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Going Public

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Sunday, June 4, 2017 - 11:00am
Acts 8:26-39
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This morning we continue our series called What If. And the goal of the series is simple. It's to turn What If into What Is. As a church, we want to live out what we believe to be true. We want to become more than believers in Jesus. We want to become disciples of Jesus. We want to narrow the 18 inch gap between our head and our heart.

Two weeks ago we discovered that we are loved. All of us are loved by God who is love. Like the song by Hawk Nelson says, "Live like you're loved. Walk like you're free. Stand like you know who He made you to be."

Matt picked up on that last week in his teaching on identity. Not only are we loved, but as believers in Jesus we are treasured. We are redeemed. We are not alone. That may not be how others see us or how we always see ourselves, but that's how God views us. That's the truth about who we are and that's how God wants us to view ourselves. That's our identity in God's eyes. And living into our identity is huge.

Now today I want to talk about our identity in the eyes of others. Jesus wants us to openly identify with him and go public with our faith. He doesn't want us to hide our light under a bowl, he says. Instead, he wants us to shine brightly. And he's given us all a simple and powerful way to do that.

He states it clearly in Matthew 28:18-20, the passage we call the Great Commission. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Baptism is one way we publicly identify ourselves with Jesus. It's certainly not the only way, but it is a significant way according to Jesus. If you want to narrow the gap between What If and What Is then be baptized. That will narrow the gap completely.

One of my favorite baptism stories is found in the book of Acts. If you have a Bible turn with me to Acts 8:26-38. I want to look at the story and make some observations.

Acts 8:26, Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza."

The Great Commission is to "go and make disciples" and so we see Philip going, taking the good news of Jesus out of Jerusalem and into Gaza, widening the circle of the gospel.

Philip had just been in Samaria leading a robust revival, miracles were happening, people were getting healed and coming to Christ. It was nuts! And now the Spirit directs him to his next assignment, a lonely desert road about 50 miles southwest of Jerusalem. And when he gets there he looks both ways and sees absolutely nothing, not a house, not a car, not a person, nothing, except sand! And he wonders, what's this? Sometimes God takes us out of the action and leads us into the desert and when we get there we wonder, what's this?

Look at verse 27, So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Candace (which means "queen of the Ethiopians"). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.

In the distance, Philip sees a cloud of dust and then a chariot coming over the horizon. And in the chariot is an African man, a man of color, from Ethiopia who held a very prestigious position. He was in charge of the treasury of Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. And he was a eunuch, ouch! That means he had an operation to curb his sex drive so he could take care of the royal harem.

He had been in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple and no doubt had heard about the recent crucifixion of a man named Jesus. Now he was on his way home reading the book of Isaiah, hopefully not while he was driving. Not a good idea!

Look at verse 29, The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." 30Then Philip ran up to the chariot, while it was stopped at a red light (that's in the Greek text!), and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." 34The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?"

Wow, church, this is one of those "random experiences" we talked about a couple of weeks ago. The Spirit leads Philip to a deserted road at just the right time to meet a man who just happens to be reading Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53 is one of the most detailed prophecies of the crucifixion of Jesus found anywhere in the Old Testament. It was written 700 years before the events that had just occurred in Jerusalem. And now the man wants to know, who was the lamb that was slain? Talk about throwing a pitch right down the middle of the plate. What a set up!

Verse 35, Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Jesus is the one Isaiah is writing about. Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain. He's the Messiah who's come not just to save Israel, but all who believe in him. And the eunuch does! He believes in Jesus and right away he wants to take the next step.

Look at verse 36, As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?"

Philip's like, "Ah, well, sure. Do you have your bathing suit?"

 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Somewhere in his explanation of the good news, Philip told the man about the importance of baptism and going public with his faith in Jesus. And he's ready. So the first puddle they see the eunuch says, "Stop the chariot. Let's jump in!"

You gotta love it! You gotta admire the response of this man. There was no gap between what he believes and how he responds. Philip tells him about Jesus, invites him to believe and be baptized and that's exactly what he does! What If becomes What Is for this man, immediately.

Verse 39, And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

Immediately, Philip's mission is accomplished and he's beamed up for his next assignment. The eunuch is left scratching his head, wondering what happened to the guy. And he continues his journey with joy. Joy, that's what obedience to Jesus brings. It always brings joy! It's a great story and baptism is an important part of it.

