Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 19, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:17-21. Today we will pick up where we left off last week and continue our discussion regarding our destiny. If you recall, last week we saw that we, as followers of Christ, are to press on, and strain forward, for the goal of becoming like Jesus Christ. This goal is the preeminent, the supreme, the primary goal for all disciples of Christ. We, the servants, are to become like our Master. This is our purpose, this is our calling, this is our destiny. The reason that I say it is our destiny is because of what is found in Romans 8:29-30.
In verse 17 we see Paul say, “Brothers, join in imitating me.” If you were to have read this verse in isolation, you could have mistakenly thought that what Paul is saying is that Christians should aspire to be Paul, that Paul is the goal in which we press on, or strain towards. However, as we have seen, this is not what Paul means by saying “join in imitating me.” For Paul tells us that our ultimate goal should be to become like Christ, not Paul. In fact, this was a point of contention in the Church in Corinth.
Therefore, the question each of us must ask ourselves is, does the pattern of our life match that of Pauls? Are we entirely oriented around the person of Jesus Christ. Are we his slave? Do we preach Jesus at all times? Is He our Greatest Treasure? Is He our greatest goal? Does our manner of life, match the gospel that we claim to have embraced? Or does our life, instead pattern the world?
Pattern of the World
In our text, we see Paul give two options. You can join in imitating me, and pick up your cross and follow Jesus, or you can walk as enemies of the Cross. Those are your choices. You have to pick one of the other. There is no fence sitting when it comes to Jesus.
So let us ask, who is an enemy of the Cross of Christ. First, we must realize that Paul is not talking about obvious enemies. He is not talking about people who hate Jesus, who deny God, who live radically sinful lives. Are these people enemies of Christ, yes, but that is not who Paul is talking about, because there is no need to warn Christians about those types of enemies.
The enemies that Paul is talking about are wolves in sheep's clothing. Those people who calim to be Christians, but are not. They are the ones, that are covert enemies, and they are ones that have a potential to lead true Christians in the wrong direction. They are enemies that have their own examples of how to follow Christ, and Paul is telling the Philippians not to follow their example. So what do theses enemies look like?
First, we are told their end is destruction. What does this mean? It means that they are not saved. This is important. In all local churches you will have the saved and unsaved. This is true for Philippi and for Cornerstone. Just because someone attends Church, it does not mean they are going to heaven. Here are some examples.
IN Matthew 7, Jesus tells us directly that there will be some people in the Church who have never been saved.
The point I want to make is this, don't assume that just because some claims to be a Christian, that they truly are a Christian. You must use discernment before you follow them on facebook, purchase their book, read their blogs. My guess is that on judgment day, many “Christian” authors are going to be saying, “but Jesus, we wrote many books, and made a lot of money in your name.” and Jesus is going to say, “depart from me, I never knew you.”
The second thing we see is Paul describing as enemy as someone whose God is their belly. Who are these people? Most likely these people are Judiazers. Remember them? These are the people who say they love Jesus, but tell everyone that you have to keep the Jewish traditions. One of those traditions were the dietary laws. These people said that unless you eat the right food, or unless you abstain from the right food, you will not be saved. Instead of serving Christ, they are serving their stomachs. They have placed their faith in tradition, not in Christ, and this is why their glory is their shame. They wrongly put confidence in the flesh to eat their way into God's presence, but in the end what that produces is nothing but the shame of their self-centered worship.
Lastly, we see Paul describe enemies of the cross as those who set their minds on earthly things. Now this is where some of you will start to get uncomfortable, for God is speaking directly to you. What does it mean to set your minds on earthly things? Let's use some text to understand this?
Walk Life a Citizen of Heaven
And Paul is telling us not to follow their lead, don't be lukewarm. Resist the temptation to purchase cheap grace. Refuse to be a friend of the world. Do not follow them into the pit of their destruction. Do not walk as an enemy of Christ, but instead walk as a citizen of Heaven.
Live your life as if this is not your home, as if you are a sojourner just passing through. Do not put your hope in the things of this world, put you hope in God. Live as if you truly believe. Live as if Jesus is your greatest treasures. Live a life that is worthy of the Gospel that you have received. Live as if you have no fear. Live radically for Jesus Christ. Live like Paul lived who said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We must never forget what lies ahead of us and is spoken in verse 20 and 21, “the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is what we are moving towards, so imitate Paul's pattern of life and become what you already are.
