I’ve had the privilege of having a post published on the Rooted Ministry blog today.
“Why is it that many of us in youth ministry are hesitant to reference the Scriptures? Do we believe that the Word of God is too antiquated, that it will scare young people away? Have we lost confidence in the meaning and power of God’s Word?
Don’t get me wrong. I too often wonder whether the scripture I use in sermons, talks, and one-on-one meetings is actually helpful or comforting for my students. But one particular experience has made me more confident, relieved, and secure in using God’s Word in youth ministry than ever before.”
The Australian baggy green is a significant symbol in our nation’s sporting landscape, and some would argue our Australian culture-at-large. The baggy green is held up as a symbol of sporting greatness and success, and is the embodiment of Australian cricket values and expectations.
When a player is selected for the Australian test team they become part of a select number of people to ever do so. Upon being selected they are presented with a baggy green cap.
In years past this cap was picked up when the player received their kit bag for the upcoming tour. Some players were given a number of caps throughout their career and many of the ‘greats’ have long ago lost or given theirs away. But in recent time, from the mid-90s, each debutant is physically presented with their baggy green by a former Australian test great. On the morning of their first test, just after the warm-up, this player is told of the significance of the cap and what it represents. He is surrounded by the others in the team, who congratulate him on becoming an Australian test cricketer. They watch him put it on and welcome him into the fold. As cricket journalist and historian Gideon Haigh comments ‘the baggy green means a lot to the current generation of players – they are constantly being told how important it is and how great they are’.
This baggy green is a symbol of what it means to play cricket for Australia. It is a symbol of elite performance and cricket excellence. But more than that, it is a symbol of joining the other 450 players who have played test match cricket for Australia.
In a similar way baptism is a significant symbol of the Christian church.
Baptism has played an important part in the history of the Christian church. Prior to the birth of Jesus baptism was practised by the various Jewish sects as an act of cleansing, for ritual purity. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, led people in the practice of baptism ‘for repentance of sins’. And, Jesus was baptised himself, in order to fulfil all righteousness and share in this act with those who were to follow him in faith.
Throughout the New Testament the followers of Jesus have continued in this tradition and symbol of baptism. After Jesus was resurrected, and before he ascended to the Father, Jesus said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And from this time on baptism has been a symbol and rite of passage that takes place as one puts their faith in Jesus, follows him, and seeks to obey his commands.
But what’s this got to do with the baggy green?
First, like the baggy green baptism is a significant symbol and rite in the Christian church.
Since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus baptism has been performed as a symbol of entrance into the Christian community. It is through baptism that Christians were recognised as believers of the Way. When we are baptised today we not only join a local body of believers, but also join with the millions who’ve gone before us in recognising Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Just as the baggy green is a symbol of an Australian test cricketer, a marker of their entrance into the team. So too, baptism is a symbol of a follower of Jesus, a marker in their life and faith.
Second, like the baggy green baptism has meaning and significance.
Through the act of baptism itself we acknowledge what Christ has done for us. When we are baptised, like many before us, we acknowledge the work of God in our lives and the reality of what Christ has done.
Those who have been baptised do so because through his death on a cross Jesus has paid the punishment for their sin. Through his resurrection Jesus has enabled true life, and a relationship with God. And by faith, those baptised acknowledge Jesus as Lord and seek to trust and obey his commands.
Going down into the water and coming up again is an imitation of this truth. It is a symbol of leaving behind the ways of the past and committing to a life of following Jesus.
Just as the baggy green derives its meaning from the players of the past, the values and expectations of what it is to be an Australian test player. Baptism derives its meaning from the person and work of Jesus, who died and rose again in order for us to know God.
Third, like the baggy green baptism is a natural part of being a Christian.
It would be odd for a player to be presented with his baggy green and then to put it in his pocket or stick it in his kit bag for safe keeping. The baggy green is handed over and is expected to be worn. To not do so would be odd.
In committing our lives to Christ and putting our trust in what he has done it is only natural to be baptised. To not do so would be odd. The New Testament doesn’t have a category for one who is a disciple of Jesus and not baptised.
Those who do go public with their faith are following a rite of passage into the Christian community from ages past until now. In front of a local church congregation they acknowledge Jesus as Lord and simply follow him in obedience.
Just as the baggy green is to be worn and acknowledges the cricketer as a test player. Followers of Jesus are to be baptised, publicly declaring that they are following in the way of Jesus and his commands.
