We just had a baptism party at Venue Church. It was an amazing and somewhat emotional time as we looked back to where our baptismees were when they first were introduced to Jesus and our community of faith, to where they are now. There was cheering and whistling and yelling and crying.
I remember very clearly thinking to myself “THIS was worth the last year of my life!”. It puts the critics, the haters and even those I’ve disappointed (who apparently feel that it’s their mission to tear at and discredit what is the most amazing community I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of) firmly in their place in my mind. Last.
And I go back to our mandate: to create the scene that connects people with Jesus. To create opportunity. Not to change them but rather to introduce them to the One who actually can. Not everyone wants change enough to do something about it, but we try to work with those who do.
Our baptismees want change. They want to go public and align themselves with the mission of Jesus Christ. Baptism doesn’t save them, Jesus does. They are publicly saying when they go under the water that not only are the sin and shame going under and staying under, so are the things they’re so tempted to be proud of. The good, the bad and the ugly. The past belongs to the Saviour now and their future is found only in him.
From the moment we are born there is a problem. Two problems actually: 1. We’re born into sin and 2. We partake willingly in it.
There are only three people who weren’t born into it whether they liked it or not (sorry but you don’t have to teach children to sin, they figure it out on their own:): Adam, Eve and Jesus. Adam and Eve started this whole fiasco for us and killed the spirit inside of humankind which connects with God who is Spirit. That’s what being born again actually means. Something inside is dead and now comes alive. Man is spirit, soul and body. It’s a massive problem we all share. A pit we can’t climb out of without help.
Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit (spirit) and Mary (body, soul). He wasn’t born into sin so the first problem of mankind he didn’t inherit like we did, and that’s a good thing. The second part of our problem he experienced fully! Not sin itself but rather all the temptation and weakness that leads us to sin. He was fully God and fully man. He was drawn towards the dark side just like we are, but he never once gave in.
His death and resurrection built us the only bridge that exists back to God. This is where the teachings of Jesus offend us. We so often echo the thoughts of Eve (and originally Satan) in the Garden of Eden “I could be like God if I knew what he knew!”. Sound the warning klaxon!!! NO!!!! There is one God and you’re not him. You’d make a terrible god! You can’t even be a proper god in your own life so now you want to challenge the big fella? Good luck…
There are many who say all paths lead to God. I would word it more like this: “All paths could lead to God if you want to follow…”. All paths don’t really lead to Disneyland so why the heck would we think all paths lead to God? We really mean that our path leads to God because we’re too lazy to actually look, or that side of life doesn’t quite make sense to us yet (and that’s ok).
Too maintain that all paths lead to God and include Christianity in with everyone else makes our faith easier to swallow, but what are we swallowing? It certainly isn’t the teaching of Jesus who said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through ME”. I don’t care if water is easier to swallow than food if I can’t live on it for very long. Start with water if you have to, but please let’s actually get on that uncomfortable path called truth!
Baptism is firing on the ship called SELF. You and I know very well that we want SELF to sit on the throne of our lives. A Christ follower actually replaces self with Jesus. What did Jesus pray the night He was taken away to be crucified? “Not my will but yours be done.” Your Christianity had better look like it did in the life of Jesus or it ain’t Christianity at all buddy!
Jesus nailed SELF to the cross. It only left the cross to be thrown in the tomb. Self stayed buried there.
That’s what baptism represents… Self goes under the water and stays under the water. You rise in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. He sits on the throne. He decides. He runs things. You rise from the water with his nature and are connected with the Father because of what he did for you.
“But only I know what’s best for me!”
Oh please! How’s that working out for you? Right, you know way more than the God who made you and loves you! You drive the car but know way more about its design than the person who designed it! If you think you know everything you haven’t lived very long yet. I have watched rich people and poor people suffer loss and they both cry the same tears. In the end the only difference is the quality of bed you die on, so don’t tell me you have all the answers!
I’ll stop pushing you now but there is a method in what I’m doing. There is a measure of discomfort in baptism and the decision to follow Christ that precedes it. It’s awkward and makes you feel something, sometimes even anger. Every Christ follower normally has a proper crisis of soul or it may be premature for a real decision. It doesn’t have to be emotional (if that’s not you) but often sounds something like this:
“I’ve got a problem I can’t think or work my way out of. If I don’t live my life on this earth with Jesus, I won’t live the next one with Him either.”
Believe me that this is the crucible where salvation is born. There is no other way. There is no easy way. There is only one way.
But there IS a way!!
Baptism represents one more thing I’ll mention today best described in one of our songs…
“I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back”
And the verse I sing the loudest:
“Though none go with me, still I will follow!”