What is Baptism? - Oct. 2, 2022
Pastor Mike (00:00):
And I think that if we can get ahold of that, it’s God’s spirit is the one that’s coming upon us, that’s confirming with our hearts that we are a child of God. That’s, that’s witnessing to what’s already happening inside of us. It would change everything.
Hannah Hunter (00:16):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with The Gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. This week, Pastor Mike brings us a message on what it looks like to express your faith and how faith is ultimately an expression of God’s love and grace poured out on us.
Pastor Mike (00:33):
So we’ve been going through a bunch of questions, you know, asking ourselves about the Gathering Place, and, and every time I try to prepare the message, the first thing I ask myself is, Why The Gathering Place? Why does it matter if I make this church, my home church, that I claim this as my own? You know, that I know that we can say, Well, I’m part of the old legacy and I’ve just been grandfathered in and all that. But eventually, at some point, all of us have to make a decision and say, whether I’m in it and I’m in it for what God is doing today, or I’m not. So why the Gathering place? Well, this is something that I, I believe at the, the core of my being, that being a part of this community, you will become a gracious person. And man, we need that a lot in our world today.
Pastor Mike (01:21):
We need gracious people to rise up. And, and the way that we start living into this gracious life is that we first, we encounter peace with God, which then brings peace in our souls. You’ll actually be happy with yourself. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just to be happy with yourself, too, appreciate life, to understand purpose, and then to understand that you will be a blessing to others and other people actually get this one, enjoy being around you and you’ll enjoy being with them. But most importantly, I think, um, with the Gathering Place, this is a place where you have the opportunity to be seen. People will actually take time to see you, to know you, and to love you.
Pastor Mike (02:17):
Um, you know, I have a, I have a lot of people that God has, I had on my journey that I’ve met, and the people that I admire the most have one common characteristic. And it doesn’t matter even if they’re a person of faith or not, but, but all of them have this ability to build other people up. I just like to be around people that build other people that like to invest in the lives of other people. In fact, you know, one of my mentors, um, I, I, no matter how I’m feeling, no matter whether I feel like I’m on top of the mountain or whether I’m going through the valley, when I sit with this one mentor and just just visit with him, he pours into me. But not only does he pour into me, I mean, he has this uncanning ability to pour into everyone around him.
Pastor Mike (03:05):
I mean, when I used to go meet him at his favorite restaurant, we’d go there and, and I cannot tell you how many waiters and waitresses people that were passing by would, would, would stop as if they would see him in the, in the restaurant, and they would say, Hey, thank you for that piece of advice. Or, Hey, thank you for listening to me. I remember even like corporate managers of a restaurant would come by and they would stop their meeting just to come over and say hello to this person. And I used to always wonder, I was like, How in the world does this person have this ability just to pour in and just the build people up? And eventually I realized that, well, part of it is because his cup is full. His cup is overflowing. And, and so I think that’s the thing that we need to hold onto today, is that you cannot be a bucket filler unless your cup is full.
Pastor Mike (03:58):
So if you’re, if your cup is empty and you’re running on empty, you know, you might think that you’re, you’re checking the boxes. You might think that you’re doing the task. You might think that you’re projecting the Christian persona, okay? And, and nobody sees. But, but deep down, if, if you really wanna have that effectiveness, if you really wanna, may make the quality of the lives of the people around you better and really be a blessing to this community, your cup has to be full. We have this outrageous mission here at the Gathering Place, and that is to extend God’s redeeming love. And I believe that this mandate that we have, I mean, this is a calling that Christ placed upon all of us is rooted, and what I believe is rooted in the text of the Bible that is probably one of the most resistant text by many Christians today.
Pastor Mike (04:56):
We read this with me, Matthew Chapter 28 versus 18 to 20. All right? Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. Baptiz ties them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age. Boy, let’s be really honest about that text. We haven’t had a hard time reading it with some gusto in church if we’re really honest with, but let’s ask some real honesty questions. Many of us, that’s not the first time you’ve read that text. You’ve heard it in church. But I guess the question is, are we really living this out? I mean, let’s just ask for you from this, your own personal mission statement. Do I really claim this as mine?
Pastor Mike (05:58):
Do I really take it seriously that, that God, because all authorities have been given to Jesus that I’m called to go and make disciples of all nations. You ever ask yourself, Why is this so hard for us? You know, like, like why is this so difficult for us to wrap our souls around? I mean, to, to really get behind it. If I was to ask you like, Hey, let’s start feeding hungry people. Let’s start doing hurricane relief. Let’s start, you know, um, serving in some way. Sure, let’s do it. You know, everybody like, yeah, I’m happy to do that. If I start saying, Hey, um, I want you to get involved in a life group, I want you to go a little bit deeper and start doing some personal bible study. You know, because you need to do life together. You need to grow, you need to read your scripture.
