Evangel, Part IV: The Bad News

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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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. — Romans 6:3-5

My mother was six months pregnant when my parents and one-year-old brother arrived in the Chicago. The next Sunday they walked to the nearest church, Beulah Presbyterian. An elder there named Shirley Sparks took pity on these newly arrived Indians, who spoke good English but had very little money.

When I was born in October — right before our first winter — Shirley helped us find a crib and baby clothes. She became my godmother when I was baptized that January, and continued to serve God (and me) faithfully until she passed away last March, a few years after a 90th-birthday celebration of all the lives she had touched.

I was baptized again soon after I came to work at Apple in 1997, when I joined Calvary Baptist Church in Los Gatos. I was actually rather conflicted, as I sympathize with both sides of the long-running debate over infant versus adult baptism.

It was only recently that I finally understood how baptism fit with the gospel. The good news is that we had the wrong God; the bad news of the gospel — and baptism — is that we have the wrong self.

Both the Bible and modern psychology teach us that we don’t really know who we are. Our culture, parenting, and past decisions conspire to create an internal narrative that shapes our every action. This distorted picture of reality only dimly reflects the values, personality, and desires God has placed within us.

In baptism, we agree that this “false self” must die in order for our true self to live eternally with Christ. It begins the lifelong journey to submit our self as a living sacrifice, so layer after layer of falsehood can be stripped away through confession and repentance.

I encourage you to take time today to reflect on your baptism (if you’ve been baptized), and ask God to remind you who you truly are in Him.

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