Sunday, 15 April 2012

Why I was baptised today

This is the short talk I gave at my baptism celebration this afternoon:I think of baptism as a bit like a formal, public, citizenship ceremony. At an Australian citizenship ceremony, people officially become Australian citizens. At a baptism, the person is officially recognised as a member of God’s church, a citizen of the kingdom of God. It’s possible, of course, to be a Christian who is a sort of permanent resident of God’s church, without any formal recognition of citizenship. But I want to be an active, loving and serving member of God’s church, so I’ve asked to be baptised. I’ve chosen to be baptised by full immersion, according to the rites of the Baptist Church, which I believe reflect well the original New Testament practice of baptism of new Christians.

Hopefully, it won’t surprise most of you to hear that I am not a new Christian. I became a Christian on Ash Wednesday, the 28th of February, in 2001, in the middle of an Alpha course. So you might wonder why it has taken me over a decade to decide to be baptised.

Well, I was baptised – by sprinkling of water according to the rites of the Uniting Church – at the age of 12. But at that time I wasn’t a real Christian. It was sort of like being made a citizen of a country that I hadn’t even visited (though I knew people who lived there).

I wasn’t a Christian because I didn’t understand what it meant to be saved by Jesus. I understood that I should obey God. But despite attending classes with the minister, I didn’t really understand that when Jesus died on the cross, he – Jesus – took the punishment for my sins completely. Because of what Jesus did, his righteous and goodness became mine. So I didn’t have to win God’s approval by my good behaviour. I just had to allow myself to be saved!

Baptism is, of course, a public recognition of trusting in Jesus Christ as one’s Saviour. So my baptism at the age of 12 was essentially worthless. But when I became a new Christian, I didn’t understand that. I was new to Christianity and I had a lot to learn about what it meant to be a Christian. Recently, I’ve been reading and studying about baptism, and I’ve seen friends get baptised as new Christians, and I’ve been challenged to rethink the idea of my own baptism. Today, as I’m baptised, I am announcing to you that I really do trust in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save me from the consequences of my sins, so I can have eternal life in joyful fellowship with the LORD God.

The Apostles’ Creed sums up what I believe about God. It has been recited at baptisms since the earliest times, and I am going to repeat it today. If you are a Christian, you might like to say it with me now.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the grave.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge
the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I am truly grateful to God for choosing me (as Shelley read from Ephesians 1) to be pure and blameless in his sight. As I am baptised in this water today, it will be a symbol of the washing that I have already received, when God washed away my sins and made me a new creation, righteous in God’s eyes.

So these are the three reasons that I am being baptised today:
Because I want to be publicly recognised as a faithful citizen of the kingdom of God;
So I can make a public announcement to you that I do place my faith and trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ, through which my sins have been forgiven and my eternal life with God the Father has been guaranteed;
And as a public sign that my sins have been washed away by the act of Jesus’ death, and now I am a cleansed, purified, new creation who has been made righteous in God’s sight.

Thankyou, my friends, for coming to bear witness to this public testimony of my faith in Jesus.

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