Baptism – Where We Have Been Forgetful
As we begin this morning I want us to turn to John 8. In this text, Jesus has just declared to be the Light of the world, and foretold of His crucifixion. Many of the Jews believed in Him, but the Pharisees were not convinced. We pick up the conversation in verse 30: (Read verses 30-36)
Jesus is talking about freedom, and on the surface Jesus is talking about freedom from sin and death. But there is a deeper meaning here as well. Jesus came to set us free, truly free. Free to live and love God and one another without prejudice or bias. But freedom is a tricky thing. There is this reoccurring story throughout history where free men and women have been quick give up our freedoms in the name of safety, or convenience, or conformity. Once they have abandoned that freedom, they have to fight to get their freedom back.
But history has taught us that is not the only way that we have lost our freedoms. In many instances, freedoms have become lost because the people refused to practice those freedoms. Today we are going to close out our series on baptism, and you may be wondering what this introduction has to do with our series. I know that we as a Church Body believe in the importance of baptism, and I have said over and over again how strongly I believe in baptism. But, we can believe in the concept and lose the freedom by being forgetful.
Baptism is a mile marker, the seminal moment we can look to and see where everything changed. Our baptism is the most important moment in our lives, but much like an anniversary, birthday, or valentines day we often forget. And the fear is that if we forget the freedom that comes from baptism we will lose that freedom.
Let me mention one more time that a majority of the passages in the Bible that deal with baptism were originally written to people who had already experienced the freedom that comes from baptism. While we are quick to visit the passages in Romans, Colossians, or 1 Peter to show the importance of baptism, we do so without realizing these texts were written to folks who were already saved. For the Apostle Paul, baptism is a reference point or a mile marker in your life. Your baptism serves to remind you that: We are saved by Grace.
You might remember two weeks ago we talked about the false teaching that we can be good enough to save ourselves. Some folks believe that there is something we do that makes us attractive to God. My baptism reminds me that I can only be saved by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I can’t and will never be able to save myself; I have to rely on what Christ did to save me. It is imperative for us to know and be reminded that our freedom comes from what Christ accomplished.
Paul wants us to remember that baptism reminds us of who we are and whose we are. Baptism is our promise to live like a child of God. When we remember our baptisms we are reminded of the pledge for newness that we made to God. That’s why most of the passages in the New Testament serve as our reminder of that undertaking.
Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Colossi in an effort to remind the Christians in Colossi, and the Christians in Anniston, of the new life that comes from being a Child of God. At our baptism, our lives were changed, and we were called to live a different life. We are called to live up to the idea that we claimed at our baptisms. Today we are going to camp out in Colossians 3 as see about the freedoms we gain at our baptisms that we are in danger of losing. We will start in verses 1-4:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
We have forgotten and need to be reminded that our baptism allows us to See Life From a New Perspective.
Paul says that we are in a new position. Remember the words he uses here. First of all, he says that you have died. At the moment of your baptism your worldly self died. Putting to death the old self, the old way of life is a common way to describe what happens to us at our baptism. We need to remember that the old Jeremy, the old you is dead and gone. You probably saw some of the pictures that made their way around the internet during the war in Iraq. When someone came to faith and wanted to be baptized they would dig a hole in the ground, much like a grave, and allowed the old man to die.
Baptism is not just where you die, but where you are raised to a new life. You don’t stay in the grave; you came up a new person. Paul says that you have been hidden with Christ. You are now secure with Christ because when God looks at you, He doesn’t see you, or all of your sins, or all the times you have blown it. He sees Christ and His righteousness.
My baptism reminds me that I am in a new position and I view life with a new perspective. There has been a radical change in my life. We are not Cinderella, the poor girl that get’s some new clothes so she can attend the ball. We are the ugly frog that is kissed and we are transformed into a handsome prince. It’s a radical change, and we need to be reminded of that.
We are transformed and changed. Paul says in verse 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. In this new position our concern for God squeezes out our concern for the trivial pursuits of this world. We need to stop worrying about things that won’t matter in 10 years from now. We need to focus on what really matters because it’s far to easy to become overwhelmed with the trivial things of this life.
The second thing we should remember is: I live with a new morality
We usually avoid our text for this morning because it’s one of those beautiful places that Paul quits preaching and starts meddling. Starting in verse 5: Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed. It is because of these sins that God’s anger comes on those who refuse to obey him. You used to live that kind of sinful life. Also get rid of your anger, hot tempers, hatred, cursing, obscene language, and all similar sins. Don’t lie to each other. You’ve gotten rid of the person you used to be and the life you used to live, and you’ve become a new person. This new person is continually renewed in knowledge to be like its Creator
I don’t know if you are a fan of Pauline Phillips, but she has provided us with a beautiful insight to the human struggle. Ms. Phillips was better known as Abigail Van Buren and for 31 years newspapers carried her sound, compassionate advice, delivered with the straightforward style of a good friend. One day the paper carried a the following letter: “Dear Abby, I am having an affair on my wife with two different women and I don’t know what to do. Please give me some advice but don’t give me any of that morality stuff.” In only the way that Abby could respond she wrote: “Dear Sir, The only thing that makes us different from the animals is morality. Maybe you should write a veterinarian.”
Our baptisms changed our standard. Someone who has given their lives to Christ cannot live like the world. A candle cannot imitate the darkness and be a candle. Paul is pretty straight forward when he says that those of us who are baptized need to distance ourselves from: Sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like when ever you feel like it, grabbing whatever attracts your fancy, bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, and dirty talk.
In this letter you can sense Paul’s struggle with these folks he loves so deeply. He wants them to live up to their promise but it seems that they have forgotten and need to be reminded to put those things behind them again. I understand the struggle, I understand the struggle to not only needing to be reminded of what I claimed but to remind you to remember what you claimed at your baptism as well. Your position in life has changed, and now when God looks at you He sees the blood of His Son. We must figure out how to work that out in your life practically. Get rid of these things.
What are some of those things that are still in your life? Sexual sins, shameful desires, greed for the good things of this life, anger, hateful behavior, insulting talk, dirty language.
Paul is saying, you got a bad temper. You are baptized; live different. You have a quick tongue that has a quick come back or put down. You are baptized; live different. You tell dirty jokes, or cuss? You are baptized; live different. You like to talk about others behind their back. Your mouth is full of words that are hurtful. You belong to Jesus so change your speech.
You see that’s not the way a Christian is supposed to live. When we give our lives to Christ there are no favorite or pet sins that we are allowed to keep. Some of us act like you have come to Christ and experienced His grace, now His blood keeps washing me whiter than snow, so you can embrace and indulge in your pet sins. It’s this idea that we can keep sinning because God will keep washing.
Paul addresses this type of thinking in Romans 5 and 6. His conclusion on the matter is found in Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! (KJV says God forbid!) We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer. You made a commitment when you were baptized to be Christ like and you need to clean house. We have got to get rid of the gossip, dirty jokes, cussing, pornography, sexual impurity, tempers, and everything else that we justify by saying that’s just the way I am.
When it comes to our Christianity, we don’t need to teach that Baptism is a big deal we need to live like it’s a BIG deal. I know you well enough to know that we have folks here today that struggle with their language, tell dirty jokes, make hateful comments, and gossip. Paul says it’s time you put that behind you and remember that you promised God that you wanted to live like Christ. You are a changed person, so put your sinful nature behind you and put on a life that is pleasing to Christ.
The third thing that we need to remember is: We are all equal in God’s eyes.
Paul writes in verse 11: Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all
We need to be reminded that in Christ there is no longer Black, Latino, White, or Asian. There is no longer man or woman. And there is no longer Southern and Yankee. For a Jewish convert who grew up praying, God, I am glad that I am not a woman, or a Gentile, or a slave this was earth shattering. You see at our Baptism we were all made equal because we all came in through the same door.
At your baptism racism should have died. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said that 11:00 on Sundays was the most racist time of the week. Unfortunately, he was and still is right. I have been in churches that preached hard on baptism and were racist to the core. Their lives denied baptism.
I am grateful that we are ethnically mixed congregation. But just because we have black, hispanic, and white people worshiping in the same building doesn’t mean that we all believe that we are equal. If you are a baptized Child of God, then the color of your skin, the clothes you wear, or whether you call it a coke or a soda, or a pop, doesn’t matter because we are all equal in God’s eyes. We committed the same sins and needed the same sacrifice for that sin.
Finally, we need to remember: I experience life in a new family.
We read in verses 12- 14 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity
We were born at our baptism into a new family. Someone lied to us when they said that religion is a private affair. Baptism is where God added you to His family, and families live life together. We have taken the teaching that we are supposed to know God intimately and changed it to say, I don’t need the church.
Paul did not teach or believe that you could love God, be lead by the Holy Spirit, and say I don’t want the church. But sometimes we believe and teach that our spiritual journey is some weird kind of quest that we have to take all by ourselves. Paul says at your baptism you were born into His family. At the moment of your baptism you didn’t join anything; you were added to the family. Live that way.
Paul gives us a second list, this time it’s a list of things that we need to put on: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense, forgive as quickly and completely as the Father forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Have you ever stopped to notice you can only obey this list in the midst of relationships? How can you show compassion to people if you are not around them? How can you be kind if you don’t know them? How can you forgive if there are no dealings to forgive?
Paul is teaching that we can only follow God’s will in the middle of fellowship. You are not going to get fellowship coming to this building for an hour on Sunday morning, staring at the back of someone’s head. You must form relationships.
The problem is that we are prone to forget. And when we forget we go back to the way of life before our baptisms and give up our freedoms.
I love the story of John Newton, who wrote the beautiful song Amazing Grace that we are about to sing. He was a slave trader who came to the Lord. There is a story that later in his life, he was asked about his life and what he remembered. He said, I remember two things. I am a great sinner, and I have a great Savior. And I don’t suppose an old slave trader needs to remember much more than that.
You know what everyone here today is a great sinner, and we all have a great Savior. We don’t need to remember much more than that.