There’s a lot of different kinds of soap.
Irish spring soap.
Soap in the shape of little flowers.
Soap in the shape of cartoon characters.
Soap that’s big and manly (and smells of rich mahogany).
Over our sermon series, we’ve discussed the spiritual mess of sin. We talked about what it is, where it comes from and how serious it is. Today we want to talk about how to clean it -- what kind of spiritual soap should we use. Before we do that, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Wrong Kind of Soap
The Scripture for today is from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet who lived 700 years before Jesus. He wrote this down at a time when the people of Israel had made a mess of their spiritual relationship with God. They had sinned by disobeying God. It had come from their hearts. They were in danger of spiritual death as a result of it.
But Israel wasn’t unaware of it. In fact, they had been taking actions to clean up their acts.
They had been attending worship.
They had been offering sacrifices.
They had been bringing offerings.
They did this in order to clean up their sinful mess.
But was it working?
Look at God’s response through the Prophet Isaiah:
11 “The multitude of your sacrifices--
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Old Testament worship was very different from our worship of today.
Instead of bringing your offering in your wallet, purse, or iPhone, you’d bring it on a leash.
Instead of this pleasant altar with clean linens pressed upon it, there was a blood-stained altar with pieces of animal flesh hanging off the edges.
Instead of the beautiful music of organ or guitar, there was the loud, pained bleating of dying goats.
Instead of the nice smell of floral arrangements and morning coffee, there was the smell of burning and rotten corpses.
The reason the Israelites worshipped like this was that God had commanded it. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, you can still read about how God commanded that his people worship by offering sacrifices. The reason he did this was to impress upon his people the harsh reality that the wages of sin was death. (Because blood equals death.)
So, the Israelites sacrificed.
They sacrificed and assumed that the animal sacrifice would clean up their sins.
They were wrong.
Sin cannot be cleaned by ANIMAL SACRIFICES
And maybe you’re thinking “duh”. But remember this was the Old Testament version of worship. This is what they were used to. It was the way that they worshipped. In fact, I wonder if the Israelites might have thought that Isaiah was just telling them they had bad form!
Should the altar be relocated to the front right?
Is that the wrong kind of knife for the job?
Maybe we should be using penguins instead of lambs?
But the problem wasn’t the type of worship. It was that they thought their worship could clean them from sin.
Look at what God says next:
When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? (v.12) Can you believe that? God’s calling all the people coming to worship tramplers. As if he’s shaking his fist and shouting: “Get off my lawn!”
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! (v.13a) Whether the offering was an animal or some money or their latest supply of corn. It was meaningless. Even if they brought the best crop of corn they have ever grown: NC State Fair, best in show, blue ribbon corn – that corn couldn’t remove sin.
Your incense is detestable to me. (v.13b) It doesn’t smell like the sweet aroma of calamus and lily of the valley, but it still smells like the greed in your heart from work yesterday.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-- These were special ceremonies. Special gatherings. Extra ceremonies and extra gatherings. The Israelites would come to worship on more than just one day a week.
Yet, God says: I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (v.13c-14)
Did you hear that?
God is calling all these extra religious festivals and extra religious activities, a burden.
As if God looks at his watch on a Sabbath and says “Aw man! There’s worship in 5 minutes? Ugh. Not again…”
Is this a strange section of Scripture?
Why is God upset with their worship?
Why was he upset with this religious activity?
Check out verse 15:
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!
A helpful note:
The Old Testament stance for prayer was to spread your legs apart, to raise your hands above your head, and open your hands towards God. The message this stance conveyed was “Dear God, hear my prayer.”
God said he wasn’t looking.
God said he wasn’t listening.
God said he wasn’t looking or listening because when they reached their hands up towards his heavenly throne, their hands were a mess.
They were filled with blood.
And he’s not talking about animal blood.
He’s talking about sin.
Sin cannot be cleaned by RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY.
It didn’t work for Old Testament Israel.
It doesn’t work for us.
If you think that your attendance today will wash away your sin…
If you think that the angle at which you bow your head for prayer will clean your soul…
If you think that the decibel at which you sing the upcoming hymns will knock lose sin from your heart…
If you think that because you do a certain kind of worship that kind of worship is designated to clean sin unlike any other kind of worship…
If you think that the offering you put in the plate will pay for your guilt….
If you think that the talent you display in serving will distract God from your shame…
If you think that the time you put in at 1100 Newton Road will counterbalance the time you put it sinning…
God still sees the greed all over your hands.
God still hears the words that you let out against your spouse.
God still sees the fingers that typed away to the latest porn site.
God still sees the finger that shot up in rage at your coworker.
Religious activity cannot wash away sin.
What then do we need to do?
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (v.16-17)
Instead of worrying about the cleanliness of your Sunday clothing; worry about the cleanliness of your heart.
Instead of taking a coin out of your pocket; take sin out of your life.
Instead of doing worship; just do good.
Figure out some way to remove all the guilt that you’ve amassed in your life up to this point.
Then, you’ll be clean.
Does this message from God leave anyone else in a panic?
This sounds impossible.
Because it is.
Here’s the truth:
Sin cannot be cleaned by YOU.
This is the truth God was impressing on the Israelites: They were worshiping with the idea that their worship would remove their sin.
This is the truth God is impressing on you. If you are worshiping God with the idea that YOU worshiping will remove your sins, you’re wrong.
In fact, if you are trusting that your worship is the key to your forgiveness.
It’s not only wrong.
II. The Right Kind of Soap
Then, what is the right kind of spiritual soap?
Check out what God says next: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (v.18)
Did you see it? This is the part of the Scripture where God tells us how to clean our heart.
Don’t miss it.
It’s extremely important.
What does God tell us to do.
He doesn’t tell us to do anything to clean our sins, because there isn’t anything we can do to clean our sins.
But he still says our sins will be clean.
Because of him.
Sin is cleaned by OUR LORD.
It’s only fall, but briefly. Let’s talk about snow. The first snowfall is so very beautiful. The crisp, white flakes cover up everything in a nice, pristine blanket of white. In fact, if you look outside after a fresh snow fall you can’t see anything but snow.
Gone is the muddy area where grass wasn’t growing out back.
Gone is the pile of leaves that your kids forgot to clean up.
Gone are the piles of yuck that your dogs left behind.
Gone is the garbage.
Gone is the trash.
Gone is the oil spill from your nephew’s car.
All the gross is gone. Covered up by the clean snow.
That’s what God does to your sins.
They are covered.
White as snow.
Imagine you had a pair of wool socks. And as you wore those socks, tripped on a rock. In fact, you hit that rock so hard that you opened up the skin on your toe. It bled. Suddenly, your socks became crimson, the color of blood.
Blood is a tough stain to get out. It’s deep. It’s red. It’s obvious. You can’t hide it very well at all and you might not ever be able to get it out. Unless… you use the right kind of detergent. The right kind of bleach can do the miraculous. It can remove the blood red stain and leave behind nothing but wool.
As if the stain never existed.
That’s what God does to your sins.
They have been removed.
White as wool.
How does God cleanse us from the stain of sin?
Is it some divine form of bleach?
Does it involve a long soak in holy water?
Does he just use a bunch of holy elbow grease?
Take a look at Hebrews 11. It’s a New Testament book written after Jesus that makes a connection to Old Testament worship. It says:
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ…cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death. (v.13-14)
Do you get it?
In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices never cleansed anyone’s sin.
But these sacrifices foreshadowed a sacrifice that would.
TRUTH: Sin is cleansed by JESUS’ BLOOD.
Jesus lived perfectly.
Jesus died innocently.
Jesus rose triumphantly.
As a result, the blood of Christ cleanses you from all acts that lead to death. (aka: sin)
Because of Jesus’ divine blood, the blood of sin on your hands has been removed.
Your heart is clean.
Your heart is pure.
Your heart is spotless because of the blood of the eternal lamb, Jesus Christ.
Of course, God need to connect us to this washing. And we can’t have a sermon on washing our souls clean without commenting on one very powerful way he connects us to the cleaning power of Jesus’ blood:
TRUTH: Sin is cleansed THROUGH BAPTISM.
Titus 3:5, “We were saved not because of the righteous things that we have done, but because of the washing with water through the Word.”
Baptism doesn’t look as impressive as the slaughtering of many sacrificial animals.
It’s just a little bit of water.
It’s just poured upon a head.
It looks like a regular old bath.
But it’s so much more.
Titus 3:5, ”we were saved not because of the righteous things that we have done, but because of the washing with water through the Word.”
That is baptism.
Baptism that washes.
It washes away our sins as it connects us to the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.
III. What Now?
(1) Worship because you’ve been cleaned
Notice how that is phrased. It doesn’t say, “Worship in order to be clean,” but, “worship because you are clean.”
And you have been cleaned by Jesus’ Christ.
It’d be like if you had a party and the party left a big mess. Streamers everywhere. Drink glasses throughout. Birthday cake sprinkles all over the kitchen floor. Wrapping paper in the living room. And a spot of spit up from your young niece on the couch cushion.
And you lay down for a quick nap in order to get some energy to clean.
But when you wake up, it’s all done. Mom did it while you were sleeping. Everything’s clean: dusted, vacuumed, and picked up.
How do you react to that? With thanks!
It’s the same with Jesus.
We worship out of thanks for his forgiveness.
We worship out of thanks for the clean he left in our heart.
We worship out of thanks for the purity that he brought into our souls.
(2) Cherish Baptism
Baptism is one of the incredible ways God connects us to the powerful washing of his blood. So, we cherish it!
If you haven’t been baptized, cherish it – and be baptized.
If you have been baptized, cherish it – and thank God for your baptism.
Rather than an Old Testament sacrifice.
Baptism connects us to Jesus’ sacrifice.
Rather than something we do daily.
Baptism connects us to something Jesus did once.
Rather than something we hope might work.
Baptism connects us to Jesus’ death that worked completely.
Rather than leave you with bloody hands and a sinful heart.
Baptism leaves you with a wet head and a heart cleaned by your Savior.
So…You are clean.
We’re finishing up the sermon series all about the messiness of sin.
And maybe by the end of it you thought:
“Man, my sin has really made a mess.”
“My life’s a mess.”
“I’m a mess.”
If so, hear the message of today one last time:
Jesus cleans messes.
Jesus cleans your mess.
He doesn’t call you “Mess,” but, “clean.”
We are in the middle of our sermon series on Acts. In this series we have been to a lot of different places and learned a different lesson in each place. Today we’re getting a potpourri of lessons from one place and all on hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy comes from the Greek word “hypokrusis.” The word was used in Greek theater. It meant: “to play a part,” which, in Greek theater, often meant “wearing a mask.” It’s a part of theater still today – specifically known as the Marvel Big Screen.
Chris Evans dons a mask and becomes Captain America.
Chadwick Boseman dons a mask and becomes Black Panther.
Evangeline Lilly dons a mask and becomes The Wasp.
Hypocrisy, then, is when someone claims to be one thing, when they are not.
Before we begin our study of hypocrisy, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. One Kind of Hypocrisy
The lesson from Acts 19 is the first big stop on Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. (19:1a) Ephesus was the Capital of the Ancient province of Asia and a bustling commercial center. Paul had briefly been there at the end of the 2nd missionary journey. Before he left, he promised to return if God allowed. Paul’s appearance in chapter 19 is a fulfillment of that promise.
When Paul arrives, he finds some disciples. (v.1b) These men claimed to be followers of the Christ. Paul greets them pleasantly. (Maybe with some high fives, jokes about not having rocks thrown at him, and an invitation to go grab lunch at the local Smashburger).
As they are hanging out, Paul asks them some conversational questions:
What’s your favorite worship song?
What do you do to serve at the church?
Do you like your coffee dark or light roast?
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (v.2)
The Holy Spirit is absolutely in the heart of all believers. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” It’s simple. It’s clear. If you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit, because you need the Holy Spirit in order to believe.
But what Paul is talking about here is something different. Early in the history of the Christian church, during key faith-filled events, the Holy Spirit would visibly manifest his presence within a group of believers. This would serve to prove the truthfulness of the Gospel through miraculous signs. It happened at Pentecost (Acts 2) when tongues of fire appeared on the Apostles’ heads as they spoke in languages that they had never learned. It happened again in the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). In both instances, God was making it clear that this faith – and the message that this faith was placed in – was a very real and very divine message.
Paul’s question was about whether that had happened with them.
Did you get to speak in tongues?
Did fire appear on your heads?
Did you open your mouth and rainbows started shooting out?
The answer was a bit surprising:
“We hadn’t heard there was a Holy Spirit…” (v.3)
Paul responded, “Wait. What!?! You don’t know the Holy Spirit? He’s a key part of our teachings. He’s the one who brings us to faith. He’s the one who came down on Jesus like a dove. And Baptism! Haven’t you been baptized? Into whose name were you baptized? Because as far as I know…believers are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HOLY SPIRIT.”
The men responded, “We were baptized into John’s Baptism, into the name of the Christ who is going to come in the future.”
“OK… The Christ. Good. Did you know he has already come? Did you know he already did his Christ work? Did you know his name?”
And the men looked on at another, shrugged, and replied, “I don’t know…maybe…Bob?”
Divine forehead slap.
Here’s the truth: Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
It’s like the time I was at Buffalo Wild Wings and a lady near me was decked out in Tarheel gear as she watched them battle on the football field. A while later, the Tarheels had their quarterback sacked in the end zone. The woman stood up, clapped, and shouted, “Great job! Way to go.”
Until, her friends (also in Tarheel gear) motioned for her to sit down: “Stop cheering. That was a safety. That means its two points for the other team.”
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
Yes, I’m a believer in Jesus…and I believe you can sleep with whomever you want. Does the Bible say differently?
Yes, my social profile says: “Christian”; I like all kinds of quotes from the Bible. Also quotes from the KKK. Is there something wrong?
Yes, I’m a Christian. I’ve been my whole life. But what do you mean when you are talking about salvation by grace? Never heard of it? I thought I’d get to heaven, simply because I was good enough….
Before you say, “But if someone doesn’t know, it’s no big deal.”
Remember that ignorant hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.
It’s still wrong.
If your son winds up and punches your little daughter in the face, you don’t say, “It’s ok. He didn’t know. Let him be.” No! You course correct immediately!
In the same way, it’s still wrong when we say we are followers of Jesus, but then do the opposite of followers of Jesus, even if we simply didn’t know followers of Jesus don’t do that.
There’s a simple cure for this kind of hypocrisy. It’s called knowledge. That’s what Paul gave these men. He said to them in verse 4, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Jesus is the Christ.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins. I saw it with my own eyes!
And the group believes.
They are baptized into Jesus’ name.
And that Holy Spirit that they didn’t know about? He makes himself visibly known. They began to speak in tongues, and they prophesied. (v.6) Visual proof of the invisible truth that their faith in Jesus wasn’t fake; it was real.
The same is true for you. Repent of your any hypocrisy of ignorance.
To do that, look at the truth.
The truth may be that what you’ve been doing is sin.
But the truth also is that you have a Savior.
And in Jesus, you are forgiven.
II. Another Kind of Hypocrisy
But not all hypocrisy is caused by ignorance.
Next Paul entered the synagogue, a place where they studied God’s Word.
He went and spoke boldly there for three months. (v.9a)
You would expect this to produce real believers.
These people wore religious jewelry.
They went to worship.
They knew lots of the Bible.
They knew all the words to all their favorite religious songs.
They knew prayers.
They knew religious logos.
They knew God’s Word.
And yet…when Paul was done speaking…
Some of them were obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. (v.9b)
And think about the hypocrisy of it all:
They studied God’s Word.
They knew God’s Word.
Then, they refused to believe God’s Word.
And even openly mocked God’s Word.
Only to sit around congratulating each other for following that Word that they were mocking.
It’s would be like sitting in the Fellowship Hall after worship and gossiping about another believer not being a very good believer and then congratulating yourselves on being such good believers even though you’re doing things that believers aren’t supposed to do.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance; but sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
In fact, the Greek word there means “hardened.” Tough, rough, impenetrable.
Like a rock. There’s nothing getting through the exterior into the heart of the rock. Try it. You can punch the rock. You can hit the rock with a blow dart. You could try karate chopping the rock. Nothing. Even if you took a hammer to it - that rock isn’t splitting.
The same can happen with people’s hearts.
Even the hearts of long-time Christians.
I know racism is wrong. God is for all people. You should go tell it to those people over there. They’re the racist ones. In fact, that’s how all people like them are!
I know it says that sex outside of marriage is wrong. And I haven’t had it! Look at my purity ring! Now excuse me…the adult film. I uploaded on my iPhone is coming after it’s done buffering.
I know it! Pride is wrong. Preach it pastor! Especially at that guy over there. But don’t you preach it at humble me. There’s nobody humbler than I am.
And God’s Word connects with the heart.
And the heart hardens.
And hypocrisy ensues.
If you are a long-time church goer, take extra warning!
Don’t harden your heart to God’s Word.
And then sit around congratulating yourself for following God’s Word.
Instead of hardening your heart, look at God’s heart.
Because God’s heart was not hard.
His heart was filled with compassion.
His heart was filled with love for you…even when you repeatedly hardened your heart against him.
His heart was not hardened like a rock.
When he hung on that cross…
The soldiers reached up with a spear.
They plunged it into his him.
But softened with love for you.
Even now. Even if you’ve hardened your heart before, listen to his heart for you.
Repent of your hypocrisy.
And do it quickly.
III. All Kinds of Hypocrisy
As Paul continued his ministry, God continued to bless Paul. In fact, look at the amazing things that God did through Paul: Even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them. (v.12)
That’s amazing! Paul’s handkerchiefs cured from the flu and his aprons drove out evil spirits. But look at what happened, “Seven sons of Sceva (Which…Listen to the name. It sounds shady. Almost like an evil muppet or something) they went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (v.12-13)
To be fair, this doesn’t look hypocritical.
It looks like they are trying to help.
They aren’t ignorant of Jesus’ name. They use it.
They aren’t obstinately opposed to Jesus. God is against demons, too.
Yet, look at what happened.
One day an evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (v.15)
Do you see the problem?
But God could.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for Jesus.
But out of love for power.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for others.
But out of love for themselves.
They were hypocrites.
Good ones too! It was hard to tell that they were doing anything wrong.
But here’s the truth:
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
But hypocrisy is always exposed.
A family member finds out.
A pastor discovers the truth.
Your spouse learns about what you were trying to hide.
Always hypocrisy is exposed.
Even if you successfully hide it from all other human beings, God knows.
God knows and he will expose it.
At the end of time, you won’t be able to hide it.
And he won’t be able to hide his displeasure.
He’ll simply say:
Jesus, I know…
And Paul I know…
Who are you?
IV. What Now?
Therefore, God calls us to repent.
To turn from hypocrisy.
To turn to our Savior.
And the way to do that is to:
(1). Switch Your Mask
We said that hypocrisy is putting on a mask. Covering up our sins with a nice looking, “Christian” façade.
Make me think of Halloween. That’s a time for masks. There’s a wide variety of them at Precious Lambs. I remember there was one kid who made his own mask. It was made of string and paper. The paper covered up…one of his eyebrows. He said: “You don’t know who I am.” And I said: “Uh-huh.”
Hypocrisy? That’s like hiding behind the paper eyebrow mask.
We think it hides our sinfulness from God.
Instead, check out Galatians 3:27
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Just like a full-fledged mask, it fully and completely covers up all your sins.
Jesus covers up your obstinance.
Jesus covers up your ignorance.
Jesus covers up your sin so much so that when God looks at you, He only sees – His child.
So much so that God calls us to our second WHAT NOW:
(2). Go Public
Look at the reaction of the people to what had occurred. Many who believed came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. (v.18)
Think about that: Believers gathered in the middle of the city with their arms filled of books that they had been storing in their homes. Books that weren’t about the Bible. Books that were about Satan, witchcraft, and sexual immorality.
It’d be like someone coming to the front of church and making a pile of a raunchy racist DVDs, two illegal drug baggies, and an iPhone loaded with pornographic content.
That’s take courage to do in front of everyone, right?
But they had the courage.
Because they were covered in Christ’s righteousness.
Because they knew they were God’s children.
Because they knew God’s children were serious about getting rid of sin.
Because they knew God’s other children wouldn’t ridicule them, but support them.
They went public with it.
Do the same.
Examine your heart.
Find your hypocrisy
And Go public with it.
Go public with a friend, a pastor, or a family member!
And if someone trusts you enough to publicly confess a secret sin to you, don’t say:
“Just a second while I share what you did on social media.”
Share the Gospel.
Remind them of Christ’s mask.
Help them incinerate whatever it is they are struggling with!
Because in that, God’s Word is spread.
In fact, look at the last verse:
In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely. (v.20)
Because when God’s Word gets us to stop being hypocrites and start being real, then God’s Word really spreads.
If we’re real -- real with God and real with each other -- then the community will notice.
Last week we looked at the beginning of the second missionary journey. The purpose of the journey was to:
There were plenty of mission fields to choose from! The Gospel had its origins in Judea, a smaller country with a land area of a couple hundred square miles. Since the rest of the world was untouched by the Gospel, there was a lot more of the world that needed to hear about the Savior.
