This past week-end, yesterday in fact, our oldest grandson Connor was baptized at Zionsville Presbyterian Church, where our daughter Kristin is on staff. Undeniably, baptism is one of those lightning rod issues that many denominations and faith groups view with complete differences of opinion. Whether you are someone who believes in “sprinkling” or part of a group that supports the idea of immersion, passions run deep on this topic.
Some denominations believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation, while others support the idea that baptism is an outward expression of a submission to Christ that has already occurred in the heart, mind and will of the person being baptized. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I hope that it goes without saying that baptism is an important part of a person’s journey with Christ. While some churches support the idea of child dedication, as opposed to the more formal action of baptism, Connor is old enough to know whether or not he believes in Jesus as his Lord and Savior – and he has decided to be baptized in recognition of that commitment to Christ.
We are told in the Scripture that John the Baptist, and others, proclaimed that we were to repent and be baptized – die to the old ways and adopt a new life – fully proclaiming dedication to Jesus as Lord of our lives. And baptism was a highly public proclamation. It wasn’t done in secret, but it open view of the community of believers who rally around the newly baptized person – usually preceding the formal joining of the church. And that’s what Connor did. He joined the Presbyterian Church. Of course, this means that he vows to support that local church with his time, talents and treasures.
God makes it clear that each one of us has to determine what that looks like for us, but there are many people who believe that a tithe – 10% of a person’s income – is standard operating procedure for the life of a church member. And it’s a great habit to get into at a young age – being reminded that God expects you to keep 90% of what He has blessed you with – the first 10% going to His kingdom work. But that issue is different from being baptized.
So we celebrated Connor’s decision to publicly profess his faith and then join the church. I applaud our daughter, Kristin, for having the courage to wait until Connor had the ability to determine for himself whether or not he wished to demonstrate his commitment to Christ by this public celebration. By the way, even Jesus was baptized at the start of His earthly ministry. John didn’t feel qualified to baptize Jesus, but Christ insisted that for the time being, this was the appropriate course of action.
When I decided to attend seminary, I was quite emphatic that I wanted to be baptized by immersion prior to beginning of school. Back when I was first born, my parents made the decision that they wanted me to be baptized, but I don’t remember it and I have come to believe that a person should profess their faith before taking the step of being baptized. So that’s what I did. And since then, I have baptized every person in our Bible Study who wanted to profess their faith, like Connor did, if they had not already done so.
So, congratulations Connor – we’re proud of you and hope that you will have a long, healthy and prosperous life dedicated to serving Jesus. The verse for this evening is a really simple one. From Galatians 3:27, we are told by Paul, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” That pretty much says it all – you have publicly professed your faith and have Christ as your shield. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants all of us to obey Him. And His promises to us appear all throughout Scripture. My prayer is that you will be a devout follower of Jesus all the days of your life and that you will encourage others to demonstrate an outward appearance of their commitment as well – especially our young folks. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…