It Never Gets Old!
What never gets old, you ask? The privilege that God has given to me over the 40+ years I have served Him in ministry, of baptizing those the Holy Spirit has brought to faith.
Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (English Standard Version, Matt. 28:18-20)."
While the numbers of baptisms I have performed reach into the thousands with over 95% of them being adults, it is not about the total number but about each and every individual person. Jesus talks about this in His parable of the lost sheep when He says, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7)."
I was asked this past summer while traveling and speaking to congregations and donors across 18 states and 10,000 miles: What has given me the most joy as I have served God over the years as a missionary in Africa, as a Mission Executive for Lutheran Bible Translators and LCMS World Mission, as a pastor in the United States, and now as a Bible Teacher in Israel? It didn’t take me long to respond that the miracle of baptism was my greatest joy because it never gets old!
To watch an individual who has been brought to faith through God’s Word and Sacraments; to experience with them the “aha” moment when they came to know Jesus as Messiah; and to see the look on their faces and the changes that are brought to their lives as they live to serve and not be served is...well, joyful! It Never Gets Old!
This is exactly what I went through over the past few months as I discipled a young woman here in Israel, I will call “Uriela,” which means “light of God.” She had approached me through a mutual friend because she knew that I was a Bible teacher and a man of God. Just a few months prior to our first meeting, she had begun to read the New Testament Gospels and was intrigued by this Jesus who was claiming to be the Messiah. She was also intrigued by the fact that when she read Matthew 1, she realized that Jesus was Jewish, like her. The rabbis had always forbidden her to read anything else but the Old Testament. Over a period of six months that I worked with her, answered her many questions, and discipled her, you could see the changes that were happening within her. The Holy Spirit was helping her to overcome the condemnation of Jesus she had heard much of her life, to begin to think about Him and recognize Him as a Brother, to accept Him as a Teacher and Prophet, and finally, to believe in Him as Messiah.
On September 24th, Uriela made a confession of her faith and asked to be baptized. On October 1st, I had the privilege of performing her baptism in a private ceremony with just a few family members and friends present. It was great to see and have that joy again, both here on earth and in heaven as well. “It Never Gets Old!”