Wednesday Evening Service, 7/29/09
Pastor Paine, Dan Lantis, and I were on a motorcycle ride in Oregon once, and every morning you’d get up and it would be that kind of overcast, drizzly day, but I knew that on the other side of those clouds there was sunshine. Don’t look at what you’re going through and complain; this too shall pass. You’re going to get through it.
I was reading an article last week, and it really ticked me off. A message has been brewing ever since.
> Up until last summer, Jennifer Gray of Columbus, Ohio, considered herself “a weak Christian” whose baptism at age 11 in a Kentucky church came to mean less and less to her as she gradually lost faith in God.
> Then the 32-year-old medical transcriptionist took a decisive step, one that previously hadn’t been available. She got “de-baptized.”
> In a type of mock ceremony that’s now been performed in at least four states, a robed “priest” used a hairdryer marked “reason” in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a “de-sacrament” (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had “freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition.”
> “It was very therapeutic,” Gray said in an interview. “It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs.”
> Within the past year, “de-baptism” ceremonies have attracted as many as 250 participants at atheist conventions in Ohio, Texas, Florida and Georgia. More have taken place on college campuses in recent years, according to Hemant Mehta, chair of the board of directors for the Secular Student Alliance, a group that promotes atheism among high school and college students.
> “If we’re having a winter solstice or summer solstice get-together or some other event, we might say: ‘Who wants to get de-baptized?’ ” said Greg McDowell, the Florida state director for American Atheists, an advocacy and networking group. “It’s a bit of satire. People will play the fool by waving their arms in the air and saying, ‘I got de-baptized!’ But the paperwork is still legit.”
> Some of the so-called “de-baptized” have used their certificates to petition churches to remove their names from baptismal rolls. One argument: they were baptized without their consent as children and should now be declared de-baptized.
> Some churches, however, aren’t budging on what they regard as an irreversible sacrament.
> Atheist Gary Mueller recently mailed his de-baptism certificate to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord, Calif., and asked to be dropped from its baptismal record. The church told him, in effect, that he was all wet.
> “While we do not remove a name/person from a Baptism register, we can note alongside your name that ‘you have left the Roman Catholic Church,’ ” the Rev. Richard Mangini replied in an e-mail. “I hope that God surprises you one day and lets you know that He is quite well.”
> In Christian theology, baptism can’t be undone. If a Southern Baptist renounces his or her baptism, then that person is usually presumed to have never received an authentic baptism in the first place, according to Nathan Finn, assistant professor of Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
> For mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, baptism is commonly understood as a sign or means of grace and a covenant that God maintains even when humans turn away, said Laurence Stookey, professor emeritus of preaching and worship at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. He said “de-baptizers” misunderstand baptism when they caricature it as an attempt at magic.
> Baptism “is a kind of adoption where you become a child of God, of the church and of the family,” Stookey said. “You can renounce your physical parents, (the church and God), but they cannot renounce you because you are their child. Anybody who makes fun of baptism probably hasn’t gone into it in enough depth to know that.”
> De-baptism efforts have been growing internationally in recent years. More than 100,000 Britons downloaded de-baptism certificates from the National Secular Society (NSS) between 2005 and 2009, according to NSS campaigner Stephen Evans. Upwards of 1,000 Italians requested de-baptism certificates prior to Italy’s “De-Baptism Day” last October, according to Italy’s Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
> “For a long time, non-religious people in the Bible Belt just kept quiet, but they aren’t keeping quiet anymore,” Zuckerman said. “I think that’s largely a reaction to George W. Bush’s presidency. (Atheists) were saying, ‘The government is being taken over by very religious people. We need to stand up and say: ‘We’re here. We’re secular. Deal with it.’ “
I think this is the one that upset me the most.
> Atheist groups expect more de-baptisms in years ahead. Mehta, of the Secular Students Alliance, says college groups already bring blow driers to campus recruitment events, offering to de-baptize undergraduates on the spot.
I wonder if they have the college Bible Studies groups recognized to recruit people into their study groups?
> Meanwhile, organizers of de-baptisms are broadening their mockery to include other religions. At the American Atheists’ national convention in Atlanta last April, the de-baptism event included a dance where women in burqas stripped down to red-sequined leotards, according to Blair Scott, the group’s national affiliate director.
> The goal, he said, was to say blasphemy shouldn’t be prohibited.
> “We made fun of Islam, we made fun of Hinduism, we made fun of Christianity with intent to be blasphemous on purpose to make a point” about a proposed anti-blasphemy initiative at the United Nations, Scott said. “It’s not done with malice or intent to offend. But anytime you criticize religion or poke fun at what atheists would call the sillier parts of religion, you’re going to offend somebody. There’s just no way around that.”
Wow! There are such incredible beliefs and attitudes that are in the world today. We who believe must be able to stand up and reason with those who don’t believe.
I wanted to go over some scriptures about what the purpose of baptism is, and what it isn’t. Then I’d like to focus on why we should stand up and uphold baptism as an important part of Christian life.
Baptism isn’t a ritual to join the church.
