Baptism signifies our willingness to surrender our lives fully and completely to our Creator—putting to death our old self and rising from a watery grave to live a new and transformed life.
Since this decision is such a major commitment, the Scriptures tell us not to take it lightly.
Many people were attracted to Jesus and His teaching, and great multitudes sometimes followed Him from place to place. Yet He pointedly challenged them to consider their level of commitment.
"Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple," He said to one such crowd. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
"Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace" (Luke 14:27-32).
He used two examples to illustrate His point that we must count the cost—recognize and acknowledge the consequences—of our commitment to follow Him. First He used the example of someone starting an expensive and time-consuming building project. He noted that no one should begin such an endeavor without first determining that he can follow through on that commitment to the end.
In the second example He likened our commitment to a decision to go to war—to initiate a long, drawn-out struggle in which we will face repeated hardship, setbacks and defeats. Are we willing to remain committed to that struggle to the end, regardless of the personal sacrifice it might take?
Our commitment, said Jesus the Messiah, must be total: "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33). Baptism represents our conscious, deliberate commitment to put God above everything else regardless of the cost.
The commitment He expects from us is indeed great. But the reward is even greater. And we have the promise of God's help: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
Paul reminds us that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). In spite of the hardships he faced, Paul remained focused on "the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV).
He knew that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
We must carefully consider the cost before we are baptized. Once we repent, accept Jesus' sacrifice, are baptized and receive God's Spirit, there is no turning back. Jesus tells us we must not waver in our commitment. When one man wavered over whether to follow Him, Christ told Him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
God offers us a future so glorious that the challenges and trials we face in pursuit of it are miniscule in comparison.
As Hebrews 2:1-3 tells us, "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (NIV).