What Does Baptism Mean? The Greatest Lifeguard Story Ever…

Baptism is a celebration of God’s work as the cosmic lifeguard.   Baptism is a public chance to thank God for rescuing us from drowning in our own self-centered lives. A writer of the Psalms said it this way:

Psalms 130
O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.  And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities

These are religious sounding words: redemption, redeem, iniquities.  What do they mean?  Our writer is overjoyed and telling others to “hope in God.”  He tells them to “check out” what he has found.  The writer calls out publicly for everyone to find what he has found.   He has found hope, mercy, redemption.  He is saying, “Thank you God for giving me what I don’t deserve – mercy. Thank you God for pulling me out when I was drowning.  Thank you God for reaching into the deep water where I was sinking and yanking me out.”

Out of the depth I cried to You, O Lord; Lord hear my voice!

Baptism is actually a lifeguard story.   It is a chance for drowning victims to thank God for being their lifeguard.  It’s a chance to say, like the writer of this song, I was drowning in the depths. I was in over my head.  I was depressed.  I was unable to be good enough.  I was entrapped in my bad habits. I was caught up in my self-centered life, but I called out to God.

I almost drowned when I was a kid. I remember being at the public pool – directly under the lifeguard stand.   All of a sudden, I got too far from the edge.  I couldn’t reach the edge.  I felt fear overtaking me. I was sinking, my head went under.   I came sputtering up and realized that I was going to die. All 7 years of my life passed before me…  I looked up at the lifeguard and cried out, like the writer of this song, “HEAR MY VOICE!!!”   Rescue me.

Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?

What does that mean?  The writer is saying, “If God marked on a wall every time I did something wrong, I couldn’t stand… in fact…if God had a tally system for every unkind word, unloving habit, impatient moment of your life, could you stand?  Often when you look at a pool, it will have marks on the edges showing you where it’s 3 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet, or 9 feet deep.  How deep would the water be if you were swimming in all the mistakes, moral failures, and self-centered lives?   The writer says, “My good stuff doesn’t even come close to floating me out of the pool of things I’ve done wrong. I was drowning in my own pride, fear, and sadness until I looked up and saw the lifeguard.”

But there is forgiveness with You! I wait for the Lord. And in His Word do I hope.

Becoming a Christian is recognizing that you are drowning. You are drowning in either your bad deeds (thinking you know better than God) or drowning in your good deeds (thinking you can boss God around because of how good you are).  When you come to a place that you want and need God’s forgiveness, when we realize that He forgives us and snatches us out of the pool of our own wrong doing, it is at this moment, you wait.  You put up your arms, and He swoops in and drags you out of the pool.  He rescues you.  He promises that if you reach out your hand, He will save you from sinking.  He will pull you out and promises to restore you.   The writer says, “I waited and hoped you’d do what you are supposed to do.”   Lifeguards save people when they are downing.

My father was a lifeguard.  He used to train lifeguards at a local pool.  My dad was in college when a friend of his went tubing down the river together.  My dad’s friend started to drown. He waved and called out for help.   My dad dove into the water and rescued him from certain death as he pulled him up onto the shore.   The friend recovered and said, “Thanks! You just saved me from drowning. Let me help you from drowning too.”  This friend told my dad that all of us are drowning in our own pool of moral failure.  He told my dad that Jesus Christ came to earth to die on a cross to pay for those sins.   If we’d call out to Him as our Lifeguard, He’d rescue us, forgive us, and teach us to “swim” in the life God has for us.

If my dad’s friend was hear today, he might thank my dad publicly for rescuing his life that day on the river. He’d publicly declare that –if it weren’t for my dad’s intervention- he might be dead.   Baptism is exactly that…a person who has been rescued from drowning in their sins telling others publicly about the One who rescued them.   Last Sunday ten people realized they were drowning in something.   They came to a moment in their life when they cried out to God to rescue them from the waters.   They found Jesus to be a forgiving, gentle, mighty lifeguard that saved their life.   They all came to a public service to tell others about their lifeguard and friend.

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