Some days are just perfect and last Sunday was one of those days. Three wonderful ladies were baptized in a pristine lake under the watchful eye of a beautiful old rustic cabin. The sun shone hot, the lake breeze kept it cool and the fellowship was amazing.
As each of the ladies was baptized I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that Biblically baptism is always the beginning of a Christians journey and not the end. Let me explain what I mean by that. Way too often a person comes to Jesus and has an encounter with the risen Lord that changes their heart and attitudes. They rejoice in the saving power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit puts it into their heart to be baptized. They come to a pastor and ask for baptism and are told that they most certainly can be baptized. But they must study for a certain amount of time or know certain things before they can take that step.
As a result, baptism becomes the climax at the end of a series of studies and no longer becomes about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. It seems like it is really about knowing the teachings of the church. Ah! There is the rub. Is baptism more about joining a church or being “in Christ”?
So, here is the question we should ask ourselves, why is it so imperative for churches to have everyone conform to the same teachings in order to be part of the fellowship? Why are we so afraid to allow people to grow in Christ through fellowship and learning the word of God as they worship God in a church or small group setting?
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that in the book of Acts all eleven baptisms were spontaneous after the people encountered Jesus and accepted Him as Lord of their lives. I received some feedback refuting that teaching because they felt Acts was unique and not a model for the modern church. That is a fair statement if we are willing to throw the entire book out and accept nothing written in Acts. We cannot cherry-pick the things we want to believe in Acts and reject the rest.
The argument against what I am saying is that if we baptize everyone and everybody who wants to be baptized then we have no standards and baptism becomes a mockery. Is it ever a mockery when someone wants to be baptized? No. What that person does with baptism is up to the individual and how much support and comfort they receive from their fellow Christians. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct in their lives and ours to encourage and support.
Do we honestly believe that the people John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan River had been through twenty weeks of Bible studies before they accepted baptism? No, they came and heard his preaching on repentance and under the influence of the Holy Spirit went forward to be baptized.
If you have never been baptized but the conviction is in your heart, do it. Being baptized is never a bad idea. Remember, all the things that go through your head about not being good enough, or too sinful, or too broken, or too frightened to be baptized are the very reasons that you should be baptized. Those who recognize their need are the people who Jesus is calling to be baptized.
You say you don’t know a pastor to baptize you? That’s fine – if you know a sincere Christian friend ask that person to baptize. There is no law that says it must be a pastor. Please, if you are reading this blog and God is convicting you to surrender your cares, worries, struggles to Him and you recognize your need of the saving power of Jesus to carry you through, go and get baptized.
Baptism symbolizes that you have died to the old way of life with its demands upon you and in a sense died with Jesus and when you come up out of the water you are in a sense resurrected with Jesus. You are in reality born again into the newness of life. Your sins are forgiven, not by a magical experience in baptism, but because you have accepted Jesus as Lord of your life. You receive the power of the Holy Spirit to comprehend the spiritual things of God and walk in harmony with God’s plans for your journey.
God loves you unconditionally and longs to have you love Him back. Never be afraid to listen to the promptings of God upon your heart and trust Him to always lead you in the right direction. Yes, baptism is the beginning of a journey and once you are on that journey it is an amazing ride!
* Many people around the globe are currently experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death, for the love of their God. These people know pain and suffering. They need our support and prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet.