This morning I got up for church and instead of going to the service I usually attend, I went to a different service at my church’s other campus. There was a baptism and I was going to be helping with it.
I have a confession to make: I love baptisms. I could stay at church all Sunday watching people get baptized. To see Jesus so real and transforming in their lives brings me to tears, and today, as I collected name cards from the 23 people who got into the water and came up new people, I fought back tears. If I had been sitting in the service as an observer only, I most likely would have wept.
You guys, Jesus transforms.
I never want that truth to grow old for me.
Before the baptisms, our pastor preached the second sermon in a four-part series. The Calvary Chapel movement practices expository teaching, which means our pastors teach through one book of the Bible at a time – start to finish. We did a 77-week series through the book of Luke and just finished up the book of Romans after more than half a year. In a few weeks, we will begin a series that takes us through 1 and 2 Peter, but before we do, our pastor is taking us through a short series called Missio Dei: the mission of God.
Last week we talked about reasons to believe in God. Today’s sermon was about how we know the Bible is true. It was very good and a very good reminder that I serve a God who has left behind ample evidence to know that He is the one true and living God.
I’ve heard most of what the pastor said before, in a similar sermon last year and at School of Ministry, but that’s okay – I don’t think you can ever really hear that stuff enough. It’s important for me to know the evidence that supports what I believe – Christianity is not a blind or uneducated faith. God has given us the proof in a tangible way that the mark He made on this world is true and it continues today.
But sometimes, to be honest, I get afraid. I worry I’ll forget the evidence and I’ll forget the facts. In the heat of the moment, I worry I won’t be able to answer a burning question and that my lack of response will cause someone to walk away without having heard about or personally knowing Jesus.
One of the last points of today’s message put all of that aside… We can have all of the evidence and facts and figures we want, but one of the most fundamental things that proves God is real and is at work is our transformed lives. Jesus changes people. I cannot deny that He absolutely, radically makes people new and different.
We can have all of the facts and the figures in the world, but if we have not been transformed then facts and figures don’t matter.
I think about my own story. I was a hard, angry person not that long ago. I didn’t like Christians. I loved to quote that very popular Ghandi saying: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I liked the concept of God and Jesus in the big picture but I didn’t like how people behaved, so I just didn’t like it at all. I was outspoken in so many different areas of my life, but my big soap box was abortion and a woman’s right to choose and how Christians limited that choice and how they were hypocritical, women-hating jerks. It was my personal platform.
Then I started going to church, mostly because I have this desire to know God again. It didn’t make any sense, given my experiences in life and with the church, but it was a burning ache inside of me that wouldn’t let me go. I still can’t fully understand the feeling I had except to say hands down it was absolutely, 100% God in my life. He met me in my hard place and He reminded me that He could fix what was shattered.
I wanted it, but I desperately did not want it all at the same time.
He transforms. I think about my soapbox and how God took this heart that was, to steal a like from Dr. Seuss, three sizes too small, and He ripped off the hard, heavy layers on its outside to reveal something soft and lovely and loving underneath. He took the one area of my life that I never thought I could change and radically changed it and me.
He works like that. When you give Him what is broken and bitter, He gives it new life.
That is why I love baptisms. Here are these people, young and old, with different life stories. They share how Jesus came into their lives and moved them mightily, how His transforming power because strong and real to them. They go under that water as the old and come back up new. To see the victory that shines on the faces of the men and women, boys and girls who come up is breath-taking.
Oh Lord. Never let my heart become desensitized to seeing that declaration of faith, and never let me be afraid that I won’t know all of the answers.
Because the biggest and paradoxically most simple and most complicated answer that I can muster is that You have changed my life forever.