1. Baptism, like a wedding or graduation ceremony, is symbolic of a life change. If you’ve never made the decision to be baptized, what has kept you from doing so?
2. Whether or not you’ve been baptized, why do you think it’s important to declare publicly that you’ve committed to following Jesus?
3. What are some labels that you still carry with you – from either the distant or recent past – that you need to stop believing?
Hey everybody. My name is Peter and I’m the Pastor here at Hope City Church and today is a REALLY SPECIAL DAY in the life of our church, it’s Baptism Sunday. It’s when we CELEBRATE and PARTICIPATE in what God has done for us!
We CELEBRATE, because Jesus died for us on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven… We celebrate that through His forgiveness we FYI have access to eternal life in heaven… we celebrate that Jesus died to give us life – and that we are ALIVE in HIM!!
And then we get to PARTICIPATE in identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as we WALK into the waters of baptism… and once we see who Christ is, participating in baptism is the next step in our spiritual development! You see, baptism is an outward expression of an inner reality.
And if you haven’t realized it yet… Baptism is kind of a BIG DEAL around here! I mean, look around! We’ve got a giant baptismal, a holy hot tub right here in a school auditorium and the water is warm! We’re ready to go!
This morning we have three students that have personally chosen to celebrate and participate in this mile marker on their spiritual journeys as they go from DEATH to LIFE in Christ in the waters of baptism!
And we actually see this taught in Scripture in the life of one of the most notorious people in the bible. A man who also went from DEATH TO LIFE. I’m talking about a man named Paul.
You may know The Apostle Paul:
- He wrote over half of the New Testament
- He planted churches
- He raised up church leaders
and 2000 years later we still read and do the things that he wrote about… But it wasn’t always that way with him.
You see, Paul used to go by another name and THAT NAME WAS SAUL. Saul to Paul And back in the days of the early church, when the Jewish religious leaders wanted to get rid of this growing movement of Christians, they got Paul to do their dirty work.
But why did they do that? Because Saul was a religious extremist who thought he was doing the will of God by killing Christ-Followers! And when he was hunting down Christians to kill and imprison them, what he was REALLY doing was LIVING BY HIS LABELS. Labels like–
- Pharisee – a Spiritual elitist who would judge others.
- Or Self-Righteous – having a moral superiority over others.
- Or Religious – participating in religious activities he thought were pleasing God.
The back story to our scripture is that Saul was traveling with his posse of religious zealots on his latest mission to round up Christians in the City of Damascus, which is located in modern Syria, and he was hunting them to put them to death.
But while he was traveling on the road to Damascus, Saul has a life-changing encounter with Jesus. An encounter that would change every aspect of his life, his mission and even his physical countenance and it left him completely blind.
And while all that craziness was going on, Jesus calls on a Christian named Ananias, who was living in the city of Damascus, and asks him to do the unthinkable…
He asked Ananias to go to where Saul was and to do what? pray for him. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure I could have done it – what God was asking Ananias to do. I mean seriously, pray for a dude like Paul whose mission it was to kill people like me – but regardless, He does it and check out what happens, Acts 9:17-18 says:
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized…. Acts 9: 17-18
Saul, the Religious extremist was transformed into Paul the Apostle, one of the greatest Church leaders of his time. But don’t miss this, in order for this transformation to happen, SAUL had to DIE;
- Saul had to die to his old self…
- He had to die to his self-righteousness,
- and ultimately Saul had to die to the LABELS he wore.
Labels like Pharisee, self-righteous, and judgmental. But when those labels came off, Paul could see Jesus, He could see Himself, and he could finally see others.
And the reality is, we all fall way short of the standard God has for us. None of us are: good enough, righteous enough, or religious enough to go to heaven.
Because When Faith Comes Alive We Can See. It’s like we go from seeing the world in black and white to 4k! And the cool thing is that the people being baptized today have seen the world in a new way. They’ve had that realization. They can see!
- They understand that they aren’t good enough…
- They understand they can’t earn their way to heaven.
- They understand they can never be perfect enough to be worthy of the love of God. They have been able to SEE their need for Jesus.
We see Our Need for Him.
But don’t miss this, what we see in the life of Saul is that we ALL live out of our labels… Some labels are good, but some are not.
