RENEWAL OF BAPTISM
Text: John 7:37-43
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41 Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. ~John 7:37-43
We have spent the last six weeks on baptism. We have seen the rich symbolism drawn from the pages and history of scripture. We have seen the strong ties with the biblical covenant – old and new – and how it is God’s action and character from start to finish that stands behind the act of baptism and the story of God’s salvation. We have looked at the importance of this sacrament in the life of God’s people, as a dramatic and tangible depiction of God’s story. And we have heard the great invitation and been drawn to the great hope of this act and action.
Today, we conclude this series with something a little different. I’d like to draw on all that we have heard, learned, and experienced, but invite you to do something from the heart rather than simply learn more for the head. It is a long-standing practice in Scripture and among God’s people to practice covenant renewal. It is kind of like renewing your marriage vows – in fact, exactly like that! I’d like to take a moment to remind you of the baptismal vows that everyone who has been baptized here or who has joined in membership has taken. We just heard these vows last week as the Hollands and Jenny joined the church and as Kristin and Rusty Hodgson brought their daughter, Anna, to be baptized.
As you heard in the main scripture text today, Jesus invited anyone who is thirsty to come to him and drink. That declaration of who he was and that invitation to come to him drew some in faith and drove others away, even as it does today.
I want to remind you of the Gospel – God’s “Good News” in Jesus – through the vows of baptism and membership and scripture from which they are drawn. I want to invite you to come to Christ. Using all we have learned in previous weeks and God’s Word today, I’d like to invite you to renew your covenant vows of baptism, to remember them with fresh faith in your heart and mind. Listen then to the vows of membership, to scriptures from which they are drawn, and to the story and love of God spoken and lived into this world and your life.
Then I will explain a bit more about how we will invite you to renew your own vows.
Who is your Lord and Savior?
In answer to that question the Christian replies, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior,” taking the name which is above all names onto his or her lips. Scripture says:
8 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)
By “Savior” we mean that Jesus is God’s provision for salvation, for rescue, for mercy. Where there was only rightful and deserved judgment for our sin and disobedience, God has provided the atoning sacrifice, the way where there was no way, and sent His only begotten Son into the world and for the world, for all who believe that they might be saved from sin and have eternal life. It is the most foundational “Good News” of the Bible, that God loves you enough to go to Hell and back for your salvation. Jesus is God’s Savior.
By “Lord” we recognize that Jesus is not only rescuer, but King of our life. And that position of power and authority is not just one of obligation for saving our life, though he has done that as Savior. Rather, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one God has given all power and authority in Heaven and earth. By acknowledging him as “Lord” we acknowledge that we serve him, owe him our allegiance, devotion, and obedience, and willingly follow where he leads.
Though not everyone knows they need saving, everyone names something or someone as “Lord,” even if it one’s self. The Christian acknowledges and professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Do you trust Christ and intend to be his disciple, obeying his word and showing his love?
The second baptismal and membership vow expands upon naming Jesus as Lord and “unpacks” it into several parts: trust, discipleship, obedience to Scripture, and a life of Christ-like love. Listen to these verses from 1 John, which also speak to what it means to follow Christ:
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:23-24)
We trust and believe Jesus is who he says he is. And we obey his teaching and God’s commandments, which are found in the Bible, God’s Word. And we live as his – we “abide in him” with the help of his Spirit, which is demonstrated not only through our obedience, but through our love. Jesus taught often about love – love of God, love of neighbor, and even love of enemies. And he backed up his teaching with his own life. It is not enough to simply believe; we are called, invited, and expected to follow after him in word and deed. That is what it means to “trust and obey.”
Do you renounce evil and affirm your reliance upon God’s grace?
The third baptismal and membership vow has two parts. In the first part we “renounce evil.” By that, we declare ourselves enemies of Satan and friends of God. We declare our ongoing repentance, turning around and changing direction, turned toward God instead of away from God. Yet, reality is that we do still err and stray like “lost sheep.” We still sin and fall short. And so a scripture that you hear every Sunday reminds us:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
In the second part of this vow we “affirm our reliance upon God’s grace.” That’s just what 1 John 1:8-9 is talking about. We want to follow God, but we still sin; but God continues to be faithful and provide a way through Christ. So when we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and make us clean again. Remember that symbolism of the baptismal water: judgment for sin, but merciful deliverance unto life, and washing clean of sin.
Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, participating actively and responsibly in the worship and mission of the church?
The fourth baptismal and membership vow is focused in a different direction than the other three, but it is vitally important nonetheless. It asks if we will be a “faithful member” of a local worshiping congregation. God did not make us to worship and serve him in isolation, but in community; and it is vital to our spiritual health and faithfulness to be plugged into the body of Christ somewhere. So, we always baptize in the midst of the community, not privately. And we always ask this vow, whether the person or family will be faithful and active members of a worshiping, missionally-engaged community of Christ. Listen how scripture puts it:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
These are our theme verses for our Wednesday nights this fall. They describe the healthy “body life” of the Christian community. And they are essential to Christian faith and health.
Renewal of Baptism
So, I invite you to come, not row by row or even necessarily all of you; but to come as the Lord leads you. I invite you to come forward and touch the waters of baptism, spend a moment in silent prayer with God, then to take a piece of cloth from the communion table to remind you of these waters.
It may be that you simply want to re-commit yourself to these vows as a fresh expression of your faith and commitment to following Christ and serving the Lord this day.
It may be that you feel very “unworthy” and are hesitant to come up. I urge you to come anyway, and be reminded of God’s covenantal faithfulness toward you. Ultimately, baptism isn’t about you and your faith, but about God and His extravagant faithfulness. Come; be reminded of just how much God loves you. Come; remember the covenant family that raised you in the faith. Come; remember the great story of God’s love that reached into your life and does even now.
For those who are young children and whose parents have asked them to wait until they are of an age of understanding, I’d invite you to participate in anticipation, looking forward to the day when you will be baptized.
And finally, if you have not been baptized and have faith in Jesus Christ and would like to be, I’d invite you to come forward in the same manner, in anticipation of soon being baptized, and to speak with me after the service about doing that soon.
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, I invite you to come!
- Come, Ye Sinners (Hart)
- Come Just as You Are (Sabolick)
- CHOIR: Down in the River to Pray (Mennicke)
- CHOIR: I’ve Just Come from the Fountain
- We Know that Christ is Raised (ENGLEBERG)