In two weeks, we are going to have a celebration service and picnic. The purpose of this celebration is to celebrate the new movement God is doing in and through our church and community as we are connected to a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church. At the celebration, our focus is going to be on two specific attributes of our faith – membership and baptism.
That day, we will welcome new members to the YSGMC, baptize at least a half dozen people (hopefully more), current members will have the opportunity to recommit themselves to God’s Church and to the YSGMC, and everyone will have an opportunity to remember your baptism. And as a bonus, we will be promoting and recognizing our children who are working hard, regularly attending Sunday School, and are moving up to the next class. What a great day this will be!
Leading up to the celebration, God is asking us to prepare. It would be easy to, the week after the celebration, just go back to what we were doing before that service, to act like nothing is different, other than we have a different name and know the connectional church we are a part of has the same theology as we do. That feels great! Now we can relax.
But I’m convinced that is not what God wants us to do. Please hear me when I say this. God is on the move, and we have an opportunity to be a part of it. It’s not something that’s just going to last for a short while and fade off (unless we let it). God is opening a door, a big door, for us to go through and, “Yes! We get it. We believe in who the ONE TRUE GOD is, He is our Savior and we will live for Him and Him alone!” We have a chance to reconnect with our God and demonstrate to the world His love.
They are looking. They are listening, paying attention. The world has a need and they know it. They just don’t know how to fill it. Many are thirsty and hungry, but are filling that thirst and hunger with so many other things, wrong things, devastating things.
My prayer and hope is that we will all be moved by the Spirit starting now to see the great movement we are a part of; because let me tell you this, when the world gets ugly, and we know it is and it’s getting worse, we know God’s pattern is to be working on something even bigger, something greater than we can image. I believe the Global Methodist Church is a part of that. And what an honor it is to be a part of that.
But this movement has to start here. As much as we may not want to admit it, we can easily just go through the motions of our faith. We come to church (most Sundays), we sing the songs, we say the prayers, we may even go to Sunday School. But is just doing those things faith? Of course not! Faith is having a real relationship with God who we learn to trust and love.
In the book of Matthew, when asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus responded:
37 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
This is our call. This is what we are invited into. If you have excepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then this is our call – to love the Lord your God above all else with all that you are, all that you have. Then love your neighbor like God does.
Do you know why every other commandment is based on these two commandments? Because if you love God enough to put Him FIRST, loving Him with everything that you are, then you will want His will and His ways. Your heart will align with His and you will see His goodness and understand His love (as much as our puny minds can). You will love the way He loves and because these two are your foundation, all the other commands will be fall into place in your life. You will honor your God and His name, you won’t have any other gods or idols, you will honor the Sabbath, you won’t worry about murder or hatred in your heart, you won’t lie, cheat, steel, you’ll be true to your spouse and respect your parents.
God is asking us to go deeper, to open up and allow the Holy Spirit to move in you, to live in you, to show you God’s power and what He can do. He is asking us to give Him the time of day and to be real with Him.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like fakeness. I want people to be real with me. And I especially want my family and friends, the people I love the most, to be real with me. I expect it, and I work hard to be real right back. God is the same way. He gave us free will so we could be real, so we could show our real love for Him by choosing to love Him. Love is a choice. Love is not automatic. It may feel like that with the love of a child or when you first meet your spouse. But you choose to love them, and we know that because we have parents who abandon their children, marriages that give up. You choose, and you can choose to love God or to reject Him.
I’m guessing most of you would tell me you love God. If we really do, then we need to wake up Church. We need spiritual holiness. We need to revive our relationship with God. And you may say, how do you know if I need that. I know because I’m one of you. I know because I watch what happens in this church, what happens outside of it. I know because God has told me and laid it out very clear that we are not deep in the spiritual holiness with Him. If we were, our church would be growing by leaps and bounds.
Our culture has us blinded. Many think they are good because they are going through the motions, doing the duty, checking the list. I’m here to tell you God wants more. He wants you! All of you!
Does that mean you have to be at church 24/7? Of course not. That does means you are the Church 24/7, building your relationship with God, taking it deeper all the time, and then sharing that love with the world.
So how do we get started. Fresh on the scene just before Jesus’ ministry is about to start, John the Baptist was sent to be a voice shouting through the wilderness and preparing the way for the Lord’s coming! Isaiah prophesied this hundreds of years earlier (remember God had this plan from the beginning of time).
John came saying: Matthew 3:2
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
And as people heard that message, they confessed their sins and were baptized.
John said, Matthew 3:11
11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
We enter this world as imperfect beings in need of salvation. Due to that free will that God gave us to freely choose to love Him or not, we also have the free will to choose sin. Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit, sin and temptation has pegged us. And don’t go blaming Adam or Eve because you all would have done the same thing in their shoes, and you know it.
Some say it was all Eve’s fault. She fell for the snakes lie to question God. “Did God really say don’t eat the fruit? You won’t die. God knows your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God, knowing both good and evil.” That doesn’t sound so bad. She convinced Adam. I know we women can be very persuasive, however it’s not like Adam doesn’t have his own free will. He could of said no.
Adam was the one who God gave the command to in Genesis 2:16-17 – to not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. Eve wasn’t made until verse 22. After they ate the fruit, do you know who God called out to first? Adam. Not to Adam and Eve. Why? Because God made Adam responsible for the family and it was his job to protect her. So they both are to blame.
But I don’t think this needs to be a blame game. If it wasn’t them, it would have been someone else. The fact is, we are born into sin. We all sin. And in order to get right with God, to be reconciled back to Him, we all need to repent. And this is where baptism comes in. Water is a symbol of cleansing.
I love to drink water. In fact, other than milk from time to time, it’s all I drink. Most you know that, and it’s why you see me with a bottle of water everywhere I go. Water’s refreshing. It hydrates and cleanses us to where our bodies function like they are supposed to.
Water is good. It’s necessary for life. We can’t live without it. And as much as we use of water on a regular basis, it ought to be a reminder to be grateful for all that God has done for us – in the waters of the flood and the promise of the rainbow, in the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and their survival in the wilderness, and in Jesus’ baptism, life, death and resurrection – all reminders that we need to be washed, renewed, purified by God’s love.
Jesus Himself was baptized. Not because He sinned, not because He needed to repent and be washed clean or renewed; He was truly without sin, but He saw His baptism as advancing God’s work. He didn’t need baptized, but He did it because He was confessing sin on behalf of God’s people, like Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses, and Daniel had done. He was showing support for what John was doing, and He was announcing His public ministry. He was identifying with the repenting people of God, not with the critical Pharisees who were only watching. Jesus, the perfect man, did not need baptism for sin, but He accepted baptism in obedient service to the Father, and God showed His approval by having His Spirit descend and settle on Jesus and said out loud, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Baptism renewing, purifying, but it is also recognizing God’s gracious love already at work in our lives long before we are even aware it.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, explained it like this. He broke it down into three levels of grace.
Prevenient Grace = is God working in us before we know Him. God’s Spirit is with all people all the time. He’s wooing and waiting, trying to help us see there is something so much better. God’s prevenient grace is with us from birth, preparing us for new life in Christ. “Prevenient” means “comes before.” Wesley believed that God places a little spark of divine grace within us that enables us to recognize and accept God’s justifying grace.
Justifying Grace = When we want to come to Him. It’s when we say yes, I want Jesus to be my Savior, I get it and I want to live for Him. It’s when we make the choice to follow Jesus. Some call God’s justifying grace ‘conversion’ or being ‘born again,’ but it is that moment of accepting and recognizing God’s grace. And thankfully, because we are sinners and mess things up, that’s not the end. We know we can accept Jesus Christ, but that does not make us perfect which is why we need sanctifying grace.
Sanctifying Grace = Is moving towards perfection. It will take our entire lives to get there; we will never be perfect while we are here on earth, but because of God’s sanctifying grace, we can be working towards being like Christ. We cannot claim God’s salvation and just do nothing. We are to participate in what Wesley called “the means of grace” and to continue to grow in Christian life.
Baptism is a celebration and acknowledgment of the loving action God has already done and continues to do. Baptism is also the outward and visible sign of our covenant (holy agreement) with God to accept God’s gifts of grace, the freedom and power to grow in our faith through the constant efforts of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism parallels the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also portrays the death and burial of our sinful old way of life followed by the resurrection to new life in Christ.
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Remembering that our old sinful life is dead and buried with Christ gives us a powerful motive to resist sin. Not wanting the desires of our past to come back to power again, we can consciously choose to treat our desires as if they were dead. Then, we can continue to enjoy our wonderful new life with Christ.
Only through a continuing connection with Christ can anyone have the true power for living, and only by being connected with Christ through faith can anyone have eternal life.
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We all belong to Christ, and we are raised to new life through Christ. And since…
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us. If you have not been baptized and are ready to accept God’s grace and be renewed, please let me know. If you are unsure, pray about it, read the scriptures from today’s message, and ask me any questions you may have.
One that comes up from time to time is about children. Can children be baptized if they can’t understand God’s grace just yet? Yes! The Bible says to baptize everyone!
39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
Many entire households were baptized in the Bible. When infants and children are presented for baptism, parents, sponsors, and the entire community of faith pledge to surround the children and raise them in the Christian teachings as the children prepare to profess and confirm their faith for themselves (often done as young teenagers through confirmation).
Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Our Mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.