Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] I recently met a man I will call Thomas. He was baptized as a young child and lived his life thinking he was right with God and his salvation assured. No problem, he felt. He was bound for eternal glory and heaven.
Then Thomas began listening to us here on Beyond Today and reading his Bible with new understanding. He appreciated all the new truths he was learning and he began to change his life.
Thomas rejoiced in the truth he was gleaning from Scripture. But there was one truth he could not see. This truth had everything to do with his salvation. Until he accepted this truth, Thomas was missing a critical key to his salvation. He did not understand the profound truth of a proper baptism which is the critical step in the path of eternal life.
How about you? Could there be a piece missing on the road to your salvation? Join us on Beyond Today as we discuss “Baptism: Let’s Talk About Your Salvation.”
Have you had a religious experience where you committed yourself to God or perhaps you were baptized? Now, you think, you are guaranteed eternal salvation. Right? Do you think that right now your life is “good enough” before God? You may want to consider that the very Word of God has very explicit instructions for followers of Jesus Christ. Let me show you something from the Bible.
There was a man who thought that he knew God. He obeyed God in his personal life and he worked hard to promote his faith and his religion. He went so far as to persecute those of his own nation who were just as faithful and zealous yet different from him. This man’s name was Saul. You know him as the Pharisee who became the apostle Paul.
Saul came face to face with the risen Jesus Christ as he was traveling to the city of Damascus to arrest disciples of the Church of God. The story is told in the book of Acts.
“Saul was breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” (Acts 9:1-4)
Now consider this. Saul was a very good Pharisee and he was doing what he thought was God’s will.
But, in a very dramatic way he found out he was working against the will of God. Christ confronted him directly.
And Saul said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is useless for you to fight against my will’” (NLT). (Acts 9:5; Acts 26:14)
Saul was guilty of resisting the will of God, fighting against the living Christ. His only response at this moment was to ask, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6)
It was the right question. It’s the question that we should all ask God in our personal prayers to Him. Lord, what do you want me to do? Christ directed Saul to go into the city where he would discover what he was to do next.
The story in Acts shows us Saul then encountered another disciple named Ananias who had been told to go and to baptize him. Ananias came to Saul and laid hands on him and he baptized him as Christ had told him to do. God restored Saul’s sight and he began a new life before God.
Had Paul resisted the command from Christ he would have remained in ignorance about the real purpose God wanted for his life. Paul was called to be a greater instrument in the hand of God.
Can you see where you too may be called to a greater purpose? Perhaps, like Paul, you have been going down a path that seemed good and right. Yet, there’s more to the story for you. What could be keeping you from realizing this?
This story is from the Book of Acts. In your Bible Acts is an important book telling us how salvation is made possible through the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The path to salvation can be called the road to eternal life. This path begins when you come face to face with Jesus Christ just as Paul did on the road to Damascus.
A prominent theme in Acts is repentance and baptism. Those who came into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God ultimately repented and were baptized. As they heard the message of hope of salvation through Jesus they responded to that message. It gave meaning and a new direction in their lives, just as it did for the apostle Paul.
Again from the book of Acts on the historic day of Pentecost when the Church was founded, Peter’s first sermon convicted members of his audience of their sins. Notice what Peter said.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know. Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death” (Acts 2:22-23).
This is a powerfully convicting message from the apostle Peter. It speaks to the personal responsibility that we have in looking at our life and comparing it to the very life of the Son of God. Peter said, “you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death.”
Those were powerful words to the first century audience. You can imagine that several hearing Peter’s words were in the crowd and called for the release of a thief named Barabbas and left Jesus in bonds to be led to His death by crucifixion. These men and women were being confronted with their part in the death of a man who had done nothing to deserve such treatment. They were confronted with the reality that they had killed the Son of God who came in the flesh to show the way to salvation. These words still carry a powerful force and meaning today. They should speak to you. They should convict us of the need to accept in faith the sacrifice of Christ for all sin.
