After a long, cold winter so typical of life in the northern United States, there is perhaps no better feeling than the first truly, warm sunny days of spring.

We’re not talking about the occasional day of warmth and sunshine that might poke through amid the seeming endless chill. It’s that feeling of knowing for certain: Spring has arrived, and winter has bid adieu, for the next seven months or so.

It sends people scattering outside, to attend to rituals of spring. One particular favorite? Planning the upcoming summer trip.

There are so many things to consider: Where are you going? What’s the attraction? How will you get there? What will you do there? What’s the budget? How long will you be gone? Who’s watching the house and perhaps the pets while you’re gone? And the list goes on.

But no matter the destination, attraction or other considerations, there is a clear process to pulling off a successful trip.

And everyone knows, no vacation worth taking was ever successfully completed, much less, begun by just remaining where you are – or without ever consulting a map.

So it is with our lives in Christ.

God in his Scriptures has revealed to us a plan for our lives and development.

And that plan can be summarized in one word: Baptism.

But while just one word, the Christian term has inspired nearly countless words on the matter of just what that word means, and how it can be applied to the lives of those who claim to be Christ’s followers. And very often, this discussion gets lost, centered on merely water baptism.

Baptism is so much more than just a dip in a pool.

In the Bible, a pattern is revealed. Over and over again, from the beginning of the Bible to its very end, we see the pattern repeated in beautiful fractal symmetry, as God unfolds his plan for our redemption and calls us back to himself, setting us free from the chains and shackles of darkness, sin and misery.

And that plan, that call to repentance and redemption, is expressed not just in one form – water baptism – but in three distinct baptisms, each drawing us forward, another step on a journey to new life and freedom in God.

The pattern is most plainly seen, of course, in the life of Christ, we is born into the world as God in flesh, dwelling us among us. He is then baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. And he is then crucified and raised in power, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father.

But the pattern, laid plain by Christ, can be witnessed in the lives of significant characters in God’s story, including Abraham, Moses and even the entire nation of Israel.

And the pattern still applies to us.

First, we are called into the baptism of Christ. He calls to us, beckoning us to come and be washed in his blood.

Then, we are instructed to be baptized with water, an outward sign and public profession of faith, a statement to the world that we have chosen to be identified with Christ; we have chosen to die to ourselves, to be buried and then, to be raised to new life with Christ.

But there is also a third baptism – a baptism of fire. This baptism was made possible by Christ’s ascension to Heaven. While he may have departed from this world in his bodily form, his arrival at the throne of God enabled the Father to pour out upon us the Holy Spirit. It was first manifested on the Day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, when the Word says “tongues of fire” appeared on the heads of those gathered in the Upper Room, who had been waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and for the power from on high promised by God.

It is a repeat of the pattern seen, for instance, in the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. God instructs them to smear the blood on the doorposts of their homes at Passover; they are then ushered through the waters of the Red Sea; and God visits them in fire upon Mt. Sinai, as he gives his laws and meets with his people. And through those visitations, God at last sets his people free, and establishes them as His People, free and redeemed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt!

So, too, God desires for all of his people to be established in him, today.

Today, we ask you: Where are you on this journey? Have you partaken in these baptisms?

And today, we encourage you: No matter where you are on the journey, God – and we, as his church – stand ready to  guide you ever deeper into the freedom, new life and power that comes from the Fullness of all that God has for you.

Come, today, take the next step - and live free in the Fullness.