STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 4: What Jesus Does
“I baptize you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” ~ Mark 1:8
Though there is some debate about how water baptism was done in Jesus’ day, there is something about water baptism that is not debatable. Everyone who was baptized in water got wet. This is important for two reasons.
First, any part of us that’s soaking in water experiences a cleansing, as water is the most essential element used to make dirty things clean. Secondly, any part of us that’s soaking in water experiences a change, both in appearance and substance. And these two things are precisely what baptism displays: an inner spiritual cleansing and spiritual change. To be clear, baptism itself doesn’t produce the spiritual cleansing or change, but rather makes the spiritual cleansing and change that has happened on the inside visible and tangible on the outside. By this, I do no mean that it is merely a symbol of the inner spiritual cleansing or change. It is a sacrament, which is more significant than a symbol. A mere symbol has no power to affect the person using it. But a sacrament, even though it is a symbol, it is not “just” a symbol. It is not something we invent for ourselves, but rather something we receive from the Lord who commanded us to receive it. We do not just get baptised to show that a spiritual cleansing and change has happened. We also get baptized to obey the command of the One who has done the spiritual cleansing and change, for it is he who commands us to be baptized. Since baptism is both an act of public declaration and an act of personal obedience, it is a means of grace. That is to say, by obeying Christ’s command to be baptized, we express our faith that Christ has indeed cleansed and changed us on the inside, and faith in Christ’s work always gives us access to his more experiences of the generous benefits of that work. Baptism does not save us from sin, but it is a means by which God strengthens our faith in the saving power of Jesus already at work in us.
This is why what John the Baptizer says about Jesus is quite remarkable. He said that he (John) could only baptize people in water to symbolize the spiritual change and cleansing God promised to do on the inside, deep in places where only God could reach. But Jesus would actually do the inner spiritual cleansing and change itself. John says Jesus would soak the innermost parts of the human soul and give people a spiritual cleansing and change on the inside. John says Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. And while many things can happen when Jesus does this, two things that happen that are fundamental are spiritual cleansing and change. The Spirit of God changes us on the inside both in substance and appearance. He changes our attitudes, motives, thoughts, imaginations, and impulses. Jesus alone does this. Jesus alone is able to do this. Jesus wants to do this. How often does Jesus want to soak all your insides in the Holy Spirit?
All the time. Now, actually.