For instance, when I was in elementary school:
- I never had the cool clothes…. Kris Cross was popular, and wearing your pants backwards was the jam. I didn’t do that. Sneakers with pumps in them were the rage. I never had that. They used to call me a Nerd: and so the label I carried was that I was NERDY and on the outside.
- I also struggled in academics in middle school. I was convinced that I was DUMB and couldn’t learn.
The hurt here is these labels determined how I saw myself and those around me. And it even determined how I thought God saw me. Those labels had power over me, because I believed them.
But, when I chose to move from being DEATH to LIFE in Christ, and was baptized as a teenager…
- HE replaced my label of NERDY and an Outsider with His Acceptance.
- He changed my label of DUMB to GIFTED and Passionate.
Guys, if you remember anything about the meaning of baptism, remember this–Jesus came to SHOW You His LOVE and that He DIED to make You ALIVE!
The Old is gone! The new has come! AND NOW YOU are a New Creation in Christ!
And when he died for you he was TEARING OFF THE OLD LABEL and GIVING YOU A NEW ONE… the new one that says that you are: ALIVE!
And that is exactly what happens in Acts 9 when Ananias obeys Jesus’ command to go and pray for Saul it says:
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized…. Acts 9: 17-18
The process of Baptism reflects the BEFORE and AFTER in our lives.
Before we receive Christ, we are DEAD
- all of our actions,
- all of our intentions
- all of the labels that we own and wear
we are DEAD.
But after SALVATION, through the death & resurrection of Christ the SCALES fall off and we are made ALIVE in Him and BAPTISM is the moment that we declare this to OURSELVES and to all those around us!
And That’s why here at Hope City, we practice in what is called “Believer’s Baptism.” Or, the churchy word is “Immersion.” It means that we go down under the water, symbolizing Jesus death on the cross and when we come up out of the water we symbolize our resurrection with Christ! It’s an ALL-IN CELEBRATION AND PARTICIPATION IN WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US!
Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that some of you may have been sprinkled as a child! Which was a God-honoring thing that your parents did for you as THEY dedicated your life to God, But when you are baptized as an adult, It’s YOUR decision that you are making to follow Christ, and this doesn’t negate what your parents did for you. In fact, I believe it actually FULFILLS it!
Guys, when Paul understood his need for Jesus and was able to put his faith fully and completely in Christ… He no longer HAD TO LIVE BY the old labels that this world had for him, but now he could live by his new one, given to him by HIS Heavenly Father, which is… ALIVE!
Today those who are getting baptized aren’t defined by any labels that the world may try to give them, THEY are celebrating that those labels are being washed away in the waters of baptism…
And Jesus is here to offer you the same thing! If you are here today, and God has been speaking to you and you are sensing that He wants to take YOU from death to life, I want to take a moment to share with you how you can take that next step. It’s really as easy as ABC…
- ADMIT YOU’RE A SINNER. This is the first step. You need to acknowledge that you are spiritually dead and separated from God.
- BELIEVE IN JESUS. Jesus is your only source of salvation and hope. He can forgive all of your sins past, present and future. He can wipe the slate clean and make you a brand new you.
- COMMIT TO FOLLOW. This is where you admit to other people that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. In fact, this is what baptism is all about! We are confessing that Jesus has taken us from death to life!
So if you’re here to today, and you’re ready to take THAT step of following Jesus. Would you pray this prayer with me?
SALVATION PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ADMIT that I am a sinner and I ask for your forgiveness. I BELIEVE IN JESUS that you came to this earth and died for my sins and that you were resurrected from the dead I invite you to rule over my life and I COMMIT TO FOLLOW you as my Savior Amen.
Now if you prayed that prayer, I want to ask you, would you be willing to be bold and take your next step today? Right here and right now? Join these amazing people upfront in BAPTISM!!
You don’t have to wait! It will be a tremendous moment that we would all LOVE to celebrate with you.
As a matter of fact if you would like to be baptized today, you can see my friend Cassidy in the back right now… We have a t-shirt and shorts… flip-flops for you! We even have hair products and anything else you might need. If you have accepted Christ today or in the past and have never been baptized, Cassidy will be waiting for you in the back to get you setup and ready to go.
We are celebrating and participating in people going from DEATH TO LIFE!