Summary: Spiritual signs, symbols, and markers are needed now more than ever. Baptism is an extremely important sign for the follower of Jesus. We explore some of those important facets of baptism.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
February 3, 2008
This week we are going to look at what baptism means for those who follow Jesus. We will be looking at Matthew 28.
Last week we celebrated my birthday. Well, it was my fortieth. Not a big deal for me but Kendra wants to keep reminding me. Last year she got me the weirdest birthday gift ever: a cemetery plot. Yep. And she informed me that she wasn’t going to get me anything for my birthday this year. When I asked her, “Why not, couldn’t you find anything?” (After all, as long as I have her and our girls, then I have everything that I want). She said, “No that isn’t it. I’m not getting you anything for your birthday this year because you didn’t use the gift that I got you last year.”
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
There is a song with the words
Sign, sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this don’t do that can’t you read the sign?
Our lives are filled with signs and symbols. It has been estimated that we observe over 15,000 images a day. I believe more and more that we need Spiritual signs to help us negotiate this world more so than ever. Baptism is one such important sign. It is sign or symbol that has some significant power to point to ourselves and others toward Jesus.
Everywhere a Sign
• Changed life
It was sign of repentance. My life has changed. I live according to the ways of Jesus. The person would go into the water and come out a different person. Therefore they could proclaim with the Psalmist, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit. He set my feet on a rock. He put a new song in my mouth.”
Since it was done in public worship setting, people would see it and know. It was an act of worship encompassing one’s entire body and being. It was not something undertaken lightly because the decision would have lasting repercussions usually negative.
As a result of poor planning, Dennis from Kay, Texas, needed some same-day dry cleaning before his trip. He went to a store that said, “One-Hour Dry Cleaners.” “I need this in an hour,” he told the clerk.
She said, “I can’t get this back to you until Thursday.”
“I thought you did dry cleaning in an hour?”
“No,” she replied, “That’s just the name of the store.”
Being baptized without the changed life is like this store. Not being baptized with a changed life is like having store with no sign to show whose business you are about.
Sister Margaret, “We are trying to shout the gospel with our lives.”
• Disciples who make disciples
Following Jesus means that we follow his ways. Being a disciple means that I am a student who seek to not just do this and not do that but to reproduce the life of the rabbi (in this case Jesus). Jesus expects that we will not only be a disciple and learn his ways but that in doing so we would be making disciples.
This is tough because today’s Christianity Lite says, “Just pray the sinner’s prayer and you’re in.” But Jesus calls us to much more than that.
The early Church of God pastors and preachers often preached a message of what they called “sanctification.” It is a big word that means set apart. They were concerned because in many churches of their day around the turn of the 20th Century, they saw two groups of Christians. There were those that went through the motions (sometimes they went to church [although I doubt they went to church] and sometimes they did not go [yet they still called themselves a Christian]).
Yet following Jesus is much more than paying your dues (whether you pay with your time on Sunday morning or with money or credit card). It is loving Jesus and his ways so much that you seek to have his life lived out in you. It is being set apart to be used by God.
It means being willing to set aside our preconceptions of God and Jesus. It means recognizing that we don’t have it all figured out. It means that God will continually seek to remake and reform you into his image.