Category: Baptism (Page 1 of 7)

Baptism Language

The Churches of Christ use strong language when we talk about baptism. Sometimes we’re accused of being over-the-top. I wonder how they might criticize Martin Luther, who wrote these words in the middle of the 16th century:

“Your baptism is nothing less than grace clutching you by the throat, a grace-full throttling by which your sin is submerged in order that ye may remain under grace. Come, thus, to thy baptism! Give thyself up to be drowned in baptism and killed by the mercy of thy dear God, saying, ‘Drown me and throttle me, dear Lord, for henceforth I will gladly die to sin with thy Son!'”

Lots of Christians believe baptism is just an outward sign of a salvation that’s already been received. Other Christians believe baptism is a necessary command that legally divides people into two groups: those going to heaven and those going to hell. Of course, we know baptism is more than just a sign or a symbol. But we also know it should never be reduced to some line-in-the-sand technical requirement. It’s so much more. It’s a gift from God.

Baptism is not a legal requirement to meet, it’s not a technical ritual to perform, it’s not a test to pass or fail, or a strict command that has to be perfectly obeyed exactly right. It’s a gracious gift from God. Baptism is the way to accept and experience everything God longs to give us.

This Sunday is Baptism Sunday at GCR Church. I’ve never done one of these before. In Churches of Christ, we have typically emphasized the urgency of receiving forgiveness in baptism and rushed to the church building at all hours of the day or night to get a convert in the water immediately upon a statement of belief. Planning a particular Sunday to initiate new disciples is a little out of our comfort zone.

But the careful planning is what I like about it the most. As a church, we have spent the past couple of weeks focusing on baptism. Praying about it. Singing about it. Studying it. We’re praying for our friends and relatives who have never been baptized. We’re studying and praying with people who are about to be baptized. We’re counting the cost as a congregation and highlighting the beautiful sacrament as a divine gift to be received from our God.

If you or someone you know has never been baptized, this Sunday at GCR might be the perfect day to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. If you live anywhere in West Texas, we’re inviting you to join us at GCR this Sunday and be baptized into Christ. You can click here to review what we believe about baptism, to contact me or another of our ministers or shepherds about baptism, and to see how to prepare for your baptism. If you know somebody in West Texas who’s never been baptized, send them the link. Pray for them. Tell me about them.

As of today, four people have signed up to be baptized into Christ at GCR this Sunday. The invitation is open to you, too.

Peace,

Allan

Deciding to Die

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” ~Galatians 2:20

We all want to be raised with Christ. We want to claim God’s will for our lives that we be raised with our Lord to walk in newness of life. We want to experience the divine promise that we will be raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms.

But, first, you have to die.

The apostle Paul goes beyond saying Jesus was crucified in his place. Paul says he’s been crucified with Christ. He died with Jesus.

Of course, resurrection life and power is available to you. It’s available to you right now. But you have to die first. You can’t be raised until you first die – that’s just common sense.

Look at our Lord. Jesus did not resurrect himself. The Father raised him. What part did Jesus play in his raising? He died. He submitted to the will of God and he died.

Resurrection life and resurrection power is what God does in you when you decide to die to yourself and die to the world and die to your sins; when you die with Christ, when you’re buried with Christ, when you die, then God resurrects. It’s your call.

And it’s not really about your feelings. It’s about your will. It’s about what you decide to do.

When a guy gets married, the preacher doesn’t ask him to take out the ring and then talk about how he feels. Before you take this woman, tell us how you feel. “Man, I feel like I’m about to throw up. My hands are shaking, my knees are weak, and I’m sweating like a cow. I feel terrible.”

No, we don’t ask that. The question is: Will you take this woman? “Will I? Yes. I will do this. I will make the decision now to take this woman and commit to her as my wife.”

It’s a choice. It’s a decision of the will.

If you’ve never been baptized…

…will you? Will you die with Christ this Sunday in the waters of baptism in order to share in the resurrection?

I don’t care if you’re twelve-years-old or in your 30s or 50s. I don’t care if you were born and raised in the Church and, for whatever reason, you’ve never been baptized. I don’t care if you’ve never been inside a church building before.

Will you be buried with Jesus and be raised to walk in the life and power of his resurrection? Will you make the choice? Will you decide to die with Christ?

Peace,

Allan

Your Life is Changed

“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.” ~Colossians 3:1-4

Paul is still talking about baptism here and being identified with Christ. You died, he says, and your life is now in Christ. Christ is your life, he writes. He says a similar thing to the Christians in Galatia: I have been crucified with Christ and I don’t live anymore; Christ lives in me. He tells the Philippians, “To live is Christ!”

When you are raised in Christ, your old life dies and your new life in Christ — Christ in you, the hope of glory — comes alive. You begin to realize all the gracious blessings you’ve received in Jesus, all the merciful gifts outlined in the first two chapters of Colossians, and you begin to think more like Jesus. You begin to see people and things like Jesus does. You realize more of what God has done and is doing through Jesus, you understand the bigger picture of the inevitable realities, and it shows in your changed life.

When someone hits you, you don’t fight back, you turn the other cheek. When someone sins against you, you don’t seek revenge, you forgive unconditionally. When an evil person does you harm, you don’t retaliate, you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Not so these bad people can turn nice and leave you alone. That rarely ever works! No, Jesus says you turn the other cheek, you forgive without limits, you walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies because that’s the way God is.

When you are raised with Christ and filled with the fullness of God, your life is changed. It’s not new rules to follow or new commands to obey, it’s a changed life. The Bible always emphasizes what a Christian is, not what a Christian is supposed to do. But that changed life will show up in the ways you think and behave. What comes up in the bucket is usually what’s down in the well.

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.” ~1 John 5:11-12

Maybe you don’t feel this new life. You might not be so sure about the reality of God’s transforming power in your life. I get it. What you believe in your head and what you feel in your heart are sometimes two very different things. It’s like a football player who suffered a terrible ankle injury but has undergone successful surgery. He’s still favoring the repaired ankle and it’s hindering his performance on the field. He still limps because he remembers the terrible pain. He’s not 100% sure his ankle is totally recovered.

Maybe you’re walking through life with that same kind of limp. You might not believe God can really change your life. There’s too much history. Too many bad things. Too much pain.

You died. And your life is now secured, it’s safe, with God. Christ is your life. Give yourself totally to him, completely to him, and allow the transforming power of Jesus to reveal the reality that your life is changed.

Peace,

Allan

Church Innovation

We’re doing what we can around here to make sure the mission continues. God is not quarantined. The Gospel is not sheltering in place. Yes, we’re having to adjust. We’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing. Nobody taught me about live stream and Zoom and podcasts at seminary. I never took a course on infectious diseases. But our God is still very much at work in Amarillo, Texas and in and through Central Church of Christ.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Peace,

Allan

Baptism: Identity in Christ

Ephesians 2 tells us who we used to be and, now that we’ve been baptized into Christ, who we are.

This is what you were: dead; this is what you are now: alive with Christ!

This is what you were: following the ways of the world; this is what you are now: raised up with Christ and seated with Christ at the right hand of God!

This is what you were: objects of divine wrath; this is what you are now: saved!

1 Corinthians 9 affirms that we are cleansed and made pure from our many sins, we are set apart and dedicated to the holy God as belonging to him, and we are declared righteous in God’s eyes “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus is Lord.” Romans 10 tells us that’s the Christian confession. “Jesus is Lord.” 1 Corinthians 12 says that’s how we worship. Philippians 2 says on that last day every tongue in heaven and on earth will declare “Jesus is Lord!”

But we first say “Jesus is Lord” at our baptisms. And to say Jesus is Lord is to say Caesar is not. To say Jesus is Lord is to accept a brand new identity as his servant and to affirm that the shape and direction of my life now lays wholly within his power. I belong to him. I no longer live. The Lord Jesus lives in me and through me. Baptism is that moment of transfer. By faith, the waters of baptism move you from sin and separation from God to forgiveness and communion with God. By his love and grace, baptism transfers you from an outsider to the Kingdom of God to an insider with all the privileges and benefits. It’s a brand new way of life.

“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” ~Colossians 1:13-14

A few verses later, Paul says all of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In baptism, there is an exclusive devotion to Christ Jesus as Lord. Our loyalties are not to the fading kingdoms of this world but to the eternal Kingdom of our Lord. Our priorities are not in the interests of this world’s structures and institutions but to the missions and goals of our God.

Our very identity is rooted in what God has done for us in Christ. And we’re given that new identity in baptism. But our increasingly fractured and polarized culture is exposing our primary identities. It seems that we identify with our nation and national politics, race and socio-economic groups first and then our Christian beliefs and practices are filtered through those identities instead of the other way around. We struggle to identify first with our Lord and his ways and then filter our national and political and race and group beliefs and practices through that.

Whatever the issue — immigration, race relations, tax reform, gun control, war, abortion, social security, gay rights, Obamacare, the environment, the construction on the bridge at I-40 and Bell — my first instinct is to view it and talk about it through the lens of my political affiliation or my race or gender. How should a Republican feel about that? How would a Democrat talk about that? How might a patriotic American deal with this? How does a white guy, how would a black woman, how does a conservative say this? How does a liberal view this?

Our priorities are out of whack. Our identities are compromised. We think first as Republicans or Democrats, as Texas Tech of OU, and not first as baptized disciples of Jesus. Our positions are solidified and our decisions are made through the lenses or our race or zip code or voter registration card and not first and foremost by our identity as baptized followers of the crucified and risen Christ.

“You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority… having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins… And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross… Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?” ~Colossians 2

Now, I think all Christians in America have dealt with this for 242 years — we’re no different. Our divided and polarized society is just exposing it in more obvious and disappointing ways. I do know our Christian impulses are good and holy. It’s deep inside us, it’s in our DNA to serve others, to sacrifice for the sake of others, to view the needs of others as more important than our own, to do things the Jesus way and not the world’s way. The impulse is there. So is the desire. But the follow-through is becoming more difficult because our culture is telling us to do the opposite.

“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.” ~Colossians 3:1-2

Remember your baptism, the Bible says. Remember where you were. Remember who was there. Remember how you felt when you came up out of the water. Remember the spiritual experience and claim all the spiritual resources you received that day.

“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.” ~Colossians 3:3-4

Baptism is a touchstone moment for followers of Christ Jesus. It’s an event that embodies the faith and participates in the Gospel. But it’s also a definitive moment in time that we can reflect on for strength. Dying and rising with Christ. Putting off and putting on. Living this life under his exclusive lordship. Putting off and putting on. Every day. Dying and rising. Romans 13 says clothe yourselves with Christ and stop making room for sin.

We have a new identity. We have a different worldview. We see things differently. We see people differently. We know God’s work is not complete in me or the world, but we know it’s begun. If anyone is in Christ: new creation! The old has gone, the new has come! Baptism doesn’t just symbolize new life, it actually gives us a new identity. It doesn’t just symbolize our washing, it actually empowers a new way of living by the Holy Spirit. It not only symbolizes a break with the fallen world of sin and death, it delivers us into a brand new creation and a new world view.

If you’ve been baptized, God wants you to see yourself as one with Christ and united with all his people. God wants you to consider yourself as under the lordship of Jesus with new priorities, new goals, new methods and practices, new Holy Spirit power to live for his Kingdom.

If you’ve never been baptized, let me ask you: Why not?

Peace,

Allan

Baptism: Unity In Christ

You’re not baptized by yourself. Baptism is not a private deal. When you’re baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, you’re baptized into his community. You become part of God’s eternal people. It’s not only unity for you with Christ, it’s also unity in Christ will all baptized followers of our Lord.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:26-28

This is a bold, radical, mind-blowing claim for any Christian living in America in 2018. Because whatever our society is, it cannot be called “one” in anything. It’s almost impossible to find unity anywhere. There are more and more options, which means more and more opinions, and more and more platforms to declare those more and more opinions. We’re inventing new ways to disagree with each other. We’re identifying new ways we’re different from each other. We can’t find unity in a country or in a family or in a neighborhood or in a middle school choir. There’s only one place to experience the realities of unity and togetherness and community: through baptism into Christ.

We are not baptized into a nation or a political party. We’re not baptized into a denomination or a faith tradition. We’re not baptized into an economic brackets or a language or a skin color or a blood type. We are all baptized into Christ.

Baptism is not just about an individual’s conversion. It’s also very much about being initiated into a community. Baptism allows you to participate in the Gospel and it makes you a member of God’s eternal people. Baptism creates an eternal unity with all followers of Jesus. There are no divisions at all among baptized disciples.

When there were divisions in that church in Corinth and people were dividing between rich and poor, men and women, tongue speakers and prophesyers, favorite preachers and teachers — yes, just like today, people divide and pick sides and decide who’s right and who’s wrong and split up accordingly — Paul addresses it head-on. Right out of the gate in 1 Corinthians:

“Hey, this is Paul. How’s it going? What’s the matter with you?!? Is Christ divided?!? Was Paul crucified for you?!? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?!?

When the unity of the church and the integrity of the Gospel is at stake, Paul reminds them of their baptisms. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, Paul writes, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free. Which, by the way, sounds a lot like Ephesians 4:

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

And that sounds a lot like Galatians 3.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, Texan nor Mexican, American nor Syrian, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither slave nor free, Republican nor Democrat, Church of Christ nor Presbyterian, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither male nor female, black nor white, old nor young, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For some reason, our Lord chose you. And he chose me. And he has united us to him forever and he has inseparably united us to one another in him. In baptism. What a gift. What a challenge.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts