Heart Matters More Than Words

Maybe you caught the news story that came out of Arizona a few weeks ago, the story about a Catholic priest who used the wrong word in baptisms for something like twenty years. Over those twenty years, he had baptized thousands of infants. Now those baptisms are considered by the church to be invalid meaning those baptized are not considered to be Christians nor members of the church. The word? Instead of “I baptize” the priest said, “we baptize.” Ho boy, talk about legalism.

Another story has emerged, this one in Michigan. A priest there was watching a video of his own infant baptism and guess what, the same mistake. No “I”. “We.” And with that dominoes fell. Every experience in the church Father Hood had was erased because his baptism was invalid. All his participation in the sacraments. His ordination. Yes, that’s right, Father Hood was not a priest and that means all he had done as a priest was invalid. Baptisms, yes, but weddings too. Couples are discovering they are not married in the eyes of the church and are having to take vows again.

We can laugh. It is ridiculous in Baptist eyes. This does, though, raise a question. What makes a person a Christian? Is baptism done by a proper authority? Words said, whether by a minister or by you yourself? It’s interesting to look at the Bible and see how and when people become Christ-followers. Paul? Was it when he knocked off his horse or when he picked himself up from the street? Or in the three days he was alone? Or when Ananias came to pray for him? Or the Samaritans in Acts 8 who believed and were baptized but didn’t receive the Spirit until apostles came to Samaria? Or the gentiles in Acts 10 who hadn’t been baptized or prayed or anything but the Spirit came on them while Peter spoke? Or the thief on the cross who hadn’t been baptized at all but just said, “Lord, remember me”?

When did you become a Christian? Was it, as was done with me, someone led you through “The Sinner’s Prayer”, repeated word for word? Or was it something else? What makes a person a Christian?

It’s not a formula. There are no formulas. There are no exact words. Look back at those Bible examples. No two are alike in the details. The Spirit comes at different times. Baptism is present except when it isn’t. There is no ritual. Prayer isn’t always there, in fact, I can think of only one example in the Bible of someone who prayed and was assured they were saved: the thief.

And yet there is one constant; one thing always present. Heart change. Transformation. Renewal expressed as repentance and faith. Repentance meaning I am not Lord nor is anyone or anything else. Jesus is Lord. My king, my ruler, my Christ. And faith, trust, that God raised him and that death is conquered and Christ reigns. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart. Heart change.

Question: are you a believer? Not, did you pray a prayer? Did you get baptized? But has your heart utterly changed? Is Jesus the great love and fascination of your life? That’s what salvation brings. Heart change complete and total.

This is a good time for you to be sure that you belong to Jesus. The words said matter little. Repentance and faith do. Is Jesus your savior?