Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB May 3

What are you waiting for?

We seem to be seeing increasing interest in Christianity lately among celebrities. The most recent was last Sunday when Russell Brand was baptized in London’s Thames River. If you weren’t aware, Brand was a comedian, radio host, & actor, living a decadent life of heavy drugs & promiscuity. He got sober, & married & divorced Katy Perry (who herself had been a Christian music artist before renouncing her faith).

Brand turned to delivering podcast commentaries often directed against government corruption & media deception. Then last fall accusations of sexual abuse were brought from many years earlier. He denied the accusations, claiming everything had been consensual. But some online platforms began demonetizing, limiting, or removing his content. He lost lots of money & followers. Still, he has maintained a substantial following.

As he was experiencing that, & desiring to relinquish his past life, he was also seeing rapid societal shifts & crumbling cultural values & institutions. He came to sense that there was no real meaning in the world’s materialism, hedonism & emptiness, & so gradually came to embrace Christian spirituality. Though I don’t know what his exact beliefs or denominational leanings are (I suspect Catholic since his wife is, & he appeared a while back praying the rosary), the things he’s said give me hope he’s on the right path.

Prior to baptism, he said, “What’s been explained to me is it’s a chance to die & be reborn. An opportunity to leave the past behind & be reborn in Christ’s name….” Yes, baptism is directly tied to rebirth (John 3:3, 6; Titus 3:5). It is the crucial & culminating step in the New Testament plan of salvation—being saved by grace through faith with repentance in baptism (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Eph. 2:8, Col. 2:12-13, 1 Pet. 3:21).

Once baptized, he overwhelmingly experienced the peace & transcendence he’d always sought but could never find in drugs. “Yesterday, I got baptized & it was an incredible, profound experience,” he said, which made him feel changed & transitioned. He added, “I can’t tell you how happy I feel & how relieved I feel.” Yes, it feels really good to be forgiven! Though he admits he still has to deal with the realities of life, he now feels empowered to deal with them better with a new resource to help. We know that means the Holy Spirit. I pray he continues to grow in his understanding & practice of biblical Christianity, & that others are convicted to follow his example.

Last October another celebrity got baptized–outdoors survivalist, Bear Gryls, best known for his reality TV series, “Man vs. Wild.” He’d been a long-time believer but wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. He considered it a life-long “bucket-list” dream. But baptism isn’t a bucket list item to be checked off. And getting baptized in the same river Jesus was doesn’t give it any more meaning. It’s never described as simply a public declaration of faith, an “outward sign of an inward grace;” a ceremony, sacrament, symbol, ritual, or even an ordinance. It’s in a unique category all by itself, part of the Great Commission on how we make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).

What gives it meaning is not the place or the person doing it, but the promises tied to it! It’s not the grounds of salvation (that’s grace) or the means (that’s faith); it’s the place or occasion for receiving the promises of salvation–where we unite with Christ in his death, burial & resurrection to new life, & put on Christ as our new identity (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27). Another celebrity, Hulk Hogan, was asked this week about what he meant when said that his recent baptism was “the greatest moment of my life.” He replied, “Once I was baptized I felt I was all anew. It really was a major pivot in my life.”

If baptism is so joyfully profound, transformational, & empowering, why would anyone delay it? Why would church leaders schedule it for a future Sunday or some special day? The biblical examples point to urgency & immediacy. On the day the Church was born in Acts 2, the crowd responded to the message of Christ with 3,000 impromptu baptisms taking place. The Ethiopian official was traveling along in his chariot reading Scripture when Phillip shows up to tell him about Jesus. The next thing you know, the official sees some water & wants to be baptized on the spot (Acts 8:36-39). In the middle of the night, the Philippian jailer & his family are baptized upon receiving the message (Acts 16:32-33).

When Saul (Paul) put his faith in Jesus & was fasting in repentance, Ananias showed up & said, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). That’s why our church will perform baptisms anytime & any place. We never ask people to wait–we say, “The sooner, the better!” We call it the “Best Decision Ever” & print that on the gift t-shirts baptizees change into. Have you been biblically baptized? What are you waiting for?

P.S. If you want to know more, click here: southpoint.church/about-us/baptism.