“Your pastor is dead,” the leader said. “The man who loved you enough to tell you about JESUS, giving you the opportunity of eternal life, has been killed because of his faith. This is the cost of following JESUS.” 1
Those words, spoken by a church leader in Iran, would be unnerving in any setting. However, it was especially chilling because he was addressing 38 men and women from a Muslim background who had come to be baptized. How would they respond now? And who would blame them if they had second thoughts and decided to wait and pray some more about it?
Nik Ripken, a leading expert on the persecuted church with personal experience and research in over seventy countries, shared this story in an article for Christianity Today (April 13, 2019). He said, “Within Islamic settings, Muslims equate baptism with salvation. Seekers from Islam investigating a relationship with Jesus Christ can explain away many of their activities.
If they’re discovered reading the Bible, they can claim they are studying it in order to debate Christians more intelligently. If they’re seen sneaking into a church building, they can excuse such behavior in the same way. If seen talking to a pastor or some Western Christian, seekers can suggest that they were simply observed witnessing, lifting up the attributes of Islam.
But they can’t explain away baptism – there is no acceptable excuse.
Muslims believe that at baptism, a person no longer belongs to Islam but to Christianity. They have left one community and joined another. The local community says that when converts are baptized, they have left Muhammad and joined with Jesus. At baptism, persecution soars because identification with Jesus is real, irrevocable, and forever.
Baptism is the point of no return.” 2
Most people in America have little or no idea of the persecution believers face in other parts of the world because we haven’t come close to reaching the point of being threatened or killed for our faith. And stories like this one don’t really shake us like they should.
At baptism, identification with Jesus is real, irrevocable and forever!
Even more concerning is the view many hold of baptism, as if it’s an option we can choose or skip if we want. Millions read Bibles, attend church services, hang out with Christians, but that doesn’t mean they’re ALL IN. According to Nik Ripken that doesn’t even garner much attention from the Muslims. But if you decide to be baptized, that’s a different story. Because baptism is the point of no return.
Baptism is the clear command from Christ (Matthew 28:19; Acts 10:48), passionately preached and practiced by the early church (Acts 2:38-41; 8:36-38; 9:18; 16:25-33) perfectly picturing the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord (Romans 6:3-4).
Baptism is the point of no return. Even Muslims know that’s when someone is ALL IN. To paraphrase Mr. Ripken, at baptism, identification with Jesus is real, irrevocable and forever!
Those 38 believers in Iran “lined up and down the aisle of the church awaiting baptism, were told, ‘Your pastor has been killed. Now that you know the cost, are you ready to follow Jesus through baptism and beyond?’
Not one person walked away.” 3
© 2019. Barry L. Cameron
1 Ripken, Nik. “Baptism: The Point of No Return.” The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer, www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/april/baptism-point-of-no-return-story-somalia-persecution.html.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.