I was baptized on September 1, 1973, when I was just four days old. I don’t remember my baptism. Do you remember yours? Maybe like me you were baptized as a baby. Others of you were baptized when you were twelve or thirteen years old; still others as adults. If you are a Christian, though, most likely at some point you were baptized.
Did you know, however, that’s actually not the right way to say it? As a Christians, we don’t say, “I was baptized.”
We say, “I am baptized.”
Your baptism isn’t just a fleeting moment from your infancy. Baptism isn’t just something that happened to you in the distant past. Your baptism defines you. It is who you are. You are baptized.
The word “baptize” literally means “to wash.” At your baptism you were washed clean, not dirt from your body but sin from your soul (1 Peter 3:21).
In baptism, we are forced to see ourselves for who we really are. We are dirty, rotten sinners. We are covered from head to toe in the filthy, stinky manure of our sins. No offense, but you are gross. Your mind is stained with dirty thoughts. Your mouth wreaks from the angry and hurtful words which come out of it. Your drunkenness, your arrogance, your jealousy, your pettiness, your selfishness stain your souls.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t get rid of that stain ourselves. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is tormented by guilt after convincing her husband to kill the king of Scotland and take his throne.
At night she sleepwalks and in her nightmares she tries desperately to wash the blood off her hands. “Out, out damned spot,” she cries. But she can’t wash the stain from her hands.
That’s us. That’s who we are. We are dirty, stained sinners, unable to get rid of the damned spot of sin.
Baptism makes us face that truth. We desperately need to be washed because dirty sinners aren’t allowed into heaven. Dirty sinners deserve hell. That’s the beauty of baptism, though. In baptism, our God washes us clean.
And he doesn’t just wash you clean of the sins you have at the time of your baptism. You weren’t baptized. You are baptized. You live in the promise of your baptism. You are defined by it. You are washed clean of all your sins.
How does baptism wash us of our sins? In baptism, the Holy Spirit gives and strengthens the gift of faith (Acts 2:38). Through faith in Jesus, all your sins are washed away forever. Jesus suffered the punishment in your place. His blood is the bleach which washes you clean. That is the promise of your baptism. As long you continue to believe in Jesus, your baptism continues to define you. It is who you are. You are a baptized child of God.
So live like it.
When I was a little boy, every Saturday evening my mom would give us a bath so we would be clean for church on Sunday morning. I still remember a few times in the summer when I would go outside and get dirty after my bath. My mom would not be happy. “I just got you clean. Why are you getting dirty all over again?”
You are baptized. God has washed you clean. Why would you want to go and roll around in the filth and manure all over again? Martin Luther put it this way: “Baptism means that the sinful nature in us should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Your baptism defines who you are. It should affect what you do and how you live every day of your life. Through the faith given in baptism, you are washed clean of the stain of sin. You are a forgiven child of God. That is who you are.
Now live like it.