Before my time, the 60’s boy band, the Monkees, recorded a song called, "Shades of Gray," with the following words: “But today there is no day or night; Today there is no dark or light; Today there is no black or white; Only shades of gray.” If they thought there were only shades of grey back in the 60’s, what would they say today? Surely, in our generation there is even more fuzziness in people’s thinking. On Sunday, we had the joy of celebrating a baptism. And later we looked at Revelation 20 and saw that two books will decide the fate of all people. While I didn’t plan to connect that passage with the baptism, ever since I’ve been thinking about the relationship between them. What strikes me is how black and white they are to our world of grey.
Revelation 20 is painfully binary. It’s all or nothing. When the book that records all we have done is opened up in v.12, it shows how far people have strayed from God and His will for their lives. There are no heroes. When all that is in our heart is exposed, no one will be appealing their innocence. Judgment is decreed. The only relief comes when the other book, the book of life, is opened up. Those whose names are written in the book of life are pardoned for their sins because of Jesus Christ. And so the only question becomes whether someone’s name is written in that book of life or not. It’s black and white – there is no grey.
Baptism, like the book of life, is binary. You either got wet or you didn’t. It takes something like faith in Jesus which can feel grey, and it makes it black or white. It takes a person’s allegiance to Jesus Christ which could be “maybe,” “sort of,” or “mostly,” and changes it into a clear “Yes,” or “No.” For a person to draw a line with their faith through baptism brings incredible clarity and assurance. It helps them to mark whether they’re in or out, committed or on the fence. But it only has this value if the person has been baptized as a believer, upon their profession of faith in Jesus. That’s why I always meet with people interested in baptism to confirm their understanding of the gospel and baptism. Because if there’s no assurance that the person’s name is written in the book of life, baptism can actually do more harm than good. It can give false assurance. Or it can leave someone feeling unclear about where they stand.
I meet many people who were baptized as babies. They went through some sort of ceremony as a child that may have been meaningful to their parents or significant to their tradition but did little to signify whether they had crossed the line of faith or not. And because their baptism was separated from a commitment of personal trust in Christ, when I meet them as adults, they lack clarity in their faith. Baptism never signified that they had crossed a line, and so like the Monkees sang, “There’s no black or white; only shades of gray.” It’s not the children of believers whose names are written in the book of life. It’s not people who have gone through a church ceremony whose names are written in the book of life. Only people who have turned from their sins and sought the forgiveness of God through personal faith in Jesus Christ have their names written in the book of life. Baptism is intended to mark this crucial line in a person’s life. In our world of grey, I think we need it more than ever.
Have you been baptized as a believer? Have you marked the line of your personal faith? Through baptism, have you celebrated the fact that your name’s in the book of life? If not, let’s talk about it.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. - Revelation 20:12
In awe of Him,