Going Public: Understanding Baptism

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Granger Community Church

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When Your Name Is Called

Mark Beeson

It begins in third grade when you get called at recess to play on

the team. You know how it is. There’s a pecking order even in

third grade. At recess, every day, the same two guys are always

the team captains. I don’t know how that works, but it’s always

the same two guys and they pick teams.

We all know what it’s like to be called. One of those two guys

calls our name and we strut over to the line. “He could have

called anyone,” we think, “but he called me−he called me!”

We feel so valuable. We feel like we’re important, because we

were chosen for the team.

Now, of course, we have all been last too, and that’s not a very

good place to be. (If you’re next-to-last, at least then you can

say, “Well, he could have chosen that person, but he still chose

me.”) When you’re last, you wonder if you are wanted. And if

you don’t feel wanted, it can get you down.

Maybe you know what it’s like to be down. You feel that you just

don’t matter. You don’t know if anyone even notices your life,

and then the phone rings and someone is calling for a date or

just to talk. You feel valued again. It’s amazing how wonderful

it is to be called; just to have someone call your name and say,

“I want to be with you. I want you to be with me.” It makes you

feel important, encouraged.

Being called is a great thing even if it’s your mother calling you.

I remember being called by my mother when I was a kid, “Come

home, come home.”

My friends would beg me, “Do you have to go home?”

“Yes. My mother is calling.” And I would run home because my

mom had called. I knew I had a place with her. It made me feel

valued, cherished, important and included. It was great, even as

a little kid.

* * * * * * * * *

[2] [3]

During elementary school, I looked forward to the weekends,

when I could ride my bicycle to the park. I would sit under a tree

and watch guys play basketball. One of the guys I loved to watch

was the state’s leading scorer in high school basketball. He

scored more points than anyone else in the entire state. He was

the king of basketball.

Every day in the park he would shoot and shoot and shoot. (You

can’t be the state’s leading scorer unless you shoot and shoot

and shoot.) He would shoot and I would sit and watch him.

I’ll never forget the event I’m about to describe.

I saw a car park near the basketball courts. I watched three guys

get out of the car and begin to shoot around at the end of the

court opposite the king of basketball. Looking for a pick-upgame,

they went mid-court and called to the lone player at the

other end. They obviously didn’t know he was the leading

scorer in the state. I could see from where I was sitting that,

undoubtedly, they were going to start up a game. There were

three of them, one of him.

They’re thinking two-on-two. I’m thinking, “This’ll be fun. I’ve

never seen such lopsided teams. I want to watch this game.”

I guess the king of basketball was thinking the same thing I was

thinking, “This won’t be fair.” I couldn’t hear them talking, but I

had the sense that he was looking for someone else to play.

He kept looking around. Then the king of basketball, the state’s

leading scorer, looked across the court and saw me sitting in the

grass under a tree. He pointed my way and called to me.

I couldn’t believe it. He knew my name. He called to me,

“Hey, kid.”

I just couldn’t believe it. He called me to come play−on his

team. The king of basketball called me to be with him. So I ran

(well, I hurried) out onto the court, and we started the game.

It was two of us against three of them and we killed them.

We buried them. We had no mercy. It was incredible.

It was exhausting for me. I was pushing myself to the physical

limits of my endurance, because every time we would score, I

would have to throw the ball in. Over and over I’d toss the ball

in-bounds to the best shooter in the state.

The king of basketball was conducting a clinic. He was a man

among boys. The other team couldn’t even touch the ball. It

was amazing. He would shoot from way out…and make it. He’d

shoot up close and make it. He’d get inside and dunk it. I just

kept throwing the ball in. It was finally something like 88 to 2.

We were pounding them. We were so far ahead, the other guys

stopped guarding me completely.

So, at approximately 88 to 2, I threw the ball in and ran to the

other end of the court. The king of basketball did what he had

done so many times before. He was dribbling around. He was

doing his thing. It was like watching a Harlem Globetrotters

comedy film. These guys were diving after it, but they couldn’t

even touch the ball.

And then, the most amazing thing happened. He looked over

at me. I was just standing under our basket, trying to catch my

breath, waiting for him to score again. It wasn’t like he glanced

in my direction. He looked right at me. Our eyes locked. I

thought, “Oh, no. I think he’s going to throw me the ball.” And

he did. The king of basketball threw the ball…to me.

