Taking these two spiritual steps are the most important actions you could ever perform.
[Darris McNeely] We're incomplete until we take that step of repentance and baptism. We don't start living until we come to that stage in this life, and that's what man was created to have.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on Beyond Today.
[Darris McNeely] I travel a lot, and I speak with many of you who are loyal Beyond Today viewers and readers of our Beyond Today Magazine. And I see the respect that you have for what we say. One comment I often hear is that we speak directly from the Bible. We teach what the Bible says. Well that's right, we do.
Beyond Today teaches the high standard of the Bible when it comes to how we should live, but I have discovered something else. I find that many of you do not listen carefully to what we say from the Bible. The result is that you're not hearing what God is saying to you from the Bible. In this series of programs that we are doing about change and the real change, we've come to the subject of baptism, what the Bible describes as going into the water, a very important decision. It really is the most important decision we will ever make in our life. Baptism is an event with eternal consequences. I have baptized many people in my time through the years as a minister of Jesus Christ. Many of those that I've counseled with have desired to turn from a life of sin and to begin living a new life in a new relationship with God. Baptism joins us to God and to Jesus Christ.
In the gospels, we find the story of Christ coming from His home in Nazareth, in Galilee, down to where his cousin John, John the Baptist as he is known, was baptizing in the Jordan River. John's work had drawn a great number of people to be baptized with water for the forgiveness of their sins. John's preaching had attracted many followers. It was a message that had a very strong call to repentance. John came announcing the kingdom of Heaven, that it was at hand. That there was a new age that was beginning with his ministry, and what was to follow, and many people responded to what he said.
The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders they came out. They were attracted by, probably as many people that were out there, and what they were interested in as anything else, but they decided that they too wanted to be baptized. But John the Baptist told them that they were not prepared to take part in the Kingdom of God. In fact, he was pretty strong with them. He blasted them. He called them, "a family of snakes" whose hearts weren't ready to receive the good news of the coming Kingdom. John told them that their pedigree, as descendants of Abraham by itself was not good enough, and that unless they change and showed the results of that change, God would cut them down to a stump and raise up a new group of people, a group of people who caught the vision of the new age.
Participating in this event of baptism, John's message was really saying, would take a new mind, a whole new mindset, a new way of thinking about God, and he told the blind religious leaders of the day that another person was coming, one greater than he. It would be Jesus and his efforts would clean out the chaff and only the wheat would remain. John was telling them change was coming, and it was no longer business as usual in that day. And it fits our day as well.
John was fulfilling a prophecy that was first uttered by the prophet Isaiah, who foretold the coming of another with this announcement of a new age. The prophet Isaiah had said that there would be one, "Who would come as a voice of one crying in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord, making his paths straight." Well, Jesus was that Lord, and He was now present. In fact, on one day Jesus stood before John asking to be baptized in the water, just as the many others had been baptized. John was incredulous when his cousin stood before him. He knew who He was. He knew what He represented. He couldn't believe it. John said to Jesus, "I need to be baptized by you, and you're coming to me?" Jesus responded, He said, "Look, permit it to be so now. For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." In other words Jesus was saying, "This baptism of me it has to be done to fulfill God's requirements.” So John baptized Jesus, put Him into the water of the Jordan River and as Jesus emerged from the water, "he saw the Spirit of God descend upon Him," it says, "like a dove. And immediately there was a very strong voice from Heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"
You know what's remarkable about this event, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan? Jesus didn't need to be baptized. Jesus was God in the flesh. He had not sinned, not even once. So why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized to set us an example of righteousness. Because that step of baptism is such an important step in our life, Jesus took the unimaginable, even unnecessary, in a sense, step of having Himself put into the waters of the Jordan to set us an example, to show us what we are to do, an imitation of Him. Christ said that He came to show us the Father, and by His example, His words, and His teaching, He did that. Jesus was the living Word of God, existing with the Father before coming to Earth in the flesh. He came to show us how He and the Father had lived in eternity. They were in perfect harmony. They were in perfect agreement. They always had been. They were perfect in love. You know when the Bible says, "God is love," in 1 John 4:8, "God is love," that's more than just a nice statement that we memorize about how God is. What that is, is a statement saying that we should become as God, in a sense, embodying love. Jesus did that in His own life. Baptism is that first step and a very important step in that process because we're being told what God is, but also why God sent the Word as the only begotten Son in the flesh to live and to die. The life of Jesus is written for us to learn about life at the divine level of existence, and that existence is based on a standard of righteousness that we are not born with. We're human. "We've all sinned," the scripture tells us, "there's none righteous, no not one." And we all need to establish a relationship with God to fill what is really a gaping void in our life that we don't always understand and we don't come to see until God begins to work with us and begin to point certain things out to us. In reality, we're not complete as human beings until we take that step, that step of baptism based on repentance for the receipt of His Spirit.
In this scene of Jesus being baptized we come to the biggest question and to the biggest challenge of life. Does the love of God live in us? Does it live in you? Have we done what the Pharisees of Christ's time could not do, and it's a question for you, our audience. Do you see that despite your righteousness there's still a great gulf between you and God? Stay with me. Listen carefully. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He didn't do this for Himself. He did it to show something about us, that we're not righteous by ourselves and until we come to see this we can actually kid ourselves that we are righteous or that we're good and be good people. We can live in a deception we cannot see. Deception happens when there's a veil over a person's eyes, and until it's lifted and we begin to really see with a clarity and a focus unknown before, we may think and have certain presumptions. Our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and these Pharisees were religious leaders and they had a high level of knowledge about the scriptures. Many of them lived with a degree of good behavior, but, as John was telling them, it wasn't good enough. There was something missing, and they couldn't see it. They couldn't understand it. Even when John the Baptist rejected their request to be baptized, it still didn't register with many of them. Now, a few it did.
Take a fresh look at this example of Christ being baptized, and what does it say to us? You may have been baptized at some point in your life. Maybe as a child or as a young adult, you may have heard a message about God, about Jesus Christ. That message moved you to make a commitment through the act of baptism and you were totally sincere. But let me ask you a few questions. Did you understand repentance, what the Bible calls a true godly repentance? The kind that leads to a changing of your life of wrong and harmful behavior? Did it lead you through a passionate desire to correct your life and align yourself with God? I once had a counseling session with a young person who wanted to be baptized. When I asked them in the first session why they wanted to be baptized, they told me that they had finally awakened to what they described as their ungodly lifestyle, and they wanted to put it all behind them. This person had a vehement desire to clear themselves of sin and of unrighteousness. As they told me their story, I could see an indignation at their lifestyle. They knew better, but years of running with the crowd and enjoying what they thought was the good life, had brought them nothing but unhappiness. Now, at that point, they were more than sorry. They actually desired to clear themselves of the life that they had lived and start a new life. That's what godly repentance is. That's what it brings a person to.
Now think about your life. If you're thinking that your baptism and your church is valid in the sight of God, ask yourself, "Did I know the truth about God's holy Sabbath?" You know, if you were part of a church, a great mainstream religious audience keeping Sunday which is not God's Sabbath day, then your knowledge was deficient. Well-meaning as you were, you were still breaking the fourth commandment, which says to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Now I know that people can say that, "Well, my church taught me this. This is what I knew. This is all I knew, and I believed them." You may have accepted their teaching, your church is teaching. However it was false, and that's a problem with false religion in our world today. When God calls us to see His truth, well we then have a personal duty to acknowledge the error and to change or we just ignore it.
Now with what I'm saying here, think about this. You shouldn't try to squirm out of all of this. Don't reason with yourself. Don't reject what I'm saying. Ask yourself another question. Were you keeping Christmas, Easter, holidays thinking that you were honoring God? The reality is they don't. These holidays are riddled with false ideas about Christ. They're devoid of the ultimate truths about why Jesus came to Earth as a Man born of a virgin. Easter misses the fundamental truth about the life of Christ available to us through the certainty and the truth of His resurrection. Baptism is tied to these truths, and understanding them is key to a true baptism, that results in God giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit. You should not delude yourself thinking that you could take such an important step without having knowledge.
I ask one more question. Did you understand the true nature of the God family? The Bible reveals to us that God's one family with two beings: the Father and the Son. Jesus, the Christ. God is not a Trinity, as taught by the mainstream Christian faiths. The doctrine of the Trinity is designed to hide the truth of who and what God is and the very purpose of human life. These are all key truths of the Bible, helpful and vital for our understanding the important choices of life that we have to make, especially the choice to commit unconditionally to God for all of our lives symbolizing that through the ritual of baptism in water and what that means. Hard as it may be for us to admit, it is the truth, and truth is what baptism's all about. It's not about our sentiment or good feelings. Baptism is about God, and the truth of why God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins. We'll come back to that in a moment.
But, I want to review a story that we talked about earlier in another program leading up to this. Where on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem there was an outpouring of the Spirit of God that came upon the disciples, who were gathered to worship God. A miraculous speaking of different languages that occurred, it was in Acts chapter two. The apostle Peter stood to give a powerful sermon explaining what had happened with the death and resurrection of Christ. Carefully with scripture, he brought the message down to the personal level of the people who were listening to him that day when he told them how Jesus had been betrayed and falsely accused and then killed. He told them that one more thing. He told them they had a part in the death of Jesus, the Son of God. He said, "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ, and when they heard this, they were cut to the heart. They said, ‘How could this be?’” Now, with that statement, we're getting closer to what it takes for a person to make a lasting change. This message, the message that Peter gave, penetrated to the inner being of those people, and it must for us. The realization that we not only have done something terribly wrong, but in our mental state, our way of thinking, and our view of life, as some call it the worldview, it's all contrary to the moral nature of the universe.
Consider this, we could be living a life directly opposed to the very power holding together all things in Heaven and Earth and living a life contrary to God. Coming to that moment of clarity, should cut us to the heart. “They cried out to Peter, ‘What shall we do?’” They were convicted by words in scripture, at that moment that were inspired by the Word of God. They felt hopeless. What once was a certainty of their life that they were a people chosen by God, citizens of Jerusalem, the apple of God's eye, all of that was shown now to be hollow. God was guiding that moment in their lives and Peter was ready with the words of hope, and God stands behind those words today as we read them. They are words of hope, words we need to read in a world that has forgotten God. Peter said to them, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off," he said, "and to as many as the Lord our God will call."
Repentance comes when our view of ourselves is broken down, when we come to see that we are sinners in need of God. Even when we think we know God and we may be His children, sincere as we may be, we have come to a form of godliness that we realize we have and thinking we're right with the Lord, but we might just be as far as any other people who are not. Here's a problem. I said at the beginning some of you who are regular listeners may not be hearing us. You profess to be commandment keepers. You may have been baptized in some other time and place in your life but if you've never experienced a deep heartfelt repentance leading to a conversion of heart and mind and a changed view of who you are, it may not be real.
Godly repentance leads to a change, and that's what we say. That is our message on Beyond Today. Repentance is a tumultuous upheaval in a person's life. Real repentance comes to include a heartbroken desire to give ourselves to God, and God has a promise reflecting His love, His care, and His purpose to reconcile us through the life of His Son. And these men and women came to see that love and so can you. It can produce radical change leading to eternal life in the future and a better life today. This repentance led Peter's audience to move to the step of baptism, and it should do the same for any of us when it comes to that moment in our life, a new life that baptism can give us when we do it right.
Now let me return to the important meaning of baptism and explain what it really shows. This ties in with repentance. We go to the sixth chapter of the book of Romans. The apostle Paul is describing the meaning of baptism there to his people, what really happens when we're properly baptized after coming to a true godly repentance. It's in Romans chapter six beginning in verse one. Paul says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? No," he says, "certainly not. How shall we who have died to sin live any longer in it? Do you not know," he says, "that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are 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 should also walk in a newness of life." Paul's saying that baptism is a step that we take when we decide that we no longer want to break the law of God and we want to die to our sins, change our lives, begin to keep God's spiritual law embodied in the Ten Commandments.
Have you ever come to the point where you make a decision to stop living a sinful life? Paul connects baptism to a death and a burial. The death of Jesus Christ, the central event of Christ's life on Earth, His death and His resurrection are connected to the ritual of baptism. Paul goes on, he says, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man was crucified, and it might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
The word baptism in the Bible means a full immersion in water. It's a symbolic burial. Like Christ buried after His death, our action says we want to bury our old habits, our old self, and we're determined to live a new life. Christ was resurrected not to a corrupt physical body but to a Spirit body, a glory that He once had in eternity with His Father, and when we come up out of the watery grave of baptism, our sins literally are forgiven if we've truly repented in a godly manner before Him. God will honor that, and He will put those sins as far from us as the east is from the west. We receive then a new life in Christ at that moment. That's what it means. That we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Let's read just a little further. Paul says, "If we died with Christ, we believe then that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Baptism unites us in a new life with God the Father and Jesus Christ. We don't start living until we come to that stage in this life, and that's what man was created to have. We're incomplete until we take that step of repentance and baptism which prepares us for the next step, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I cannot put any greater truth in life before you. That's the most important decision that you will ever make. It has eternal consequences. We are created in God's image with the potential for eternal life in His family. Repentance and baptism is that first step to that end, and God is offering all of us a calling to that life, to examine our life and to let it be changed by that truth. I know this is quite a lot to put upon our audience. That's why we have this booklet, What You Need to Know About Baptism. It walks you through a careful study of the Bible, this most important of topics. This program's meant to challenge your assumptions about God and eternity, and this study guide can help settle your thoughts and your mind about what you need to do. You can begin reading it immediately, or you can receive a free copy of this guide. Go to beyondtodaytv. Begin reading it, or call the number on your screen, and we'll send you a copy of this study guide at no charge.
Christ set us an example of baptism, because He wants us to share eternity in His family with us. Baptism has eternal consequences. It's the step that makes us complete as human beings. It's the most important decision that you will ever make. Are you ready to take that step?
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, What You Need to Know About Baptism. Does God want you to be baptized? Is it necessary for salvation? Our free study aid, What You Need to Know About Baptism, will walk you through the plain Bible scriptures about baptism explaining what it is and why God requires it. Find biblical answers to common questions about baptism, like, "Is there a right way to be baptized? What is the relationship between grace, faith, and law, and should children be baptized?" You will also learn about the transforming power of God's Holy Spirit in your life, which begins with a laying on of hands at baptism. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. God wants you to take the road to eternal life in His family and your first steps are repentance and baptism. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, What You Need to Know About Baptism and your free one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine 1-888-886-8632, or go online to beyondtodaytv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you're looking for a church that encourages living what the Word of God really teaches, you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.