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Vision… Take hold of your horizon

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(7/28) This morning, if you could turn in your Bibles, we are going to look at Romans 6:1-10 as we explore the concept of Vision: What it means to be the church, having a vision for the future, and grasping how that applies to us today. In this message we’re going to discuss what baptism is, why it exists, and what it means for us. We’ll focus on increasing God’s vision for your life and how to see it come alive in our lives as His Church. Because sometimes even people who are Christians and been in church for a while, don’t really understand why we do what we do. So today I want to take this opportunity to teach about baptism and what it means to the church. Because you hear this one a lot. There are certain groups or cults that will say, "Unless you’re baptized, you can’t go to heaven." But that is just not true at all.

The classic illustration is Jesus on the cross being crucified. There’s one guy on each side. One guy rejects Jesus, the other guy trusts Jesus, and receives Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That guy never did get baptized because he was being crucified. There wasn’t time for that. And Jesus looks at him and says, "Today you’ll be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

You see it’s only Jesus. Jesus saves. Pastors don’t save, churches don’t save, baptism doesn’t save. Jesus saves. It’s only Jesus. There’s no assurance beyond Jesus. And there’s nothing more secure than to place your faith in Jesus.

So why do we baptize people?

Today I want to share one of my favorite passages on baptism found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Let’s read from Romans chapter six beginning at verse one…

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." (NIV)

So the first thing I want to say is that baptism is all about Jesus. And what I mean is that we’ll talk about Jesus, we’ll say things about Jesus, but then in baptism, something called a sacrament, we show our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, in baptism we profess our faith in Jesus death on the cross for our sins. We have this outward manifestation of the inward blessing that Jesus gives us. And so baptism is about Jesus, it’s about our identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection for our sins.

And so what Paul is saying here in verse 3, is that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are on board… we’re on the J team… baptism shows that you’re connected to Jesus and it shows that you’re connected to his Church. And so, when we see people baptized, it’s all of us, regardless of race, income, gender, ethnicity, or nationality. All Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus through being baptized, because Jesus died for our sin, and therefore we can put our sin to death… we don’t have to live in it any longer… our old self was crucified with him… We’re dead to sin!

1. Dead… to Sin.

So we’re not just talking about failures, faults, and flaws. We’re talking about disobedience and rebellion against the very Word of God. You see, the Word of God gives us the will of God, and when we sin, we’re disobeying, disregarding the very words of God, and that’s sin. And what tends to happen is we become desensitized to the horror of sin, it becomes our lifestyle, we celebrate it, or we tolerate it. We try to manage it, blame others for it, or we try to hide it. But here’s the good news: because of Jesus’ death, we can put our sin to death. Whatever has trapped and enslaved you, if you are in Christ, you can walk away from it, just like Jesus walked away from his grave.

And so in verse 6, when it says that "we should no longer be slaves to sin" it’s describing being enslaved by something… it’s someone or something that we hate overtaking, overpowering, and overwhelming us against our will. So when Paul speaks of slavery here, it refers to things that we shouldn’t do, things that we’re ashamed of… it refers to addictions, to sinful inclinations, compulsions, and activities. This would include sins like alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual perversion, addiction, gambling, gluttony, and pride. And whatever sin it might be, it is something that rules over you like a god and you almost feel powerless to it.

So Jesus comes and he dies so that those false gods, those false lords can be put to death, and just as he rose from the grave, we get to walk away from our old life and live what God calls a "new life." So in Christ, you get a whole new life, not yet perfect, but new… and so a Christian is not one who is perfect but their old life is buried with Christ, their new life is risen with Christ, and they’re on the path to perfection. On the other side of resurrection there is perfection in the presence of Christ.

And so we’re in process and what Paul is saying is that baptism is all about what Jesus has done! In baptism we see the love of Jesus… it shows us the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus… it shows us that our old way of life can die, that we’re freed from our slavery to sin, bondage, and death. And that one day we will be perfected, but until that day of resurrection, we have the newness of life, and this is why we call the gospel Good News. So, when people become Christians, we love to see them get baptized and we cheer and celebrate, because we know that Jesus is watching, he’s seeing his work fulfilled in their lives, as their old lives are buried in baptism.

2. Buried… in Baptism.

I can still remember when I was baptized, it was a big day, and my wife Dana and I were both baptized on the same day. We had come to a previously unrealized level of commitment to Jesus Christ. One that was realized in obedience to the Holy Scriptures, which in Jesus words said, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:15-16). So together, Dana and I, went public with our faith. We committed ourselves to be on Jesus team … to be disciples… like Jesus told his first followers. He commanded in Matthew 28:19, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit."

So we were baptized in the name of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And what Jesus says is that people are to be baptized and made disciples. So we joined in fellowship, prayer, Bible study, and mission. We experienced personal growth as our old self was buried. That’s the language used in verse 4, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

So Jesus lived, died, was buried, and he rose from the grave. That’s exactly why when we baptize someone, we’re saying Jesus died for them, Jesus was buried for them, and Jesus rose for them. That’s why in the act of baptism, we profess, "Jesus is my God, he died on the cross for my sins, was buried, and rose from the dead." So our faith is in him, our salvation is from him, and we get excited about baptism, because we’re excited about Jesus, we love Jesus, and we love to see people meet Jesus.

