Archive for December, 2011

I had a couple of days off this week, so I had a chance to work on the growing list of “honey-dos” for my honey. I don’t think I will ever finish that list! On one of my many trips to the local hardware store to pick up “just one more” key ingredient, I eyed the new employee sitting on a chair near the front of the store. It was near closing time, so he appeared to be enduring his last few minutes on the clock. He sported a brand-new Yankees baseball cap. Thinking that he needed a little conversation, I startled him, “You do know that there are two kinds of baseball fans?” I know I startled him, because he honked out, “Huh?” After repeating my question and answering it with, “There are Yankees fans and Yankee-haters,” he chimed out, “Oh, I don’t like the Yankees. I just like the symbol.”

As I returned to my truck, his words still percolated in my mind. I wondered how many people wear the cross because they like the symbol but don’t love the Savior. I wondered how many say they believe the Bible but never take the time to read it or live it. I wondered how many people only give lip service to living for Jesus Christ. I even wondered how many people will celebrate Christmas and offer no acknowledgement of what the gift of salvation really means. Christmas comes with all kinds of symbols – decorated trees, lights, tinsel, gifts, and nativity scenes to name a few. Could it be said of you, “Oh, I don’t Christ. I just like Christmas” or “Oh, I don’t like Christ, but I’m sure going to celebrate Christmas”? Christmas loses its significance without a connection to the Savior.

I fear that many people simply try to add Christ to their lives. However, that’s not really possible. You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided – kind of like a committee sitting in our hearts. Our multi-divided hearts include the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. We live with a constant struggle within our hearts. Adding Jesus only makes life more complicated and conflicted.

What an authentic follower of Jesus Christ does when he or she surrenders to Christ is to declare the committee void and give the Lord absolute authority in life. That’s what we must do – every one of us. Otherwise, we’re just wearing the “team apparel” of Christianity because we really don’t love Christ.

Baptism provides the believer with the opportunity to declare his faith in a vivid and public way. If you have not been baptized, I want to encourage you to give it some careful consideration to being baptized as a public declaration of your surrender to Jesus Christ.

Baptism means at least three things. First, baptism is a mark of identification. In Romans 6:3, Paul assumed that believers would be baptized as an expression of identifying with Jesus. When a person comes to be baptized, he is going public. It’s a way of saying, “I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of identifying with Jesus Christ.”

Baptism is also an expression of symbolic death and resurrection. Baptism gives a person a public way of demonstrating, “I have died to my old life, and I have come alive to new life.” Baptism is symbolic of a change that has already taken place.

Thirdly, baptism points to a cleansing or washing away of sin. To be sure, this washing does not occur during a baptism, but it is a public symbol of the fact that because the person has accepted Christ and has had his sins forgiven. Baptism symbolizes this washing away of our sins.

However, please do not misunderstand that baptism a part of the salvation process.  A person is not saved because of baptism. Baptism is a symbol of something that has already happened on the inside. There are some verses that if read out of context seem to suggest that baptism is necessary for salvation, but that is not the case.

Neither is baptism is not about joining a church.  Baptism should not merely be considered as an entry step to join a church. Baptism isn’t about a certain age in life. Baptism is about a person who has trusted Christ as Savior and who is willing to go public with that declaration.

Should you be baptized? Have you really been baptized? Let me answer this carefully and lovingly. If you were christened as a baby, you haven’t been baptized. It was a very meaningful event. Your parents dedicated you to God. Your parents may have believed that by having you sprinkled by a pastor or priest that you became a Christian at that point. Your parents were doing what they believed was right and it probably helped them focus on being better parents at that time. I would never discount what happened.

If you were in a church and some of your buddies were saying, “I’ll go if you go…” It was meaningful in a way, but you kind of just got caught up in the “I’m 12 and it’s time to join the church.” You weren’t really going public. It was just a little church pressure.  That wasn’t a baptism. It may have been a step, but it wasn’t really a public statement of your commitment to Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Baptism is not about joining a church. It’s not about taking a step in your spiritual journey. Baptism is you public declaration of your surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s identifying with Jesus Christ. It’s representative that you’ve died to an old way of life and come alive again to a new way of life. It’s representative of the fact that you’ve been washed by the blood of Jesus and your sins have been forgiven. Believers should be baptized in obedience to the commands of Christ.

If you not yet come to faith in Christ, I want to encourage you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church where I am confident that someone can help you to do so. Then when you’re ready to go public through baptism, they can help you with that as well.