Summary: This is a sermon for a baptism service in downtown Toronto. The focus is on new life in Christ.
This is a very special day. This day marks that there has been a beginning. Spiritual birth has occurred!
There is a clear beginning to the life of a Christ-follower. It’s not physical birth.
It is not by being born in a ‘Christian’ country that a person has the right to be called a child of God, born of God. It’s not by being born into a Christian family that one has that right.
It’s also not by ‘being nice’ that one should be identified as a Christian. It’s less used now, but the term ‘christian’ used to be another word for ‘a decent person’. But that too is a misfire.
A Christian, or the term I prefer, “Christ-follower’ is one whose life has been touched, impacted, taken over by God.
A Christ-follower is someone who has invited Christ in...not for a visit (PPT: like at Christmas and Easter), not for a favour (PPT: I’m not sure if I even believe you’re real, but if you are, please help me!)
A Christ-follower is one who has become joined to God through Jesus Christ; who has been adopted into the family of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ; who has been called by God into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and who has said: “Yes!” to this call (PPT: Many are called but few are chosen)
A Christ-follower is one who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour who died for their sins on the cross, and has believed in His name.
“…To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1:12-13
And a Christ-follower is someone who has been made a new creation (PPT: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”. 2 Cor 5:17)
Pastor John was a minister in Barrie. A 10 year-old boy in his congregation named Cameron, walked into his office and said he needed to talk to him. Fresh from soccer practice, and wearing his Blue Jays baseball cap, he had a request for him.
“I would like to be baptized”, he said. We were learning about Jesus, baptism in Sunday School. The teacher asked the class who was baptized, and all the other kids raised their hands. I want to be baptized too.
Using his best pastoral tone of voice, he said: Cameron, do you really want to be baptized just because everyone else is?
His freckles winked up at her and he replied: No. I want to be baptized because it means I belong to God. He was touched by the boy’s understanding. Well, then, he said, How about next Sunday?
His smile turned to concern and he asked: Do I have to be baptized in front of all those people in the church? Can't I just have a friend baptize me in the river? The pastor asked where he came up with that idea. “Well, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in a river, wasn't he?”
Caught off guard, he conceded, You have a point. But, if a friend baptized you in the river, how would the church recognize it? The boy said simply: “By my new way of life”.
I want to draw our attention to two ideas that Paul talks about in the passage from Romans that was just read.
A New life
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
When we come to God through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we are given a new life.
That new life, the new creation that God makes us, is defined by love...love for God and love for people (PPT: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27)
Jesus said that loving God and loving people sums up all the descriptions in the Old Testament about how to live in a way that honours God.
When a person decides to be a Christ-follower, it’s not that he or she has decided to try to live a good life in order to earn God’s favour.