Most of us walk around thinking we have “pretty good” faith, what we’re going to call PG faith. Even if you’re not a Christian, you probably still have this view of yourself. You believe you’re pretty good at whatever you’re into. Pretty good at drumming. Pretty good at exercising. Pretty good at doing your job. Pretty good at being a friend or family member. Pretty good at being a follower of whatever god, philosophy, or cause that kids are into these days. The person with PG faith thinks “I’m not too bad. After all, I could be a lot worse.” We hold onto the few things in life we’ve managed to get right and try to ignore the things we’ve messed up. We know we’re not perfect, but at least we tried, right?
Yep, we’re “pretty good” servants of Jesus. And then we believe the job of the Holy Spirit is to continue to make us “pretty good.” But what if we were to tell you that God is not interested in PG faith?
What did that wild man, John the Baptizer, say about his own ability to be a servant of Jesus? “I am not even worthy to stoop down to untie the strap of Jesus’s sandals” (Mark 1:7). Picture a servant kneeling down in the hot dirt before the feet of his master, carefully undoing the strap of his filthy sandal—as if the master couldn’t take off his own damn shoe? If we saw a servant like that today, no doubt we’d exclaim, “Why, I think that’s a pretty good servant!”
But the guy dressed in camel’s hair doesn’t approach God as if he were a pretty good servant, as if he could meet the standards God has set! John the Baptist believed he was not worthy to be even a servant of Jesus. The Baptizer knew that PG faith wouldn’t cut it. He knew he needed something stronger.
John the Baptist preached R-rated faith. R-rated faith is risk-taking faith. John the Baptist summarizes what risk-taking faith is in verse 8, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” There are just two parts to risk-taking faith, but many are too scared to try either of them. We see the first part in the first half of the verse, “I have baptized you with water…” As we saw in the last devotional, the person who comes to be baptized is not showing off. In fact, she’s coming with brutal honesty. He’s coming to the water to confess his sin, not display his good works. R-rated faith risks being a true sinner. You risk being honest, facing the Jordan river with nothing but your filth. R-rated faith doesn’t seek to serve Jesus, as if that would make a difference. It doesn’t try to impress God or earn any merits with the Almighty. The only thing a person with R-rated faith contributes to his or her salvation is sin. That’s it. The baptism of John is shorthand for honest confession, vulnerability, weakness, and risk.
Recovery groups have known this for years. When a person comes to a group for the first time, the therapists evaluate if he’s ready to begin healing based on his ability to admit there’s a problem. If he can’t see that something is wrong with him, if he can’t admit he’s struggling, then kick him out of the group, for there’s no hope for healing. He’s still caught up in a PG mentality.
R-rated faith confesses failure, risks looking like a fool, and opens oneself up to being judged and condemned. You stop fighting for yourself, trying to make yourself look good, and hiding your weaknesses and flaws. In this day and age, this is probably one of the most risky things a human could do.
Imagine the time when Israel fled slavery in Egypt. The Egyptian army chased after them into the desert and cornered them against the Red Sea. Moses, the leader of the Israelites, turned around, faced the sea like a boss, and then told his people to walk into it. It was suicide. It should have been a massacre. Moses and the people of Israel had nothing to fight with, so they risked being drowned in the sea. When they stepped onto the beach, they had R-rated faith.
When you stop hiding who you really are, you show R-rated faith. When you honestly tell another person your struggles, you show R-rated faith. When you stop trying to earn God’s favor, you show R-rated faith. When you stop believing God will be happier with you when you’re “good” and angrier with you when you’re “bad,” you show R-rated faith. When you place yourself in Jesus’s hands and trust him for your salvation, that truly is R-rated faith!
Now we’re ready for the exciting part of risk-taking faith, found in the second half of verse 8, “…but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” When we step into the water, God sends his Holy Spirit to step in with us. When we give him our sins, then he gives us his Spirit. When we risk doing everything that should kill us (physically, spiritually, socially, etc.), God gives us his Spirit to make us alive!
Can you see? The way to be strong is to be weak. The way to be whole is to be broken. The way to be clean is to come with your dirt. The way out of your pain is to go into it. The way to be more holy is to be more human. “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Don’t even try to serve Jesus; let him serve you. That is R-rated faith.
- What is PG faith? How does PG faith show up in your life?
- When have you felt most loved by another person? Was it when you were at your best or at your worst? Talk or write about the experience.
- What pain or failure in your life are you running away from? What area in your life is God calling you to turn around and face? Who could you talk about this with?