Yesterday, July 15th 2017 was the day of my baptism after years of embracing the Christian faith. I personally never thought that day would never come, to have fellow families and friends showing their support by witnessing this moment.
Looking back, years prior I was still reading my Bible in secret, fearing if my family were to find out. The Bible was a NKJV New Testament Gideon Bible, with a two-column side-to-side translation in Indonesian language. I would normally read before sleep, illuminated with a night lamp with yellowish hue placed above my bed. I would place the Bible beside my head pillow, start reading, and put it there for the rest of the night after I had finished. This fear-induced nighttime ritual was really challenging, and now that I think about it, was quite silly. Despite my own anxieties at that time – which were immense – it is not right to fear for my family to find out that I was practicing the Christian faith. As a matter of fact, I think my fear at that time was the fear of shame – one of the worst kind of fear.
To finally have the same people I once feared for expressing my beliefs coming to my baptism was beyond words. For years I thought that they were the problem, while it had actually been me. It felt easy to position myself as a victim, to feel self-righteous, for I was the only Christian in my household. But the problem had actually been shame – ashamed of embraching the gospel of Christ – making it even a worse kind of fear. But perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and this perfect love is shown in Christ.
The desire to be baptized had been there ever since the moment I read the Bible for myself. At that time, however, I thought of being baptized as nothing more of a commitment, as if I have something to prove. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with a commitment that comes from a pure heart, my desire, on the other hand was self-centered and was highly contrary to God’s Word.
According to the Scripture, baptism is a symbol of “having been buried in him … you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God” (Colossians 2:12). It is also written, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;” (2 Timothy 2:11). Baptism glorifies Christ, that we may boast in His death and resurrection, in which all our hope rests. The death and the resurrection of Christ – the gospel – is our sure foundation (1 Corinthians 15:14). If baptism was the proclamation of our self-sufficiency, it would diminish the glory of Christ, the very thing that awakens our heart to the incomprehensible beauty of God.
Therefore baptism is more than a personal commitment, but a proclamation of the glory of God, an expression of faith that relies solely on God’s grace. The baptism is a one-time event, as Christ had died and rose once and for all, that we may be set free from the enslavement of sin, and live eternally with Him, in whose presence is the fullness of joy.
I could have seen baptism as the proclamation of the confidence that was similar to Peter’s just before he was about to deny knowing Christ three times (Luke 21:33). But may our confidence rest in the finished work of Christ instead, and in Him who intercedes for us (John 17), as He also prayed for Peter lest his faith fails (Luke 22:31).
My journey towards this moment hadn’t been a smooth sail. In the past there had been countless moment of unbelief and constant failure. Yet God’s faithfulness prevails, for “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). It is Him who works within us and it is His righteousness that is imputed to us, so that all may be made right as we know our place as His creations, and worship Him as Our Creator, forever.
Baptism screams nothing but God’s faithfulness over people who least deserve it; it screams nothing but God’s grace. May this hymn be our daily prayer,
“My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.”