Well it’s about that time of year again. That time when time is usually on our minds. In just two short days it will be one year later than it was a year ago, which usually prompts us to look back over that last year and figure out what we liked and usually more often what we didn’t like that we want to change next year. My mailbox has already been flooded with flyers for local gyms trying to guess what those goals might be for me.
But never minding the failed resolutions that inevitably come out of this, the real problem with all of that is that it tends to have a failed focus. The things we are proud of the year before and the things we strive to change in the next… well… are they the right things?
Today, let’s look at what the apostle Paul had to say and consider our past and our future in light of those words that God had him write. At the beginning of our section he writes:
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
If anyone had reason to be proud and confident, it was Paul. He was a paragon of virtue. He was born of the right people, God’s own chosen nation. He followed every command from God and every tradition of his people. He was part of the moral elite, the Pharisees. If he was around today, he could be bragging on Facebook about how all three of his perfect children were excelling in their own extra-curriculars while showing photos from his last tropical vacation, the new house he’s building, the promotion he got this year, and how he hit his target weight in half the time expected.
And what does Paul say about all these things he should be bragging about?
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
And now what does he say about that life? He considers it a loss. He doesn’t just find that entire life to be worthless, he actually considers it detrimental to his life. In fact, he considers everything a loss when it is compared to the greatness of simply knowing his Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you remember back, if you were here for our summer series on the book of Acts, you may remember that this was not a conclusion that Paul came to on his own. He didn’t suddenly realize that all that was wrong and worthless. God had to reveal it to Paul.
In that confrontation on the road to Damascus, God appeared to him and made Paul aware of exactly how wrong and backward his life had been from start to finish. God taught Paul that everything of his own he thought he should be proud of was in reality something to be ashamed of, and there was nothing good in himself. The house, the job, the vacation, the perfect life – those things were all hurting him, not helping.
Why? Because they weren’t good enough. They couldn’t save him. No matter how hard he tried to do everything right and have the perfect life and have people love him and all that, it wasn’t good enough for God. God demands perfection. What’s more, God requires that he himself be the focal point of our lives. That we do everything for him. Paul hadn’t done all those things for God, he did them for himself! Everything he thought was worth anything wasn’t just a waste of time, it was actively keeping him away from the God who could save him.
It was at this point, at the bottom of everything, when Paul had all hope in himself cut out from under him, that God showed him his mercy and grace in Jesus. And Paul understood the only thing worth anything in this life is Christ himself. Paul gave up hope in himself and clung to the hope of Jesus as his savior, trusting that Jesus alone is the only way he can possibly be rescued.
Now Paul’s experience may sound outlandish, and maybe the circumstances are. But those aside, this is the experience that every Christian goes through to come to a knowledge of their savior, the same Christ. Each one of us has to realize: I am sinful. I cannot save myself. I need Jesus. Only he can help me. Only he is worth anything in my life.
And so, the question now is, as I’m looking back over 2018 and looking on to my plans for 2019 – do my thoughts show that I’m convinced of this truth?
Do I really consider everything I have apart from Christ is a loss? Do we really “buy” that, or are we feebly clinging to the notion that some of what we have or do or are is worthwhile, profitable, useful? Sure, there’s plenty of stuff it’s easy to look at and identify as useless and harmful. We know that indulging our sinful temptations is harmful to us. Sin damages faith, it hurts our relationship with our God and it risks our eternal life.
But of course, God himself gives us great things to be used for our recreation and enjoyment…what about those? Even with those we must be cautious. These gifts are to be used to enrich our lives of service to him. They are a means to an end. They help us relax, recharge, lift our spirits so we can continue our work for God. But when the gift becomes the purpose, when all our time and energy gets poured into one hobby or recreational pursuit, it ultimately becomes a loss for us, because again, it is distracting us and taking us away from the only thing that is to our gain, our Lord Christ.
