Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 28, 2015
Open your Bibles to Acts 2:42-47. Today we will be examining the life of the Church. The reason for this message is because of our upcoming membership class that begins next Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. Like I often say, I have no desire to hide the ball in regards to my purpose when I preach. My purpose today is to persuade you, through God’s Word, that Church membership is Biblical and crucial. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and see what God wants to tell us today.
One of the many reasons that I love God and His Word is because there is simplicity in following Christ. God does not operate in shades of gray, but in black and white. For example, when we read the Bible we see comparisons of life and death, heaven and hell, good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies. God is a God of definitiveness. This is also true when it comes to his people. We see this very clearly in the Old Testament. God had a chosen people, the nation of Israel, and God went to great lengths to distinguish his people from the other nations. For Israel, God ordained their difference through location, circumcision, eating, washings, and sacrifices. God wanted it to be clear who were his people and who were not. God's desire for distinction has not changed. God still want's a clear display of who are his and who are not.
The first time the word Church is used in the Bible is by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when he says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The second time the word Church is used is also by Jesus and he says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So what does Church mean? The Greek word for Church is “ekklésia.” This word is a combination of two words, “ek” which means “out from” and “kaleo” which means “to call.” So the word means to call out from. The context that this word would have been used is to describe someone calling people out so as to assemble. For those who are object oriented, picture my kids, Julian, Ezra, and Alexandra out playing in my backyard with the neighborhood kids. I stick my head out the door and says “Parsons kids, it is time to eat. Come inside.” My three children hear my voice, turn their heads, and come inside and my family gathers around the table and we eat. This is the word Church. It is a “called out assembly.”
So the word Church lines up with what we talked about already. God desires there to be a distinction between his people and those who are not his people. He is calling his people out of the world so that they assemble. And we see this word, Church, the called out assembly, used time and time again to describe the people who gather together. In fact, we looked at it last week in 1 Corinthians 1:2.
However, here is the problem, in America there is this belief that you can be a Christian and never commit yourself to other Christians. Christians everywhere claim to be followers of Christ, but they never display being a called out assembly. Instead they look just like the rest of the world and rarely, if ever, connect with other Christians. However, to be fair, this is not a new problem that is specific to America.
However, is being at Church every Sunday the end goal? Is this what Christ meant when he said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail?” Is Jesus just a glorified Principal handing out perfect attendance badges? Of course He is not. However, many of you act that way.
Week in and week out, you come in these doors as if you are attending a dentist appointment. You don't want to be here, but you see it is a necessary evil. You sit, you listen, you leave. Next Sunday, you do the same thing, you sit, you listen, you leave. Is this what Jesus called you into, a waiting room full of casual acquaintances waiting for your number to be called? Once again, of course not. So what should the called out assembly look like? We find the answer in our text for today.
Our text this morning is a picture of the first Church, the first “called out assembly”. These were the followers of Christ right after Pentecost, so there were about 3,000 plus followers of Jesus, and what do we see them doing? Neglecting each other? No. We see them assembling. In fact, we see radical assembling. Verse 4 says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.” It was just about Sunday's for these 3,000 people, every single day they they committed themselves to being together.
I want you to take a second and think about this. These people are not fictional characters. They are real people, with real lives. They had families, they had jobs, they had responsibilities just like you and I. However, when Christ called them out of the world and into his Church, they re-oriented their life around their new family. They made sacrifices, changed schedules, they did what it took to be a people.
How rare is this? So often, gathering with your spiritual family is the first thing to go. It takes a back seat to sports, vacations, work, and even sleeping in. Any nominal excuse is enough for us to avoid being with the ones we claim to love.
This was not the case for the early Church. They took commitment seriously. And think about how this daily commitment would have effected those watching from the outside. I am sure that people took notice of the day after day togetherness of the early Church. I can almost imagine the comments, “Your going to their house again? Weren't you just there last night? What is so great about them that you have to always be with them?” And you know what? This is exactly what Christ wants. Listen to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20 the night that he is arrested before his crucifixion.
