Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

We’re walking in newness of life, me and tobie!

One morning not too long ago, I left home headed for the gym. When I turned out onto the main road, I suddenly thought, “Did you close the garage door?” I couldn’t remember! I had to turn around and drive back home, only to discover that the door was, indeed, shut. We do things all the time that have become such habits we can’t remember the specific act. Unfortunately, this same thing happens in church. We allow some of our most cherished acts of worship to become so habitual that we do them without an appreciation for their meaning. Paul said, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” I wonder sometimes how often we sin our way through our services. Do you remember what songs you sang last Sunday? What was the message about? Who sat near you? How were their lives going? Did you give in the offering? How much? Did the congregation pray about anything? What was it and what are you believing about it? What was the altar call? Who went forward? And on it goes.

This last Sunday, we had water baptisms. I was impressed by the joy and sincerity of all those who were immersed. You could see it in their faces: Something happened. Baptism by immersion is not a religious ritual marking some sort of bizarre initiation to the Holy Roller club. It is a step of faith in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that faith without works is useless, and I am convinced that water baptism is the first work that springs from faith in Christ. Jesus said it was a pivotal and primary act in making disciples. (Matt 28:18-20) When we mix works with our faith we can expect Bible results. Paul said when we are baptized; we are dead with Christ and therefore freed from sin. He said we are then raised to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-7) He told the Colossians that they were raised together with Christ and were circumcised in their hearts. (Col 2:11-12) To the Galatians he proclaimed that in baptism we put on Christ and are forever marked as sons of God. (Gal 3:26-27) To the early church, this was no empty ritual, and it ought not be to us, either. Something memorable is supposed to happen.

Scripture Reading: And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21 NLT)

Somebody Said: Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have spent a good deal of energy over the years fighting the tendency to ritualize baptism by calling it only a symbol, moving it out of the church service, and by baptizing folks without giving them the Word on the subject. If they don’t have the Word, they can’t have faith. Every time I see that glory on the face of the newly baptized, I know it is worth the effort.


p.s.Iif you need a good book on the subject, try Water baptism: …believeth-and-is-baptized. We give one to every baptismal candidate.

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