The reality is this, every Church has a culture. What will be ours? Will we be lukewarm? Will we be friends with the world? Will be be enemies of the cross, or will be imitate the pattern of Paul and walk like citizens of heaven.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 12, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:12-16. Last week we took a short break from studying the book of Philippians due to last week being Easter Sunday. However, today we will return to our journey through my favorite book in the Bible, Philippians.
Before we dive into our text, I wanted to spend some time, once again, talking about why we are walking through an entire book. We began our study of Philippians on the first Sunday of January. Most likely we will end our study of Philippians in May, or perhaps June. This is 5-6 months in one letter, a small letter at that. Philippians has only four chapters in it. Some of you may be thinking, what about the rest of the Bible?
First, when you work through a book of the Bible, you are never in just that book. To mine the Word of God you must use the Bible to interpret itself. By this I mean, to illuminate certain text, we must shine the light of God’s Word onto God’s Word. We must pull in different text to see examples, to show patterns, to define terms. The study of one letter is never limited to one letter. In a way, you end up studying the entire Bible through the lens of the book you are in.
Second, there is an epidemic within American Churches today, and the epidemic is that Churches are full of one inch deep Christians. Now there are multiple reasons for this, but one reason is that pastors aren’t doing their job in preaching the full counsel of God. Many pastors preach only topically. Meaning that the pastor picks a topic and preaches. This is ok, from time to time, but if this is the only way you preach, then you have a tendency to pick easy text, or comfortable text, or familiar text, and you leave out the difficult stuff. When you preach through an entire book, you don’t pick and choose. The preach as it comes, no matter what the topic: divorce, homosexuality, gluttony, death, the doctrines of Grace, etc. You are required to teach all that God commands.
Third, when you study a book for six months, week after week digging into the text, seeing how it all fits together, asking hard questions, meditating on implications, comparing it to your life, you will find the greatest treasures. The largest and most beautiful diamonds are not found on the surface, they are deep inside the mountain.
So those are a few reasons why I predominately subscribe to teaching through books of the Bible. There are of course more reasons, but those are the ones that I wanted to bring to your attention today. So with that said, let us get into our text for this morning and see what God has in store for us.
In verse 12 we see Paul say, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.” What is the Apostle Paul talking about? For this we must look back into verse 10 where Paul says, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Paul, in verse twelve is continuing his thoughts in verse 10 and 11 and he is talking about obtaining the knowledge and likeness of Jesus Christ. So when Paul says “Not that I have already obtain it” he is saying that he is not obtained a full knowledge of Christ and it not completely like Christ. Paul is admitting that he is still on the journey of being sanctified.
And what do we see the end goal being? Perfection. Verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.” If Paul would have obtained “this” if he would have full knowledge of Christ or be completely like Christ, he would be perfect. Why? Because Christ is perfect. In Christ there is no flaw. In Christ there is no sin. He is God incarnate, Emmanuel. Jesus himself tells Philip in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In Hebrews 1:3 we are told, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,”
How crucial is this reality. Jesus is the ultimate role model. If you want to know how to live, look at Jesus. If you want to know how to love, look at Jesus. If you want to know how to have joy, look at Jesus. If you want to know your purpose, look at Jesus. Jesus is the perfect man, and his is the only perfect man. Which leads me to a false doctrine that is taught from time to time and it the doctrine of Perfectionism. It is the false teaching that you can become totally without sin. This doctrine has its roots in John Wesley, not that he necessarily taught it, but it is out of his words that perfectionism has its origins. Today, perfectionism still exists in some teachings of the Methodist and the Nazarene denominations. However, we know these teaching to be false due to text like we have today. Paul admitted that he was not perfect, how can we believe that anyone can achieve perfection if not even the Apostle Paul can attain it. Perfection only comes upon the return of Christ, but until then we are all sinners, and as we discussed last week, this sin finds its origin in teh Garden of Eden.
