Monday, February 15, 2010

When Will My Son be Ready for Baptism?

"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

"And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

The Contact Church has seen a number of baptisms in the last few weeks. Some have been older men and women. Some have been younger men and women.

Yesterday, one baptism made me think about the act in a little more personal way than I have thought about it in a long time. An 8-year old boy professed his faith in Christ and submitted to baptism.

It caught my attention because the boy is only a year older than our son Christopher.

I started to wonder: When will Christopher be ready to be baptized?

He has asked about baptism since he was about 3 or 4, but I have never felt that he was ready. It's true that Christopher is a believer in Christ; and I believe in baptizing believers.

However, I believe in something more than believers' baptism. I am convinced that a true conversion to Christ involves a faith that leads to repentance. It leads to a change of heart. It leads one to decide to turn away from his sins in order to follow his Savior.

At the point of repentance, a believer is ready to submit to baptism. At that point, baptism becomes effective. It becomes a marker in the believer's life to which he can point as the time when his old life was crucified and buried with Jesus, and the time when he began to walk with the Spirit of Christ in his life. "That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country" (Romans 6:4-6, The Message).

I don't believe in age limits on baptism. God never seemed concerned about the age of anyone submitting to baptism. However, he does seem concerned that one's baptism be motivated by trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and a willingness to turn away from anything that would prevent following him.

When Christopher's faith brings him to repentance, I will be thrilled to baptize him...even if it happens today at age 7. (Whenever it happens, I will ask my son to take a sheet of paper and write down in his own words what it means to him on that day, so that he will always be able to remember the experience and never doubt his motives.) Until then, Janet and I will continue to teach him about the Lord and pray that his faith will lead to a heart ready to follow Christ no matter what may come.

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