Baptised for the Glory of God - June 8, 2014
We are here to CELEBRATE. We’re here to celebrate and to acknowledge two very important types of decisions being made today.
We’re here to celebrate the baptism of Brent and Christina and Nick, and we’re here to celebrate the dedication of Drivay Shem Pascall-Lall and Desire Izamae Pascall-Lall.
These are different reasons to celebrate, and what the parents of the children I’ve mentioned are here to do today is different from what those being baptised are here today to do, and yet both are very important.
First let’s talk about the dedications and then let’s talk about the baptisms.
Today we have parents and godparents who are here to support the parents who are dedicating their children to God.
I think a reasonable question in this day and age is: “Why would any parent want to dedicate their child to God? What could possibly be the point?” That is a fair question, and it is out of the norm in today’s world.
So first of all I’d like to commend the parents who are here today to dedicate their children to God because in doing so they are breaking the mold of ‘normal’ in our culture.
But what is the reason for dedicating one’s child to God? The truth is, we LOVE our children. Our offspring evoke a fierce, protective and all-encompassing love from us.
We are absolutely dedicated to the best for our children. We want only good for them. We want only what is best for them.
And among the parents and those who support the parents here today who are having their children dedicated, there is a real sense that in order for children to grow to be the healthiest and happiest they can be, they need to have God’s blessing in their lives.
They need to have a real experience of God and they need to have the protection of God.
So, wanting only what’s best for their children, parents here today want prayers of blessing and anointing to be said for their children. That’s one reason.
The second reason, that Pastor Jan will have shared with the parents, is that each parent has chosen to raise their child in the knowledge of the love of God and in the Christian faith.
They have made the decision, based on their own experience, that they wish their children to follow in the footsteps of those who follow Jesus, to grow up with a living faith, to grow up to know God through Jesus Christ.
Again, this is very out of the ordinary. And as much as we call this a ‘child dedication’, while it is that, it is also a promise that the parents make to their children to, again, raise them in the knowledge of the goodness and mercy and love of God expressed most perfectly in and through the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.
So...I hope none of that is particularly news to you, parents.
But I wanted to state it clearly and, again, to commend you for making what is, in today’s world, a radical decision to raise your children to love God, to know God, to understand and experience the Christian faith.
And I commend you for also choosing to be the primary conduit of this knowledge that your children will grow up with.
The church provides opportunities for your children to learn of God and to grow to love God deeply.
I truly hope that either here or in another fellowship, another church, you will be faithful and serious and committed to participating regularly in worship and in fellowship, so that, indeed, what you wish for your children can be reinforced for them, but also for you.
Because we all need each other. The church is for people who are seeking God, exploring faith, who are being healed and transformed to be more and more like Jesus Christ.
So that’s perhaps enough for now about the children who are being dedicated today and the parents who are here to dedicate them.
Let’s consider those who are here today to be baptised. It may be that some who are being baptised here today were at one point dedicated or in some traditions baptised as children.
And yet they have chosen to themselves affirm their allegiance to Jesus Christ by following Him into the waters of baptism.
It is curious, in fact, that Jesus was himself baptised as an adult. He did this in order to ‘fulfill all righteousness”, which is 3 worlds that a thousand sermons have been written about.
So what you do today as adults, baptismal candidates, is what Jesus did as an adult.
This is important of course, because the entire Christian life is about following Jesus. It’s about living in a love relationship with Him. We love Him, but we do so because He first loved us, and as the Scripture says,
9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 john 4:9-10
Today’s Scripture speaks of baptism. And here the Apostle Paul speaks to those who have already been baptised, but it is instructive I think for those here today about to be baptised, and perhaps for us who are here in support of them as well.
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?
First Paul speaks of the change that comes into the life of a believer that relates to honouring God verses offending God. The Bible calls anything that offends God “sin”.
One big difference when you look at the before and after in the life of a Christ-follower is that the ‘before’ picture includes a lot of what I’ll call ‘selfies’.
Usually ‘selfie’ refers to awkward self-portraits that people take, you know...like this, or this, or this.
Perhaps you’ll let me slightly redefine that word, “selfie”, that has crept into our language.
In the before picture, prior to one becoming a follower of Jesus, there are other kinds of ‘selfies’: Self-will – “I’m going to do things my way. I’m going to define goodness myself. I’m going to say what is right and what is wrong.
“I’m going to sin when and how I want, and I’m not even going to call it sin. I’m going to call it me being me”.
Another kind of ‘selfie; is selfishness. I’m going to live life on my terms, with myself as the centre of my universe. My energies and my decisions will focus on what is best for me, first and foremost.
In the after picture, when one has become a Christ-follower, there is a distinct shift in the exercise of our wills. We actually are growing to prioritize the will of another, the will of God over our own will.
We are learning God’s will and God’s ways - the things that matter to God, which matter more and more to us, and the things that offend God, which we choose to turn from.
We, hopefully, don’t ever call ‘good’ what God calls sin. We learn to live life on God’s terms, and we find that in the doing of that very thing, we discover our own freedom.
We find what we’ve been looking for all along. God is the centre of our universe, and our strength and best thinking goes into what pleases Him.
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.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul continues his reflection. He speaks here of ways in which the Christ-follower, the Christian, identifies with Jesus Christ, even in the act of being baptised.
The act of being submerged in water, which is what our baptismal candidates will do shortly, is a symbolic reenactment of Jesus’ own death, but here it is the dying to self. We are ‘baptised into his death’.
But this happens so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too follow Christ in resurrection, so that we may live a new life. A life whose trajectory has been drastically altered for the better by the choice to follow Jesus.
Of course that’s a choice we make as a response to the call of God in our lives. It’s a choice we make because God has opened our eyes to the gospel, to the fact of Jesus’ life and death by crucifixion, and to His resurrection.
God opens our eyes, in a wonderfully gracious act of the Holy Spirit, and we see and respond with joy to the sovereign work of God.
6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the father. That’s a fact. And Jesus wants our lives to align with that reality. That means that, as Paul says, we should no longer be slaves to sin. We should no longer serve sin. Quite the opposite.
Instead of serving sin, we are called to serve the living God with everything in us; our whole lives are to be a testimony to the One who has set us free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
One last note...the liberty that Jesus won for you and for me by giving His life for us on the cross has an ultimate point. It is not liberty for liberty’s sake, freedom for freedom’s sake.
And we’re certainly not set free by Jesus in order to, in some other way, just live narrowly for ourselves.
The freedom that Christ won for you and for me was so that you and I can be alive to God in Jesus Christ.
We can live with our eyes open to His love and goodness, His majesty, His massive heart for humanity, for justice. We live as ambassadors for Christ, agents of reconciliation, serving God with our whole hearts.
We no longer live alive to sin and dead to God. Jesus has flipped the scales.
He enables us, He empowers us by the Holy Spirit to live unresponsive to sin and unensnared by sin.
Unencumbered by guilt and the yoke of slavery to those things that offend God, and that choke the life and liberty out of us.
Rather, Jesus makes us alive to God. Awake with gratitude to His good gifts, aware of His presence and of the leading of His Holy Spirit.
Jesus enables us to be aroused from our slumber. Paul says in Ephesians 5:14This is why it is said: "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
So, baptismal candidates, you have chosen today to follow Jesus in the waters of baptism. You have chosen to make a public profession of your faith in Christ.
You’ve chosen to today be publically identified with Jesus and with His Church, which is the body of Christ on earth.
You’ve already made the decision to follow Jesus for your whole lives, living in the joy of His Lordship, and the freedom of the fact that He is your Saviour.
I commend you for your decision today, and for what you will shortly do. May God richly bless you and fill you to overflowing with His grace and with the presence of His Holy Spirit.
And parents here who today will dedicate your children to the Lord. You are promising today to raise your child(ren) in the knowledge of God’s love and mercy in Christ Jesus. You are dedicating your child(ren) to the Lord.
May He also bless you as you do this, and for those dedicated and those baptised today, as for all who gather here today, may the blessing of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be upon