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Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Want to Die

I was baptized young.

Not so young that I did not know what I was doing. After all, I believe in believer baptism only … just like the scriptures tell us.

I was around ten, I think. I asked for it to happen. No one pushed me. And at that time, I had a ten-year-old’s faith, and a ten-year-old’s understanding. Nothing wrong with that … it’s just not where I am today.

It took place in a chapel building. It was conducted with appropriate simplicity and dignity. An elder performed the actual baptism. I had a chance to say what I believed before I went under, and so far as I can recall, I spoke the right words. Then people clapped, and it was over.

It’s only right that when a person is saved they should be baptized, and the more immediately the better. Young or old, it shouldn’t matter. If anything, I waited longer than perhaps I should have, and thought about it more than was required.

I don’t regret my baptism. It was real for me then, and since I have only grown in my love and commitment to the Lord, by his grace. But I confess there are aspects of how it went down that I do regret. It was so cloistered, protected, sheltered and minimal in personal cost. And it happened in such a controlled, civilized environment. Really, to the world at large it had no testimony I can detect. I think hardly anyone outside of the immediate Christian community knew it took place at all.

But I didn’t get to say what I would say now. And I didn’t get to make my statement count the way I would want to now.

Regret is pointless, and whining is useless. So let me get beyond regret, and do something positive with this realization. For there are still many people today who are thinking of baptism, and perhaps if they know what I would do differently they can think about possible changes to the circumstance and conduct of their own baptism. And that would be a good thing.

So here it is now: how I want to be baptized.

Where?

To begin with, I definitely don’t want it to be in a church building. Nope. I want it in as public a place as I can reasonably find. Maybe a lake or river. Certainly I’d want it to be where the maximum number of onlookers was possible: especially unbelievers. And I’d want the invitation to witness the event to be completely open, so that as many as possible would be on hand. I’d want unsaved family members and friends, and even people I had never met.

Actually, the believers could stay home … unless they wanted to come.

Who?

I wouldn’t want to be baptized by any clergyman or even an elder. I’d want to be baptized by somebody who had been key in my conversion and my spiritual growth, but a layperson only. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking this is merely some kind of church ceremony or religious ritual. I’d want them to know that this was being done by me, and done for real.

I’d want my baptizer to wait while I told all the assembled onlookers why I wanted to do this. I’d want them to understand that I was completely done with their world, and completely committed to living for Christ. I’d want to challenge them to call me on that: that if I should turn out to be wavering, inconsistent or unfaithful, they were to feel welcome to call me to account.

What?

Then I’d want them to understand what I was about to do. And in describing it, I’d want maximal shock and awe. I think that the fact that the world is not properly horrified that we continue to baptize people is perhaps an indicator that we are falling short of showing baptism for what it is.

It’s a death.

Does that sound harsh? Well, okay. But today we usually don’t get that. We think baptism is some sort of happy ritual, a chance to retell our life’s story to your friends and supporters, say a few prefabricated phrases to please the clergy, to be ceremonially soaked down, and then to receive a celebratory round of applause from a supportive audience, and perhaps a commemorative Bible.

It ain’t that.

And I wouldn’t want any hint of that.

How Could He?

I can see how I would want it all to play out.

Half of the onlookers would be hushed in awe, and the other half in horror. For all would know that I was dying before their eyes.

Maybe my unsaved friends and relatives would weep. Maybe some would cry out in outrage. And maybe the saved on hand would bow their heads and pray for their brother, that I would have the strength to see so profound and daunting a commitment through. For who is adequate?

But nobody would be unmoved.

My Confession

And I would have to be very clear with everyone about what I was doing. I wouldn’t want any misunderstanding. Above all, I would want everyone to know what this meant to me personally — that I’d read what the word of God says about what I was going to do, understood its implications thoroughly and was ready to pay the full price of obedience.

So before I went down into the water, I would say this:

“My life is now over. I am dead to this world, and am of no use to it anymore. By the grace of God, I will now live by the resurrection power of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. May God give me strength.

I ask no favours. I crave no quarter. I will not look back. For me, it is all over — my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions, my plans, my future. My values now are only to know the Lord, whether in the joy of his love or the fellowship of his sufferings.

At all costs, and with no holding back, I give myself to Christ that I may live and die only with him.

This world I entirely condemn to death, by this demonstration in my flesh. It stands under the judgment of a holy God. I confess his righteousness in judging it. Through faith, I now disown all of my association with this world and in its place throw myself wholly on the mercy of my Saviour God.

And when one day I stand before the Righteous Judge, as surely we all shall, I shall trust only in the sacrifice of his Son to save me from the wrath we all so richly deserve.

Now bury me.”

Paying the Price

True, some who saw what was happening might actually be supportive. But others would surely be disgusted and appalled. Some would probably be picking up rocks.

After all, when someone sells out to a cause to this degree, and you happen to hate the cause …

Aftermath

Now, like I said, I’m not speaking ill of my original baptism. And I’m not thinking of doing it again. But if it were today, then I would definitely do it as I have described above. I’d want to make much more clear what was really at stake.

Baptism is a death and resurrection. And resurrection doesn’t mean you didn’t die.

It means you did.

And resurrection isn’t a way out of death … it’s a way through.

Salvation

I guess I’m not really talking about baptism today. I’m really talking about salvation. For you see, baptism doesn’t save us. Christ does, when we give up our lives to him.

But on the flip side, the faith that saves entails baptism. What I mean is that unless you understand the bargain you’re making, you’re not making the bargain at all. It’s your life for his. If you don’t think it’s that, then you’re simply not saved.

Whether you have water or not, you are buying into your own death, and with it, the death of the world to you. And this is exactly what salvation demands.

Christ himself told us. We have a choice:

Die now, and be raised again.

Or die later, on your own terms, and really die.

Take your pick.

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