Below is a Christmas poem written by someone who attends Rowville Baptist. It was written and shared last week at a local retirement village. I had the privilege of having it emailed to me and received permission to share it here. Enjoy.
Jesus Invites You In!
Young Mary with Joseph a journey did make
Tho’ pregnant with child, this risk she must take
There were thieves along the way, the road was rough
By the time they reached Bethlehem they had had enough
They were hungry and weary, the babe was due any minute
When they saw the inn they hurried to get in it
They knocked on the inn’s door and asked to lodge there
The innkeeper refused, for their plight he didn’t care.
“No room” he said, you cannot stay,
“Go to the stable, go sleep on the hay”
The tills were overflowing, business was good;
Take in these straggling strangers? Couldn’t see why he should
But he paid a price when “No room” he cried
He missed big time when the shepherds arrived
He never got to hear how the heavenly host did sing
He missed being at the birth of our Saviour and King
We recall this story each year for a reason
Lord, help us reach out to others this season
As the day approaches and we are all set to rejoice
Help us remember those who have no voice
Lord may we not reject with a word or a glance
And say “We have no room”, not give others a chance
With your heart and your eyes help us to see,
And pray for the suffering, for those who aren’t free
We pray for ourselves to do unto others
Remembering always they’re our sisters and brothers
Lord we think of the many souls that are lost
We thank you, you saved us at such a great cost
How thankful we are that You made Yourself known
Visited us as a babe, left behind Your own throne
We are so thankful Lord Jesus, that you love us so much
Others who don’t know You, they too need Your touch
Now as Christmas approaches, You stand at the door
Saying “Come in, come in, there’s always room for more”
The beginning of this year has seen me start reading through some of the issues related to believer’s baptism vs. infant baptism. A few months ago I baptised a couple of young people at church and it sparked the realisation that I’d never investigated “the other side” (infant baptism). In any case, these holidays I’ve taken the time to read two books on the topic thus far and I’ve at least 3-4 to go.
They’re both great books on baptism and I’m glad to have chosen these as the first two to read. They’ve covered all the issues that differentiate the baptist and infant views.
Witherington is rather persuasive in his thoughts about the importance of infants and children. Not convinced this means that they should be baptised so young and without making a decision for themselves but puts the issue on the table well.
The point above is linked to the very real question of whether children of Christian parents are saved or not. This has practical and theological ramifications and Witherington does well to persuade here.
The importance of baptism seems to be undermined a little when Witherington questions it’s importance in the NT. This is odd considering he writes a whole book on baptism anyway. Certainly the weight of the NT on baptism is a consideration in whether one should make a larger than life issue out of it.
Acts seems to be be main book for where the main arguments come from in this book. I did wonder whether it was relied on too heavily or not.
The three views book is excellent with two particular scholars, B. Ware and S. Ferguson going at each other.
Ware, a proponent of the baptist view, is more convincing here. Ferguson spends heaps of time explaining the covenants, which is good but isn’t so convincing re baptism and the NT.
Ware is thorough in his exegetical points whereas the other two aren’t as much. The third view, a middle ground view that includes both views by A. Lane, is interesting but quite inventive and too reliant on historical grounds and not the NT.
Overall, these are two good books to begin with. It’ll be time to crack on with a few more in the coming weeks.
A servant can’t pay his debt to his master. However, he is shown mercy and released from his debt. The servant then goes outside and sees someone who owes him money. This person can’t pay the debt so instead of showing the same kindness given him, the servant puts his debtor in prison. Upon hearing this the servant’s master is furious and throws the servant into prison until he has repaid the whole debt owed.
However, it is the final verse that struck me this morning.
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
What an amazing statement!
If we do not forgive our friend, partner, husband, wife, work mate, family, acquaintance–anyone we come across, then we ourselves will be in the same peril as the servant was.
And no wonder, for Christ has shown immeasurable grace toward us, depraved and sinful beings. Surely we can forgive sin against us when Christ has forgiven all sin for those who have faith in Him.
I know I need to practice forgiveness.
How about you?
I know it’s my pride that gets in the way of saying “sorry” to those I know.
How about you?
I know it’s my pride that gets in the way when I hold a grudge against someone for the way they have behaved.
How about you?
Lets look to the cross and find full forgiveness from God. And through our forgiveness of others may we show the glory of God.