You don’t get baptized to join the church. You don’t get baptized because you’re afraid, and so “just in case, I’ll get baptized.” You hear the message of salvation that Jesus has to offer, and stand up like the men in the book of Acts and say, “My heart and pricked; what shall I do?” The first message to a lost person isn’t baptism; it’s repentance. You’ve got to acknowledge the sin in your life and ask God for forgiveness. Then, in that acknowledgement, you must be buried in baptism. Sprinkling isn’t burial. If you put a dead body in a cemetary with a handful of dirt sprinkled over it, they’d arrest you! Burial means putting the body into the ground, covering it with dirt, and leaving it there. The problem with the church today is that people want to dig that old man back out of the ground.
Baptism is far more than getting wet.
- 1. a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event;
* good or obvious cause to do something: we have reason to celebrate.
* Logic: a premise of an argument in support of a belief.
- 2. the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic: there is a close connection between reason and emotion.
* what is right, practical, or possible; common sense: people are willing, within reason, to pay for schooling.
* (one’s reason) one’s sanity: she is in danger of losing her reason.
- (verb, intransitive) think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.
- (verb, transitive) (reason something out) find an answer to a problem by considering various possible solutions.
* (reason with) persuade (someone) with rational argument: I tried to reason with her, but without success.
- Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
- If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
God want to reason with you; he doesn’t force you to live for him.
When someone writes “Reason” on the side of a blow-dryer, that doesn’t make sense. Where is the persuasion? You can’t blow away guilt. You cannot blow away sin. You cannot blow away a promise made to God. That is an impossibility. It’s not logical; it’s not reasonable to think that you can. We need to understand that the purpose of baptism was for cleansing and purification. Look at the use of water in God’s plan for the church, and for the world.
- In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
- And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
- And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
After that, man lived in the garden, transgressed, and spread out over the land. Man sinned in not recognizing God as God, and in doing whatever he wanted without regard to God’s commandments. So God buried the whole earth in water. He saved Noah for his righteousness, but he didn’t save his wife and children because of their righteousness. He saved them because of Noah’s righteousness. Who would you be able to save in an ungodly world because of your righteousness?
When Lot left the side of Abraham, he left the source of his blessing. While he stayed with Abraham, everything he had was blessed and grew. But as soon as he left, he was taken captive. After being restored by God’s grace on Abraham, he still didn’t learn his lesson. He turned back toward the city. When God sent an angel to tell him to leave, he tried to persuade his family to come with him. But because Lot lived a life of compromise, only his two eldest daughters and his wife came with him.
God wants you to live a life without compromise, so that God can spread an umbrella of righteousness over you.
We know the story of the flood. Later on, God saved Israel by leading them through the Red Sea. Israel passed through the water again.
When Israel was in danger of dying of thirst in the wilderness, God brought forth water out of a rock, which was symbolic of the water that came forth from Christ’s side.
We learned last week that the priests had to wash in water before they entered the holy place. It wasn’t for cleansing from dirt. It was a symbol of purification.
When a woman had her time, she had to sit without the camp for seven days. And before she came back in, she had to wash, as a symbol of purification.
Purification isn’t just an Old Testament thing.
- And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
In the church, you should have an understanding of baptism and purification, so that you can reason with those who would come against the gospel.
- Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
God wants us to make that choice of our own will, saying “I am unclean; I want to be clean. I am ungodly; I want to be godly. I have no peace; I want peace.” God says, “Your sin is terrible, but I can offer you eternal life. I can offer you joy. I can offer you stability.”
After the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God brought them through the waters again, when they crossed the Jordan river.
When I talk to somebody about death, I talk to them about crossing the threshold into a new existence. We don’t understand it, but we have the promise that God went to prepare a place for us. Getting baptized is also a crossing into a new existence. That crossing over, that getting baptized, is a choice we must willingly make. That’s why we don’t baptized infants. We’ve decided that we won’t baptize anybody under the age of twelve, because a child of seven or eight can’t really understand what the choice entails. When a child becomes a man or woman, when they reach that age of reason, then they can really make that choice in understanding.
In today’s church there is no “casual Christian.” You can’t be a lukewarm Christian. You’re either going to be righteous or you’re going to be lost. You’re going to understand the choice that you made or you’re going to be lost. God is not going to judge you for eternity based on what you did for an hour or two in this building. God is going to judge you based on what you did while you were home with your family and while you were out by your self.
God says we should hate the garment spotted by the flesh. Ladies, you’re careful to guard your purse. We must take the same care to secure your eternity.
- Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
The church, God’s church, (not the building), has reasoned and determined to follow God. As a pastor, I’ve laid hands on people and seen God do miracles. It wasn’t me, but I was in touch with God and God used me to touch somebody else.
Your salvation has got to matter. You’ve got to keep your mind cleansed. Don’t look back across that river and say, “I’d rather go back into captivity.” Elisha showed his power by parting the water with Elijah’s mantle. Naaman was cleansed not because he was washed in the Jordan river, but because he was obedient.