As a result, you might expect the mission team to head out to some largely populated area as quickly as possible to share the Gospel with the most amount of people.
That would make the most sense because it would be the easiest way for Paul to “pad his stats.”
Have you ever heard that phrase? It’s a sports term. Sometimes you need to “pad your stats” in sports, because stats (or statistics) are key. They have been around since baseball cards started including them on the back of a player’s card. (Think about it: You don’t want to be that one guy with the .067% batting average. They can flip the card, look at your face and forever associate you with “not being that good at baseball.”)
Good stats, on the other hand, might increase the value of your card. It could improve your legacy. You might even get a reward. Stats are the reason that players sometimes stay in a game – even when their team is winning by a lot – to get a couple more hits and “pad their stats.”
If there was an apostolic version of baseball cards, you might expect Paul to “pad his stats.” He had a good run in his first season as missionary. In his second? It’d be an opportunity to bring his total number of people evangelized to the tens of thousands, to double the number of churches he started, and to better his average of “conversions” to “sermons preached.”
In today’s lesson God does the opposite. He guides the missionary team far away from the logical next steps in mission work, far away from what made them comfortable, and far away from what would have “padded Paul’s stats.”
Why? We’ll investigate God’s Word for the answer. Before we do, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
Acts 16 says this: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” (Acts 16:6-8)
A little bit of geography:
Phrygia and Galatia are to the north of Judea. They region starts to curve around the Mediterranean Sea to the east. This is essentially the route of the first missionary journey. In fact, Galatia is the name for the whole region of churches from that first missionary journey. It’s also the reason that Paul’s letter to these churches is called “Galatians.”
Paul and his missionary team went there to deliver the message from the Jerusalem council that “Grace meant grace.”
But then, they tried to head to the west to the province of Asia. There’s a lot of people in Asia. Some of the largest populations in the world are in Asia: China, India, Russia, even Bangladesh. While these countries wouldn’t have been as populated back then, there were still plenty of people in Asia who needed to hear about Jesus.
This seems like a logical next choice for mission work.
But they were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. (v.6)
Now, Scripture doesn’t tell us how this happened.
An invisible force field?
Roads that were shut down?
A donkey that got sick?
Scripture doesn’t say.
But somehow, they concluded that they couldn’t go to Asia at this time.
So, they tried to go north. They came to the border of Mysia and tried to enter Bithynia… (v.7a) Bithynia is modern-day Turkey, a gateway into the northern kingdoms of modern-day Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. Again, there were plenty of people who need to hear about Jesus up there and it was a logical next step: just head north and BAM – you’re there!
But The spirit of Jesus would not allow them to… (v.7b)
And again, there’s no indication of how this happened:
A sinkhole in the road?
Timothy got the flu?
Soldiers force them to turn around?
Or maybe the Holy Spirit simply says: “Nope.”
They can’t go west.
They can’t go north.
They came from the south.
They go east and went down to Troas. (v.8)
I imagine Paul was a bit confused:
Isn’t the Gospel for all people?
Aren’t there thousands of people to the West?
Aren’t there thousands of people to the North?
O Lord, why do you keep blocking our route?
As they settled down that evening, God gives them an answer:
…Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (v.9)
I don’t know how Paul knew he was Macedonian. (I’m unsure that I’m that familiar with genealogical and racial features enough to pinpoint someone from Macedonia just by viewing them)
Maybe he was waving a Macedonian flag.
Or eating Macedonian food.
Or maybe he had on one of those t-shirts with the outline of Macedonia on it and the phrase: “Home.”
However, it happens, Paul immediately shared the news with his friends: “Guys, I know what God wants us to do! I saw a man…a Macedonian man. He asked us to come to Macedonia. He pleaded with us. So…get up! Pack up. He needs our help. They need the Gospel of Jesus now!”
The next morning, they do just that.
They head to the local harbor.
They obtain a ride on the boat across the Mediterranean.
It’s a couple days journey until they get to Neapolis.
From there they head to a leading city of Macedonia, Philippi.
And Paul might have been thinking:
This is great. God must have big plans.
If he had us travel 500 miles from our last stop in Phrygia, there must be a large amount of people he wants us to preach to.
If he had us jump on a ship, risk a shipwreck, and possibly get seasick, there must be crowds awaiting us.
If he is having us enter a Roman colony, with the danger of Roman soldiers and racism against Jews like us, there must be a second Pentecost awaiting us!
When they get there…
There’s no Jewish synagogue to go preach at.
There’s barely any Jews in the city at all.
The whole atmosphere is foreign, confusing, and difficult.
The missionaries are there for a few days without the Bible recording anything of substance.
Finally, they go outside the city gate to the river. (v.13)
Away from the population.
Away from the confusion.
As they are praying, a group of women comes to the river.
Most likely, they’re bringing their laundry to the river to do some wash.
And as they are washing their clothes…
…Paul can’t help himself.
Nice water, huh? Water…It’s important. But I know of something called “Living Water.”
I see you’re cleaning your clothing. But what have you done lately to cleanse your soul?
Look out that you don’t trip on a rock. Speaking of rocks – Jesus is my Rock. Is he yours?
And most of the women?
They don’t listen.
Just an annoyed smirk and a “Just let me do my laundry, weird religious dude.”
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia….
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. (v.14)
The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Lydia.
The Greek text of the Bible literally says that she was a purple dealer. A purple dealer wasn’t someone who passed out Crayola crayons. Her job was to dye clothing the color purple. It was a fine business to be in, because purple clothing was quite expensive. In fact, wearing purple was a sign of being rich. It was a status symbol (like wearing a Gucci dress with a Coach handbag or dressing in an Armani Suit with a pair of Air Jordan’s on your feet).
We don’t know much else about Lydia.
She was a person.
A sinful person.
And just like any sinful person, she had reason for a Savior.
Maybe she’d gotten a good portion of her wealth in less than upright ways.
Maybe she’d spent so much time pursuing riches that her life felt void and empty.
Maybe she’d gone through a recent divorce with her husband; kept the money…and a lot of shame.
Maybe her visit to Philippi left her on the fringes of society, a refugee, alone.
Maybe she knew that the purple clothing she sold was only a façade; that could not cover the guilt upon her soul.
But when she heard about Jesus.
She heard about forgiveness for all her less than upright ways.
She heard about how Jesus brings eternal riches that will never leave you void or empty.
She heard about how Jesus’ death repaired her relationship with God and removed all her guilt and shame.
She heard about how Jesus rose from the dead and promised to be with his disciples so that they are never alone.
She heard about how Jesus’ gives us a robe, even more gorgeous than a robe of purple.
About how Jesus gave a robe of righteousness to completely cover her sins!
Lydia heard all of this.
II. Notes about the Eternal Importance of One
That’s the point of this whole story.
It’s the point of the 500-some mile journey.
It’s the point of the trip on the ship.
It’s the point of the foreign Roman colony.
It’s the point of the trip to the river.
The point was getting the Gospel message to Lydia.
And this wasn’t Paul’s plan.
It was God’s.
Think about how God goes out of his way to save Lydia:
He came out of heaven…for Lydia.
He lived on earth…for Lydia
He died on the cross…for Lydia.
He rose from the dead…for Lydia.
Then, God guided Paul.
Blocked some paths.
Got him to Philippi.
Got her to Philippi.
So that there is a seemingly chance encounter at the river which leads to the eternal salvation of her soul.
God did this because God placed eternal importance on one person, Lydia.
And…God has also placed eternal importance on YOU.
(1) See the Eternal Importance of You
Have you ever received a canned email from a company about how special you are?
I got one of those from Netflix recently.
I quit the subscription and they sent me a message that said they “loved having me as a customer” and they “hated to see me, Philip Kiecker, go.”
So…I signed up again.
Because they cared about me so deeply.
A while later, I was having trouble connecting, so I used the help app for Netflix to try and connect with a customer service representative and the representative texted me:
“Hi! How can I help?”
“I can’t get my Netflix connection to work.”
“Happy to help. Please provide your full name.”
I thought: “That’s odd. I thought they loved me as a customer and hated to see me go, but…”
I gave them my name.
Then, they said: “I’m sorry. There’s an outage. There’s nothing we can do to help, Fred.”
I thought they cared!
Maybe you feel that way about God.
Maybe you’ve been tempted to believe that God doesn’t care.
That you aren’t important.
That you are forgotten.
God went out of his way to save YOU.
He came out of heaven…for YOU.
He lived on earth…for YOU
He died on the cross…for YOU.
He rose from the dead…for YOU.
And God arranged events in your life to bring you to saving faith.
Maybe he had your mom bring you along, kicking and screaming to church, since you’ve been 4 years old.
Maybe he had a friend invite you to worship, invite you again, invite you, invite you, invite you and invite you some more.
Maybe you had a chance encounter with a stranger at our modern-day version of the Philippian River –the local laundromat.
Somehow God brought saving faith to you.
Because you were eternally important to him.
And if you aren’t a believer yet, understand this:
God has arranged events in your life to bring you to this message right here.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus rose for you.
Jesus is your Savior.
(2) See the Eternal Importance of Others
Because Lydia didn’t stop with herself. Look at what happens next: She and the members of her household were baptized. (v.15a)
It isn’t likely that all her household was already down at that river doing laundry.
And yet – the baptism appears to have happened in the river, because it takes place before “She invited [the missionaries] to her home.” (v.15b)
That means Lydia must have went back home:
Told her family about Jesus.
Told her kids.
Any servants that might have been working at her purple factory!
Then, she led them all back to Paul.
Paul told them about Jesus.
And they were all baptized into his name.
Why did Lydia do this?
Because she saw the eternal value of her family.
She saw them as eternal souls in need of a Savior.
Just as God did.
Just as God wants us to do.
Mr. Rogers used to have a song that he sung on occasion: “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” The song goes on to identify common 1980s neighbors – the mailman, the police officer, and the fire fighter.
That was in the eighties. It might be fun to hear an update:
Who are the people in your 2019 neighborhood?
The Whole Foods clerk.
The Starbucks barista.
The Uber driver.
The Amazon Delivery woman.
Even…the Google fiber installation crew. (They’re in everybody’s neighborhood…all the time.)
But these are more than just people in your neighborhood.
They are eternal souls in need of their Savior.
The mailman? An eternal soul in need of the Savior.
The police officer? An eternal soul in need of the Savior.
The fire fighter? An eternal soul in need of the Savior.
The Whole Foods clerk? An eternal soul in need of the Savior.
The Starbucks barista? An eternal soul in need of the Savior.
The Uber drive, the Amazon Delivery woman and the Google fiber installation crew…. Eternal souls in need of the Savior.
That’s what they are.
And you, as a believer in Jesus, have what they need.
See the eternal importance of others.