They say when you’re about to die everything goes into slow

motion. I’m not sure that’s true, but at that moment everything

slowed down. I watched as he threw a bounce pass behind his

back. The ball was bouncing my way.

Suddenly, I had the ball.

I knew enough to know that if you’re wide open under your own

goal and no one is guarding you, you should shoot the ball.

Everyone was guarding the king of basketball. So, I looked up

and thought, “I’ve got to shoot.” It was such an exciting

moment. The king had thrown me the ball. This was the first

time. I was thrilled. I was overjoyed. I was excited. I was

terrified. All at the same time.

[4] [5]

Can you say, “Adrenaline dump?”

That’s exactly what happened to me. I got the ball. I was

supercharged with strength. I shot the ball with all the power

I had. It went right up, just over the rim. Then it went just over

the backboard. Then it went just over the fence, just over the

cars and just over the parking lot and down the street.

It was a bad moment. I’d been called by the king of basketball

and I’d just shot the worst air-ball in the history of the game.

I looked over to see the response of the three guys from the

opposing team. This was the only victory they’d had the entire

game. They were laughing, rolling, pointing, calling me names,

questioning my heritage. I was so embarrassed.

But, I’ll never forget what happened next. The king of basketball,

the state’s leading scorer walked over to me, put his arm around

me and said, “Well, you certainly have enthusiasm for the

game.” Then he added, “I guess we can teach you the rest.”

* * * * * * * * *

What’s that mean? “Enthusiasm for the game?” It simply

means interest, desire. It is a willingness to step up, to engage in

the game.

The King who called you is not the king of basketball. The King

who called you is the King of the universe. He’s the King of Kings

and Lord of Lords. He is Jesus Christ. He has called your name,

and he’s invited you to come alongside him, to be with him.

Maybe you haven’t begun to dream the dream that God

ultimately has for your marriage, for your family, for your life.

The truth is, you’ve only begun to scratch the surface of God’s

great plan for your life. You are valued, precious and cherished.

You are loved. Accept the King’s call. Have enough enthusiasm

to get in the game and He will teach you the rest.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal

life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the

world, but to save the world through him.

−John 3:16-17 (NIV)

God has called to you. It’s a new day; it’s a new beginning.

Words for Jesus. Words for You.

Rob Wegner

Let’s go back 2,000 years to the time when God’s Son, Jesus,

entered flesh and blood in a dusty, back-corner part of the

world. Let’s go back to the time before Jesus ever stood in the

public eye. Back to the moment where Jesus was surrounded by

the safe and familiar things he knew—hammers, nails

and wood.

Imagine Jesus standing in Joseph’s (his earthly father) carpentry

shop, gently running his fingers across the saw blade that Joseph

had given to him years before. All around him—hanging on the

wall, lying on the table—are the tools of his trade, each in its

assigned spot. He is folding up the rags that have polished some

of his life’s finest work.

He sweeps up the dust that fell from his saw that day. All the

while, there is a strange look in his eye; a look of finality. Jesus

shuts the door to the wood shop for the last time and turns his

back on the life he has known.

He walks 15 miles in the desert that day, kicking sand and stone.

The final three years of his life, years that will split time and

history, await him as he descends into the Jordan Valley. He

begins to hear the rumble of a crowd—the voices of those

he came for.

These people had traveled far and gathered there at the river

to be baptized—all sorts of people—religious zealots,

tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, soldiers, the homeless—you

name it. They are all gathered there. They are everyday people

[6] [7]

just like you and me who have come to repent of their sins and

to be washed anew in that river’s water.

And there in the middle of all that humanity stands John

the Baptist.

Jesus barely recognizes him, face covered with hair and body

covered with camel skins. He has changed so much from the

lanky cousin he wrestled with as a boy. His words break through

his matted beard into the crowd, like a stone into a glass house.

His stance is one of a soldier ready to make war. His words

explode like a bomb in the valley that day and the concussion

echoes back with resounding conviction. The truth makes

shrapnel out of the pride and sin that is hiding in the hearts of

people in the crowd.

