I had pondered making this decision for a long time. Ponder, as inÂ “deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully consider”. Â But there was a relentless gnawing permeatingÂ the conversation inside my head, and it just would not go away.Â
Finally one Sunday night, I made up my mind. The congregation was probablyÂ singing “Oh Master Let Me Walk With Thee”.
I got up out of my church pew and left behind my group of 6th grade buddies. Heart pounding, face flushing – IÂ walked up to the front of the church.
“Pastor”, I stammered, “I, uh, want to repent of my sins, and, um … make Jesus my Lord. I want to get baptized”
And thus began my journey with Jesus.
Like Peter, there were times I was bold, and then a coward. Like the prodigal son, there were times I had forsaken my faith, and then came back. Like John, there have been momentsÂ I felt so very, very close to Him; and yet also so very aware that I couldn’tÂ possibly trulyÂ know Him.
At 12 years old, I had no doubts I was a sinner who needed a savior! Not only did I need to repent, I wanted to repent!
Now consider the baptism of Jesus. He had no sin. He needed no forgiveness.Â But he needed to be baptized.
The BaptismÂ of Jesus
Let’s examine Matthew chapter 3. The baptism of JesusÂ is traditionally commemorated near the second Sunday of Epiphany, according to the Christian liturgical calendar. We are now just in the second week ofÂ starting the year fresh with resolutions and goals, so it’s helpful to look at how Jesus began his ministry life.
Repentance and Revival
In those days John the Baptist was leading a fiery hot revival movement that was sweeping the nation.
Personally, I can think of three revival movements of historical significance. Â They would be the FirstÂ Great AwakeningÂ (1730 – 1760), the Jesus Movement (late 1960’s – early 1980’s) and the Brownsville Revival or Pensacola OutpouringÂ Â (1995 – 2000).
I know there have been many other spiritual awakenings of varying degree and impact, but these I associate with the idea of people being “on fire for God” – they demonstratedÂ great religious zeal, fervor and enthusiasm for the things of God.
I imagine it was a similar scene for John the Baptist. He preached a singular, heart piercing messageÂ “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” (Matt 3:2)
The response was dramatic – crowdsÂ flocked to hear and beÂ baptized by John, repenting of their sins.
You Can’t Play Games With God
We’ll also see that the prophet was terrible at the game of Â How To Win Friends And Influence People. In fact, it eventually got his head chopped off.
He spoke harshly to the “many Pharisees and Sadducees” who were motivated more by appearances than true repentance. He saw through their duplicity and called them out as “snakes”:
Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? Itâ€™s your life that must change, not your skin! Matthew 3: 9, The Message
Repentance means to turn your lifestyle in the direction of God. It’s simple but not easy. To live God’s way – you have to know Him and His ways; then in everyÂ momentÂ of decision, determine to walk aligned with His ways. Call it sincere, humble obedience.
It’s Not About My Ministry
John was a forerunner. He kept his boundaries and understood he had a limited assignment.
Â â€œI baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11
HeÂ knew he was not to tightly hold onto his ministry. He was to give it away.
In his spirit, John the Baptist must haveÂ sensedÂ the divine authority in Jesus, because he intuitively knew – Jesus did not need to be baptized by John. No, it was the other way around.
John would have prevented him, saying, â€œI need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?â€ Matthew 3: 14
This Is Necessary
Then Jesus answersÂ John’s objection directly.
â€œAllow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.â€ So John agreed to baptize Jesus.Â Matthew 3:15
Just as he later had to die on the cross, Jesus had to be baptized. Why? For your sake, my sake and the redemption of the entire created cosmos.
Jesus, pure and sinless, submitted to this rite of purification as an act of obedience to HIs heavenly Father. Â He taught in John 3:3-5 that one must be born again, of the water and the spirit.
He led by exampleÂ and practiced what He preached.
He also imparted to his disciples that baptism was a crucial hinge to discipleship.Â Peter made it clear in Acts 2 “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38.
A Clean Start
Based onÂ my experience – and when I’ve asked other believers about this around the world, they concur – Â the experience, of water baptism is powerful.
When I arose from the water, I felt what the preacher had promised; that I died with Christ, my sins were buried, and I arose a new creation. I felt fresh and clean and full of hope in God. Every time I remember my baptism, I feel that same rejuvenation.
Martin Luther understood this, and when he was depressed and full of doubts, he would say to himself – “remember your baptism,Â remember your baptism”
If you’ve been baptized, then remember your baptism! If you’ve not been water baptized, then what are you waiting for?
He’ll give you a clean start.Â
Til next time, the Lord be with you!
About Season Of Light
I am writing a devotional series called â€œSeason of Lightâ€ (#SeasonOfLife) during the beginning of 2016, focusing on the 40 day season of Epiphany (from January 6 â€“ February 10). Weâ€™ll explore the major biblical themes ofÂ the beginning of Jesus ministry, and Iâ€™ll comment as the Holy Spirit inspires. This is for the purpose of growing in our relationship with the Lord. My desire â€“ my hope and prayer for you â€“ is that yourÂ heart may expand and your spirit grow brighter as we seek to be filled with the knowledge and presence of God. So, I invite you to join me on the â€œSeason of Lightâ€ journey!
Often Iâ€™ll be inspired by a scripture from the Daily Audio Bible readings and use that as a writing prompt. Hereâ€™s theÂ DAB readings for January 11:Â Genesis 24:52-26:16; Matthew 8:18-34; Psalms 10:1-5; Proverbs 3:7-8
Our church is also on a reading plan of four chapters per day, starting in the New Testament. Today is Matthew 5-9.