By His power, God can and will cleanse you of all your past guilt, pain and burdens. You can become a new person.
[Gary] He was a man so well known for one religious practice that it became part of his name—John the Baptist.
John was famous for baptizing people in the Jordan River. People came from miles around to confess their sins and be immersed in water as a symbol of God’s forgiveness.
One day, Jesus came to the Jordan. At first John refused to baptize Him claiming, “I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-14 Matthew 3:13-14 13 Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of you, and come you to me?
American King James Version×NIV)
John must have been astonished when Christ answered, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15 Matthew 3:15And Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
American King James Version×NIV) Then, John baptized Jesus.
What does Jesus’ example of baptism mean to those who are truly trying to follow His teachings?
On Beyond Today , we’re going to explore this often misunderstood practice of the earliest Christians in “Baptism: Washing away the Past.”
Why should I be Baptized?
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[Gary] Do you carry a heavy burden because of past mistakes? Maybe a divorce, a broken relationship with a child, a battle with alcoholism, or an act so hideous it haunts your memories. Maybe you’ve reached a stage in life where you wish you could just start all over again…be a new person.
Well you know, you can change jobs, change husbands, change schools, change locations. But in the end, wherever you go—the common denominator is still there—because wherever you go, you are still there.
As a pastor, I’ve sat on many living room couches, in prison meeting rooms, or in coffee shops and had someone make this statement, “My sins are so horrible that God won’t forgive me.”
Early in my ministry, I encountered a really sad situation I still vividly remember. I was sitting in the home of a man who was dying from a horrible disease. He believed he was suffering punishment from God because his sins were so loathsome that God could not forgive him. Well you know, I explained how God wanted to forgive him and that Jesus Christ had suffered, and died and was resurrected for his forgiveness and spiritual healing, but he could not accept God’s forgiveness.
He continued to suffer serious symptoms, even after the doctors told him that he was physically healthy. This man may have been physically well, but he was spiritually sick—totally convinced that his sins were unforgivable, even to God.
His burden of guilt was destroying his relationships, robbing him of peace of mind—literally destroying his physical health—and creating a barrier between him and God.
Well here is the good news, God can and will wash away the guilt, the pain and the burdens of the past and help you become a new person.
Let’s go back to the story of John the Baptist and Jesus.
The Jordan River isn’t really much of a river—it’s rather narrow. And yet it is one of the most famous rivers in the entire world. It is famous because of the religious practice of baptism. People still travel to the Jordan from all over the world to be immersed in its waters.
The Jewish world at the time of John the Baptist was a very religious society. I mean, they lived in the shadow of Herod’s magnificent temple where daily sacrifices were made to the God of Israel. Synagogues could be found throughout the land.
But many people were searching for a more personal connection with God. John the Baptist told them of God’s coming judgment and about a man from God who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. He told people to repent and be baptized—which means to be immersed in water—as a symbolic washing away of their sins.
Baptism wasn’t just a unique custom of John the Baptist. It became the central initiation ceremony of Christian discipleship. In the book of Acts, which chronicles the story of the earliest followers of Jesus Christ, this book contains example after example of baptisms. In Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, Jews, Gentiles—people from all races and languages—up to 3,000 people in one day were baptized.
And these early Christians weren’t baptizing simply because it was taught by John the Baptist or because it was a nice religious ritual. Jesus told His disciples, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” (Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×, NIV).
You know, this statement isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command by Jesus to His disciples as part of the process of making new disciples.
Why? Why was baptism so important to early Christians and why is it important to you if you want to be a true disciple of Jesus?
Well to answer that question, we’re going to look at two reasons why baptism—for followers of Jesus Christ—is very important.
The first reason: Baptism is an expression of repentance.
So, what is repentance?
Repentance, as taught by Jesus, is a lot more than what many people believe. It is more than a belief in God and reading the sinner’s prayer.
Repentance is heart-felt recognition of your sins and rebellion against God. All human beings are designed in the image of God, but we’ve become deformed images of God. Our human nature is corrupted by evil—and the result? Oh, it’s the suffering and death that you and I experience every day. We’ve broken the laws of God that govern our relationships with Him and with other human beings. Like every other human being you are—now listen to this, it’s painful—you are before the law of God and judgment seat of God, a criminal—declared guilty before the Creator and Judge of all mankind.
