New Life with God
Sept. 5, 2020 – Brad Bailey
A big welcome to all who are joining this morning or who may be watching at a later time. Today is a
special day for the Westside Vineyard. We are holding an outdoor gathering down by the beach. And as a
part of that time... we have the privilege of celebrating some who are choosing to be baptized today in the
ocean. We wanted everyone gathering on our livestream to hear from a couple of them as well... so they
are going to share with you in just a bit.
Baptism is essentially a celebration of new life. As we come to this celebration of new life... I am struck
by the unique dynamic of doing so during a global pandemic. The global pandemic creates a dynamic
The essence of this pandemic is a virus that can bring disease. And because we value the gift of life... we
believe we should be stewards... and are gathering outdoors... and honor one another by minimizing even
the minimal risks of transmission by maintaining some space... covering our mouths and noses when
close to others.
These are ways we can help mitigate the disease. (That’s the way we gather.) But the purpose of gathering
is to allow God to speak to a deeper dis-ease of the soul.
We gather not merely as physical bodies. We are not just biological bodies but rather we are relational
While we may have to cover our noses and mouths... I’m thankful that we can see each other’s eyes. The
eyes are said to be a window to the soul. And I believe that what we see in one another’s eye... we see
something that is not merely chemical compounds. We see more than biology...we see a being... we see
that which bears longings that are more than biological life... longings to be seen and loved. We long to
We long for that which exists beyond us. Because our existence is rooted in that from which it came. Life
came from life. We exists as persons... endowed with thought and wills...because human life bears the
image of its source... the image of God. We sense that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
God is infinite...and we are “finite.” Our very finite nature looks beyond ourselves to understand who we
really are. As someone once said...“We were created to look up to God before we look down at ourselves
and the rest of creation.” We cannot find our lives in ourselves because nothing exists merely unto itself.
Everything exists in relationship to its source and purpose. 
And as we allow ourselves to listen to those longings ... we can hear the ultimate great news that Jesus
declares... that we can discover that our source... God... loves us so much that he came and took our
separation... that he bore consequences of our declared independence...upon himself... so that we could
have the opportunity to live forever.
He gave his life... to give us his life with God. That is the exchange that baptism represents. In baptism
one is expressing symbolically that in going under the water....they are joining in his death... and in rising
up again...they are joining in his new resurrected life... that lives forever with God.
So baptism...is a celebration of receiving new life. It is a profoundly personal exchange...but it is never
just personal. Like a marriage in which two individuals give themselves to a covenant relationship... while
it must be personal...it is never just personal. Such a commitment is bound within the community that
surrounds them. And that is the privilege we have today... to be that community that recognizes and
surrounds this new covenant that provides new life.
Much could be said... about this new covenant... this new life... but I want to us to recognize three core
truths about this new life.
God speaks these three truths INTO this juncture for each of those getting baptized.
To each who has been baptized in the past... God REMINDS us of these three vital truths.
To those who have yet to receive that life or be baptized...God speaks these three truths as an
INVITATION to that new life.
The first truth God would remind us of is a new life begins through...
1. A New Means
The means to life with God is not based on what we have proven by our own means but what God has
provided. Every human life exists in relationship to the source of life... and has chosen to claim it’s own
independence. Every effort we make to claim we deserve to live with God forever...reflects pride in
It’s interesting that we live in a world that thinks of some people as religious and some as not religious. In
fact many people today see forms of religion as what divides us....and understandably people may tend to
say that they are spiritual but not religious.
The Bible reveals something very different. God speaks of all humanity as going it’s own way... and
therefore being separated from life. Some may claim they don’t believe in God and some may use
traditional religion to claim they are good enough in themselves to prove they are not independent...but
even such a claim is independent from God.
In a sense...the rebel and the religious are not so different.
This is what Jesus explains in the story of the Prodigal son... it’s really the story of a father who had two
sons. One is a classic rebel...and one is a classic dutiful religious life. It’s really the story about there
being a way to come home. The one who thinks they have always been at home...but refuses grace...is
This is the human story. We have taken the goods of life and tried to deny God ...or we have claimed to
have a right to the goods based on our goodness...which refuses God’s grace. The story is explaining the
good news that Christ comes to reconcile all sinners with God. He offers a new covenant. The whole of
what we call the New Testament testifies of this. The Gospel accounts tell us of how God has come to
meet us on the road of return... and the writings that follow explain how it changes everything. As the
apostle Paul explains...
Romans 3:20-25, 27 (NLT2)
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us
how sinful we are. 21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the
requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are
made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no
matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God,
with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed
us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right
with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. .... 27 Can we boast, then, that
we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law.
It is based on faith.
Paul is explaining that everything in their religious history... was revealing that what could never be
fulfilled in itself... was now fulfilled in Christ alone. God had given them these profound means to be
right with Him... to belong to him... but human life could were never fully met. They were there to help
us see what we needed that we could not fulfill in ourselves.
The Word of God... known as the Torah...was never fully met....the human heart could never fully
embody the goodness of God’s nature ...but Christ came as the living Word of God.
The place in which humanity might meet with God was established in the temple...but never could the
holiness that such a temple represented be met by man...so Christ has come as the meeting point at which
we can meet with God. His righteousness will be extended to us.
The sacrifices which could be made to atone for our sin... could never satisfy the separation that still
existed in the heart of man....so God came and provided that ultimate and final sacrifice that would satisfy
as an atonement for all sin...in himself.
All that the law of God had revealed... was fulfilled in Christ.
It is all about recognizing that our hope lies not in what we can do...but in what God has done. Not our
merits...but his mercy. 
We are saved only by faith in what Christ has done.
So the great news ... the gospel news... begins with recognizing that there is a new means to life with
God... it is faith in the life and merits of Christ.
As Paul says... we have nothing we can boast in. So to those getting baptized... it is not by the merits of
what you’ve done but by faith in what God has done. And let us ALL humble ourselves afresh to receive
what God has done.
But the second thing to realize is that this leads to....
2. A New Life
The new life brings a new life. Something new begins.
It is important to realize that we are not just receiving a ticket to a future event...but rather the beginning
of a new life that starts now. We are not just accepting a proposition that lives in our heads... but rather a
new life that we should live. We are receiving a new life with God.
Sometimes the new means can become confused as the end in itself. Some may hear that we are saved by
faith in Jesus alone...and think it means we are not changed in any way here and now. But that is not the
case at all.
We are not saved by our own works...but we are saved for the working of God.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). He is the source of new life....but also the
source of the way in which that life is then lived.
So when we speak of being saved by faith alone in Jesus... it is vital to realize that
real faith is not what only lives in our heads... but what becomes evidenced in our lives.
The now out of favor comedian Louis C.K. made this very honest statement about what we can be called
“I have a lot of beliefs .… And I live by none of them. That’s just the way I am. They’re just my beliefs. I
just like believing them—I like that part. They’re my little “believies.” They make me feel good about
who I am. But if they get in the way of a thing I want, I sure as heck just do what I want to do.”
“I have a lot of beliefs…and I live by none of them.” That’s the kind of false idea about belief or faith that
we need to dismiss.
In the Biblical Book of James, Jesus' half-brother and one of the most influential pastors of his time, sets
forth how faith is not what only lives in our heads... but what becomes evidenced in our lives.
The truth is that real faith will bring real change in the real world. And James wrote his work to bring that
out. And I am excited to share that we are going to launch into engaging the pursuit of real faith this
Fall...starting NEXT Sunday.
This season of living through a pandemic has brought up so many challenges to how we react. It has
challenged by patterns...my postures. As my friend noted... this season has the potential to forge the worst version of ourselves...or the best version of ourselves. And what we find in the Book of James...is a guide
to developing the best version of ourselves. So on behalf of our entire pastoral team... I want to encourage
you to come join this journey every week this Fall.
And it’s vital to see that Jesus never understood that choosing to enter the new life... is never something
we do alone.
One final truth about for us to see... is that the new life is shared by...
3. A New Community
The new life that Jesus provides is a shared life. It is a life that is given citizenship in a new kingdom...
the eternal kingdom of God. We are united as co-citizens of that kingdom. It is a life in which we return to
the household of God as our Father... in which we are united as family again.
And when we are baptized into the new life...we are baptized into the new community... of which the
local church is the local body of Christ.
The new community shares a profound distinction from the claims of this world.
Sometimes the way in which this distinction from the world is understood relationally is tragically
misunderstood and misdirected. Sometimes the call to be distinct from the powers of this world has been
uses to shape a tragic sense of separation and superiority. Some may think that they are to separate
themselves from relationships with those who do not share their relationship with Jesus...and do so with a
spirit of moral superiority. They may deem the new community...the church to be a club for the superior.
But if we look at Jesus...what he set forth was anything but a religious club for the morally superior. Jesus
creates a new community of sinners saved by grace... who have nothing in themselves to boast about.
In the way of Jesus, separation from the world did not imply that one had less relationship with those in
this world. Far from it. Jesus confronted that kind of false separation.
But what he did was create an entirely different type of community .... a whole new way of belonging. He
created a new way of belonging that is no longer defined by all the differences that try to define us and
then divide us. In this community the differences that divide us by gender...or socio-economic
position...or ethnicity... no longer define us. We are united in the common grace that of God.
Every times we gather together around Jesus...we are declaring that new life is now represented in a new
type of community.
This is what we are baptized into. Inner distinction... knowing who I am... is not something we were
created to do alone. The new community is a vital way of both defining who we are...and developing who
That is why this week we are launching our group life. Never has the opportunity to be joined in a
consistent and purposeful way been more vital.
At this juncture in navigating life in a pandemic...I want to encourage you to realize that the role of
community is a serious issue. The need for relational connection is vital. Many have noted that there was
a significant epidemic that was sweeping through our lives even before the biological coronavirus
pandemic. It is the epidemic of loneliness ... of becoming more and more alone. We need to face the fact
that we have become increasingly surrounded by connections that don’t really know us.... and that can’t
really strengthen us. It’s not simply about whether we know other people...it’s about how we are
known...and the quality of influence that such relationships have. We can slowly withdraw into the safety
of our shells.... not realizing that what feels safe... with no expectations...is where we will actually lose
If you are unmarried... I want you to know that you have spiritual family... that you belong... and I want to
encourage you to come take your place at the table... an equal place... a vital place.
And if you are married... I know that you may not feel as lonely but your partner can’t be your only
source of belonging and sustaining and growing. I want to encourage you to engage the wider table of
We are so blessed to have so many great lives facilitating our Life Groups and Special Focus Groups.
We believe that our groups are to be a healthy place to focus on our spiritual growth... and to be a safe
place to gather amidst political diversity. And as such, we have some healthy guidance that encourages all
who participate to create a space that shows healthy regard for one another.
So let your spirit respond to the call this fall... to join with others to grow in the grace of Christ... to help
become the best version of yourself.
[Closing:] For those joined in the Live stream... you may feel you aren’t as connected to these getting
baptized... because you are not physically present. Let me assure you... you are. The way in which Jesus
has begun a new community of belonging.... is not bound by one’s physical presence at their baptism.
They are being baptized into an eternal community... into a new life with the Father, Son, and Spirit... into
a new life shared with all who have received that life.
And a couple of these lives wanted to help you on livestream hear briefly about their testimony.
I want to close by challenging you to know that through Christ...you belong with others. Such belonging
challenges each of us. Some of us will resist because of our vain pride... our sense of superiority. Christ is
calling us right now... to come as sinners saved by one life and one Lord.
Some may resist truly uniting with others in community because of the power of shame at work... a sense
of inferiority. You may believe that there something no one really knows about...something that may be
controlling your life... something that should disqualify you.... something that if others did know... they
would reject you from belonging. I want to encourage you ...don’t let that sin claim your identity. That sin
is not your identity. It is not your destiny. It is merely the unfinished enemy.
1. Human Nature and Christian Apologetics by DOUGLAS GROOTHUIS and E.J. Johnston,
DECEMBER 22, 2015 https://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/12/22/human-nature-and-christian-
2. This is central to so much of what is being explained across the writings of the New Testament.
Another notable passage is:
Ephesians 2:7-9 (NLT2)
So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness
toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his
grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a
reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
See also: 185 Verses on Faith Alone in Christ Alone By Jeremy Myers