The crowd listening to Peter immediately sought a way out of their dilemma. God mercifully provided an answer. Notice what is said. “Then Peter said to them, ‘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).
Peter added, “For the promise is to you and your children and as many as are afar off and as many as the Lord shall call.” He then encouraged them to “be saved from this perverse generation.” They could change their lives and begin to live differently. And many of them did. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).
So what does this mean for you? It means God has given a way to handle life with all its challenges and opportunities. Peter held out hope to his audience that they now had a path forward through their lives that would lead to a better life. Notice he told them to “save yourselves” (Acts 2:40). They had to make a decision, a decision to accept the opportunity before them.
Perhaps an analogy will help. These men and women were drowning in a moment of despair brought on by the realization that they had been involved with the death of not just an innocent man but the one sent by God in answer to all the promises and the prophecies they knew from scripture. Like a person drowning in a body of water they were grasping for a lifeline, a means by which their lives could be put on firm ground and they could feel safe. Peter threw them the life line. It required them to grab hold and decide to make a new life in the midst of a world described as perverse or crooked. A world that had killed Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God would be a world hostile to this new life. But Peter also showed the key to overcoming their past life and how to enter a new life of the world to come. The key is found in the Holy Spirit of God.
Jesus had once described to His followers exactly how this new life would work. He showed that He was the key. Using the illustration of a shepherd and sheep he wove a description of how He would help all who made the decision to follow his lead as the chief shepherd to achieve a new level of life.
Notice what Jesus said. “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door.”
Let’s pause here. A door opens. A door gives entrance into a place. Christ is saying He was the entrance into a condition, a relationship unlike any other. Others would try to create that relationship but unless Christ was involved it would be false. Jesus said to His followers to listen, to hear Him.
Now let’s continue. “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Let’s pause there again.
Jesus was explaining salvation. “Enter by me,” Jesus said, “and you will be saved.” Remember what Peter said? “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). We have described a portal into a new life, requiring a decision, a right decision of the heart and mind based on truth. Jesus was offering to give His disciples good pasture, good spiritual teaching that would lead them along the road of salvation.
Now let’s see how Christ concludes that passage. He went on to say “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10).
Christ came to give life, an abundant successful fulfilling life with answers to the big questions and the big issues of human life. Christ explained the purpose for human life. He revealed the mystery of God, explaining just who God was and that He, Jesus, was God’s son sent to clear the path of salvation about eternal life. Where other teachers and teachings had stolen this understanding Jesus revealed it clearly by and through His life.
The abundant life Jesus revealed was through and by a relationship with Him. It would require a desire to change one’s life and faith in Christ. With Peter’s sermon we see that the act of baptism is a required step. Not by the practice of sprinkling, but by a full immersion. Here’s why.
See, baptism is a symbol of the death of what the Bible calls “the old man.” It involves immersion into a “watery grave” showing our desire to put to death our past life. Coming up out of the water is like a resurrection to a new life led by the Spirit of God.
The Bible describes those who are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God (Romans 8:14). It is a new life. A life led by the Spirit of the holy God. It makes all the difference; it can make a world of difference in your life now.
The abundant life that Christ spoke about begins only when we decide to turn from our life and seek a new life with the Holy Spirit. This new life is different than what we now have. It’s a life with God at the center. It’s a new life with the goal of the coming Kingdom of God firmly in our sights. Such a life it ignites passion, a passion to leave all and seek the righteousness of that kingdom. Christ spoke parables that explain the excitement and the passion that is aroused by this new life. There’s one parable, it’s called the parable of the pearl of great price. In it He described, “the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
The calling of a new life in Christ requires us to sell all that we have of the former life and go all out and all in for the kingdom of God. This pearl of great price cannot be found by any less of an effort.