But even that doesn’t go as far as Paul was talking here. Remember he listed off all the great things about himself that he had claim to. Every achievement or source of pride – what did he say about them? He considered a loss. And for the same reason: they served to distract and take him away from our God. It is the same for us.
We need to see that there is no difference here. It could be the grossest display of sinful indulgence or it could be chasing a goal that isn’t our Lord or it could just be plain old pride in myself and my abilities and accomplishments. They all do the same thing: they lead us away from God. The best of who we are, the best of what we have and do in our lives…these too are a loss! Pardon me for a moment while I get a little complicated. They are a loss when we view them this way. Let me elaborate.
If I look see the best I have as the best I have, then where is the focus? If the best I can do I view as the best I do, then where is the focus? If I am proud of myself for my accomplishments, for the things I have done with the strength of my hands or the skill of my intellect, then I am worshiping myself and am taken away from God. Even if I take pride in all the good things I do for God, that I give him my money and my time without complaint, that I am a helpful member of the church body, then I am still worshiping myself for how great I am.
It doesn’t matter what does it, it doesn’t matter how it comes about, whatever it is, if our focus slips from looking ahead to eternity, then it is a loss to us! What is to our gain, what we do need is to keep our eyes forward, on Christ, as Paul tells us here. He had plenty to be proud of, plenty to indulge in, but his reaction was anything that kept him apart from Christ, anything that caused him to focus on himself or anything that wasn’t Christ was a loss to him. And why? Because only Christ had what he truly needed. Forgiveness of sins and the gift of righteousness.
This is why it is so dangerous to let the things of this life steal our focus away from Christ. Just like Paul, all the best we have… can’t save us. We do not measure up to God’s standards. Without Jesus, we are dead. We would be cut off from God and left to an eternity without any of his mercy or grace. There is nothing worse than that. There is no goal to set that is more important than avoiding that outcome. But we cannot avoid it ourselves. Nothing we have changes this for ourselves.
Only Jesus makes a difference. And it makes all the difference. Where we are unworthy and have nothing good to offer, Christ makes us worthy. His life of obedience is credited to us, and his innocent sacrifice on the cross eliminates the debt we owe our God. In Christ, and only in him, are we saved. We are declared innocent before God our Father and we are promised a heavenly home is prepared for us at the end of our time here. Through him we will, as Paul says here, obtain the resurrection of the dead.
When we understand and accept this dynamic between us and our God, it changes how we view our lives and it changes why we do whatever it is we do. When we recognize that nothing we have to offer is good in its own merit, we no longer do things out of pride or for praise or for any reward. Rather we do the good we do because God has made it possible. He gives us the strength, the time, the ability, and it’s the blood of Christ that washes our actions and makes them good for God. And we keep this attitude by keeping our looking ahead to Christ. With eyes on him, on what he’s done for us and on where he’s waiting for us – that sets our goals and mind straight for the coming year. As Paul concludes our section today:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
As Paul says, we have not yet fully attained this goal of looking ahead to our God. We have not fully become as like Christ as we would like. But we do strive always to be better at it. Not by waking up each day and promising to “do better”, that will get us nowhere or even take us backwards. The way to pursue Christ is by renewing our focus each day on him. Learning from him, studying him, growing closer to him. That is what Paul is striving for here.
And when we do that, there’s a natural side-effect: Christ’s power will work through us to accomplish what we cannot on our own. We will grow to be more like him. Now, we recognize that this work will never be completed in this life. We will always have room to grow in him. But that is not an excuse for us to simply give up and say “good enough!” We should never be satisfied with how far our devotion to Christ has progressed! This should be our number one goal every year!
But if you look back over the last year and think: well I sure didn’t do that, then I have good news for you. Our devotion to God is not perfect and we should not despair when we do not live up to God’s standards. We strive, strive, strive… but never despair when we fail. It is because we fail that we have a savior. It is because we fail that Jesus died. And it is because of Jesus that our failures are forgiven. Forgotten. We show our love to God by showing him what he’s worth to us, but our expressions of love to God are simply that, they are not what keeps us in his favor, they are not what make him love us. There will be times of failure and every time we return to him, he has forgiveness for us.
Brothers and sisters, forget what is behind. Forget the things that drag you down to this world and hold you here. Forget your pride and yourself. And don’t look back with regret either. Forget your own failures; God already has. Leave the past in the past. Strain toward what is ahead. Look ahead to the prize that God won for you. Press on toward it. Make that your goal for 2019 and beyond. Reach for Christ every day like your life depends on it. God is reaching back for you, taking hold of you, guarding and guiding you every step of every day. Stay close to him, draw close to him. You are a forgiven child of God, you have absolutely everything to look forward to in him. 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?
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus didn’t look like much.
As he approached the crowd gathered at the Jordan River, he looked like an ordinary human being. He wore ordinary Jewish clothing. He had the traditional Hebrew beard. He travelled by foot like so many ordinary people. He didn’t look all that powerful. Yes, as a carpenter, he probably had the power to swing a hammer – or saw through a piece of olive wood – but…to save? To be this long promised, powerful, Lord and Messiah?
Jesus entered the water with John. It looked like every other baptism John had performed. He spoke God’s Word. He used water. Droplets trickled down Jesus’ beard. A few drops hit the surface of the gently flowing waters of the Jordan.
…a rumble. An incredible sight as the heavens split in half. A schism takes place within the clouds and a bright shining light appears with its aim directly over Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a dove. Glowing with awesomeness. Hovering and glistening with the ethereal mysteries of the ages. The Holy Spirit himself appears and lands on Jesus – harnessed by Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a voice from heaven. For all to hear. Booming. With the bone quaking power of the Almighty Creator Himself. The Words of the Divine enter air. Divine syllables echoing throughout the air unlike any human voice ever heard before. THAT’S POWER.
… “This is my Son.” Divine. Jesus too was from heaven. The Only One for whom God ever made such a powerful appearance and gave such a powerful voice of approval too was Jesus. He was God’s one and Only Son. He too had God’s incredible, eternal, almighty power – power to walk on water, rebuke storms with mere words, feed thousands with only smidgens of bread, drive out demons, and reach past the icy grip of death to return loved ones to one another. THAT’S POWER!
… “With Him I am well pleased.” Perhaps the most powerful truth of all. Jesus had the power to please God Almighty. A power that human beings – dead in sin – do not have the power to do. A thing that humans only have the power to imagine that they have the power to. Jesus had the power to refuse he advances of sexy woman, to withstand the allure of lust, to refuse the mind numbing drink, to rebuke the group of gossipers, and not engage in the sinful pride that comes with defeating sin. If you are a sinner who has ever been tempted by temptation, then you know THAT’S POWER TOO!
Make no mistake about it this morning. Jesus’ baptism was filled with POWER! It was unlike any baptism ever seen before or after. No matter how many fireworks hey have going in the background, special effects added with video editing software. Jesus baptism was POWERFUL and UNIQUE.
And yet…I dare say it wasn’t the most powerful baptism ever. In fact, I’m not even sure it was in the top couples of thousands.
Picture your traditional baptism. A pastor in an ordinary robe. A font filed with water. A woman approaches the front. Some words are spoken. The congregation looks on in anticipation. It looks pretty ordinary. Water is poured on her head. She uses a towel to dry off. Pastor leads in prayer.
It doesn’t look like much.
But Scripture says there is so much. In His Word, God gives us a glimpse at the powerful and incredible things that happen in Baptism. That happened at your baptism. That will happen at your baptism.
Take a look at three very powerful things:
1) Washing Away of Sins.
There was a man named Saul who had a lot of sins. He had taken it upon himself to attack and destroy the Christian church in its early stages. He had falsely accused. Thrown into prison and murdered the church of God. Then, he met Jesus.
