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« Easy Living Leads to a Hard Life | Main | The Glory of God’s Purpose »

Initiating the Relationship  

The beginning of relationships arouses curiosity.  How did you meet your spouse?  How did you get started in your career?  Why did you move to this neighborhood?  Journalists routinely ask these kinds of questions when interviewing their subjects.  Why?  Because the story of how someone began a relationship or turned over a new leaf, or entered into a new stage of life reveals important clues about his or her character.  Without even trying, people provide information about their likes and dislikes, their decision-making habits, their attitudes and what may be expected from them as time goes on.  In terms of relationships, these characteristics have huge implications for a person’s relationship with God.

It is vital that one’s relationship with God begins right.  There are definite doctrinal requirements set forth in Scripture with which a person must comply. It is a dangerous mistake to dismiss these requirements in the belief that God doesn’t pay any attention to obedience to specific commands of the Bible.  The Word of God must be taken literally whenever possible, and doubly so when the steps to salvation are involved.  

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He emphasized the importance of beginning right. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. This analogy of natural birth casts the conversion experience as a radical, life-changing event. Jesus forced one to go all the way back, as it were, to the beginning of life.  By inference, it means that everything—identity, status, opinions, behaviors—must be erased and one must start all over as a newborn baby. The drastic nature of this conversion startled Nicodemus.  It seemed preposterous.  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” John 3:4. Nicodemus’s response was either rooted in naiveté or sarcasm.  Either way, it is obvious that he thought it represented an impossible leap.  His reply, however, did not deter Jesus from expounding the truth. 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8. The extreme terminology Jesus used in these passages indicate that the approach to a relationship with Jesus Christ must be done carefully and whole-heartedly.   

Although conversion must be seen holistically, it is still useful to isolate each element of the process to make sure it is right.  These elements are believing (faith), repentance, water baptism and Spirit baptism.  


The moment a person activates faith in Christ, healing virtue is released. A remarkable story in the ministry of Christ demonstrates this fact. “And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour.” Matthew 9:20-22 

While this was an instance of a physical healing, the power of faith itself is the same, whether it heals in a physical or a spiritual sense. Even the secular world has discovered this power, if only in a limited way. They speak of a “positive mental attitude,” autosuggestion, possibility thinking, visualization, the magic of believing, and so on. People can create powerful imagery through the exercise of faith. It can be so forceful that it leads to triumph over formidable odds and helps individuals achieve goals that had never before been possible. Any person who suffers from the pain of sin can experience immediate help when he or she starts believing in Christ. This is not to say that embryonic faith constitutes full salvation. Salvation is still a process. But faith in Christ starts the process in motion. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6. 

Faith fills the vacuum created by doubt. Faith counteracts the negative influences of fear. Faith reverses one’s sense of worthlessness and unimportance. Faith helps build back self-esteem. Faith dispels the clouds of depression. Faith connects the heart and soul with God. Faith pleases God. In whatever way faith is considered, it is wholesome, positive and good.  


Repentance has too often been cast in a negative light, probably because it involves pain and loss. It does represent the bloody sacrifices at the brazen altar, Christ’s death on the cross, humiliation, self-denial and a harsh change from a sinful life to holiness. Sometimes it appears so intimidating that many people become discouraged just thinking about it. No one likes pain or loss, and if people have the limited view that this is all repentance means, they will balk at it. 

We cannot deny that repentance means death to the flesh. Far more important, however, repentance delivers powerful therapeutic effects. As we emphasize these positive results, we inspire courage and confidence in people to follow through with repentance. 

Repentance aligns a person with the true gospel. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47. 

Repentance paves the way for the Holy Ghost baptism. “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 

Repentance is a gift of God. “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18 

Repentance indicates God’s love and good intentions. “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” Romans 2:4 

Repentance leads to reconciliation with God. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10. 

Repentance may cause discomfort, but the first steps toward the cure of a disease or the healing of an injury involve discomfort, even pain. Dead tissue must be cut away, toxins must be drained from a wound, infections must be attacked by strong antidotes, broken bones must be reset, tourniquets must be applied, and shock therapy may even be administered to restart vital signs. Whatever it takes to bring a diseased or injured person back to safe medical grounds must be done, often without regard to the pain that the procedure inflicts. 

But the pain caused by the cure differs from that caused by the disease or injury. It is a pain filled with hope. It is meaningful pain. It says, “Smile through the hurt, because you’re going to feel better after it’s over!” The repentant soul must say, “I give control to the process of healing. I submit to the physician’s plan.” Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” If repentance symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ, it is good to remember that it is only a symbol. Christ absorbed the full impact of the cross, the penalty for our sins, so that we could be spared from eternal death. Without that supreme act of love, we would have to bear our own penalty. How much better it is to repent than to be crucified! Repentance may precede other important spiritual steps, but it is itself bringing about vital changes that must not be lightly dismissed. Repentance needs to go deep. 

Water Baptism  

Water baptism plays a monumental role in our relationship with God.  Mysteriously, it has acquired a stigma among some groups in their effort to stress salvation by faith alone. This unbalanced view amounts to a denial of baptism in some cases. We must not place water baptism over against faith to determine which one is responsible for salvation. Rather, let us unravel the purpose of water baptism and search out the relationship value that God intended through it. 