So what does this commitment of being together look like? In our text we do not just see a togetherness, we see a devotion to fellowship. The world fellowship is koinónia (koi-nō-nē'-ä ) which means a partnership, a participation, a communion, and sharing with each other. Which fits perfectly to the actions we see described in out text.
Once again, is this you? Do you hold on to your things, your money, your home tightly or loosely? Perhaps the most stinging text for Churches today is found in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is talking about the final judgment.
And if that is not enough, the early Church didn't just have a commitment to be together and they didn't just have fellowship, they were devoted. The Greek word for devoted is proskartereó (pros-kär-te-re'-ō ). This means to be continual, to persevere, to prevail, to endure, to stay in a fixed direction. The first Church to ever exist was intentional about their relationship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn't something that came and went, they were steadfast in their community of believers. It was not as if they were their today and gone tomorrow, they could be relied and counted on.
Which leads me to Church Membership. Church membership is an intentional, steadfast commitment to a specific group of people. It is a declaration to your spiritual family and to yourself that you are committing your life to your brothers and sisters in Christ. That you are willing to jump in the trenches with others to learn, break bread, pray, and praise God. Church membership is about saying, that you will orient your life around others, changing schedules, giving financially, sharing resources, sacrificing for those whom you love. You ware chosing to participate, partner, commune with the people sitting next to you week in and week out.
However, it is not only about giving. It is also about receiving. Church membership is about a mutual commitment. Not only are you saying you will pour yourself out for others, but you are saying you need people to pour themselves out for you. Church membership is a humbling experience, for you are admitting that you can't do it on your own. You are saying you can't afford to be causal about your walk with Christ. You are admitting that you need your family and you are giving them permission to love you, day in a day out.
In light of what is going on in America right now, there may not be a more important time then now for brothers and sisters in Christ to band together in a deeper level then just showing up at the same time in the same building. Persecution may be right around the corner. The enemy has been emboldened, and it is moments like this that we need a family to be committed to watching our backs as Satan prowls. Therefore, I hope that if you are an attender of Cornerstone, you will consider making the next step to partner with those sitting next to you, to fight this fight of faith together.
And imagine if we actually did it. Imagine if we at Cornerstone Church were all in when it came to following Christ together. Imagine if we partnered side by side in our brothers and sisters lives. What would happen? Perhaps the headlines in America this week would have read a little differently.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 21, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:20-23. Today is our final sermon on this wonderful book of Philippians. As we move from Philippians into other parts of God’s Word, I wonder how much of what I have preached has had and will have an effect on your life. Likewise, I wonder how much will end up on the editing room floor of your life.
If I was to pick a theme for our Church over the last two years, I think it would be “Let Us Be Doers of the Word.” This phrase comes from James 1:22-25.
Will you forget what it means to be a slave to Christ Jesus? Will you forget about God’s promise to complete the work he began in you? Will you forget about the call to partner in the spread of the Gospel? Will you forget that your life is to be 100% about Jesus Christ. Will you forget that dyeing is not punishment, but a reward, for to be with Christ is far better? Will you forget about the powerful unity of the Spirit that holds our church together? Will you forget about the command to not do anything out of selfish ambition? Will you forget about working out your salvation with fear and trembling because God is working in you? Will you forget about God’s command not to complain? Will you forget about the deep bond and love that is forged between fellow soldiers for Christ? Will you forget that our salvation has nothing to do with works? Will you forget the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus? Will you forget that we must press on and strain to become like our King Jesus? Will you forget that this is not our home, but that our home is in heaven? Will you forget to pray when you are worried? Will you forget to be content through the power available to us through Christ? Will you forget that God will supply all your needs? Will you forget about the blessed fruit of giving to those in need?
My prayer is that you will not, and my encouragement as we end this sermon series, your study of Philippians does not end, but it merely begins. That every year you will spend time in this beautiful book and let these truths sink deeper into your soul. With that said, let us read our text for today, pray, and see what God has to say to us this morning.
