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Baptism

#storychanging

Baptism

MondayMake disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Matt. 28:19

“Hey, I need to get my kids baptized. Where do I sign ‘em up?”

“Sure, I’m a Christian. I got baptized when I was a kid.”

“I’ve been messing up and I need to get my act together. I’m gonna get baptized and maybe that will straighten me out.”

Few biblical commands are as misunderstood as baptism; however, the practice doesn’t belong only to Christians. Baptism was a part of Judaism before Jesus came along and some cults and false religions use baptism as part of their ceremonies. So what is it and why do we do it? The Greek word baptizo’ means “to dip or submerge, primarily as part of a ceremony.” So Jesus commanded His disciples to “dip or submerge” new disciples in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It doesn’t save us; Jesus does that. As a wedding band symbolizes the end of an old life and the beginning of a new union, baptism symbolizes the end of self-rule and a surrender to the lordship of Jesus. Infants can’t make that decision. Most little children can’t either. Sprinkling or dabbing on the forehead is not baptism. Neither is dunking oneself. Jesus was immersed by John before He began His earthly ministry, so we follow His example before we step into the ministries He has for us.

Final Thought:  Have you been scripturally baptized since surrendering to the lordship of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Father, did I understand what I was doing when I was baptized? I want to be sure I have followed your example and been public about my decision to receive you as Savior and Lord. Show me whether my baptism was genuine. Amen. 

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Tuesday  They came to some water, and the eunuch said, “There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”   Acts 8:36

It finally made sense! When Phillip explained the scriptures to him, he felt that his heart would burst with love for this Savior they called Jesus. The One the prophets had written about thousands of years ago was the very Son of God! Jesus had died for him and risen again! That knowledge opened a window in his soul where light streamed in. What could he do to show God how he felt? He was only a eunuch, a servant of the Ethiopian queen. Why would the great God send Phillip to someone like him? This newfound faith would change everything, but how could he mark such a change? Questions spilled out of his heart and became words. “Look, my friend!” he cried. “There is a pond of water just ahead. Can I be baptized?”

This eunuch understood the meaning of baptism. It was a sacred action that cemented this new love for his Savior. That’s what many do not understand. They come for baptism thinking that the act itself will change them or that perhaps God will be so impressed by their efforts that He will grant them eternal life. But scriptural baptism is an outward action that reveals an inward change. Without that inward change of allegiance, we’re only getting wet. In some closed countries, Christians are not persecuted until they are baptized. Even those authorities know that baptism is symbolic of a life change. Immersion in water is only baptism when it follows a transfer of ownership. It is a public declaration that our lives now belong to Jesus. Like the Ethiopian eunuch, we demonstrate our newfound commitment to Christ by being baptized. It is our first step of obedience.

Final Thought:  Unless baptism follows a transfer of ownership to the lordship of Jesus, we’re only getting wet.

Prayer: Lord God, evaluate my level of obedience to all you ask me to do. Does my life demonstrate that I’m yours? Has water baptism been a sign of that? I want to obey you in everything because of all you’ve done for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Wednesday Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  Luke 3:12

When the worst of the worst get it, the spiritually arrogant should feel ashamed. If illiterate peasants comprehend spiritual truths better than their teachers, something’s wrong with that religion. Losers flocked to Jesus. They couldn’t get enough. But the religious leaders were horrified. How dare this new Rabbi associate with the likes of thieves, prostitutes, and traitors! Low-class riff-raff like that shouldn’t come near to God. Jesus just shook His head at them. He associated with crooks because they got it. They knew they were sinners and they wanted forgiveness. Peace with God. And they also knew that this meant they would leave their old ways. Once baptized, thieves, whores, and liars would no longer live as thieves, whores, and liars.

That message has been lost in some versions of Christianity. Baptism doesn’t save us. It’s only water, but it launches us in a new direction. The first thing those sinners wanted to know after being baptized was, “What should I do now?” They recognized that their old lives were gone. They would now live in obedience to God. They would leave their shady lifestyles and learn to live as Christ-followers. They never considered dragging their old sinful lives into this new relationship. It was one or the other—Jesus or sin—not both. It’s still one or the other—not both. Baptism only counts if it is the beginning of a new direction.

Final Thought:  When was the last time you asked Jesus, “What should I do now to please you?”

Prayer: Father, I confess that I live mostly for myself. I do what I think is right without asking you. Please forgive me. I want to learn what you like and don’t like. Am I living in a way that pleases you? What should I do now? In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Thursday  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”   Mark 1:8

We’re first introduced to the concept of baptism by the man we call John the Baptist. He paved the way for all who would later come to Jesus Christ for salvation. As people believed John’s message, they were convicted of their sins and came confessing them to be baptized. Even while doing God’s work, John felt keenly his own inadequacy. He couldn’t save anyone. All he had was water and words. He could teach and preach God’s truth, but only God could change a heart. Only God could save and deliver. So he cried out to anyone who would listen, “One is coming after me who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? We often associate that phrase with wingnuts who swing from the rafters holding snakes and shrieking nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the family of God when we trust in Jesus as our Savior. But as we grow in our faith, we yearn for more of Him. More of His power in our lives. More gifts we can use to serve Him. So we surrender everything: our will, our rights, our agendas, ourselves. And we ask Him to fill us with Himself. He cannot fill a vessel already full of sins and selfishness, so we first empty it by letting go. This time it is Jesus who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. A wave of liquid love pours through our being and we want to drown in it. With that wave come gifts, callings, empowerments, and the desire to sacrifice all for His sake. Water baptism identifies us as members of God’s family; Spirit baptism fits us for service in God’s kingdom. Jesus calls us to experience both.

Final Thought: One baptism is with water; one is with the Spirit. We need both to be all God wants us to be.

Prayer: Father, have I emptied myself so that I can be filled with you? What’s still in my way? What am I clinging to that hinders your Spirit from moving freely in my life? I surrender it now and ask you to fill me with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Friday We were buried with him by baptism… just as Christ was raised, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

Clods of black dirt clanked against the pink casket as gravediggers began to fill the hole. Machelle Marche’ had left behind a string of broken hearts and shady deals to lie forever in this pink coffin. Cancer took her so quickly the town was shocked, but they wouldn’t would miss her. She was a beautiful seductress, but every entanglement with her left scars, shame, and regret. As the pink disappeared beneath the soil, the handful of onlookers breathed sighs of relief. It was over. No more lies. No more con games. No more adulteries. She was dead. Gone forever. Her victims could recover and learn to live in freedom.

That’s a picture of what Jesus does with our sin. It was a beautiful seductress that left scars on our lives. It created a string of broken hearts and shady deals; yet, it dares scream to us that we’ll miss it when it’s gone. It’s a liar, and the sooner buried, the better. When we bow at the cross, God takes our sin and buries it with Christ in the grave. Baptism demonstrates that burial. When we come up out of the water, we identify with Christ rising from the dead to a new life. Now we walk “not by the flesh, but by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). We learn to live in freedom. Romans 6 explains that we are dead to sin. Verse 2 says, “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” We can’t, because 1 John 3:4-10 says our new hearts won’t tolerate it. 

Final Thought:  When we are buried with Christ in baptism, we’re then raised to walk in newness of life.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you’ve buried my old life in the grave and you raised me up to live in freedom. My sin nature was crucified with Christ and I refuse to let it rule me any longer. May I live every day as dead to sin. In Jesus’ name, amen.