So Jesus, the Creator of all things, comes down from heaven, takes on human flesh, and declares himself to be God. He lives without sin, lives the perfect life we should live, but failed to live. And then he goes to the cross and dies in our place for our sins as our substitute. The death that we deserve is the death that Jesus endures. And so, when we’re buried in baptism we’re identifying with him.

And what this does, this totally transforms how we live. You see to be buried in baptism isn't a matter of turning over a new leaf. It's a matter of beginning a new life. It's not just that we think differently, though we do. And it's not just that we act differently, though we will. It's that we ARE different. Our souls, which were empty and lifeless, have been made alive through the power of Jesus Christ. This is what Paul referred to in verse 4, "Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." We too are raised to a new life!

3. Raised… to New Life.

God gave you a new life. When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He gave you the capacity to live a new life that you didn't have before. And you’ve got to understand that Paul is not being mystical, allegorical, metaphorical, or even symbolic when he says that you've been made alive in Christ. Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul says, "God the Father, has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…" (Colossians 1:12-13). So he's being as literal as he can be. Something supernatural happens at the moment of salvation. The moment you trust Christ, you are transferred from spiritual darkness to spiritual light, from spiritual death to spiritual life, and you now have potential to live a new godly life.

The Bible tells us that God chose us in Christ… "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Ephesians 1:4).

It says, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ" (Colossians 2:13).

Because of God's gift of salvation, we have power over sin. We are literally dead to sin. That's how Paul phrased it in verse 6-7, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

Now maybe you’re thinking this just doesn't make sense. You know, how can I consider myself dead to sin, no longer a slave to sin, when it is painfully obvious that I am anything but dead to sin? Well, Paul tells us in verse 5, "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." What Paul is stating is not a psychological trick. He's teaching a principle upon which we can base our new life in Christ. Your righteousness… your spiritual standing… isn't based on your feelings. It's based on the Word of God. The Christian life isn't based on feelings or philosophical ideas. It's based on facts… the fact of God's love for you, the fact of his Word, and the fact of the resurrection. Regardless of your feelings these facts don't change. So, when Paul tells us "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death," he's telling us, based upon your baptism, based upon Christ’s death and resurrection to consider it so, because God has already said it is so. You are dead to sin whether you feel like it or not.

Or for that matter, whether you act like it or not. You see we’re not perfect but we’re making progress. Your feelings and your actions will eventually catch up with your faith, but first of all you must accept what God has stated to be true: Jesus Christ has made you dead to sin and alive to righteousness. He gives you the capacity for a new life.

It's kind of like hunting. You can get a hunting license in Pennsylvania by filling out a form and paying a small fee. But does having a license make you a good hunter? No, but it gives you the potential to become a good hunter. Without the license, you can't hunt, but with the license, you have the opportunity to get good at it. Really it's a question of how seriously you take the privilege of hunting.

In the same way, when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, he gave you a license so to speak, a license to experience power over sin. He gave you the capacity to "live a new life" (Romans 6:4). The question is, how seriously will you take it?

God made you dead to sin and alive to Christ. All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried with him and just as Christ was raised from the dead… we were raised… so that we too may live a new life.

The question is will you accept it? Will you seize the opportunity and consider it so? Don't wait for a feeling… don't doubt God's Word simply because your behavior hasn't caught up with your faith. Believing in the power of God is the only prerequisite to experiencing the power of God. So, believe it, receive it, and walk in it. You have been raised to new life!

As I wrap this up I hope baptism makes a whole lot more sense. It’s all about Jesus. Only Jesus. His death, his burial, and resurrection for our sins. And just like water washes us from filth, so Jesus washes us from sin.

I want you to remember this every time you wash your hands, every time you take a shower, take a bath, every time you do the dishes, every time you wash your clothes, every time you wash your car, remember, that Jesus makes you clean. You’re forgiven. You’re clean in God’s sight. Jesus’ righteousness is your righteousness. You’re not just a guilty sinner. You’re a guilty sinner who is forgiven. You’re a guilty sinner who’s clean. You’re a guilty sinner who’s loved. You’re a guilty sinner who’s righteous. You’re a guilty sinner who’s new because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And just like water washes away dirt, so Jesus takes away your sin.

How about you? Have you been washed? As we close I want you to respond. If you haven’t responded to Jesus before or maybe you’ve wandered away, the problem is sin, and the answer is Jesus. Only Jesus. He is God. He died and rose again to conquer sin and death. He loves you and there’s nothing you can do to make him love you any more. And the good news is there’s nothing you have to do to become a Christian. Just trust in Jesus. Give your life to Jesus today and become a Christian, and you know what I’ll do? If you’re ready I’ll baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, showing that your faith is in the work of Jesus.

Here’s what the Bible says about salvation, forgiveness of sins, a relationship with God, and eternal life with God.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

You and I are saved by grace from God, the Jesus who’s God, the Jesus who lived without sin, the Jesus who died for our sin, the Jesus who was buried, the Jesus who rose from the grave, the Jesus that we’re remembering in baptism. That Jesus. Grace from him. Undeserved, unmerited, unexplainable love. That’s our Jesus.

It’s only Jesus. It’s always Jesus. It’s solely Jesus, because Jesus plus anything ruins everything. You don’t need Jesus and baptism, you don’t need Jesus and Communion, you don’t need Jesus and speaking in tongues. You just need Jesus. That’s it. Grace from him through faith in him.

Let’s pray and then we’ll praise him in song as we close!

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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