Cherish Your Baptism

Less than a month ago, I had the great joy of baptizing my twin sons, who are almost nine years old. We celebrated the moment as a family and sought to make memories. We invited family to town. We took all sorts of pictures. Multiple friends captured video for us. We went out to lunch afterwards. 

But most memorable of all for my sons was not any of the accompanying aspects. The most memorable part was the baptism itself. The giant trough. The cold water. The packed sanctuary. The full immersion of the body, leaning back in the posture of trust. Then sealing it with the sharing of the Lord’s Table together.

God made baptism to be memorable. He means for it to be an occasion we recall our whole life long, not as the sole basis of our assurance, but as a real and helpful supplement, to remember that gospel-faithful pastors, and a gospel-faithful church heard our profession of faith, saw our newness of life, and said, We believe you are Christ’s.

Here at Cities Church, we are believer-baptists (often called credo-baptists). We baptize professing believers alone. We believe that baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is to be received by faith, and not be administered to those who do not offer a credible profession of faith in Christ alone. 

All our members have covenanted together “to welcome, test biblically, and apply instruction from the Scriptures by the elders of the church which accords with the Leader Affirmation of Faith,” which defines baptism as 

an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in his death and resurrection, by being immersed in waterin the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As pastors, and as a church, we do not believe that baptism is properly applied to infants who do not profess faith. In fact, just as the Lord’s Table is a means of blessing or curse, depending on whether someone partakes in faith or not (1 Corinthians 11:27–32), we believe baptism is a means of grace to those who receive it in faith, and consider it very unwise to administer the sacrament to any who do not profess faith.

The exhortation this morning is this: Cities Church, cherish your baptism. It is a great gift from God when gospel-faithful pastors at a gospel-faithful church hear your profession of faith, and see your newness of life, and say, “We believe you are Christ’s.” Cherish that. Remember that. In your moments of temptation and doubt, remember God’s invisible word to you, experienced so concretely and memorably in the waters of baptism: “You are mind. I will keep you. Trust in me.”

And if you’re among us this morning, and you love Jesus, and have not been baptized as a Christian, we want to exhort you to make a memorythat will be enduringly good for your soul. It will be a means of God’s grace to you, and to others in this church and in your life. We know that with every passing year, if you’ve long been a Christian, but have not been baptized as a believer, it can become more and more difficult. We understand that. And as baptists, we admire when someone says, I’m not putting this off any longer. Let’s do this. I’d love to talk with you about it. All our pastors would be eager to talk and help you wrestle.

But the main exhortation is for the baptized to cherish your baptism. Rehearse the glory of it, not only when you witness the baptisms of others, but remember your baptism, and the statement that was made to you in it by God himself: “You are mine.”

 Prayer of Confession

 Father, how precious is your grace to us in the waters of baptism. We were born into sin. We walked according to the pattern of this fallen world. We were by nature children of wrath, and yet your grace broke in. You caused us to be born again. You gave us the gift of faith. You began a good work in us and by your Spirit gave us the first steps of walking in newness of life. Help us to cherish afresh, and continually, your grace to us demonstrated in the memorable act of baptism. May baptism never be boring to us. Help us to see and feel its glory and walk increasingly as those who have been claimed by you and set apart as your people.

And now Father, forgive us, we pray, for the many ways we still fall short, as we confess our individual sins to you in this moment of silence . . .

Father, we praise you as the one who took action to save us. You planned it from before the foundation of the world. You sent your Son, and your Spirit. You took the initiative. You made us your own, and captured it in the strikingly memorable experience of baptism. Grant us your ongoing grace to walk more and more in light of the new identity in Christ to which our baptism testifies first to us, then to the church, and then to the world. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

David Mathis