Out of the Water and Into the Fire
Baptisms • Sermon • Submitted
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In 2006, I was deployed to Kandahar Afghanistan. Upon returning, I had some time off, and was fortunate enough to get to spend time with my then, three-year old son David, and 1 and a half year old son, Chase. When I left for my deployment, Chase was sitting up and slowly scooting around. In the basement of our twin-home, Chase decided that it would be fun to dart up the stairs. For those parents here, do you remember that time between not crawling and crawling? For most, it was a gradual process, right? Not so with Chase. In a matter of a few months (my deployment wasn’t that long), Chase went from barely scooting himself across the room and sitting up to crawling like he had some sort of jet propulsion. I remember sitting him down with some toys, and sat on the sofa to watch some TV. I was warned by his mother that “Oh, Chase can crawl now, so watch out.” Okay, I thought, he barely started. How fast can he be? I know for a fact that it was less than 30 seconds between when I sat him down with his toys, and I sat down, because I looked over at him right after sitting down to hear him giggle as he was almost half-way up the stairs. Like any father, I nearly panicked. I ran after him, thinking “What is he DOING?!” When I got to the bottom of the stairs, he had turned, stood up with the help of the handrail, and said “Catch!” as he jumped. Not cool, son. NOT COOL. Needless to say, I was 25 and sprouted a few grey hairs that day. And he’s caused me more than a few since then.
For those of you who don’t know Chase that well, he’s never been one to rush into anything. He’s definitely a social introvert, who mulls things over for a long while before he decides on anything, and when he has committed to a course, my recommendation is to get out of the way! Stacy and I have always had a policy in our home, and frankly, I am sure that it would surprise many of you: all matters of faith must be YOUR decision, nobody else’s. Unlike many people, Stacy and I do not want our children to inherit our faith. We want them to develop their own on their own faith journey, however it may look. In fact, we have never forced the boys to go to church since they became old enough and mature enough to stay at home alone (the exception being if we are heading to a church more than a half-hour away, in the event of an emergency, in which case they were told that they can hang out in the fellowship hall or my office), nor forced them to keep the Sabbath; we only asked that whatever their decision, that they not do anything that would cause US to break the Sabbath. And Chase, never one to rush into a decision, has exercised that option, and on numerous occasions, with no harm and no foul from Stacy or I. In fact, we encouraged him to explore, broadly, matters of faith, and whatever he chose, we would support, be it Atheism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It always had to be their decision. As many of you know, David made that choice about a year ago, and is now a proud member of the Broken Bow Seventh-day Adventist Church. Chase has always been very quiet about his thoughts and feelings on matters of faith. We never pushed him, and let him decide what he wanted to do on his own. He had to discover for himself who he was and what kind of man he wanted to grow into.
Thinking on this led me to my Scripture reading for today. Turn with me in your Bibles or Bible apps to :
English Standard Version Chapter 3
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Let me set the stage for you, to give you an idea of what is going on around Jesus at this time: Jesus is 30 years old, and just beginning His public ministry. His cousin, John, was out in the wilderness, wearing the most crazy getup of camel hair with a leather belt, subsisting on locust and wild honey, and proclaiming that “the Kingdom of God is at hand!” This is a man that publicly rebuked the Pharisees and scribes and Sadduccees, calling everyone to turn away from sin and be baptized as a sign of their new life and commitment to God. People then begin talking, as people do, of whether or not this crazy man in the desert is the Christ Himself. When asked, he tells them “No, and in fact, while I baptize with water, HE is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire! THAT one, who makes me look small and weak, I’m not even worthy to untie his sandal.” Think on this: this guy, who stood up to the religious figures with absolute impunity, said that the one he is preparing the way for is more powerful than himself. Imagine the awe of the crowd. Other gospels tell us that when Jesus appeared, John cried out “BEHOLD! THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!”
Many people have asked the question as to why Jesus would have been baptized. After all, John’s was a baptism of Repentance, and surely, the Son of God would not need repentance! Well, that is true, mostly. Remember that baptism is an outward act to show the faith that you proclaim, a commitment to a new life of faith. Jesus wasn’t being baptized for repentance, he was perfect! When we are baptized, we have already committed ourselves to service in Christ! In our very own Church Manual, it states: Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. That is what Jesus was doing! He was being baptized to show His commitment to following the course His life was now going to take, and to accept His role as God’s chosen Son, and thereby set Himself up to be sacrificed that we all may be saved through Him. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
Many of us, who have put our faith in Jesus take great comfort in these very words, found in the Gospel of John. And rightly so! The very reason that this particular Bible verse is so prolific is that it is the message of the gospel in two simple sentences. But many who would put their faith in Jesus, and make the decision to be baptized are not reminded of what happened AFTER Jesus was baptized, which were two-fold: Jesus came out of the water, and John saw a vision of Heaven itself opening, and of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and then heard a voice from Heaven telling Jesus “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” After His baptism, Jesus was given affirmation of His identity with the Father and by the Father. Chase, I love you, and you are and will forever be my son, but I am merely a steward for the only parent you will ever need: your Heavenly Father. Today, son, by your decision to follow Jesus, you become an adopted son of God, and as Paul states in
English Standard Version Chapter 8
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,
But just like the story of Jesus’ baptism, and the Father affirming His identity, it doesn’t stop there. You see, many Christians have a truly false sense of understanding of what happens when you put your faith in Jesus. Many Christians like to think that all of their problems go away; that life will get better and that God will just take all of your troubles and problems away. Sorry to disappoint folks, but this ain’t the case.
If we look back at Luke’s Gospel, and look past the genealogy (another sermon for another time), we see that the very next statement is in :
English Standard Version Chapter 4
4 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.
