Yesterday, Henry Holub, one of our staff members preached a really good sermon on "new birth" from the story of Nicodemus. I appreciated the points he brought out, especially the one that reinforced what I've been trying to teach my kids. And that point is this: it's not about baptism – it's about discipleship.
All three of my girls initially wanted to be baptized early – too early. My youngest daughter started wishing to be baptized at age six. She was not ready. She had no idea what baptism was about. She was too innocent to understand the need for the power of God over her sins and her sinfulness. Basically, she wanted to be baptized because she loved God, and she wanted to grow up.
I had to reassure her, "God knows you love him. Being a Christian is not about baptism; it is about being a follower of Jesus. Baptism is important – it will be the most important decision you will ever make. But it is only one part of being a follower of Jesus. You will still be a follower of Jesus after you are baptized. God will make you a clean follower through baptism, and he will give you the power in baptism to live even more like Jesus. You will be able to follow him even more closely.
“All of this is to come. As important as baptism is, the most important thing is to be a follower of Jesus, and you can start that right now."
I still believe those words. You don't need to know everything about baptism, but you need to know something. You don't need to live like Jesus to be baptized, but you need to have the maturity and commitment to choose to live like him. I want everyone to be baptized, but more importantly, I want everyone to be a disciple – of Jesus.
I can’t put it any better than Jesus, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20.) NIV