I used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother who was, in many ways my primary teacher on gardening, canning vegetables and making jellies and preserves. The last few years of her life, I dug into her treasure chest for domestic golden nuggets. Since then, I’ve enjoyed years of having my own garden, while utilizing the things she taught me. My grandmother even shared tips concerning her infamous sweet pickles recipe.
I’ve thought a lot about those sweet pickles over the last couple of days. As I remember, it seemed my granddaddy could not enjoy a single meal without one. It was not unusual to see him shovel a fork full of purple hull peas a long side a single slice of sweet pickle with every single bite. One year, I decided I wanted to make sweet pickles of my own. Surely, since my Papa enjoyed them so much, my husband would too.
My grandmother carefully demonstrated her step by step method of pickling cucumbers to me one week. You might be surprised that as a young adult – I’m not quite certain I even knew that a pickle was once a cucumber. I just thought, well, a pickle is a pickle. You see – I’d never seen it’s state before pickling. (At least I didn’t recognize it as such). She was careful to take small and delicate cucumbers – not like the ones we purchase at the stores today but those that had been cultivated by a careful gardener. Only a careful gardener understands that cucumbers will not be fit to eat if left too long on the vine. She explained that, to do so, guaranteed big seeds and a tough, tasteless vegetable.
I was surprised at the extent she went through to process those sweet pickles. It took several days of soaking delicate cucumbers in a hot, boiling brine mixture of vinegar and sugar water. Each day she carefully tended them by adding a little vinegar, a little more sugar and then a precise mixture of pickling spices. Being a woman in my twenties at the time, the whole process seemed like a whole lot of trouble but I remember trying to focus on the image of my granddaddy enjoying every bite. Oddly, it occurred to me that our salvation is a lot like the pickling process. God is like the careful gardener, picking us at just the right time. Many people say, “I’m a pickle” but have never been plunged into the hot boiling brine mixture. They may argue saying something like, “Yes, when I was plunged in that hot liquid, I fully absorbed its salty and sweet attributes.” Maybe you were “dipped” but you came out, well, still just a plain ole cucumber. I hope not.
I recall John the Baptist saying, “I baptize with water but there will be one after me (Jesus, the Lamb of God) that will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” We must ask ourselves then, have we each been “baptized” by the Holy Spirit? Many will say, “I know I’m saved because I’ve been baptized (by water).” Some will say, “I know I’m saved because a long time ago, I prayed a scripted “salvation prayer.” These responses always make me cringe. Do we really think Almighty God, our Holy, Wonderful, All-knowing God, can be mocked or fooled into saving us without a spiritual and physical transformation?
The reality is, if we are a child of God we are (and have been) buried with Christ through baptism into death (our brine) in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we TOO may live a new life (i.e. become a pickle). You see, baptism is simply put, a term used to describe a process of moving from one positional state to another. This morning as I was studying, I came across a Greek poet by the name of Nicander. In 200 B.C, he wrote down a pickling recipe and described the Greek word for baptize as being two different words with two different meanings. I think of words like “right” and “write.” These are homonyms; they sound the same but have different meanings all together. Nicander explained in his pickling recipe that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be “dipped/bapto” into boiling water and then “baptized/baptizo” in the vinegar solution. The first action is temporary. The second, however, that act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change – a new man (or veggie 🙂 ). When used in the New Testament, this word “Baptizo” more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. Mark 16:16 says, “He that believes/trusts and is “baptized” (changed into a pickle), shall be saved.” I added the “pickle part” for effect. 🙂
Don’t you see, if you claim to be a Christian because you have been dipped into water but have not been changed through and through; broken over your sin, repentant while producing new and good fruit that is eternal – then you have not been saved, beloved. You are still, just a cucumber. If, however, you have been “baptized” (infiltrated by the Holy Spirit, through and through), thereby able to produce good fruit that lasts eternally, then you can have assurance of your salvation. Sadly, for many – saying a prayer has given them a false sense of security. Being baptized into water has also given them a false sense of security. Have you been immersed (and are you BEING immersed continuously) into the true baptism of Christ? Are you dying to the passions and lusts of this world that lead to destruction and thereby, living a life for the glory of God?
What must you do to become a Christian? Believe the Word of God, Beloved, that says, we are sinners in need of a savior – Jesus Christ; while also never, ever forgetting our true depravity without Him. When you seek and cry out to God with all your heart, – you will find Him. I do not know whether you are truly saved nor does your pastor, your friend or the well-meaning person that “led” you in that one “salvation” prayer. There is only one way we can know for certain. According to Jesus, “You will know them by their fruit” (For their fruit will be eternal – paraphrased from John 15). Let me ask you,
Are YOU a Pickle or Are YOU a Cucumber?