In these closing remarks of Paul we see specifically who Paul is addressing his letter to, every saint in Christ Jesus. We saw this same language in the opening of Paul’s letter.
If you go to Google and type in “What is a saint?” your search results will predominantly point you to the Catholic religion, for they have made much of this title, and they have made an absolute mess out of it. And it is because of this, I am going to have to spend today cleaning up after their mess. Now, please know I don't do this to pick a fight, but to proclaim Biblical truth, for many Catholics, not all, but many, have no clue why they do what they do. They have no clue as to the unbiblical positions that are very common within the Catholic Church, the aspect of saints being one. In addition, today because of this mess I am attempting to clean up, we will be taking a few intentional rabbit trails.
First, a saint, according to the Catholic Church is determined by man, and not by God. I found this quote interesting by Pope Alexander in 1173, "You shall not therefore presume to honour him in the future; for, even if miracles were worked through him, it is not lawful for you to venerate him as a saint without the authority of the Catholic Church.” Generally, it was at this point that the powers that be within the Catholic Church would begin determining who deserves the special designation of sainthood, and this man centered authoritarian declaration continues to this day.
The Catholic teaching stands in stark contrast to the verses we have read today, and the 68 different times in the Bible the word saint is used. It is obvious in our text that Paul, who is inspired by the Holy Spirit, sees all men and all women who are in Christ to be saints. In Paul's life, there is no such then as a Catholic saint. There is no such thing as a superior Christian. If you are in Christ, then you are a saint. As I said, this phrase is used approximately 68 different times in the New Testament, not once does it refer to some super holy Christian, in fact verse 21 is the only time that the word saint is used in its singular form. All other times it is used in its plural sense.
So what does saint mean? The word saint in Greek is, “hagios” which means to be consecrated or set apart for God. Perhaps the best verse I could find that points to this reality is 1 Corinthians 1:2.
Since the time of Pope Alexander, the process the Catholic Church has imposed to determine who is a special Christian, and who is not is somewhat shifting sand. It continues to move and change beneath the Catholics feet. Currently, as best as I can tell the process includes four stages. Stage one is called “Servant of God” which includes interviews, reading of papers, and even digging up the dead body and examining it. If the “Servant of God” passes the man made test they are then declared “Heroic in Virtue.” When that occurs material can be printed about the person and Catholics are encouraged to pray to this person, specifically for a miracle. According to the Catholic religion this is proof that God approves of the person actually becoming a saint.
At this point, I want to be as serious as possible. This is not only wrong, but it is encouraging the wrath of God. Praying, or attempting to speak to dead people is unbiblical, inappropriate, and an abomination. I realize those are strong words, but they are not mine, once again they are Gods. When reading the old testament, God makes it abundantly clear that he does not want humanity to mess around in talking with dead people. A person who attempts to talk to dead people is called a necromancer. Listen to these two verses.
Never once in the Bible does God encourage his children to ask dead people to intercede for them, as if God want to play the child's game of telephone. Not once. When prayer is mentioned in the Bible we see things like Matthew 6:9
The next step for the Catholic Church after the designation of “Heroic in Virtue” is to put the matter to another vote to determine if the person can be declared “Blessed” which is a designation that the person is really in heaven. Why is this an issue for that Catholic Church? It is an issue because of another false teaching, which is purgatory. Purgatory is a fictional place where Catholics believe they go to be punished for sins that Christ didn't actually pay for. Teh reason that this is an issue for the process of Catholic Sainthood is that they don't want to encourage people to ask a person to talk to God on their behalf if they are still in purgatory working off their debt.
Purgatory is absolutely not Biblical, and really deserves a sermon in and of itself, for it is a extremely dangerous doctrine. First of all, what does the Bible say about Christians that die? First think about the thief on the cross, if anyone deserved purgatory it was him, and what does Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Catholic doctrine of purgatory where you are punished for unpaid for sins does not sound like Jesus' description of Paradise.
So hopefully, I have effectively convinced each of you, that the sainthood of the Catholic Church is not Biblical, and should be refuted openly when we encounter it. For it is a highly dangerous false teaching that so many of our loved ones have bought into.
Predominantly when the word saint is used in the Bible it is speaking about living people who have placed their faith in sufficiency of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They are the called out ones, set apart consecrated to the Lord. Which leads us to this question, set apart for what purpose?
A saint is not some concrete statute buried in the back yard, so that you can sell your home. A saint is a worker, a solider, a dulous of Christ Jesus. A saint is someone who counts their life as garbage compared to knowing the surpassing worth of Christ Jesus. A saint is someone who cries out, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is a saint, and it is what God is calling each of you to be. It is the end in which you were created.
Preached at Cornerstone Church Men's and Women's Breakfast on June 20, 2015
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 12:1-4. Let us read it, pray, and then wrap up or study on God's Design for Men and Women.
We forget that to be a Christian is to first and foremost recognize that we are sinful, fallen, desperately sick, broken creatures. Our life, prior to being born again is out of step with our Maker. When God births us into spiritual existence, our new inclination is to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The power of the Gospel is to justify and to sanctify. Meaning that the death of Christ sufficiently pays for all of our sin, and there is nothing left for us to do so as to be reconciled to God. However, the Gospel does not merely justify us, it puts us into motion towards becoming in sync with God's will.
The gospel breaks the chains of our sinfulness and gives us freedom and desire to pursue what pleases God. This is the essence of or text this morning to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” This morning I want to talk about two things 1) The Race and 2) the Weights.
So what is this race that we are running? First, let us understand that the terrain for this race is not the streets of gold found in Heaven, but the muck and the mire of this World. God has ordained that the starting line for our life in Christ begins in a fallen world. This is not a perfect illustration but it may help, it is as if we are running in sand. And not only are we running in sand, but people watching us run are not predominately fans of ours. They are hecklers, scoffers, booers, perhaps at times, even obstacles. For some people, the race actually becomes a gauntlet of sorts.
This was the case for the cloud of witnesses that surround us that are spoken about in Hebrews 12:1. These cloud of witnesses are listed in Chapter 11 we are told their stories involve lions, sacrifice, war, torture, mockery, flogging, chains, imprisonment, afflicted and mistreated. Despite all those difficulties, they endured, they kept running the race.
So what race were they running? They were running the race of faith. It is a race that centered around the promises of God. To each of them, the word of God was proclaimed, God's will was revealed, strategy and design were laid out before them, and each one of them had a choice to make in their life, believe God and run the race, or not believe God and blend into the world.
We have spent months soaking in Biblical text seeking the will of God when it comes to men and women. Our study has led us to one single reality, God has a specific design for men, and God has a specific design for women. Both male and female are equal before God. God loves men and women equally and delights in men and women equally, but we have different callings.
I don’t know how you can walk away from this study and think otherwise, for we looked at scripture after scripture from the beginning to the end and it all pointed to an intentional God with an intentional design. Starting in the Garden, running through the Old Testament, examining the words of Jesus, looking at the early Church, reading the letters of Paul, and studying the remaining letters. All of it pointed to an unchanging God who has ordained unchanging roles.
So the question is no longer what does the Bible say about my role as a man, and my role as a women, for we know what its says. The question is, are you willing to run the race of faith when it comes these roles, when it comes to God's design? Are you willing to trust in God’s plan for you as a male, and God’s plan for you as a female? Are you willing to trust in God’s designed for marriage? Are you willing to trust God’s has designed for the home? Are you willing to trust God’s design for His Church?
At this point, this is really the question before us. Will you chose to run the race of faith? We have stared in the mirror of God’s Word, will we turn and forget what we saw? Will we run the race, or will we go sit in the stands? Or perhaps we will run for a little while, and then we will give up because it is just too hard in this day in age? Maybe the Word of God will sprout up in our lives, but it will be chocked out by the cares of this world, or persecution from your family and “friends.”
What I want to do this morning is to convince you, or remind you, that God’s design for male and female is not a burden, it is not a punishment. It is a design that God declared in Genesis 1:31 to be “very good.” That word good in verse 31 is “tob” which can be translated to pleasing, well, pleasant, delightful, glad, joyful, delicious, sweet. God’s design for men and women is a design that fits. It is a design that complements. It is a design that is harmonious. It is a design the best displays what God desires to be displayed.
I think we as Christians forget this. We see the walk of faith only as difficult, and we fail to see the joy, and peace, and fullness of a life when you are surrendered entirely to your Father. We forget that God promises that truth sets us free, and that there is freedom in implementing God’s design. We fail to recognize the fruit that will come from a life planted by the streams of God’s Word. We must recognize that the weight of this life, is not obedience, but disobedience.
What is the must regular response to the question, how have you been? “Busy.” That is the main response. “We are really busy.” You can see it in people's eyes, they are scattered in their lives and scattered in their hearts. This is a weight upon their shoulders. It drags them down. It makes the race of this life wearisome. I can't help but think the main reason for this is that we are out of sync with God's design for our lives.
Instead of men being at home and leading their wives and children, they are working 50+ hours a week, golfing, watching endless sports, or wasting their life away in a man cave. Instead of men stepping up and leading Church's they shrink in the back and make jokes about the women doing it. They send them out into the world to make money so that you can have a bigger truck. Men are universally failing to be the men that God designed them to be. Gone seem to be the days of valiance. Homes and Churches are now full of 40 year old adolescents.
Women, you have bought into the lie of feminism that equality means being the same. Equality does not mean the same. There is no doubt that men and women are different. Why in the world did we think we can fit them into the same mold? You have pursued the path of man, and you are now doing twice as much work and burning the candles at both ends. Your kids are being raised by secular strangers, and you and your husband are always fighting because the house is always a wreck, you never eat as a family, and the two hours you get the your children is spent carting them around to keep up with the world. And at the end of the night, the last thing you are thinking about is intimacy.
With all this said, we wonder why marriages don't last. And we wonder why Church's are slipping into liberalism, where anything goes. We have ignored, rejected, or twisted the Word of God.
But it doesn't have to be this way for us. We don't have to go the way of the world, and be deceived. We can chose today to lay aside every weight that is clinging to us and run the race that God has expressly set before us. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. God hardly ever calls us into things that are easy. The life of a Christian is described as a fight of faith. We must work out our salvation. We must strive down the narrow path. We must pick up our cross and follow Christ.
So this is my call as we end this series. Each of you make a concerted effort to live out what you have been studying. Pray that God would reveal to you areas that are out of sync with God's will. Then take steps in your life to fulfill God's design for you as a man and a women. It doesn't have to be all at once. Each month do something that moves you in the right direction.
Men, start seeing your home as your Garden of Eden and stand guard against Satan's attack on you, your wife, and your kids. Pay attention to what is on the TV, Computer, mailbox, and phone. Set loving rules and boundaries. Be willing to lay down your life for your wife by reducing your work hours, eliminating your TV time, or giving up a hobby or two. Start leading your family in prayer and devotionals. Look for ways that you can step up to the plate at Church. Encourage other men to be men. Make the choice to stop being apathetic, and instead choose to be a fellow solider in Christ.
Women, think about how you can come up along side and help your husbands and the Church. Be Holy Spirit like, who comes and goes without being seen, but you know that he was there because you can see the effects. Think about how you can make the dance more beautiful. Unleash your God given creativity and live, not as a slave to feminism, but as a slave to Jesus Christ. Make your home a gospel centered home, focus your attention on training up your children in righteousness. Love your husband, encourage your husband, respect your husband.
Lastly, let us, let God be God. Let us submit to Him above all. Let us not think we are entitled to a certain way of life that we believe is the best. Let us run the race of faith and trust in God's design, let us trust in God's Word, and let us endure for the joy that is set before us when we stand in the presence of our Maker and we here him say well done good and faithful servant.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 14, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:14-20. Today is our second to last sermon in this series from the book of Philippians. Next week, I will be wrapping it up, and on the 28th I will be preaching about Church Membership with the hope that I will convince many of you to become committed members of Cornerstone Church. Not because we want to put your name on a list, but because the Bible encourages deep partnership within the local body.
Then starting in July, I will be beginning a two month series that I am entitling, a “Summer of Psalms,” where each Sunday I will be unpacking a Psalm. With that said, I would ask that all of you pray for me as I start to wade into those waters, for it is new territory for me to preach from the Psalms, and I want to above all handle the word rightly. But today and next week, let us choose to finish strong in the book of Philippians. Let us read our text, pray, and allow God’s Word to work on our hearts.
Let us begin by way of review. The book of Philippians is written by Paul to the Saints in Philippi. This relationship between Paul and this local Church began with the conversion of Lydia. This event is documented in Acts 16:14.
Catalyst to Giving
Why? Why was this local body of believers so radical in their giving? Why did they stand out amongst the dozens of Churches when it came to their sacrificial partnership in proclaiming the Gospel? I believe that over the last 6 months we have been answering just that question.
The catalyst to giving can be summed up with one word, the Gospel. The Church in Philippi had been radically and forever changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God had begun a work in them. They had become partakers of Grace. They were filled with the fruit of righteousness. They accepted the battle cry that to live is Christ and to die is gain. They did nothing out of selfish ambition. They emptied themselves and took the form of servants, working out their salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it was God who worked in them to will and work for his good pleasure. And while doing so they held fast to the word of life, and poured themselves out like drink offerings. They were brothers, fellow workers and fellow soldiers of God. They counted everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, specifically knowing the power of his resurrection. Because of the Gospel they no longer set their minds on earthly things, but recognized that their citizenship was in Heaven, and because of that they rejoiced in the Lord always, which flowed into a peace with God that surpassed understanding. Producing a life of contentment due to the power of Christ working in their weakness and making all things possible.
It was out of this gospel transformation that they gave. When no one else was giving, the Philippians gave. They were not concerned what others Churches did, they gave from a heart that was bursting with the Spirit of God.
And this is what happens when Christ takes up residence in your heart. You give. When you repent and turn towards Jesus, and place your faith in the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and you commit your like to him as your Master, Jesus comes and lives in you heart. This morning we talked about this is Hebrews 8.
John the Baptist says this in John 3:30 about Christ, “I must decrease and he must increase.” You see it again in the apostles John and James who left their boat and their father and followed Jesus. You see it in the apostle Matthew upon Jesus saying two simple words “follow him.” Without hesitation, he quit his job of collecting taxes and lining his pockets with the dust of this world and instead gave of himself to the point of martyrdom. You see it in the conversion of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8 when Zacchaeus pays back fourfold of what he had taken from the poor. You see it in the women with the alabaster jar in Matthew 26, pouring it on the head of Jesus in sold out sacrificial worship while those around scoffed at the waste. You see it Joseph of Arimethea, a rich man who gave his grave to bury the Author of Life. The list could go on and on, for every time someone goes from death to life, the life they live is one of love. Love for God and love for others. In fact, one sign that you may not be saved is your lack of giving.
This was the reality for the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus, the Great Physician, was examining his heart and told him to give up everything and follow Him. The rich man walked away sad for he had great wealth and Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle then for a rich man to get into heaven. Folks, I have some bad news, if you own your home you are richer than 90% of the world's population. You are the rich young ruler. However, don't lose heart, for Jesus said perhaps the most Calvinistic and perhaps the most precious words every to be spoken. The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?”26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
What is the power of God that makes rich men give up everything to follow Christ? It is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, a salvation that produces radical, reckless, self-sacrificial giving. It was a Gospel that touched the hearts of the Philippians, and they couldn't help but give. It was their new spiritual DNA.
