I want to talk to you today about baptism. What I want to say is that worship is a right response to who God is and what He has done and what God has promised to do.
It's like this, about 10 years ago, some friends and I, we went snowboarding. We hiked way up into the mountains. We built this giant jump and we spent the day just throwing ourselves off it and seeing if we can do anything crazy or who could do the craziest thing out of the group. One guy at the end of the day went as fast as he could possibly go and does a backflip off of this jump and he flies. I'm wanting to say it was like 30 feet and he lands it perfectly, first try! And when he did that, of course we all start yelling and hollering and just freaking out in excitement! We just couldn't help ourselves, we got worked up, so we had to make a joyful noise about that. It seemed like the appropriate response! In a spiritual, deeper sense, seeing how awesome and powerful and good and loving God is, it awakens something inside of our soul. And that needs to find expression in this physical world. It manifests in different ways such as hands raised or songs being sung and acts of service and love and forgiveness done towards one another. One of the ways that we worship God is through baptism.
Baptism is an act of worship.
Jesus came to rescue our lives. He wants to save our souls and bring us with him into eternity in heaven. He wants to empower you today by his Holy Spirit. He wants to really see transformation happen inside of you at every level including the spiritual level, and so he gives us his word and in it are various commissions or callings. One of the things that Jesus said among his last words are "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations". Now keep in mind this is called the great commission. We are to help people know who Jesus is, to respect Jesus, to love Jesus, to become followers of Jesus, "Go therefore make disciples of all nations" and look at this, "baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". So, Jesus who is fully God and took on flesh, came, performed countless miracles. This Jesus who loves us so much that he died in our place upon the cross. Jesus who rose from the grave three days later, Jesus who conquered sin and death, who even right now is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus speaks to you today from his timeless word and he says, "GET BAPTIZED."
Over the past 2000 years, millions upon millions of people have said, "yes" to Jesus' invitation for baptism. They've essentially said, "Yes Lord, I love you enough. I'm willing to because you've saved my soul, because you've spoke to me, and because you've changed my life. I'm willing to get up on a perfectly good Sunday in front of a bunch of uptight religious people, I'm willing to come up to the front and get into some funky pool in a church and have a couple people lower me down into the water. I'll come up soaking wet, a mess, in front of a bunch of other people!"
You know when you think about it like that, baptism seems a little bizarre, doesn't it? I mean we get it that Jesus would say, "To follow me you must forgive everybody and serve others and just be a generally awesome person!" Now all of that makes sense to us. But when it comes to baptism, we have to wonder why is it so important? What does it mean? The answer is…
Baptism is a reminder of how we're saved.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, if you are trusting the Lord with your soul, then baptism is a picture of something that took place in your life, likely in a very private moment of your life. You weren't in the spotlight. Maybe nobody observed it. Maybe nobody knew what happened other than you and the Lord.
I remember recommitting my life to Christ when I was in my teenage years, I had one foot in the world and one foot in God's will for my life, and I really was having a hard time letting go of the world. And finally there came a moment of just fully welcomed God into my life. But there wasn't an announcement. I didn't make a facebook post about it in fast. Facebook didn't even exist at that time. But, uh, anyway, long story short, something happened in an inner private moment in my life. And Baptism speaks to that inner private moment in our lives. When you said "yes" to Jesus and put your life in his hands. Baptism provides a picture of what took place in you in that moment, in that private moment, now done in a public display so other people can observe what has happened to you.
We all need to be saved. We all need to say yes to Jesus. Baptism is a picture of all that stuff. Why do we need to be saved? Because upon your birth, certain traits were transferred to all of us. Do you know that to be true? You ever have people say, oh my goodness, I've got my mother's this or my father's that. Sometimes it's their personality traits. Do you ever get that with your kids? You think, "oh no, they are the spitting image of me!"
So various things are transferred to our children, but one of the things that is transferred to every child is a sin nature. How many of you ever had to teach your children how to bite other children? No, no, no. We have to try to train these traits out of them. They are in them. These cute little people with temper tantrums and the whole thing. I mean sure they've got good qualities too! But transferred to us and to every person is a sin nature. And a sin nature is a very consequential thing because our God is holy. Our God expects holiness out of us, because after all we were created in his image. In fact, God cannot coexist with evil. It's like fire and ice. Some steam is going to happen if you put the two together. They can't just be nice. A Holy God cannot just buddy up to evil. So sin causes separation between us and God. When a person's life here on earth comes to a close, at the point that a person meets death, if that sin nature hasn't been 100 percent covered, and I mean 100 percent, not just I'm a little better now, but 100 percent covered, then we go into all eternity separated from God. Spiritual death, I picture like the space movies where there is an astronaut floating away from the spaceship forever. Adrift into the abyss.
