Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Luke 23:39-43 (Holman) Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
A jingle warns, “Could’ve, should’ve, didn’t, too late.” These “No Regrets” sermons have tried to soften the blow of the last lament. Too late? Maybe not.
From time to time we need to look into yesterday, make sure all is well and forgiven, in order to enter tomorrow with confidence. We don’t want to obsess over the past, but we do need to keep it cleaned out. If we try to completely ignore the past, the regrets lingering in our rear view mirror may be more problematic than we think.
We should yield every phase of life – past, present, future – to Jesus. To please God in every detail of life, including baptism, should be the all-consuming passion of our lives. Obedience is not to be a sidelight, or a hobby, but rather the main thing.
Let me illustrate. I find swimming pool water way too cold. I shiver my way into a pool one step at a time. It takes me ten minutes to get my whole body in the pool. My family members, though, take a flying leap into the water. After a second or two of shock, they feel fine. While they play and frolic with all their might, I continue shivering my way into the pool one agonizing step at a time.
I fear too many Christians approach Godly living the same way I approach the pool. They dabble in it, and approach it slowly. They don’t want to go overboard and be whole-hearted about holiness.
Spirituality is not a game to be played. Holiness was never meant to be tentative. Serving God with sold-out obedience must be the all-consuming passion of our lives. Our calling is to act as if we truly are dead to ourselves and sin, and alive solely to God.
This journey of lifelong devotion begins with baptism. We are to submit to every command of the New Testament. We are not at liberty to pick and choose what we want to obey. The first act of obedience for a Christ-follower is baptism.
Perhaps God chose baptism as the way we announce to the world our faith in His Son because it is a rather humbling rite. We dress in plain attire, are usually scared or nervous, hold our nose, get pushed down into water in front of a crowd, have to trust the minister will not drop or drown us, and come up looking like drowned rats. Baptism does not lend itself to building up human pride.
Maybe God designed it this way to help us deal with pride, to establish up front our willingness to do anything – absolutely anything – He asks. Willingness to lay aside all human pride, ignoring what others think, and focusing on God alone receiving honor and glory – this is how God wants our lives from the first moment of conversion until we see Him face to face in Heaven.
Baptism establishes this paradigm up front. It at the outset tests and establishes the sincerity of our commitment to Christ.