Suddenly, John is silent.

John is looking at Jesus. Their eyes lock. Through the crowds,

John beholds the one he had been waiting for, the one he has

been preaching about, the one he has spent his life anticipating.

Words eventually crawl their way back up into his throat, and he

cries out to a lost world, “Everyone look! He’s here, the Lamb

of God, the gift of heaven, who will finally, once and for all, take

away all of this sin.”

John has played this moment out countless times as he dreamed

beneath the star-filled, desert sky. But in all his anticipation, he

is in no way prepared for what Jesus is about to do. Jesus walks

into the water, not on the water. No, that miracle will come later.

The miracle of this moment involves Jesus stepping into that

water, flowing with the sin of broken people like you and me.

The one who had come to take away our sin is now waist-deep

in it.

on its head. Jesus is going to be baptized by John. At first, John

refuses saying, “This is not right.” Jesus has nothing to repent

of. There’s not a trace of sin within him. But Jesus insisted. This

was a part of a bigger plan, one that not even John could have

seen—not yet.*

John finally, faithfully agrees and embraces the very Son of

God. John immerses him deep into the water. As soon as Jesus

rises up out of the river, those gathered there witness one

of the most beautiful, intimate and powerful moments in

human history.

All of the love and joy of heaven can no longer be contained

within that unseen realm. The sky suddenly bursts open, and

heaven shines through. First, comes the Holy Spirit in the form

of a dove, making a flight path down to Jesus. People could now

see the very presence of God within and around Jesus.

Then they hear it. They hear that voice. The voice. The voice

that spoke creation into being; the voice that told Moses to go.

The voice that whispered to Elijah was now speaking to Jesus.

It is the voice of a Father so in love with his only Son. And God

says to his Son, Jesus,

“You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.”

−Mark 1:11 (NLT)

Before Jesus ever turned water into wine, before he fed 5,000

hungry faces, before he healed the sick and the lame, before he

rose from the dead, he heard these words, “You are my beloved

Son, and I am fully pleased with you.” He heard these words, not

because of anything he had said or done, or because of anything

he would say or do, but simply because his Father loved him.

These are the words that sent Jesus into the last three years of

John approaches Jesus, his beard now dampened by the tears

his life. These are the words from which all of the miracles, from

running down it. John was going to be baptized by Jesus−or so

which all of the teaching, from which all of his love flowed, “You

he thought.

are my beloved, and I am so pleased with you. I’m so proud of

you. I love you.”

However, Jesus has come for a completely different reason. As

he will often do in the years ahead, he has turned this situation

*This poetic description of Jesus’ baptism was revised from a presentation by

Nancy Ortberg and Jarrett Stevens, 6-32-01, #X0125, Jesus 3-D: His Baptism, Axis.

[8] [9]

If you’ve never heard these words spoken to you, if you’ve

spent your whole life working to earn that kind of love, let these

words penetrate deep. Let these words sink into your heart.

God showed his love to Jesus and through Jesus. God loves you

too. And God is calling your name.

God’s love is for anyone−you−who would come to Jesus,

broken as you are, confessing your inability to earn your own

way to heaven. God’s love offers you the gifts of forgiveness,

mercy and grace. God is calling all of us to the life Jesus

purchased with his death and made available through

his resurrection.

If you’ve already trusted Christ and received amazing grace,

these words reverberate inside your soul, bringing hope for

heaven and purpose on planet Earth. He has called your name.

Called to Follow…Together

Mark Beeson

If you’re trusting Christ with your life, if you’ve shown interest,

enthusiasm and passion to follow him, God will teach you the

rest. He has invited you to follow him, to “remain in him.”

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit

by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit

unless you remain in me.

−John 15:3-4 (NIV)

God doesn’t look at you and wonder, “How will I win, how will

my kingdom come unless I have that person in the game?”

Jesus Christ has already won. He is King. He is the Lord of the

Universe. He is victorious. His Lordship is not dependent on us.

The kingdom of God is alive and well, with or without you

or me.

But we are called; we are invited because he loves us. The

opportunity is not to merely say a few “right” words to get into

heaven. The opportunity is to be part of what God is doing. The

opportunity is to follow Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul

and strength (Luke 10:27) and experience life−shame free,

purposeful, eternal life−in the here and now!

