Allen Jackson - The Life of A Christ Follower - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. We're continuing our study on escaping the dissent into Paganism. You know, the Bible tells us that we're to be in the world but not of it. There's a lot of trends that take place around us that we can observe, we can have an opinion about, but we don't wanna be swept along with them. One of those is this dissent into ungodliness. We're setting aside a biblical worldview, a commitment to the authority of Scripture and imagining we can define truth subjectively based on how we feel. We can define whether we're male or female based upon on the feelings of the day. We're reluctant to define marriage or family from a biblical perspective. It's paganism. It's growing around us. It's time for the church to find a voice. You and I can be a part of that. Enjoy the lesson.
This is really the beginning of a series of talks. And just so you understand, my objective is to walk with you as we consider multiple invitations from God, multiple invitations he's put before us. I'd invite you to consider each one of them. Now, some of them, I imagine you've already responded to. If it's a step you've already taken, what I'd ask you to do is reflect for a few minutes, not while you're sitting in church, stay focused. But away from here, reflect upon the outcome. In those places where, you know, God put an invitation before you, and you said yes to him. What's been the result of that, what have you learned? What have you experienced from saying yes to God? What was the outcome of that cooperation?
If it's an invitation in which you have not accepted, my prayer is, as we walk through these sessions together, that you'll be persuaded to say yes to God in some new ways that we'll get over ourselves enough to say, we don't know it all. We haven't mastered this faith journey just yet. You see all of us reach decision points in our lives. Every one of us and our choices will determine our destiny far more than the circumstances of your birth or your nationality or your gender or your race. Your choices will determine your destiny. I promise you that's the case. What happens to us in life is a very small thing compared to what happens within us. All of us have lives that are touched by evil. Some more prominently, some more obviously, but all of us live in a broken world.
How do we move in our lives from reluctance to faith, it's an important question. How do we move from reluctance to faith? How do we get out of that Romans 1 downward track? What outcome in your life is beyond belief? What outcome is perhaps even unwanted? Sometimes we choose not to believe because we're not sure we want the outcome. God want, might want more from me. Folks, God is no person's debtor. If you imagine he's inviting you to a greater commitment of something in yourself, I promise you there's a return on your investment that is beyond anything you can imagine. And you've believed a lie when you think God needs something that you have. God does not need my time or my IQ. Don't you know, God was not relieved when I said, well, listen, I'll put my brain to this problem.
God doesn't need my resources, I need to give, to learn what it is to be generous, to trust God with tomorrow. Otherwise my personal tendency, my default position is to get all I can, can all I get and sit on the can. What current benefit is put at risk if you take the next step with the Lord? What is it you imagine you would forfeit? Whose approval? Whose blessings? What are the costs, or the risks, of cooperating with God? What is it you imagine you maintain if you just keep the status quo? What exactly is it? What do you think you would forfeit, if you said yes to the Lord? Then each of these sessions, I wanna present you with a step of faith. And in this session, I wanna talk to you about a step of faith that is really a breakthrough point. It's a barrier.
And if you have the courage to cross it, it opens a whole new set of opportunities before you. I warn you, it's a familiar word and you probably think you understand it because if you've been around church just a little bit, you have been a witness and probably even a participant, but I wanna talk to you for just a moment about the breakthrough of baptism. I think it to a large extent, it's misunderstood. Baptism is presented to us in Scripture as a breakthrough moment, as a point of significant deliverance and empowerment. It is not presented to us as a religious exercise. And it certainly is not presented to us as an exercise of initiation into a congregation or a denomination. It's not a membership moment with a group of people.
Now, I know we've experienced that way and we don't like to say it and we try to look away from it and we try to push that back and we say, well, maybe it was just implied, but the reality is, it was implied so heavily that it almost emptied any other meaning out of it. Maybe it was something we did to please our parents or grandparents, or it was a prerequisite from somebody that we wanted to marry. I've heard all sorts of reasons. When Matthew chapter 3, Jesus comes to be baptized. Now, he is the perfect, obedient, sinless Son of God. So he's not coming as an expression of repentance. And he comes to John the Baptist, John's whole career is about baptism. He's calling people to repentance and Jesus presents himself to John at the Jordan River, and John said, not really, I need to be baptized by you.
And at this point, it's the character of Jesus's life that impacts John, because John said, when I saw the spirit descend upon him, that's what I knew he was the Son of God and the Spirit descended upon him as Jesus came out of the water. So prior to his baptism, John isn't certain about the revelation, but John understood that Jesus's character was such that he said, I need to be baptized by you. And Jesus said to John, it's in your notes, Matthew 3, "Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. Then John consented. And as soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water and at that moment, heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him and a voice from heaven said, this is my son whom I love, with him I am well pleased".
It's a picture, and I believe an explanation of Christian baptism. It's to fulfill all righteousness. It's to bring a completion to what happens with our profession of faith. I believe it's really impossible to overstate the significance God is attaching to baptism in that scene, because in that one scene, we have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, all engaged in Jesus's baptism, with an audible affirmation of Jesus in that moment as the Spirit descends upon him. What could God do to add greater attention, a greater affirmation of that act? And we've diminished baptism to something that's kind of a speed bump and an unnecessary intrusion.
I wanna look at two or three characters. We'll look at characters till I run out of minutes. We'll start with Noah. You know, Noah? Noah was the first guy we read in the Bible that loved boats. He liked animals too, or at least he liked animals before they took the boat ride. I'm thinking after that, Noah didn't have a house pet. Well, in the New Testament, we have a commentary on Noah. It's 1 Peter chapter 3, it says, "For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," not by World Outreach or any other congregation, "It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him".
Peter, the fisherman that Jesus recruited is drawing a parallel between Noah and his family, eight people on an ark. They were saved from destruction and Peter's drawing a parallel to that with baptism. And he said that water in the flood symbolizes our journey through water in Christian baptism. That it's a barrier, it's an escape, from destruction. That's a far greater significance than just a membership rights or some sort of point of passage because you reached an age in a church where they put you through a class system. It's more than a parent's desire to see their child be godly and so they encourage them and motivate them to take that step of obedience.
See, I think we've diminished it, we haven't paid attention. We haven't paid attention, excuse me. Peter, who understood something about deliverance and restoration and renewal, we don't have a good census from the days of Noah. They were lost in the flood. You'll catch that on the way home I promise, it's okay. So we don't know what the earth's population was. I read one scholarly account that said that there was an estimate that there could have been as many as 2 million people. I don't know, take half of that. Take a fourth of that if you prefer. Say the population was 500.000 people, there were only eight saved.
See, I think we have a mistaken notion of the kingdom of God. Our Christianity's been so sloppy, so lax. We've paid so little attention. It's been so readily available that we could afford to choose churches based on comfort or ease or distance from our home or a style of worship or the translation of the Bible from which we read or the clothing that the presenter wore or something. And it's caused us to imagine that God is not just secondary, he's just somewhere down in the list of priorities. Baptism matters. You want another big-picture event? In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, it says, "I don't want you to be ignorant to the fact brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. And they all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ".
The Hebrew slaves after they were released by Pharaoh were caught between Pharaoh's armies. He changed his mind in the Red Sea. And you know the story, God parted the Red Sea, Cecil B. DeMille helped you imagine it. And it helped that Charlton Heston was involved. 6'5, he looked like somebody God would choose to lead his people, didn't they? We meet Moses, he's about 4'6 and his voice is squeaky, he's gonna feel awkward... but I thought Charlton, oh, never mind. But in Corinthians, Paul's drawing a parallel. You see, the Red Sea was an impossible barrier. You couldn't escape it, they were caught, trapped. There was no resolution. They didn't have enough engineers to sort out the problem and the threat was imminent. The armies were headed their way and God made a way. And Paul's drawing a parallel between that journey through the water and our journey through the water of baptism when impossible barriers become pathways to freedom and they become points of defeat for our enemies.
As long as they were on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, they were within grasp of Pharaoh and his attacking armies. But the Red Sea and the crossing of the Red Sea was the final barrier. Egypt was no longer a problem. See, when we come to the cross of Jesus Christ, sin is no longer our master. It doesn't have authority over our lives to dominate us. We're still faced with the temptation of sin and the struggle that sin exists, but it's not the authority over our lives. Human character is not sufficient to defeat sin. We need a power greater than ourselves, we need God. It's why our profession of faith begins with, I'm a sinner and I need a Savior. It's not, I'm a sinner and I need a church, or it's not, I'm a sinner and I need a program. I need a Savior. We can't save ourselves, folks. It's arrogance. It's deception. There is a God and he will help us, and baptism is a step of obedience.
In the book of Acts there's a story from Philip's life, Philip is an evangelist and it attaches such a significance to baptism. In Acts 8 and verse 26 it says, "Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, go to the south road, the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem". And then when he gets there, the Spirit of the Lord says to him that chariot, that one over there on the highway, go talk to that person. And Philip approaches the chariot, it's in your notes. It's Acts 8 and verse 34. This time, it's an Ethiopian eunuch returning home. He's been to Jerusalem. And he says, "Tell me, please, who' is the prophet talking about, himself or somebody else"? He's reading for Isaiah. And he explains to him the Jesus story. He has no faith conversation. And they pass away, I don't know what they passed.
There's not a lot of water in that part of the world, I have been there. But they passed a pool of water and the Ethiopian man said, is there any reason I can't be baptized right there? And Peter said, no reason, I mean, I'm sorry, Phillip said no reason at all. And they stopped the car, and they got into the pool and when the Ethiopian man came out of the water, it says that the Spirit of Lord caught Philip away from there. The entire event is supernaturally orchestrated. There were angelic prompts and supernatural direction. All of that to direct one Ethiopian man towards the opportunity of baptism, which he was ready to receive. We've treated it too casually. Philip disrupted his life, his day, his schedule, his calendar. He just appeared in another city and kept traveling around telling his Jesus story.
We'll get biblical outcomes when we get a biblical commitment, when it becomes important to us. Again, a baptism that's supernaturally initiated, directed and concluded. I'll give you one more. I'll squeeze it in. In Acts chapter 16, Paul is in Philippi. He's been directed there by a supernatural invitation from God. It was not on his travel plan, God reroute his agenda and said, "This is where I want you to go". When he got there and a riot breaks out, which was more his norm than not. I bet it was tough to recruit people to travel with him. And they find themselves in prison and at midnight, he in Silas are worshiping the Lord. That's another lesson. And God shakes the prison, and the doors open and the chains fall off. And the jailer is about to kill himself because if the prisoners you're in charge of escape, your life will be taken.
And he doesn't want that humiliation or his family to have that humiliation so he's gonna take his own life. And Paul calls out and says, don't harm yourself. We're all still here. We're all still here. And the jailer has lights brought and he kneels before the prisoners, imagine that now. Kneeling before his prisoners saying, what must I do to be saved? What must I do to be like you? It's in your notes. It's Acts 16. "Believe in the Lord, Jesus and you'll be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. And at that hour of the night, the jailer took them and washed their wounds, then immediately he and all his family were baptized".
Again, I think if you just casually read the New Testament, the significance of water baptism is more than about a congregation. If you were baptized, I was Christian as an infant. I appreciate my parents' desire to see me grow up in the Christian faith. They weren't Christians at the time, but they attached enough value to the Christian faith. They put me in a long white gown and took me to church. It's the last time I wore a long, white gown. When I was old enough to make a decision for myself, I chose to be baptized. I wanted to make that choice. It was important not to in any way to diminish the desire my parents expressed at that baptism. It wasn't a reflection upon their zeal or their faith. It just wasn't a reflection of my own.
If you've been caught in one of those circumstances where you were baptized, but you didn't really have the intent to honor the Lord with your life, in those cases, I think it's appropriate to revisit baptism. But as I understand it, biblically, baptism is intended to be a once in a lifetime event. It's not every time you wanna renew your faith or recommit your faith, or every time you've made a misstep, or most of us would drip, me too. But if you've never made that commitment to baptism, with the intent of honoring Christ as Lord of your life, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. We're buried with him in baptism, as we're laid beneath the water and we come out of that watery grave to a newness of life to lead a new kind of life.
If you haven't made that step of faith in obedience to God, just exactly what are you waiting for? And what is it you're afraid of? We're gonna put the pools back up when we step outside in a couple of weeks. We're gonna start that first weekend, Palm Sunday weekend. You can register online. Don't miss it. We'll be out there for six weeks. I pray that in those six weeks, we baptize more people than any year in the history of the church. You're not joining our congregation. We're not the arbiters of the kingdom. We'll do our best to tell the story and encourage you to be disciples and facilitate community but there's a kingdom beyond a congregation, there's a kingdom beyond a denomination, there's a kingdom beyond your favorite verse and it's time we become advocates for the eternal kingdom of our God. We've been passive for too long.
Folks, the culture around us is plunging into Paganism and the solution isn't coming from an elected official. It may get delivered through an elected official, but it will be delivered that way because God's people humbled themselves and pray and God, and his spirit moved in the hearts of us. Our problem is not beyond us, it's within us, amen? I brought you a prayer, just stand with me. So I'd rather pray for you, if I may.
Father, thank you for your Word for its truth and its power, but I thank you that you're awakening us, that you're giving us new eyes to see and new ears to hear and hearts to understand what's happening in the world around us, not that we might be frightened or threatened or angry or resentful, but that we might participate as your advocates, your ambassadors. I thank you for it. I thank you for the freedom to proclaim Jesus as Lord in the public square that we can open our building and open our campus, and tell our Jesus story to our neighbors and our friends and our coworkers. We thank you for that great liberty and freedom today. Lord, I pray that this spring that you would move amongst us, move in our own hearts, give us the courage to say yes to use, we've never said before. Give us a boldness to use our voices and our influence for your glory and for your kingdom. Lord, I pray you'll stir the hearts of the people that surround us, those that don't know you, that have stood apart from you. Let there be a hungering and a thirsting in them to know the things of God. In the midst of the confusion and the frustration and the manipulation that is becoming so prevalent Father, I pray that you'll illumine a path before them, that they might walk towards you. We thank you for it. Lord, give us wisdom, give us courage, give us strength. May we complete what you have created us for. May we not be turned aside or distracted. May we not be frightened or intimidated. Deliver us from indifference and give us a spirit of boldness and most of all, may you be pleased with us, in Jesus's name, amen.