Home > Stories About Water > A Few Stories About Water: My Water Story

A Few Stories About Water: My Water Story

The story takes place in June 2003 at the Eau Claire River. A bunch of people are gathered together on the riverbank waiting for God to do something miraculous. And He does. I was baptized by Matt Ness (multi-year winner of J-Bear’s Top Ten All-Around Best People Award) in that river. I knew the moment was loaded with meaning. But much more was going on than I realized.*

Here’s what I did know: Jesus was baptized and I wanted to follow Jesus and be like Him. The main action of Jesus’ story happened after His baptism, and I wanted the main action of my life in Christ to begin. I knew that believers in Jesus throughout history had been getting baptized as a sign of their belief and pledge to a faithful life. I knew that the baptism of believers was a symbolic representation of being buried with Christ and raised to new life. These are wonderful things, but I think there is more.

Some of our epistle writers in the New Testament hint at these connections.

1 Peter 3:20-21

…when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

These guys were good interpreters. As we’ve been learning, baptism corresponds to the Re-Creation story of Noah and the Flood. Baptism represents the evil in us, that part of us that would distort the image of God in us and destroy it in others, being wiped out by the floodwaters. We were ruining the world and ruining ourselves and Jesus saved us. We were saved from the judgment of evil in the destruction of the flood, and the righteousness in us arose from the waters that we might purely put on display the image of our God. Baptism is a representation of this world-rectification. As the Flood was an act of God to fix the world through ReCreation , baptism represents how God is fixing the world through Jesus – personal Re-Creation. The old is buried with Jesus in the floodwaters, and the new arises from the water with Him.

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

… our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…

This passage is teaching the New Covenant people of God about their connections with the people of the Old Covenant. One of these connections is baptism and the Red Sea crossing. Paul doesn’t extrapolate the relationship, but he does affirm the same connection that we’ve been moving toward. Baptism is symbolic of our seminal moment of salvation. We were stuck in our transgressions, enslaved by our sin, and oppressed by our iniquity, but our God made a way to freedom where there were was none. Israel passed through the water and their enslavers and oppressors were killed. Our journey into the water represents the death of our slavery to sin. Israel came out of the water redeemed and freed to be God’s covenant people, being given by God reign over themselves that they might be completely His. We come out of the baptismal waters with the shackles of sin broken, and we are given reign over ourselves that as His covenant people, we might let God be our everything.

God affirmed Joshua at the crossing of the Jordan, Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, and we are affirmed and confirmed, in the sight of God’s family, that we are members of God’s covenant people. When Israel crossed the Jordan River, they were making the first step in entering the land of God’s promise to set up a kingdom to represent YHWH. Baptism is our first step in becoming citizens of heaven, a part of God’s family, a people who function not as members of a club or a world government, but as people who exist to live in, build, and grow the kingdom of God on earth.

My baptism is an act of solidarity with God’s covenant people from the time of Noah, to the people of Israel, to Jesus, and to every Christian since. What God has done and is doing in me through His son Jesus Messiah, God has been doing throughout the history of His interactions with humanity. And for me all of these water stories that changed the world culminated at one moment in a humble river. Now, the power behind all these stories is working in me to save, redeem, free, and recreate me so that through me this power might bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.
*If you want this to make more sense, then you should probably be familiar with the rest of the water stories. If you are already familiar, then my hope is you know what I’m going to say anyway.

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  1. December 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Hooray for the grand finale!

  2. David C. Miller
    December 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I am very surprised that you were baptized in 2003. Why then? Why not earlier? I don’t want to mar an otherwise insightful post with my harping on infant baptism, but I am genuinely curious if you don’t mind my asking. You must have been 17 or 18 years old- surely even strict credobaptists draw the line earlier than that, don’t they? Or maybe they don’t, I don’t know; that’s why I’m asking you.

  3. December 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Ha. I was more expecting that you would critique my connections to past water stories. I didn’t start following Jesus until late my junior year in high school. A couple months later I was baptized. Seemed soon to me. I don’t come from a tradition that baptizes people that don’t claim to believe in the resurrection of Jesus and proclaim that they repent from their sin in order to turn to the Messiah Jesus, making Him Lord of their own lives. Age doesn’t have a role.

  4. December 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Oh, and I never consider you to mar any post. But sometimes I’m frustrated with the amount of writing I’m going to have to do in order to say something that will result in us simply still not seeing eye to eye anyway. 🙂

  5. David C. Miller
    December 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Then I guess I was just ignorant of your personal history. If you had asked me during my freshman or sophomore year of high school which other kids came from Christian backgrounds, I would have named you near the top of the list. My evidence: you gave me a DC Talk tape once, and we watched the Superbowl together at what I’m pretty sure was your church unless I’m mis-remembering. (ASIDE, that was an awesome Superbowl Party. Chargers VS 49’ers? Natrone Means Business? Good times. Good times.)

    I know we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but we agree on a LOT, and having you explain your views like this helps me examine my own beliefs. So even if you write a lot and I write a lot, if it’s building each other up in the faith then woohoo.

    I view Baptism not primarily as a work of the believer, not primarily as a pledge of repentance on their part, not as a symbol that teaches a deeper truth, but as a promise that God makes to you to forgive you your sins for the sake of Jesus. It is not as though a repentant sinner who falls away from the faith needs to be baptized again later if they return again to Christ: God’s previous promise stands firm even if their repentance didn’t. St. Paul says that we have been baptized into Christ’s death, that somehow as a result of being baptized we are connected to him; it’s not just a ceremony to teach us something- something special happens during baptism.

  6. December 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Indeed. We do agree on a lot. I almost sent you and others an email last night related to writing about beliefs. Cool.

    I was immersed in church culture at a young age. The culture influenced me, no doubt. It wasn’t until my late my junior year of high school that I decided I was actually going to accept His love and turn toward him. I started becoming less of a dick then. I still was a dick sometimes though. :(. Still am. 😥

    Also, you said the superbowl party was awesome, but you forgot to mention how awesome the dc talk tape was. I’m sure it was just an oversight.

    I could say more than this, but I think the difference lies here: I think baptism is powerful, meaningful, and symbolic. I believe water baptism is symbolic of (well, a lot of things as I believe is evident from the blog) being baptized with “the Holy Spirit and with fire.” I believe the water reflects this spiritual transformation taking place through the power of God in the resurrected Messiah Jesus.

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