(3) See the Eternal Importance of Your Part in Kingdom Work
After Lydia’s household is baptized into Christ’s family, she doesn’t just bid adieu to the missionaries and go back to who everyday life.
She invited the missionaries to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” (v.16)
She realized that God’s work wasn’t done in Philippi.
She figured that they would need a place to stay as they shared the Gospel in Philippi.
She might not have been an eloquent speaker like them, but she wanted to partake in the ministry in whatever way she could.
She saw the eternal importance of her part in kingdom work and she served…
The same is true here.
We have a big mission: To Plant the Message of Jesus in the Heart of North Raleigh (and Beyond).
That’s a lot of people.
In the triangle, that’s close to 2 million people.
We can’t do it alone.
So, we do it together.
Together with Jesus.
Let me tell you the story of Priscilla.
Priscilla had a child in need of childcare.
Priscilla searched online for a Childcare Center.
Priscilla found an ad that some of you developed.
Priscilla found an ad that your offerings helped support.
Priscilla visited Precious Lambs where some of you spend all kinds of time planning for, decorating, and building.
Priscilla enrolled her child in Precious Lambs where some of you taught her child about Jesus.
Priscilla brought her child for worship where some of you greeted her, made friends with her, high fived her.
Priscilla now knows about her Savior.
Priscilla now knows about his love for her.
Priscilla now knows about his love for her – because God works through all of you to make that happen.
That’s the eternal importance of one.
May God guide us to see our eternal importance as we are motivated to see the eternal importance of others. Amen.
What’s on your NEED-TO-DO List?
A NEED-TO-DO list are things that you need to get done in 2018. Maybe it’s things you’ve always wanted to do; things that fit into your goals; things that the internet tells you that you need to do.
What are they?
Do you need to lose weight?
Do you need to join a gym?
Do you need to join a gym and use that gym?
Do you need to get a degree?
Make more money?
Find the right guy or gal?
Maybe your NEED-TO-DO List is kid focused.
Need to get them learning their ABCs.
Need to get them learning their 123s.
Need to get them memorizing the order of Vice Presidents of the U.S. – because, “How can they get a job if they don’t have that memorized?”
Need to get them in karate.
Need to get them in ballet.
Need to get them playing basketball, knitting and making sorbet.
Question: How many of you have “get baptized” on your NEED-TO-DO List?
Or “get your kid baptized?”
Or, if you’ve been baptized, “reflect on your baptism daily?”
Today is a day all about Baptism. Our goal is to see that Baptism NEEDS to be a priority. We’re going to examine Scripture and see why it’s so important. Before we do so, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why is Baptism so Important?
There are a lot of places in the Bible that discuss the importance of Baptism. We are going to dig deeply into one section in 1 Peter 3. A bit of background: 1 Peter is the first letter written by (wait for it) Peter. Hence the name: 1st Peter. He writes the letter to Christians spread throughout the 1st century world and (since his words have been saved for us in 2018) he writes his letter to us.
In chapter 3 Peter directs Christians to do good even when suffering for it. Because (1) it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (2) suffering for doing good will always bring good.
Example? Jesus. Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (v.18-19) He suffered. He suffered on the cross. He did that because he wanted to bring you to God. That’s exactly what Jesus is accomplished! He rose and brought you and I back to peace with God.
…Before Jesus came back to life and brought this good news to us, he made another stop:
It’s thousands of years before Jesus.
The earth is filled with violence. Hundreds of thousands (if not million) of people – all filled with violence.
They beat each other up for money. They attack one another for food. They pillage; they rape; and they want absolutely nothing to do with good and even less to do with God.
Noah isn’t violent.
Noah fears God.
Noah loves God.
Noah worships God.
Noah and his family of 8 make up the entire church at this time. They are the only God worshippers in whole world. Talk about a minority -- Their belief system encompasses less than .000001% of the world’s population.
But Noah isn’t alone.
Noah’s heart skips a beat. Have they come to kill him?
Noah cleans out his ears. “Who was that?” It sounds like it is coming from above.
Noah, this is God.
I have a task for you.
Build an ark – it’s like an ancient wooden ocean-liner in the shape of a rectangle.
Build the ark.
Built it by yourself.
Build it here in the desert.
In 40 years, I will send a flood that covers the whole earth and destroys this sinful, violent, godless generation.
Noah gets up from the ground.
Takes a deep breath.
And gets to work.
He chops trees.
He saws wood.
He hammers nails.
He and his family get to work on the construction of the ocean-liner like contraption in the middle of the desert.
But it isn’t without some suffering:
You idiot! What are you doing wasting your time on this project?
Hey weatherman, what’s the chance of rain today? Is there No-ah chance?
Hey Noah! When you’re done, come talk with me. I could use a 450 boat to cruise around the sand!
But Noah keeps working.
He works through the shoulder pains from hammering the nautical trusses.
He works through the pain in his thumb from the splinter he got putting the second-floor storage together.
He works through the tweaked back muscle from trying to pull the hippopotamus into the proper room.
Then, things change.
In fact, a group heads their way toward Noah for their daily routine of ridiculing that believing idiot:
“Hey Noah! You got a minute? I was about to cross the desert, but I figure I’d better be prepared in case it floods. You got time to start on an ark for me?”
And in the middle of the joke:
A drop of water.
“Wait? What was that on my face? Fred, is that you? Stop spitting when you laugh!?”
“What are you talking about? I wasn’t spitting. That didn’t come from me – in fact, I just felt it myself.”
“If you didn’t get me wet then…oh…no.”
And the rains came down.
And the rains turned into a torrential downpour.
And geysers from within the earth sprang up.
And the people start screaming.
And water starts to pile up.
And water begins to rush.
And some people are washed away.
And others tried to climb trees.
And some slip.
And finally, the last one outside looks up towards heaven. Curses God and God curses him.
Meanwhile, Noah stood near the 4th story window of his ark.
Drinking some coffee.
What’s interesting is that Peter references this account because these events are not the end of the story for those people. Because years later, After being made alive, Jesus went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (v.19)
Do you see it?
These people aren’t drowning anymore.
Now they’re burning.
And Jesus says to them,
“You all were wrong.
You should have listened.
To my warnings.
To my warnings through Noah.
To 40 years of my warnings through that the gigantic wooden structure Noah built in the middle of the desert.
Do you see Noah here?
That’s because I saved him.
I saved him through water.”
In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water. (v.20)
Saved from sin.
Saved from unbelief.
Saved from falling into the same traps that the other 99.9999% of the population was in.
And here’s where it gets good – and very relevant, this water (the water at the time of the ark) symbolizes baptism which now saves you. (v.21)
Do you see it?
Baptism is related to the flood in that it’s water.
But it’s related to the ark in that it saves.
It saves from sin.
It saves from death.
It saves from the same eternal destruction that the violent people from Noah’s time underwent and are undergoing.
Why get baptized? Same reason Noah built the ark, because in it, God saves.
And why baptize your kids? Same reason Noah told his kids about the ark, in it God saves.
II. How Does Baptism Save?
And maybe you’re thinking; Hold it! Pastor, aren’t we saved by Jesus? Isn’t it by faith on the cross? Isn’t it faith alone that saves?
Faith in Jesus saves.
Here’s why both of those are true. Look at verse 21 Baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s break it apart:
1. Not Some Outward Act
This truth might seem obvious. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. It isn’t like some poison rubbed on us and we need to wash it off quickly lest we have to call the poison control center. It isn’t like the chemistry classroom when you accidentally spill some chemicals on yourself and have use that special chem lab shower to wash it off immediately.
Baptism’s point isn’t just a physically cleaning. That’s what showers and baths are for. It’s not like we need to scrub behind our ears get all of the sin off. Nor is baptism just an outward act. It’s not just a nice ceremony where you approach the font, throw some water on a kid, and say a nice prayer for his life – never to return him to church again.
And it isn’t some magic holy water that’s so special it removes 40% more sin than regular forgiveness. That makes it worth about 210 lies, 170 lusts, and 17 brother pinches.
Baptism is not some outward act.
It’s not something we do to earn God’s love.
It’s a gift.
2. Pledge of a Good Conscience
How do we know that? Look at the next part of the verse. “Baptism saves…the pledge of a good conscience towards God.”
QUESTION: In Baptism, how does one get a good conscience?
Just really mean it when you get baptized?
Like…really, really mean it?
Does baptism get super charged the more perfect faith that you, sinful, imperfect, individual can muster?
Because if that’s how you view baptism, think about this:
What happens when you don’t feel that good about your faith anymore?
What happens when you start to doubt?
What happens when your friend tells you about his baptism and “Man, his sounded way better than mine.”
Does your baptism still count?
Did it ever count?
Do you need a do over?
The pledge of a good conscience towards God cannot come from ourselves.
The pledge of a good conscience towards God comes from God.
It comes from his promise of forgiveness.
It comes from his promise of sins washed away.
it comes from his promise that you are his child.
3. Powered by Jesus
This is important. Because God doesn’t need a Do Over. God always keeps his pledges. In fact, look at the last part. Baptism saves…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While on earth, Jesus made a different kind of pledge. He swore to die and come back to life. He said,
“Go ahead. Kill me. Nail me to a cross. Leave me to die. Watch me breath my very last. Laugh all you want as you see me die.
…3 days later…
…I will return…
…I will live.”
If Jesus’ promise remained true past death, don’t you think his promise to you will remain true in this life?
If you’ve been baptized, he made a promise to you. You are his.
If you haven’t been baptized, he is waiting to make that promise to you.
One more thing about this passage. This is where it all gets connected. Jesus and faith and baptism.
1st - -Jesus saves.
2nd –Faith saves - - when that faith is in Jesus.
3rd – Baptism saves because it works faith in that Jesus.
It works faith because it is a pledge from God of his love.
It’s like holiday cards. Did you get any? Maybe you got a card from mom and dad, from your brother and your sister, from your coworker, from your good friends, from cousin Bob, and from your dental hygienist team.
But you didn’t send one to Aunt Sally. Because you weren’t sure Aunt Sally still liked you. She hasn’t sent one in years.
Then, you get one. And it’s pretty nice. And she signs it, “Love, Aunt Sally.” And that card gives you faith – she still cares about me.
Baptism is a pledge from God that he loves about you.
And it gives you faith that God loves you.
And it gives you faith that God will pledge to love you eternally.
This is why Jesus said this, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Because Baptism is an act of faith, but it also works faith.
Faith in Jesus saves.
III. What Now?
1. Be Baptized
I’m sorry if this is an obvious first WHAT NOW? Point but please. God is holding out his promises to you. He promises to connect you to Jesus. He promises to make you a part of his kingdom. He promises to wash you from sins and make you a part of his family.
What are you waiting for?
Your parents to get here?
Your friends to get on board?
To feel readier?
These things are nice, but they don’t increase God’s promise power.
They don’t supercharge baptism.
Baptism is powered by God’s promise.
Don’t put it off.
The only one who wants you to put it off, is the devil. Because he can increase doubt when God’s personal promise has not been given.
Don’t give him that foothold.
2. Baptize Your Kids
Because your kids tend to have your genetics. They have your eyes. They have your brown hair. They have your chin. They may even have your propensity for baldness.
Unfortunately, they also have you sin. John 3 says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh,” meaning, “Sinful humans give birth to sinful humans.”
Kids need the promise of Jesus in baptism, too.
And this isn’t like a ride at an amusement park. God doesn’t say, “You must be this old to ride this ride.” If you have ever heard of an “age of accountability,” that’s essentially a human practice. God’s rule isn’t: “Wait until you are 16 until you can get baptized,” No. God’s rule is: “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19)
All nations? That includes kids.
Get them baptized.
3. Celebrate Your Baptism
Because each year we all celebrate our birthdays. Even if you don’t like to have a party – generally people celebrate with you. They give you high fives. They give you cake. They give you a present. They give you messages on your Facebook wall.
It’s nice to celebrate the year we were born into this life.
But what is that compared to the year we were born into eternal life?
Celebrate your baptism.
Because on that day, God called you child.
On that day, God called you forgiven.
On that day, God called you – His. Amen.
Today we’re in our final lesson of the Rise Up series. We’re going to learn that Jesus wants us to Rise Up and Go to Make Disciples. Our goal is to learn (1) Where Jesus wants us to go, why we should go, and (2) What we should do when we get there. Before we do that, let’s say a prayer and ask God to help us.
I. Go and Do What?
The lesson comes from Matthew 28. It’s another appearance of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Timeline wise, it takes place after the appearance to Thomas. We know this because a reference is made to the Eleven – which would include Thomas. In fact, lots of scholars point to the finality of Jesus’ language in this section to place this appearance near the end of his 40 days on earth after Easter.
Let’s start by reading the command that Jesus gave them. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28)
I want you to put yourself in the disciple’s shoes for a moment. They had heard Jesus’ teaching. They had seen him die for making disciples!
Can you hear the collective gulp?
You mean, keep preaching your Words?
The very words that got you killed?
And to the nations? Like not just our families, but to strangers?
Because that’s what Jesus meant with those words. He wanted them to take the message beyond their group of Eleven!
He wanted them to…
Go to the Jews.
Go to the Samaritans.
Go to the Greeks and the Romans and the Egyptians.
Go to the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law.
Go to the prostitutes and the drunkards and the tax collectors.
Go to the people wherever they are people!
And he wants you and me to do the same.
Because – here’s the deal. Modern day believers are Jesus’ disciples and as Jesus’ disciples they carry on the disciples’ mission. DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS? Then, you have the same mission: Go and make disciples of all nations.
Go to your neighbor who speaks more Spanish than English.
Go to the immigrant who only moved here a month ago.
Go to the tattooed barista with the big stones in his ear holes.
Go to the coworker whose skin is a different shade of brown than yours.
Go to your cousin who’s gay.
Go to your husband even when he’s made it clear that he’s sick of you talking about Jesus with him.
Jesus wants you to GO!
Jesus wants Gethsemane to GO!
He wants us to go and make disciples!
II. Do What?
Now if you’re thinking, “OK. I’m going home. I’m going to put my dad in a headlock and force him to believe.” Don’t. That’s not what I’m saying. (And I don’t need a lawsuit). Jesus explained how to make disciples in his commission. “Go and make disciples by … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
You may be thinking, “Pastor, how do I know what Jesus said? I’m not one of the Eleven?” Easy. You read what a few of the Eleven wrote down that Jesus said. That just so happens to be in the Bible.
Granted. You might not have the Bible memorized yet. (You probably never will.) Nor do you need to start sharing the message of Jesus by outlining the genealogy of Jesus with all of the names in order. Start with the main message.
What is that message? Do you remember the phrase S.O.S? It’s a series of letters that first started in WWI as a way for ships to communicate with others ships that they were in need of help. If they were in danger of sinking or under attacked, they’d use over Morse code to deliver the signal S.O.S. It communicates immensely important information very quickly.
When you are sharing the message of Jesus just remember S.O.S. to communicate the two most important concepts to your friends.
1) Show Our Sins
That’s what the Bible does. It shows us we haven’t measured up. It shows us our sin. It shows us that we need a Savior.
How so? It tells us what sin is and when we read what sin is – we think – it sounds familiar. For instance, the Bible says, “Don’t hate.” When I read that, I think, “Wait. I’ve done that. I couldn’t be?” Then, I keep reading and the Bible says, “Don’t lust.” I think, “Wait, I did that last week.” The Bible doesn’t miss a beat and says, “Love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” I think, “Uh oh.” And if for some reason that doesn’t work, the Bible straight up says this, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 – In fact, write that down and memorize it for an easy way to share the Gospel.
The Bible shows our sin. It’s like a mirror that shows you where a stray whisker is or an x-ray that shows where the problem is – it shows our problem of sin. When you are talking with a friend, it will show them their problem of sin, too.
2) Show Our Savior
Thankfully the Bible doesn’t stop there. Thankfully, the Bible has a second S.O.S. In fact, it’s the bigger and more important message. The Bible also Shows our Savior. It tells us about Jesus, that he lived perfectly, died innocently and rose triumphantly for us in order to save us from all of our sins! To put it another way – it gives us the solution to the problem it exposes – it gives us Jesus, the solution for sin!
And I’ll tell you guys. There’s nothing better than looking someone in the tear-filled eye, struggling with guilt, up all night because their sins have been bothering them and causing them to feel like they will always be far apart from God eyes and telling them – Jesus lived for them. Jesus died for them. They are forgiven!
You can be a part of that. Remember: S.O.S. Show our Savior to your friends. In fact, remember Romans 3:23? Write down the second half right now (verse 24). All have sinned and fall short of the glorified God (vs. 23) and all are justified freely through grace in Christ Jesus (vs. 24). If you don’t feel comfortable explaining all this, then simply share that passage with a friend.
Not comfortable speaking? Email them.
Facebook message them.
Worst case scenario? Just invite them to church where they’ll be Shown the Savior! That’s part of going!
This is a separate point, but related to the past two. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (v.19) Baptism too make disciples. It’s an incredible blessing from God. It’s physical, tangible, visual Gospel.
Think of baptism like a Sharpie. I used Sharpies when I was younger to write my initials on the bottom of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. That way I wouldn’t lose the toys when my friends took their toys home.
In Baptism, God writes his name on you. He says that you are his through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He calls you his own. In order to make you his own, he cleansed you; purifies you; and makes you holy. He bathes you in the love of God the Father, in the precious blood of Jesus Christ and in the faith strengthening power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor, I’m in. I’ll go get a firehose and a loud speaker. Let’s go downtown and baptize the whole city of Raleigh.
No! (Again – no need for a lawsuit.)
For adults, we baptize those who have heard God’s Word and ask to be baptized.
But there are some people you could baptize…
Some people who are apart of all nations and whom God has called you to go to!
Some people who are little people.
Baptize your child. If you haven’t done it yet, you need to. Jesus says it to you hear, “Go and make disciples of all nations – your kid is included – by baptizing.” Listen to Jesus. Make your child a disciple of Jesus. Baptize them in God’s name.
If you want to do this, email me. Text me. Talk to me after church. We’ll make happen! There’s no need to delay. We need to heed his direction and go!
III. But Why?
Granted. You might not want to do this. Telling your friends, your family, a stranger about religion might not seem like a very 21st century thing to do. It might not even be on your bucket list. Why should you?
Check out verse 19: Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
(1) Jesus said So
Have you ever worked in fast food? Imagine you were at McDonalds and you normally work the drive thru – the drive thru that your manager said you were to manage all night and never leave that post unless you wanted a “McDock” in salary.
What happens when the guy at the counter who just started his job says, “I need you to clean out the bathrooms.” Hopefully, you don’t listen. He doesn’t have the authority. But what if your manager, who told you to stay, who wears a special manager’s shirt, and even has a name tag that says, “Manager’ comes over and says, “Go and arrange the ketchup packets.”
Well…then you go and construct the Taj Mahal of ketchup packets. He has the authority.
Why listen to Jesus? Simply put. He has the authority. Not just some authority. Not just a little authority. But all authority in heaven and on earth.
If you questioned him on this, think of what happened a couple of weeks before this command. He rose from the dead. I can almost hear Jesus now:
Ya’ll remember a few days ago? Remember when you thought I was dead forever? Remember when I came back to life, but instead proved my authority over death? Remember how I have authority over life and death for you?
You should listen to me.
It makes sense. If you listen to him for the way to eternal life, why not listen to him for purpose in life? Why not Go?
(2) It’s of Eternal Importance
The second reason is a bit hidden. Listen again to Jesus’ words, “Go and makes disciples…” A disciple is a follower. A follower is a believer. According to Jesus himself who has the authority to authorize such things, “All who believe in me will be saved.”
In other words:
Jesus alone saves us to heaven.
Jesus alone saves us from hell.
Jesus alone saves us from eternal damnation to eternal life.
To put it simply – It’s of eternal importance to go and make disciples!
Granted. Most modern Americans do not see it this way. They see going and sharing your faith as unloving:
You’re forcing your beliefs onto me.
You’re trying to make me feel bad and yourself feel better.
Let me believe what I want and let me live my life. You’re being selfish!!!
But is sharing Jesus really selfish?
What if you were going on a date and you asked me how I looked and as you smiled at me, I saw a big, old, green, leafy spinach sticking out of your teeth. And what if I thought, “I don’t want this to get uncomfortable and I don’t want to hurt their feelings because I don’t want them to speak gruffly to me, so…You look great!”
Is that loving?
Nope. It’s selfish.
It’s the same thing with faith on a grander scale. If you are convinced that Jesus is your Savior and it is by faith in him alone that we are saved, you have to share this message. Sharing your faith isn’t selfish; not sharing is!
And Jesus isn’t about selfishness.
That’s why he went through the uncomfortable death on the cross for you.
Maybe it’s worth going through a much less uncomfortable moment with your friends?
(3) God has Your Back
Finally, remember that God has your back. Because this can be very intimidating. Go and make disciples of all nations! So Jesus told them that they would not be alone. He said this, “Surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28:21)
That’s good news. Because Jesus wasn’t afraid of even the scariest of situations.
He wasn’t afraid of storms in the middle of the sea; he stopped them.
He wasn’t afraid of legions of demons; he drove them out.
He wasn’t afraid of fatal illness; he cured it with a snap of his fingers.
He wasn’t afraid of death; he rose triumphantly on the third day.