Let’s break this down a bit, shall we? After His baptism, where His identity is affirmed, He was “full of the Holy Spirit” and led by that same Spirit into the wilderness, for 40 days, and what was going on during those 40 days? The Greek word here is πειραζομενος, which is translated as “being tempted,” is more accurately translated as “continually being put to the test in order to ascertain the nature of Jesus, including imperfections, faults or other qualities.” Simplified, this means that as soon as Jesus was baptized, he was led into the wilderness, for the express purpose to be tempted, and was actively and continually being tempted for about a month (which is what the Bible means when it says “40 days”), during which time he ate no food, and was hungry. Now, as you can see from my “amazing” physique, I don’t miss many meals. If I miss a meal or two, my stomach begins to growl, I get a headache, and I know that I need to eat. That’s not what we are talking about, ladies and gentlemen. Anybody here gone more than a day without eating or consuming anything with nutritional value, aside from water, which has no nutritional value? More than 2 days? 4? 7? My record was 4 days. My head was pounding, I was so hungry that it hurt, and I could barely function due to my hunger. Jesus went a month without eating. Keep in mind, Jesus grew up in the home of Joseph, who was a craftsman of some kind, with tradition and other sources outside of the Bible saying carpenter, but the word τεκτων simply meaning “one who constructs” or “builder.” He would have been taught the family trade since the age of 12. He would have been very strong of body going out into the wilderness. Other gospel accounts say that he was hydrated by the morning dew. For any medical personnel in the church today, how long can someone, assuming they are properly hydrated, survive without food? I found research in a Scientific American article, which cited a 1997 study in the British Medical Journal that people had been documented to have survived for 28, 36, 38, and 40 days. These particular accounts are well-documented. Imagine what you would feel like after that long without food!
Seeing Jesus weak with hunger, harried after being tempted and tried for 40 days, the “man” himself shows up: Satan. And he wants a crack at Jesus. What does he do? What are the first words out of his mouth? “If you are the Son of God...” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! THAT’S THE BEST HE COULD COME UP WITH? I’m sorry, but if I audibly heard the Father tell me that I am His Son and that He is pleased with me, there ain’t NOTHING you can tell me differently! That aside, the devil, who hasn’t changed tactics since the Fall of Man from Eden, first tries to get Jesus to use His divine power to satisfy His own needs, then tries to offer Him a path to Messiahship without the cross, and then to “prove” God’s protective hand on His life. What utter garbage. And what is Jesus’ answer to each temptation? In every instance He responds:
IT IS WRITTEN
IT IS WRITTEN
Only after this, does the devil depart, and even then, only until “an opportune time.” Chase, although I am directing this at you, everyone here needs to know this: the devil never really lets you go or stops trying. Your decision caused a ripple effect, and the largest of which is that a huge spiritual bull’s-eye has been painted on your back. And when those attacks come, and believe me, they will, you should respond the same way Jesus did: “It is written...”
A couple of weeks ago, I believe right before church, on the way to Broken Bow, actually, David, Chase, and I were driving to Broken Bow. I was talking about the Communion service we were having at Broken Bow that day, so that David could be reminded of what it meant, and Chase would understand its importance as well as our Church’s stance on Communion. For those who aren’t familiar, we as Seventh-day Adventists practice what is called Open Communion, where “All who have committed their lives to the Savior may participate.” As I was explaining this, Chase, who was sitting in the front seat, says “Yeah, I want to get baptized.” You could have heard my jaw hit the floorboard of the car. “Wait…are you serious?” I stuttered, afraid that I had misheard him. “Yeah,” he said. “I was thinking about it last night before I fell asleep, and decided that I wanted to be baptized.” When we got home, although she had guessed over the phone, he told Stacy and she and I began making phone calls. She began by calling grandparents, and I began calling and emailing churches. I want to thank all of you in the Heartland District, from the bottom of my heart, for doing this on such short notice. Thanks to Broken Bow Church for your love and vote to accept Chase, pending baptism of course, as a member of your congregation and family. Beaver City Church, I want to thank you all for your generous prayers. Holdrege Church, I want to thank you for your willingness to give up your Sabbath with me to make this happen. And last, but not least, a BIG thank you to Kearney Church for hosting and organizing this special occasion. I also want to sincerely thank my Conference leadership for their constant prayers and encouragement and support. Lastly, I want to thank God for moving in Chase’s life to the point where he would accept Jesus!
At this time, I would like to invite Chase and the rest of his family up her
I would now like to ask everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads, eyes closed, heads bowed. If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, and want to do so, heads bowed eyes closed, I would like you to come to the altar to pray with us. Nobody is going to single you out, or call out your name, we just want to pray with you. If you have been praying for someone who has not yet accepted Jesus into their hearts, please come forward and pray with us. If you have been separated from God, and you feel Him calling you back to Him, and you want to rededicate yourself to following His Son, please come forward and pray with us. If you feel like you are not good enough, like you’ve done too much to deserve God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, I can promise you that it’s not about what you’ve done, but about who God is, and it’s not about who you are, but what Jesus did on the cross for you! If this is you, then please come to the altar to pray with us. God is here, with you, and He loves you where you are, for who you are, as you are: and He loves you enough not to leave you that way, but instead leave you better than He found you, if you but put your faith in His Son.
Father, we thank you that you are a wonderful, loving, merciful, forgiving, gracious, and Holy God. We live in a sin-filled world, and I pray You come back to take us home with You soon. We ask that you be with each and every person here, great and small, weak and strong, proud and meek, haughty and humble, and forgive each one of us for the things that separate us from You, and help us walk faithfully with You. We ask that you answer the prayers of everyone here, even those who have not come to the altar, according to Your will for our lives, as we echo the words of Jesus when He said “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
In the Name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.