So, you were baptized! Great news! Praise God! Hallelujah!
What happens between now and the time you’re saved?
Your salvation is a process, right? Lots of wonderful things happen at baptism: you confess that Jesus is Lord and you put all of your faith and trust in him to remove your sins; you commit to follow in Christ’s steps as a loyal disciple; you become one with Jesus as you die and are buried and are raised up with him in baptism; you receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit living inside you; you’re initiated into the Lord’s Body, the Church of Jesus Christ. All that happens at baptism. Justification. Reconciliation. A righteous standing before God. Peace. Joy.
But that’s not the last step. In as many ways as you can imagine, baptism has never been the last step.
We are being saved.
Being saved means being changed into the image of Jesus. It means being shaped into his character, being formed into his nature. It means we spend our lives “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12), we are predestined by God to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), we are to bear the likeness of the Christ from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49). Paul says he agonizes and prays “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). We are all
“being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
God is saving us by making us like Jesus. Being saved is becoming like Christ. Acting like Christ. Talking like Christ. Thinking and behaving like Christ. Sacrificing and serving like Christ. That’s our salvation. That’s God’s good purpose and what God is doing with us today.
And that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not an immediate thing.
None of us is done. Our salvation is not complete. None of us. There’s nobody alive God is finished with yet. Until the day you die or the day our Lord returns in glory — whichever comes first for you — until that last day, our God is working in you to give you more humility. He’s renewing your mind to make you more sacrificial for others. He’s transforming your attitude and your actions to better reflect the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
If we’re not careful, we can view our baptism as God’s completed work. We can think we’ve already arrived, that we’ve changed enough, that we’ve done enough, that we have nothing else to learn or do until we’re saved. We might think, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s done with me what he wanted to do.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s got me in his holy holding area until I die.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s put me in neutral here until I get to heaven.” It might be arrogance, it might be complacency, it might be ignorance — all three are killers!
You need to know that God is not done with you yet. You need to be aware that God is still working on you. I don’t care how long ago you were baptized or how many great things you’ve done in the name of Jesus, God still has things to teach you. He still has things to show you. He is still changing you and he is still very interested in seeing you grow and in using you for his good purposes.