Going Public: Understanding Baptism
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Granger Community Church
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Granger, IN 46530
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When Your Name Is Called
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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,
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jesus says that when you are in Christ, once you are His
disciple, it’s important to go public with your decision. Let the
“…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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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−
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,
When people ask this question, I always wonder about their
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
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
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
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
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.