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Baptism – What’s the Big Deal?

Every year, usually in the summer, I like to preach a sermon on baptism. Often, simply mentioning the word ‘baptism,’ evokes a lot of emotion. For those who grew up in church, whatever kind of church that was, baptism was probably a part of your church experience. Whether you were sprinkled as a baby or you got baptized at a camp because the girl you liked got baptized, or whatever your experience has been, that experience has shaped your view of baptism.  And so, even now, if you hear the word “baptism,” it conjures up certain memories and emotions.  And then, on top of all that, for those who didn’t grow up in church, this whole baptism deal sounds just plain weird!  I mean, think about it, you’re dunking someone in water! 

My hope in preaching, talking or just sharing my thoughts on baptism is not to twist arms, point fingers or pass judgment, but rather discover truth with humility and grace. Regardless of your background, my prayer is that all of us will be open to simply ask, “What does the Bible teach us?” It sounds simple, but sometimes I think we can let our traditions, pride, “what will my parents think,” or whatever other obstacles there are, keep us from the simple truth and just following it.

The issue of baptism has been controversial for centuries and has divided churches and Christians, but it need not be that way. Yes, there are some polarizing perspectives concerning baptism, but when we approach this topic with a willingness simply to study what the New Testament teaches, we begin to discover some common ground. We discover that baptism is not just a ritual act of spiritual cleansing; it is identification with the One who makes us spiritually clean. Baptism does not cause us to be born again; it connects us to the One who gives us rebirth. Testimonies I hear again and again are from people who were baptized as a baby; a decision made by their parents. But now, they have an opportunity to decide for themselves to express their faith in Jesus Christ through baptism.

Rather than arguing with people who may see things differently, we can serve faithfully, humbly, and lovingly to point people back to the Scriptures more than church tradition. One of the sayings used in the Christian Church/Church of Christ movement is, "The Bible is the norm of our faith and practice, and church history is our guide." We learn from theologians, church councils, and church leaders from the past, and they can be a guide to our faith, but the Bible, God's Holy Word, has the final say in what we believe and how we practice those beliefs. I always encourage people not to believe something just because I say it or write it. Go to the Scripture and study for yourself. Pray and seek God's direction. Grow in a Christ-centered community for mutual edification and accountability. Experience the joy of worship and praise of the One who gives us life, meaning, hope and love. And may your baptism, your immersion, be more than just in a pool of water, may it be in the life of our Lord and Savior who sets us free from sin and death.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Who Gets to Set the Limits of Freedom?

This week we will celebrate the 242ndanniversary of the Second Continental Congress’s Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, roughly 56 delegates “declared” that the thirteen American colonies were a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire.

And here we are many generations removed, and although our nation may have gained her independence, our country continues to struggle with exactly what that means.

What does freedom mean to you? That you get to do whatever you want? If that’s the case then law, marriage, religion, friendship, in fact, any kind of relational connection where we submit ourselves for the good of others are cast aside and chaos reigns.

Most people will accept some limits to their freedom. You’re not free to harm or murder someone. You’re not free to steal from someone. The bond of marriage means—or should mean—that you’re not free to sleep with whomever you want. The bond of parenting means—or should mean—that you’re not free to abuse your children or even let them have “free reign.”

Most of us accept the fact that we have freedom within limits—but here’s the key question: Who gets to set those limits? Who decides where to put the boundary markers so that the order of society exists, and people are indeed “free” to live their lives in the confines of safety and security for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Stanley Hauerwas was a brilliant professor at Duke University who wrote, “moral life cannot be found by each person pursuing his or her own options.” In relativism, all we have is a set of options. The only way we will ever learn the meaning of freedom is by the formation of a virtuous people centered on transcendent values.

As we remember the brave declaration of the 56 delegates from the Second Continental Congress, may we heed the warning given by Ravi Zacharias: “Freedom is not the same thing as autonomy. Freedom does not mean I am a law unto myself. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, speaking to a hostile university audience that jeered him, stopped in the middle, and in non-regal language said, `Shut up! Freedom can be destroyed as easily by making a mockery of it as it can by its retraction.’”

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free . . . I am . . . the truth” (Jesus—John 8:32; 14:6).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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