My wife and I knew a wonderful family when we lived in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. When we visited them in their home, they stood up one by one and introduced themselves.
The first one to do so was the mother, Carmen Reyes. She explained that her husband was not present because he no longer lived with the family.
“When we began to study the Word of God, he became angry and left,” she told us sadly.
Then the others took their turn. “Isabel Reyes, your humble servant,” the oldest said.
“Ramon Diaz,” her 17-year-old brother, introduced himself.
“Maria Reyes,” said the next. And so, with wide smiles, they continued until all of them had identified themselves. We were curious why some where Reyes and others Diaz. “Our dad likes to drink,” they said, “and every time one of us was born he considered it another chance to celebrate. In this condition he would go to the civil register to record our birth. When the clerk would ask for the father’s name sometimes he would give his name and other times he would say, “Who knows? I have no idea who the father is.” He thought this was funny, but the result is that some of us are officially recognised as his children and have his name, where others are not, and we have Mum’s maiden name.”
We left there thinking: How sad! How would it feel to know that your own father didn’t claim you, and didn’t give you his family name? Jesus told the story of a boy who rebelled against his father and ran away from home. After tremendous suffering he came to his senses and turned his face toward home. Here is where we find one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Jesus was showing us God’s attitude toward all who come to Him.
Jesus Himself said: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). That takes us all in. Maybe we come with hesitation, half-doubting, half-believing, hardly understanding and still wondering if hope is possible.
None of that matters. The key word is “Come!” Whoever comes will be “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV). None will ever hear the words “I don’t know whose child this is.” In Christ we are all recognised; we are all legitimate sons and daughters.
“Fear not,” He says, “for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). A beautiful assurance! But there is more.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).
And these blessings are for “everyone who is called by my name” (Isaiah 43:7).
Notice it does not say that God’s children will never have tough times.
They may “pass through the waters,” maybe even “through the fire.” But the promise is sure: “The rivers … will not overflow you” and “the fire” will not “burn you.” In the bitter hour “I will be with you.” Why? Because you are “called by My name.” “You are mine.” What a glorious privilege to bear the Father’s name! In the face of this thought, the apostle Paul falls on his knees, exclaiming: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14, 15).
And the apostle John exclaims: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
Perhaps you find yourself wondering, How can I bear this name? How can I be sure of being a member of the family of God both on earth and in heaven? If so, congratulations! Of all the questions in life, this is the most important.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the answer in the instruction that He provided His disciples. He told them: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). It is through baptism that we take this holy name.
What thoughts come to your mind when you hear the word baptism? First-century people used “baptise” to refer to the act of placing something in water. When John the Baptist— literally, “the baptiser”—began to baptise people in the Jordan (see John 3:23), the rite was not new, because the Jews had purification rites in which they immersed themselves in tanks of water to wash away their impurities.
The apostle Paul also related Christian baptism to these Jewish rites, calling it the “washing of rebirth and renewal” (Titus 3:5). But in his letter to the Romans he added a new dimension to the symbolism that greatly enriches it: “We were therefore buried with him [Christ] through baptism” (Romans 6:4). In another place, Paul clarified what he meant by saying, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
The change that takes place when we turn our lives over to Christ is so great that it is no exaggeration to speak of it as a “death” or even “crucifixion.” It is the execution of the sinful person we used to be. When we are transformed by the renewing of our understanding (see Romans 12:2), the old disorderly and destructive thought patterns disappear.
New tastes and new values take over. Our motives and goals are so different that it can truly be said that the individual we were before has died and a new one has been born. Water baptism is the burial of that dead person.
At the same time it is a celebration of the new birth. It is a birth announcement, a visible testimony of something that is invisible, although very real. And it is a way of publicly announcing that new and very different person who now resides in the old house.
When a baby is born, people look for similarities between the baby and its parents. If we are God’s children through new birth, we will be like our heavenly Father. When people say of us, “He is patient” or “She is humble,” then they can also add: “This really is a son or daughter of God.”
Jesus said, “Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44, 45). How does the act of being kind to those who don’t deserve it show we are God’s children? Because that’s how God is. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). This helps us understand the meaning of the third commandment when it says we must not take God’s name in vain.
Taking the name of God in vain is to call ourselves a son or daughter of God and yet continue with the same life as before. It means to assume that sacred name without experiencing any change in who we are. As a result, it amounts to adopting the name of a family without really belonging to it.
The first commandment encourages us to love God and place Him in the centre of our existence, and the second clarifies further what that means. The third commandment takes into account the first two and says to us: What are you going to do about this? Will you accept the invitation your heavenly Father has given you? Are you going to place Him in the centre of your existence, and bear His name and character? Our answer will determine whether He is able to pour out on our life the abundant blessings He has promised in His Word.