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Spiritual Training Cycle: Examination (wk. 5/13)


There I stood, awkwardly and obviously out of place. It was baptism Sunday at my church, and I had decided to go public with my faith and get baptized. Along with about 20 other people – all who were under the age of 18. Like Buddy from the movie Elf, there I was, at age 39, sticking out like a sore thumb.


One by one, each person moved from the deck of the pool into the water where the pastors were waiting to make it official. I almost faked a stomach cramp and bailed. But before I could make a break, I was in the water. There was nothing magical about the chlorinated water in that community pool, but I could sense there was something special in the moment.


As I covered my nose and prepared for the plunge, I heard the pastor say, “Buried with Christ in baptism.” Then the water quickly silenced the noise as they submerged me. Coming back out, my ears cleared and over the cheers of the crowd, I heard the pastor declare, “And raised to walk in new life.”


New life. According to the decree made by a guy with a theology degree, that’s what was in store for me. It all happened so fast. Next thing you know I’m in a towel and then there were photos and some tears with my wife. And then we headed home. To the same house with the same struggles with the same fears and the same doubts. I’m not sure what this new life the pastor spoke of was because I sure wasn’t seeing it.


At least, not yet. But that’s because I had the wrong expectations. I was like that person who starts a fitness journey after years of being inactive and wonders why a week of exercise hasn’t done anything. And it won’t. At least, not yet. You’ve got to stick with a fitness program. You’ve got to look at nutrition and hydration and sleep. You’ve got to trust the process.


And trusting the process of baptism, or more accurately, spiritual transformation, was so new to me I had no clue what to do or expect. So, I thought I would break down the process for you and share what it did in my life. To do that, I’m going to use some Scripture. This is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to a church in Rome. A church who also needed to understand the process.


Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4


Baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision to follow Jesus. It’s not so much about getting dunked in a pool or having water sprinkled on your forehead, it’s about a decision to put your trust in Jesus. In Paul’s day, that decision would have been followed very shortly by a water baptism, which is why the two are so intimately connected in Scripture. But don’t tie the process of spiritual transformation to the event of baptism. Tie the process to the decision to trust in Jesus.


Which comes with incredible power. Like the power to unite us to God – but in a weird way. Paul writes that when we are baptized in Jesus, we are baptized into His death. But what’s that got to do with new life? Let me show you.


Have you ever thought to yourself, “This workout is going to kill me.” Some of you literally have thought that. But did you die? No. Instead you pushed yourself into a place of incredible suffering because you knew there was something better on the other side. You can call that fitness or strength or winning or whatever. But with no break down, you were going to get no breakthrough.


That’s what Jesus did for us. Only, He took it to the next level. He did a workout none of us could ever do. It’s called resurrection. See, on the other side of death was life. And when Jesus died, which He did, the world assumed it was over. That He was just another prophet who did some cool stuff but ultimately the Romans had their way with Him on the cross.


But it wasn’t over. Jesus overcame death. In His power, He broke the power of death and came back to life. He CRUSHED that workout. Not just for Himself, but for ALL who would trust in Him. The power of faith in Jesus not only unites us to God, it also unites us to all others who have put their faith in Him.


When I got baptized and dedicated my life to Christ, I was raised to new life. I was immediately united to God and forgiven for all the selfish, self-centered, poor choices I made. But I was also being raised to new life. As I gave more of heart to Jesus and surrendered my ways for His ways, I experienced new joy, new peace, and a kind of love only Heaven can send. Tomorrow, I will continue to be raised to new life. It’s not about me anymore. The Spirit of God is moving, giving me the power to live my best life. I’m not who I used to be. I’ve been raised!


Questions for Reflection:

What’s been your experience with spiritual transformation? Can you recall moments where you felt yourself changing?


Do you think physical transformations or spiritual transformations are more challenging? Why?

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