The following is the message given at our baptism service held on February 21st. We had eight youth commit or recommit their lives to Christ and a huge crowd to show support! For pictures of the event, check us out on Instagram (@BGBC_Crossroads) and Facebook (@BGBCCrossroads)!
Today we are celebrating the baptism of eight youth who have made a decision to publicly demonstrate the changes that God has made on in the inside. When each student approached me about getting baptized, my general ‘policy’ (if you can call it that) is to counsel the student and make sure they fully understand what they are getting from being baptized. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, as a student ministry, we want to make sure we know what is going on in the lives of our students and that includes what they may be feeling or what may be driving them towards a decision in Christ. Second, we want to make sure that no decision as huge as following Christ is made lightly and that we avoid the easy temptation to participate in physical ‘rituals’ because we have the misconception that the water will somehow make us more holy. Meeting with our students has been a real treat and I want to share with you today what actually has led these students to either making a commitment or a recommitment to get baptized.
In a study series we started a couple of months ago, we asked the question “what does it mean to be a Christian?” We really broke apart what it is God wants out of a follower of Christ and what it means to be saved.
The first question we asked was “Do I know God?” Often in Christian circles we talk about God as if He is some kind of undefined concept or aura floating around in space that influences what we do. We build our entire faiths off of this “God concept” not truly realizing who God really is and what God has done from the start of time until the present day. This seems kind of silly when you think about it. If Christianity is about having a relationship with our God, how can we have a relationship with a God we do not know? Obviously Jesus thought it was important for the disciples to know who He was as we see in Matthew 16.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)
Jesus wanted to know that the disciples recognized who He was and that He was here to do. It was critical towards their ability to follow Him even when the road was unknown or seemed to get too rough to bear. By knowing God, we have a firm foundation in what the price is that was paid on a cross and why it drives us towards living a life different from the rest of the world.
The second question we asked was “Do I submit to God?”. Submission is something we do poorly in the western world. In the church, we have made submission sound a little better by making it out to be something we do on the day we accept Christ or something we do when we get baptized, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Christ describes submission to Him as something that must occur daily.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25)
If we look at what Jesus says, baptism is just ‘the act of us showing our submission to God’, rather it’s the start of a daily submission. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that the cross, as a religious symbol, was not known to the disciples. When Christ was saying this, we was referring to the Roman instrument of torture and death saying we must bear this symbol every day, even if that symbol may lead to discomfort or even our own demise. It’s a dramatic picture, but it matches the dramatic image of a pure savior dying for our sins on a cross.
Finally, the third question we asked was “Do I commit to God?”. The concept of commitment is personal. For many of our youth, and many of you here, faith was something you were given as a child. Your parents and grandparents gave you your faith. You were raised in the church and don’t have one of these dramatic “fall from grace” stories. Some of you do have stories that start in a darker place and lead you here. Regardless of where we started, as some point in time we had to decide to ‘own’ our own faiths. We were no longer children. It wouldn’t suffice to say “I am a Christian because….” and fill in the rest of the sentence with some statement about attending church or being raised a certain way. God demands mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).
Our students sit today at a point where they are demonstrating their commitments. Their faith is no long that of their community, their parents, or even their spiritual leaders. Their relationship is with God and God alone; a relationship made possible on the cross. When these students get baptized, they are placing themselves on the cross with Jesus, unifying with the Messiah, and in that act they are demonstrating that they are new creations.
Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Students, family, and friends, I don’t want a soul today to leave this event under the misconception that something magic is in the water. The miracle occurred first on the cross and second in the hearts of each of these students. What we are here to do today is celebrate! We are here to celebrate the newness of life in these students. Because of that, when each of these students emerge from the water, I want everyone here to celebrate! Don’t sit there with your hands closed, rear-ends glued to your seats. If we serve a risen Christ and a risen Lord, then let’s act like it, Amen? Amen.