Pastor Mike (06:46):
And most of you would probably say, Sure, why not, pastor? I’ll give that a try. At least you’ll give a try. Heck, if I even said to some of you like, Hey, you know what, I’m gonna dedicate the next four weeks and we’re gonna do a whole giving series, and we’re gonna be talking about giving nonstop and about stewardship and, and about this expanding God’s kingdom through, through our giving and, and looking deep into our checkbooks. You probably say, God, I’d rather do that than talk about this text, about going and making disciples. If we really put in our feet to the fire. I mean, let’s be honest, why do we have a hard time with this? I’m still trying to figure that out. Why do we have a hard time with this? I don’t have the answer to this, but I do know that a lot of it sometimes is our perception of these texts.
Pastor Mike (07:33):
We’ve had bad experiences. We’ve, we’ve seen bad examples, and we’re like, I don’t want to do that. But yet this is essential for us as a gathering place to extend God’s redeeming love. Today we’re gonna focus on one part, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So here’s something that I, I want you to get is that Christians everywhere baptize, like fundamentally, Christians everywhere agree that if, if, if someone is another Christian that’s coming into the faith, um, they should at some point in their lives be baptized. That’s about as far as our agreement goes on baptism. After that, we, we, we, we kind of get like all over the place. You know, we have a lot of different opinions on, on baptism, but, but let’s talk about this for a moment. Like, what is baptism?
Pastor Mike (08:24):
You know, I mean, this is this, again, this is part of our mission. This is part of how we extend God’s redeem and love. So let’s try to wrap our hearts and minds about what is baptism. Well, first of all, you need to know that, you know, baptism was not invented by Christians. I mean, sometimes like we think that because it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, spoken about so much in the Bible. We think that it started with the Christians, or we think that it started with John the Baptist, when actually we see that baptism has been a, a huge part of Judaism. Okay? I mean, like, whenever you see any kind of text that has any kind of a cleansing ritual or some type of repentance, ritual even of, of like artifacts getting cleanse. So that means that the, the concept of baptism can be immersion, it could be pouring, it can be dipping, it could be sprinkling.
Pastor Mike (09:09):
I mean, people understood what baptism was. Um, even though we can see that as the practice of baptism started just happening more and more into Christian life, the understanding of it started to change. When John the Baptist started baptizing, people had one understanding of baptism after Jesus, they understood that they, hey, it was more than just a baptism of repentance. There’s something more to this. You know, we’re, we’re called to be baptized in Christ. In fact, if you start looking just in your own personal studies about the history of baptism, just from the New Testament alone, you can see this evolution, this change of baptism from the Gospel’s House talked about, how’s talked about in the different a epistles which are written during different periods of the church history, how it is in the acts of the apostles, and then even further into just church history bringing up today.
Pastor Mike (09:59):
So there’s a lot to talk about baptism, but let’s, let us get back to one thing I think is important. Baptism is one of the two sacraments that were given by Jesus. And you know, that word sacrament sounds, you know, little archaic for us in our modern day cool church called the Gathering Place. But we need to know a little bit about what, what is a sacrament, simple definition of a sacrament. I mean, sacrament is that outward sign of an inward grace. It’s something happening on the outside that is actually giving us a window and to what God is doing inside the soul of a person. So even with that fancy definition, I know that it doesn’t probably satisfy your needs. Um, in fact, you know, I, I grew up in the, in the Catholic faith at first, you know, and um, like when I heard about sacraments, a lot of times I heard about sacraments.
Pastor Mike (10:56):
You know, to me it was always like, it was like shrouded in a lot of mystery. There was a little bit of fear involved. You know, you, I mean, you just, you didn’t wanna mess up with a sacrament. You, I mean, you just don’t screw with the sacraments. I mean, that’s just one of the things, you know, Um, there was a lot, it was almost like magic sometimes, you know, like, I mean, it was like, Mrs is a magic. You don’t really know what’s going on and all, you know, is like some outward sign and God’s just doing something really neat inside, but you don’t know. So you, you, you approach, at least the way I was growing brought up, I approached like the sacraments with a little bit of distance and hesitation, actually, little bit of caution. I had the, the fear of the Lord, if you, if you wanna say that.
Pastor Mike (11:35):
But then I had a conversion experience. Um, you know, people started witnessing to me, and, and, and I understood that if I gave my life to Jesus Christ, um, and I, and I did, I asked, Jesus said, Jesus, I need you, because I had a lot of fear. I had a lot of uncertainty about the world. I had a lot of of questions. Ultimately, I didn’t have any peace. And I said, Jesus, will you come into my life and just forgive me and my sins and I just need to be my Lord because like I have no, I don’t know which way I’m going. And at that moment, when I received Jesus, I felt a peace that that has never left me the presence of God. I had this like, assurance that, that I belonged to God. But something else happened after that conversion experience.