You come into the game as one person−as an individual. But

you are not alone. You’re not the only one whose name has

been called. There are millions of others already in the game,

already engaged in the kingdom of God.

When you say, “yes” to following Jesus, you join the ever-

growing family of God. You join a force advancing His kingdom.

You are not alone. You are invited to belong to the family

of God.

The pathway to belonging begins with the clear command Jesus

has given his followers: be baptized. Identify with Jesus by being

“buried” to your old way of life and being “resurrected” to live

for him.

When we follow Christ in obedience and are baptized, we also

identify with every other follower of Jesus. We declare that we

are part of something bigger than we are alone. We proclaim

that we will follow Jesus side-by-side with others who are taking

steps in the same direction we are: toward Christ. We take our

next steps toward Christ together.

Undercover Christians

Rob Wegner

Baptism is Christianity’s sacramental initiation rite. It is far more

than that, but it includes the idea that once a person admits his

sin and turns to Christ for salvation, some public step should

be taken to show the world that this man or woman is now a


There is a legend about a Russian Czar, Ivan the Terrible.

Erratic and brutal, he was obsessed with expanding his

kingdom; consequently, he didn’t take time for other pursuits

[10] [11]

like marriage and family. His advisors worried about an heir to

the throne, so Ivan ordered his men to find a suitable mate,

beautiful and noble.

The search led to Sophia, Princess of Greece. Ivan sought

and won the king’s blessing for his daughter’s hand, on the

condition that Ivan must join the Orthodox Church and be

baptized. Undeterred by this minor inconvenience, the Czar

went to Greece with five hundred soldiers. When the men

found that the Czar must be baptized, they decided to be

dunked as well. The requirements for baptism were a

profession of faith and affirmation of the articles of the

Orthodox Church. Unfortunately for Ivan, one of the articles

excluded professional soldiers.

Ivan and his men created a solution that would allow them to

join the Church as soldiers. There commenced the strangest

baptism in history. Ivan and his five hundred men entered the

water, each accompanied by a priest. As the priests submerged

the men, each soldier held his sword high out of the water.

Thus, each soldier was baptized except for his sword and

fighting arm.

The soldiers decided they would give all of themselves to the

church except for their fighting arms and swords. These would

remain the possession of the state.

Some people who want to follow Jesus are no different than

these soldiers. They want to become Christians and have the

promise of eternal life. They want the favor of God. They want

to belong to His family, the Church. But they want it on their

terms. Some people come to Christ with their arm out of the

water, holding things they still want to control: possessions,

time, money, habits…you name it.

Many Christians are Undercover Christians. They’re incognito.

They’re on the down-low, under the radar. They go to school

every day. Their classmates do not know they are Christians.

They are undercover. They go to work every day. They’ve worked

with the same people for years. But those people do not know

they are Christians. They want to follow Jesus with their

“unbaptized” arm raised out of the water.

Paul writes in Romans 12:1 (NIV),

“I urge you…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living

sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

Jesus calls us to offer God our whole selves−not just part of us.

Baptism is the act of going public. Not holding anything back

from God.

It’s one thing to say, in the privacy of your heart, that you were

a sinner who needed a Savior. It’s quite another thing to step

out of the shadows and stand before a thousand people and

demonstrate, publicly, the fact that because of what Christ has

done for you, you are now a member of the family of God and

you’re dedicating your life to following Christ. That ups the ante.

In a way, baptism is when people go on record saying, “I heard

the call. I accepted the invitation to get in the game. I’m on the

right team. I’m with the family of God.” Baptism separates

spectators from players. It’s when you say, “I’ve heard King

Jesus call my name. I’m answering. I know I need God’s

forgiveness. I accept that I can do nothing to earn God’s love.

Jesus has demonstrated God’s love for me in his life, death and

resurrection. I will follow him with all my life. I’m on the court.

I’m in the game.”

Frequently Asked Questions about Baptism

The Why Question

The most common question asked about baptism is “why?”

“Why should I be baptized?” Here are three reasonable

responses to that question.

First, when we’re baptized, we follow the example set by Christ.

