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Re-Thinking Church
Part 8

Two Things Every Church Must Do

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Read Part 7

Introduction Ė Thanksgiving Ė Pilgrims to Present

Well, here we are again. In a few days we will again observe an America tradition of Thanksgiving. From the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts to today, we will gather with family and friends and hopefully take time to look back and remember Godís faithfulness. I read for my morning devotions last week, the book of Lamentations. While it is a book of sorrow the Jeremiah is expressing for the results of a nation turning its back on the God that favored her, it is also a book of encouragement. It is from Lamentations, that we find these words (read 3:21-26).

Some of you know that in our house we follow the meal with a family gathering and everyone reflects and expresses thanks for their blessings of the past year. We do this based on Deut. 8:10, which says, "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you,Ö lest you forget and take the credit for yourselves." Itís sad that for many, it is more about the meal than about the memory of Godís goodness. I hope you will all pause and reflect and give God the thanks He deserves for His faithfulness.

God wants us to take the time to remember and to honor Him. He gave Israel 7 feasts to keep every year to remember His faithfulness and His presence. Four are in the spring and 3 are in the fall. They are Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of weeks (50 days after first fruits and also known as Pentecost), Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

While there are no designated national feasts for the church, there are two things every church must do as a means to remember Godís faithfulness and grace. We call these ordinances. We are commanded to do these. We are not saved by doing them as some think we do these as an act of obedience and worship in honor of our Savior. They are Baptism and Communion. Our Brethren friends and others practice 3 including the washing of each others feet from John 13. Foot washing is to convey several things, humility, servant-hood, and the need to be cleansed from the sins that we as Christians commit in this world, including giving forgiveness and seeking forgiveness from each other.

We are worshiping and wanting to start a church in this town which is predominately Catholic. Someone asked me a while ago to take some time and teach the differences between Catholic and Baptists. One of the major differences that have with our Catholic friends is in this area of ordinances, or what they call sacraments. While, as I will explain in a moment, we obey these ordinances we believe they have no effect on our salvation, they are memorial and an act of obedience to honor our Lord, our catholic friends believe that the seven sacraments are necessary for salvation, thus a means of earning Godís grace. They believe there are 3 that initiate one into the church. They are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion or the Eucharist. There are 2 of healing, Penance or confession for spiritual healing, and anointing of oil for the physically sick. When a person is dying this is called Extreme Unction or Last rites. Then there are 2 of Communion with Christ. These are either Holy Orders in which one enters the priesthood or nunnery, or marriage, when two baptized people marry and express the union of Christ and the church. Our problem with this is that Romans 4, the Book of Galatians and many places in the Bible remind us that Grace is a free gift that can not be earned. It is given simply by asking for it when we turn from sin and receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord

We believe there are two and that these two are in obedience and intentional to mark our relationship with Jesus that we received as free gift of His grace. Letís look at them.

Baptism (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-41)

A. The Meaning Ė The word Baptize comes right from the Greek word, Baptizo, and means to dip or to place into. When a fuller would die cloth, he or she would place the cloth into a vat of die. Jesus our Lord identified His betrayer in John 13:26, by giving him a piece of bread that He had dipped in the sauce. The King of kings and Lord of Lords is identified in Revelation 19:13, as one whose cloths were dipped in blood. In both places the word dipped is baptized. When a person turns from sin and receives Jesus as their Savior, that person has the Holy Spirit placed in him or her and that person is then placed into the Universal Church of God. John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and Paul says that Holy Spirit baptizes or places us all into the Body of Christ in 1 Cor. 12:13.

B. The Marking Ė Baptism marks three significant things in our lives and these are why believers are commanded to be baptized.

  • It Marks our Conversion. Baptism is a means to remember that I made a deliberate decision to turn from the old life to embrace a new life with Jesus (Cp. Acts 8:36-38, 16:33).
  • It Marks our Cleansing. (Acts 2:37-41). When one repents of their sin and embraces Jesus, God completely cleanses that personís heart and expunges their record of sins, because they have been covered by the blood of Jesus. The word for in this passage means because of and not in order to obtain. When you see a picture in the post office and it says, "Wanted for murder," it doesnít mean that they are looking to hire someone, it means because they have already killed someone. To be baptized for the remission of sins means because you have already been forgiven by the blood of Jesus. The water is a symbolic expression of that cleansing forgiveness.

3. It Marks our Confession (Romans 6:3-10). We are baptized as an expression to the world and to our God that we are committed to following Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus died and was buried and rose again, so baptism symbolizes our death to one life, and our resurrection to live a new life for God. It says, "I am unashamed to be identified as a Follower of Jesus Christ." Before the church, when ever someone turned from a pagan religion to embrace the one true God they would publicly be washed and would renounce the pagan idols and confess their faith in the one true God. John and Jesus brought this in to the church as a means of public confession. Therefore it is not for infants, rather, it is a conscious decision of a new believer regardless of their age.

