Why do so few understand the real MEANING of water baptism? Why are so many unsure of their contact with God?
You were born for a purpose. Do you know what that purpose is? When you have come to a real understanding of that purpose, life takes on a new dimension. Every day, every activity — even every trial and test — has a challenge and a meaning to you that it never had before. I am not referring to a sentimental, namby-pamby, lovey-dovey "religious" feeling. I am not talking about "giving your heart to the Lord" in the commonly accepted sense at all. Or about "making your peace with God." I am talking about the real issues of life!
What You Probably Didn't Know
As a reader of this vital magazine, you have probably been surprised by what you've read. You are finding revealed a concept of the true God which has never existed in modern Christianity. It is a concept of the literal Spirit Personality who inspired the pages of your Bible — who walked and talked with Adam and Eve, with Abraham, and who appeared to Moses. It is the concept of the ALMIGHTY God who created and now rules this universe. It is the realization that that God is moving and intervening in world affairs. That the growing numbers of wars and their potential for human extinction are all part of the Master Plan of the true God. That the swiftly worsening conditions of drought and famine are part of that plan. That the rising crime rate, the breakdown of the family, the soaring incidence of homosexuality, filth and perversity in almost every area of western "civilization" were all foreseen, and allowed, by the true God as a definite part of His Master Plan. You should be coming to learn that God is real. That Jesus Christ is sitting, literally, at His right hand and is very real. You should be learning to take seriously former President Dwight Eisenhower's statement: "Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to ERASE human life from this planet." You should certainly realize that only the LIVING Jesus Christ — at His second coming — will be able to truly stop the hellish destruction and suffering caused by man's wars and man's way of life! In these last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ, you need to know — and know that you know whether or not you are prepared to meet your God ! With an open mind, you should be willing to prove whether or not you have ever been really converted. Misplaced confidence in a false concept of God' and Christ could result in forfeiting your eternal life. Such deception is extremely dangerous. Particularly so since your own personal vanity will in many cases prevent you from admitting — in this most important of all areas — that you have been wrong. Are you willing to face this possibility? Are you willing to change if God shows you through His Word that you have never really known Him, never been properly baptized, never had His Holy Spirit growing and living within you? Your Bible says: "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9). In plain language, you have to have Christ's Spirit in you or you are not a Christian — you have never been converted.
God's SPIRIT Is the Difference
A truly converted person is filled with and led by the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). God places and 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! In the past you probably didn't even know what the Holy Spirit was, what it was supposed to do in your life, and what was the real result of your being led by God's Spirit. In Romans 5:5, God tells us: "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." Through His Spirit, God gives us His love. Thus we partake of His nature — His character. And God's character is expressed in the spiritual principles contained in the Ten Commandments — obedience to God's law. And how is this love of God expressed? Your Bible answers: "For this is the love o f 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, then, involves a surrender to obey God and His Laws. In Acts 2:38, Peter was inspired to tell how to be converted. He said: "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 Spirit." 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 — breaking God's commandments! So to be truly converted, you must repent of breaking God's law. You must be so sorry that you are willing to quit — to turn around and go the other way! You are willing, therefore, to begin obeying God's law and to literally live by all ten of the Ten Commandments! Anything hard about that? 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? Or breaking His Sabbath? What is so hard about honoring your parents? What is so hard about refraining from murder, adultery, stealing, lying and coveting? Why do people think they must fight, kill, lie, cheat, steal, curse, and damn their God and Father — despitefully using Him, His name, and their fellow human beings — in order to be happy? Where does this weird idea come from? Yet many religionists sanctimoniously and stolidly proclaim that God's law is a great "burden"! They think it is "too hard" and refuse to even try to obey it. They fail utterly to realize that it is God's love-shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit — which does enable us to keep God's law if we are willing to do our part! It is Christ's righteousness put within us through His Spirit that makes the difference! And that difference is love, joy and peace with God and our fellowman — to the extent that we obey — and to the extent that we are growing and overcoming our human natures through this life preparatory to eternal life in the world tomorrow.
