Holy Things: Baptism
Happy Mother’s Day!
Welcome to Sonrise Church. I’m Anthony Delgado, Lead Pastor here.
I’m usually very cynical about what I consider to be Hallmark holidays. Those are holidays that companies exploit to sell merchandise. Those are holiday’s like Valentines day and Saint Patrick’s Day. You know, cause nothing says I celebrate holiness like drinking green bear.
But, I like Mother’s Day a lot. I actually like it a lot more than Father’s day.
It’s just not that difficult to become a father. Like, it happens all the time, completely by accident.
But, every time someone becomes a father, someone else becomes a mother. And where it’s not exactly difficult to get pregnant most of the time, there are far more difficulties involved in becoming a mother than becoming a father.
That’s probably enough reason to celebrate mothers, but it’s not the biggest reason for me.
The biggest reason to celebrate is that mothers actually get to participate in a miraculous work in a way that fathers could never imagine. Think about it. Every life comes from God. But, a mother is the vessel that God uses to create human life. And a mother is the tool that God uses to bring that life into the world. A mother gets to be involved in truly divine things when she carries and bears a child.
It’s an incredible miracle! And I know many mothers who will tell you that’s true.
Now, the significance of mother’s day is birth, the giving of life, but our message is titled ‘Baptism.’ Although our message today is titled ‘Baptism,’ though, it is really a message about birth and rebirth, the giving of life and the giving of new life.
And to make that clear, I want to begin by discussing the difference between…
Physical and Spiritual
…birth. Or you could say, the difference between birth and rebirth for those of you familiar with the idea of being ‘born again.’
In out passage, Jesus asked an interesting question. He asked,
- John 3:12 (CSB) — If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
He pits earthly or physical things against heavenly or spiritual things.
Nicodemus, the man having this conversation with Jesus, was having a hard time talking about the physical things that have to do with this world, and so Jesus is questioning his ability to grasp spiritual things. Specifically, they were discussing the idea of rebirth, being born again. Jesus was trying to help him understand in human terms, spiritual things that are hard to communicate with human language.
In some ways, spiritual rebirth is actually like physical birth.
But, in some ways, it is something completely different. When you are born, you come into this life with the innocence of a child. But, when you are born again, you aren’t just made again with the innocence of a child, you are also made into something new. You aren’t made like you were before. You become what the Apostle Paul calls, ‘a new creation.’
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 (CSB) — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
Jesus pointed to the difference between the person who is merely born as a human being and the person who has been born again when he said,
- John 3:13 (CSB) — No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.
Jesus said that ‘no one,’ that is, no person had ever ascended into heaven, into the presence of the almighty God, except for himself, because he actually came down from heaven.
People are created beings. We didn’t come from the presence of the Father. But, Jesus did.
Jesus was a physical person, but Jesus was also spiritual. And if you want to enter into heaven, into the Kingdom of God, then you have to be reborn into a spiritual person like Jesus. You have to become a new creation, a spiritual person. Jesus said,
- John 3:3 (CSB) — “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Rebirth must take place to enter into God’s Kingdom.
Born of Flesh/Born of Water and Spirit
According to Jesus, it’s just not enough to be born of the flesh, a physical person. He says you also have to be born of the water and Spirit. Jesus went on to say,
- John 3:5–6 (CSB) — “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit […water and Spirit…], he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.
It would be easy to read verse 5 as if water were to be equated with the physical and Spirit with the spiritual. Especially, because Jesus contrasts Spirit and flesh in the next verse. But, the Greek is clear that Jesus is referring to ‘water and Spirit’ as a singular thing. To be born of water IS to be born of Spirit.
In fact, Jesus often uses water to represent spirituality, especially in the book of John. And that’s significant because it means that Jesus is correlating the image of rebirth—which is water baptism—with spiritual rebirth. In other words, when Jesus said you have to be born of water and spirit, he seems to be alluding to water baptism as an illustration of being born again.
That doesn’t mean that you are reborn spiritually when you are baptized. It actually just means that water baptism illustrates spiritual rebirth.
Different churches will talk about baptism a little differently than others.
For instance, many churches use baptism as a right of passage into the church, like an initiation into a club, and nothing more.
But Jesus had a greater purpose in mind here. Jesus sees baptism as a demonstration that you have been born again and thus become a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It’s not a statement that you joined a local church. It’s that you have entered God’s Kingdom.
Jesus is concerned about your eternal standing with God—whether or not you enter into God’s Kingdom—and that’s why he goes on to proclaim,
- John 3:16 (CSB) — For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Flesh eventually perishes forever, unless it has been born again of water and Spirit.
So, it makes sense that baptism should happen after someone believes in Jesus and has pledged allegiance to Jesus Christ because that’s what gives someone eternal life. That’s when spiritual rebirth happens when you believe. So, then, we know that baptism doesn’t save you because it looks back to when you were born again.
But, some churches practice baptism differently because they confuse…
New Testament Baptism and Old Testament Circumcision
And for good reason. So, I’d like to talk about that a bit.
Some of you were baptized as babies in another church, but now you belong to Sonrise and have been baptized again. Here’s why I think that is.
In Old Testament times, a man identified with the nation of Israel by being circumcised. Women, likewise, identified with Israel either by being the daughter or a husband of a circumcised man. Circumcision took place when the child was only eight days old.
That means that at only eight days old, a baby was able to identify with God’s chosen people and be counted among them.
As we already said, baptism is the sign that you have identified with the Kingdom of God. It’s no longer circumcision in the New Testament, but baptism.
So, it follows for many people, that if you circumcise a baby at eight days old, then we should baptize babies in order to identify them with the Kingdom of God.
That almost makes sense.
But, in the Old Testament times, circumcision took place to identify a person with the physical Kingdom of God on earth. Circumcision had to do with your physical birth so it made sense to do it at as an infant.
But, Jesus said you have to be born again to enter spiritually into the eternal Kingdom of God. Baptism isn’t about identifying with the physical Kingdom of God on earth. Baptism is about identifying with the spiritual Kingdom of God in the heavens.
So, the Israelite was right to circumcise their babies after they were born as a sign of their covenant identity with the nation of Israel on earth.
But, now, we baptize, not when you are born, but when you are reborn, ‘born again’ into the eternal Kingdom of God. So that happens after someone believes in Jesus as savior and commits their life to Him as Lord.
This difference in traditions is actually why we call ourselves Baptists. The term ‘baptist’ is not a denomination if you’re familiar with that term. It’s actually a designation used to identify groups of Christians who baptize after a profession of faith in Christ.
So, it’s for that reason that we baptize after someone professes to follow Jesus Christ and not when they are infants.
The term baptist also is used to identify groups who baptize by full immersion in water rather than by a sprinkling of water.
Died with Christ/Alive with Christ
The Apostle Paul paints a picture of baptism in Romans 6, where he shows that the person who has been reborn has died with Christ in order that he might be made alive with Christ.
- Romans 6:4–11 (CSB) — Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
If you ask a Baptist what the word baptize means, they will usually tell you that it means to immerse. And if you ask someone who baptizes infants what the word baptize means, they will probably tell you it means to cleanse or wash.
The reality is, it can be both. In biblical times, the word baptize could be used to identify a ritual washing or purification where blood was sprinkled on the altar. It could be the washing of hands. It could be the full immersion of a thing into liquid. There is a broad range of meaning that is reasonable.
But, as I look at this passage from the Apostle Paul, I can’t believe that Paul saw baptism as anything other than full immersion in water because of the imagery he chose. Paul used the idea of baptism to illustrate a person dying and being placed into the grave, before being resurrected like Jesus Christ.
The process of baptism, then, as far as Paul is concerned, must resemble going under the ground in death and then coming back up in life.
Paul is communicating that a true Christian is one who has considered their old flesh dead just as Christ died but now considers themselves to be alive to Christ. We desire to live lives that are honoring to Christ, because of His great salvation.
It’s sort of like when we say we turned over a new leaf, except that when you are born again, the Spirit of God, Himself, empowers us to live a new life.
Immersion/Out of the Water
This process of dying to ourselves and then living for Jesus Christ is illustrated in the process of baptism by immersion. As you go into the water, you are proclaiming that you have died to yourself.
You are saying that you are incapable of living a life honoring to God on your own. You believe that you are a wretched sinner and you don’t want to sin anymore. You proclaim that your own ways are worthless compared to God’s ways.
And then as you rise from the water, you proclaim that God has made you a new creation. You have new life. You have a new purpose and that purpose comes from the Almighty God.
When you are born again, in a very real way, you are not as you were before. You have not just been purified, but you have received a new power that is the Holy Spirit. So that, in every way that you failed in life before, now you have victory by the power of the Holy Spirit.
See, turning over a new leaf never works because you’re still the same old sinner. But, Jesus works because he makes you better than you were before through his Spirit.
And that’s what baptism represents. Baptism by immersion represents dying to yourself and rising to life in Christ.
It’s not just a religious deed. It’s not just a tradition. It’s not just an initiation into a local church. It’s hardly that at all.
Baptism is a declaration to the world that you have been born again into the Kingdom of God. You no longer belong to the kingdom of this world, but you belong to Christ. You are a citizen of Christ’s eternal Kingdom. It is a testimony to your new and far more glorious life in Christ.
So, I think this is a good time for you to take out your…
…card so we can talk through some things you might do this week as a result of what you have heard.
In the book of James, James said we need to be doers of the Word not merely hearers. So, I believe there is something for each one of us to take forward into this week.
I wrote ‘baptize more people’ on my next step card because baptism is the means Jesus chose for people to identify with his Kingdom. Jesus commanded us to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So, I’d like to tell more people about Jesus and then baptize them.
And you could write something like that. Or many of you, you might need to go…
‘All in’ is a gambling term. In poker, when you believe that you have the best hand and there is no way that anyone can beat you, you go all in. You put all your chips in the pot, even your car keys and your wedding ring. You literally bet everything on your hand because it’s just that good. That’s what all in is.
Like, isn’t Jesus the best hand you could draw? Are you ready to bet everything you have on Jesus?—every possession, every dollar, every relationship? And more so, are you willing to give up the passions of the flesh, those pleasures of the flesh that God considers immoral? Are you ready to go all in?
- Romans 6:11–12 (CSB) — So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.
Going all in means that you don’t hold onto sin. It means that there is no part of your being—heart, mind, body—that you don’t allow Jesus to influence.
It’s tempting to ask Jesus to come and fix the things we don’t like about ourselves, but then to hold on to pet sins, because we think we like them. The reality is, in the long run, you’ll have more peace, joy, and prosperity if you let that sin go and live all of your life for Christ.
So, you might need to make your next step to go all in. But, then, what happens if you fail and fall back into sin?
Well, baptism helps you to…
Remember Who You Are
If you have been baptized, then when you fail and you step into sin, you can look back to your baptism to remember who you are. With technology now we can put it up on Facebook and Instagram so you can literally look back.
- John 3:19–20 (CSB) — This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.
Focus on that final statement. Everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.
Many of you are literally hiding sin. You’re hiding it from the church. You’re hiding it from friends. You’re hiding it from your kids or your wife or your husband.
And still others of you are hiding your sin in plain sight. You just refuse to talk about it as if not talking about it means you won’t ever have to deal with it.
But, you are trying to keep part of your life out of the light so that it won’t be exposed and you can continue in sin.
And it’s true that everyone lives that way in the world. Outside the church, everyone is hiding their sin either literally or they are pretending it’s not sin so they don’t have to deal with it.
But, remember your baptism. You’re a new creation. You’re no longer the same as other people who revel in the deeds of the flesh. You have been reborn in Christ. You are no longer condemned, guilty, riddled with shame. You are forgiven and empowered to live righteously.
That is who you are in Christ, so you might need to remember who you are so that you can let go of the guilt and shame, get back on track, move away from your sin, and live the life you are called to live in Christ.
When you fail, baptism helps you remember who you are in Christ.
And there’s a second part of this. Jesus said,
- John 3:14–15 (CSB) — “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
I love this story. When the Israelites were in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, they began to grumble against God.
We do this too. We know that God has made great promises to us, but we go through seasons of wandering in the wilderness and we begin to get frustrated with God. Life gets hard and we complain.
Well, God heard their grumbling and he sent venomous snakes into the camp of the Israelites and the snakes bit them.
Well, the people went to Moses and asked him if he would pray to God to remove the serpents.
And isn’t that how we pray?
We pray earnestly that God would remove the hardships from our lives. You may have never considered that those hardships are there because God put them there for a reason.
But, God didn’t take away the hardship of the Israelites and he won’t for us either, most of the time. Instead, what God did is he told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. And then whenever someone got bit by a snake all they had to do was go look at the snake and they would live.
See, God didn’t take away the snakes. But, he made a way to live.
And when you start to grumble about life and hard circumstances and you beg God to make life better and it doesn’t get any better, this is why.
God isn’t going to fix every circumstance. But, he is going to make a way and that way is Jesus Christ. He is the serpent on the pole. If you look to Jesus Christ, your circumstances might not get better, but you will be able to endure. You will live. And the promised land is coming when you will live joyously, and prosper in the presence of God, forever.
So, maybe this is where you at and you feel like grumbling and complaining against God. If so, you need to look back to your baptism and remember who you are in Christ. God may not be removing your hardship in life, but set your eyes on Him, remember who you are, and remember the promised land is coming.
And, then, the last and most obvious next step you might take today is to commit to…
Now I want to be clear here. Baptism does not save you as I said before. Jesus did every work necessary for you to be saved when he died on the cross.
Baptism is your public profession that you have been reborn through your faith in Jesus.
But, if you have that faith, then that faith should beckon you to identify with Christ through baptism.
Listen, there are no fence sitters in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much someone believes in Jesus and how genuine their loyalty is.
But, Jesus said,
- John 3:18 (CSB) — Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
It’s pretty black and white. You believe and are not condemned by God. Or you don’t believe and you are condemned by God.
So, when it comes to baptism, if you believe then you need to get baptized to identify with the eternal Kingdom of God. It’s just that simple. If you don’t believe, then don’t get baptized. But, if you do believe and you haven’t been baptized then it’s time to literally take the plunge.
There’s a box on your Next Step car that says, ‘Get Baptized’ that you should mark, or if you’re ready to do it today, we already have one baptism after service. I can talk to you after the message and you could get baptized right now if you’re ready. Just come up and grab me after we take the Lord’s Supper in a few minutes.
For now, let me pray for you, that in all things you might remember your baptism and the commitments you have made to Christ, that you might live every day in righteousness, looking towards future blessing with God.
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Sunday Service: 10am
Address: 2751 E Ave R, Palmdale, CA 93550 (Click for Directions)
Phone: (661) 878-8316