When studying with people about the Gospel message of hope, salvation, and redemption, I get a common response—“I know I need to be baptized, but I need to be a better person first.”
I’ve thought a lot about this statement over the years and, personally, I understand the sentiment. God is doing such an amazing act of grace and kindness in the life of a guilty person when He takes away their sins. This tends to produce one of three reactions:
They want to understand the gift. It is wonderful when people want to learn more and have more questions. The problem is that the gift of salvation is so contrary to human wisdom it seems foolish. God intended it to be so fantastic, so amazing, so outstanding, that it is literally unbelievable, at least without faith. This is one of the only places in life where “if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true” doesn’t fit reality. It is too good to be true, yet it is reality (cf. 1 Cor 1.18-31).
They want to deserve the gift. So many people realize their incredible shortcomings when compared to the love and mercy of God that they feel unworthy of the gift of salvation. They feel they need to get some things straight in their life so they can be more prepared for accepting salvation. They feel they need to perform some more good, eliminate some more bad, and tip the balance of righteousness in their favor. But none of us can deserve the gift of salvation (cf. Eph 2.8-10).
They want to preserve the gift. This last reason is a misunderstanding of repentance. Some think that they need to be perfect before coming to Jesus so they don’t mess up the gift God is giving them through washing away their sins. Unfortunately, odds are our perfection gained through the blood of Jesus will be ruined by more sin. We are going to mess things up. We are going to sin again, and again, as long as we are living. Yet, the redemption we experience through Jesus gives us a greater motivation to not sin because it does give us the experience of being wholly holy (cf. 1 Jn 1.8-2.2).
The problem with each of these reasonings is that they cause a person to postpone the gift. When a person has determined to change (repentance) and determined to live by God’s rules (confession), then they are ready to be cleansed from all sins (baptism). There is no understanding, no deserving, and no preserving God’s gift if we have not accepted God’s gift in the first place. The whole point of the plan of salvation is to give us an undeserved gift we cannot understand and to change us entirely into God’s child.
Recently, I found this quote by one of my favorite authors C. S. Lewis. “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” We are left with a choice.
We must either decide to change as God has invited us to change. We can repent, submit, and be baptized. We can be changed from who we are to who we are intended by God to be. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5.17). We can be a hatched egg and soar like a bird.
The other choice is to remain the same. We can continue to deceive ourselves. We can wait until we somehow understand the incomprehensible. We can work ourselves to the death trying to deserve a gift that is beyond our earning. We can wait until the last second so that we are baptized with no hope of sinning but run the risk of waiting too long and missing our chance at redemption. We can remain an egg, which will eventually go rotten.
As a kid, whenever there was an impromptu race, someone would yell, “Last one there is a rotten egg.” This always prompted an extra burst of speed. No one wants to be last. So let me yell the same thing to you today. Don’t wait. Don’t be slow. Don’t postpone God’s salvation. Do yourself a favor—don’t be a rotten egg.