Shortly after he met Jesus, a disciple of Jesus came to Saul. He assured of him of forgiveness and said the words of Acts 22:16 says, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.”
Talk about incredible power! Baptism wiped out the repeated, awful, persecution sins of the Apostle Paul.
Similarly Acts 2:38 was spoken to people who had literally and actually been involved in the killing of Jesus. They killed the Messiah talk about an awful. Sin.
But listen to what Peter says would happen in their baptism, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins!” Did you catch that? Their sins would be destroyed. The incredible amount of guilt they had before their Almighty Father above would be obliterated. They would be forgiven.
Baptism is the most powerful stain fighting agent around. It doesn’t just get rid of grass stains, spaghetti stains, or Nacho Cheese Doritos stains. It gets rid of the guilt and consequence of sin. It washes your soul of the messy, grimy disgusting sins you’ve committed before the eyes of your heavenly Father.
2) Saving from Punishment.
This makes sense. God hates sin. He punishes sin. He’s entirely good so He cannot excuse sin in the slightest, but He must punish it in all of his wrath.
But what does it mean when Baptism washes away your sins? When, in God’s eyes, you don’t have an ounce of sin on you?
1 Peter 3:20 states it so matter of factly “Baptism now saves you not removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.” It saves you because it pledges that your sins are forgiven. It gives you confidence to stand before God and say; “I have been baptized. I have been washed. God, there are no sins on me!”
This confidence comes from God. It comes from his blessing of baptism. It comes from faith in what Jesus gives us in baptism.
Look at Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Saved from what? Saved from God’s wrath! He will not punish you, bcause you no longer have sins.
It’s like you changed sides. I think back to my grade school C team basketball days. Once we played an opposing team with only 6 players. Then, two of them got hurt. But we didn’t quit! Our coach simply took one of us every two minutes and subbed us in and onto the other team. We put on their jersey. We were on the other side.
Baptism is like that. It changes our sides. It puts us on God’s side. We no longer deal with his wrath, but with his love!
3) Give Eternal Life.
Ponce de Leon. That’s the name of a 16th century explore who was convinced that he could find water that would allow him to live forever. A fountain of youth. He sailed down to Florida, St. Augustine area and looked for something to save him from death.
Ponce de Leon is dead. He didn’t find the fountain of youth.
Too bad. It was nearer him than he thought. The fountain of youth.
The water of life is nearer you too. It’s Baptism. Look at Romans 6: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
Baptism gives us eternal life! It’s Jesus’ personal promise to you that you’ll live?
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Now we get the crux of the matter. How is this possible? You got some kind of special formula for water? Does your church have it’s water mailed in from the Holy Land? Do you give the water some kind of special blessing? I know there’s such a thing as Vitamin Water, but what is this? Spiritual Vitamin Water!?!
There are a few misnomers to watch out for. A few ways the devil tries to divert our attention – when we think of where the power for Baptism comes from.
*Some say, “The amount of water. If you don’t go totally under, then it didn’t really count. You might have missed some sin in the upper left corner of your split ends!”
*Some say, “Your age. If you believe when you are older and more mature, then it counts more. When you are young, it doesn’t matter. You are too young to mean it.”
*Some say, “Your commitment. You need to be totally committed. If you sin afterwards, then you weren’t committed and you need to do it again. Then, again. And again. And again.”
*Some say, “Your experience. Then, you think you are saved because you had a good experience until you hear someone come along and describe experiencing sin ooze out of their body in Baptism! Suddenly, you aren’t so sure.”
If we think the power in Baptism comes from us, our dedication, and our confession then what happens when those things are weakened? Suddenly, Baptism has no power!?!
But Look at where God’s Word says the power in Baptism comes from:
Acts 2:38 “Be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.”
Romans 6:13 "Don’t you know that…(we were) baptized into Christ?”
1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism…now saves you. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.”
Baptism is not just mere water. It is water connected with God’s Word. It is water connected to Jesus.
The very same Jesus who showed us his power in the Gospel. The same Jesus who had the heavens open up for him at his Baptism. The same Jesus who is connected to and working with the Holy Spirit. The same Jesus who had God the Father’s Almighty approval. The same Jesus who is divine…who is God’s Son!
This is the same Jesus who speaks at Baptism. It is his power that obliterates sin. It is his strength that defeats the devil. It is He alone who has conquered death and he alone is the reason that we based our assurance in Baptism upon!
To clean an old stain, I’ve heard you need more than plain water. You need lemon juice or nail polish…or maybe some tomato juice.
To clean sin you need more than water. You need water connected with God’s Word and united with his Promise. The promise of Jesus our Savior!
This isn’t an either or. This isn’t a grace or works thing. Scripture plainly says that baptism and belief go together. That is something mirrored in Mark 16:15 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
If you believe, be baptized. Trust that God will do a powerful and awesome thing for you.
If you have been baptized, believe. Believe that God has done powerful and awesome things for you.
If you have kids and believe, have them baptized. Because think of the truthful things you will be able to say to them:
Jesus’ Baptism was pretty powerful isn’t it? Then again, God has done a lot of powerful things with water. Destroyed the world. Split a river in half. Walked upon it.
But there is nothing more powerful than what he did in your Baptism. He slayed Satan’s power. He destroyed sin. He obliterated your guilt. He opened the gates of eternal life to all who believe.
This is most certainly true. Amen.
I was interested, so I decided to try it.
We were at the grocery store the other day doing our grocery shopping. While I was waiting for my lovely wife to pick out the right kind of yogurt, I noticed a very interesting drink that was available for purchase. It was a drink made from Kombucha (fermented fruit juice) and Chia Seed Elixir.
On the packaging, its promises were impressive. Renewal. Rebirth. Awakening. Sounds nice. I thought it might be worth the $3 to be a completely changed person.
I drank it...and I was disappointed. No reawakening to discover something new about myself. No renewal to start the next round of pastoral house calls at 8pm on a Sunday. No rebirth to totally change my lifestyle that night.
Just a funny aftertaste.
Now I'm not against a healthy lifestyle. But I wonder if those of us who are feeling tired, incomplete, and in need of a 'do-over' in are looking for rebirth and renewal in the wrong spot.
But who's going to offer real renewal? Who's going to give me good chances? Who can really undo the past and make me look forward to the future?
God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
In other words: God can.
And God does it through nothing less than the very thing we've been talking about all week: Baptism.
Baptism brings rebirth! It works faith. Through this visual, tangible, physical Gospel if Christ's love for them, the Holy Spirit works faith! This is the promise we just read. This means that in baptism, a person is reborn. Their first life -- a life of hatred and hostility toward God is replaced. In its stead, is a new, faith filled life of love and thankfulness toward our Gracious Lord.
Baptism brings renewal too! Because everyday we live our lives, (even as Christians) we sin. We return to our old sinful ways. We act like enemies of God. We feel like failures.
Then, we remember your baptism. Remember God's promise specfically made to you. Remember that Jesus died for you and in him your sinful self died as well. Remember that Christ was reborn in the tomb on Easter morning and through the intimate connection of Baptism so were you!
In Baptism, you are new. You are reborn. You are renewed. You find motivation for the new day, the next hour, even the upcoming moment!
So where do you turn when you are in need of renewal? Stop looking to human manufacturing giants. Instead, look to your Lord and the promise he already gave you in Baptism.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, please forgive me for all the times that I look to other places and things for renewal. You are the only one who grants that. In fact, you won it for us on the cross and you brought it to us through baptism. Lord renew my heart daily with remembrance that I have been reborn in you. Help me to live out the rest of this day in thanksgiving to you and in accordance with this new life. Amen.