Romans 6:1-3 (Message) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
Today is Baptism Sunday at our church. There are people who have decided to participate in the symbolic act of baptism, but I wonder if they know the true potential of such a public confession. It is the gateway by which one may enter a “new land” and “new life”. An existence of true repentance marked by a turning over of every dead thing in our life to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Oh how I wish they knew how powerful the water can be for those who step in it with such an expectation. Salvation is the beginning of a transformation process that takes a lifetime to complete. It is the moment of realization that sin is killing us and without a Savior there is no chance of life. The next doctrinal step might be a public profession of our faith in Jesus Christ and then baptism. I love the opportunity presented by Paul in this passage and the way the Message explains it to us. It is a form of house cleaning where we lay down our old life, ways, faults, failures and disappointments in order to move into a new one without all the shackles and chains of our past holding us back. A handful of people have signed up to participate in the baptism service today, but I wonder how many more might if they realized the potential of leaving it all behind and moving into the new life Christ promised us.
Romans 6:3-5 (Message) That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
I grew up in the Baptist church. My little sister has a very soft and sweet heart. I cannot count the number of times she responded to an altar call to repent and start again with Jesus. I know you may be thinking it silly, but I think it is essential. Since when did the altar become a place of shame, where people are chided for coming again and again? I think she was baptized at just about every summer camp. My sister is a mighty woman of God who leads home Bible studies and small groups. She impacts many lives with grace and generosity. She understands the life and power of Jesus Christ because she kept coming until she found what she was looking for. Oh what might happen if the church and its people were open to true repentance and transparency before the Lord again? Not afraid to come forward for prayer and divine healing? Unashamed that they want a new life when this one is not working out for them?
John 7:38-39 (Message) On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)
When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus…
Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes…” Are you overflowing with Living Water today? Or are you feeling the thirst that comes from seasons of drought – an inner dryness that nothing in this life can seem to satisfy? The Spirit inside of us produces good fruit to nourish and satisfy our soul. There are times when the Spirit of God within us is limited because of the lack of fertile soil – He cannot sow in a hard heart. The Holy Spirit lives in us to change our life from death to life sowing good seeds in fertile soil. Faith produces seeds of potential that must be cultivated to become the promise within each one. It is up to us to provide a place for them to grow, develop and mature into the abundance that the Lord has promised us. Without water, seeds die in the ground. Without the Spirit, the believer cannot move from death to life.
To be lowered in the water is like being buried with Christ, to make an exchange of all the dead things in our life so that they either be washed away or revived again. Sin is washed away along with regret and remorse. Faith is revived in the water and new life begins in that moment for those who believe. We must be buried in Christ with fruitful expectation that His Spirit will take over and produce new life in us all over again. This is not just for the new believer but every other saint of God who has become weary in well doing or overcome by fear, doubt, anxiety or disappointment. The water is for everyone.
Romans 7:3-6 (Message) So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.
When we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.
It is often easier to get caught up in the rules and regulations of our religion rather than live a life true repentance and ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. I have nothing of worth to give God other than my whole heart. My heart and life are not worthy of His Glory but what God desires therefore enough. We are married to Jesus in the careful exchange of sin and the acceptance of His Grace. When our life is fully reconciled to Christ – all the benefits and blessings associated with our relationship are evident. When we come up out of the water – it is like the resurrection of Jesus and new life begins all over again. There is no Christian who has it all together. There is no preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, or leader that does not fall short of the Glory of God and His Standard of living. No one can live apart from sin and the only hope we have is the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ to keep us constantly turning in repentance to receive what He died for us to have.
We no longer live under “oppressive regulations and fine print”. We are free to live a new life of freedom in God. Do you live in the perpetual freedom that God offers those who believe? Do you have living water flowing through you today? Have you been baptized? There is no limitation on the water. You can come to the river as often as you like. Repentance is turning. Cycles are circular motions without real results. It may look like revival but it is not. It is repetition. Seasons are the terms and conditions of God’s Productivity. It is the prospering soul that receives all the blessings. A season produces something. It has purpose. It gives provision. In the end, there is an abundant harvest. It is how real revival begins and perpetuates itself. It begins when we surrender every dead thing to new life.
John 5:5-11 (Message) One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”
There was a man who had been handicapped for more than three decades. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to make excuses. Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking. The man did exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t even make it into the water, but received his healing from Jesus right then and there. Immediately the Pharisees began to condemn the man for breaking the rules. It was the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll on Sunday. How many people carry burdens into church and lug them right out afraid to break the rules? Or how many preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and the like live with heavy chains because they are afraid to come to the altar and be judged by their peers? How many times do we accept death where Jesus promised life just because of our pride? Too often. Jesus gives us the opportunity to exchange every dead thing for new life. He promises to make good of every detail of our life if we would only trust Him. Nothing can every separate us from the Love of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you allowing something to separate you?
Seek out new life today. If that comes in the form of baptism when you can lay all these burdens into the likeness of His Death and be raised to new life then jump in with both feet all over again. Jesus didn’t give up His Life so that you would like a dead existence filled with doubt, discouragement, depression, disease or defeat. He came up out of the grave and so can you. You can leave death behind and embrace new life. You can do it as often as you need it. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. Don’t stop until you receive it no matter what the cost. If that means running to the altar, do it! If that means jumping in the waters of baptism, go! Whatever it takes – let Jesus breathe new life in you again!
John 11:25-26 (Message) You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”