Now I know at this point some of you will ask, “Well, where is your message about love? What’s this good news you’re talking about? I mean I’m basically a good person, how dare you call me a criminal.”
You know the truth is, that until you understand why God sent Jesus Christ to die for you, you will never understand the depths of God’s love. Jesus died for each of us because each of us deserves to die for our own sins. If you want to be washed from your sins and become a new person, you must first acknowledge that you have sins and be willing to give up the old person.
God just doesn’t want to forgive you of your sins—He actually wants to do something more. He wants to free you from the slavery and the ugly, horrible results of sin. You know, it’s really meaningless to ask God to forgive you of your sins and then decide to remain the same old sinner. You see, that’s not repentance.
The ultimate expression of this sort of attitude was shown to me one time by a person I met many years ago who was in and out of prison most of his life. He denied any responsibility for his violence, his anger or hatred. To him, his problems were all God’s fault for letting Satan influence his life. He believed that he had no real need for repentance because his actions really weren’t his fault. He felt that he really didn’t even need to change—he just needed some more love and understanding.
It is difficult for all of us to come to the need we have for a relationship with our Creator. It’s only when we are willing to look into the ugliness of our own corrupt human nature that we can truly respond to God’s love and God’s forgiveness. And then something amazing happens. Not generated by your power or my power, but by the power of God.
The Bible says in Acts 13:22 Acts 13:22And when he had removed him, he raised up to them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.
American King James Version×that King David was a man after God’s own heart. It says: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” David was a man who related to God at the very deepest core of his being.
Now, we’re going to take a look at how David approached repentance, but first I want to tell you about our free Bible study aid, The Road to Eternal Life . This short, but valuable, free publication will help you discover much more about baptism and what you can do to have God involved every day, personally in your life.
To request your own, personal free copy of: The Road to Eternal Life please call toll free: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or if you prefer, visit BeyondToday.tv to read or download, The Road to Eternal Life .
With this helpful study aid, you will learn what the Holy Scriptures reveal about the process of conversion and how you can be given God’s marvelous gift of eternal life.
Becoming a New Person
King David was a man so in tune with God that the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart. The Scripture also records the darker side of David’s nature. He committed a terrible sexual sin and then had a man murdered to cover up the sin. You know, it would seem that God would abandon a man who did such evil things.
Amazingly, when David was confronted with his sin, he offered no excuses. Instead, at the deepest core of his being, he agonized over his own depravity and begged God for mercy.
Psalm 51 in your Bible is a song written by David to acknowledge his sin and ask God for forgiveness. In this remarkable Psalm, we are given an example of real repentance.
David begins the Psalm with these statements:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalms 51:1-4 Psalms 51:1-4 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.
American King James Version×).
Notice—no excuses, no “well, you know, it was Bathsheba’s fault for tempting me.” Or “God, you just need to understand the stress I’m under because of all my kingly responsibilities and understand me a little more.”
Instead, David throws himself on God’s magnificent “loving-kindness” and he asks Him to “blot out” or erase his sins. You see David actually feels dirty and wants to be washed. He acknowledges that God is Judge and has the right to condemn him. He knows that God won’t compromise with His own righteous laws. He also understands God’s remarkable capacity for mercy.
Now think about this. Do you accept God as the righteous, sovereign Judge who has the right to condemn humanity for our sins? Or do you hide behind the ultimate lie of human defense—you see, God loves me so my actions don’t matter?
David recognized God’s goodness and his own wretchedness. God’s loving-kindness doesn’t condone sin, but it does forgive sin. God requires though, the human response of repentance.
And that’s our first point—baptism is an expression of repentance. And repentance is necessary for salvation.
Now this brings us to our second point: Baptism is about becoming a new person.
David says, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalms 51:6-7 Psalms 51:6-7 6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
American King James Version×).
God desires the truth in your “inward parts.” Remember, repentance is more than just a profession of faith. It is more than reading a tract and reciting a prayer welcoming Jesus into your life.