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was

[12] [13]

aptized by John in the Jordan.” −Mark 1:9 (NIV)

As noted earlier, Jesus actually came to John to be baptized. It’s

a profound and clear example set by Jesus Christ.

A second reason to be baptized is simply because Christ

commands it. That’s a pretty compelling reason isn’t it? Christ

commands it. It’s found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28,

verse 19 (GN):

Jesus said, “Go, then, to all people everywhere and make them

my disciples...”

He says go make them my disciples. Help them to know the

Truth. Jesus said I am the Truth (John 14:6). The Truth will set

you free (John 8:32). Jesus says we are to invite people to put

their futures, their hopes, their dreams, their strengths, their

weaknesses in Him. We are to encourage them, help them,

and train them, so that they can live their lives in Christ.

Then He says,

“…baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the

Holy Spirit…”

Jesus says that when you are in Christ, once you are His

disciple, it’s important to go public with your decision. Let the

world know.

“…then teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

−Matthew 28:20 (GN)

We become disciples of Christ. We are baptized into the family

of God, and we begin the journey together. We learn how to live

in Christ. We know how we tried to live without Christ, but how

do you live in Christ? You must learn to obey the commands

of Christ. The simple fact is declared in 1 John 2:3 (NIV):

“We know that we’ve come to know Him if we obey

His commands.”

Jesus gives direction to His followers. He issues commands.

Go here, do this. We are to listen for His leading. We read the

Scriptures to know His will. Jesus says this is what I want you to

do. This is my command: once you are a disciple, go public with

your faith, be baptized and then learn to obey. These are very

clear commands.

Finally, why be baptized? Because it demonstrates that I’m a

believer. It’s actually pretty simple.

But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news

of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were

baptized, both men and women.

−Acts 8:12 (NIV)

The Baby Question

It goes like this: should we baptize infants or is it more

appropriate to baptize those who are mature enough to make

their own faith decision. That’s a fair question. That’s a good

question. We respect people on both sides of the issue. Some

churches baptize infants. Millions of infants have been baptized

by the Church. It’s good to know that. But you should know the

following too.

Here is what the Bible says about infant baptism: nothing.

Silence. It’s not there. Every baptism in the Bible occurred

when someone was old enough to make a faith decision.

Our understanding as a church is that, as Scripture teaches,

baptism is an expression of the commitment of the person

being baptized. It is an expression of trust or faith in Jesus

Christ by one who is mature enough to make that decision and

that commitment.

In Matthew 19 Jesus talks about children. He blessed

children, he nurtured children, he loved children. At GCC,

parents who love Christ and want to express their desire to raise

their children in the faith, have the opportunity to participate

in a ceremony of dedication. When parents have a child, they

stand with all of us, in the midst of their faith community and

promise to raise their children to know and love Jesus.

Baptism−of an older child or mature adult−is never a

[14] [15]

epudiation of a baptism that may have taken place in your life

as a child. It is simply a way of saying that “as an adult, fully

engaged and making my own personal choice, I choose Jesus.

I’m going public with my intent to follow him.”

The H2O Question

Maybe you’re asking, “How should I be baptized? Should I

be spritzed, sprinkled, poured, turn some flips in the pool,

immersed? How?”

Again, there are differences. Some churches practice

sprinkling and some actually pour water on the one being

baptized. Others immerse. A pastor grabs you by the lapels,

buries you in the water and pulls you back up. In some

traditions, once isn’t enough. You take the plunge three times:

once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy

Spirit. The symbolism in all of these modes of baptism is so

rich. These modes have been practiced across the church

for centuries.

At GCC the method we prefer is the mode of baptism that

best represents the symbolism of Christ’s death and

resurrection. When possible, we baptize by immersion.

Romans 6:1-11 (NIV) says,

“What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace

may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it

any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized

into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death

in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through

the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will

certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we

know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of

sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves

to sin−because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with

him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,

he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The

death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he

lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin

but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Life with Christ is a new life. We have a new focus. We live

with a new commitment. This is why we love the image of

immersion. Down with the old; up with the new!

In our practice of immersion you literally get to experience the

imagery of being “buried with Christ.” When you decided to

follow Jesus, you, in a sense, died to an old way of life. The old

way of life wasn’t about serving God. Now that life is dead, so

you are buried to the old way of life.

