There are many counterfeits — but only one genuine way for man to be at peace with God and with himself. You need to understand what that way is.
HIS LARGE, muscular shoulders shook, and his chest heaved with sobbing as Roy told us about himself. Now a rancher in the American Southwest, Roy recounted his past life in the cow towns, the bars, the red-light districts — and the wretchedness he had gotten himself into in the military service in World War II. He had certainly had more than his share of "fun" — of sleazy nightclubs, drunkenness, prostitutes and venereal disease, of hangovers" headaches, run-ins with the military police, jail, bail bondsmen and doctors.
What Roy Did
We were standing on the bank of a small river just after we had baptized Roy. There, dripping wet, secluded by trees, we asked the great God who made the beauty around us to give this man His Spirit — His very nature, character and spiritual strength. We later said our good-byes, got back into the car and waved a final good-bye to this tall American Westerner. In the years that followed, we saw him change and grow from a tough-talking, whiskey-drinking, chain-smoking, hard-headed, very empty and frustrated individual into one of the kindest, most dependable husbands and fathers in the American Southwest. He was still hardworking and resourceful, but now he knew where he was going, and he knew the way. He no longer blustered and bristled with impatience, tension and inner restlessness. He had a quiet confidence and peace of mind that was noticeable to those who had known him before. Through months of listening carefully to The World Tomorrow broadcast, reading The Plain Truth, and finally learning to study the Bible and meditate on its principles, this man was changed. He had come to prove the existence of and know the true God — the Creator and Ruler of all that is, the One who even now is intervening in world affairs according to His own master plan. Roy had proved that the Bible is the inspired revelation of that God. He had come to know and accept the true Messiah of the Bible, Jesus Christ, who not only died for our sins, but who also now sits at the right hand of the great Governor of the universe and who is ready to return soon to earth as King of kings to rule the nations of this earth. Roy had proved these fundamental points and had surrendered his life and will to the Creator God. And what Roy did, every living man and woman may do — in God's time and according to His calling.
Is Your Mind Open?
Are you willing to face this same momentous decision? Are you willing to change if God shows you through His written Word — the Bible — that you may not have really known Him, nor have been properly baptized, nor have had His Holy Spirit living within you? Your own personal vanity will, in many cases, prevent you from admitting, in this most important of all areas, that you have been wrong and in ignorance of God's way. Your Bible says: "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). In plain language, one has to have Christ's Spirit or he is not a Christian — not converted! A truly converted person is filled with and led by the, Holy Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14). God lives His very life within us through His Holy Spirit. By this means, we are begotten of Him as children and thus partake of His very nature. Through His Spirit, God gives us His love. We read in Romans 5:5, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." Thus we partake of His nature — His character — which is love. And God's character is expressed in the spiritual principles contained in the Ten Commandments. How is this love of God expressed? Your Bible answers: "For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3). God's Spirit leads us to obey Him as our Maker and Ruler. The apostle Peter was inspired to write of the Holy Spirit, "... whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32). True conversion involves repentance and the surrendering of our lives to obey God and His laws. You repent of sin. But what is the Bible definition of sin? "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). That is the Bible definition of sin — the breaking of God's law. So to be truly converted, you must repent of breaking God's law. You must be so sorry that you are willing to quit breaking it and turn around and go the other way. You must be willing, therefore, to begin obeying God's law and to begin literally living by all ten of the Ten Commandments! Is this a great "burden" to perform? What is so burdensome about having no other gods before the true God, about not taking God's name in vain, about not breaking His day of rest? What is so hard about honoring your parents? Why do people think they must fight, kill, lie, cheat, steal, and curse in order to be happy? Don't reason that it is "too hard" to obey. God's love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit enables us to keep God's spiritual law. But what are the conditions for receiving God's Spirit? In Acts 2:38, the inspired Peter tells how: "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Christ's righteousness is put within us through His Spirit. His Spirit enables us to have the love that fulfills the law, and joy and peace with God and our fellowman — to the extent that we yield obediently to Him and to the extent that we are growing and overcoming our human nature throughout this life, preparatory to eternal life in the world tomorrow.
Baptism — Burial of Your Old Self
In the New Testament, the commandments of God are magnified to their full spiritual intent by Jesus Christ — particularly in Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount. New Testament Christians are to keep not merely the letter of the law, but also the very spirit and intent of God's law in every phase of their lives. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). In repenting and being converted, then, you must repent of disobeying God's law-disobeying His word and His rule over your life. You must be willing to honestly see and acknowledge that YOU have been wrong. You must then be willing to surrender your will to obey your God and your Maker. You must be willing to accept the shed blood of Jesus Christ in full payment for your sins. Jesus died for you to pay for your sins because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Then you are ready to be baptized as an outward sign of your willingness to completely bury your old self — to literally give your very life to God as your Father and to Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, High Priest, and coming King. Notice the description of the meaning of baptism in Romans 6:3-4: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old self — the old human nature which has been contrary to God and His laws. It symbolizes our faith in and acceptance of the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It symbolizes our acceptance of and faith in His resurrection — which our coming up out of the watery grave also pictures. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). Also, baptism is an outward acknowledgement that our old self-selfish, vain, and sinful — must die in order that we might rise again to live, really live, by God's laws and commandments and quit sinning. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (verse 6). As we have seen, sin is the transgression of the law. So Romans 6:6 certainly shows that we should not continue in lawlessness. Rather, we 'must repent of breaking God's laws and begin to let Jesus Christ — through His Spirit and His love — live within us a life of obedience to God's laws and of service to our fellowman.
