I was very much excited and encouraged about
a week ago when one of my best friends emailed me from Tanzania
where he is ridding the world of poachers (or something) and asked
me if I would baptise him when he was in town for his mom's wedding
this last week.
So when I was thinking about that I thort back to some baptism
classes I attended when I was working at the Baptist church a few
years ago... and then I thort of maybe asking my current pastor
for his take on Baptism... but then I thort back to the stuff that
happens in the book of Acts and the fact that there is not much
teaching on baptism in the Bible at all and realised that there
is no 'way' of doing it. What is important is the why - what is
the baptism thing all about? So I decided to not worry so much
about the method and just put some thorts together on what the
whole thing is about.
'Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw
Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to
them and said, "All authority
in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make
disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."'
One thing we have kinda got a bit messed up in the church these
days is the place of baptism. We have baptism classes 'to prepare
people for what lies ahead' and all of that, and a lot of people
get baptised years after they make a commitment to Jesus and in
many cases we wait until people 'are ready.' And yet the Biblical
picture is that baptism was an immediate thing. As you get saved
you get baptised, because baptism was a public declaration of the
decision you have made to follow Jesus. There is no magicalness
or mysticality in the 'baptism' in terms of the process or where
the water is or how it is added or anything like that - the significance
is in the person's decision to follow Jesus and the being baptised
as a symbol of that declaration.
WHAT MAKES YOU BETTER THAN JESUS?
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised
by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, "I need to be
baptised by You, and do You come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to
do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptised, He went
up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He
saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on
Him. And a voice from heaven said, "This
is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased."
I mean, if you need a bottom line, that has to be it. Jesus, who
is the Son of God, and lived a sinless life, needed to be baptised.
What makes you any better than that?
Secondly, going back to the other Matthew passage, it is a command.
Go and make disciples AND baptise them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With a little kid, often the parent will
give them a command and the kid will whine out a big, "Why must I do that?" And
sometimes the parent will simply reply, "Because I said so!" And
for most of us that isn't good enough because we want answers and
explanations and all of that... but surely if there was one person
who that answer would be good enough for, it is God. If God issues
a 'Because I said so!' then that is good enough for me. And it
should be good enough for you. I'm not saying there is not reason
given for why we should get baptised because I believe there is,
and it does have significance and all of that...but if the only
reason was 'Because I said so' on the lips of God, that would be
enough for me. And it should be good enough for you!
And you know what? I think this should extend beyond baptism.
IF you get to a place where you believe that God is a God of absolute
Love and Justice, then actually any time He says, 'Because I said
so!' it should be enough. And if we as Christians could get into
the habit or responding in obedience to anything that God says
without wasting time on questioning or needing to know the benefits
for us and so on, then we would start to be a whole lot more productive
and closer to God. Stop looking for loopholes and trying to justify
things just because you want them to be different and be obedient
to His call.
BUT MY PARENTS DID IT ALREADY
I think it is great when parents dedicate their children to God
and I know this goes by many different names, and one of those
names is 'child baptism' in some churches, but in essence I think
that is always about the parents asking God to watch over and bless
their children, and as I said, dedicating themselves and their
children to God. So there i nothing wrong with that and I think
it's actually really good. But it not the baptism spoken about
by Jesus in Matthew.
In a similiar way it makes no difference to your salvation whether
your parents are Christian or not. You do not automatically gain
entrance to heaven and the kingdom of God because your parents
made a decision to follow Him. It might positively affrect your
life if your parents are Christian because they will expose you
to the gospel and hopefully be living out Christian values and
principles and so it should benefit you. But it does not save you.
In the same way, nobody else can proclaim your decision to follow
Jesus which is what baptism is about. You, as a believer, need
to make a public stand of acknowledging Jesus' saving work in your
life and your desire to follow Him with all your heart, soul, strength
and mind. and you could be 5 or 95 for that, so it's not about
being a certain age or being 'ready' or whatever - it is about
making a decision to follow Jesus and then publically making a
statement of that declaration by symbolically joining Jesus in
His death and resurrection by being baptised.
DIE ANOTHER DAY
'Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come
after Me, He must deny himself and take up his cross and follow
Me.For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a
man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what
can a man give in exchange for his soul?"'
I have heard a lot of people who used to call themselves Christian,
say that they pulled out because Christianity didn't work for them.
When I was driving over to baptise my buddy Mark, I got this revelation
about that whole thing from God and it just made so much sense
If you are making a statement like 'Christianity doesn't work
for me' then you have missed the point and meaning of that Matthew
passage. Once you become a Christian, you deny yourself and take
up your cross and follow Him. What does that mean? There is no
me any more... there is only Jesus... and you know what? Christianity
works for Jesus...every time! It worked for Him back then when
He came and modelled a life of service and unconditional love to
the world, and it works for Him now when people submit to Him and
allow Him to live in them through His Holy Spirit.
So if it is not working for you, maybe there is still some you
that needs to die!
IN THE SHELL OF A NUT
When you go under the water, you are symbolically joining Jesus
in His death and acknowledging death to self - death to my desires
and dreams and ways of doing things [all because of the understanding
and acknowledgement that what Jesus has for me is so much better
and ultimately more fulfilling] and embracing His stuff for my
New identity: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a
new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" [2 Corinthians
When you come out of the water, you are symbolically joining Jesus
in His resurrection and acknowledging the end of death's power
over you and the hold of sin over your life. You are declaring
to the world that you are a new creation with a new Lord and Master,
a new set of values and principle and a new love to live out.
FINAL CONCLUDING WORDS
I said to the people at Mark's baptism that there are two things
I really want in life and one of those was to be able to baptise
a good friend of mine. So it really was a great time for me and
on this weekend camp I also got to baptise another of my friends
and one of my youth leaders, Megan so that was really great as
well (and part of my upcoming book on 'How to baptise people in
knee-deep water' which is a whole other thort!) - when I was in
Malawi in 2000 I was able to assist in a baptism in a river which
had a sense of being 'the real thing' altho obviously it isn't
actually any better or more significant than if it happens in a
baptistry font or swimming pool.
I think the only thing left is to have the privilege of baptising
someone that I have led to Jesus and so that will be something
on my heart now and the only way that is ever going to happen is
if I start leading people to God.
So how about you? You been baptised? If not, what you going to
do about it? For Mark and Megan, because it happened so long after
'the event' in a sense it was more a case of publically affirming
what they have been living out for a long time already (as opposed
to a new commitment they had just made) but yet it was still valid
because it was obedience to the command and created an opportunity
to share their commitment and what it means to them to those they
love and spend time with.
I trust this has been helpful to many of you who may have had
questions or been struggling with the issue. 'Because I said so'
coming from the mouth of God really should be enough!