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).
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 3, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:2-3. Before we start I want to express how important those first few words are in doing what we are doing, that being the preaching and hearing of a sermon. If you are visiting, or if you are somewhat new to Cornerstone, you should know that the aim at Cornerstone Church is to the pursuit of the knowledge of God through the study of His Word. Week in and week out, we do the same things, we open up the Bible and look at what God has to reveal to us.
For those who attended Secret Church last Friday, I loved that David Platt started by saying that he is not an authority figure on any of the topics that he addresses that night. His only authority is the authority of the Word of God. This is my mindset each week in preparing the sermon. And this is why I start most, if not all, of my sermons with open your Bibles. Today we are going to be examining two verses. So let us read out text, pray, and examine what God has to say to us.
One requirement of an Elder of a Church, and by Elder I mean Pastor, is to be on guard against footholds that Satan may grab hold of within our congregation. Every Church has a weakness, if not thousands, Cornerstone Church is no different.
Upon thinking about our family, one weakness that I believe we may have is theology. Let me explain. Theology is the study of God. It is the pursuit of knowledge of who God is. The way we do this, as I said earlier, is that we open up the Bible to see what it says. Not only do we do this on Sunday, we do this on Wednesdays, Friday, Tuesdays, Saturdays and any other day of the week that fits. We are a Church that values studying God’s Word.
Having said that, theology is not an end in itself. The study of the Bible is not the goal. As we saw recently, the goal is Christlikeness. This is the prize that we are striving for is to become like our Master, Jesus. So like Jesus, we are not to be only thinkers, but doers.
So what does this have to do with our text today? In today’s text we see theology applied. By that I mean that we see Paul implementing what he has already taught previously in his letter to the Philippians.
Distraction of Disunity
Last week we talked about standing firm in the Lord. This led us to talk about the issue of standing firm against what? We concluded that the “what” was the schemes of the devil.
Why am I saying this? Because, like Paul, I want to bring this issue of unity into our Church. We at Cornerstone are still in what I believe is a honeymoon period. We are a very young Church. And right now things are exciting. We are growing in our love for the Lord, we are seeing authentic pursuit of God’s glory, we are seeing real transformation, and it is contagious. Things are good. But we are naive to believe that things will always be this way, for we have an enemy. He is lurking around, trying to find a foothold into our church, and by foothold I mean you or me, or a future attender. Satan will attempt to destroy the work of God at Cornerstone Church through the people of Cornerstone Church.
Satan’s common scheme is to create clicks, and disunity, and discord, and factions, and arguments and wars. And through these wars, he wants to take down the whole ship.
Will Satan tempt? You bet. But what causes the quarrels and the fights is YOUR passions, YOUR desires, YOUR covetousness. The problem is that you and I and everyone who walks in these doors is a sinner and we are all vulnerable, just like Euodia and Syntyche. Don’t forget these two women were active in the ministry. Paul says he labored side by side with them in the faith of the Gospel. But now, because of their self-centered flesh, they were no longer side by side, but toe-to-toe in disagreement. No longer were these two women focused on the mission, but instead they were focused on their passions.
Now what would happen if this disagreement would have continued unaddressed? Would time heal all wounds? Absolutely not. Most likely what would have happened are sides would have been taken. The poison would have been like leven, starting small, but working itself through the entire piece of dough. This disagreement had to be address.
This is where most people, and most Churches fail. A majority of people know there is a problem. They see the problem. They may even talk about the problem, but they never address the problem. They just let the wound fester, if you will. Why? Because there is a lack of courage and a lack of leadership.
Paul recognized that something had to be done. He wasn’t about to let their argument wreck things the Church from inside out. He was going to take action. However, here was the problem, Paul was in prison. He was not able to help firsthand. He needed to recruit someone. So he recruits the True Companion.
The Greek for companion is Syzygus. In fact, many of your Bible may have a footnote next to the word companion that tells you this. The reason for this is that there is a debate as to whether the Syzygus is used by Paul generally to refer to anyone of that nature, or if he is actually using a persons name that matches the action he is requesting. I believe that Syzygus is actually the persons name. I will even take it a step farther, I believe this Syzygus is an overseer for the Philippian Church.
Why? First, because Paul addresses this letter to the overseers and deacons in the opening of the letter, Philippians 1:1. Second, because this is exactly what an overseer should be doing. An Overseer, or elder, of a Church should be constantly on guard for anything that may cause potential division in the Church. When he sees this divisions, he must take action before it is too late. Once again, I think Churches have failed miserably at this, and it appears the Philippian Church had as well.
Too often Pastors are weak. We worry about filling seats on Sunday, weekly donations, wanting everyone to like us, not rocking the boat, or not getting fired. So because of this, we don’t like to get our hands dirty, we don’t like to get in the middle of things, so we instead stick our heads in the sand. This is the exact opposite of what we are called to do. Pastors are called to protect the Church, to stand on guard against strife and division. We are to jump in the trenches right along side each one of you to help in the midst of your sin. I wonder how many Church splits could have been prevented if Pastors would have done their job. If they would have had the courage to love others more than they loved themselves.
Thankfully, for this Church Paul intervened, and addressed the problem and urged Syzygus to help these two ladies out. So this is my exhortation to all of you. If you see me more worried about my skin, then your hearts, you need to confront me. If I am failing to do what I am called to do and protect the sheep, then you call me out and come and speak with me face to face. For I know that I am a sinner and I am prone to wander, and I need you to help me fulfill my role. Second, in this room I am hoping that we have a handful of future elders. Men, if you can’t see yourself confronting people about their sin, then you are not called to this position. To be an Elder is not for the faint of heart. It is hard, for you never know how your help may be received.
Agree in the Lord
Which leads to the final point, and perhaps that most important. How do you help? What is the answer to the division, what is the answer to the disagreement? The answer is “Agree in the Lord.”
This is where we should all be listening. Up to this point some of you may be thinking, what an irrelevant message. I don’t care about church roles. Well you should, but in case you don’t, this message is for everyone.
The details of the disagreement between these two ladies is immaterial, for the problem is not found in their positions. THe problem lies in their hearts. These two ladies are sinners. Yes, they are Christians, but they still struggle with their flesh, their sin. And this is the root of all disagreements on the face of this planet. This is why wives and husbands argue, this is why parents and children argue, this is why democrats and republicans argue, this is why everyone argues. We are all sinners. Each one of us act like little kings and queens demanding that every little desire of our heart be fulfilled. If it doesn’t happen, we fight, just like we talked about before.
The only solution to the perpetual war, is to crucify your flesh, submit, and let Jesus be your Lord. Now don't miss that word, Lord. To let Jesus be Lord means to lay down your life and let him call the shots. To let him control your life. To pursue his will, not yours.
These two women were too focused on their will, and it was destroying their relationship and would potentially destroy their entire Church family. This is true for every single one of us. If we focus on our wills and our desires we are guaranteed to make a wreck out of our life. Don’t believe me, just look around. The one and only solution is to let Jesus be Lord. Now some of you may be saying, but that doesn’t sound fun, to let Jesus control my life. Let me ask, are divorces fun, are Church wars fun, are kids that hate you fun, is bitterness and unforgiveness fun, is destruction fun? No. What is fun is unity, togetherness, peace, love, harmony, and these things can only be found in making Jesus the King of your life.
Friends, we have to get this. God has created this life to flourish only in Jesus Christ. No other way will produce the joy that your heart longs for. So, the next time you feel your selfish desires start to take root, pick up and axe and cut it out, and humble yourself before your Lord Jesus Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:1-11. Today the title of my message is “The Joy of Christian Unity.”
As we sit here today, we have an enemy, and not just any enemy, but the most powerful created being in the Universe, Satan. In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is referred to as the Day Star, son of Dawn. In Ezekiel 28 he is described as signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Heaven, he was the guardian Cherub before his fall. Because of his great beauty he became prideful and He attempted a coup. His desire was to exult himself above the Sovereign God. For the first time in Heaven, there was a break in harmony.
This obviously did not work out well for Satan, for he was cast out of Heaven by God. Jesus speaks of this in Luke 10:18. With Satan’s fall he took with him 1/3 of the Angels. Once on the Earth, he makes his first appearance in the Garden of Eden. What is he attempting to do? He is attempting to achieve more followers. He is successful in convincing both Adam and Eve to listen to him and not listen to God, and in that moment everything changes. He creates division between God and man and the tranquility of the Garden of Eden is transformed into shame, guilt and separation. And at that moment for the first time on Earth, there is a disruption in the harmony of Creation.
From that point on Satan wonders the Earth like prowling lion looking for people to devour; whether that be Job, Israel, Jesus, the Aposltes, the early Church or Cornerstone Church. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus spoke to this reality. Jesus prays this:
From the beginning of the Church, Satan has hated its existence. He hates Christ, he hates his bride, he hates its mission, he hates its harmony, and he will do anything and everything to create discord. Cornerstone Church is not immune to Satan's attacks. In fact, I believe we are actually at high risk of attack. Why? Because we are a threat. As I stood here a few weeks ago, I rejoiced in the prayers that I heard come from our congregation, prayers of gospel orientation, Satan fumed. He hated every prayer request that came out of your mouths. Not only that but he hates mission trips, Bible studies, and discipleship classes called multiply. And don't think for one minute that he is not looking for a foothold for division.
