I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
And finding some disciples he said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' So they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.' And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?' So they said, 'Into John's baptism.'
I was baptized by an Episcopal priest with the sprinkling of water when I was an infant. That ceremony did not make me a Christian. Millions are baptized as children, teens, or adults. Are all of them Christians?
Baptism is an action symbolic of Christianity. Circumcision is an action symbolic of Judaism. But neither action guarantees cleanliness or salvation. Only baptism with the Holy Spirit ties us certainly to God. That ceremony is exclusively between the 'Great High Priest' (Hebrews 4:14) and each one of us.
Why would there be 'More rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent' (Luke 15:7)? I bet those 99 persons were baptized and/or circumcised. Could Heaven's lack of response to them be because of their lack of response to Him?
Today, they might be called 'cultural Christians.' In America, 79% of our population identify themselves as Christian. In Congress, it's 88% (Pew Forum 2010).
Here's the earthly thing: success is easier if you belong to the 'in' group. Here's the heavenly thing: success is guaranteed if you belong to the 'In' group. But the two group leaders are as different as night and day.
Jesus is clear that His Baptism is not of the water, but of Spirit and of fire. Every Christian must be equally clear in his own heart that his baptism is the real deal. If you're not sure, go directly to the throne room of God. You're invited any time: 'Knock and it will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7).
'So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find' (Luke 11:9). Make no assumptions. This deal is too important. This contract must be signed by the King and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
To Be Continued...
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the The Church series.