Baptism Means a Change
Remember that in the New Testament, God's commandments were magnified by Jesus Christ — particularly in Matthew 5 in the sermon on the mount. New Testament Christians are to keep not only the letter but 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 — His rule over your life. It is a matter of your willingness to honestly see and acknowledge that YOU HAVE BEEN WRONG. To acknowledge that you are willing to surrender your will to obey your God and your Maker! Your willingness to accept the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ in full payment for your sins — as He died on the stake for you, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Then, you are ready to be baptized as an outward sign of your willingness to completely bury your old self 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 inspired description of the meaning of baptism in Romans 6:3-6: "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, then, 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 literal death of Jesus Christ in our behalf. It symbolizes, also, 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" (verse 5). Also, baptism certainly signifies that our old nature — selfish, vain and sinful — has to die. It certainly shows our realization of our own sins, our vanities, our wretchedness. It is an outward acknowledgment of our realization that the old self 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). Since, as we have seen, "sin is the transgression of the law" — this previous verse 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 service to our fellow Man.
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? That, as a whole, the people of this world simply do not know the way to peace or righteousness at all? (Romans 3:10, 17) The greatest stumbling block that prevents most people from accepting the truth and being converted is their own vanity. Most people have grown up and attended some church or another. They have had religious teaching from grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and friends. 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 thunders: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 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 that 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! This means you ! Don't apply this to someone else — apply it to yourself! For it is almost certain that most of you reading this article still have what the Bible describes as a "carnal" mind. You have never really surrendered your will to God and to obedience to His commandments. You still argue, reason, justify self. You say: "This is the way I look at it." Although many think that they have already been "saved," the sad truth of the matter is that they may never have come to the place of even beginning to truly yield their wills to real obedience to the God of the Bible! Therefore,' they have never received of God's Holy Spirit or become His begotten sons. Such people are weak and just do not bring forth the "fruits" of overcoming human nature, growing in grace and in knowledge, understanding and living 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 o f God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). You see, God describes the "carnal" mind — the natural, fleshly mind of man — as a mind that is disobedient to His laws! It tries to "reason around" those laws and worship its own way. Through this process of "reasoning," it refuses to worship God His way! That is why such people have never been able to understand Bible prophecy before! Why they have never really understood the great purpose being worked out here below. 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 your conversion? Have you continually changed and GROWN in spiritual understanding, knowledge and character ever since? Never forget that before real conversion comes real repentance. You need to humble yourself until you can sincerely repent as David did in Psalm 51 — one of the best examples of repentance in all the Bible. "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin," 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 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 his guilt regarding his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba. As job finally did, David was instantly willing to see himself and acknowledge and bitterly repent of what he had done. He really came to abhor himself. Notice: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (vs. 5). David was not talking about the act of conception being a sin but the fact that he had always been, so to speak, a "thing" of sin literally filled with lustful, vain and sinful human nature! David came to repent not only of what he had done — but of what he was! Have you? Have you been led by God to see that your very nature is wrong? Have you come to sincerely want to get rid of your own rotten, selfish, carnal human nature? Are you ready to repent not only of what you have done — but 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 contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise", (Psalm 51:17). Before anyone — and this does, mean any one is really and truly converted, life has to be humbled, beaten down and made to realize his own nothingness by God. He has to go through a period of time when he is abhorring himself, 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 and reasoning with God or with His ministers doing His Work. He will not grudgingly hang on to false concepts of God. He will quit trying to reason around obedience to God's commandments and literally living by every word of the Bible. He will not get his "feelings" hurt at the correction and exhortation of God's chosen servants.
A Time For ACTION
Perhaps the God of heaven has brought you to understand the reality of Him, His immutable spiritual laws and of His great purpose in 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 right way of having a happy home, rearing children, keeping in physical health, having physical and financial blessings, having real peace of mind, and knowing and fulfilling the purpose for which you were born. If this be the case, many hundreds or thousands of you may wish to write in and request a visit from one of our teams of ministers or advanced, competent ministerial students from Ambassador College. These teams go out every year during the summer months to visit, counsel with and interview people all over the earth who are truly interested in changing their lives and perhaps in being baptized into the name of Jesus Christ after real repentance. These men go out as Mr. Armstrong's personal representatives — and will be able to answer nearly any questions you may have about your spiritual life, about baptism, about Bible questions or about getting to know more regarding this Work of God or others who are living by God's Way. So if you would like to make the decision to act on the truth 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 today and request to be put on our counseling and baptizing list immediately. Our ministers will soon be starting out on summer tours, so get in your request airmail if you wish to be visited this spring or summer.