He isn’t afraid of your uncle getting a bit cranky.
He isn’t afraid of a few friends calling you a loser.
He isn’t afraid of someone BLOCKING him on Facebook.
Don’t you be either. He’s with you. He’ll protect you.
We’ve got a mission. And that’s the main message for this morning. Jesus has a mission for you and me – to go!
So don’t lollygag.
That’s what happened with the disciples. A couple of days after this commission, Jesus took them out to a hill and something amazing happened. He literally lifted off of the ground and levitated up to heaven.
No jet packs.
Just Jesus and his God power heading up into the clouds.
It was amazing enough that the response of the disciples was to stare, mouth open up into the sky.
That is, until a stranger tapped their shoulders.
The angel said, “Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus will come back in the same way you saw him go. But ya’ll? Go to Jerusalem. Wait for God’s gift. And then? Begin your work.”
Go and make disciples.
Allow this to be your divine shoulder tap:
Stop staring and go make disciples! Amen.
Ever been on a family vacation before?
It always sounds so nice. You get in the car, everyone has their seat and pillow from home. Dad’s driving. Mom has the directions. The bag with all the food is in the back seat for Brother to turn around and deliver snacks. Sister is in control of the DVD player. It sounds nice. The family on a trip together.
But then dad takes the turns on the highway a bit too fast -- Sister is feeling sick to her stomach.
Mom is distracted by sister and forgets to tell dad to turn on I-75. The car goes an hour out of the way.
Dad needs some trail mix to calm himself down, but there’s not any left. Brother ate all of it!
Sister won’t let anyone put any DVD in that isn’t an iCarly original – so that you hear the theme song in the back of your head the whole time.
Sometimes it’s easier to travel alone.
No one to complain about driving.
No one to give wrong directions.
No one else to eat the trail mix.
But what about following Jesus? What about spiritual travel? Is it nicer alone or together?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow and we’re discussing what it’s like to follow together – as a church family. We will hear about some of the biggest threats to following together and be reminded of the blessings. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Divisions in Corinth
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1. A bit of background – 1 Corinthians is a letter written to a young church that was in a city called Corinth. The Corinthians had first learned about Jesus from a follower of Jesus named Paul. They were the ones who told them that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior; that Jesus was that Savior.
At first, the people were so excited about this message. They loved having salvation. They loved having freedom from sin. They loved the peace of God.
But then…something happened.
Paul left. Another Pastor – Pastor Apollos – showed up and took their place. It doesn’t appear he taught a much different message. He taught that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior and that Jesus was that Savior. (Same thing; same message.)
But Apollos must have done things a bit differently. (Maybe he didn’t choose the same worship music as Paul; maybe he bought a different kind of coffee for morning fellowship – I don’t know). Regardless, it started to cause some people to long for their past pastor.
I really miss Paul. He was so sarcastic.The type of guy you could grab a beer with and still be convicted.
Ok sure. But I’m a fan of Apollos. He’s no nonsense and he’s getting stuff done.
But some of his ideas are different. He doesn’t do things the same way that Paul does things. He’s #NotMyPastor.
Speak for yourself – I’m an Apollos guy. Times are changing. His way is better.
Well, I’ll always be a follower of Paul – first and foremost. I’m not a follower of Apollos.
I am. You can stay stuck in the past with the Paul way of doing things.
And then – into that culture – somehow the church became familiar with the teachings of a guy called Cephas (aka Peter). Peter was one of the original 12 disciples. Peter spoke with Jesus for 3 years. Peter must have introduced himself to them. Told about how he saw the resurrected Jesus and shared his ideas for the church of Jesus going forward.
Picture Peter the accomplished author you might find down at the Christian bookstore. A group of people moved to the area from Peter’s church in Jerusalem, joined the church, and ran every idea from the church council by the Apostle Peter.
Putting the sermon after the Bible study? WWPD (What Would Peter do?) – I don’t know if he’d think it was a good idea.
Welcoming Gentiles into the same congregation as Jews? WWPD? I’m not so sure.
Chocolate chip cookies for fellowship! WWPD? I think he’d buy Oreos.
Suddenly a shift started to take place in the church. Instead of one united group, there were different groups. They weren’t united Christians. They were Paulians, Peterites and Apollosians. A group of Paul followers would gather over here and badmouth the Barnabas brotherhood. The Barnabas brotherhood would meet over there and discuss ways to stop Apollos’ outreach plan. And Apollos’ selected church people would snap Instagram photos with the #ApollosChurch until it was trending.
Word got to Paul – the guy who first told them about Jesus. There weren’t phones back then. There wasn’t Snapchat. He couldn’t just TWEET his displeasure. So, he wrote a longhand letter. These divisions are one of the first things he addresses.
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”’ another, “I follow Cephas,” still another, “I follow Christ.”
I think this is interesting. Paul’s appeal is not for people to revert to doing things his way.
It isn’t for people to listen to all of his ideas.
It’s for people to stop be divided and started being united.
He asks some pretty poignant questions to get his point across:
(1) Is Christ divided? Are the Jews class A of Christians and the Gentiles class B? Did Jesus die once on a cross for the rich and once on a side street for the poor? Does John 3:16 say, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him and likes country music goes to heaven, but whoever believes in him and like rap music goes to a different heaven"? Not any worse, just not the same – not so that I have to listen to your country music the whole time I’m in heaven.
(2) Was Paul crucified for you? The quick answer is NO; he’s busy writing this very letter. Paul wasn’t crucified. Apollos wasn’t crucified. Peter, although some tradition suggests that he was eventually was crucified, was not crucified yet! And even when he did die – it didn’t have any incredible redemptive work. Ask the kids – Jesus died on the cross – not Paul, not Peter, not Apollos, not anyone or anything else.
(3) Were you baptized into the name of Paul? How would that have even sounded? “I baptize you in the name of Paul the Pharisee, Paul the persecutor, and Paul the reformed Christian missionary?"
And I love Paul’s parenthetical aside, “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)” Paul’s point isn’t that he didn’t want people to be baptized. (Baptism brings forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. Things that Paul treasured dearly and dedicated the latter portion of his life preaching). Rather, Paul’s point is that people would have used being baptized by him as some kind of special badge that would have furthered division.
It’s like bringing home a gift for your kids. Maybe you get them each a PEZ dispenser. What if you got the PEZ dispenser for everyone in your family accept your middle child? How’s that go over? (“You love them more than me.”)
It’s the same thing with adults though. Imagine if your boss at work gives everyone a Valentine’s card with a PAYDAY chocolate attached to it. (Get it, PAYDAY?) What happens if you look around the office and you see everyone else has a delicious, chocolate, salty candy bar and you don’t? Division! You get angry. You whine.
Paul recognizes that – even with something as incredible as Baptism. As if people would wear ball caps that said, “Baptized by Paul” and others were visors that said, “Blessed by the hand of Apollos.”
TRUTH: People love taking good things and making them into divisive things. In the case of Baptism, they had taken something incredible – baptism – which unites you with God and with believers and they were now using it as a thing of division.
II. Divisions at Gethsemane?
Careful. Because the devil is still at work today. He is still trying to sabotage the church just as much as he did back then. He is still trying to sabotage our ministry here in Raleigh – just as much as he did then. By taking neutral things – even good things --- and making them into divisive things.
Here are three things that I think we have to be especially careful of.
Did you know it’s not sinful to engage in politics? It’s not sinful to watch political shows either. But what has happened is our country has such an incredible divide between the Republican and Democratic party – that we no longer view each other as people we politely disagree with. But people that we violently oppose! And let them know as much on Facebook and every other social media site we can get onto.
That can’t happen in this church.
That can’t happen when we are dedicated to sharing Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t Republican. Jesus wasn’t Democrat. (Neither of those were even around back then.)
Jesus is our God. He is our Savior. He is the Savior of your friend who votes in a different direction.
Don’t let politics get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
Culture is a great thing. It’s a view into God’s mind. That he created us so very different with so many different backgrounds, different food favorites and different styles of wearing our hair. It’s beautiful. Thanks to culture we have the ability to go to the Chinese restaurant on Monday, get Mexican on Tuesday, grab some soul food on Wednesday, try an Italian pizzeria on Thursday and finish it off with Japanese sushi on Friday.
Culture is great. But the temptation is to make it into something that divides – (See: Racism)
Racism has no place in the church. Jesus died for all. It says in the Bible Jesus died for Jews and for Gentiles – which means -- everyone who isn’t a Jew.
Don’t let culture get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
(3) Worship Styles.
I bring this up because we will be moving to two different services on Easter. Those two services may be different. One might be a more traditional style of worship (with robes and organ and old school hymns) while the other might be a more contemporary style of worship (without robes and with a band and new school songs).
Both are good. Both are different expressions of culture. Both share God’s Word.
Both could cause division.
Whether it’s “I’m a Traditional Christian” and "I’m a Contemporary Christian.”
Or whether it’s “I’m an early service Christian” and “I’m a late service Christian.”
Don’t let these causes division. Traditional worship didn’t die for you. You weren’t baptized into the name of Contemporary worship.
You were baptized into the name of Jesus.
III. Jesus Unites
In fact, Jesus died to stop division—division between us and God. Our sins had divided us from him. Read Isaiah 59:2 “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
There’s this picture of this big thick bulletproof glass. You can see someone on the other side. It’s someone you love. You wish they could hear you. You’re banging on the glass for them to hear you and notice you and let you in.
But they don’t.
That’s the picture of sin and God. We see him. We know his power. We see the value in being with him. But our sins separate us. In a cruel, cruel joke reminding us how unworthy we are to approach a holy, divine God.
But Jesus is like a wrecking ball. Jesus comes in and smashed through the wall. Jesus comes in and knock down our sins. Jesus comes in and removes what separated us from God. Jesus unites us to our Heavenly Father.
TRUTH: God is not a God of division. God is a God of unity.
Paul recognized that. Look at how he continues the letter: Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Look at that again – “The cross, the message that Jesus died for us, destroys our sin, and unites us with God the Father, is a message that divides.” Unbelievers call it foolishness. It doesn’t make any sense – some Jewish guy, a carpenter, died a few thousand years ago, and because of him I’m right with God?
But that same message that divides unbelievers is the message that unites us. It is the power of God.
It is the power for salvation for the Jew.
It is the power of salvation for the Gentile.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who got along with Paul.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who really liked Apollos.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Republican.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Democrat.
It is the power of salvation for the Italian, the German, the Iraqi, the African American, the Hispanic, and the Native American.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes guitars.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes organ.
It is the power of salvation for all of us. It is the one, incredible, power of salvation that unites us all!
IV. What now?
(1) Focus on What Unites
That’s such an easy thing for us to do. To point out what’s different. But there’s so much that’s the same. We all have eyes. We all have noses. We all have hands and feet. We all have a need to be connected with family and friends. We all have a need to be connected with God.
