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Vision for Mission - Discipleship - Baptism
you can hear a MP3 recording of sermon here

Sunday, 21st July, 2013

 Why take a bath in public?
What you have seen this morning you either put down as a bunch of nutters finding an excuse to get wet on a hot day!
Or a weird religious ritual
Or a very Public statement that there is more to life, there is a spiritual dimension to explore
You are probably right on all three counts but I want to explain why Christians, as we are called, do this in one form or another.

baptismsm (34K)

 First, Jesus did it! Matthew 3:13-17;Mark1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22. So we do it as followers of Jesus. Are called Christians because we are followers of Jesus. A lot of what goes for Christianity in the press and, unfortunately, in many churches and probably this church, is not what Jesus taught. But to understand what we should be about, read the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, ( part two of the Bible). Find out what being a follower or disciple of Jesus is. So the first clue to what we call baptism is about following Jesus. Not just being baptised but in every department of our lives. Why follow Jesus? Because we have found that he brings life. Jesus is the one who makes sense of the world around us. So if you think this baptism bit is crazy. Check out what Jesus is actually like, rather than what others say about him. He is neither mad, deluded or irrelevant, we believe he is what he claimed to be, the Son of God and the one to rescue the world.

 Secondly, it reminds us we all need a bath! But the spiritual dimension to this is that we all need our sins forgiven. We need a spiritual wash. You can't get to heaven - we believe in heaven; we have a hope about our long term future - we can't get to heaven like we are. We need a clean up, a spiritual bath. So this baptism you witnessed, this morning, is a demonstration of a spiritual event that has taken place. Michelle has had her sins forgiven. She has been invited to be a friend of God, to have a relationship with the eternal spirit who created us and has set out to rescue us from the mess we are in. So being baptised is very much about having a bath! It tells us that we need a spiritual bath!

 Thirdly, symbolically you have seen a death and resurrection. Jesus, as I guess you know is famous for being crucified, being buried and three days later coming back to life. What you saw this morning was Michelle identifying herself with that historic event. Jesus' death is personal. He died in Michelle's and our place, for our sins, not his own. And his resurrection is Michelle's new eternal life and ours if, like Michelle, we have turned from sin to God and received his rescue plan as a gift.


Being a Christian is not about what you were born as, or what you are like or about being good enough.


 It is about receiving a gift you don’t deserve. Our Good News is not that there is a way to God if you tick all the right boxes, whatever they are, and live to please God. Instead God offers his rescue plan free of charge, we call it grace. Becoming a Christian is asking God for the gift of new life he offers and receiving by faith.


 It is about forgiveness when you have nothing but failure and sorrow to offer. Jesus came, he said, not to call the righteous – people who think they can impress God with their qualities but sinners who know their failures, admit to themselves that they are in the red, overdrawn and over the overdraft limit as far as God is concerned. If you know you are in that position, Jesus offers to trade places with you. He takes the rap for you. And he offers his perfection as yours. That is why Baptism is a demonstration of death and resurrection. His death becomes our death and his resurrection becomes our rising to new life.


It is about new life and hope when you have run out of options.  This new life we talk about is very different from what you might expect. When you invite Jesus to be your rescuer, not only does he wipe out the debt you owe him but he sends his Holy Spirit to be your guide and energiser. And that is not all. We have a very different view of death. It is no longer the end of the road. Jesus said  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him has eternal life”. Not just a richer fuller life here on earth but the expectation that the best is yet to come. So death is a doorway into a new, never ending phase of your life. But the everlasting life begins when you ask Jesus to be your rescuer or Saviour. The Bible does not have anything about Peter at the pearly gates, checking you out to see if you came up to standard, heaven is actually described as an open city. But nothing evil can enter it.  Only those who have received new life as a free gift from God through Jesus can enter, because only they are considered to have the approval and love that Jesus has.


 What can we do? When the Church began, people asked what can we do?, Peter replied “Turn away from your old life and be baptised in Jesus’ name. Your sins will be forgiven and you’ll be given the Holy Spirit… (Acts2:38)

A similar sequence of events Believe –receive forgiveness , new life and the Holy Spirit – occurs in the story of a senior official from Ethiopia, a Roman jailor in Philippi in the middle of an earthquake and countless people throughout the last 2000 years in every country in the world.


You can choose one of three options

1.   Decide this is crazy stuff and carry on as you are


2.   Think it sounds interesting but put it off until you have more time to think about it.


3.   Decide that here and now you want to get  to grips with what this free forgiveness and new life in Jesus is all about.


Choose carefully because unless you choose option three at some point in your life, you will not enjoy eternal life at all, all you have left is hopelessness.


So how does this Christian life pan out? What does following Jesus mean?


. Jesus spent three years teaching and demonstrating God’s love in healings and miracles. After the had died and risen again, he said this to his disciples: Matthew 28:18-20

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

the church has one task

Go and make disciples of all nations.

And that comes in two parts

1.   baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

2.   Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And a promise

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


I need to translate a few of these words as you may not be familiar with church terminology.

A disciple is a person who follows Jesus, so the church’s task is to tell people about the Good News as we have been talking about this morning so that they can respond to the love of God and put their faith in him. Then, knowing their sins forgiven and the presence of the Holy Spirit they live a life following what Jesus said and did.

 Baptising, I don’t need to explain any more, you have seen one -  it is having a bath in public. You now know why I baptised Michelle in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I was told to by Jesus!

 Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Baptism is about beginning the new life. Christians are on a life-long learning programme to be like Jesus. To imitate him and represent him to friends and family. To do that effectively we are constantly reading the Bible , asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth in it and to guide us to how it applies to our life right now. Jesus teaches us to pray to worship to listen to him, and to change our life-style so that we fulfil our destiny.


 So what are you going to do?


Carry on as you are


Put it off until you have more time to think about it.


Decide that here and now you want to get to grips with what this free forgiveness and new life in Jesus is all about. Begin a life as a disciple of the one who loves you so much and , by the Holy Spirit wants to spend the rest of your life with you and then on to eternity with him in heaven.


If want to become a Christian, then speak to me after the service. I will ask one of the leadership to talk to you and pray with you. You can receive a gift you don’t deserve, you can know forgiveness, you can know new life in Jesus.



If you want to think more  about it, take away the booklet, come again next Sunday, and sign up for Christianity Explored – a course designed to help you understand Christianity. We haven’t got a start date yet but we are hoping to start it in the Autumn.

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