So here is the question. Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to pay the price? Not everyone is and not everyone can. But this business of eternal life and salvation is not as effortless as your religious teachers may have led you to believe. What Christ laid down for His disciples, and for the Church that He is building, requires a carefully thought out commitment. It requires us to count the cost.
Jesus illustrated what He meant by using the example of a man planning to build a great tower. The large building project required planning and an accurate determination of the cost, before breaking ground with the first spade of dirt. Such a project requires having enough money to finish what is started. Lest,” he said, “after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him saying ‘This man began to build and is not able to finish.’” Christ’s main point was “if you do not forsake all that you have you cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).
These are strong words and they do not fit well into our modern minds accustomed to easy solutions, short commitments and minimal risk. To be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is dangerous, challenging and rigorous business. It will require nothing short of a total commitment of your life for your whole life. This is why Jesus said “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to make a commitment? We here on Beyond Today , we share the truths that God reveals and we lay them before you in each program. Our free Bible Study aids and Beyond Today magazine contain understanding of the Bible and of God’s plan of salvation for you. But you have to take a critical first step to begin to the journey. Let’s look at one more example from your Bible.
In Acts we have a story of an encounter between the disciple Philip and a eunuch who was the treasury minister in the Ethiopian queen’s government. He was reading from the book of Isaiah. After Philip had thoroughly explained the truth of God to him, this official asked him, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
Should you not ask yourself the same question? What hinders you from being baptized?
In the story, Philip replied, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch responded, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37).
But then what happened? Did Philip recommend delaying the ceremony? No not at all. It says this, “And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38).
How did the Ethiopian eunuch react to his baptism? In the account there in Acts we are told that after Philip left the scene the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). It was probably the happiest day of his life. His past sins were forgiven and behind him forever. He could look forward to a transformed life, the abundant life that Christ spoke of. He could look forward to an ever increasing understanding of the Word of God made possible by God’s Holy Spirit.
The day of your baptism is not a day of suffering and sadness. Have you ever noticed the facial expression of a bride on her wedding day? A big smile graces the face of blissful happiness and great joy!
Both marriage and baptism are rites of passage into a different way of life. The former, marriage, is on the human level. It’s for this physical life. But the latter, baptism, is an important step toward living forever in God’s eternal Kingdom.
Let me say that again about baptism. It’s not for those with no understanding of the law of God. As part of this sacred rite, we enter into a covenant with God in which we promise to strive to obey His law for the rest of our lives. This is what is called repentance. It’s turning our lives around to obey God, to keep His Holy law. But we must first understand what it is God requires of us before we commit to it.
In the examples of Paul and the 3,000 Jews that were baptized when the New Testament Church began, they were keeping the biblical Feast of Pentecost. They all had a background of instruction in God’s commandments. So did the Ethiopian eunuch because the Jewish religion, and this might surprise some to learn, the Jewish religion was commonly practiced in his home country of Ethiopia.
So where are you in your understanding and in your commitment? Do you know your Bible? Or does this biblical language sound strange to you? You may need more time before even considering baptism. Time that can be well spent by studying the Bible, and to assist you in your study we provide not only the articles in Beyond Today magazine but many free study guides offered in every issue. Eventually you can make an informed decision about your commitment to God.
But if you are unnecessarily delaying baptism based on an idea or feeling that are not supported in Scripture, then listen to these words of the apostle Paul. He told Timothy, “Lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12). Without baptism this becomes impossible. Baptism is a command of God, it’s part of His plan of salvation and a lack of repentance or faith are the only valid reasons for delaying baptism.
But you have already taken significant steps in that direction. If you understand and seek His truth, God will grant you even deeper repentance. So why put off what the Bible calls “the baptism of repentance” (Acts 13:24)? Why delay your start down the road to eternal salvation? Indeed, as Paul tells us in the book of Acts, God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
If you would like to discuss baptism or any other spiritual matter, we can help you arrange a private appointment with a United Church of God minister. In confidence he would be glad to explain repentance, baptism and any other biblical topic in much more detail.
