Have you heard about this challenge that’s going round?
It started with one person, having water poured all over them. Because of a disease, 3 letters.
That person challenges other people, calls them by name. If and when that person responds, they get water poured all over them too, then they challenge their friends and family and people and people they work with maybe. And it’s like, ‘What are you going to do about this?’
And the idea is that pretty soon this spreads from person to person and millions of people get to hear about it, and tell their friends, and it just spreads across all the nations of the earth! You’ve heard of it haven’t you?
What’s it called? It’s called BAPTISM!
The Bible says Jesus issued a challenge, to a small group of his friends who believed he was the Son of God because they saw him die on a cross and come back to life. It was a big vision! He said, ‘Now you are the plan to make this go viral.’
He said, ‘All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore GO into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.’
That was Jesus’ challenge to his followers. Go and MAKE disciples, followers
Then MARK those disciples by baptizing them,
Then MATURE them – by teaching them to live His way.
He fully expected that everyone who got this challenge, would pass it on, so it would go viral. How quickly could such a message spread? So everyone got to hear about it and got a chance to say yes or no?
Well it’s been going 2000 years longer than the internet and it’s not stopped yet.
At Ivy today we baptised 5 very different people, with amazing stories ranging from abusive backgrounds, heroin/crack addiction, desperate prayer needs answered, to people realising their life was empty and then they all had this ONE thing in common, they said YES to the Jesus challenge.
As a result of hearing that – another 3 people who just came along to church that day heard the gospel, said yes to it and they were in turn baptised!
Check the Ivy Facebook page for more details of these kind of stories, we’ll be posting them all week.
This thing just keeps on rolling, no matter what, ever since Jesus Christ came to earth, to show us and tell us how much God loves us. That was the good news. But there was bad news too. He came because of a disease – everyone ever born has it except him because he was born as God’s Son.
The Disease is called, S.I.N.
A guy called John the Baptist was raising awareness about the S I N disease initially – telling people, ‘You have to try to live differently – walk away from the kind of life that leads to death and live for God instead.’ The message spread and people started to come and bathed by him in the River Jordan. They called it a baptism for repentance because that word means turning around.
The water he stood in was for sinners. Plunging in there and having it poured on you was an outward sign that said ‘Yes, I have this problem. I have S I N. – I can’t fix it, can’t cure myself, but at least I’m going to try to live better.’
Tax collectors, soldiers, some religious people, crowds gathered around the water because of the challenge. But John couldn’t really help them. All they could do was try harder, they still had to live with the disease. They were just admitting they had the problem, no power to change.
Until one day, Jesus came to the river. God opened John’s eyes so he could see – Jesus was different! He didn’t have S I N. Even though he was tempted like everyone else, he always said no to it and yes to what God wanted for his life, never broke God’s laws.
Nobody, those living closest to him, even his worst enemies, could not accuse him. They had to make up lies that he’d broken their religious rules so they could nail him on a cross.
But before that happened, when John saw Jesus pushing through the crowd – he shouted to everyone, ‘Look! The Lamb of God – who takes away the sins of the world!’ He knew who Jesus was, and what he’d come to do, to sacrifice himself to save us.
Jesus stepped in and said, ‘Baptise me!’
But John knew – this water was water for sinners!
‘Why are you here – in here? I deserve to be here, I can’t nominate YOU, you have to nominate me for this! No way Lord!’
And Jesus said ‘I’m nominating myself. I’m in here, because you’re here. You and you and you and you. I know what you’ve done, but I haven’t come to point it out, I’ve come to take it away. I haven’t come to rub it in, I’ve come to rub it out. I’m stepping into this, so I can pull you out, out of this old life you’re drowning in. I’m in the water – to save you.’
Jesus didn’t have the disease, but he was identifying all of us who do, when he went into that dirty water. He was saying, ‘I’m becoming like you – so you can become like me.’
On the cross, he did exactly the same thing. It wasn’t just water but blood and water poured out from his side as he crucified, dying of a broken heart over the brokenness of this world, to wash away our sins.
In one terrible moment, Jesus absorbed and carried on himself the sins of the world. Every atrocity in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Manchester. Every time Anthony Delaney (or you) ever sinned in thought and word and deed.
This summer at Ivy we’ve been studying a NT letter the apostle Paul wrote to a church in modern day Turkey, it’s called Galatians – and now we’re at chapter 5, where Paul lists the kind of things that anybody who has this disease S I N will struggle with. A little diagnostic test. These are some of the symptoms but he finishes it by saying ‘etc.,’ Because it isn’t exhaustive – generally, if you’ve ever in your life done anything like this, I’m sorry to tell you (because you have to know the bad news before you will ever get the good news) you have S I N. And it’s fatal.
He says – ‘The works of the flesh (the sinful nature) are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry and false religion, hatred, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, division, envy, addictions, gluttony and so on.’
Tim Keller says ‘We are much better at noticing the works of someone else’s sinful nature than battling our own!’ We look at a list and let ourselves off what we think we don’t struggle with. But remember this is just a sample of symptoms, of the disease we can’t cure. And God says, what we’ve been seeing week by week in this series, is that the way to deal with it, is not to try, but to die. It’s not try harder to not live like this, but actually DIE to living like that.
Christian baptism is different than John’s baptism. What Christian baptism symbolizes is not, ‘I TRY to live a new life,’ it’s ‘I DIE – to live a new life!’
John the Baptist just pointed to the problem and then pointed to Jesus and said ‘HE’s the solution!’
“I TRY to live a new life’ doesn’t WORK! Anyone else ready to admit that? You just get more of the same or similar. Paul calls all those things on his list, ‘The works of the flesh.’ It’s just human, just NATURAL to live like that. You can’t change human nature. You’ve heard it all your life. Human nature can’t change human nature, so you need a NEW nature! A DIVINE nature.
Try not to be selfish, in your own strength, give it a week. Try to not be jealous of others. Whatever your struggle is, try. You’ve been defeated before, you won’t win. You can’t cure yourself. It’s that serious. You can’t save yourself! If you could, the Son of God would not have gone to a cross and shed his blood to save you. You don’t need natural, you need super-natural.
When Jesus stepped into that water, in his great love, God identified with me as a sinner. He went in there, to get me out.
The Bible says he went even further in his love – he actually BECAME sin for me, when he died on the cross. He got the disease I had – and he died from it – but that wasn’t the end of our story. It says ‘it was impossible for death to hold him!’ He rose again! He proved that he’s the Son of God!
So now, before I die, (which is something I have no choice about and neither do you), before I die – If I choose to die, that’s how I can live forever. I die to that old life! Those attitudes and actions. I die every day. That’s what a Christian is – a dead man walking. A dead woman, more alive than ever! Dead to sin, alive to God!
Christianity is NOT a way to improve your life. It’s not a system to be religious. It’s not there to make me feel better about my sin and learn to live with it. It’s not a spiritual self-help programme.
Christianity is; Jesus did everything, to save everyone. Jesus did what nobody else could do. The Son of God laid his life down, nobody took it. He didn’t die because he sinned but because I did. He died for all, so all who know they’re sinners, can know… salvation. And he rose again. So we can too.
It’s not, ‘try to live a good life, a better life.’ It’s die and live a new life! I have to die, so I can rise again with him. He became like me, so I can become like him. He got what was coming to me, so I get what is coming to him. He died AS me, so I can live AS Him. A Son of God, a co-heir, a co-inheritor with him!
That’s what Christian baptism is a sign of. When you go in the water, and we hold you under – it’s not, try , try, try! it’s DIE! Die! Die!
(Maybe we should say that when we baptise people next time – not sure how popular that would be).
It’s not, ‘I’ll TRY to live a new life,’ it’s ‘I DIE to live a new life.’
Paul told the Galatians how this works in chapter 2. Gal 2:20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in this earthly body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It starts the same for everyone, when a person looks at their life and says, ‘I need the new life only Jesus can give me.’ You come to the cross and ask him to do what you admit you can’t do yourself; you can;t change human nature, you need a divine nature now.
Say, ‘Save me Jesus!’
If you’ve not done that yet, if nobody else ever nominated you – I’m doing it here and now.
That’s why you’re reading this today. Stop the try plan, go with the die plan. So you can live the life you’re destined for. God promises you can have that fresh start and new life. Jesus died for all your sins to be forgiven and is alive again so you can know his love forever.
If you say you’ve already done this, my challenge to you is to like this message, but not just like it – do something, pass this message on to a few friends, ask them to consider saying YES to this challenge that has been going 2000 years and is still virally spreading across the nations. It changes lives for ever, one at a time, by connecting to God’s love in prayer – saying you want the new life more than the old one. Because you can’t have both.
I want to thank those who challenged me; people like Zoe, Jan and Alan, Eric Delve, Alan Buckley.
Now, I nominate YOU.