Be Sure You Do Your Part
Are you absolutely sure that you have come to this kind of real repentance and surrender to the God of the Bible? Have you come to abhor yourself — to realize that your natural spirit of lust, competition and vanity is simply not bringing you real peace, happiness and eternal life? The people of 'this world, as a whole, simply do not know this way to peace and righteousness (Rom. 3:10, 17). The greatest stumbling block that prevents most people from accepting God's truth and being converted is their own vanity. Most people have grown up with some religious teaching from grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts or friends. But they hate to admit that they — and perhaps friends and loved ones — have been wrong. They fear to admit that they may never have been converted. Human nature makes them want to maintain their own righteousness. But God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8-9). "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). Our own human ways and reasonings are nearly always wrong!
Why Total Surrender?
It is almost certain that most of you reading this article still have what the Bible describes as a "carnal mind." You probably never really surrendered your will to God and began obeying all of His commandments. Do you still argue, reason and justify self? Do you say: "This is the way I look at it"? Although many religious people think they have already been what they call "saved," the sad truth of the matter is that they do not know what it means to be saved! They have never come to the place of even beginning to truly surrender their wills to really obey the God of the Bible. They have never received God's Holy Spirit or become His begotten sons. Such people are not overcoming themselves, nor do they understand and live by the words of the Bible more and more every month and year of their lives. Why? "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). You see, God describes the "carnal mind" as a mind that is disobedient to His laws. The carnal mind tries to "reason around" those laws and go its own way. Through a process of "reasoning" it refuses to worship God His way! That is why such people have never really understood the great purpose being worked out here below and why God has always seemed so far away to them — so unreal.
What About You?
Be honest with yourself. Have you, personally, gone through a really heartrending repentance as the first step toward conversion? Have you continually changed and grown in spiritual understanding, knowledge and character ever since? Never forget that prior to real conversion is real repentance. You must humble yourself — quit being self — willed — so that you sincerely repent, as David did in Psalm 51 — one of the best examples of repentance in all the Bible. "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin [RSV]," David cried. "For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me." Notice that David did not try to justify himself. Rather, he acknowledged his sin freely and asked for forgiveness. He continued: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." God didn't have to argue, browbeat, or "reason" David into admitting that his sin was against God when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered. David was willing to see his sin and to bitterly repent of and acknowledge what he had done. Have you been led by God to see your own selfish nature? Are you ready to repent not only of what you have done, but also of what you are? King David knew that this was what God required. He said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). Before anyone is really and truly converted, he has to be humbled, often beaten down through circumstances, and made to realize his own NOTHINGNESS. He has to begin a lifelong process of acknowledging his sins to God and repenting of them — turning around in his heart, mind and will and determining to go the other way. When that time comes, a person will quit arguing with God. He will quit trying to reason around obedience to God's commandments. He will seek correction from God's servants.
Time for Action
Perhaps the God of heaven has brought you to understand His reality, His immutable spiritual laws and His great purpose for human existence. Through hearing The World Tomorrow broadcast and reading The Plain Truth magazine, you may have come to see that God is now intervening in human affairs in a definite and specific way all over this earth. Perhaps you are beginning to see that God's way of life is good — that it teaches the way to live, how to have a happy home, how to rear well-balanced children, how to keep in good physical health, how to have peace of mind, and how to know and fulfill the purpose for which you were born. If this be the case, you may wish to write to us to request a visit from one of God's own ordained ministers. These men are sent to counsel and interview people all over the world, people who are interested in changing their lives and perhaps in being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ after real repentance. These men will be able to answer questions you may have about your spiritual life, about baptism and about the Bible. They will help you learn more regarding this Work of God and of the possibility of fellowship with others who are living God's way. So if you want to make the decision to act on the truths you have been learning — perhaps to sincerely bury your old self in baptism and give your very life to God — send us your name and address and request to be counseled. And while you are writing, be sure to ask for our vital booklets All About Water Baptism and Just What Do You Mean... Conversion? They are sent absolutely free and will give you additional understanding of the real meaning of repentance, water baptism and conversion. If you have really understood this article as you read it, then it is high time you acted on the vital truths you have been receiving! Roy, whom I described at the beginning of this article, was never able to overcome his restlessness, emptiness and sense of guilt — never, that is, until a fellow associate and I baptized him and stood there under a wide Texas sky, asking the great God to fill him with His Spirit as He has promised to do upon true repentance and baptism. Now Roy's craggy, outdoors man's face beams with quiet assurance and a deep and abiding peace. For he has been truly forgiven by his God and Father — and he now deeply understands the goal of life and the way to achieve it. How about you?