The question for us today, is it ours? Is the DNA of Cornerstone consumption or Gospel giving? Are we the rich young ruler, or are we the Philippians Church? Do we spend our money on ourselves, or do we lay it at the feet of God? Do we work our 40 hours to line our pockets, or do we work as if working for the Lord? Are we spraying the perfume of our wealth upon our necks, or pouring it on the head of our Savior?
The Fruit that Increases to Your Credit
Now here is the interesting thing about Gospel giving. It is not really giving to lose, but it is actually giving to get. Look at verse 17.
The real question when it comes to giving for the fruit that increases to your credit, is do you believe it? Do you trust God enough to implement it in your life? Do you trust that will hold up His end of the bargain? Many people do not. They are not willing to take the risk, they instead want to maintain the control that they have in their life and build bigger bins. This however is foolish, for we are chasing dust instead of the eternal riches our our Maker. Perhaps Jesus said it the best.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 7, 2015
Today we are stepping away from the book of Philippians to talk about the ordinance of Baptism. This will be the 3rd year that I have intentionally preached on this specific topic. Today we will cover a lot of ground, so if after this sermon, you still have questions that go deeper than what we talk about today, then by all means come and find me and we will tackle each question you have.
Now before we get started, I also want to encourage a majority of you in the room who have been baptized as a believer, and who have heard me preach on this subject, to not zone out. You as much as anyone need to hear this message. And here is why: 1) As humans, we have a tendency to forget. Peter says in 1 Peter 1 that his duty is to stir them up by way of reminder. This is what I am doing today, I am attempting to stir you up in reminding you what your baptism symbolizes. 2) Your baptism is a weapon against the attacks of Satan and the weakness of your flesh. It is not something you do and forget. It is something that we must pull out and sharpen. Today my intent is to sharpen it and ready it for battle. 3) You, as a Christian, are to be prepared to give answers for your faith and Baptism is one way that you could give an answer. So in summary, do not lean back and zone out, but lean in and equip yourself.
Second, I do not want to hide the ball from those of you who have not been baptized as a believer. By that I mean those who have never been baptized or that were baptized as babies. With this sermon, I am intentionally trying to persuade you with Scripture that true Baptism is one that is done after someone places their faith in Christ. If you were sprinkled as a Baby you are not Biblically baptized.
Lastly, I want everyone to know where I come from in regards to Baptism. I was not raised in a Baptist Church. I have, in fact, never attended a Baptist Church that I am aware of. I was raised in a Quaker church. Quaker’s teach no physical baptism, but only spiritual baptism. Therefore, I was not baptized until June of 2012. Why is this important? Because the reason I decided to be baptized is because I could not escape the Word of God. Even though I was saved years before my baptism, I was being disobedient to what the Bible plainly teaches, but shrugging it off. I don't want to shrug off God's Word, nor do I want you to.
What is baptism?
Let us begin with the question, what is baptism? To begin, we need to recognize that the practice of baptism is Biblical. Baptism is not an ordinance of man; it is an ordinance of God. This is important because if baptism is of God, then we must recognize that He is the one who thought of it, purposed it, designed it, implemented, and has authority over it. Therefore, it is not for us to twist, distort, diminish, or ignore. We as Christians should embrace it, understand it, submit to it, implement it, and teach it, for it is God’s ordinance given to his Children, His sheep, His Body, His Church.
The word for baptism in Greek is “baptizó". Baptizo means to dip, submerge, or immerse. Baptizo does not mean sprinkle. Therefore the Word that God specifically chose to describe this ritual, or ordinance, was a word that brings to mind immersion into the water. In John 3:23 you can get a sense of this.
