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Some time back, a retired missionary dropped by our church. She had served faithfully in Africa, and one day, she happened upon a small baptismal service. A fellow missionary took three new converts to the center of a shallow river, and dug a hole in the sand so there would be enough water for the baptism. Even then, the new believers were forced to sit in the sand so there would be enough water to cover them for the important ceremony.

The missionary telling the story saw what she'd expected. A few friends and family members gathered to watch, and the missionary in the river raised his hand, repeating familiar scriptures before baptizing the converts. When the first convert came up out of the water, he began an excited and joyful time of shouting. The quiet service was silent no more! The second convert did the same. The final convert also came up from the shallow water shouting for joy.

Afterwards, the missionary watching the process asked about the unusual tradition. Why all the shouting?

"I haven't been able to completely communicate in this tribe's language," said the younger missionary. "They heard the scripture I gave them, but they didn't understand the symbolic nature of it. When I told them that they would be "buried with him through baptism into death ... and raised to walk in the newness of life" (Romans 6:4) they actually thought baptism would kill them! We chuckled as we heard the story, until the missionary froze us with her gaze. "Let me ask you a question," she said. "If you thought baptism would kill you, would you be willing to get in the river?"

Following Jesus means we recognize the royal nature of the one we serve. Yes, he has saved us. Yes, he loves us and wants us in his royal family. But yes, he is King of Kings, and we owe him our very lives. There is no other appropriate response.

(From a sermon by Fred Markes, Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus, He is King of Kings, 8/30/2011)

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