When you’re brought back up into the sunlight and the fresh

clean air, you get to experience the vivid imagery of being raised

to new life, just as Jesus was resurrected from death. You’ve

been washed clean, made new in Christ. So at our church you’ll

only go under once. You’ll be raised up to a new life in Christ!

If there is a condition that prohibits immersion, we will pour or

sprinkle. It’s not the amount of water that matters because

Jesus saves you, not the water (or amount of water) used at

your baptism.

The Clorox Question

Some say, “Baptism is kind of like spiritual Clorox. You are a

sinner. You are a moral failure. You’re baptized and you come

out completely clean.”

“And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you,

not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God

from a clean conscience. ” −1 Peter 3:21 (NLT)

If we could invent some kind of baptismal technology and

baptize all of us 20 times a day, that would still not constitute

our forgiveness and cleansing. There is nothing special about

the waters. The water doesn’t forgive or cleanse us of sin. It

doesn’t happen that way.

[16] [17]

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith−and this

not from yourselves, it is the gift of God−not by works, so that

no one can boast. −Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

In this scripture there is not a drop of water mentioned.

Salvation is a gift from God, established by the death and

resurrection of Jesus. Period.

The Mechanical Formula Question

During a recent lunch outing at the mall, I walked by an older

man who was standing next to a digital self-weighing scale.

(Why they have these at the mall, I don’t know. The news is

depressing enough when you lock yourself in your own

bathroom. Why announce your weight in a public arena?)

As I walked by this man, I saw him pull back, haul off and punch

the scale. He was mad at the machine because he had paid his

twenty-five cents, and it didn’t work. He wasn’t getting the

automatic results he’d expected. That’s because the scale is a

mechanical deal. You put your quarter in. You’re supposed to

get a digital readout of your weight. Put something in, get

something out. That’s the deal.

Some view baptism as a mechanical deal, a formula for

salvation. If you have been counting on the fact that you were

baptized as a ticket into heaven−regardless of the condition

of your heart, regardless what you think about God, regardless

how you live your life, regardless what you believe−you have

misunderstood baptism.

If you think baptism binds and restricts God, forcing him to

“save” you, you have misunderstood. Just because some

religious leader baptized you, sprinkled you, poured water on

you, or dunked you does not mean you are a Christ-follower.

That mind set does not hold Biblical water.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and

believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will

be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made

right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you

are saved.” −Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

Baptism is an outward act, an expression of trust, a declaration

that you are personally trusting Christ, and Christ alone, for the

forgiveness of sins. You make a decision to trust when you enter

the waters of baptism.

The Inside-Outside Question

Baptism doesn’t make you a believer. It shows that you already

believe. It’s an outward symbol of an inward commitment.

My wife and I have been married for some time. If I give my

wedding ring to another man and he puts it on his finger, would

that mean he was married to my wife? No. What if this man

started acting like he was married to my wife simply because

he has the ring on? She would quickly let him know he was

confused, telling him, “A ring does not a husband make.”

That’s how ludicrous it is to say that you are Christian just

because you’ve been baptized. The wedding ring is an outward

symbol of an inward commitment. Yet, if I had to take my

wedding ring off, I am still married. You become a Christian, the

Bible says, by grace through faith. It is an outward symbol of an

inward commitment. I go public: “Here’s what God has already

done for me. I am committed to following him.”

Putting on a ring doesn’t make me someone’s spouse and

getting baptized won’t make me a follower of Jesus Christ−

a “Christian.”

The Attorney Question

Attorneys know how to ask questions. They can help witnesses

tell complete stories through a series of questions. They can also

trap you with questions, arguing this side and that side. They

know how to lead and win an argument based on technicalities

within their questioning.

Sometimes people say, “Technically speaking, I mean, do

you really have to be baptized to be a Christ-follower,

technically speaking?”

When people ask this question, I always wonder about their

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motive. I am thinking, “Now, why would you ask that question?”

“I’ve accepted Christ. I’m sincere about that. I’m following

Christ, but I don’t want to be baptized. Can I still get to heaven?”

People rarely put it in these kinds of words, but they want to

know if they can get into heaven if they blow off baptism.

