THE TWO BEST KEPT SECRETS OF CHRISTIANITY
FEBRUARY 19, 1995
I am a Dallas Stars fan. I am talking about a big time, faithful follower of Dallas Stars hockey. I love the Stars. I have some seats three rows from the ice. I never miss a game. But I never, ever cheer for the Stars. I don’t own any Stars paraphernalia like a hat, a jacket, or a T-shirt. I love the Dallas Stars, but you see, my love for the Dallas Stars is a kind of private, personal thing.
If I told you that, most of you would say, “Ed, you are a Dallas Stars fan, when are you going to go public? When are you going to tell people about it? When are you going to let people really understand that you like the Dallas Stars hockey team?”
I know many people who say, “I love Jesus. I am a faithful follower of the church. In fact, my seat is about three or four rows from the platform. I can’t tell you how much He means to me. He really does, but it is kind of a private thing. It is between myself and God. I don’t really share it with anyone, it is just a private matter.” I believe God would say to that person, “Hey, when are you going to go public with your faith? When are you going to show people that you really love Me?”
I want to talk to you this morning about going public in the Christian life. The Bible talks about going public time and time and time again if we are true Christ followers.
There is one basic aspect of going public and that is what I want to concentrate my thoughts on this morning. The word is “baptism.” Baptism. Jesus tells us that we are to be baptized. That is the first step a new believer should take in going public. That is the first step a new believer should take as he or she comes out of the shadows into the light. It separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls. It separates the tire-kickers from the buyers. It separates those CIA Christians, those Lady Clairol Christians no one knows for sure, from the true believers who say they want to show publicly what Jesus has done for me.
That is why Jesus said in his final words before His ascension in Matthew 28:19-20, “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 ‘some’ things I have commanded you.” Is that what He said? No, He didn’t. He said, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Baptism is an elementary, rudimentary command in the Christian life. It is not optional. Jesus said, if you know Me, if you have admitted your sins to Me, if you have turned from those sins, if you have trusted me, then you are to be baptized. It does not matter what your background is, what culture you are from, no matter how threatening it may seem or how humbling, you should be baptized.
I have baptized thousands of people in my life, about 4,000. I was kind of minister of baptism in a very large church in Houston, and I have also baptized about 637 people here in this church. Every time I baptize, I have a question and answer session. Now I want to list for you five basic questions that people have asked me over the years. I’ll bet that maybe one of these questions will penetrate your heart and your thoughts, as far as baptism goes. If you have not been baptized, you will be able to know what is keeping you from doing it.
Question One: Is it more appropriate, Ed, to baptize babies or individuals who are mature enough to make their own personal faith decision?
That is the first question of the big five, baby or mature adult. Let me say up front that some godly and fine men and women fall into both camps. However, based on the authority of the Bible, all baptisms recorded in scripture were administered after someone was mature enough to admit their sins, turn from their sins, responsible enough to trust Christ. Then they were baptized. There is not one instance, not one case of infant baptism in the Bible. It is not there.
When we began this church we said that we were going to base our church on the Bible. We are not going to go by what a denomination says, what a culture says, what a pastor says. We are going to ask what the Bible says. And the Bible says, categorically and unequivocally, that all baptisms should be administered after a person is mature enough to receive Christ.
Acts 2:41, “Those who believed and accepted his message were baptized.” See the progression? Acts 8:13, “Simon, himself believed and was baptized.” Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Phillip as he preached the good news in the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.” We don’t believe in infant baptism because infant baptism is not in the Bible.
We do believe, however, in baby dedication. Not baby baptism but baby dedication. We are preparing to have a baby dedication service here on Mother’s Day. We pack this stage with husbands and wives and single parents and their children and they promise to raise their child up to follow Jesus Christ. They pray that one day the child will be old enough to come to a personal faith decision and then, and only then, be baptized. We baptize individuals who are old enough to understand what it is to know Christ personally.
Question Two: Does baptism have the power to save you? Is there some sort of super spiritual cleansing element in the water? If you are baptized in these waters within the stained glass walls of the church by some pastor or priest or another religious figure, does that constitute Christianity? Does baptism have the power to make me a believer?
No, no, no. Baptism does not save you. Remember when Jesus Christ was dying on the cross for our sins? He looked at a thief, and the thief said, “Jesus, I want to follow You. I want to love You. I want to receive You.” And Jesus answered, “From this day forward, you will spend eternity with Me in paradise.” Jesus didn’t say time out, jump down off the cross, and get baptized. He said, “From this day forward….” So, technically, yes, you can be a Christian without being baptized. But He said, if you are able, obey My command. Baptism does not have the power to save. Only faith in Christ has the power to save.
Question Three: Ed, can I be a Christian and go to heaven without being baptized? When people ask me that question, I wonder where they are coming from. I want to say, “Let me get this straight. You are telling me that you understand the fact that Jesus dies an excruciating death on the cross, spilled His blood for your sins past, present, and future. He took your eternal condemnation on your shoulders. Then He rose again and now offers you the free gift of eternal life. You have received that free gift and yet you will not obey Him by walking up the steps of a tiny platform and letting some pastor dunk you for a nanosecond? And you are telling me you are a Christian?”
If you are saying on the one hand that you are a Christian but you will not follow Him in obedience regarding baptism, I have got to wonder if you are really a Christian. I challenge you to look in the mirror. That math doesn’t work. That doesn’t compute. And for many people here, as I am talking, you wonder what might be holding you back spiritually. You may wonder if it is a sin, a habit. But in many situations, it is baptism.
If you have not been baptized as a believer, you are shaking your little fist in the face of the Creator and saying that you will go your own way. You will do your own thing. You will forge your own future. You may accept the gift of salvation, but refuse to follow Christ in obedience. Baptism is the first obedience test in the Christian life.
Question Four: How should I be baptized? Some churches sprinkle, some pour, some dunk. How? We always say, “What does the Bible say?” The word “baptize” in the Greek means “to dip, to immerse.” In modern day vernacular it means “to dunk.” I am not taking about Shaquille O’Neal rim-rattling, backboard-shaking, slam-dunk. I am talking about immersing under water. That is what the word baptize means.
There is not one reference regarding sprinkling in the Bible. It is not there. Baptism by immersion—I will bet that most of you here have been sprinkled. My wife, in fact, was sprinkled as a Lutheran. Don’t ever read into my words that I am implying I don’t believe you baptism took. “He thinks my baptism didn’t take. He thinks my baptism is bad or negative. He’s cutting down my church.” No, I am not. If you have been baptized by sprinkling, great, praise God. I am just challenging you, based on the authority of God’s word, to be baptized as Christ was baptized.
About 85% of the people I have baptized by immersion have been sprinkled. I have never had one person look at me after they have been baptized by immersion and say, “Ed, I wished I hadn’t been baptized by immersion.” I have never had that happen. You are missing out on a spiritual high point and also the chance to show other people what has happened in your life. So, yes, I believe based on the authority of the word of God, you need to be rebaptized.
The Fifth Question: Why should I be baptized by immersion? Let’s get specific. I will give you three reasons. First of all because Christ was baptized that way. Matthew 3:16, the Bible says that as soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. Secondly, every baptism in the Bible was by immersion. Acts 8:38, “There both Phillip and the man went down into the water and Phillip baptized him.” For the first 1,200 years, immersion was practiced in the early church.
Another reason that I should be baptized by immersion is because it best symbolizes a burial and resurrection. Romans 6:4, “By our baptism then we are buried with him and share in his death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so also we may live forever.” The best way to symbolize a burial is not to sprinkle some dirt on the object, it is to actually bury it. If I wanted to bury this Bible, I would dig a hole and bury it. I would not just kind of drop some dirt on it.
Why then do some churches sprinkle? Let me give you a quick church history lesson. Years ago an offshoot of Christianity set forth two principles that are not in the Bible. The first is called the Doctrine of Original Guilt. This group said that when a child is born, not only is the child a sinner, but God holds them guilty and accountable for their sins. Therefore if the child dies, the child would not spend eternity with Jesus. Thus, they instituted the second non-Biblical principle, Baptismal Regeneration. They believed that they had to immediately immerse the infants. And some infants, as they were being immersed, died by drowning or from getting too cold. In some portions of the world there was a shortage of water and they began to sprinkle on the head since the head is the seat of a person’s intellect. That is how sprinkling came into vogue. And now there are some groups that say when a baby is sprinkled, that makes them a Christian.
I want to ask you this question. I have twins, Laurie and Landra. They are seven months of age. They run around the kitchen playing bumper cars. They have chipped some cabinets and gotten food on the floor. Do you think they are old enough to realize that they are sinners in need of a Savior? Do you think that they could understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins? Do you think they could pray the prayer to ask Jesus to come into their lives? Do you think that just because I sprinkle some water on their heads, that saves them? No, it doesn’t. Some churches actually teach that. That is not Biblical.
Other churches say that when a child is sprinkled it is kind of a dedication for their parents to rear them in the church. Other churches say it is a kind of down payment for their salvation. We baptize by immersion.
Many of you need to make a decision right now to be baptized, baptized in the New Testament style. We have put a card in your bulletin, and if you want to be baptized by immersion, I want you to fill it out. This Wednesday night at 7:00pm, we are going to have a giant baptismal celebration. If you are going to be baptized, show up in the lobby of the Fellowship theater at 6:45pm.
You have no excuses now. You know what it means to be baptized. And if you say “no,” you are shaking your fist in the face of Jesus Christ. If you say “yes,” you are following in obedience His command.
Now if you are a seeker or are investigating the Christian life, this is not for you unless you want to commit your life to Christ. But you need to know about this, seeker, because once you commit your life to Christ, this will be a spiritual high point in your life.
To take away some of the fear, I want us to bring out our baptismal tub, and I will show you exactly what is going to happen very quickly now. I need to pick out a guinea pig here for the demonstration. Gary, come up here. Gary, we are going to pretend to baptize you right now. This is not real water, it is just pretend. Let’s say that Gary fills out the card and understands what it means to be baptized. Gary will show up in the lobby at 6:45pm in the lobby this Wednesday night. We give Gary a robe, not for keeps, just a loan. We ask him to wear a bathing suit and T-shirt or a sweat suit underneath—something he doesn’t mind getting wet. Gary will put the robe on. We will help him up the steps. Then he will step in. Now isn’t this handy? There is a seat up here so that no one has to worry about his or her feet slipping on the tile. So Gary, sit down. The water will be warm. I will take a washcloth, put his left arm here and his right hand here. I will say these words, “In imitation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in obedience to His divine command, I baptize you my brother…” Why brother? Because we both know Christ personally. We have been adopted into His family. “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then I place the washcloth gingerly over his mouth, “Buried with Christ unto death, rise again to walk in newness of life.”
Don’t miss those words. Buried with Christ unto death, rise again to walk in newness of life. We are identifying with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the old life and the new life. As you submerge, that represents the complete and thorough cleansing by the blood of Jesus of all sin. So he is saying without words that he has received Christ and is going public with his Christian faith.
Folks, I pray earnestly that you will do this. Talk about a spiritual high point. Talk about being obedient to the Lord. This will open up the floodgates of the Holy Spirit living and breathing and guiding you in your life. Please do it.
Let us pray. Father, I pray that many here will be obedient to you as they go public with their Christian faith. You have commanded us to do this and your command is always clothed in love. May people have that boldness to come out of the shadows and follow You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
As I look back on the last decade of my life, three important events kind of stand out in my memory. The first would be the surprise 25th wedding anniversary party that my wife and I threw for my parents. We made the cake, but we dropped the cake. Another experience was when I graduated from seminary. Graduations are kind of wild deals anyway. You have weird looking caps and are not sure what side the tassel goes on. Some hats fall off. You hear a boring speech or two. Finally, you are out of there. That was a big event in my life. Another one would be the first birthday party of LeeBeth our oldest child. She had a birthday cake which she got all over her hair, up her nose, even in her ears. We took some great video footage of that.
Human beings are eccentric. We love to celebrate milestones and markers and memorials. Plants and animals don’t really do that. My dog Dominick is twelve years old, and he has never wept over the fact that we forget his birthday every June. When our houseplants die, the other houseplants in the neighborhood don’t come over and mourn and weep and cry as they attend a houseplant funeral. Only human beings do things like that. Anniversaries, weddings, graduations—these events, these celebrations matter to us. And I believe the spirit that is deposited inside of all of our lives to celebrate milestones and markers is definitely placed there by the hand of God.
God instructs us to remember Him. He says, remember me through baptism. That illustrates my Son’s death, burial, and resurrection. He also said, remember Me regularly when you take communion. Don’t come to the Lord’s table flippantly or nonchalantly. Don’t laugh or joke around when you are baptized. This is serious stuff packed with spiritual meaning.
Communion. Jesus in Luke 22 gathered His disciples together with Him. In a couple of hours, He would be arrested and then pay the price on Calvary and rise three days later. After the meal, though, Jesus does something that is really kind of unique and radical and strange. He grabs a loaf of bread and breaks it and gives the pieces to the disciples. Then He takes the cup and hands out wine to the disciples. He says that the bread represents His body which will be broken for them. The wine represents His blood which will be spilled for their sins. Then He said these words in Luke 22:19, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Eat the bread, drink the juice in remembrance of Me.
I bet His followers thought why was Jesus worried about them forgetting Him, they never could. Jesus was that faith-talker, water-walker, miracle-worker. They knew they wouldn’t forget Him, He was their Lord, the Son of God.
Jesus, though, knew the disciples better than they knew themselves. He knows you and me better than we know ourselves. He knows we have a natural tendency to forget important events and especially the meaning and impact of His death, burial, and resurrection. We get so involved in the things of life that our memories begin to get foggy. We lose our real worship and turn into cosmetic Christians. Jesus tells us, “Remember Me.” Do this regularly. He didn’t say every day. He didn’t say every week. He didn’t say every month or every year. He said to do it regularly. We take communion here in our church once a month.
Today, in a couple of moments, we are going to take The Lord’s Supper. While you take The Lord’s Supper, make sure before you take it that you know Christ personally. Don’t come to it in a casual light. The Apostle Paul says that many of you are sick and many of you are dying early because you come to the Lord’s table kind of saying it is like an appetizer in the middle of the service. As you take communion, two things should really stand out in your spirit. First, reflection. It should be a time of reflection as you look back at the cross. Think of the bread as it illustrates the incarnation of Christ. The Word. Jesus Christ dwelt among us. He was tempted. He was tested, yet without sin. His body was broken for you and for me. You matter to Him. The juice represents the blood of Jesus that was spilled on Calvary for all of our iniquities. You go to a doctor and they do a blood work-up because there is life in the blood. There is also eternal life in the blood when we apply Christ’s blood sacrifice on the cross to our lives. Forgiveness. Cleansing.
You also take spiritual inventory. How are you doing? How are you growing? Is there any unconfessed sin? Do you have a problem with a neighbor or a co-worker or maybe a spouse or a girlfriend or a peer?
Also there should be a time of celebration. When we celebrate the joy of being able to know God through His Son Christ, to be free and have our sins completely forgiven and forgotten. We should look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. We should look forward to what He has in store for us this afternoon, tomorrow, the next day. We celebrate life because we know life through Christ. You come to the Lord’s table with reverence, with prayer, and with a tender heart. Let’s pray together.
Right now as our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed, I want you to think about the greatest labor of love ever performed, which was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That is what I want us to think about. That is what I want us to celebrate. God, we give this time to you in Christ’s name.