If you recall, in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in his image. However, something happened, sin entered the world and the image of God has been severely marred. Sin caused us to bear the mark of Satan, more than the mark of God. However, this is not so for Christ. Christ does not bear the mark of sin, he is spotless. In fact, this is one of the reasons Jesus came to die. To restore the image of God that was marred because of the fall. In fact turn with me to Romans 8:29.
We are perfect in the sense that we are justified before God. All the sins that I commit in the past and in the future are cleansed from me; therefore when I stand before God, he will not see any sin in my life, for Jesus washed away my sin. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that tomorrow I won’t commit a sin. It just means that tomorrow when I commit a sin, it is already paid for. Therefore, I am perfect in the sense that upon the day of judgment Christ has paid my penalty; however I am not perfect in the sense that I don’t sin anymore. You can see this in Hebrews 10:14, ““For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Yes we are perfect in Christ, but there is still work to be done in our lives. We still struggle with sin and we will still fall short. God is sanctifying us. As Romans 8:29 says, God is conforming us to the image of His Son. We saw this in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” It is guaranteed. God is making the outside look like the inside. He is making our lives match our eternal reality.
However, our role in this is not passive. What does Paul say in 2:12-13, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul says that once you are justified, the work begins. We must work, not to earn our salvation, for Christ does this, but we must work out of salvation. Our salvation produces in us a desire for sanctification, and this desire is not easy. It is work. Paul is now expanding on that idea of working out your salvation, your sanctification, and says that we must “press on.” We must press on to become like Jesus.
What does press on mean? The Greek word is diókó. It means to pursue as a hunter would pursue his prey. Chasing after it to apprehend. I don't know if we have any hunters in our congregation, but perhaps some of you can relate to this picture. I know that I have met a lot of obsessed people when it comes to hunting. In fact, I am related to some of them. During deer season, they are consumed with killing the 10 or 12 point buck. It is all they can think about. Paul is speaking the same language, not regarding white tail, but with Christ. We must be consumed with a desire for Christ likeness.
Does this describe you? In your life, are you pressing on, pursuing Christ-likeness? Paul in verse 14 says it is his goal, and it should be the way we should be oriented. We should think just like Paul. How many goals have you set for yourself in your life? Perhaps you have made educational goals, financial goals, business goals, social goals, creative goals, physical goals. In pursuing these goals you have devoted substantial time, money and energy, and most likely thre have been sacrifices made.
I want each of you to take a moment and think about some goals you have made in your life. Now I want you to picture yourself on your deathbed. Now I want you to picutre yourself in the presence of God, a million years from now. How important is that earthly goal of yours? Who cares about how much money you have? Who cares how fast you can run a 5k? Who cares how successful you business was? Who cares what degree hangs on your wall? In those moments of death and glory, the only thing that matters is Christ.
My challenge to each of you today, is to reorient your life starting today. Stop pursuing things of this world, instead pursue Christ. Stop thinking like infant Christians and start thinking like mature Christians. Start to implement things in your life to reach the goal of looking more and more and more like Jesus. Be intentional is then pursuit. Each morning wake up with this goal on your mind. Pray that God would work continue this work in your heart and produce in you an image that resembles his son, not the world.
Read your Bible, not sporadically, but every day, multiple times a day. And don't just read it to read it, but eat it, like spiritual food for your soul. Approach the Bible like Jesus approached the Bible. Jesus in the desert to Satan, what does he say? Matthew 4:4 - “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus before he is crucified what does he pray? John 17:17 - “Sanctify them in your truth, Your word is truth.”
Paul understands this. To become like Christ means to pick up your Bible? What does Paul remind the young pastor Timothy? 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of Godb may be complete, equipped for every good work.” What does complete mean? It means to be like Christ. How is this done? By eating this book like we eat bread!
This is how we press on, this is how we pursue, this is how we are made perfect, this is how we become like Christ, by reading this book and letting it cut off the sin that clings to us. Will this be easy? Absolutely not. Paul says in verse 13 that we will have to strain. What does strain imply? It implies a force pushing against us? Not as light force, but a force that causes us to grit our teeth and put our head down and move forward.
This resistance may be the world that you have saturated in for 30 years. It may be your flesh that loves slothfulness. It may be your pride. It may be your family that thinks you went off the deep end. It may be Satan himself in the wilderness of our life, tempting and mocking you. But never forget that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” and “he who began a good work in your will bring it to completion” and he who foreknew you, predestined you to be conformed to the image of His Son; therefore work our your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and work for His good pleasure; so press on to reach the destiny for which you were created.
And do not forget that he who justifies will also glorify, and this is the end for which we pursue. It is the prize of the upward call. And this prize is like no other prize in this universe. As we stated several weeks ago, Jesus Christ far surpasses anything this world has to offer. He is better than money, your business, the American dream, your life itself, and anything else that this world tries to deceive you with.
So let us be like the Apostle Paul. Let us forget what lies behind us. Let us forget the goals of the world, let us forget the fleetingness of this world, let us walk out of this building with a new found commitment to pusruing Christ-likeness. Let us be like Joshua who at Shechem in Joshua 24 said, “choose this day whom you will serve ...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 8, 2015
Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 2:17-24. Over the last several weeks we have been unpacking what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. We have seen that the life of a disciple is a life of progress, a life of working out, a life of sanctification. The end goal of this journey for a disciple is for us to look like our Rabbi, or teacher, our Master, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Who we are told in verse 8, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Today, we are going to examine two disciples in the midst of their journey of sanctification, Paul and Timothy. So let us read our text, pray, and get to work.
When Paul found Timothy, we are not sure how old he was, but most people believe him to be in his late teens or early twenties. However, at that age Timothy was already a follower of Jesus Christ. We are told that the Christian brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. We don’t know all the details but we can piece a few things together. We are told in 2 Timothy 1:5 that Timothy’s grandmother and mother were both believers in Jesus Christ. Paul says this in his letter written to Timothy:
I want to spend just a brief second to encourage parents and grandparents. Your role in your children and grandchild’s life is crucial. You are to be like Lois and Eunice. So many “Christians” are utterly failing in this area of their lives. God has given you a child to steward. He has give you this Child for the chief end of glorifying Him and enjoying Him. Therefore, the first responsibility you have as a parent is to introduce your child to his or her Maker., and then teach them about Him The only way this is done is by opening up the Bible. This should be of first importance. This is more important than gymnastics, or baseball, or boy-scouts, or even school. From the moment they are born until the Lord returns, you should be constantly pointing them to Jesus Christ.
Timothy was a product of this type of child-rearing. And because of this, when Paul first encountered Timothy, he knew instantly that Timothy would be an asset to the team. So what did Paul do? He invited Timothy to join him in his second missionary journey.
What is amazing is that it appears that Timothy agreed without hesitation. At least, if there was hesitation, the Bible is silent on it. In fact, Acts 16 is amusingly nonchalant about Timothy leaving his home, his comforts, his friends, his girlfriend, his mother and grandmother, and his dreams.
When I was 18, I have to admit, nothing like this was on my radar screen. The only thing I thought about was going to college, finding a wife, getting a job, and pursuing the “American Dream.” I don't recall one time asking God, what do you have for me? This was not the mindset of young Timothy. Timothy was not focused on the things of this world; he was focused on the things of God. And when the call came he was ready, and he sacrificed all that he knew and followed Christ right out of his town and into the mission field.
In between that moment of Timothy joining Paul and the writing of this letter to the Philippians approximately 13 years had passed. In those 13 years Timothy was fundamental in the operations of the ministry. He was Paul's apprentice, his right hand man, his apostle in training. Timothy was a crucial part of the planting of numerous Churches, including Philippi. He was regularly used by Paul to strengthen existing Churches, such as Thessalonica. In six of the 13 letters written by Paul, Paul indicates that Timothy is right alongside him in the ministry. This is true as Paul writes the letter to the Philippians. We saw this in the very first line of the letter to the Philippians, “Paul and Timothy, servants [doulos] of Christ Jesus.”
The bond between Paul and Timothy was a beautiful one. You can see it in the words of Paul in our text today. Verse 20 say, “I have no one like him” and in verse 22, “how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” What amazing complements from the Apostle Paul.
As we have discussed many times before, the Apostle Paul not just anyone, he was the greatest follower of Christ this world has ever seen. He wrote 13 of our New Testament books. He was God’s chosen light to the gentiles and was the first to take the gospel message to the European Continent. He was one of the few people who have ever existed that performed actual miracles, and even raised people from the dead.
For a lot of us, it is hard to relate to Paul. We hear about how God chose him, and used him, and then we look at our lives and they are drastically different. At times, it is hard to relate to Paul. That is not the case for Timothy. He was a young man in a small town, whose mom loved Jesus and wanted the best from him. He read his bible and cried out to Christ for forgiveness of sins. He then plugged into his local church and started to love people with the love of Christ. One “random” day, Paul showed up and invited him on the journey of his life. This is the story that most of us can relate to. Can all of us be Paul's? No, not in one sense. But can we all be Timohty's? You bet.
So what was so great about Timothy? What made him so great in Paul's eyes? Was it his oratory skills? Was it his ability to lead people into powerful worship? Was it his cutting edge church plant strategy? No.
So let us ask the question, what is a drink offering? The first place we see a drink offering mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 35:14 when God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. However, where we see it more prominently is the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. First in Exodus 29, then in Leviticus 23: and again in Numbers 15:1-10.
It is most likely that this is what Jesus was referring to when he implemented the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of thec covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul was following in the footsteps of his Savior, for he was pouring himself out for many, and Timothy was doing the same. Both of these men were Christ centered, which translated to them being other oriented. They were willing to give up everything, including their own lives so that others would know the wonderful treasure of knowing Jesus Christ. They lived their life poured out, constantly emptying themselves for the faith of others.
How foreign is this concept to many of us. We have turned Christianity into another commodity to be consumed. We walk into Churches demanding a certain level of catering. Each Sunday morning is evaluated in accordance to how well the service fulfilled our needs and desires. Is this the aroma that you want to rise to the nostrils of our God?
Church is about loving God, and loving others. These are the two greatest commands, and Jesus says if we get in line with these two commands, then everything falls into place. Too often we turn our Christian walk into loving ourselves. However this flies in the face of what we are told it means to follow Christ. Jesus tells us that when we choose to follow Him, we are to die to ourselves.
Instead of being self-interested, we should be eagerly pouring ourselves into the lives of others. We shouldn't look at people in this Church as means to ends. We shouldn't see them as an end in themselves. Like Paul and like Timothy, we must be willing to go to them, to encourage them, to love them, and to die for them.
I hate to end on a sour note, but I could not escape feeling the need to call to our attention the words of Jesus when it comes to living selflessly. These are the words of Jesus regarding judgment day.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 22, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:12-13. Today we will be looking at only two verses, and it will take as all of 45 minutes to do it. So we are going to get right to work this morning.
So with that said, if you run into an apparent paradox in the Bible do not reject it. Instead, recognize that the Bible is not the problem. You are, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you mine the depths of God’s truth. When you do this, you will most likely find that the deeper you dig, the greater the treasure you will find.
So let us start with the paradox. In verse 12 we see Paul telling the Church in Philippi to “work out your own salvation.” This is a command. Paul is telling them to work, to do something. He places the obligation, the responsibility on the people. Then in verse 13, in the same sentence, Paul says, “it is God who works in you.” Paul is saying that God does the work.
Is Paul schizophrenic? He starts his sentence with us doing the work, and ends the sentence with God doing the work. Which is it? Is it us, or is it God? At first glance, we believe that these positions are mutually exclusive. We believe that they cannot both be true. It has to be one or the other, but not both.
Why? Because when we read the Bible we wrongly superimpose our finite, our limited knowledge over the Bible. We wrongly have a tendency to Lord over God’s word. We wrongly approach the Bible as if we are god, and we therefore then attempt to shape God’s word to match our view of reality. This is not the way you read the Bible. We should not twist the Bible to match our metanarrative, the Bible that should shape us to match God’s redemptive narrative. For it is the Bible that is the revelation of true reality. We must humble ourselves beneath the Word of God and allow it to refine us. We must be willing to accept difficult truths, even if we don’t understand it initially.
So today I encourage you, to start from that position, as position of humility as we attempt to mine the depths of the reality that we work out our salvation, and God works out our salvation.
Next, lets us talk about the foundation of this text. We are focusing on only two verses, and there is a risk that when you do this, you read it with blinders on. We must recognize that these verses are not on an island. They are a part of a letter. They are part of a flow of thought. Verses 12 and 13 have a foundation under them, so let us spend some time looking at that foundation. The foundation begins in Philippians 1:3.
At that moment, Lydia is saved. Salvation has come into her heart. She is eternally secure in the arms of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus paid for all her sin; past, present, and future, and she has been given the righteousness of Christ. This is the great substitution. Christ takes our sin, and we take his righteousness. This is why Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For those who are in Christ, the gift of salvation is received at the moment of faith. This is why Paul can confidently say in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is a guarantee that all who are in Christ will be brought to completion. We will all reach the end. We will endure. We will persevere. If you don’t persevere, that means that you were never in Christ. That God never began a work in you, but you were just fooling yourself.
However, for a true follower of Jesus, in between the beginning and the end is the Christian walk. And this is what Paul starts to discuss in Philippians 1:27.
And it is this foundation that Paul lays out before he says in verse 12, where he says, “work out your own salvation.” Why is this important? Because Satan would love for you to read verse 12 as saying, “work for your salvation.” Satan would love for you to think that your salvation is dependent upon what you do, as if salvation is something to be earned. But we all know that salvation is a gift of God’s Amazing Grace, not a wage.
So what does verse 12 say? It says we are to “work out your salvation” not “work for your salvation.” To work out your salvation means that you already have salvation. God, at the moment of conversion has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. At the moment of conversion God has birthed you into spiritual existence. At the moment of conversion God has made you a new creation. At the moment of conversion God has adopted you into his family. And this is who you are at your core. However, this does not mean that immediately upon conversion that you will perfectly, without sin, outwardly display this inward reality.
In between justification and glorification, there is sanctification. Meaning, that in between you being declared not guilty through Christ and being perfectly like Christ in Heaven, there is a life of transformation that occurs. We call this transformation sanctification, and this is the Christian walk. This Christian walk has two sides to the coin, your role and God's role.
Work Out Your Salvation
Let us begin by talking about our role. This text makes many grace based Christians flinch. They see work and think there must be a typo, but rest assured it is not. This word work is an active word, not a passive. Paul is telling us that we play a substantial part in becoming who we already are. Becoming like Christ in obedience is not something that just happens, but something that we make happen. And this is not the only place we see text like this in the Bible. In fact later in this letter Paul says this:
And why does God come and reside in us? What is His reason? What is His purpose? What does verse 13 say? He lives in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is amazing. God is in your heart making you will and work. Are you tracking? God is changing your desires. He is changing your delights. He is changing your loves. He is changing you from the inside out.
So how does this look practically? It looks like Bryan and Amy Speed waking up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to read the Bible and pray. It looks like James donating over a $1000 so others can go on a mission trip. It looks like Freddie willing to travel to the other side of the planet and risk his safety so to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ. It looks like 30 people cramming the front of our Church on Wednesday night equipping themselves to make disciples. It looks like Paul sitting chained to a Romans guard and preaching Jesus Christ to the entire imperial guard.
All of these actions are evidences of the salvation that we have already received. When Christ truly comes and takes up residence in your heart he changes you. You want to pray, you want to read the Bible, you want to share the Gospel, you want to go on mission trips, you want to wash each others feet, you want to cut off your right hand if it causes you to sin. You want to strive, press on, strain, work out, and fight the fight of faith to be like our King. Our King who obeyed to the point of death on a cross.
Over the years I have heard people say, slow down, don't take on too much, you are going to burn out. I have even had people tell me that they believe I am trying to earn my way to Heaven. When I hear those things I want to say, get behind me Satan. Because what I see in the Bible is verse like 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 24, 2014
Today we are stepping away from our journey through the Sermon on the Mount to talk about something that I believe is fundamental to your sanctification, to your becoming like Jesus in your life, and that is baptism. Next Sunday, immediately following Church, all of you are invited and encouraged to re-congregate at Central Park to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ through at least two of our members. My hope for today is that this sermon will spur more of you to consider your need to be baptized, not as a baby, but as a born again Christian.
Now with this said, there is not enough time for me to speak exhaustively about all the theology as it relates to baptism in one sermon. Therefore, I ask for your grace if he do not hear me saying something that you wish would be said. The hardest part of preaching is not coming up with 40 minutes of material; it is limiting it to only 40 minutes, which as you know I fail to do from time to time.
Our text for today is Romans 6:1-14. As always, let us read our text and pray that God’s Word would shine on our hearts are reveal to us His truth.
Having said this, if baptism is not necessary for justification before God, why did Jesus himself implement it, and not only implement it, but command it? If you recall, baptism is a part of the great commission, which are the last marching orders of Jesus.
What is Baptism?
To keep it simple, baptism is a symbol. What is a symbol? It is something that represents or stands for something else. A symbol is not the real thing, but it reminds you of the real thing.
When you think about it, the Bible is full of symbols. The rainbow is a symbol of the covenant between God and man regarding not flooding the earth. Circumcision is a symbol of God’s covenant with ethnic Israel. The ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s covenant presence with ethnic Israel. Communion is the symbol of the new covenant of the blood and body of Jesus.
Our God frequently speaks to us by using symbols, and this is how I want you to think about baptism. I want you to think about it as God speaking. It is his ceremony, and he wants his ceremony to tell you and tell the world something. This is why I have titled my message today Baptism, the Visible Word. For those who are taking our systematic theology class on Sunday mornings you will recognize that I borrowed that word from Dr. John Frame. But this is how I want us at Cornerstone to understand baptism, it is God's visible Word to the World and to us.
So with that said, what is God saying through baptism? What does this visible word proclaim? Simply put, it proclaims the inward reality of a believer’s union with Jesus Christ, and this union begins with your death.
Baptized into Death
Look at Romans 6:3-14 and see the times that death is mentioned.
What is the old self? Look again at verse 6. The best description of the old self is a slave to sin. Before my union with Christ, the best and most comprehensive way to describe who I was, was to say that Phil Parsons was a slave to sin. Sin had complete and utter authority in my life. I was chained to it. Nothing I did, glorified God. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-2 which is a great description of the old self.
Raised to Life
The second part that God is proclaiming through Baptism is the newness of life.
And all of this happens at the moment of conversion. At that moment that you hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and you place your entire life in the hands of the son of God there is a cataclysmic change in your life. One minute you are dead, and the next minute you are alive. The old self is gone and a new life has begun, and this is what baptism is a symbol of. This is what baptism is pointing to. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality of a born again, believer of Jesus Christ.
However, the questions remains, why did Jesus implement a ceremony that points to this internal reality. Why does he command that each and everyone who becomes a disciple to find water, be dunked under and be lifted out? As I said earlier, baptism is a symbol of our justification but is for the purpose of sanctification.
Having said that these people were not perfect. They were redeemed yes, but they still struggled with their flesh, there sin. These people were justified before the Lord, but they were not perfect. They struggled with living a holy life to the Lord. God had begun a good work in them, but He had not completed it. This struggle with sin is true for every Christians who has accepted Christ. We are eternally saved, but we are not instantly perfect. Listen to what Jesus prays for the night of his arrest I regards to his disciples.
It is the visible Word of baptism that Paul is telling those is Rome to remember as they struggle with their sin. He wants them to look back and remember who they are. He wants them to remember that they are no longer of the World. They are no longer slaves to sin. Paul wants them to consider themselves dead. They must instead live their life as if sin has no dominion over us. They must walk in newness of life and present ourselves to the Lord, not to Satan.
And this is why Jesus commands that all disciples to immediately participate in this act of baptism, not because Jesus is all about rituals, but because he is all about sanctification. For some reason, we in our weakness tend to forget who we are in Jesus. We, at times, struggle to act in a way that matches our identity in Christ. Baptism helps us to remember. When we accept Jesus into our hearts it happens on the inside. Baptism brings that internal reality to the outside so that you can look back and understand that the old self is dead, so leave him dead.
And this is why all believers should participate in a believers baptism, not just an infant baptism. You are undermining the gift of God's visible word. Infant baptism carries no message for you. It is not a symbol of your conversion, it is a symbol of your parents religion. If you have given your life to Christ, allow that visible Word of God to be proclaimed so that when Satan comes knocking on your door you can look back and remember who you are in Christ.