Check out verse 26: “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying – Stop thinking about what makes you different. Think about what makes you the same:
Y’all were sinners.
Y’all were ignorant.
Y’all were in need of a savior.
And all y’all have a Savior. That Savior is Jesus. He is your wisdom.
(2) Boast in God
That’s Paul’s conclusion on this first chapter. He says in verse 31, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Because what’s boasting? Boasting is speaking openly and proudly about something you like or accomplished.
The problem with boasting is that is usually causes someone to feel awful who hasn’t accomplished what you are boasting about.
Boast in Jesus. Don’t boast in your favorite style of worship. Don’t boast in your favorite political party.
Boast in Jesus.
Boast in God.
Boast in the one who actually and completely unites us in every way.
Then, you are able to follow together.
Then, you are able to follow peaceably.
Then, you are able to help each other on the road to heaven.
A brother of our passed away this past week. I won’t give every detail, but know that he was an older gentleman who had struggles with his lungs. He also didn’t have a lot of family in the area. He lived alone.
That’s a hard thing to go through alone.
I had gotten the message that it wouldn’t be much longer while I was in Arizona. It’s hard to do bedside ministry from Arizona. But…here’s where following together comes in.
Pastor Rockhoff helped with a visit.
One of our elders helped with a visit.
My wife graciously drove me late at night for a visit.
I wasn’t there at the exact time of his death. But one of our elders was. From what I heard about his final minutes – as he was struggling and life was leaving him – our elder was blessed to be able to share with him God’s Word. Literally – reading the blessing.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.
And the Lord gave him peace.
And the Lord brought him into peace.
And he now lives in eternal peace.
That’s following Jesus.
That’s following Jesus together.
Lord help us do that now and always. Amen.
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s all about following Jesus in 2017. Since it’s Baptism Sunday, our goal is to focus on following Jesus to the waters of Baptism. One simple goal – to understand the host of blessings that God provides those who follow him into the baptismal waters. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Water of Life
We’re beginning our study in John 4 – It’s a section of Scripture that is not directly related to Baptism, at least – not at first. But it continues the story from where we left Jesus last week. Remember -- he had been identified by John the Baptist near the Jordan river. He called the disciples to follow him by the Sea of Galilee. Now they want to get to Judea. In order to get to Judea, they need to travel through a place called Samaria. That’s about a 60-mile journey!
This long before the invention of the minivan. Can you imagine that? All the disciples piled in a minivan. Peter wants to drive. John is trying to change the radio station dial. Andrew is in back: “Are we there yet?” There was no minivan. There was no car. This wasn’t even by horse. This was by foot – which was Jesus’ preferred method of travel. Still that’s a long way to walk by foot. So the group stopped near the Ancient civilization version of the rest stop: A stone well.
Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said, to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
And the woman was startled. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Now that might seem a bit rude, but there were some cultural reasons for her surprise.
(1) He was a Jew. She was a Samaritan. Scripture makes this note (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). If you think relations in America are bad today, they were worse amongst Jews and Samaritans. Jews purposefully would not spend time with Samaritans. So…this meeting and Jesus’ greeting was strange. It might be similar to a man in a turban approaching a young white woman or an older white man talking with a young black woman. It happens. It even happens in this church – praise the Lord – that’s a good thing. But it’s not the norm and people might think it a bit strange.
(2) In addition, he was a man – she was a woman – and they were alone. People were a lot more polite back then. Women didn’t want to unwittingly cause a man married to another woman to lust after them. Men tried hard not to woo and flirt a young woman into his bed before they were married. In fact, they were so serious about this (and perhaps as a culture we could learn a thing or two from this – but that’s another topic for another day) they refrained from speaking with members of the opposite sex in lonely places. That way there wouldn’t be any temptation.
Racism. Temptation. Both reasons for a conversation between the two of them to be strange. But I’m not sure that either of those really get to the heart of her surprise.
(3) Look at the time. Verse 6 says that, “It’s noon.” That tells us that the majority of well-visitors had gone for the day. Usually townsfolk would get there first thing in the morning to draw water for the day's’ activities. They would each take a bucket, put it on their head, bring it to the well, chat about the latest gossip in town, fill up each bucket, and then make their way back with enough water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking the rest of that day.
The only people who came at noon would have been travelers, like Jesus.
And anyone who didn’t want to meet anyone else at the well like this woman.
Jesus responds to her concerns, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v.10)
Living water? Seriously? Sir – you don’t have anything to get the water with. It’s deep. You need something to get the water out. You can’t just lean down with your hand and scoop me some water. Unless this is some lame attempt at a pickup line. I’ll tell you what. If you can get water without a bucket and a rope – if you can get “living water” out of thin air – then you must be pretty great. You must be a magician. A great magician – even greater than Jacob – the guy who dug this well for us!
“Everyone…” Jesus interrupted her train of thought…“who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (v.13-14)
And the woman turns around with disdain on her face. Sure dude. Get me some of that water. I’d love that water. I hate having to come out here, fill up the buckets and bring them back each day – only to do it again tomorrow. If you’ve got living water, give it to me. I’d be more than happy to never have to do this stupid job again.
The woman smirked. That should have been enough sarcasm to get him to shut up. She called his bluff and now she can go back to getting the water out of the --
“Go,” Jesus said, “Call your husband and come back.” (v.16)
Immediately, the nerves throughout her body tightened. This was the reason that she didn’t come with the other women earlier in the day. "I don’t have a husband." She spoke shortly. She spoke sharply.
“You’re right. You don’t have a husband. The truth is that you’ve had five husbands – and the guy that you’re sleeping with right now; he isn’t your husband. What you have just said it quite true.” (v.16)
The woman froze. She let the bucket drop. How did he know? She had worked hard to avoid the embarrassment, to avoid the shame, to avoid the guilt. That’s why she came to the well when she did! How did this foreigner know? Who was he?
Still – that was a conversation that she did not want to have. That was sins that she did not want to drag up. So, she dropped the sarcasm and changed the subject:
Sir, you must be a prophet of some kind. Can I ask you a prophet question? We Samaritans worship on this mountain. Jewish people worship in the temple of Jerusalem. Who’s right?
And as she finished that question – the woman breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis avoided. Her past avoided. Her sins avoided.
Or so she thought.
“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (The place doesn’t really matter.) You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (As in God did miracles among them and revealed his saving plan to them.) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…” (v.21-23)
As in making their marriage commitments true – the first time, not just the sixth time.
As in sleeping with their husband, not some guy she has no intention of staying with.
Worshipers worship in truth. Because God is spirit and his worshipers worship in truth. (v.24)
At this point – the woman’s heart must have been pounding. Her eyes widening. Sweat dripping. These were her secrets. These were her sins. These were the things that she couldn’t wash off of her soul – off of her mind and off her reputation. These were the things that had mucked up her life so much that she had given up trying – simply succumbed to the sins – and tried to avoid any reminder of her wrongdoing.
She stared at the ground. The only hope she had seemed like a fairy tale. It seemed so far off. It’s something that she remembered from her few days of Sunday School. She fought back tears. It was the only hope she had. "I know the Messiah called Christ is coming – he will explain everything to us." (v.25)
At this, Jesus leaned in. He lifted her chin. He looked into her eyes: “I, who speak to you, am He.” (v.26)
Break from the story. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what that means for you?
Because we’re exactly like that woman. We’ve got problems. We’ve got aches. We’ve got pains. We try to deal using earthly things – money, home improvements, friends, career status, raising kids to be better than us! And we try to deal using sinful things – too much alcohol, self-medication, lust, fantasy, writing angry bitter things on our Facebook status.
But here’s the thing – all that stuff is just like that water in the well. It fills you up for a bit. Then, it fades. The money stops coming in. Your friends leave you. You lose your job. Your kids move. The drunken stupor turns into a headache. The self-medication turns into the shakes. The pornography turns into a broken relationship. The fantasy turns into a broken marriage. The bitter things on Facebook leave you without any friends.
These things are nothing more than regular water. H20. Dirty, mucky, bottom of the well wet molecules that quench thirst for a moment – but then fades away.
He’s the Water of Life.
He says to you:
I am the One who will fix it.
I am the One who will clean your soul.
I will clean up your past.
I will clean up your present.
I will clean up your future.
I am the water of life.
And the water of life is water that lasts!
He quenches our thirst for righteousness with his true righteousness gifted to us through us perfect life.
He quenches our thirst for forgiveness with his incredible sacrifice that he made on the cross.
He quenches our thirst for peace with God with his blood, shed to make peace with God.
He quenches our thirst for immortality with his incredible resurrection from the dead.
In short – you’re forgiven.
In Jesus, you are forgiven.
In Jesus, you will find a constant, eternal, never changing, unending source of spiritual nourishment.
II. The Water that Connects us to the Water of Life
Now – I said this is a message on baptism but we are now 1800 words in and I haven’t even mentioned it! That’s because baptism gets its power from Jesus. Baptism without Jesus is just water. It’s just like taking a shower, washing your hands, spraying off your dog or running through the sprinkler on a hot day.
Baptism is just water, unless Baptism is in Jesus. Then, Baptism is water that connects you to the water of life.
Listen to what Jesus said about baptism in Matthew 28:19. He said, “Go and make displaces of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
I’ve been working on fixing up our new house recently. Part of that is painting. Usually we’ve been using latex painting which comes off fairly easy. Usually with just water – but maybe a bit of soap. The other day I was staining a piece of wood. I dipped my paintbrush in. I stained the wood. Then, I took it to the sink. The paint didn’t come off like it should. In fact, it was just causing it to congeal. I went to look at the can of stain – it wasn’t latex, but oil paint. The kind that you can only get off when you wash it in paint thinner.
Here’s the deal with sin. It doesn’t come off in just water. It doesn’t come off in water and soap. It doesn’t come off in paint thinner.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Father who pours out his love for us in the promise of a Savior.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Son who shed his blood through the nail marks in his hands to win your forgiveness.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Holy Spirit who floods our hearts with God’s promises in His Word.
Sin comes off in baptism, not because of the water, but because of the Holy, incredible, divine, everlasting, all powerful, all complicated, all mysterious, all loving, Triune God of heaven and earth.
That’s why baptism isn’t just water. But water that connects you to the water of life.
This water of life gives you three blessings. Three awesome reasons to be baptized. Three awesome reasons to give thanks for your baptism:
(1) Baptism Cleans
Acts 2:38 says this, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” That’s a pretty powerful stand-alone statement on its own. God gives forgiveness of sins through baptism.