C. The Method Ė I am convinced the best method of baptism is complete immersion into water when possible as a complete expression of total cleansing of the total person that is now totally set apart for following Jesus. I am not being humorous when I say that I donít think John baptized by bringing people to the river to splash them, nor do I believe that Paul just dipped up some water to pour on the Ethiopianís head. When possible, Baptism should be immersion. It is consistent with scripture and the meaning of the word. I do believe that for the sick, and the invalid, that another method is okay, but immersion is the preferred means. There should be no such thing as an un-baptized follower of Jesus. It is a first act of obedience for a new Christian. To not be baptized is to be disobedient, plain and simple. It is one time act that never needs to be repeated unless you were baptized as an infant or as a religious ritual to join a church or appease someone else. If you have not been baptized you will not lose your salvation, but you will not be blessed either. See me and we will arrange for you to follow Christ in this act of obedience. For you who have been baptized, take a moment and look back and remember that day when you publicly identified yourself as a Christ follower and recommit yourself to Him in gratitude of His grace and faithfulness. "Great is thy Faithfulness, Oh God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with theeÖ"

Breaking of Bread (Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) Our Catholic friends call this the Eucharist. We call it the Lordís Supper, the Lordís Table, or Communion. It was during a memorial meal called Passover, that our Lord instructed us to take regularly remember Him and His Covenant with us, by the use of symbolism. We are whether in the course of a meal, or just with the symbols to regularly focus on Him so that we ever forget what He did and what He has promised to do. The first Church was devoted to the Breaking of Bread, or communion. They often met to take their meals together and in the course of the meal they would pause and break bread and drink to remember Jesus. Iíll never forget Charles Stanley saying that the world drinks to forget, the church drinks to remember. I would like to tell you that there are at least 5 things we are to remember regularly. These are 5 things that are crucial to our walk with Jesus.

A. A Crucifixion (1 Cor. 11:24). We are to remember that God came as one of us, not to just teach us, though He did, not to be an example, though He was, but to die for us to pay for sins. Only an infinite and Holy God could become a man and die for the sins of billions and pay the infinite penalty for our sins. To do so, He allowed Himself to suffer horribly at the hands of His creation as Mel Gibson showed us in the Passion of the Christ. The bread, He said, was to be a reminder of His body given and broken for us. Though it cost you nothing, your forgiveness and life cost Him horrible pain and death. We eat to remember.

B. A Covenant (1 Cor. 11:25). The death of Jesus marked the beginning of a New relationship with God and His Children. For centuries he had promised a New Covenant. In fact our Bibles are called Old and New Covenants or Testaments. That God would forgive all our sins; that He would adopt all who receive Jesus; that He would live in them by His Holy Spirit; that he would write His laws on their hearts; that He would give them an eternal home is His pledge to us based on His own character and not on our conduct. Every time we drink this cup we remember those promises of His grace and mercy for us.

C. A Community (1 Cor. 10:16-17).We partake of this bread and cup together as a church and a family to demonstrate that Godís plan is for us to work in community with each other. We need each other. That is why there are so many one another verses in the New Testament. We are to minister to each other and love each other an build each other up just as Jesus has loved us. We are family with every other born again believer in the world.

D. A Commission (1 Cor. 11:26). Proclaiming the Lordís death and covenant is what we are all commissioned to do because without embracing them your family, and neighbors are lost and will spend eternity apart from God in hell. Listen to Luke 24:46-48.

E. A Coming Again (1 Cor. 11:26). Though we donít know when, we know He is coming again, and some time after that we are all, with Abraham and Issac and Moses and multitudes more are going to have a celebration meal with Jesus (Luke 22:15-18). What a day that will be?

Blessing Ė There you have it; two things that every church must do to. These are acts of obedience and means of remembering the grace and faithfulness of our God. This part of the sermon is real simple. Godís blessings are mostly in accordance with our obedience (James 1:25).

A. Have you been saved by Godís grace? The blessing of forgiveness and eternal life can come by no other means than personally repenting of sins and receiving Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Would you consider doing that now?

B. Have you been saved but not baptized? I urge you, donít be disobedient. See me and publicly confess your relationship with Jesus.

C. There are two conditions for taking communion with us today.

  • You must be saved, born again, follower of Jesus Christ. I didnít say, church goers, nor religious, but saved. If you know that you havenít received Jesus and for whatever reason wonít receive Jesus, donít partake with us. Let it pass. But if you have, regardless of what church you are from we invite you to join us.
  • You must come clean (1 Cor. 11:27ff). If you know you are in a sin and arenít willing to turn from it, donít partake with us, let it pass. Letís take a moment of introspection and look into our own hearts, inviting God as David did to search us and know us and see if there is any wicked way in us, and as He tells you, repent of it and He has promised to forgive you on the spot, right now (1 John 1:9). Letís take a quiet moment and do that now.

Read part 9

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman