The Rugged Demands of Baptism
Luke 3:15-17; 21-22
He is a student at my denomination’s seminary and
I got acquainted with him at his wedding to one of my co-workers. The
last two years he has lived in the United States and enjoyed the
freedoms we have come to take for granted. Prior to his arrival in
America, he lived in a country where religious intolerance is
practiced. I had heard that this young man walked to the seminary daily
by a different route to avoid being spotted by someone from his
former country for fear of being murdered. I thought he was a bit
A close missionary friend from his homeland shared
that in his country Christians are despised. If converts go through
the ritual of baptism, they are marked persons. I discovered that
after my new friend was converted and baptized, he became associated
with a Christian group of 13 others to form a church. The people in
his community felt obligated to rid themselves of those 14 Christians.
As they met together they were raided by their outraged neighbors 12
of them died and only 2 escaped. One of those survivors was my new
John made some rugged demands of people who came
to participate in his call for baptism. I believe that the call to
baptism, though an outward sign of inward work of grace, is still
demanding upon people.
John’s rugged demand called for a decision.
John said if you wanted to change your life you
had to make the decision to step out of the crowd and follow him into
the water. It was more than following him into the Jordan River. It
was a decision to turn from the old life style and begin to live a
new life. That is called repentance! It is genuine and motivates one
Rumeal Robinson played for Michigan in the 1980s.
Early in the 1989 season Michigan played Wisconsin. Robinson was
fouled in the last seconds of the game. Michigan trailed by one point
and he was at the foul line to shoot two shots. Both of his shots
missed the mark, allowing Wisconsin to upset favored Michigan.
Rumeal felt terrible about costing his teammates
the game. His sorrow led him to make a change. After each practice
for the remainder of the season he lobbed 100 extra foul shots at the
basket. His change prepared him for the end of the season when in
overtime in the national championship game with three seconds left he
shot two foul shots making them both and lifted Michigan to national
Rumeal’s repentance had been genuine, and sorrow
motivated him to work so that he would never make that mistake again.
Paul stated that, “Godly sorrow leads to repentance.” (II Cor. 7:10).
(Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching)
John’s rugged demand called for turning from disobedience to obedience.
Seven decades ago the Sunday School Chronicle
carried a story that in the Memorial Hall at Harvard University there
were some beautiful sentences frescoed on the walls in Latin. In need
of a fresh coat of paint some workers were hired to paint them. They
painted the colors and the letters as they were told, without ever
understanding the powerful meaning wrapped up in them. “So we often
write our lives in an unknown tongue; we can only do as we are bidden,
but in God’s good time there will be read out in some heavenly
language a life-story we never dreamed of, full of glory and grace.”
Each time God deals with our lives he expects a
“yes” from our hearts. Obedience is the “yes” while disobedience is a
“no” to his request. If we are to be relational in our faith between
us and God, our job is to say “yes” when asked to obey.
John’s rugged demand called for a new quality of life.
“What are we to do?” was the question that John’s
listeners kept asking. John told them to change and experience a new
quality of life. The world seems more concerned with the quantity of
our lives while God is far more concerned about the quality of our
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, “God does not care . .
. whether I am happy or not. What God cares about, with all the power
of God’s holy being, is the quality of my life . . . not just the
continuation of my breath and the health of my cells – but the
quality of my life, the scope of my life, the heft and zest of my
life . . . .fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a
stingy, cautious way of living that is not really living at all . . .
to follow Jesus means going beyond the limits of our own comfort and
safety. It means receiving our lives as gifts instead of guarding
them as . . . possessions.”
Think what baptism means to you today. How rugged is it on you?
Sermon brief provided by Derl G. Keefer, Adult Ministries
Coordinator, Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, MO