(This blog is part of a series. See my blog entitled "Worship Formation" posted on August 31, 2012 for the introduction to the series)
As someone who grew up in a conservative Baptist tradition, baptism was a very important step for the Christ follower. Baptism, as understood by my tradition, is an outward declaration of an inward faith. Yet, I have often wondered if those who walk through the waters of baptism are truly changed on the inside as a result of what God is doing through this element of worship. St. Cyril of Jerusalem shared the same concern about baptism of bodies but not of the heart. So, what inward experiences should be expected from those who are baptized?
In baptism we find our identity. When we are baptized, we are incorporated into Christ’s life and His body – the church. In our baptism we turn from sin and accept God’s invitation to join His forever family. This gives the baptized a new identity as a new creation in Christ, “sharing in his new humanity, set free from sin and death by his death on the cross, risen with him to eternal life, and ascended with him to the heights of glory and honor.”
In looking at Jesus’ baptism by John, Pastor Leonard J. Vander Zee reflects upon the fact that all three Synoptic Gospels point out that the heavens were opened with God’s favor and blessing as God poured out His love upon the world. A correlation is made to the Prophet Isaiah, who centuries before cried out, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” At Jesus’ baptism, God does just that.
Through baptism, God draws us near to Himself as we become more like Christ. And for those who have previously been baptized and are observers of someone else’s baptism, the worshiper should remember their own baptism allowing God to refresh the sign and seal of regeneration upon their own lives. Spiritual formation through baptism should continue to occur instead of being a one-time occurrence. This is baptismal renewal and one that I have recently been privileged to participate in.