So what about you? Have you believed in Jesus like the eunuch? Have you been baptized like this man? If you have, the gap is closed. You've responded to Jesus' command, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If not, it's time to close the gap.

Baptism is the first step after faith. It marks the beginning of the journey with Jesus, not the end. If you've been a believer in Jesus for a few minutes, like the eunuch, or for a few decades, it's time to find that puddle and be baptized.

Now, let me give you a few instructions about baptism so you can appreciate this symbol of identity that Jesus intended. The word baptism means "to dip, immerse or plunge."

Baptism was a marketplace term in Jesus' day. It was used in the clothing industry. A fuller who dyed cloth would take a piece of white cloth and dip it into a vat of colored dye to change it from white to purple or to red or whatever color was in the vat. The cloth would be baptized and its identity would be changed.

Baptism symbolizes a change in our identity when we believe in Jesus. When we trust in Jesus we're washed. Our sins are cleansed. We're redeemed. We're forgiven. Water baptism doesn't make us a believer in Jesus. Instead, water baptism identifies us as believers in Jesus. It's a powerful symbol that our identity has been changed.

I often compare baptism to a wedding ring. When Jennifer and I were married on October 26, 1985, after saying our vows to each other we exchanged rings. The rings didn't marry us. Our vows married us. But the rings were our way of going public with our new identity as husband and wife.

And that's what baptism is. Baptism is like a wedding ring. Baptism doesn't give us a relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus begins when we believe in him. Baptism is our way of going public with that relationship. It outwardly identifies us with him.

Baptism is not a sign that we've arrived spiritually and have it altogether. The eunuch was just starting out and I'm sure he had lots of questions about his faith. Baptism is not for super saints. No. Baptism is a sign that we're ready to begin the journey of following Jesus. Just like we put the wedding ring on the day we say "I do." We don't wait until our marriage has matured and is perfect and we have everything figured out. If that was the case, the rings would still be in the box!

Here at Valley View we baptize by immersion. On July 30 we'll gather around the swimming pool of John and Laurie Tall and we'll ask two questions to those who are getting baptized. The first question has to do with who Jesus is. "Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?"

The second question has to do with what Jesus did for us and our desire to follow him. "Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sin, was buried, rose again and you're ready to follow him in baptism?" If you can answer "yes" to both those questions you're ready to be baptized.

Over the years I've often been asked the question, "Do I need to be baptized if I was baptized or christened as a baby?" That's a great question. I had that one myself. I was baptized as a baby two months after I was born. But that wasn't my choice. That was the decision my parents made. I made my own decision to be baptized when I was 17 years old. And that's the key. Baptism in the New Testament is always a choice. Baptism must be your decision not someone else's.

So if you were baptized or christened as a child, I think getting baptized on your own is a wonderful way to fulfill the desire of your parents who hoped that you would one day follow Jesus.

Often parents ask me, "How old does my child have to be to be baptized?" We have no age limit for baptism here. Our only request is that children who believe in Jesus understand what baptism is and can explain it in their own words. It must be their choice, not the choice of mom or dad. If they can answer "yes" to those two questions they can be baptized.

I say the same thing to parents who ask me, "How old do my children have to be to come to the Lord's Table?" Old enough to understand what the Lord's Table is about and able to explain it in their own words. The cup stands for Jesus' blood and the bread for his broken body. It must be their choice to come to the Table, not the choice of mom or dad.

I love to see kids and their parents come to the Lord's Table. And I love to see kids and their parents in the pool being baptized together. It's wonderful to be part of a faith community where parents and kids are all following Jesus. In fact, I'll be teaching on baptism to Valley Kids later this month.

So if you've put your faith in Jesus and have never been baptized it's time to go public. It's time to narrow the gap and turn What If into What Is.

We have baptism brochures on the resource table and information on our website. And every Sunday starting today a staff member will be available up front to give you more specific information and answer any questions you might have about our upcoming baptism bash.

It will be held on Sunday, July 30, at 1:00 p.m. at the beautiful pool of John and Laurie Tall just a few blocks from here off of Arcola Road on Hoy Circle. Directions are on the resource table. It's always a great day for the community! Plan now on being there to be baptized and to help celebrate those who will be baptized.

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