I have very deep pastoral concerns about this question. I have

concerns about the question even being asked. On the one hand

I hear that the person understands they have sinned grievously

against God Almighty. I hear that they understand that it was

for sin that Jesus suffered. He was whipped, beaten and died an

agonizing death on the cross and by his sacrificial death he paid

in full the debt we owe God for our sin. This person seems to

understand that Christ willingly endured this to demonstrate the

Father’s love for all, his love for everyone. They acknowledge

that Christ clearly commands all of his followers to be baptized

as a way of declaring their devotion to him.

I don’t understand how someone can know this and say, “I will

claim the name of Christian and I’ll speak well of Jesus. Maybe

I’ll even recommend him to my friends. But when it comes to

obeying him in this very first step of the Christian life, to go

public before the church and the world, I think I’ll take a pass…”


Jesus said, “Go, then, to all people everywhere and make them

my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son,

and the Holy Spirit, and then teach them to obey everything I

have commanded you.” −Matthew 28:19, 20 (GN)

Make no mistake about it: Jesus himself commanded those who

claimed to be his followers to demonstrate it, first, by being

baptized publicly. Introverts, as well as extroverts.

The Image Management Question

It’s true: when you choose to be baptized, you’re going to get

wet. Immersion gets you very wet. From head to toe. Hair and

clothes. Soaked.

Maybe you’re thinking: “I don’t want to get all wet and have my

hair messed up.” Really? Think about it. Christ was soaked in his

own blood when he demonstrated his love. Do you think you

could get a little water on you for him?

Or maybe you’d say, “I’ve been in the church forever. If I get

baptized now, what will people say? I’ve even served at church,

been a Sunday school teacher, sang in the choir…what will

people say?” They’d say, “Wow! Isn’t that great? Look at his

humility. Look at her faith.” If people don’t understand and say,

“What are you doing?” you can respond, “I’m being

obedient. I’m doing the simple thing Jesus asked me to do.

I’m going public.”

Consider the thousands who have come to Jesus over the past

several years as a result of the work of our church in southern

India. When the majority of these men and women in this Hindu

culture give their lives to Christ, they are beaten and disowned

by their families. They lose their jobs. That is the immediate

consequence of their faith in Christ.

They smile and celebrate when they are baptized, knowing they

have been cast out of their family, knowing they have lost their

jobs. They count this momentary suffering as inconsequential

because they are putting their futures in Christ. They know he

defeated death and hell and the grave. They know he will hold

them in the palm of his hand. Whatever happens in their future,

they know their future is in Christ. So they endure the beatings

and the loss. And with joy, they fling themselves into a new life

in Christ.

So when someone in Michiana says, “I don’t know if I want to be

baptized because it’s going to mess up my hair,” I just struggle a

bit. What a privilege it is for us to live in a country and a culture

where, although we may have a mother or a father who doesn’t

understand, most of us will not be beaten because we choose to

be baptized. Most of us will not lose our jobs because of it.

People have many reasons to delay this important step of

obedience. Maybe you’ve delayed this important step of

obedience to express your love for Jesus Christ. So ask yourself if

it’s time for you to act. Maybe your next step is to go public. You

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are a follower of Jesus. You’ve accepted Christ’s forgiveness. It’s

time to ask, “What is holding me back from obedience to this

simple command of Christ?”

The Do-over Question

Perhaps you’ve already been baptized, but you’re experiencing

a renewed commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re

looking back on your previous baptism, wondering if you were

really sincere in your commitment to Jesus. Should you be

baptized again?

Baptism isn’t a sacrament that’s intended to be repeated as we

reach new levels of growth in our lives. And you will experience

fresh growth! Each time you sense a new level of intimacy with

Christ, each season you surrender more of your life to him, you

may be tempted to be baptized again.

Know that what God has done in your life through his grace is

done. You were born again to a new life in God’s Kingdom and

you declared your allegiance to Christ when you were baptized.

Your baptism need not be repeated.

However, if you are, for the first time, owning your own faith

and making your own decision to follow Jesus, this may be the

perfect time to identify with Christ in baptism. This is an

important step in declaring your commitment to Jesus Christ

and your devotion to the family of God gathered in this church.


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