, He also provided me with wonderful understanding about His spectacular purpose for all humankind, which centers on eternal life in His divine family and Kingdom. Included in this was the knowledge of His astounding blueprint for the future of the earth and humanity following Jesus Christ’s second coming.
But this sparkling treasure trove of divine knowledge would have been utterly impossible for me to have known about, much less comprehend, unless God had taken the marvelous and merciful step of opening my mind. As one illuminating passage explains: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, English Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).
Indeed it goes even deeper than that, because “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7, Christian Standard Bible).
The apostle Paul, in writing to members of the church congregation in Ephesus, described what their lives were like prior to their conversion, stating that they had “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [that is, Satan the devil], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:2-3).
Yes, God graciously helped me to perceive my true inner sinful disposition. Without His intervention to help me understand spiritual things, I would have remained ensnared in a selfish, adversarial approach and attitude toward Him and His way of life. To be sure, this is true for all human beings. Therefore, until God proactively opens a person’s heart and mind and grants him or her repentance—and, as Scripture vividly explains, even the willingness to do so—the spiritual understanding we need is impossible (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Be baptized for forgiveness of sins
So I came to understand all this through God’s loving and generous calling. And, just as He did with me, perhaps God is calling you at this time. He may be helping you to understand your nature as a human being while granting you the divine grace and opportunity to repent of your sins and turn to Him in deep humility and obedience (see Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 17:9). He may be leading you to follow a new, exciting divine pathway to formerly unseen and awesome blessings of boundless hope, joy and eternal life in His divine family (Romans 2:4; Acts 11:18; James 1:25).
Let me return, now, to the day I anticipated so greatly. Why did I so look forward to this day I was to be baptized? It’s helpful to obtain some perspective by going back in biblical history to the amazing story of the beginning of the New Testament Church on the day of Pentecost, one of God’s annual festivals. On that remarkable day, 120 of Jesus Christ’s disciples were gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the fulfillment of the spectacular promise He made to them only 10 days earlier—that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
When that tremendous event occurred on Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). On receiving this magnificent gift of God’s presence in their lives, these devoted disciples began generating immediate spiritual results.
Acts 2 records how the apostles began witnessing to crowds of people who were residents of Judea and pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem from around the known world to observe this holy festival. The apostle Peter stepped forward with the other apostles and began speaking passionately and convincingly about Jesus Christ to the multitudes.
Included in his inspired oration was this piercing assertion: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Hearing Peter’s stirring message, the listeners felt “cut to the heart” and pleaded with Peter and the other apostles by crying out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter answered by exclaiming, “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).
Through Peter’s moving and convicting message, 3,000 people repented, were baptized and received God’s Spirit, which is the very essence of His nature and power (Acts 2:40-41).
From that crucial event in biblical history, the Holy Spirit has been made available to every person God calls who genuinely repents and is properly baptized (Matthew 22:14; 2 Peter 1:10). It is important to note at this point that since baptism is such a serious, life-changing decision, it is reserved only for those who are mature enough to understand its true spiritual purpose and make the commitment involved.
Baptism’s wonderful spiritual imagery
The only form of baptism we find practiced in the Bible is being fully submerged in water. Why is that?
Baptism is actually a symbolic burial of a person’s “old self” (Romans 6:1-6; Ephesians 4:22-24). As the baptized individual rises out of a figurative watery grave, it portrays a resurrection from death to a fresh, new, changed life. This is because, in a spiritual sense, the repentant person’s sins are totally washed away in the baptismal water through God’s overwhelming forgiveness and mercy.
The prophet Micah expressed this wonderful experience by writing, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). King David further explained, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12).
God also inspired His prophet Isaiah to state: “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18, New Living Translation).
Baptism symbolizes the complete removal of sin in a repentant person’s life, made possible through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His own precious blood (Acts 22:16; 1 John 5:6; Revelation 1:5). This allows the person to move forward in life with a renewed and dynamic spiritual purpose (1 Timothy 1:5). It also results in no longer needing to feel guilt over past sins. What remains is a wholly clean and clear conscience and a passionate and determined eagerness “to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
As for me, I came to see how baptism was an essential action that demonstrated my earnest desire to be thoroughly committed to Christ and the Father in full obedience and faith. It was also a tremendous opportunity for me to pledge to the Father, as Jesus did, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
In addition, just as Jesus arose from the grave, baptism gives a repentant person complete assurance that the Father will resurrect him or her from death to everlasting life at Jesus’ second coming. Paul wrote: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5).
So when a person is called by the Father, responds energetically, repents, is baptized and receives God’s Spirit, he or she begins a new life of spiritual growth as the old, selfish human nature is gradually replaced with God’s selfless, loving divine nature (2 Timothy 1:6; 2 Peter 1:4).
How exciting and thrilling it is! Can you now see why I anticipated the day of my baptism so much? While baptism figuratively cleansed me from past sins (Acts 22:16), it also represented an exhilarating pathway to a transformed life of hope, happiness and purpose. Plus it opened the door to a wonderful and growing relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4; Romans 6:11).
Furthermore, it was the beginning of a thrilling journey toward eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The apostle Peter exclaimed, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Committing yourself fully to God
Baptism was foundational to my conversion journey toward greater understanding of God’s Word and His plan. Now, decades later, He continues to guide me each day by His Spirit to help me overcome sin and serve Him faithfully and obediently.
Plus, through baptism God placed me into His Church, which He commissioned to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The Church is composed of repentant, baptized individuals from all nations, races and economic and cultural backgrounds. Everyone works together to carry out God’s work in this age and to love and serve one another as spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 12:10; Galatians 6:10).
So, what about you? As I posed earlier, could God be calling you to a deeper understanding of Him and His Word? Are you coming to see yourself and your corrupted human nature as it really is and why you need to repent of your sins and begin anew while building a strong relationship with your Savior, Jesus Christ?
As I mentioned earlier, it took me about 18 months to come to the point where, after studying and learning, I felt ready to take the next step. That step, of course, was to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—which God gives immediately afterwards through the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ (see Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Considering all of this, I sincerely encourage you to continue studying the Bible. And there are many articles in Beyond Today magazine and numerous free study aids, including a 12-lesson Bible Study Course, produced by the United Church of God in print and on its website (at ucg.org/beyond-today). There you can also find many compelling Beyond Today video programs to help you gain further knowledge.
Also, if you would like to discuss repentance, baptism, the Holy Spirit, attending services or other spiritual subjects, the United Church of God would be pleased to arrange a private appointment with one of our ministers.
Finally, if God is calling you and you are beginning to see your need for repentance, in due course you will be able to make a decision about committing yourself to God. When that time comes (and how long differs with each person), you will, as I did, greatly anticipate the day you will be baptized! May God bless and guide you on your spiritual journey!