Baptism refreshes lives and spirits

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2008

By BRYAN SISSON / Guest Columnist

“People from Jerusalem and from all over Judea traveled out into the wilderness to see and hear John. And, when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey. He announced: ‘Someone who is coming soon who is far greater than I am — so much greater that I am not even worthy to be his slave. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!'” (Mark 1:5-8, NIV)

I had an interesting weekend not too long ago that centered around two very different experiences of Baptism.

On a Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to meet a family up at church and welcome the father (in his 40s) into the family of Christ through baptism.

He had never joined a church or ever publicly accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and so in a quiet, yet powerful moment he answered the questions of faith and knelt to receive the cleansing waters of baptism.

The next morning, I had another opportunity to share with a family as they brought their son to be baptized before the congregation.

The parents answered questions of faith for their child and professed to teach him the scriptures and stories of Jesus. And then I had the joyful opportunity of taking the child in my arms and baptizing him into God’s family.

Two very different experiences, but one of very real and powerful gift ringing loud and clear for me – new life found within the forgiving waters of baptism.

Through this sacrament, the Holy Spirit came upon these two lives and offered a new beginning.

In the account of Jesus’ own baptism (found in Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:1-8 and Luke 3:21-22) we read of how John the Baptist (Jesus’ cousin) at first protested when Jesus came to him and desired to be baptized.

Though they were related and had grown up together, John knew that the Holy Spirit was already within Jesus and that God had powerful plans for his life John felt inadequate – he felt that he needed to be the one to be baptized by Jesus.

Jesus insists, and when John pulls Jesus up out of the waters of the Jordan the heavens open up and the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus in the form of a dove.

In that moment Jesus’ life is given a sense of spiritual clarity – he’s empowered to begin living and teaching the gospel and hope offered through his heavenly Father.

Jesus is no longer the same.

The wonderful realization upon each of us is that through the experience and moment of baptism we become very different people – we’re forgiven and offered a new purpose.

And, I feel very strongly that that gift is not to be taken lightly because it changes who we are and who we are being called to be as servants of God.

And my hope for us as a church body is that we never forget our baptisms, whether it was done for us as a child or when we became adults.

We must always remember the Holy Spirit that has been placed upon us and the calling to new life it implies.