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Why-Am-I-Getting-Baptized

Why Am I Getting Baptized?

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

I was baptized some years ago by immersion—but not for the reason you might think.

At the time, my fiancé and I were looking for a church to get married in. The church he attended was a beautiful church, the ideal setting for a wedding. But there was a problem: church policy required that both of us had to be baptized before we could get married there.

Although my husband-to-be had already been baptized, I was still exploring. Though I had said the sinner’s prayer earlier on, it was only to please my fiancé. I was not ready to commit to Christ, much less get baptized. But I decided to go through pre-baptism classes so that we could be married in that beautiful church.

It was not a true conversion. It was merely my way of getting a glorious wedding venue. But I hid my motive well and I was successfully baptized, but it was a baptism without meaning. My faith was dead; I had bluffed my way in. I had lied to everyone about my conversion.

Over the past few years, I have been attending another church, and through Bible study there, I was convicted that what I had done was wrong. I saw my former baptism as a mark on my sinful past―a lie.

But God did not abandon me even though I had lied. Even though I did not take Him seriously in the past, He was gracious to save me and make me His own. He led me to see that my baptism was not “the pledge of a clear conscience towards God” (1 Peter 3:21); it was the opposite of what God expected of us. Ashamed, I repented of my wrong motives in getting baptized.

A clear conscience towards God in baptism is to have no other motive aside from following Him with a sincere heart. It is important that we do not take God’s name and His grace towards us for granted. God cannot be mocked, and nothing we do can be hidden from His sight (Galatians 6:7, Hebrews 4:13). We should check our hearts and our motives in everything that we do, and in everything we should seek to bring glory and honor to God, including in baptism (1 Corinthians 10:31).

As I reflected on my own sin, I learned of other reasons we as believers could have when considering whether to get baptized.

 

1) To fit in. 

Some people get baptized so that they can better fit into a church culture where almost everyone is baptized. Some churches, for example, have a rule that only baptized members can come forward to receive communion. There may be many people who are already baptized, and it is easy for those who have not been baptized to feel left out.

Don’t feel pressured to fit in. God does not need us to fit in. He only needs us to seek Him.

 

2) To please family or friends.

Some people get baptized in order to please family members or friends, or because they feel pressured by others and do not wish to be a disappointment. However, these can become the wrong reasons for baptism.

Baptism should not be for the purposes of pleasing other people. If your family or friends are true believers, they would want you to please God instead of them.

 

3) To be saved.

Some people think that they can be saved by getting baptized. Before I became a believer, I had this wrong understanding as well. I thought that baptism was a means to salvation. However, our salvation cannot be earned. No deed of our own can please God or earn us salvation. Instead, salvation is a gift freely given by grace, and the only way to receive it is by the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Baptism is an outward declaration of faith to follow Christ. But it is not a requirement of salvation. The thief at the cross next to Jesus recognized that Jesus is God, but this thief was not baptized. Nevertheless, Jesus said that he would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43).

 

Baptism reminds us that our past is dead, and that we are now alive in Christ, redeemed, resurrected, and restored. However, if our heart is not ready and we do not have a clear conscience towards God, we should consider taking a step back. We should take time to prepare our hearts, to set it right before God so that we can truly enjoy the beauty and significance of baptism. God does not blame us for being slow, since He knows our hearts. He is pleased when we seek Him and honor Him above our own motives, and that is more important for our true salvation.

Our preparation for baptism should draw us closer to God, and help us to align our will with His will. We can ask God to search our hearts (Psalm 139:23), to weed out any of our own fleshly motives and turn our hearts to follow Him, so that we can be pleasing to His sight. Philippians 2:12 says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. When our hearts are purified, God becomes our sole desire.

As I learned more about baptism, I wondered if I should be re-baptized. But a few trusted Christians that I talked to assured me that, by grace, God accepts my previous baptism as my commitment to Him. I am content with this assurance, and I take my baptism as a reminder of my sinful past and God’s faithfulness at work in my life.

A-Family-Crisis-That-Redeemed-Me

A Family Crisis that Redeemed Me

Photo taken by Becky Roberts
Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Three years ago, I was involved in a family dispute. My willful, unforgiving, and prideful character deeply hurt my family and it reached a stage that I eventually left home.

During the worst of the crisis, I often asked “Why me?” or “Why is life so unfair?” When I did not get any answers and finally realized the problem was too big for me to solve, God did the most wonderful thing in my life. He humbled me and began a period of sanctification in my life. He taught me many truths, showed me that He was working in the situation, and redeemed me through this crisis.

 

Rely on the Bible

Living on my own was very lonely. I missed the good times when I would return after work to a spacious home filled with people who loved me. After I moved out, I was confined to a small room with only my own company. My landlord was very kind and allowed me to use his living room as my own, but it still did not feel like home, and so I confined myself to my room most of the time. I sometimes even worked late to avoid the loneliness. Outside office hours, I had a lot of time for reflection. I shed many tears on my own, and those weak moments ultimately drove me to God.

In those desperate times, I ransacked the Bible and found many of God’s promises. I memorized many verses that comforted me, and I treasured them. God’s word kept me from sinking.

Through reading God’s word, I learned to process my emotions in a healthy biblical manner. Becoming familiar with God’s word helped me resist the temptation to hurt myself and others when overwhelmed by emotion (Psalm 119:11). By hiding His word in my heart, I was not destroyed by negative thoughts.

Though I was bitter against the people who in one way or another triggered the crisis, God’s truth set me free from my hatred. God assured me that all things happen for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I was chosen. I was set apart. I felt God’s love and assurance.

As I read the word of God, I began to shape my thoughts according to God’s truth. I slowly learned to exercise faith and to preach to myself. During the crisis, the Bible that I had once found boring and hard to understand became the book that held my greatest interest.

