Monday, September 16, 2013
It never gets old
Yesterday, PCC had our second baptism of the year. Over 600 people have been baptized in 11 years, but I can honestly say that it never gets old to me. Never. Yesterday, 36 more people made the most important proclamation of their lives, and I stood on holy ground, heard their statements loud and clear, and marveled anew at the reality that what God did in me long ago, He was now doing in these folks, too.
I often think, "Why would God use someone as screwed up as I am...who has done the things that litter my past?" Baptism reminds me - No matter what you've done, how far you've gone or how long you've been there, God never stops longing for you to come home. And He is always willing to do great things through you if you will give your life to Him.
It never gets old. I think about the journey that many of the folks who were baptized yesterday have traveled. Through trouble. Through family meltdowns. Through the death of a spouse. Through loss. Through wandering. Through sin. Every journey is different...unique. But every one of these people have this one thing in common: They stood in the water in front of hundreds of people and proclaimed that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord.
Paul said in Romans 10:9 that "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."
I believe that this is the way Jesus wants it. Baptism was - and still is - the first way God wants His people to go public with their faith. It's not the only way, but it is a major, critical, and required way. Jesus, in some of his final words to his closest followers, said it like this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
When we baptize people, we are standing in a long line of sacred tradition that began with Jesus. As I like to say: PCC is not traditional, but that doesn't mean we're anti-tradition. Particularly when it's something that Jesus himself commanded, championed and exemplified, it has to be a cornerstone for our own spiritual lives. Baptism is one of these things.
The symbolism of baptism is rich and multi-layered. Water is cleansing for our bodies. When we're baptized, we are symbolizing the cleansing of our soul that God provides for us in Jesus Christ. 2Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." and Galatians 3:27 teaches, "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
What this means is that baptism symbolizes the reality that because of what Jesus did for us, and because we have received His gift and made Him the Lord of our lives, God no longer sees the sins we once carried. We have 'clothed ourselves' with Jesus. When God looks at us, He sees the perfection of Jesus on us.
The immersion in the water is symbolic, too. Paul says in Romans 6:4, "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." So, when someone is baptized, it's an acknowledgement that we were dead without Jesus, but because of him, we're alive! That's why, when I baptize someone, I say, "buried with Christ and raised to newness of life!"
God has blessed PCC with a unique mission and calling, and because of that we are able to reach people, introduce them to Jesus, and help them find the new life that only He offers. It never gets old to God. It should never get old to us.