Baptism conveys a cleansing experience. The practice of baptism was in use long before Christ or even John the Baptist. Since baptism is a Greek word, we don’t readily recognize it in the Old Testament. Usually, when we see references to “washings” they mean the same thing we understand as baptism in the New Testament. Old covenant believers viewed baptism as signifying spiritual change. Whenever repentance swept across the people, baptism meant a revived relationship towards God. Washings also symbolized ceremonial purification.  New Testament believers should enter into baptism with strong overtones of cleansing and absolution. Corruption and impurity abandon the soul as a person enters the baptismal waters. Afterwards, the baptized believer should glow from the experience. Baptism is intended to be a powerful healing agent for the soul. 

Baptism is for the remission of sins. The scriptures teach that baptism is intrinsic to the remission of sins. Two verses, in particular, highlight this fact: “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; and, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16. 

Baptism directly addresses sin in each deleterious aspect. First, it applies healing virtue to damaged emotions. Second, it erases the standing record of sin against the believer. Third, it absolves the soul of guilt. Fourth, it provides an eternal asylum from sin’s destructive nature. Fifth, it breaks the connection between the sinner and the past.  We must be careful to mention that the water itself does not cleanse. Neither is there sin remitting power contained in the ceremony itself. Yet, when water baptism is administered in faith, it conveys something spiritual to the candidate. 

Baptism joins the believer to Christ. Paul writes to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27. Getting into Christ happens through more than an exercise of faith. This scripture points out the role of baptism as the bonding agent. When a believer is baptized, he/she enters into Christ. This provides access to every victory Jesus won for us. His death, burial and resurrection belong to the church. His victory over Satan, the flesh and the world belong to the church. His triumph over sin belongs to the church. Baptism positions us in an unbeatable place. 

One of the most important relationship principles as well as psychological principles for mental and emotional health is the sense of belonging. Baptism places the believer into the family of God, into the body of Christ on earth (the church). We understand that Christ belongs to the church: more significantly, the church belongs to Christ! His victories are ours, our defeats are His. To those who have experienced rejection, hatred or discrimination, this truth heals deep wounds. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13. 

Baptism also imparts healing to us through the principle of identification. We become identified with Christ in the waters of baptism. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4. Baptism swallows up our marred, corrupt identity. We then become one with Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. 

Baptism invokes the saving name of Jesus Christ over the believer. A careful reading of the New Testament reveals that the name of Jesus Christ was used exclusively in baptism. Several of these instances have been quoted previously. Here are two more. “Who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 8:15-16. “And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 19:3-5. The use of the name of Jesus is highly significant, especially in terms of the healing of the soul. God always manifested His power on earth through the use of His name. 

The name of Jesus confers salvation. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 

The name of Jesus puts devils to flight. “And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour.” Acts 16:18. 

The name of Jesus holds power over physical ailments. “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. “ Acts 3:6-8. 

Baptism places within our grasp the use of the name of Jesus. The very name which wielded so much power in the early church belongs to baptized believers. The therapeutic effects of such power are immeasurable. 

Spirit Baptism  

According to I Corinthians 15:1-4, the gospel consists of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we align these elements with the message of Acts 2:38, we discover that repentance answers to death, baptism answers to burial, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit answers to the resurrection. Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead embodies the ultimate healing over death, then the entrance of the Spirit of God in the believer’s life activates the true dynamic of spiritual healing. Power, life, light, revelation, spiritual motivation and many other attributes proceed from the Spirit of God as He indwells the believer. The gift of the Holy Ghost reverses every negative movement and consequence that characterizes sin. For weakness, He gives strength; for darkness, He gives light; for death, He gives life; and for sorrow, He gives joy. 

The Holy Spirit generates power for spiritual healing. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8. The world has created and developed many sciences and therapies to help people. Often, health care professionals in physical or psychological fields can pinpoint disorders with great accuracy. They can trace the problems back to their beginnings, identify contributing factors along the way, and project new courses of action to solve them. Unfortunately, it is at this point of implementation and sustained treatment that these programs falter. They cannot make anything happen. They have power to analyze, but no power to energize. They can offer suggestions and support, but the real results are left to the will power of the individual. Also, life cannot exist without energy. Food becomes energy through the process known as metabolism. Our spiritual food (the Word of God) becomes energy through the power of the Holy Spirit. Neither food nor metabolism are worth anything without the other. “Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” 2 Timothy 3:5. Because of this, the gift of the Holy Ghost was conferred upon believers by God to empower them to do spiritual feats. He takes up where religion and reformation fail. He supplies the power to actually implement the changes that must take place in a person’s life, plus He gives them power to perform the will of God throughout their lives. 

Jesus knew that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was critical to the success of the infant church, both as a corporate body and in the lives of individual disciples. His command to them to return to Jerusalem until they were endued with “power from on high” emphasizes this. He knew that even after training his disciples for over three years, they needed something more. Without the indwelling Spirit they would have a form of religion, but would lack the power to make it work. 

The Holy Spirit produces life. Without God’s Spirit in a person’s heart, spiritual death has the upper hand. The Apostle Paul reasons this out in his epistle to the Romans. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Romans 8:5-7. 

Physically, when tissue dies, it loses all healing power. As we have seen, dead tissue must be cut away. If it is allowed to remain, it will rot and produce toxic chemicals that will kill the living cells surrounding it. Living cells, however, retain an active blood supply, and can work to bring about healing. Spiritually, unregenerated man is contaminated with sin. Death, then, is present in the soul. Eventually, the entire person will suffer decline and death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Life—irrepressible, vibrant, and eternal—holds the greatest healing agent within itself. When a person receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he/she is indeed endued with eternal life. Jesus told the woman at the well, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14. 

Eternal life guarantees eternal victory over death. It is healing raised to the infinite power. And, since the Spirit is God’s abiding presence, He works unceasingly in a person’s heart and life to bring about positive change. Every day, the Spirit-filled person triumphs in ways both big and small. Death gets over-matched on every front; sin has no place to establish a foothold. As one person has said, “Some people expect to go to heaven at last; I go day by day!” Eternal life does not begin when the last natural breath is drawn. It begins the moment the Spirit of God enters, by faith, into a believer’s heart. The Spirit becomes a spring of living water that springs into eternal life.

The Holy Spirit connects the believer to the body of Christ. The scriptures clearly teach that the work of the Holy Spirit is to join a person to the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit gives birth to our relationship with the Heavenly Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:15-17. Also, the Holy Ghost baptism establishes common ground for the body of Christ, and puts the divine features of Christ into us.“ For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13. Connectivity to the body carries with it all the benefits of the body. Paul elaborates on the functions of the body throughout the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians. Membership in the body facilitates the healing process. 

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to believers. Physically, healing depends upon an accurate examination of the disease or injury. If the attending physician overlooks a problem, or diagnoses it improperly, then any prescription for treatment will be off the mark. When the Holy Spirit fills our hearts, He also floods our minds and our consciences with light and truth. Spiritually, He metabolizes truth in our souls. He provides this gift to us because, in our humanity, we are subject to error. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13 Sometimes our mistakes result from ignorance. Sometimes they stem from willful disobedience. In other words, our flesh may rebel against the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In this regard, the Spirit provokes not only our awareness of the substantive problem, He also provokes our conscience to do the right thing. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14 

The Holy Spirit defends us against the enemy. One of the marvels of the Holy Spirit is His role as our Paraclete, or our advocate. In this aspect, He takes over our defense against Satan the same as a defense attorney takes over the defense of a client against a plaintiff or a prosecutor. Indeed, Satan is called the accuser of the brethren, the devil, the tempter, the deceiver, the father of all liars, the Serpent and the Dragon. We need the Holy Ghost to continually fire back answers to the endless attacks the devil launches against us. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16-18. Our counselor never rests His case. He never tires of our defense. He never gets stumped or outflanked by the enemy. He provides a flawless defense forever. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.” Hebrews 7:25-26. In terms of spiritual healing, the Holy Spirit supplies the antidote to every invasion of our lives by enemy cells. God’s Spirit immunizes us against spiritual antibodies that seek to re-introduce sin and death back into our hearts. 

The Holy Spirit refreshes our spirituality. “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7. 

All Your Heart 

Finally, it is important to understand the conversion experience in terms of the emotional mechanics.  When one sees Jesus as the source of strength, peace, happiness and positive change, it has broad implications for a rich and sustained relationship.  This remains true even when the demands that Jesus may make on a believer’s live seem difficult, even offensive.  

To illustrate this, consider the hard words Jesus spoke to His disciples concerning eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but His reference was still offensive to many in His audience, most of whom were Jews.  Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?   It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.   But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away John 6:60-67.  Despite the fact that the analogy Jesus used was touchy to the Jewish temperament, the disciples nevertheless recognized that the relationship they had with Jesus was not to be destroyed by a misunderstood reference.  

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68.  Peter would not jeopardize his relationship with Jesus for a simple misunderstanding. The reason for this was that Jesus had already locked in place his role as the giver and sustainer of life.  The emotional ties the disciples had with Jesus was stronger than any possible threat to their relationship.  The doctrinal aspect of conversion was only part of the change.  Their heart was in it as well.  Thus, we see the wisdom of this verse:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Luke 10:27. 

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Reader Comments (1)

GOD - did ALL the initiating with me; I was born 'n raised in Kansas, 1942. I was born with a club foot - that the dr. was able to straighten. I was raised by alcoholic parents (club foot); my older brother was born 'mentally challenged' (alcoholic parents). Mom drank with both of us. Finally, at 21 yrs. of age He made a way for me to come to Ca. and meet my husband - in Death Vly. - to start a new LIFE. At age 27 I began learning here was a God. It took me until July 20, '14 to finally get it right; I was backslide for34 yrs. Don't ever let anyone tell you - God is not merciful!! BTW - our parents were good to us - in spite of .....; nor is my husband saved, nor our2 boys. I am the FIRST in our combined histories - so far.

March 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSydney Heimericks

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