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Q: Does God forgive us even when we do wrong? How old should children be when they are baptized?
A: Dear Julia,
Thanks for writing. I'm not sure I completely understand you question, so if I don't answer it right, let me know...

You asked "Does God forgive us even when we do wrong?" Remember that the only people who need forgiveness are the ones who do wrong! The Bible is full of texts that tell us that Jesus is a friend of sinners. In Luke 5:31-32, Jesus says "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32 ). In Romans 4:5, the Bible tells that God "justifies the ungodly." In Romans 5:8, the Bible tells us that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And the apostle Paul says that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15 ).

God knows we are sinners. He knows we do wrong. Even more, He knows and understands that without Him it is impossible for us to do right. But He loves to help us, and to forgive us, and to change us to be more like Him. This is why the Bible says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). So the answer to your first question is Yes, God forgives us even when we do wrong, if we confess to Him. But we must remember, confession in the Bible is something we do sincerely. For example, if I like to steal candy, but I don't want to suffer the consequences for stealing, I can ask God to forgive me every time I steal, even though I have every intention of stealing again. My confession isn't very sincere. It is only something I'm doing so I can continue sinning and still be forgiven.

At the same time, the Bible tells us that our hearts are not naturally good, but evil. The Bible tells us that "no one does good, not even one" (Romans 3:12). It is Jesus who puts in our hearts a desire for forgiveness called "repentance." Repentance is the feeling of being truly sorry for our sins and wanting to never do them again. This feeling comes from Jesus (see Acts 5:31). If we aren't really sorry for our sins, we need to ask Jesus to make us sorry for our sins, as we confess them to Him, and He promises to freely forgive us. Jesus also promises us that "whoever comes to Me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). Come to Jesus, confess your sins to Him, and know you are forgiven!

Your second question was about how old people should be when they are baptized. The Bible doesn't give a specific age, but tells us that a person needs to "Repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). The bible also tells us that when a person is baptized, they are "baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4). A person needs to old enough to understand repentance, and to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ, and what it means to live for Him. Some people can have this basic understanding when they are 8 years old, while others may need to be older. Generally, when a person is ready to be baptized, the Holy Spirit will begin speaking to their hearts and encouraging them toward baptism.

If you haven't been baptized, and the Holy Spirit has been speaking to your heart, I hope you listen carefully, and tell your pastor you would like to be baptized so he can start preparing you for it. If you are already baptized, keep choosing to live for Jesus every day, knowing that when you sincerely confess your sins to Him, He will forgive you!

Thanks for writing, and remember, there's never been a better time to share Jesus!

Your friend,
Pastor Howard

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*Note: All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.