Tomorrow, Good News Church will celebrate a baptismal service. There are 5 believers who want to show their obedience to Jesus Christ by being baptized according to the New Testament mandate. We are praying for a big crowd and a lot of nonbelievers so that we can preach the Gospel on this special occasion. I have prepared a sermon for tomorrow since I will be the one performing the baptisms. I want to share that sermon here so that I can think through the points and improve on the message. Most people in Moldova do not have a proper understanding of baptism since most are baptized in the Orthodox Church as babies. The fact that faith and salvation come before baptism is a hard thing for most to understand, because they have never read the Bible.
The title of the message “Baptism and Church Involvement”. I want to challenge the people who are being baptized to stay involved in the ministries of the church so that they can be satisfied in their Christian walk, as well as preach the Gospel to the nonbelievers in attendance.
Truths about Christian baptism
1) It is the first command given by Jesus Christ after a person repents. When a person claims to be a believer yet does not want to be baptized, that casts doubt on the sincerity of that person’s faith because in the Bible, faith and obedience are synonymous. A person who does not want to obey Jesus’ first command is not much of a “follower”.
2) Baptism is received based on a personal decision. No one else can be baptized for you because no one else can have faith for you. It is your own personal faith, your own personal relationship with God that leads you to want to be baptized. Faith precedes baptism in the New Testament. A person who is baptized to receive faith has it backwards.
3)Baptism does not bring about salvation. We are baptized because we have already experienced salvation. Many churches teach that in order to get to heaven, one of the steps is to be baptized in that respective Church. The Bible teaches that a person must be born again in order to get to heaven and that baptism is a symbol of what took place when the person was born again.
4) Baptism is a physical image of a spiritual truth. When a person repents and is born again, he chooses to die to his old way of life and he is given a new life in Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this being born again. Being submerged in the water is a symbol of dying to your old way of life and having the old self buried. Emerging from the water is a symbol of being resurrected to a new life in Jesus Christ, a life of obedience to God, a life of dedicated service to God by serving the people around you.
5) Baptism is also a sign of total submission to Christ’s authority and dedication to His ministry. Christ died for us publicly and we publicly declare through baptism that we renounce our old way of life and now are totally dedicated to Christ’s mission.
Getting involved in the church
1) Personal responsibilities as a Christian. We, as Christians, have some personal responsibilities that we must embrace once we become true followers of Jesus Christ. First, we must be great students of the Word of God, learning and applying on a daily basis. We must spend a lot of time studying and meditating upon the Word of God. As we learn new things, we need to spend time in prayer, asking God to teach us more, thanking God for all that He has done, praying His promises back to Him. We also must apply what we learn. As God reveals new things to us, we must immediately put them into practice. As we study, pray, and apply then we will have many, many opportunities to share the good news of God’s Word with others. We actively need to seek out people and immediately share the Gospel with them when God opens the door. We are to share what we know and have experienced. God will open the doors, we just must be ready at all times and courageous enough to share.
2) Church attendance. This is the simplest and most basic of church disciplines. When a “believer” cannot find time or does not have the desire to attend church at least once a week then you have to wonder what kind of “follower” of Jesus Christ he or she really is. Remember, when you are baptized, you make a public statement that you no longer live for yourself but have chosen to live every moment of every day for Jesus Christ. Also, church is where you receive spiritual food (training) for daily living. If a soldier does not eat, and eat a lot, then he is not much good on the battle field or for carrying out daily chores. By attending church on a weekly basis, you have fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will be comforted by them . They will pray for you and with you and you with them. You will hear how God has worked in their lives since the last meeting. You will be encouraged and challenged. Church is a place to get you pumped up for the next full week of service to the Lord and the people around you. The church service is also a time of personal examination and repentance when needed so that you can confess your sin and find accountability for strength to overcome and be victorious in your battle with sin.
3) Small group Bible study (family groups or community groups). Our church has flourished because of the heavy emphasis placed on small group, in home Bible studies, where all the members of the church are involved in systematical Bible study. We meet once a week in homes. The leaders of the groups are the mentors of the church. Every member of the church has a small group Bible study teacher who is ready and willing to take each person under his/her wing and mentor them in the faith, helping them grow spiritually on a daily basis. Each member of the church is accountable to the other members in his or her small group. Having accountability partners helps us stay focused and on track in our daily walk with the Lord. We all have a person in our lives in whom we can trust. We can be open and honest with those leaders. We have spiritual help at all times. We receive guidance and advice. This is the process of discipleship that the Bible speaks and teaches about. This is also another time for us to have great fellowship with a smaller number of people. We get to know each other because we have an intimate relationship. We live life together, encouraging each other to stay strong in the faith.
Getting the church involved in society
We do not want to create little “holy huddles” of people who only hang around themselves and never have any impact in the world around them. Our desire is to equip the members of the church so that they can go out and impact the world (the way that Jesus Christ did). All of the members are challenged to get involved in specific ministries that deal with impacting our society.
1) Teaching the Bible in the public schools. There is a group of 16 members of our church who teach to over 350 kids in the public school where we meet for our church services. We constantly try to challenge new people to get involved so that we can have a greater impact. Our goal is to raise up a generation of kids who fear the Lord and dedicate themselves to serving God by impacting their society with the Gospel.
2) Weekly Newspaper distribution. We deliver close to 1,000 newspapers on a weekly basis to the hospitals that are near our church location. Each article of each newspaper contains the message of the Gospel as well as Biblical answers to society’s problems. It is nice to be able to share a newspaper with a sick patient and then pray for that person while at the same time seeking a chance to share the Gospel. It makes a difference when people actually see how much you care instead of just hearing about it.
3) Day camps. Our church puts on many, many day camps for kids throughout the year, especially during school breaks such as summer, fall, and spring. We hold day camps both in the city and in villages, teaching the Word of God to many children who have not seen their parents in years because of the huge number of migrant workers Moldova has. It is nice to share the hope of the Gospel with children who seem to have none. Most of them admit to studying the Bible for the first time in their lives. It is great to see the transformation that takes place in a child’s life in just 5 days of a day camp. Many of them call us “mother” and “father” because they say that we love them “mothers” and “fathers” do.
4) Making disciples through specific ministries. Many of our church members are involved in the process of making disciples through the ministries that they came to Christ through. Those who repented through sports, now travel to different villages on a weekly basis to form and lead sports groups where the Word of God is the main priority. There is a lot of persecution and problems with traveling and expenses yet these young people are dedicated to serving the Lord no matter what. This is what we challenge all new members of the church to get involved in. We have computer and English classes that work the same way as the sports ministries. All the members of the church are being discipled and challenged to make disciples.
What about you my dear friend, when you were baptized, was it based on faith or a tradition? When you were baptized, did you dedicate yourself to serve the Lord on a daily basis by serving the people around you? Since being baptized, have you lived 100% for Jesus Christ or mostly for yourself and given some time to Christ if you had any left over? Are you involved in the life of the church? Do you study the Bible on a daily basis? Do you spend time in prayer? Do you share you faith with others? Do you have a spiritual mentor who guides you in the process of discipleship? Are you involved in directly impacting your society for good? Are you making disciples, if not, then why not?
May the Lord help us understand the commitment that we make when we are baptized and live according to that commitment every single day of our lives until Christ returns to take us home or we go home to see Him.
I have left the Scripture references out of this post but if you would like them, just let me know and I can get a copy to you (inserting them into the points of the message).