But it’s even more powerful when you understand the context. Because the guy preaching is Peter. The time he’s preaching is 53 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. And the people he is preaching to are literally people who stood in a crowd 53 days earlier and chanted “Crucify him! Crucify him!” about Jesus.
A bit earlier in this sermon Peter tells them that Jesus came back to life.
He tells them that this resurrection is proof that Jesus is God.
He tells them that this means they killed God.
And—not that we should rank sins – but let’s rank sins. Killing the author of Life himself is pretty high up there!
The people are hurt. The people are ashamed. The people are filled with guilt and cry out, “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37)
Peter’s response: “Repent – turn from sin and turn to God, turn from unbelief and turn to faith, And be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” Even the sin of murdering Jesus.
That’s the cleansing power of Jesus in baptism. It washes you from your sins – no matter what your sin is!
Yelled at my wife to the point of her leaving me and now I have been bitterly blaming her for the whole ordeal and living a quiet angry, life on my own? Washed.
Baptism connects you to the cleansing power of Jesus.
(2) Baptism Rejuvenates
Titus 3:5 says this, “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal in Jesus.”
Because the truth is that sin is tiring. Feeling guilty is tiring. You and I – even if we’re Christians – still sin each day. At the end of the day, we’re disappointed in ourselves. We’ve failed. We may even be disgusted.
How awesome to hear: You are forgiven and be rejuvenated again.
Just like Jesus. He died. (out of energy) But three days later, Jesus came back to life. He lambasted the grave – he walked again!
By that same resurrection power, baptism resurrects you--- each day. It drowns the old, sinful you, but resurrection is the new you. The new man – the new woman – created to be apart from sin – created to live for Jesus.
(3) Baptism Uniforms You
The Super Bowl is next week. And each Super Bowl there are always people who don’t get their due. There will be lots of talk about Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. Talk about their coaches. Talk about their teams, their trainers, even their general managers. But not a lot of talk about their uniform specialists. That’s not fair. Without the uniform makers, we wouldn’t know who’s on who’s team! They wouldn’t know. The whole thing would be chaos!
Uniforms are important. Check out what Galatians 3:27 says, “All of you who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ.” You are no longer on the team of sin. You are no longer on the devil’s side. You are no longer on team ‘you.’
You are on God’s team. You are wearing the "Team Jesus" jersey.
What a team it is! It’s a team that has people of all different background and all different experiences and all different ages on it. Black and white, Asian and Latino, elderly and teenage, male and female, Republican and Democrat, Raleighian and Durhaminian. All united in Jesus Christ. All united in his family.
All on the same team.
Can I show you one last interesting note on John 4? After the woman hears that Jesus is the Messiah Scripture says that, “She left her bucket.” Interesting huh? She came with the bucket because she needed water!
She left without it because she received so much more.
If you’ve been baptized, leave content! God has done amazing things for you. You’ve been washed clean in Jesus.
If you haven’t been baptized, what are you waiting for? Jesus offers amazing blessings – all the blessings you need – Blessings that well up to eternal life.
A whole sermon series on Baptism? That sounds so Christian, doesn’t it?
What I mean is – you won’t find a lot about baptism in other places. It’s a word that kind of has a religious only meaning. You don’t talk about baptism and grocery shopping. You don’t have to be baptized to become a member of your gym. Baptism isn’t an exercise in your local hot yoga studio.
Baptism is strange. To this world, it doesn't' make a lot of sense. It's precisely that truth that might cause Christians to downplay Baptism's value.
If you entered my apartment, you'd run into the dining room table. If you turned your neck sharply to the left, you'd see a book shelf. On the shelf are a few photographs -- pictures of our wedding, a day at the beach and family. The shelf also holds some videos, a few books, and a light.
But in the middle of the photo frame jungle are two small ceramic figures. A grey elephant and a tan hippo.
I don't have some kind of obsession over large pachyderms.
They don't hold salt and pepper.
They aren't big enough to hold any papers down.
We have them because they are old. They are heirlooms from my great grandmother. Nothing else. They don't have any practical value. They are just antiques.
Do you ever think of baptism like that? As if it were some old, antiquated item that really doesn't seem to fit into the modern church? We keep it around because it's old..?
In the next six weeks, we’re going to examine baptism from all different kinds of angles. We'll see that Baptism is much more than just old. Baptism is still and remains a part of the Christian life and faith.
Tonight we are starting by taking a look at the moment Jesus first instituted Baptism.
I. Jesus Said What
Take a look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Quick English lesson. An imperative is a command. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. Imperatives are exactly what Jesus uses when talking to his disciples here. Jesus didn’t say, “If you might could, possible think about this as an idea worth considering, in your spare time, when you get a chance, if you want, no worries, no hurries, if you get around to ok, ok then, I’d appreciate…thanks for thinking about it.”
Nope. Just “Go” and “Make.” Simple commands.
But it wasn’t like Jesus told them what to do without telling them how to do it. He said, “Go and make disciples…baptizing them,” meaning, “Here is the way to do it.” A crucial part of this disciple making process is baptizing.
More English. The word “Baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo. It is used a lot in secular Greek writing of the time. People would baptizo their hands. They would baptizo their dishes. They would even baptizo their dining couches. Using context clues the meaning is clear.
Simply put baptizo means to wash.
Granted. There’s another big school of thought out there that says “baptizo means to submerge.” As a result, some churches teach that if you don’t submerge anyone under water, then it isn’t baptism. If you weren’t submerged under water, then you aren’t baptized.
How’s that for a conscience burden? Especially if you have longer hair:
Did all my hair make it under?
What if the upper half floated on top and was never truly submerged?
Do I still have unwashed sin located in my split ends?
But here’s where it’s important to look at what Jesus says. Check out the text again. “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Do you see any clue that this baptizo means submerge underwater? Me neither.
Let’s not add to what Jesus says then. Can we do that? There’s no need for us to improve on Jesus’ command. Let’s take him at his word and move on.
But don’t think that baptism is nothing more than just washing your hands. This isn’t just Jesus’ version of “make sure and wash up before dinner.” Look at else is involved besides the water “…baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
At Precious Lambs we are getting ready for ECERS. That stands for “Early Childhood…Something, Something, Something.” They are the ones who gives us five stars. Part of getting that five star rating is hand washing. The kids need to wash their hands using the state approved 8 step method. Step 1 – Turn water on. Step 2 – Get hands wet. Step 3 – USE SOAP!
Do you know how many times I have to remind kids of that!?! Use soap. If you don’t use soap, you aren’t really washing your hands clean of germs.
But when it comes to cleaning our souls. When it comes to cleansing our beings of all our unrighteous acts. It takes more than water. It takes more than water and Dial 100% antibacterial soap.
It takes washing in the name of the Father. The God who wiped out the whole earth with his floodwater.
It takes washing in the name of the Son. The one whose blood flowed from his side.
It takes washing in the name of the Holy Spirit. The one who floods our hearts with the message of God’s love.
Why do we baptize then? Because Jesus said so. We baptize how Jesus said, because Jesus said. Fair enough?
II. Jesus Said Who
Jesus doesn’t leave us in the dark as to WHO to baptize either. Take a look at what he says about who to baptize. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them…”
That pronoun “THEM” is key. It refers back to all nations. That’s who we are to baptize.
But Jesus isn’t racist. He doesn’t say “Baptize only white people.” Or "baptize only Latino people.” He says, “Baptize all nations,” as in all people of all nations.
And Jesus isn’t sexist. He doesn’t say “Baptize only the men.” Nor does he say, “Baptize only the women.” He says, “Baptize all nations,” as in males and females.
And Jesus isn’t ageist.
This is probably the one Christians have a hardest time with. Some churches teach that we should only baptize those who are old enough to have the rational capacity to verbally confess faith in Jesus. The thinking is that they don’t know what’s going on. They can’t really believe.
Ever been to a children’s lesson? Ever heard those kids answer my questions? They know that Jesus was on the cross. They know that Jesus took away their sins. They know they had rose from the dead. They know way more bodly and way more confidently than almost any adult I’ve ever talked to.
Jesus might be my Savior. If it’s all true, but I have my doubts.
I know he’s supposed to be my Savior but…I really do have a lot of really bad sins, soooo…..
Me, forgiven? I don’t really feel it. I don’t know if I’ll have heaven.
And the kids? Jesus is my Savior. He died to take away my sins and I’m going to heaven. Can I go back to eating my yogurt now?
It’s ok. Kids put me to shame, too.
UNDERSTAND THEN: Jesus isn’t ageist. He doesn’t say, “Baptize only those people over 18.” He doesn’t say, “Baptize only those who you think might be old enough.” He doesn’t say, “Baptize everyone who has graduated sixth grade.”
Nope. Just baptize all nations. Baptize adults. Baptize kids. Baptize babies. We baptize who Jesus said, because Jesus said. Fair enough?
III. Jesus Has the Authority
So what, Pastor!?! I don’t do things just because someone tells me to. CNN tells me to vote this way. I might not. FoxNews tells me to vote this way. I might not. Pepsi tells me to drink Pepsi and I drink Coke! I don’t do something just because someone tells me to!
But what if they have the authority?
Back up with me a moment. Right before his command to baptize Jesus said this, “All authority in heaven and earth had been given to me.”
Was anyone here ever a room monitor back in elementary school? Room monitors get to have some power. They make sure no one else is talking. They make sure everyone stays in their seats. They get to look around at all their friends and write their name on the board if they do wrong. (And they have the ability to abuse their power. “I won’t write your name on the board, if you pick me first for kickball at recess.”)
But a room monitor…is not the end all. They have some power. Not all.
Note Jesus’ words. Not “some.” “All.”
Understood. It is one thing to say you have authority and another thing to actually “Have authority.”
But Jesus had just proven that to be true. He had shown his authority over death by rising from the dead a few weeks earlier. In fact, he had been in the business of proving his authority throughout his ministry.
He proved his authority over the body…and made blind see, deaf hear and the lame walk.
He proved his authority over pathogens and bacteria…and made sick people healthy.
He showed his authority over evil spirits…and drove them out.
He proved his authority over the elements…and reduplicated matter…bread and more bread out of little bread.
He proved his authority over nature…and calmed the storm.
He even proved his authority over the earthly element in baptism – water. He made it into wine. He made it into a walking surface. When he tells us he is going to use it as a means of making disciples – why would we doubt it?
If Jesus has the authority in your life? Be baptized.
Be baptized because he said so. Be baptized and receive the incredible blessings of baptism. (More on those in the coming weeks).
And parents, have your kids baptized and let them receive the incredible blessings of baptism. (Again…more on those in the coming weeks.)
And if you have been baptized – continue to dwell under Christ’s authority. He made you His. Do as he says so.
And…yes. I really have answered that question “Why” in a very rudimentary and Sunday School way: Because Jesus said So.
Do you really need anything else?