 

Rely on fellow Christians

Faithful believers reminded me during those dark moments “to cling onto God”. Fellowship with believers was very important during that time, because they reminded me over and over again that I was not alone. They reminded me that God was with me, and that God would work things out.

Church leaders gave me tremendous emotional support and treated me as family. The pastor and his wife reached out to counsel me when they learned about my situation. They gave me the love that I was lacking. They shared in my burden and made me feel better. The pastor’s wife became my spiritual mentor. She taught me to pray about the situation and ministered to me through bible study to deepen my faith. Whenever I went to church, I no longer felt alone.

Members of the small family church I attended showed a lot of care and concern for me. During the Christmas and New Year festive period, I avoided my own relatives since I was not prepared to face their questions as I was still hurting inside. I felt lonely since it was the first time I had to spend festive season on my own. But the Pastor and his family invited me to their home. It was a sweet and memorable gesture. The support I received grew my faith and showed me how important the body of Christ was and how faithful believers could aid in my healing.

 

Sing worship songs

Just like how King Saul found relief from David playing the harp (1 Samuel 16:23), I was also lifted up by songs. I especially loved the song “Be Still and Know”, which reminded me to be still, and became a comfort to me during those times. I began to appreciate worship songs, and learned to lift my hands in praise to the Lord even while going through difficult times.

The songs I listened to also taught me to give thanks, and reminded me the importance of thankfulness in all circumstances. Burdens become strangely lighter when we enter God’s sanctuary with thanksgiving in our hearts.

 

Through this crisis, I learned to read the Bible and find comfort in the word of God. I learned that being in fellowship with other faithful believers helped me stay strong in the faith. I learned the importance of worship in all situations.

By the strength of God, I found healing and courage to approach those who had in one way or another caused me hurt. Just like me, they had emotions and needed love and acceptance too. During one of my devotions, God showed me 1 John 4:18 and assured me that perfect love drives out fear, the one who fears is not made perfect in love. Hadn’t God showed me His love in the darkest night? Wasn’t it His love that sustained throughout this time? What did I have to fear? Even if I were to get hurt again, my God would be with me. As I pondered this verse, my fear of getting hurt again seemed irrational. My heart softened and I was finally able to let down my guard to draw near to people who had hurt me in the past to seek reconciliation and show forgiveness.

Today, I no longer feel the hurt that I once felt. I no longer feel that bitterness that once consumed me. Although the house no longer has room for me, I appreciate staying alone for now as it gives me more freedom to seek God’s face. There will come a day when we will stay under the same roof again in God’s perfect timing. For the time being, I have learned to cherish the solitude.

Had it not been for Christ, I believe I would have slipped into depression during the crisis. But what could have led me astray, Christ used for good―that I come to know Him. In Philippians, Paul says that nothing surpasses the worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Hurtful-Words-I-Needed-To-Hear

Hurtful Words I Needed To Hear

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Every Wednesday, I meet with a team leader and my colleague Abigail* for lunch fellowship. Though it’s just the three of us, we thought to heed the call in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Two weeks ago, our leader was on sick leave. Deep down, I was not very keen on meeting Abigail alone as I found her a rather defensive and self-centered person. But Abigail was keen to meet so I relented.

That day, Abigail brought food from home to heat up in our office pantry before fellowship. While she was in the pantry, another colleague, Jacqueline, asked if I wanted to join the rest of the team for lunch. When I told her that Abigail and I were getting ready for fellowship, Jacqueline said in a friendly manner, “No, you should join us for lunch. You don’t have to go for fellowship since your leader is not here. Anyway, both of you don’t really get along, and you always grumble about Abigail anyway. You should join us, learn about the other gods and be open.”

Jacqueline’s words cut like a knife. Yet, I knew exactly what she was referring to. For the past couple of weeks, I had been complaining about Abigail behind her back, telling others about her selfish attitude and lack of team spirit. Still, Jacqueline’s words hurt me and made me feel like a failure. Though I had claimed to be a Christ follower, I had given in to my flesh and neglected the Spirit.

A few days later, I came across John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The words struck me and I thought of the earlier incident again. I knew for a fact that God was using this passage to speak to me.

I needed to love Abigail and accept her, not just on the surface, but completely. I had to stop pretending to be friendly with her, and complaining about her behind her back. This showed disunity between me and Abigail, and disunity between my faith and my actions. How then could others see that I am Christ’s disciple?

I had to change and start speaking words of grace, words that reflected Christ. I needed to fight against my flesh and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me to produce fruits of love, kindness, and self-control.

As I remembered how gracious and patient God had been with me, how He didn’t give up on me no matter how self-centered, mean, and defensive I had been in the past (Romans 8:1), I repented and stopped complaining. I told my team leader honestly about the struggles I had, and she arranged for Abigail and me to talk about it.

Initially, Abigail was upset at me. She felt that I had misunderstood her, and said that she couldn’t trust me anymore. We did not speak for a few days after that. Our leader was very concerned and spoke to us individually on a few separate occasions. Eventually, we both reached a common understanding.

In all of this, I had been too quick to judge and condemn. I also began to realize that Abigail is actually a very nice friend to have, because she is quick to forget grievances and does not hold grudges for long. Subsequently, I also noticed how her attitude towards the rest of us changed; she is a more helpful person now.

I realize now that condemning and complaining had prevented me from seeing the good side of Abigail and learning more about the grace of God. But now I am free. I am glad that Abigail and I both have learned more about one another from this episode, and we are now able to love one another through the grace of Christ. We are sisters in Christ, we have the same Abba Father, and we have the same eternal home.

 

*Not her real name.