And Satan will do it like he always does, with whispers of temptation. He will appeal to your selfish desires and your self interests. Perhaps you will start to be bothered by certain people, certain songs, certain decisions, certain conversations. As God told Cain before he killed his brother Abel, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you,“ the same is true for all of us. So the question I have is when that day comes, if it is not already here, will we follow Cain's lead and throw stones at our brothers and sisters, or will we head God's warning that he gives us today in his Word?
What is Christian Unity?
Let us now turn our attention to the question, what is true Christian unity? Let's start with what Paul and Jesus are definitely, not talking about. The unity we find in John 17 and the unity we find in the letter to the Philippians is not the same unity that we see in the fallen World. They are diametrically opposed to each other. The Unity of the World is a unity of rebellion, a rebellion against God.
If I were to chose a word for our generation, I would chose the word of tolerance. The way in which this word is being used and understood in our current culture is to advocate the acceptance of another sin. It is the “don't judge me” mentality that has infected the minds of our messed up western culture. It is a cry not to interfere with my transgressions. It is a mantra of “you sin they way you want to, and I will sin the way I want to, and we will be unified in our desire to sin without boarders.” It is a unity that we find in Sodom and Gomorrah. Were those two towns unified? Absolutely, the were unified in their wretchedness. This is not the unity of the Bible.
What is the unity we find in the Bible? The unity we find in the Bible is not a unity of self interest, it is a unity of self-sacrifice. It is not a unity of rebellion, it is a unity of obedience. Let us look at verse 3 in our text.
The greatest picture of this self-sacrifice is non other than Jesus. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was more than just death, for everyone dies, and some even die for others in a heroic manner. Jesus' sacrifice was far greater, for He is far greater. Jesus gave up the Glory of God and came to Earth. His stepping down into the story was an infinite step. His humiliation of taking on the form of man is something we will never know the depth of, because there is no depth. His sacrifice is literally immeasurable. Jesus said it well when he said that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. This is infinitely true with this life that is laid down if the Author of Life. Why did he do this? For two reasons, so that you will be forgiven and because His Father asked him.
And this unity of self-sacrifice, obedience and love is a unity that God draws us into, and Christ achieves for us. Don't forget what Jesus prays to His Father in John 17:
Standing Firm and Participating in the Spirit
How on earth are we to achieve this? Is it simply a sermon? Let us look at two verses.
We are commanded to be one. This command is out of our reach, at least on our own. This request can only be achieved supernaturally, specifically by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We must be swept up into the Trinity and participate in the Unity that already exists. There is only one way to achieve oneness and that is through the One Spirit. The spirit who, also perfectly sacrifices, perfectly obeys, and perfectly loves.
As I was preparing this week to preach this text, John MacAruthur provided a good picture of Unity in relationship to the Holy Spirit. He said there are two ways to attempt to achieve unity, I would actually argue there are three. The first way we have already discussed, it is the unity of inclusion, no borders, no rules.
The second way is a unity of external pressures. It is the unity of hallow religion. The unity that focuses on works. It is a unity of the Pharisees. It attempts to place everyone inside a predefined box, whether they want to be in the box or not. It is the unity of Islam, Mormonism, and unfortunately Roman Catholicism. This is not true unity, it is a mirage of unity. Not a unity of love, but a unity of burden. No one wants to be in the box, but they feel like they have to.
True unity is not a box you are thrown into. True unity is a force you are drawn to. True unity is like a magnet. Something inside of you is drawn to this magnet. The magnet is Christ and the force inside of us is the Holy Spirit. Each one of us drawn to the same Person, Jesus, by the same force, the Holy Spirit. True unity is not religion, it is a loving relationship with Christ. Our oneness is a product of Christ in us, and for that we rejoice.
This sermon was supposed to be preached two weeks ago, but because of the snow it is today's message. This delay has turned out to be a great blessing to me, for I was able to experience a unity in India that was breathtaking. They did not have logos, t-shirts, mission statements, or statements of faith, etc. They had one thing, an intense love for Jesus Christ. It was this love for Christ that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it was what touched our heart the deepest.
We have the same Holy Spirit inside of us, therefore, let us then lay aside our sin and our flesh and lay down our lives for each other, so that we can display the harmony of Heaven to the ears of this World is discord.