We can think about it like this. Imagine that you were put on trial for some crime that you committed. A jury came and they sorted through all the data and all the evidence and they were unanimous in their decision, "guilty as charged death penalty for you!" And so there you wait on death row for your imminent death. Now, if you were there, you'd still be alive in your cell. You'd still have some time, but I think it'd be pretty hard to enjoy your time, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? A couple months might go by and I just can't imagine myself thinking "Woohoo, I got 30 days. I'm gonna live it up in here!" You know, I hate to bum you out but the truth is all of us will face death too. Some of us have a year in this world, some of us have ten, some of us 20, some of you 50. But if that sin nature has not been fully covered for then the verdict is already stamped because God cannot coexist with evil and sin.
Admitting that there is sin in us is one of the very first steps toward Christian conversion. When you finally quit making excuses for it, excuses like "it's my dad's fault" or "my mom's fault" or "my neighbor's fault" or "societies fault." When you finally say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. There's something in me that has this proclivity. It's in me and I can't fix myself. When we finally get around to admitting that - we are finally in the early stages of our Christian conversion, and praise be to God, that he loved us so much, that he provided a solution! Jesus steps in as the substitution for the penalty of our sin. Jesus who lived a perfect life willingly lays down his life to die in our place, so that what's called the Great Substitution can take place. The righteousness on Christ is transferred to us. The sin that was on us was transferred to Christ. And now we can have our sins covered by the atonement, through the bloodshed of Jesus Christ. To be clear, baptism doesn't save us. It's the blood of Jesus that saves us.
I heard a story one time about a man. He comes up to a pastor and he says, "pastor, I'd really like to be baptized". The pastor says, "why would you like to be baptized?" And the man says, "because I am trying to find Jesus". So the pastor agrees to baptize the man in the river out behind the church. In the river the pastor baptizes the man, he is fully submerged in the water, as is the tradition for Baptists, then the man comes up from the water. when he comes up the pastor asks, "Did you find Jesus?" The man now soaking wet says, "uh, I don't think so". So the pastor dunks him again and says "how about now?" So pastor does it a third time, this time holding the man under the water for a little longer than the times before. Once again the pastor asks, "Have you found Jesus?" The man replied while he was gasping for breath "I've got to be honest, I don't think he's down there!"
The point is you're not going to find Jesus in the ritual of baptism. You find Jesus in a personal relationship when you come to that point of saying, I know I need the mercy of God! Baptism is an outward expression of that reality of receiving his grace and his mercy. When the one being baptized is going down into the water until they are fully submerged, this represents being buried with Christ. Then when they come back up, that represents new life in Christ. What is old has been laid to rest, and now they're born again!
The final point I'd like to make is that…
Baptism publicly expresses our love for Jesus.
I’ve made up a story to help me illustrate this point. Let's just say one afternoon during baseball season, my wife and I decided we're going to go to a Sacramento River Cats game. We'd go down to packed out night at the baseball stadium. There I look on the field and I see the microphone that the lady used to sing the National Anthem is still up. So I say to Rebekah, "I'll be back in a minute." Then I go all the way down and make my way onto the field, and I find that microphone and real quick before any security even notice I say into the microphone "my name is Bobby Key and I just want everybody here to know I love my wife Rebekah. Love you baby!" Then I put the microphone down and come back to my seat. Ok, if I did that for real, I'd probably here Rebekah say, "you embarrassed me! You know you didn't have to do that. I know that you love me." And maybe what I would say is, "I know that you know that I love you, but I wanted everybody else to know that I love you and I'd be happy to be a fool for you, Honey!"
Baptism is that kind of a thing for you and for Jesus? Does Jesus know you love him? I'm sure he knows. Does it mean a lot to him? Yeah, it does, but when we say on a perfectly good Sunday in front of a bunch of people, I'm going to come up and I'm going to get soaking wet representing what has changed inside of me. It's special and it's meaningful and that's why we do it!