Summary: In a series on the Seven Marks of Discipleship that have been identified by the elders of Good Shepherd Church, this sermon prepares for that series as the congregation participates in a Renewal of Baptism service
The writer of Ephesians says, “There is one baptism.”
Presbyterians believe that very literally. Other churches may baptize their members many times. I know if I were to suddenly become a Southern Baptist, my baptism wouldn’t count. I’d have to be rebaptized.
I know some people who every few years have had some experience that has so enriched their spiritual lives that they feel a deep desire to be baptized again.
But in the Presbyterian Church, we are bound by these words from Ephesians…
“There is One Baptism.”
However, we do have in our church’s Book of Common Worship a service of a renewal of baptism. It is not a re-baptism. It is a renewal of baptism.
Sometimes we need to renew our faith.
Sometimes we need to recommit ourselves.
The renewal of baptism is a great opportunity for those who feel such needs. There is still only one baptism, but there are many opportunities to remember that one baptism and to recommit one’s life.
Wrapped up in this concept of renewing one’s baptism is the important issue of whether or not you are being fed, spiritually. Are you being nurtured in your faith? Are you taking care of your soul’s health?
Those are important questions. They are every bit as important as whether or not you are eating a balanced diet,
getting proper exercise,
taking the medicine as your doctor prescribes,
wearing your seat belt when you drive,
or anything else we do that protects your body and nurtures your physical being.
Is your soul being fed? Are you taking care of your spiritual health?
Now, whether or not you decide at the end of this service to come forward and to publicly renew your baptism, I want all of us this morning to think about our spiritual health.
Are you being spiritually fed?
I want to share several things that you can do to make sure you are being spiritually fed.
First, love. As simple as that.
You need love to keep yourself healthy. In our New Testament lesson for today, the writer says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
Love is central to everything written in the Gospels. It is foundational to everything else in the Christian experience. If you want to grow in your faith, if you want to feed and nurture your spiritual life, then learn to love others.
In Matthew (Matt 22:36-40), a man approaches Jesus and asks, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Notice, what is important is not so much that we find someone to love us. What is important is that we love others.
In the motion picture, Marvin’s Room, there are two sisters who have been estranged for many years. When one of them is diagnosed with cancer, the other sister arrives to help take care of her. In one of the final scenes of the movie, the two sisters are talking about their lives, and the one with cancer says, "I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky. I’ve had so much love in my life."
"Yes, yes," the other sister agrees, barely looking at her sister while she cleans the kitchen. "You’ve always had people around you who loved you."
"Oh no," the other sister says with a look of surprise. "I’m lucky because I’ve been able to love so many people."
It is the loving of others that nurtures our souls.
John said in one of his letters (I Jn 3:10), "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."
Whenever someone says, "I’m not being fed," I wonder if that person is trying to love others.
You want to nurture your soul?
Then renew your vow to God that you will love others.
A second step to spiritual nurture is to study the Word of God.
In the New Testament lesson, the author wrote about how we should work toward spiritual growth "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature..."
In the weeks ahead, Will and I are going to be preaching a series of sermons on the Marks of Discipleship.
Your elders have approved a list of 7 marks of discipleship. Every elder and every member of our church should be demonstrating and living out these 7 marks, and we are going to be learning more about them in the weeks ahead. One of these marks is reading the Bible on a daily basis.