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Jesus was born into a world that was filled with religious ritual and ceremony. But there has never been a person who seemed to care less about ritual and ceremony than Jesus. By his personal practice and by his preaching He emphasized the importance of a simple, direct relationship with God. Even though he was born into a world of ritual and ceremony and rules, he emphasized relationships.
He reduced the commands of God down to two. “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
He also left just two rituals or ceremonies for his followers to observe. Baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Just because Jesus wasn’t a person who emphasized ritual and ceremony does not mean that these two ordinances are not important. They are vitally important. They are centered in the cross and teach us great theological truths about our relationship to God.
The Lord’s supper shows what happened to Jesus when he went to the cross. His body was broken and his blood was shed for the sins of the world.
Baptism shows what happens to us when we go to the cross. We who are dead in trespasses and sins, die to sin and we are raised to walk in newness of life.
Both ordinances depict the gospel. Both ordinances are at the heart of Christianity.
Baptism is also a testimony to the historical reality that Jesus died, He was buried, and He arose from the grave. These are not religious theories, but historical facts. And when we are baptized we are saying to the world that “I believe that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead.” Our baptism is a memorial to our personal experience with Christ.
Charles Spurgeon said “Christ came not to make bad men good or good men better, but to make dead men live.” Baptism depicts that. It shows that we have died to the old life of sin and have been raised up to walk a new life, and that the old life has ended and we have begun a new life.
Our baptism is a testimony to our commitment. When we are baptized we are saying to the world “You may expect better things of me from this day; I am a new creature, and pledge myself to live a new life.”
Our baptism is a testimony to our hope of eternal life. By it we say "just as Jesus was raised up from the dead, we believe that he will one day raise us up." Our baptism does not give us eternal life, but it is a public declaration of our belief in, and our hope in, eternal life.
Should you and I be baptized? Remember that Jesus himself was baptized, setting an example for us (Matthew 3:13-17).
And Jesus commanded all believers to be baptized when he said “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.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The church practiced baptism from its beginning. After Peter’s first sermon, this comment is made, “Those who accepted his message were baptized.” (Acts 2:41).
Paul Harvey, the late radio commentator, told about his baptism. He said that he and his wife were on vacation near Cave Creek, Arizona. One Sunday morning they drove to a little church on top of the hill and joined about a dozen others in worship. When the minister got up to preach, he announced he would be speaking on baptism and Harvey yawned expecting a boring sermon. But as he spoke, the Lord touched Harvey’s heart. And Harvey found himself walking down the isle during the invitation. Although he had been saved as a youth, Harvey had never made a public profession of faith. Although he knew there was no saving magic in the water he said that when he was baptized, he felt “immensely happy.” Harvey felt the same emotion that the early believers did in Acts 2:41. “They that gladly received his word were baptized.”
Baptism was commanded by Christ. It was prominent in the early church and therefore it must be important to every believer. It is a sermon in symbols. It is the first sermon you will ever preach as a Christian. It is a sermon with four points.
First, it depicts what Jesus did for us. He died, was buried, and was raised again on the third day.
Second, it depicts what Jesus has done in us. We who were dead in sin, died to sin, and have been raised to newness of life in Christ.
Third, it depicts what Jesus will do for us. He will resurrect us from the grave at the end.
Fourth, it depicts what Jesus expects from us. That we will walk in a new kind of life.
Have you been baptized since you were converted? Maybe its time.
I love McKay's Bookstore in Nashville. You can find out of print books there for pennies on the dollar. Recently I purchased a book by Calvin Miller called "Letters to Young Pastors." While I'm more of a middle aged pastor, the book looked interesting and for 75 cents was worth a shot. It has been terrific.
Miller writes about the cartoon where Charlie Brown says "I love humanity; it's people I can't stand." If you are honest, there are times when you agree with Charlie.
In the Bible we meet lots of difficult people. Paul indicted the false apostles (2 Cor 11:13-14) who were a group of vicious and difficult people. They were a self-righteous bunch who loved to be adored. And Paul had trouble with them.
Then there was Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2). These two ladies (I used that term loosely), were always in a petty quarrel with one another over some minor issue. They were good at nitpicking the flaws in one another. These petty quarrels can turn into a Hatfield and McCoy feud. The sad thing is that a lot of people can get hurt when you start fighting over a pig, like our Appalachian friends did.
Then there was Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). He was a person who folded when times got tough. These people were known as the lapsi. When persecution or problems came, he lapsed in his commitment. He was undependable. You couldn't count on him.
And then Paul had his problems with Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14). Some call him derisively the "copperhead." Alexander was much like Judas Iscariot. He was once a trusted friend, but in the end, he caused Paul a lot of harm. Copperheads are dangerous!
People can be difficult. It's just the way folks are. But dealing with them can reveal a lot about us. Paul, who lists all these folks, tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love "keeps no record of wrongs." I've always found it true in my life that it's easier to tell others what to do than to do it yourself. I think Paul had that problem. He seemed to have kept a record of those who wronged him.
For Paul, like us, it was easier to tell someone to forgive than to actually forgive. It is easier to teach on love than to be loving. It is easier to proclaim that we shouldn't be bitter than to actually live without bitterness. And that is true of us all.
Let's remember this.
God can deal with the self-righteous false teachers. Usually the answer for their condition is a little pain in life. Pointing out their flaws is pointless. But let calamity strike, and over a period of time, they can be cured of their condition. Just as Nebuchadnezzar.
God can deal with the petty, bickering, nitpickers. Either they repent of their behavior or they descend into bitterness by which they are chastened (see Hebrews 12). And it's a whole lot easier to repent that to receive the discipline of the Lord.
God can deal with the quitters too. Demas was a disappointment to Paul, but I'll bet he was a bigger disappointment to himself. When you surrender your commitment to Christ, the one who really knows the pain is the one who failed. And that's true of you and me too.
God can deal with the betrayers too, like Alexander. Guys like Alexander and Judas don't end up too happy in life.
But the real question is "what about you?" If you're a troublemaker, how happy are you? And if you are not, do you have a forgiving spirit toward those who trouble you? Or do you keep "a record of wrongs?"
I love Charlie Brown. And feel his pain. But when it comes to loving humanity, you've got to be able to stand people!
What do your gifts to the Lord through Sand Ridge Baptist Church accomplish?
We all know the ways SRBC is engaged in evangelism, discipleship, and worship ministries. We all rejoice in our compassion ministries where we reach out to feed those who are in need and clothe the unfortunate. We celebrate our ministries to the orphaned and homeless children through the Bethany Children's Home in Mexico and our own Tennessee Baptist Children's Homes. We give thanks for the way SRBC touches those impacted by hurricanes and other natural disasters through our ministry of Disaster Relief.
Wow! What an amazing impact your gifts are making to touch this world with the gospel of Christ.
I received a note this morning from Randy Davis, Executive Director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He reminds us that our gifts are flowing far beyond the community in which we live.
Through our Cooperative Program gifts and Golden Offering gifts to the TBMB, we were able to be a part of the revitalization of 187 of our Tennessee Churches. Many churches are not growing and many are in decline. But through our TBMB ministries we are helping to revitalize churches across this state.
Through our Cooperative Program gifts and Golden Offering gifts to the TBMB, we were able to engage 40 of the 145 distinct people groups living in Tennessee, many of those are among the worlds' most unreached people groups. We are building cross cultural bridges that are touching lives.
Through our Cooperative Program and Golden Offerings gifts to the TBMB, we are providing on-site evangelism training for volunteers to share the gospel at the Jesus Tent event at Bonnaroo, one of the nation's largest outdoor concerts,
Wow! Your gifts are making a difference.
But it doesn't end there. Through our gifts to the Beech River Association we are reaching our community through our ministries at the Henderson County and Decatur County fairs, reaching out to sportsmen at the Carl Perkins Bass Classic, and training pastors, church leaders, youth and children to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
And on top of it all, we are building for the future at SRBC, constructing a new worship center that will allow people to gather for prayer, preaching, and praise for generations to come.
Your Gifts Matter.
Thank you for your faithfulness. May God bless you richly during this season of giving.
In America, there are millions who are visually impaired. The American Foundation for the Blind says that every 7 minutes another person becomes blind or visually impaired.
I am thankful for my vision. But there are areas in my life where I have found myself to be blind to things that should have been obvious to me. Let me give you an example.
When my Dad died suddenly and without warning in February, 2005, I was shocked. As the months and years have rolled by, I cannot tell you the number of times I just wanted to call him and ask him something or see how he was doing.
At the same time I have realized that while he was alive there were many times I should have called, should have gone to see him, or should have reached out when I was too busy or too preoccupied with something else to do so. I was blind to the blessing of my father.
We all have our blind spots. Before my father died, I had told countless other people that “dead noses smell no roses” and that they should appreciate their loved ones while they are here. But I was blind to that in my own life. And now I see, but its too late.
Max Lucado says that just because you live near a garden doesn’t mean you’ve see the beauty of one flower. Just because you are married doesn’t mean you’ve paused to really see the beauty of your wife. Just because you have children doesn’t mean that you’ve viewed every moment with them as a gift from God.
We can be blind in so many ways.
Let's take a moment to reflect on the blessings God has given to us and appreciate them. Let's also ask God to show us our blind spots. We all have them.
When is the last time you told your child you loved them? When is the last time you did something spontaneous to show your spouse their importance in your life? When was the last time you called that friend you haven't seen in years? When was the last time you told a struggling friend about Jesus and invited them to church with you? When is the last time you spent time with Jesus in prayer, worship, and study?
We all have blind spots. Where is yours?