Why do we say baptism is the first step of discipleship?
Consider a child learning how to walk. Once a child learns, there’s no turning back. Imbalanced teetering turns into steady strides, and walking becomes the primary way to move around. What once seemed so challenging becomes second nature.
When a believer is baptized it is a step of obedience that publically announces to others, “Jesus’ death and resurrection gave me new life, and I want everyone to know I follow him!” It is an outward expression, letting others know you love Jesus. And this declaration is to become the natural way you identify yourself every day in every sphere of life.
The Bible describes an “out loud” lifestyle in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We don’t hide what we love. Take a look around your home or office or car or social media profile. We put our favorite teams and artists on display. We talk about the things we enjoy and the places we like to go. We cover our walls and lockers and desks with pictures of the people we love. Our love can be expressed in many ways, but it’s always expressed. And the person who loves God with heart, soul, and might will talk about God throughout the rhythms of the day.
So what could an outward expression of an inward love for God look like in your daily life? How can you regularly identify yourself as a follower of Jesus?
“So, a Christian t-shirt then?”
I guess one option would be to wear Christian t-shirts that say, “Jesus has my back.” But people may just think you’re super religious instead of understanding your genuine love for God.
A better approach is to think about how you talk. A friend of mine who lives in Southeast Asia encourages others to think about simple statements that use common conversations to let others know you love God. For instance, “Isn’t this a beautiful day God has given us?” Not only does this statement acknowledge that God is Creator, it indicates God is a giver of good gifts. This type of statement doesn’t threaten or condemn but provokes interest. Just like baptism, such statements are certainly not to be the extent of our witness for Christ. But they can be helpful building blocks toward an “out loud” lifestyle.
Can you think of 2 or 3 statements that show your love for and obedience to God that you could say? Think about your different relationships (e.g. kids, coworkers, friends) and how you might use the statements with each. Try to use one of your statements each day this next week and take note of how others respond.
-Mercy Hill Missions Director