June 09, 2009

Baptism: Drowning in Grace

Baptism has got to be one of the most meaningful moments in a believer’s life. You say “so long” to the old and though you’re not quite sure exactly what God has in store for you in the future, you know He’s a God of grace and love and that’s enough, and so you take the plunge.

Something astounding happens when a person receives Christ as Savior. Colossians 1.13 says
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (NLT)
There’s a spiritual transference from death to life. Jesus called it being “born again” in John 3.3. Baptism is an outward sign of this radical inward work. It can be easy to forget just how radical the transition is, but baptism helps to remind us that it really is a decisive moment. In an instant, our past is forever forgiven and forgotten while His "spirit of adoption" reassures us that we are forever in His hand, protected and loved as His children (Rom 8.12-25). In reality, we’ve experienced the most beautiful kind of death imagineable, a drowning in grace. And we spend the rest of our lives enveloped in the promise and assurance of His grace and love.

Saturday we had a day trip to celebrate Violetta’s baptism ceremony, who recently prayed for salvation. She comes from a mostly Muslim family, although one of her grandmothers is a Christian. A group of us traveled out to Chersones, which is known as “the Ukrainian Pompeii.” It’s a place where time stands still, a vast outdoor museum filled with scattered ruins from its many known occupants. Greek settlers gave it its present name in the 6C BC, which means "peninsula." The Romans later introduced better road technology, and staged gladiator exhibitions. The columns and basilicas stand as reminders of the Byzantine era. And the fortress-like walls hail back to the medieval days.

But one of the more interesting aspects of this area, from a Christian perspective, is that Prince Vladimir was baptized here in 988 AD. This event is considered the main factor in a widespread transition from paganism to Christianity in Kievan Russsia, or “Kiev Rus” which lasted from 880 to the mid 12th C. There’s a domed pergola covering a baptismal pool, which is said to be the location where Vladimir was baptized. The pool was dry but the Black Sea was crystal clear and inviting. As we wound our way down through the once bustling city down to the sea, we noticed a small beach nestled in the cliffs. The beaches and water are strewn with all sizes and shapes of rocks. But once you both find places to stand then you can go ahead with the ceremony. I have been privileged to see how God has worked in Violetta’s life through some of her struggles and questions regarding salvation. For me it was really a thrill just to be a part of something God was doing. After rising up out of the water, Violetta described how she felt, saying “I feel like it’s my birthday.” I think her face in the photo describes her joy better than any words could.

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