Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
Philip encounters a man returning from worshipping God in Jerusalem. The man, an Ethiopian eunuch, was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. Philip engages him in conversation, asking the African man if he understood what he was reading. This very important man was humble enough to ask for help, and Philip climbed into the chariot and delved into the text, Isaiah 53 as we would recognize it today, and taught him about Jesus. This led the Ethiopian to ask, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NASU). He is saying that he understood who Jesus is, understood his need, and was now at a place where there was sufficient water for him to be baptized in order to have his sins forgiven. Perhaps Philip pointed out the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and through baptism we reenact those very aspects (cf. Rom. 6:1-6). Perhaps Philip discussed the fact that a baptism “washes away sins” for believers in Christ who act in obedient faith (cf. Acts 22:16). Whatever Philip preached about Jesus, it led the eunuch to correctly deduce his need to be baptized.
There are a good number of people who are currently or were formerly in a Bible study with someone, learned their need to be baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27), but have yet to do so. There are an untold number of young people who are of accountable age who as of yet have not been baptized. How many spouses of Christians know they need to do it, but have not been baptized? Each individual mentioned in the groups above, as well as all others, are of infinite value to God (cf. Matt. 16:26). No doubt, God would desire anyone who has yet to come to the knowledge of the truth to do so and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Would he not want us all to ask, “What prevents me from being baptized?”
Certainly, one might give many answers to this question. Let us examine some answers commonly given to this question.
“I’m Not Ready.”
Some individuals are not ready. There are some too young to truly know right from wrong. There are some who have not yet been sufficiently taught. However, there are some who are not ready for the commitment, the sacrifice, and the submission needed to make Jesus Lord. There will never be a better sacrifice than Jesus. One will never have more time left to give to the Lord than right now. God cannot possibly extend more love or grace. If one is not ready, he or she should ask, “What will ready me?”
Fear is understandable. Jesus apparently experienced it (cf. Heb. 5:7; Lk. 22:42). Paul experienced fear (Col. 4:4). Peter certainly grappled with fear (cf. Matt. 26:69-74; 1 Pet. 3:14-15). John exhorted the Christians in his audience not to succumb to fear, as it is a barrier to salvation (Rev. 21:8).
One might fear the change that follows becoming a Christian. One might fear failure in their Christian walk. One might fear the reaction and even the rejection of others. Jesus once taught, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). One must evaluate those fears and ask if any of them is worth risking the fearful prospect of standing before the Lord without His blood covering their sins.
“I’m Not Sure.”
Peter unquestionably says, “Make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Pet. 1:10). However, he is not giving people an excuse to put off obeying Christ. Remember, he is speaking to those already purified from their former sins (1:9)–those who had already been baptized. There is a need to reason through scripture (cf. Isa. 1:18). Paul reasoned with individuals about Christ on many occasions (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 24:25). The fact is that the biblical claims about who Jesus is and how one receives the benefits of His grace are most reasonable. Rationalization, hard-heartedness, and self-will may be the seeds that grow into weeds of doubt, but there is no need to doubt or allow doubt to prevent one from submitting to Christ.
“I Don’t Believe.”
One may or may not say those specific words. Yet, when one sees the truth of scripture, knows the personal accountability demanded, and does nothing about it, that one essentially does not believe. At least, faith is insufficient to properly respond to God’s amazing grace. This is a hard truth to confront in ourselves. I see it. I know it. But, I will not act upon it. The Hebrews writer says the Israelites could not enter the promised land because of unbelief (Heb. 3:19), and he warns us against imitating them (Heb. 3:12ff). Even the demons believe and tremble, though it does them no good (cf. Jas. 2:19). We must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).
Perhaps you are one who could ask yourself, “What prevents me from being baptized?” Cast a long mental gaze at the cross of Calvary and comprehend the love and sacrifice evidenced there. Such was for you (cf. Gal. 2:20). God’s love for you is personal. He wants nothing more than for you to live with Him eternally, and He has told you what is involved in that (cf. Acts 2:38). What prevents you from being baptized?
Strayer University shared their video from the day they ran an ingenious experiment in New York City. They put up a chalkboard on a busy street with this caption written at the top: “Write Your Biggest Regret.” Scores of people wrote on the chalkboard. Nearly every answer visible in the video included the word “not.” Interestingly, it was not confessions of sins of commission. Instead, it was about opportunities missed, dreams not pursued, and things they failed to do.
That exercise made me wonder how many are inmates in the prison of “not.” While Strayer seemed more interested in highlighting regrets that were tied to career, that impacted quality of physical life, and the like, regret reigns in people’s hearts and has dominion over their spiritual and eternal lives, too. Scripture shows us those challenged with the gospel message who ultimately refused to follow Christ. The rich young ruler was not willing to choose Christ over his stuff (Mat. 19:22). Many of the rulers believed in Him, but they put their stock in the approval of men rather than God (John 12:42-43). Felix trembled at truth, but ultimately turned away (Acts 24:25). His cohort, Agrippa, was nearly there but not quite (Acts 26:28). Other examples can be found of those who came so far but would go no further.
How many people have been shown the way to eternal life and have acknowledged, to a point, that it is the way they should go? Yet, when push comes to shove, they refuse to leave the cell of self and confine themselves to the chains of a condemning choice. Before Christ, they will see their regrets realized in a rejection that cannot be remedied.
The incredible news is that they keys are in reach of this prison. It was a running gag in the Andy Griffith show that particularly Barney would leave the keys on the peg of the Mayberry jail where the prisoners could reach the keys and let themselves out. Would you picture our spiritual circumstances this way? The Psalmist praises God for many reasons, including the fact that “the Lord sets the prisoners free” (146:7). In a Messianic passage, Isaiah writes of His mission to “proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (61:1; cf. Luke 4:18; 7:22; Mat. 11:5). He can emancipate lifelong slaves to sin (Heb. 2:15). He has left the keys where we can grab them, but we must want to be free and choose to be free.
This video ends with the participants taking an eraser and removing all the regrets from the board. One of them writes just two words in their place: “Clean slate.” What an optimistic, hopeful, empowering difference that contrasting concept is. Regret can be replaced with resolve. Do you believe that is possible for your spiritual life? Don’t you think God wants you to experience that exhilarating hope? The proof is there at Golgotha and the sepulcher that could not keep His Son entombed. What He did there can provide you with a clean slate! Take possession of the freedom He came to give you!
Strayer video link: http://aplus.com/s/83d4dc91dee