I had the privilege last evening of talking to a couple about baptizing their child. This is a privilege because it give me the opportunity to share again the Gospel of our Lord, the truth of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. And further, how He brings us into His new life each day. Baptism is not a magical one time shot, but something that is lived and renewed daily. In Romans chapter six the Apostle Paul speaks of it as our dying and rising with Christ. Many of us who were baptized as children have no memory of the event. Yet, God, the Holy Spirit, has been active in life seeking to draw us ever closer to the Lord. Living in our baptism means that we die a bit more to our old nature, and are raised to a new nature in Christ. What we look forward to sharing with this child in a few weeks, will again be a reminder of what happens in us each day.
I had the privilege on Sunday of baptizing our newest grandchild. In my message I emphasized that in our Christian faith we are dealing with very real things. God has promised His presence as we gather in His name. We used water for the baptism along with the solid truth of God’s Holy Word. (My grandson even played in that real water a little bit.) And with that baptism God gave very real gifts of cleansing from sin, regeneration of life, and deliverance from death and the power of the devil. When the congregation came to communion later in the service we gave them bread and wine, real food and drink, and the truth of the very real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. After His resurrection Jesus invited the disciples to touch His hands and side. He ate a piece of fish with them. Our Christian faith is not a bunch of nice theological ideas that we believe without proof. These are real truths that are displayed in the daily actions of life.
I have two baptisms coming up in the near future. One of my grandson that I mentioned earlier in the week. The other an adult who has been faithfully coming to church for some months. An important truth about baptism is that it is God’s work of regeneration in the life of the baptized. Each time we see a baptism we are reminded that this is what God had done for us in our own baptism. Even at six weeks of age when I was baptized God brought me into His new life, He redeemed me, gave me the indwelling presence of His Spirit, and delivered me from death and the power of the devil. He did that for each of us when we were baptized. It is nice to feel close to God, to feel His presence and guidance for our days. But whether we do or not, we live with the solid truth that we were redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and that was applied to us personally in our baptism. That date, that certificate, is important. God did that, and neither my present mood nor the devil’s lies can change it. We can trust God’s good grace.
We had a great blessing in our family yesterday. The adoption of two year old Will was finalized for our daughter Rebekah. We all went to court yesterday morning, sat in the court room while the formal legal procedures were dealt with, and heard the judge make his final decree. It is done. Will is no longer in custody. He is your son. We wept and rejoiced at the same time. A many month process was now over. That act, along with what God will do this coming Sunday when we have the privilege of baptizing Will, declares him to be a child of God. I am reminded of Jesus words from the cross. “It is finished.” By His atoning act on the cross the legal judgment against us was over. The Judge has made His decree. We are no longer in custody. And by the waters of baptism with the promise of God’s Word we are declared His child. It is done. As we approach each new day as a child of God, it is with humble gratitude for all that He is and all that He has done. We rejoice in the new life that has now been given.
Many organizations have initiation rites. Sororities, fraternities, service clubs, lodges, and so forth. Once completed the person is marked as a Delta whatever, a Lion, a Mason, etc. and that becomes part of their identity, loyalty, and comradery. There rally is another initiation rite that we too often forget that is really more important than anything else we are involved in in life. That is our baptism. Baptism is the initiation rite into the Christian faith. It is more significant than any other because it is a work of God on our behalf. We tend to forget it because for many of us it took place when we were infants. Yet it is no less real and significant. It is the day God gave us a new life, saved us from death and the power of the devil, and gave us the indwelling presence of His Spirit. In our baptism He joined us to a fellowship of believers stretching across the globe, and back in time to all the saints who have gone before us. Our baptism identifies us as one who has been redeemed by the saving blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater identity than that.
Little kids love to play in boxes. Put a cardboard box on the floor and watch a child climb in. Adults like shelters, too. We build gazebos, and screened porches. We set up canopy tents in the yard. There is something secure about being under a shelter. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians. “Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (3:2-3) The word “hidden” means to cover or to shelter. Is that desire we have for a physical shelter pointing us, in a small way, to the ultimate shelter we have in Jesus Christ? Paul points us in the right direction. “Set your minds on the things above.” God is our true source of wisdom. His Holy Word is our guide in all matters of faith and life. Further, he says “you have died” pointing to our baptism, that our old nature has died with Christ, and we have been raised to a new life in Him. What better shelter could we have? Far better than a cardboard box. Far more secure than anything this world has to offer.
Yesterday I wrote about the peace and calm from looking at the water of the river where we are staying. Water plays a big part in Scripture with the continual invitation to be fed by the good waters flowing from the Lord. Isaiah draws a contrast between the “gently flowing waters of Shiloah”, a worship center of the Lord, and the “strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates” where Israel was taken in captivity.(Isaiah 8) David speaks of the Lord leading him beside the “quiet waters” and “restoring his soul”.(Psalm 23) The book of Revelation ends with the picture of the “river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb”. This river feeds the “tree of life” whose “leaves were for the healing of the nations.”(Cpt.22) There are many other images of water in Scripture, but for us the most important water we have encountered is the water in which we were baptized. It is in that water God brought us into His life, redeeming us from sin, and gave us the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. We began our life with God in the waters of baptism, and we live in those waters daily sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.(Romans 6) That water truly gives us peace.
We shared a great blessing in our worship service yesterday. We baptized four young people ages 2 to 11. the chancel was filled with parents, their children, and sponsors. In baptism these young ones were given the gift of God’s redeeming grace, deliverance from death and the power of the devil, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. These are very real gifts of our God to the ones baptized. These are the very real gifts that were given to you and to me in our own baptism. Further, we were made part of the Body of Christ. It is why we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ. Baptism should be a central remembrance for all of us, even more than our birthday. For in our baptism we have died to our old nature and been raised to a new life in Jesus Christ.(read again Romans 6) We are all tempted to sin. We all fail at time in thought, word, and deed, but that is no longer who we are. We have been raised to a new life in Christ. In the grace of His forgiveness we are cleansed and begin again. All of that is what these youngsters received today. It will take them the years ahead to fully realize the power of their baptism. That is the task that parents and the congregation now has in helping them discover. If you don’t remember your baptism date, look it up. That is who you now are in Jesus.
How can something that happened to me so long ago, something that I was too young to even remember, have any meaning for my life today? I am speaking about baptism. Most of us were baptized as infants. It is a simple act in church that took maybe ten minutes. Yet in that simple act, when I was totally helpless, has given me a new life, and the indwelling presence of God, the Holy Spirit. In the years since, even when I’ve not been aware of it, even when I’ve not wanted it, God has been working in my life to bring me to Himself. That simple act with some water, and the promise of God’s Word, has made a profound change in my life, as it has done in yours. Even if you are not presently aware of how the Lord is working in your life, the fact of your baptism declares His great love for you. It assures you that He is working for your good beyond anything you presently understand. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,..” (I Peter 1:3)