The Significance of Baptism
Regarding the significance of baptism, as we skim the New Testament, we see the thread of baptism weaved throughout. We first see baptism with John the Baptist, the man chosen by God to make straight the path of Christ. As I already mentioned, we next see Jesus himself being baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Then we see Jesus and his disciples in John 4 credited with baptizing more people than even John the Baptist. Then in Matthew 28:19 we see Jesus concluding his earthly ministry with these commanding words “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Next we see the books of Acts basically opening with a mass baptism where 3,000 people are cut to the heart and Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”
From there we see the Church being unleashed into the world and proclaiming the Gospel to the lost and upon belief the next thing that was done was baptism. Time and time again, the pattern is the same, preach the Gospel, believe, baptism. We see it when the Gospel is preached in Samaria and to the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, the conversion of Paul is Acts 9, the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10, the conversion of Lydia and the Jailer in Acts 16, the conversion of Corinthians in Acts 18, the conversion of Apollos in Acts 19. To say that baptism played a minor role in the early church would be an outright lie, for whenever a person placed their faith in Jesus Christ, baptism soon followed.
And this is what was regularly taught in the Church. Baptism was not sidelined, it was encouraged and taught about. In fact, it was assumed, that if you were in the Church you were baptized, and we see this in the teachings on baptism explicitly in Romans 6, Galatians 3, Colossians 2, 1 Corinthians 1, and 1 Peter3, and implicitly in a variety of other passages.
Why have I spent so much time addressing this? Because in our Churches I worry that we are too casual about Baptism. Baptism is an ordinance of God that He repeatedly revealed to us in His inspired Word. We cannot be casual about baptism, for God is not casual about baptism. So with that, let us talk about what is baptism and who is baptism for.
What is Baptism?
The first thing we must understand is that Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Over, and over and over again we are told in God’s word that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ...period.
This is the entire point of the Old Testament, to show us that liturgy, and rituals, and traditions have no power to save. It is only Christ who saves. Any Church who teaches that baptism saves, is no church of Christ. God did not give us baptism to save us; he gave us Christ to save us, and it is baptism that points to union with Christ.
Therefore, what is baptism? It is a symbol that points to a miracle that takes place at the moment you place your faith in Christ. Turn with me to Romans 6.
We see a union with Christ. Upon believing in Jesus we submerse ourselves into him. We are joined with him. We are in Christ. This is why we see the two words “in Christ” all over the Bible. So what does that mean? It means that upon, faith in Christ we are joined to Christ in two ways, in his death and in his resurrection.
First, let us talk about being joined in his death. When Jesus died, what was happening? Jesus was making a payment for our sin. He was dieing in your place. God was pouring out his anger towards humanities rebellion against Him, the Holy God. When we place our faith in Christ we are turning from self, and to Christ. We are laying down our lives and so as to have Jesus. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 16
Next, let us talk about being joined into Christ's resurrection. On the third day, after Jesus died, but he did not stay dead. He rose from the grave. He in this moment is alive. No one on the planet has done this except Jesus Christ. He alone has conquered death.
This story is a shadow of our greater reality, for God's wrath is real. The rain drops will fall, and one day it will come upon you like a thief in the night and if you do not take refuge in Jesus Christ then you better learn how to swim, not just for 40 days and 40 nights, but for all eternity, and not in water, but in a lake of fire. By placing our faith in Christ, he brings us through God's wrath, and we find rest, not upon Mount Arart, but in the presence of our loving Father.
This is what Baptism symbolizes, we are not left under the water to die in our sins, we are lifted through the water where we breath again. We are brought through the water and we walk in newness of life. Our funeral turns into a birthday celebration. Once again, the symolism is completely lost if you merely sprinkle.
Who is Baptism for?
Baptism is for adults who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and placed their faith in his destruction of death on the cross. If you were baptized as an infant, and you have as an adult placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then I encourage you to be baptized according to scripture, not according to the traditions of your parents. For you need to be reminded who you are in Christ. This is why God implemented this ordinance, he wants you to remember You have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. And the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:20).