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The most radical thing you'll ever do

What’s the most radical, out there thing you’ve ever done? Bungee jumping? Sky diving? Hang gliding?

If you are a disciple of Jesus, the answer is none of the above—it is being baptized.

Now I would grant that most of us don’t tend to think of baptism that way, but we should. For many people who grew up in church, loving and serving God, being baptized just seems like a natural progression (and in some ways it is). But it is much, much more.

Think about it like marriage. Before getting married, you might care for someone deeply and spend significant amounts of time together. But if you hit a snag as a couple, grow apart or just can’t make it work—there will be some hurt but life will go on. When you marry, you make a commitment before God and man to live as one with someone until death parts you. You promise to love them in good times and bad. Despite the sad truth that many trivialize this—it is a radical commitment. Lewis Smedes said, “When a person makes a promise, he stretches himself out into circumstances that no one can control and controls at least one thing:  he will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be.” That’s the sweeping nature of the commitment we make at marriage and we’d have a better world if more people understood that and followed through on it.

That’s also what baptism is about. As with marriage, it is where we formalize our commitment to be one with God. Jesus is made Lord of our life. We die to our self so we might live for Him. Paul develops all of this in the sixth chapter of Romans. And while jumping off a bridge with a bungee cord tied to us or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane might seem really out there —well, it's over with in a few seconds or a few minutes. What you do when you are baptized has to do with the rest of our life. It is where we begin to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).

Long before the Catholics and Protestants started feuding about baptism (and unfortunately providing us with the lens through which most people look at it today), being immersed was the decisive, definitive act of declaring allegiance to Christ (see this in the book of Acts). “Believing in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31) meant something more than the way it is often explained today. For the jailer who was told this, it involved hearing the word of the Lord (v. 32), repentance and baptism (v. 33). Only after he had done these things did he rejoice and it was said that he had “come to believe in God” (v. 34). He wasn't regarded as a "believer" until he was baptized! There was no easy believism here—but a commitment to Jesus reigning in his life as Lord and Savior.

The birth of water and Spirit that is baptism is summed by the song that says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” We’d have a better world if more people understood that and followed through on it.

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