Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

The most important part of our service comes near the end – the invitation. Each week, I am praying and preparing my message so I can call the people to respond to the Word of God during an invitation time. Every time the message is proclaimed, the hearers respond – sometimes privately, sometimes publicly. Each time I preach on Sundays, I include a public opportunity to respond to the challenge given. I include a call for believers to respond by coming to the steps to kneel in prayer. The Lord may urge an individual to renew his or her commitment to Christ. I always include a call for individuals to come to Christ for salvation.

Public invitations have influenced my own life. I can pray and commune with God anywhere and at any time, yet I have enjoyed profound prayer times and commitment times by going down to the front of the auditorium during the invitation time. A private decision is significant, but I have experienced public decisions where resolve is added to my decision—as well as accountability, encouragement and prayer from the congregation. I have even been challenged and encouraged in my faith by seeing the public decisions of others. When the Lord called me to preach in 1981, I made a public decision the next Sunday morning so that my church family could pray for me and Gayla as we prepared for the next steps in our lives.

Prayer empowers the invitation time. Believers should pray for the invitation, not only during the service, but also through the week before Sunday. Those in the congregation can help minimize the distractions during this key time in the service by not leaving early. Pray that God will do His work of grace that only He can do.

Whenever I preach, I will continue to give public invitations and will earnestly pray for the invitation as I prepare to preach. I preach with an expectation that people will respond to the preaching of God’s Word. As you pray with me today and during the week, here are matters for your consideration. “How much reflection do I do during the commitment time?” “What kind of response do I need to make in my heart, in my mind, and with my actions to God and His Word?” “Am I aware of the corporate aspect of the invitation, and do I pray for the responsiveness to others?”

Since the beginning of the year, we have focused our attention on praying for revival and spiritual awakening – both individually and corporately. Please continue to do so. While we cannot work up a move of God in our midst, His Word calls on us to “do what we can and let God do the rest” (quoted from Dr. Rod Mastellar, past president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention).

I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to move upon an individual. However, offering an invitation for a time of commitment is just as important as passing the offering plate instead of waiting for people to initiate contact about tithing. I know in my own life that a part of responding to God’s call was the challenge and expectation of my church that God was calling people into ministry. In its essence, evangelism means “to proclaim.” As I proclaim the holiness, righteousness, love, and grace of God, I cannot imagine not also calling and compelling men, women, boys, and girls to repent and follow Jesus! I believe we all agree that we need to call people to repentance. The issue is not if, but how we call them to respond publicly that leads to the biblical response to a profession of faith and baptism.

Baptism provides the believer with the opportunity to declare his faith in a vivid and public way. If you have not been baptized, I want to encourage you to give it some careful consideration to being baptized as a public declaration of your surrender to Jesus Christ.

Baptism means at least three things. First, baptism is a mark of identification. In Romans 6:3, Paul assumed that believers would be baptized as an expression of identifying with Jesus. When a person comes to be baptized, he is going public. It’s a way of saying, “I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of identifying with Jesus Christ.”

Baptism is also an expression of symbolic death and resurrection. Baptism gives a person a public way of demonstrating, “I have died to my old life, and I have come alive to new life.” Baptism is symbolic of a change that has already taken place.

Thirdly, baptism points to a cleansing or washing away of sin. To be sure, this washing does not occur during a baptism, but it is a public symbol of the fact that because the person has accepted Christ and has had his sins forgiven. Baptism symbolizes this washing away of our sins.

However, please do not misunderstand that baptism a part of the salvation process.  A person is not saved because of baptism. Baptism is a symbol of something that has already happened on the inside. There are some verses that if read out of context seem to suggest that baptism is necessary for salvation, but that is not the case.

Neither is baptism is not about joining a church.  Baptism should not merely be considered as an entry step to join a church. Baptism isn’t about a certain age in life. Baptism is about a person who has trusted Christ as Savior and who is willing to go public with that declaration.

Should you be baptized? Have you really been baptized? Let me answer this carefully and lovingly. If you were christened as a baby, you haven’t been baptized. It was a very meaningful event. Your parents dedicated you to God. Your parents may have believed that by having you sprinkled by a pastor or priest that you became a Christian at that point. Your parents were doing what they believed was right and it probably helped them focus on being better parents at that time. I would never discount what happened.

If you were in a church and some of your buddies were saying, “I’ll go if you go…” It was meaningful in a way, but you kind of just got caught up in the “I’m 12 and it’s time to join the church.” You weren’t really going public. It was just a little church pressure.  That wasn’t a baptism. It may have been a step, but it wasn’t really a public statement of your commitment to Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Baptism is not about joining a church. It’s not about taking a step in your spiritual journey. Baptism is you public declaration of your surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s identifying with Jesus Christ. It’s representative that you’ve died to an old way of life and come alive again to a new way of life. It’s representative of the fact that you’ve been washed by the blood of Jesus and your sins have been forgiven. Believers should be baptized in obedience to the commands of Christ.

If you not yet come to faith in Christ, I want to encourage you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church where I am confident that someone can help you to do so. Then when you’re ready to go public through baptism, they can help you with that as well.

I am dedicating “the journey” today to the subject of baptism with the hope that you answer the Holy Spirit’s call on your life for salvation and be baptized. Baptism touches a very emotional subject. Most people – regardless of whether they are Christ-followers or not, and whether they are Baptists or not – have an opinion about baptism. Baptism is a personal subject.

If you came from a church that practiced infant baptism, please do not stop reading. Please consider what I have to offer. You may have concluded that since baptism isn’t really essential for salvation, to you ask, “Why do Baptists make such a big deal about it?” Perhaps you consider yourself to be “spiritually baptized” so you have determined that you do not need baptism since immersion does not constitute salvation. You may have been baptized as a child; however, as an infant you could not have understood salvation. Perhaps you are no longer connected to your former church that practiced baptism in another way, but your parents had you baptized by a priest or a pastor and you don’t want to consider that that practice may have been wrong.

The Bible actually says quite a bit about baptism. Jesus was baptized. He told his disciples to make more disciples and to baptize them. (See also Romans 6 and Colossians 2.) The Greek word used in the New Testament, “baptisma,” was not translated but that has been transliterated as “baptism.” The word was used consistently before its use in the New Testament to describe something that has been immersed in water or liquid. Here’s the point: the word original word meaning “to baptize” had no religious or spiritual significance prior to its usage in the New Testament. Rather, it had a common everyday use. It meant to dip, to dunk, or immerse something under water or liquid. Furthermore, there’s no evidence anywhere in the New Testament that anyone ever sprinkled and called it a baptism.

Let summarize the practice of baptism in the New Testament. First, when a person turned to Christ in faith, he or she was baptized. The baptism followed conversion to Christ. Baptism is in obedience to the command of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Second, baptism in the New Testament marks the believer as a follower of Jesus Christ. It is an outward sign of an inward commitment and life change. However, I want to be clear that being baptized does not or will not save anyone. We receive salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Third, baptism identifies the believer with Christ, both in His death and in His resurrection (Romans 6:1-4). When I studies this passage many years ago prior to my own baptism, it gave me the clearest possible picture of the significance of baptism. The mode of baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ as the believer is buried under the water and raised from the water. Therefore, through Christ’s work in our lives, we “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about baptism. I encourage you to take seriously the demands of Christ for salvation and baptism and that you will follow Him for all of your life. You’ll be glad you did.