Today’s Reading: Matthew 3
A little brother was jealous that his older brother was getting water baptized and he wasn’t. As his father instructed the older brother on what it meant and how special it was, the little guy left the room in tears because he wasn’t being baptized. His father followed him to find out why he was so upset. When the father asked the four-year-old what was wrong, the little boy said, “I want to be advertised too with my brother on Sunday.”
When you get water baptized, you get also get advertised. It is a public declaration. It announces to everyone who you are following. But it doesn’t make you a Christian any more than saying that a wedding ring on your finger makes you married. My wedding ring doesn’t make me married, but it shows people that I am married. The ring is a symbol. And baptism is a symbol. To make it anything more than a symbol is dangerous. Water baptism, whether a spoonful or a tankful will never save anyone. But it is an important second step in our faith journey. Being water baptized differentiates the serious from the casual follower of Jesus. As Max Lucado says, “Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.”
Some call them ordinances of the church, but really, communion and water baptism are mini-dramas of salvation using props—water, bread, and wine. Something very special happens every time one of these mini-dramas take place: they are not just events in the life of the church among believers; they are sacred moments for God to speak to us.
That’s what happened to Jesus.
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
God spoke after Jesus was water baptized: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God confirmed family. God confirmed His love. And so when we participate (practicing obedience), we do it because we love God (the motive of our obedience) and to hear God speak to us. God responds, “I love you too.” We all need that Voice out of heaven to speak to us.
We live in a world crowded with voices all shouting at us:
• You are not good enough!
• You are not skinny enough!
• You are not good looking enough!
• You don’t make enough money!
• You are not married!
• You don’t have kids!
Those voices label you over what I’m not. And yet God tells us, You belong to Me and you are greatly loved.
We need to listen to and hear the Voice that Jesus heard at His baptism. As Steven Furtick writes, “The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.” God’s voice is where our identity is found and the searching stops. We can be assured that God’s voice tells us that He loves us and that He is pleased with us.
The biggest temptation today is to seek an alternative identity to who God created us to be. We see it in the ways we answer the question, Who am I?
• I am what I do—my job and career define me.
But when I get old and can no longer do a job and I retire, I lose my identity.
• I am what others say about me—people’s words about me have power, especially who is saying it.
So I’m good when the talk about me is good, but I lose my identity when it’s negative.
• I am what I have—I have a degree, health, good parents, good children, good salary, and security.
But when I lose any of those things, I lose my identity.
When we participate in the mini-dramas of salvation, we answer the identity question by hearing and embracing God’s voice. He says, You are God’s beloved. Heaven says that about you today. One of my dear friends reminds us, “There’s nothing you can do that will make God stop loving you because there was nothing you did that made God start loving you.” And Proverbs 3:6 tells us: “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (MSG)—because you are His beloved.