Monday, February 19, 2018

Because We Are Not Guilty

And this is why God looks at you in Christ and sees perfection.  Every day.  Outside of Christ, “If God were to mark iniquities, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).  But in Christ, there is no condemnation.  This means that we must learn to confess our sins as forgiven sinners.  We don’t confess our sins to get justified; we confess our sins because we are justified.  We follow and obey Jesus not because we are guilty but because we are free.  We learn to refuse to walk in sin because we learn that we have died to sin and are alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6).  We can do this all because we call Jesus, “the Lord our Righteousness.”

Baptizing Them

We are a reformed church – and a reforming church.  When this congregation began we were self-consciously a reformed Baptist church.  That is, we only performed baptisms on those who had made a credible profession of faith.  But from the beginning as well, we have stressed to parents to raise their children believing the promises of God for their children – that is for their salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit – according to the preaching of Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Because of this teaching, many of us began to re-examine our doctrine of baptism and came to the conviction that the Scriptures teach that children of believing parents should receive this rite of baptism and as soon as they are able to partake at the Lord’s Table, they should come to the Table as well.  We began to see that they were covenant children, part of God’s family, and that they should be identified as such, instructed as such, and fed as such.

Well, what to do?  Some of us came to this conviction, but some of us did not.  Some came and joined our congregation with this conviction – and many have come and joined us believing that Baptism was for those who had made a profession of faith first.  One thing that we determined to do in all of this – is NOT to split the church over this issue.  And so, we have developed a way of ministering to families based on their conviction on baptism while continuing to emphasize the promises of God for parents with regard to their children.  This is what we call our baptismal cooperation agreement.

Sounds crazy?  Yep – many think so.  But we don’t.  We believe it is a glorious manifestation of the church in the state of being matured, not having figured out everything, not being overly scrupulous with convictions, and working hard to grow together up into the unity of faith.

So – this morning we have a wonderful example for you all to enjoy and rejoice with us – but I want to explain it to you and its context now – because it could raise some questions for you otherwise in just a few minutes.  Larry and Julia Badillo have been attending our church for some months and are going to become members soon.  They have four wonderful children, Emma, Mateo, Jude, and Siena.  The Badillos were Baptists and none of their children have yet been baptized.  But as they came to understand the promises of God for their children, they became convinced that all of their children should be baptized.

Some other families have done this at other times in the life of our church – and when they have, we have still asked the children old enough to make a profession of faith too – and so with the oldest three Badillo children we will do the same.  But in most cases, we have then sprinkled all of the children as the mode of baptism – based on the pictures of baptism we have and the outpouring or sprinkling of the Holy Spirit upon the nations and upon individuals.  This pictures the washing and anointing of the Spirit.

However, with the Badillos, out of respect for their past convictions as well as in honor of Julia’s parents who are here to celebrate with us, we are going to immerse Emma, Mateo, and Jude for their baptisms  - this pictures the planting and the death and resurrection pictures of baptism mentioned in Romans 6 for instance.

In Ephesians 4 we are instructed that there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  We agree, and as far as these baptisms, the different administrations and the different modes, we declare that we are still declaring that there is one baptism and one alone.  This baptism is the declaration by God through His church that He has purchased these ones with the blood of His Son and they are His.  This is the mark of their identity, their new identity, in Jesus Christ.  As you witness these baptisms, you are charged to remember your own baptism, to be grabbed by that baptism again and to hear God speak to you in that baptism – “you are mine and I am yours – you come and follow me.”

Partaking of Freedom

As you come to this Table as a baptized member of the body of Christ, you come to the Table to partake of freedom.  This Table declares freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from guilt, freedom to love like Christ, freedom to forgive like Jesus, freedom to give yourself away for others like Christ – only to find Your life more fully in Christ.

You have died with Christ to be raised with Christ to now live in Christ as you continue to feed on Christ and enjoy Him more and more today and forever.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Forgiveness Like God Does

Christ - grants forgiveness immediately, and so we should do the same.  Jesus came to seek the sick, not the healthy.  He came to forgive sinners for their inexcusable sins.  He was looking to extend forgiveness, not looking to see if He could find it in His heart to forgive.  even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” 
Christ forgives our sins fully and completely, no matter how wicked the sin was.  Trespasses against us are always much smaller in ratio than our trespasses against the infinite, perfect, holy God of heaven.  even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
Christ does not put us in a state of probation or purgatory.  Christ does not put us in a period of testing to see if we really mean it.  He restores us each time we confess our sins to full fellowship with Him.  even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
Christ does not stop forgiving us, even when we sin again and again.  How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin?  even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Baptism Exhortation Feb 4, 2018

Psalm 128 says, “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants all around your table.  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (vv3-4).

The children of Christian, covenant-keeping homes, are likened to olive plants.  Olive plants were the holiest of all the vegetation in the old covenant symbolic system – the oil flowing from them was a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  And so this teaches us much.

God considers your covenant children as holy and this rite of baptism is that declaration – a declaration made by God through the church.  Because we view our covenant children as olive plants, we are not waiting for their conversion experience; rather, committed to training them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, we disciple them from the get go as disciples, followers of Christ.  We look for fruit, not for evidence of conversion, but as ongoing confirmation that what God is working in them is working itself out. 

The Holy Spirit is at work already in the lives of your children – God has promised this.  You are to stand on those promises and parent Natalie and her sisters according to those promises, calling upon the One Who also was born, but was born to take away their sin by His death on the Cross.

A Table of Mercy

To come to this Table, which all who are baptized are summoned to do “as often as you do this,” is to come to the Table of Mercy and Delight.  This is a memorial for God, where He delights in the mercy He has given us through His Son and He delights over those to whom He has given this mercy.

It displays the great cost of that mercy, for that mercy was purchased, fully and completely, through the death of God’s Son on the Cross.  His body was broken, His blood was shed.  And God remembers that here at the Table with us.

It also displays the great efficaciousness of that mercy.  We have become that one loaf, that one body, knit together – and so we partake together of that one loaf.  And the blood of the new covenant has become a cup of delight – of fellowship and rejoicing – in the wine of mercy refined -  intoxicating mercy.  And God remembers that here at the Table as well.

And so come in the name of Jesus, to the Table of Jesus and partake of Jesus by faith – in the company of the Father and in the mercy of the Holy Spirit.

Dirty Lips

You are about to enter into the courts of the Lord.  You are at the entrance even this moment.  Are you clean?  You are about to use your lips and tongue to praise the living and most holy God.  What have they been saying up to this point?

James warns us that you can’t spew hatred, vile words, complaining and whining at God, blasphemies, lewd porn-language, or any other vain thing – you can’t spew those things out of your mouth in one moment and then praise and thanksgiving to God in another – and think He will not notice.  Not only will He notice, not only will He not receive it, He will hate it and bring His discipline down upon it.

This is true for us as individuals, it is true for us in our homes, and it is true for our nation.  Our national leaders cannot speak blasphemies about or to God, or speak of the world in such a way as to deny His existence or sovereign lordship on the one hand, and then turn and say such things as “God bless America” on the other hand.  God’s hand of discipline is hard upon our land and growing harder.  He will not have such idolatry.  He will not have such hypocrisy.

And so what to do?  This is why we come to worship this God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who transforms us from the inside out so that there is no longer vileness, nastiness, malice, envy, pride, self-pity, whining or complaining.  Having saved us from our bondage to such things, we may notice them in us still striving to rule, but we have the authority in Christ to put them off now – and we have the strength to do so in Christ by His Spriit – and to put on Christ – and to now dwell on and speak of things true, good and beautiful – of things strong and powerful for the kingdom, of things that tear down the strongholds of fear, abuse, and scorn.  The Gospel has saved you from such things and from the author of those things, even the devil himself.  Amen.