I suppose my baptism was like an arranged marriage. People smarter and wiser than me knew God would be good for me and good to me.
I chose to be baptized at the end of a Bible prophecy series presented at the Valley View Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Medford, Oregon. I attended with my dad and younger brother. I was 15.
My decision to get baptized was less about love for God and more about wanting to do the right thing. I wanted to avoid ending up in the lake of fire!
God has been very good to me.
That said, there are some things I understand today about life with God that I wish I knew at the outset of my journey.
Here are 7 of them:
1. Daily devotions are necessary.
I’m not aware of a biblical mandate to read the Bible daily. But a day without meditating on God’s Word is a day without spiritual light to guide my journey (Psalm 119:105). If I’m not walking in God’s light, I’m stumbling around in darkness, and at risk of falling. The Bible does urge us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) A day without prayer is a day disconnected from the source of life and love.
2. God’s Word is powerful.
“In every command and in every promise of the word of God is the power, the very life of God, by which the command may be fulfilled and the promise realized.” Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 39 (also see Isaiah 55:8-11). The Word of God spoke the universe into existence. That same power fills the words on every page of the Bible, enabling us to overcome sin, bless others and receive eternal life.
3. Jesus is not a kinder, gentler version of God.
Jesus is God from the beginning to the end of the Bible. In John 1:3, Jesus is identified as the Creator. In John 8:58 Jesus identifies Himself as the “I AM,” identifying Him as the voice from the burning bush and speaking to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Christ led Moses and the Hebrews out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), and delivered the Law from Mt. Sinai (see Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 158.1).
4. The Bible isn’t a self-help book.
If I read the Bible for advice on how to be happier, achieve success and get along better with others, I can miss one if it’s most valuable offers. God’s goal is to make me a different person today, not just add polish to my original self. The same God who created worlds and raises people from the dead offers a complete transformation of character today. He invites us to “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, “ (Ephesians 4:22 NLT).
5. Fault-finding and criticism are works of the flesh not fruit of the Spirit.
I once found myself in a Bible study group whose leader made a point of finding fault with criticizing church leaders who she didn’t agree with. Whether I do this in church, at work or home, participating in fault-finding and criticism give evil a foothold in my life and will make me an enemy of God’s work (see Galatians 5:19-26).
6. Today’s worries are Satan’s daily affirmations.
We all know that worry doesn’t add any value to our lives. Why do we do it, then? Perhaps because we don’t recognize how much it’s costing us to expend mental and emotional energy on things we can’t influence. The devil benefits when we spend our time and energy worried about what harm he may bring to us and our loved ones. God offers us a better option: trust God with what we can’t change and receive His power to change what we can (see Philippians 4:6-7).
7. The objective of the Christian life is to love.
I’ve tried many times to inspire others to accept Jesus by using persuasive arguments. Then I read this: “No other influence that can surround the human soul has such power as the influence of an unselfish life. The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian,” Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, p. 470.1. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;” (1 John 3:18-19, ESV).