This Sunday, we're getting ready to baptize some new Christ-followers during our worship service! It's a pretty exciting moment; to see someone take the next steps in their faith and identify with Christ through baptism.
When we are baptized, we're taking part in a symbolic representation of our death to sin and resurrection to new life through Jesus. It's really a chance to outwardly display our inward decision to believe that Jesus is Lord and commit to following him. And that's the key when it comes to baptism; it's a way for us to make public the change that has happened to us on the inside as a result of Jesus' work for us and in our lives.
When people see your baptism, they should know where you stand: that you're a follower of Jesus. But after baptism, I think we are constantly given the opportunity to demonstrate outwardly the inward change that has taken place in our lives. Baptism is just the beginning of a life that is lived anew.
Take a look at Paul's words in Ephesians 4:17-24:
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul is talking about the stark contrast between how a follower of Jesus lives and how unbelievers live.
If you are a Christian, that means Jesus' death has removed all of your sins and made it possible for you to live according to what God has defined as good; and the Holy Spirit lives within you and empowers you to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So how do we do that?
According to Paul, we get rid of the things that described our old selves--ourselves before Jesus--and we put on the things that describe our new selves--ourselves with the Holy Spirit in us.
What does that look like? Paul goes on on Ephesians 4:25-5:2:
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
You should be noticing the contrasts that Paul makes here between a life before Christ, and a anew, filled with the Spirit:
Put off falsehood and instead, speak truthfully to your neighbor
When you're angry, don't allow yourself to sin
Don't steal; instead, use your hand to work towards things that are useful and share with others in need
Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth; instead, speak to build each other up
Don't be bitter, have rage or anger, fight with each other, slander, or be mean; instead, be kind and care for each other, and forgive others just as Christ forgave you
Above all, follow God's example and walk in the way of love. It's by living our lives striving to follow the example of Jesus that we ultimately become more like Christ and Paul's list begins to characterize us.
As we prepare to celebrate with our fellow believers by seeing an outward sign of their inward change, I want to challenge you to take the opportunity to consider your own life.
What are the outward signs that your life has been changed? And how can you take your next step in truly living the new life that Jesus has given you, characterized by the Holy Spirit?
Middle School Pastor