As you know, my fellow presenters and I are ministers and pastors with the United Church of God. Gary and Steve are joining me here for a moment to talk about the need for proper baptism. And one of the best examples of this is the baptism of Jesus Christ Himself.
So Steve and Gary, welcome. Let’s talk for a moment about baptism as it pertains to Jesus Christ because it is a question that might come up.
Christ was perfect. Why was He in need of being baptized when He was baptized by John the Baptist?
[Gary] That’s a very important question because Jesus as the Son of God, obviously did not need to be baptized because baptism is for the washing away of sin, symbolically washing away sins. He had no sin to be washed but he said that he needed to do this for righteousness sake. The whole issue was he was doing it as an example. You know, as Christians we should be the disciples of Jesus Christ, following Him as the master. So we follow His commands. How much more should we be following His example, an example that He deliberately sets for us? So what He did there is very important in understanding what it is to be a Christian.
[Steve] I think it also speaks to the fact that it was a witness to John the Baptist as well. John said well wait a second I’m the one that needs to be baptized not you and he recognized that he was preparing the way for the Christ, for the Messiah. And there was this voice from heaven that said “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” So it became very obvious this is the right guy, this is the Messiah, this is the example that we follow. So like you said, we follow that example. Christ set it and so we follow Him.
[Darris] You know, Christ set the example, He was immersed in water. It’s very clear from the teaching there. And every other example of any Christian from that point forward in the New Testament, you see that they’re baptized. I find that to be an amazing fact.
[Gary] That’s very amazing because how did the first century Christians define being a Christian? Now when you look after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pouring out of God’s Spirit on Pentecost, the beginning of the Church, from that point on every time they came into contact with someone who wanted to be a Christian, they told them they HAD to be baptized. So that example is overwhelming that baptism is a requirement to be a Christian.
[Steve] Right at the beginning of the New Testament church, Acts chapter 2, they said “What should we do?” and Peter was very clear. Repent, be baptized. We must repent. We must be baptized. We must have hands laid on us to receive God’s Spirit.
[Gary] It’s sort of sad that that is almost disappearing from whole segments of Christianity as a requirement. If we are Christians, then we are going to look at what Christ taught, His example, and the example of His followers. All His followers were baptized. And all of them said you should be baptized. All the Apostles claimed you should be baptized. So if we’re going to truly be Christians we have to be followers of Christ. That’s what Christian means. We need to go back to that example and live by that example.
[Darris] Well it’s an important topic and it’s important for our audience to get a grasp of what the Bible says and apply it in their own life. We should remember what Ananias told the Apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago: “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized.”
I certainly hope the information that we presented today about salvation has given you much to think about. Perhaps you’ve seen that the genuine truth of the Bible contrasts significantly with ideas and concepts that you’ve been taught in traditional Christian churches for generations.
I also trust that you’ve been challenged to look further into what you’ve learned. So to help you do this we have prepared a highly-informative, free Bible study aid titled: “The Road to Eternal Life.” This dynamic study aid will not only help you comprehend much more about salvation, but most importantly, show you how you can personally obtain eternal life in God’s coming marvelous Kingdom.
To request your personal, free copy of “The Road to Eternal Life,” I encourage you to pick up the phone right now and call us toll-free, 1-triple-eight-886-8632. Again, that’s 1-triple-eight-886-8632. Or you can go online at beyondtoday.tv or write to us at the address that is shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
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What hinders you from being baptized? What is keeping you from taking that critical step in life to submit yourself in faith to the living God and to commit to the abundant life? Pray to God that He would grant you repentance to life and don’t put this off. Your eternal life, your spiritual salvation is at stake.
May God guide you in this most important of decisions.
Thanks for watching our program. Please join me in praying “Thy kingdom come.” For Beyond Today , I’m Darris McNeely.
[Narrator] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to beyondtoday.tv.