Now that the holidays are past, do you still enjoy family gatherings? Are you looking forward to celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, weddings, graduations and other events in 2006 with your extended family? Hopefully so!
When it comes to church family gatherings, we grow together in many ways. Yet, one of our most joyful celebrations is baptism. This outward, visible sign points to an inward, spiritual reality. Like the New Year itself, baptism marks a new beginning. Consider, for example, Jesus’ encounter with John the Baptist.
Believe and Be Baptized – (Mark 1:4-8) John bore witness to Jesus: “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1:8). What does this mean? In Scripture baptism has a literal and figurative meaning. Literally, to baptize means to immerse. Figuratively, to baptize means to be identified with Someone. The literal meaning is plain enough. John’s baptism for repentance was a cleansing by immersion in water. When John the Baptist declared that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit, he was speaking figuratively. He was declaring that all who come to Christ are born into the family of God, are given newness of life and the gift of God’s Spirit within. This fresh start and new beginning is recognizable by others because of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.
When Jesus gave his Great Commission he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt.28:18-19). Just as believing and receiving Christ as Savior and Leader is an initial step in discipleship, being baptized is a turning point in one’s faith journey toward deeper fellowship and membership in one’s church family.
Belong and Be Loved – (Mark 1:9-11) It’s exciting when maturing Christians look back on their baptism as a turning point in their lives. Such has been the case for Frank and Nicky Turner. As a news anchor at Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV Channel 7, millions of metro Detroiters know and appreciate Frank’s broadcast journalism, as well as his dynamic Christian faith.
Frank Turner is a Spirit-filled communicator and an engaging evangelist. Since becoming a dedicated disciple of Christ in 1999, he has been speaking in drug-treatment centers, at conferences and at metro-Detroit churches nearly every weekend. He delights in his complimentary careers. Frank notes, “God has called me to preach. The gospel is Good News and I’m a newsman!”
But it wasn’t always this way. In 1998 this award-winning journalist lost his news anchor job at WXYZ-TV – and nearly lost his life – because of his destructive lifestyle, which included an addiction to cocaine and alcohol. As he tells it, he had long been in a personal tailspin. By 1998 his $2000-a-week cocaine habit had fully-engulfed him in a professional crash-and-burn.
Yet, God had other plans for Frank’s future. Turner likens his transformation from spiritual and near-physical death, to new life in Christ as a Lazarus-type resurrection (John 11:38-44). In King James English he quips, “Being dead for four days, Lazarus ‘stinketh’. When I was dead in sin, my life ‘stinketh’, too!”
Frank and Nicky were baptized together at a church in Detroit in 1999. They both cite their commitment to Christ and their baptism as the turning point in their lives. In fact, Frank boldly asserts that at the moment of his baptism, God miraculously and thoroughly delivered him from his despondency and drug addiction. He felt God’s forgiveness and mercy envelop and embrace him. Now Frank Turner serves a new Master. The Lord is using his compelling testimony in incredible ways.
A new beginning and a changed life will often amaze us. We celebrate God’s grace, Christ’s love and the Spirit’s power. It’s incredible what Jesus does in a life that is fully-dedicated to worshiping and serving him to the glory of God. Jesus takes our abilities, interests, personalities and life experiences. He transforms them according to his plans and purposes. But the beginning point for many is believers’ baptism – an outward witness to an inward change, a change from living for oneself to living for one’s Savior. (Gary Bruland)
Sermon brief provided by: Gary Bruland, Pastor of West Shore Baptist Ch., Camp Hill, PA