There is a story about three truck driver who went to a job interview. The employer called them in one at a time and showed them a picture of a hairpin curve on the side of a mountain. You could see in the picture where trucks had missed the curve to crash in the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. The employer asked the first driver, “How close can you come to the edge of that curve without going over?” The driver answered confidently that he could get within four inches with no problem. The employer said, “Thank you; that’s all. We’ll call if we need you.” The second man was called in and asked the same question. He answered, “I’ve got a good steady eye; I can get within a foot. The response again was, “Thank you; that’s all. We’ll call if we need you.” The third man was called in, but as soon as he saw the picture, he got up to leave. “Wait; where are you going,” asked the employer. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not your man. I’m going to stay as far away from the edge of that cliff as I can get.” The employer said, “You’re hired.”
God doesn’t want you to see how close you can get to the world. Why use words that sound like swear-words? Why use a vocabulary that sounds so close to profanity that people have to ask you what you said? God wants righteous, holy, godly, pure, cleansed people. He doesn’t want people who wear a mask to look like everybody else. If you’re married, would you want your wife to hang out with everybody else and come home once in a while? Would you want your husband to visit only when he wants his clothes washed? But that’s what we do to God! You say, “God I love you,” but then you go whoring after the world!
Can people tell by your conversation that you’re a Christian? Or do they wonder? You can look at a crowd and tell if there’s a Marine in it. Everybody wants to wear the uniform, but they don’t want to go lie in the mud getting shot at in Afghanistan. There’s a price to pay to wear that uniform. And there’s a price to pay to call your
- Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
- He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
We know that when Christ’s side was pierced, there came forth both water and blood.
- But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
- This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
- For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
It doesn’t say they are like one; it doesn’t say they agree in one; it says they are one.
- And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
What do they agree in? Salvation requires all three. You can’t get half-baptized. That’s like getting half-born.
- Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
- The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
I remember when a guy came up to Pastor Paine on the streets of Waukegan and confronted him, saying “You can’t show me one place in the Bible where it says you have to be baptized for salvation!” Pastor Paine opened up his Bible to 1 Peter 3:21 and read it. The guy just grabbed his Bible and stormed off.
If you planned to get baptized but never did it, know that there are only two books going to be opened in heaven, the book of works and the book of life. There is no book of intents. God doesn’t care what you “intend”; God cares what you do.
This decision we make is a decision for life; not a decision of convenience. If you live a life of convenience, you’ll answer for that.
- In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
- Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
- And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
- Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Our circumcision is a circumcision of the heart. Is your heart toward God, or is it toward the world?
- A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
Just because you’re religious, or have a belief in God, or had someone prophesy over you, doesn’t mean that you’re saved. A decision you made ten years ago doesn’t mean you’re saved today. What makes the difference is that you cherish that decision every day.
God lets you know when you’re going astray. I remember a few hours after I got baptized, God spoke to me and said, “You will never return to sin, because if you do, I’ll take your life.” It was a powerful experience. I said, “Okay, God; I’ve got the message.” But I was twenty-four years old, and at twenty-four years old, you’re invincible. At twenty-four years old, you’ve got Alzheimer’s. You remember what you want to. So when I went home on leave and got in touch with some old friends, I did some things I shouldn’t have. When I got back, Pastor Davis said to me, “Son, I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but I see the death angel over your shoulder.” I prayed to God for another chance, and I’ve never had Alzheimer’s on that subject ever since.
The book of Romans talks about being grafted in.
- For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
If you live an ungodly life, God will separate you. But if you love and honor him, God will love and honor you.
- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
That scripture isn’t about asking for new sneakers or a better car. That scripture is about asking for what you need to fulfill your ministry.
When Saul spoke with God, God told him to go to Damascus and wait there. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? He had talked with God and couldn’t see. Then a man said, “Brother Saul, receive thy sight.” But he wasn’t saved until he got baptized.
Even if someone convinces you that you can take a blow-dryer and get “de-baptized”, you can still come back to God. When you come to your senses, God will welcome you back, put the ring on your finger and bring out the fatted calf. Your reward will be different, because of that period of disobedience, but that’s a different Bible study.
What is preventing you from spending time in fellowship? How many of you call your brothers and sisters at lunchtime, just to have a prayer with them? The church has got to stay in touch with God, and you can stay in touch with God through your brothers and sisters. But if you separate yourself from prayer, from fellowship, from study, why are you surprised when you find yourself in sin?
Anything that won’t last for eternity doesn’t really mean anything. Cherish your eternity, church. If we only had hope in this life, if we didn’t have the promise of eternal life, we’d be of all men most miserable. But I’m not miserable. I might be going through some rainy days, some financial difficulties, some family problems, but that doesn’t matter. I know that the sun is shining on the other side of those clouds. What matters is my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Your salvation matters to God. He paid the ultimate price: he suffered on Calvary not so that you could do whatever you want, but so that you could wear the family name. God doesn’t care how many mistakes you make, as long as you keep coming back to him.
We must care about people’s salvation. We’ve got to wear that breastplate of salvation. That article should anger you. God has something better for you. Be persuaded in your own mind. Come, let us reason together.