CORPORATE MAKEOVER SERMON SERIES
SEPTEMBER 13, 1998
My baseball rabid relatives asked, “Hey, Ed, could you possibly swing us some tickets for the upcoming Rangers game?” You see, we were packed in our home like sardines and facing yet another week of ozone-warning, triple degree temperatures. We needed to go to a game. So I call a friend of mine who happened to work for Fox Sports and he was kind enough to swing us six tickets, four in the stands and two in the Fox suite.
Now, you need to know something right up front. I hadn’t gone to a Rangers game all year. I really don’t know that much about baseball. Maybe, on a good day, I could name four players on the entire roster. But, anyway, we were going to the game, the whole group of us. As we were walking through the turnstiles at the Ballpark in Arlington, my friend from Fox turned to me and said some great words. “Hey, Ed, today is your lucky day, lucky for you and Lisa and all of your relatives. The people who were supposed to sit in the box have dropped out, and now all of you can sit there together.” I said, “The Fox suite, everybody?” He said, “Yes, the suite.” I said, “Sweet!”
Let me give you one quick sidebar. The Fox suite is incredible and they serve the greatest bratwurst hot dogs you have ever had. I am talking about with sauerkraut and hot mustard dripping off of them. If you know me very well, you know that I am a health nut. My wife, Lisa, cooks organically and I am really strict about my diet. But when I walked into this beautiful area, I kicked the diet out the door. I was having a feeding frenzy in there. I wasn’t watching the game, I was back there eating the bratwurst hot dogs. It was gluttony, that’s what it was. Sin. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
While I was stuffing my face, I got into a conversation with a young lady who introduced herself as Tracy Levinson. Tracy began to share with me her spiritual pilgrimage, how she committed her life to Christ, how she and her husband had been attending our church and how much they like the church. Then she turned and pointed to her husband. “Ed, that is my husband over there watching the game. His name is Bruce. He is Jewish and he is on the verge of stepping over the line and making a commitment to Christ.” I thought that was great.
It was the sixth inning and I was eating my third bratwurst hot dog. Bruce walked to the back of the suite and we began to talk a little bit about things that guys talk about; our careers and sports, etc. I found out that Bruce had done some acting. He had been in movies like REVENGE OF THE NERDS, POLICE ACADEMY. He had also starred in one of the most popular Miller Beer commercials of all time. We were having a good time talking. Then he began to tell me about his spiritual pilgrimage. He began to tell me about a pastor in Illinois helping him and how some Christian friends had been assisting him. Then he turned and looked at me and said some words that I will never forget. “Ed, I think that I am on the verge of stepping over the line. I think that I am right there on the edge of making a commitment to Christ, but I have to be honest with you. What will this do to my background, to my heritage? What will my parents think? We talked about some of those issues.
I explained to him what the Bible says about knowing Christ personally, that God is a God of love and that we matter so much to Him that He send Christ to die on the cross for all of our sins and to rise again. I said that He offers us this free gift of salvation. Then I stopped. I felt a leading from the Holy Spirit to ask him a very direct question. “Bruce, what is keeping you from stepping over the line? Can you think of one good excuse not to do this deal, not to make this decision? His eyes kind of welled up with tears. At that precise moment, I was astounded at what happened. The monitor that was positioned at the top of the suite was showing the game and the announcer was saying, “This is it. Ninth inning. Two outs.” I said, “Bruce, in a real way, it could be for your life the ninth inning with two outs. Do you want to do the deal?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “We can do the deal right here.” Then I turned and motioned to his wife to join us. There was a little bathroom off the suite and we walked in, knelt down, joined hands and Bruce asked Jesus to infiltrate his heart and his life. At that precise moment all of the Ranger faithful erupted with applause because the Rangers had won the game. But I couldn’t help but think of the scripture verse, Luke 15:7. “There will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.”
Then the episode was followed by hugs and tears. My mind was drawn to another verse in John 4:36. “He who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” I hadn’t done much sowing in Bruce’s life. Yes, he had been under my teaching. He had been a part of this church. But God had been using people for years to sow seeds of truth, seeds of Christ, seeds of purpose, seeds of forgiveness. I was just there to reap. And we both rejoiced.
It is amazing, if you think about it, how God orchestrated this connection. The fact that I was even at a baseball game was miraculous. Secondly, that all the people dropped out of the Fox suite at the last moment. I thought that was a little strange. Thirdly, that I would be near junk food stuffing my face, is totally uncharacteristic of me. And also, that we had been watching baseball was odd. If it had been football or basketball or if we had been fly fishing, I wouldn’t have talked to anybody. And when you think about it, God brings all of us to certain points, at certain times to hear certain messages from Him.
You know the nickname for the Ballpark at Arlington is the Temple. And I couldn’t help but think that when tens of thousands of people were expressing their worship for the Rangers, one young Jewish man was expressing his love for God. In a real way on that hot and humid August night, the Ballpark became a Temple.
So before I go on, I feel prompted to ask you this same question that I asked Bruce, the same question I have been praying about posing to you. What is keeping you from stepping over the line? Can you really think of one good excuse not to do this deal, not to receive the free gift of salvation? I am not talking about religion. Religion is manmade. Jesus had one thing to say about religion. He was against it. Religion is a manmade system of dos and don’ts in order to appease a holy God. There is only one problem with it, we can’t appease Him. There is no way that we can be religious enough to get to where we need to go. Well, God took care of our problem by sending Christ to die on the cross for all of our iniquities and shortcomings and He offers salvation to us. Can you think of one good excuse to say no? I am talking about eternal life. I am talking about a peace that surpasses all of our comprehension. I am talking about forgiveness. I am talking about a purpose in the midst of confusion. I want to give you a chance right now in the middle of this service to do the deal. Will you bow your heads with me a moment?
The Bible says that God loves you, that you matter to God. But it doesn’t pull any punches because it says that we have a sin problem that we cannot take care of alone. Yet, God’s love is so great that He commissioned Christ to die on the cross to take away all of your sins, all of my sins. If you want to step over the line and apply that, just pray this prayer with me silently.
God, I admit to You that I am a sinner and that I need a savior. I turn from my sins and ask you, Christ, to come into my life. I step over the line of faith. I receive what You did for me on the cross. Now, God, show me what to do next with this asset of faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What do you think I challenged Bruce to do after making that great decision, after receiving the asset of faith? I told him to liquidate, to liquidate. I am in a series called CORPORATE MAKEOVER and we have been talking about marketplace issues and issues of the workforce. These days people are talking about liquidity. Liquid assets: stocks and bonds and CDs. Have you ever stopped to realize that the Bible talks on and on about liquid assets? The Bible says that once we make a faith decision, once we express the validity of our faith, then we are to follow it with the liquidity of baptism.
All you have to do is just thumb through the scripture and you bump into baptism, you bump into liquidation. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Christ was saying to challenge new believers from this day forward, no matter what socio-economic level they are from, no matter how threatening to some, no matter how humbling it is to some, to liquidate. When Jesus began His teaching ministry at 30 years of age, he started it by liquidation. John baptized Him in the Jordan river. When 3,000 people at Pentecost prayed to receive Christ, they asked in unison what they should do next. The leaders said to liquidate, to get baptized. When the first non-Jewish family committed their hearts to Jesus, they liquidated and were baptized. When Phillip led a prominent Ethiopian official in a faith decision, he stopped the chariot, walked down the banks of the river and liquidated this man’s assets. Wherever you turn, we have got liquidation going on.
First the expression of the validity of our faith and the asset of it and then the liquidation, the going public, the showing others that we are Christ followers. What if I said that I am a Cowboys fan, that I love them, yet I don’t have any paraphernalia, no T-shirts or jerseys. I have season tickets ten rows from the field. I love the Cowboys. I am a true follower of them. But my love for the Cowboys is a private thing. You would ask why I don’t go public and step out of the shadows and say that I am for the Cowboys.
Yet many people in this house treat God in the same way. “Oh, God, I am a fan of yours. Oh God, I follow you. I go to church regularly. I have got season tickets ten rows from the front, God. I am a follower of Yours, but my relationship with You is a private affair.” You would think that if this person was for real, he should advertise what side he or she is on. Liquid assets. What do you think I challenged Bruce to do? I challenged Bruce to liquidate his assets.
I have had the privilege of baptizing scores and scores of people during my life. Baptism is a spiritual high point for any person. Over the years I have bumped into a lot of FAQs, frequently asked questions, about this subject. So I am going to stop and address some of these questions and hopefully answer some of them. It is amazing, anytime you talk about baptism, defenses go up, confusion reigns and people begin to kind of freak out. Just take a deep breath and relax and let’s address the first question that a lot of people have about baptism.
Is it more appropriate to baptize infants or those who are mature enough to make a faith decision? That is a big question that people have about liquid assets. Obviously there are bright and intelligent people from both camps. However, the Bible says unequivocally, irrevocably that only someone who is mature enough to understand the implications of the gospel and responsible enough to make a faith choice is eligible for baptism. There is not one reference to infant baptism in the entire Bible.
Jesus welcomed children. Parents brought their little ones to Him. He held them, He nurtured them, He prayed for them but He never baptized them, nor did He ask someone else to baptize them. Many of you, I am sure, have been baptized as infants. Great. I give you a high five. My wife was baptized as an infant. I am not trying to belittle your baptism or backburner it. But I would tell you, based on the authority of the Bible, to get re-baptized. The Bible says that the progression of events is like this. First we make a faith choice, we allow Christ to infiltrate our lives like Bruce did, and then we liquidate by going public and being baptized.
When you were baptized as an infant, think about it. You won’t remember it but think about it. Your parents were there. Maybe your relatives were there. Your godparents were there. It was their desire that one day you would become a true Christ follower. I believe that you should look at your re-baptism as a fulfillment of their dreams, desires and plans for you. Many of you, scores of you need to be re-baptized.
Here is another frequently asked question. Does baptism have the juice to make you a Christian? Is it kind of like spiritual Clorox? When you are under the water do your sins just become white as snow? I run into a lot of people who think that just because they were baptized by some religious leader that they are going to heaven. Well, I have got news for you. If there was some sort of baptismal machine that could baptize you 3,124 times a day, you could do it but if you have not trusted Christ, not made a faith decision, you will not have eternal life to spend with Jesus, the peace that surpassed all understanding, forgiveness for your sins nor a clean and clear conscience. You will spend eternity away from Him in a place called hell, which is eternal condemnation. Baptism does not make you a Christian. It is important. It is vital. It is symbolic. It is commanded by the Lord, Himself. But it does not make someone a child of God.
Here is another question. What if a person doesn’t want to get baptized? Can he or she still go to heaven? Now when people ask me that question, I will tell you what goes through my mind. I wonder if they are really a thinking person. OK, you have trusted Christ with your eternal salvation, received His forgiveness, His life-changing power. You believe that Jesus, Himself died an excruciating death on the cross for all of your stumblings and sins, taking the guilt and condemnation onto His shoulders. Yet, you are going to balk, to use a baseball term, at His first obedience test. You are going to balk at putting on a little polyester robe, walking down front and getting your head wet. I have got to wonder if it is for real with you. If you are hesitating on baptism and questioning whether you can still go to heaven, I have got to wonder if it is for real with you. If you really know Christ you should be saying that you are certainly going to follow His first rudimentary command. When you realize what God has done for you, it makes you want to go public. But technically, though, you can go to heaven without being baptized. Remember when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins? One of the thieves on the cross next to Him committed his life to Christ. Christ didn’t tell him to jump down off the cross and then he could go to heaven. He didn’t say that. I don’t think that any of us right now is nailed to a cross, so we don’t have any excuses. That guy had a good excuse, didn’t he?
I have baptized a couple of people who have been paralyzed from the neck down. I talk with others who say they are Christ followers, yet they won’t go through the waters of New Testament baptism. That math doesn’t work. It doesn’t compute. I can’t force you to be baptized, but I have got to talk to you about it. It is a spiritual high point. It is the fulfillment of a lot of people’s dreams and desires, mainly God Himself. For some here, the failure to be baptized holds back the key that will allow you to go deeper and deeper with the Lord Himself. So technically, we are saved by grace through faith period. But if your heart is beating, you need to be baptized.
Let’s go to the next question. How should a person be baptized? Should they be showered, sprinkled, spritzed or do a couple of flips in a pool? When we began this church we did not ask what Ed says. Or what the denomination says. Or what the culture says. No. We asked what the Bible says. We are a Bible teaching and Bible believing and Bible driven church. The Bible says that we should be baptized like Christ was baptized. Christ was baptized in the Jordan river by immersion. Immersion means to dunk, to dip, to bury. That is how Jesus was baptized. He did it as an example for you and for me. I should be baptized by immersion. Also I should be baptized as an illustration of what has occurred in my life. You see when I go under the water, that represents the old life, and Christ’s death and burial. When I come out of the water, that represents the new life, His resurrection, that I am walking to the beat of a different drummer. Immersion best illustrates the burial. If I wanted to bury this Plexiglas lectern, would I go outside and sprinkle some dirt on it. Would I pour some dirt on it? No. I would dig a big, ole, hunking hole, take the lectern, turn it over and bury it.
Have you ever wondered how sprinkling started? Stay with me now, a little history lesson. For the first 1,200 years of Christian history, the accepted mode of baptism was immersion. Why? Because Christ was baptized that way and every baptism in the Bible was by immersion. But, an offshoot of Christianity set forth two distortions that are not from the Bible. The first one is called the principle of “original guilt”. It maintained that when a child is born, not only does that child have a bent toward badness, toward sin, but also that God holds that child accountable and guilty of their sin. Thus, if they die, they will spend eternity in hell. The second distorted, out of context principle that they came up with is called “baptismal regeneration”. They decided to baptize the babies, immerse them, so that they would go to heaven. They began to immerse babies and many babies died because they were immersed. Also, because of a shortage of water, and because of the baby death rate, they began to sprinkle the babies’ heads, the head being the seat of a person’s intellect. That is how sprinkling came into vogue.
The Bible says that there is an age of accountability that only God knows and that if a child dies before he or she understands the implications of a faith decision, if they die before they understand the faith choice, they will go to heaven. The Bible says that.
I was thinking this past week of all the baptisms that I have been involved in. In about 75% of the cases, I was baptizing individuals who had been sprinkled before, or maybe baptized as infants. I have never had anyone come up out of the water and say, “Ed, I wish I hadn’t gone through being immersed.” I have never had a letter which said that baptism was not really a spiritual high point for them. It has been the opposite. “Thank you for baptizing me. What a breakthrough. What an incredible experience. What a neat deal.” That is what people say. But again, the choice is up to you. I can’t make it for you.
Let’s talk about the last question. What are the mechanics of baptism? Where do you change? What about my hair? What do I wear? What will people think? Is the water warm or cold? I want to talk about some of these issues and I want to use someone to demonstrate on. I’ll tell you who I am going to use. I am going to use the man who committed his life to Christ a couple of weeks ago at the Ballpark in Arlington, Bruce Levinson. Bruce, come up here please.
After I demonstrate on Bruce, we are actually going to baptize him. “Bruce, I thank God so much that He allowed me to be a part of this time of reaping in your life. I know that you have a great, great heritage.” He is a Jew and now he is a completed Jew. We can almost say that we are kind of envious because, after all, the Jewish people were God’s chosen people. Christ, Himself, was a Jew.
This is just a huge moment in his life and I want you to share in this. Next weekend, after the service, after I speak, we are going to have two areas where you can get baptized. I pray that many, many here are going to do what Bruce is going to do today.
Please have the curtains opened. We have a baptismal on stage. What we do is give you a nice polyester robe. Underneath you can wear khakis, jeans, a shirt, a bathing suit. We have changing rooms for people and we will tell you all about that when you sign up for baptism. What we will do is have pastors down here baptizing. We will ask you to walk up the steps. We will have people to assist you. When you walk in the water you will put your two hands on my arm. At this point we will say, “In imitation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His divine command, I baptize you, my brother….
We do this in imitation of what Christ did. We do this in obedience to his command to baptize. Bruce and I are brothers in Christ. One of the things that I love in the Bible is the doctrine of adoption. A Jewish family, Bruce, back in Biblical times could not disown an adopted child but they could disown a biological one. Isn’t that cool. So when we come to Christ we are adopted into his family and once we are in, we can’t get out. And I believe that is why the Holy Spirit chose that whole doctrine of adoption. “….I baptize you, my brother in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” At that point, I will take this washcloth and put it over your nose and mouth, very gently, and I will take you back and say, “buried with Christ unto death, rise again to walk in newness of life.” Now you won’t hear that. To you, under the water, it will sound gurglely. But that is what other people will hear.
I said newness of life because Bruce will be marching to a different drummer. It is a defining moment. So that’s what happens when you are baptized. After that we have people who will give you towels and we will take you back to the giant changing rooms. But I truly believe that we have hundreds of people here who need to be obedient and do this deal.
At this point I am going to baptize Bruce. Tracy, his wife, is here and I will have her come up to the stage. If you have had a part in Bruce coming to know Christ, and we are going to do this next weekend, you can stand in honor of him while he is being baptized.
You can tell that baptism is a very emotional time. I want your to remember when I baptize him, we are talking about the old Bruce and the new Bruce and we are publicly giving a statement of his faith. He is not preaching, but he is preaching in a symbolic way. Tracy come over here and stand close by.
Bruce, in imitation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in obedience to his divine command, I baptize you now, my brother, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Buried with Christ unto death, rise again to walk in newness of life. Congratulations, young man.
Please be seated for just a moment. You know it is our prayer that many of you today have stepped over the line in faith and after that that many will liquidate this awesome asset of faith next weekend when we baptize. Jesus said time and time again that once you have the asset of faith, liquidate. Liquidate. Liquidate.