No one can save themselves. No human works, church works, good deeds can earn salvation. But—it is an absolute falsehood to believe that because of God’s infinite loving-kindness and mercy, He doesn’t care about how you live. God’s ultimate purpose for you is for you to be His child living forever in His family. Salvation does involve works—salvation involves the works of Almighty God in human beings. These are the works Jesus Christ spoke of when He declared:
“Abide in Me…” Abide means to live. Jesus says, live in Me “and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5 John 15:4-5 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
American King James Version×).
God is not impotent or uninvolved. He will produce spiritual fruit in all those who, through faith, submit to Him.
In Psalm 51, David not only asked God to forgive him, He came before the majestic throne of the Living God and asked—listen to this: “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” (Psalms 51:10 Psalms 51:10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
American King James Version×).
David desired God’s forgiveness. He begged God to wash away his sins. And notice, He also desired God’s work in His life to produce change—the fruit of God’s loving-kindness is forgiveness but it’s more than that. It’s the healing in you that causes change.
At the beginning of the program, we discussed John the Baptist.
John told those who came to him, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, and He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11 Matthew 3:11I indeed baptize you with water to repentance. but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
American King James Version×).
John was referring to the coming Messiah—the Christ, the Son of God—who would die as the substitute penalty for all of our sins. This Messiah would also baptize with the Holy Spirit so that sin can be defeated in the lives of those who experience water baptism as the symbolic washing away of sin.
You see, God’s forgiveness is just the beginning of a new relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. The pouring out of God’s love and power into your life is the result of repentance, forgiveness and water baptism. It is through this work of God that our bonds of sin are broken, our hearts and minds are healed and we become the true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Think about this: Jesus had no sin. He had no need to undergo water baptism. He needed no symbolic washing. So why did He do it? Why did He have John the Baptist baptize Him?
Remember now when we talked about earlier, when Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized John declared, “I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-14 Matthew 3:13-14 13 Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of you, and come you to me?
American King James Version×, NIV)
Remember Christ answered, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15 Matthew 3:15And Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
American King James Version×, NIV).
Jesus left us an example of righteousness—or right ways before God. Disciples—disciples are imitators of the Master. True disciples imitate the Master’s teachings. They imitate His way of living. They imitate His examples.
Now if you want to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ then you need to imitate His teachings and His examples.
As we’ve seen today, first—you need to repent before God and part of the process is to study Psalm 51. Get down on your knees, and read Psalm 51 to God and ask Him to help you repent, help you experience what David is experiencing and writing about in that song. And then ask Him to create a new heart in you. Repentance requires a conscious decision and commitment, as an adult. And that’s why there is no biblical precedent for infant baptism.
Then, after that first point, seek to follow Jesus’ example of righteousness and be baptized as the symbolic washing away of your sins. And baptism means, by the way, full immersion—complete washing—not sprinkling. God is interested in showing you that He is washing away all of your sins—total and complete forgiveness.
When you request our Bible study aid, The Road to Eternal Life we’ll also send you a free subscription to our Good News magazine . Each issue of The Good News is packed with articles that will give you discernment about what Jesus meant by righteousness. You’ll enjoy articles expounding what the Bible teaches about faith, family, prophecy, doctrine and the vital need to have a close relationship with your Creator.
Call: 1-888-886-8632. That’s, 1-888-886-8632, or go online at BeyondToday.tv for the study aid, The Road to Eternal Life and our valuable magazine, The Good News.
Well, we’re joined by Darris McNeely and Steve Myers to discuss further the topic we’ve been talking about today of repentance and water baptism.
You know Steve, maybe, share with us your baptism experience, and what led up to you even being baptized.
[Steve] Well, I grew up in a Christian family. I believed in Jesus. I thought I had taken Jesus into my heart as a kid. And, I came to a point in my life that I realized God was a part of my life, but that’s where He was limited to—just a part. He wasn’t what my life was all about.
Even though I thought I knew Jesus, I wasn’t right. And my thinking was off and I came to begin to see that, what really what sin was all about. That even though, while I loved God, I was still a sinner. And there was no way that I could work anything up to clear myself.
