Part 1 of Sacrament. Matthew 28:18-20.
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. July 23, 2017.
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives the church a strategy to follow. It’s a simple step-by-step process. This is why the Cornerstone Church exists - to carry out this plan. There are five steps in this Jesus-strategy for the church:
Step 1: We submit to Jesus: “all authority in heaven and on earth.”
Step 2: We share Jesus: “make disciples” - student, follower, buy-in.
Step 3: We show-off Jesus: “baptize” - immersion in water.
Step 4: We are a school for Jesus: “teach them to obey” - followers follow!
Step 5: We stay with Jesus: “I am with you always.”
That’s the strategy. There’s a sequence or flow to it - we make followers of Jesus and we teach them how to follow Jesus - first there is faith and then there is faithfulness.
Even though there’s a sequence, new disciples nearly always get stuck on step 3: baptism. They ask, “Why do I have to baptized? What’s that all about?” Maybe that’s your sticking point. You’ve put your faith in Jesus. You’re already following him and obeying his teaching, but you’re just not sure about baptism. Getting dunked is weird. It’s humbling. It’s hard to explain to family and friends. Or maybe you were christened as a baby. And you’re wondering if that’s the same thing as baptism. You’re asking, “Should I be baptized as an adult?” I hear you and I can totally relate. I used to ask all the same questions. So …. today, I want to answer that question: WHY BAPTISM?
1. BAPTISM IS OUR TESTIMONY OF FAITH IN JESUS.
Baptism is is primarily a witness to the saving power of Jesus in your life. As the Gospel advanced in the ancient world, those who believed in Jesus were immediately baptized. There was a direct line between belief and baptism because the baptism pointed to the saving power of Jesus; e.g., in Corinth:
“Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.” - Acts 18:8 (also Acts 2:41; 8:12)
2. BAPTISM IS WHERE WE GO PUBLIC WITH OUR FAITH IN JESUS.
Most of us will never preach or teach the Bible in public, beyond our families and friends. But Jesus commands his followers to be baptized as a kind of preaching, declaring to everyone, “Jesus saves!” You’ll be doing what it says in Psalm 66:
“Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” - Psalms 66:16
3. BAPTISM IS OUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO REACH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
They will be very willing to attend your baptism. And they will definitely ask what’s going on. And you’ll be able to explain what Jesus has done for you. Psalm 40 tells us that salvation is something to celebrate in public:
“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know.” - Psalms 40:9
Baptism is testimony. But what is it about personal testimony that makes it so important? Let me tell you about the powerful dynamics of personal testimony …
THE DYNAMICS OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY
1. THE CONFIRMATION DYNAMIC OF TESTIMONY.
Going public will confirm your faith. If your faith is real, if the Holy Spirit really has changed your heart, then you will speak out. The Bible says:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” - Romans 10:9
What does that mean? Saving faith is personal (in your heart) AND public (with your mouth).
Jesus-followers declare their faith out loud. We love to testify. Paul wrote:
“It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,” - 2 Corinthians 4:13
You’ll know your faith is real if you’re willing to talk about it in public.
It’s in the spiritual DNA of Jesus-followers to share what Jesus has done for us. Last summer, we took the youth group to Costa Rica. In the afternoons, we had a VBS with about 100 kids. We played games, taught the Bible, and sang songs in Spanish. One of the songs was (English version): “Stop! and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me. He forgave my sin and he saved my soul; he cleansed my heart and he made me whole. Stop! and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me.” That’s the theme song of all Jesus-followers.
Maybe the person who had the most dramatic personal testimony ever was the wild man in the cemetery who was filled with demons. Jesus set him free and told him:
“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. - Luke 8:39
He couldn’t help himself. It was speak out or burst.
2. THE CULTURAL DYNAMIC OF TESTIMONY.
Testimony is a culturally acceptable way to talk about religion. People who would never walk into one of our worship services and who don't want to listen to me doing the preaching thing, will listen to you. They’re very interested in your personal experience.
When Paul was hauled up in front of King Agrippa, he didn’t present a lecture on theology. No, Paul shared his personal journey to faith in Jesus. The result?
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”” - Acts 26:28-29
Stories are the most popular form of communication in our culture. What are movies? Visual stories. What are books? Stories. The best non-fiction books are written as stories. What do Snapchat and Instagram let you share? Your story. Our culture is hooked on true stories and you have one to share. You can testify to the saving power of Jesus in your life and how you found your way to Jesus.
There’s a great example of personal testimony in 1 John 4:14. This is the story we all tell in baptism:
“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”
No one can argue with your personal testimony of faith. They’ll be interested in what you’ve experienced even if they’re not ready to make a similar decision. You’ll have planted a seed. There’s no saying what God will do with that seed in your friend’s journey to faith.
It’s not always easy or popular to speak up for Jesus. Private faith may be acceptable, but public faith is considered rude or arrogant or oppressive even.
However, popular or not, we have a story to tell - a very personal story that needs to go public. Of course, there is wisdom in being sensitive. There’s a right time and place. But there is too much at stake to remain silent. Paul told Timothy to never back down:
“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” - 2 Timothy 1:8
The same message is for us: Don’t hide your faith. Testify!
There’s one final benefit of going public in baptism. Jesus said:
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” - Matthew 10:32.
That’s a great promise about judgment day. Jesus will stand up for you!
You have a personal story to tell about Jesus: how he saved you from sin and hell; how he cleansed your guilt and forgave your sins; how he restored you to God and his constant love and care for you. It’s a story worth sharing in baptism.
Please take a Baptism Booklet from the table. It’s also available from our website if you click on the top menu - News & Events - and scroll down to the baptism announcement. Then click on the box for more info. Read it over. Pray about it. Then email me the details in the application form.
I have a limited supply of baptism t-shirts. On the shirts, it says, “Jesus changes everything.” You can have one if you sign up for baptism this week or next.