I am part of a church plant. In fact, I’m married to my pastor, which means that several items our church uses on a weekly basis (a drum set, a soundboard, amps, a baptismal font…) live in my house.
Each Sunday morning, I load my car with a lot of stuff: supplies for teaching kids’ church; two large bins and an insulated bag full of coffee bar supplies; random odds and ends. The really exciting Sundays, however, are the ones when the heavy, awkward-to-carry font joins the regular haul in my backseat.
Those are the mornings when, as the font is filled with tap water from the sink in the teachers’ lounge, I reflect anew on the name of the school in which we meet: Hopewell. A small metal bowl, full of water: a well of hope.
Those are the mornings when families and friends gather around that old wooden font — a piece of unknown church history, in which countless saints have been added to the family of God — and promise to teach the newly adopted about the love and mercy of Christ.
Those are the mornings when God uses my husband’s hands to advance His kingdom, and it’s beautiful.
I won’t lie, though — unloading the car after church is a test in self-discipline that I often fail. By the time I’ve packed the car, set up, made & served coffee, taught the kiddos and/or run the slides during the service, torn down, re-packed the car, and finally gotten home, I am close to falling into a Sunday Afternoon Coma. (It’s a real thing, trust me.)
I failed this test a couple months ago. It was an exceptionally cold Monday morning, especially for Central Texas, and the nearly brand new heater in our house needed a $900 fix, so I was already grumpy when I got into my car to make the forty minute commute to my office. When I made my first turn of the day and the forgotten font clanked noisily in the back seat, I growled under my breath.
It only got worse when I hit traffic on IH-35. I moved forward only inches at a time, mashing the buttons on my radio in frustration. I looked down for just a second to check the time on my dashboard and then heard a horrible squeal of tires and several blaring horns.
A driver in the far left lane had decided they’d had enough and was now gettin’ the hell outta dodge. I laid on my own horn and deployed a few choice curses as the driver cut across two clogged lanes. He nearly clipped my car as he took off down the grass embankment and onto the frontage road, leaving the rest of us to waste away in our law-abiding.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I snarled, and slammed my foot on the brake. The font behind me clanked loudly in protest as it rolled forward and hit my seat, hard. I cursed again, put my hand behind the seat to make sure it wasn’t broken or anything, and then began to laugh.
Lutherans like to use this phrase: “Remember your baptism.” It basically means that whenever a person feels lost or afraid or guilty, they should remember the fact that God has brought them near through the waters of baptism.
I was encouraged as a child to remember my baptism by associating it with water, such as when I washed my face or when I could see huge thunderheads rolling across the hills that surrounded my home. It is also for this reason that fonts are traditionally placed at the entrance of churches, so that people entering may dip their fingers in the water and then touch their foreheads, reminding themselves of the saving work Christ has done for them.
These remembrances may sound a little trite or weird or even like a “Godly guilt trip” to some people, but I think they’re scandalous and effusive. Remembering your baptism is not about getting your act together, after all. Did you know that?
Remembering your baptism is not a guilt trip. It’s a blessing; a reassurance; a reflection upon what God has done on your behalf.
Last fall, I saw a truly maddening and hilarious sign at a gas station. It incited such incredulity in me that I took a photo.
I wasn’t the only one, either. A favorite author of mine had this to say about the same sign in another place in Austin.
“I have lost my salvation 28,307 times on IH-35. I counted. …GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER, IH-35. Don’t be under construction for once in your natural born life. Stop making good Christian people curse and swear. Just act right. You need to get saved, IH-35. You need the Holy Spirit to fix what is wrong with you. Quit drinking and get your life together.”
And though I laughed and laughed in commiseration with the author, as with other things she says, I also disagreed.
There is no sin so big or flagrant that it could cause you to “lose your salvation.” Truly, the only thing that could separate you from God is the little prideful belief that you don’t really need Him or His forgiveness. Who really needs repentance — you’ve got this figured out all on your own, y’know? You’re not really that bad — I mean, you recycle and volunteer in a soup kitchen and open doors for people, so it all balances out in the end, right?
No. It doesn’t.
Baptism is God’s work. Not yours. It continues to be His work, even after you’ve been adopted into the family. He doesn’t require you to get your life together or to act right in order to remain in His good graces.
Jesus forgives. Jesus saves. He gave of Himself freely, with no reserve about the behavior of the ones He was saving.
And that’s the Gospel truth.
Sounds too good to be true, right? There’s got to be a catch.
There really isn’t.
I know some of you, however, might be thinking of this:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Romans 6:1–4 ESV
If you’ve fallen into an antinomian mindset (fancy theological term that means “rules don’t apply so do whatever you want”), please — take this good word to heart. Yes, you are saved, and yes, the saving work is not your own, but this good news is life-changing. There is a natural response to the Gospel, and it includes growing in righteousness toward your fellow man.
But, conversely, if you’ve fallen prey to the line of thinking that you have to “act right” in order to earn or maintain your salvation, please — be free. Rejoice when you remember your baptism.
I hope your reminders are more gentle than a blow to the back. God gave me a hard head, though, so I guess He knows how blatant my reminders need to be.
Basically — don’t be like me.
And remember this: Jesus is for you.