And so, I think when God started to work with me, I came to see I needed to be rescued. And I started reading my Bible a little bit more. And I could see I didn’t measure up to what it talked about in Ephesians, that I was supposed to be to the measure and stature of Christ. And there was no way I was like that.
And so I saw my own faulty thinking. And I turned to God and started praying and asked Him to help me to see myself and to help me—to help me. And that’s when I began that process then towards baptism, to realize I needed God’s Spirit. I needed to wash those sins away through God’s plan and through that baptism, and then receive His Spirit so I could go on.
[Gary] We have to come to the full understanding of that need.
[Darris] We do. My experience, Gary, was a bit different than Steve’s. I had a religious mother but my father was not a believer in an active sense, a good man, but not a believer. And so, in fact that kind of represented a kind of a mixed approach in my life, to religion, to God, as my mother tried to work with me. And as she began to learn certain truths, she began to teach me what that was all about. And, I had kind of one foot into the Bible, one foot into this world—if you want to look at it that way.
There was a scripture in Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×where Paul says to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God. And that began to work on my mind and make me decide and realize that I, that’s really what I had to do. And so, the decision that I made to be baptized, to accept Christ’s sacrifice in faith for my past sins, was made in a sense of being a sacrifice—to a sacrificial life. And that’s made all the difference.
So, there was a kind of a tide that was arriving in my life and I reached out and got on it, and it has carried me throughout my entire life in a direction toward God’s Kingdom, God’s way of life. But that baptism came through a process that put me on a course to a sacrificial life along with what Paul talks about there in Romans 12. So that was the way that it came to me.
[Gary] You know, it’s interesting, as I was listening to both of you, I can remember when I was young, a young man wanting to be baptized and realizing I needed to be forgiven for my sins. And how, just intense that was. But it wasn’t until after I was baptized for a couple of years that I actually began to realize the fullness of what it means; that we have to become like Christ, that God has to do this work in us to literally make us like Christ, and how corrupt our human nature is.
As pastors, of course, all three of us have counseled many people over the years about baptism. If someone came to you and said, now I am interested in baptism, where would, just where you would start? Okay here is where we start now to talk about baptism.
[Steve] I think one of the interesting things is, what dominates your thinking? What is it that you think most about? There is an amazing passage back in the book of Isaiah 55 where it talks about, where God says, My thoughts are not your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8 Isaiah 55:8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD.
American King James Version×). And we come to see ourselves, that our thinking doesn’t line up with God’s thinking.
And as we see ourselves for what we really are, we realize we’ve got to be forgiven, and we have to have God’s Holy Spirit, that we have to have those sins washed away. So I think it begins with that process of changing the way that you think, how you see yourself and where do you see God’s purpose for you. And it begins that journey.
[Gary] What scripture would you begin?
[Darris] Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×where Peter said to those that were assembled before him on the day of Pentecost—repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had come face-to-face with the reality that they were responsible for the death of Christ, and the solution Peter gave them was to repent. I always anchor my discussions with people about baptism right there and expand it fully.
[Gary] Don’t forget to order your free copy of, The Road to Eternal Life and you also get a free subscription to The Good News magazine. Please call toll free: 1-888-886-8632. Or, you can read both online at BeyondToday.tv .
And, the United Church of God has hundreds of Sabbath-keeping congregations meeting on Saturday across the United States and around the world. Go to BeyondToday.tv —click on the “Contact” tab to find a congregation near you . Call one of our pastors, share your story with them, and find out more about the biblical command of baptism.
The burdens in your life, they can be lifted. The ugliness of the past washed away. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, you can become a new person—but not by your own power—by the power of God.
Accepting God’s forgiveness without a corresponding change in life, it’s Christianity lived in the shadows. It is Christianity without God’s power and it is disrespectful to the life, death, purpose, resurrection, meaning, mission, vision of our Savior.
God wants to forgive you. He wants to wash away your sins. He wants to recreate you into a new person—a person of love, and power and a sound mind.
So—what are you going to do?
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today , I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !