But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mk 10:38, cf. v39-40; Lk 12:50)

The baptism that Jesus was referring to here is not water baptism, but the baptism of trials and suffering. When I was young and an unbeliever, I used to wonder, “Why are good kids bullied in school? If the problem is not with them, why are they ostracized for being good?” It took me a while to realize that such kids—coming from good, loving, and often privileged homes, who are meek, good-tempered, and usually bright—are frequently the target of bullies because of jealousy. This is often inexplicable, but the human psyche is not easy to understand. Is it better then for them to renounce their good nature or privilege just to avoid the bullying? Of course not.

When I first received the Holy Spirit while praying at home a few weeks after being baptized, it was not really like the testimonies I had heard, such as having really pronounced and fluent tongues, visible vibrations in the arms and body, or a strong electric current coursing through the body. But my experience was nevertheless one which I cannot forget. I felt a strong warmth at the top of my head and in my body. My persistent “hallelujahs” grew into a feather-light rolling of my tongue. I felt my arms vibrate almost as if in tandem with my heartbeat, but I was able to keep that quite controlled. Most of all, I remember how my heart felt: full, and my prayers of stumbling words seemed to have found a coherent channel that extended right to God, as if they were answered as they were being prayed. It was a wonderful and warm experience, akin to being enfolded in big warm hug. I didn’t think a poor sinner like me could receive the Holy Spirit–the gift of God Himself but I did, and it was all that mattered.

Revelation 7:3 and 22:4 record that those who belong to God shall have His name on their foreheads. These are the true disciples of Christ, His faithful servants. In history, men have cruelly used brands to scorch the flesh of their slaves and convicts to put an indelible mark in order to mark them as their own. This was also done to prevent escape so that it was known to whom or what place they belonged. When God gives us His precious Holy Spirit, it is like He is branding us. It is the guarantee of salvation because we become His own. When God brands us as His own, this is also when He unleashes the full extent of His love on us. However, the world hates us because we are different. Is God’s love then a burden because the world hates us? No! But let us be sure that we who are not of the world will be persecuted. God’s branding can also be painful. The heat of thorns and briers will sear us to refine us like a refiner’s fire (Mal 3:2-4). But like Jesus who endured the shame of the cross and baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:11-12), we must not give up living our lives for Him—for the end of our patience will reap the crown of life.


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