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Friends in Christ Weekly Message
January 11, 2003
As he preached he said, "The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life. I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism - a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit - will change you from the inside out."
Mark 1:7-8 (Message*)
John the Baptist was a prophet who reached many. But he understood that his role was to prepare people for the coming of the One they really needed - Jesus Christ. John the Baptist told the crowds that came to the river for John's baptism of repentance that the One who was coming was the One who would really change their lives. Christ's baptism, he told them, was not by water but by the Holy Spirit.
The concept of baptism by the Holy Spirit can be hard to grasp. Eugene Peterson, the translator for the Message version, does us a service in this passage by having it explain that this baptism changes us from the inside out. That's a very good description of how this baptism works.
Water itself can not produce a fundamental change in us. Any real change that may occur during water baptism is not from the effect of water on one's skin, but of something internal occurring at the same time. And one can be dipped in or sprinkled with water and not have a real change occur. But the very essence of baptism of the Holy Spirit is an inward change. Without that change, this baptism has not occurred.
Being changed from the inside out also implies a process over time. We may have a very profound experience at one point in time, but it is still only a beginning. We need to stay open to the Holy Spirit for the change to work itself completely through our lives. It is also something we can not force on a schedule. We can open ourselves up to it through worship and the practice of spiritual disciplines, but it will come in the Holy Spirit's timing and some may wait hopefully for years before their time comes.
Dear friends, if you have had this experience of baptism by the Holy Spirit, I pray that you remain open and allow the Spirit to continue its work of changing you from the inside out. If you have not had this experience, I pray that you will patiently keep open to it, trusting that it will come in God's time. I bless you all in Jesus' name.
* The Message version © by Eugene H. Peterson.
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