Pastor Mike (12:19):
There was even more like, um, a, a lesser degree, I’m sorry, not more, a lesser degree on, on the emphasis of like these things called baptism and particularly holy communion. In fact, like, um, when I would think about those things at that period of my life, you know, it was just kind of either something I did out of remembrance, like, okay, well Jesus taught us, so I gotta check the box and make sure that I do it, and I should be a part of a church that does some form of holy communion, because that’s also another sacrament. You know? And maybe we, we’ll do it once a quarter nos like, you know, once every three months if that. And then I might, I might even skip that service cuz it got a little long or whatever. But what was really important to me was my Bible study and my witnessing and, and doing all those things.
Pastor Mike (13:08):
And, and then, so even like baptism, then I started having a different understanding of this in fact, that the church that I, that I was a part of at that time was a non-denominational church. And we did some incredible things at this church. I mean, I mean there’s, there’s some lessons that I still clinging to today, but one of the things that this particular church taught was a believers baptism. Only if you’re not familiar with believers baptism, I mean this, this is another historic, uh, Christian tradition, which means that a person is baptized after they have like themselves made the decision to repent of their sins, confess and believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. And, um, the, the only problem that I started running into with the believers baptism is that then my church went a little bit further into its teachings.
Pastor Mike (13:59):
Now, this is one local church I’m talking about, so I’m not talking about any denomination or that, but, but some of the teachings started going about like, well, what do you do? What do we do with Christians who have backslid maybe who have lost the faith? And then, so some Christians would be like, you know, hey, they gotta be baptized over again. And we had some criteria of, of, you know, who needed to be baptized over again. And then we started asking ourselves like other questions about people, about, well, maybe they weren’t even really saved. Then we started getting people from other churches and we say, Were they baptized in the right church? Because, you know, you know, we’re right church, you know, we do everything right. And, and so we started like inspecting people’s baptism credentials. And basically what started happening is, um, I started seeing this occurrence of people getting like Reba a lot either to, to be, to join another church or maybe like they felt bad in their faith, and then all of a sudden they had an evangelist that would come and they would speak some fiery message and they felt like, you know, I gotta renew my faith and I gotta be re baptized again.
Pastor Mike (15:05):
And I knew that God was working in all that. But let me tell you what was also happening inside my soul, um, behind the scenes, um, I was starting to thrive in this judgemental culture. And that sounds terrible, but I, I mean actually, I mean, I thought that was normative just to be judgemental and critical and to, I remember one guy in the Bible says, part of he told me, he said like, I’m a fruit inspector, and he literally was a fruit inspector for the Department of Agriculture, but he is like, I’m not talking about that fruit. He took his badge off and he would say, But I wanna look at the fruit of every Christian in this room to see do they really have fruit and reliance? And so we had this like, judgemental culture of always trying to seek out who are the real Christians.
Pastor Mike (15:47):
And what happened was, man, I i, not knowing this, I thought I was being like faithful to the gospel, but inside my soul, it made me very critical, definitely made me very exclusive. I started, I had this, I thought I started had to like fix people, man, I became very arrogant. You think I’m bad now? I mean, I was awful then. Um, superiority complex. Ultimately, um, I was less and less like Jesus. When I really look at the character and heart of God. I mean, I could talk the talk really well, but man, I was not like Jesus. Um, I became like a, an incredible bucket, dipper instead of a bucket filler, I became very tribal. Another part of my story, I I really want you to hear about this is like how I encountered baptism. So like I said, I was, I was raised in the, in the Catholic church and um, my father has this orthodox side of him too.
Pastor Mike (16:49):
And so, you know, so we, this is like what I was the family that I was brought up in. And so I, I was baptized as an infant about one month after I was born. And that baptism story was important to me because I heard that around the time I was baptized, like my grandmother from Ukraine had this like premonition that I was supposed to be serving God as a priest or whatever. And then my great-grandmother on my mom’s side of the family, um, who was a Methodist said, No, he’s not gonna be a priest. He’s gonna be, he’s gonna be serving God as a minister. And so people had this like, these like little talks about, they felt something that was gonna happen at my baptism. And, and so every time I had like a god moment in my life, um, you know, I would go back to that, that, that initial baptism like, wow, God’s working in my life and this is the point where I was living and I still didn’t like, this is before I had that conversion experience.
Pastor Mike (17:41):
That was before I had any assurance of salvation. But there was like these little god moments along the way. You know, we in the Methodist tradition will say this is like convenient grace, the grace of God that goes before us. Well, after I had my conversion experience and I was in the church that I described, I had a hard time fitting in the church. And the reason why is cause I wasn’t baptized like everyone else. And my family, I know we had a struggle with this because I mean, there’s a huge heritage part attached to the way that I was baptized. And so our, our family would, would ask ourselves, you know, like, you know, should we get baptized this Sunday or not? You know, and there would be these different opportunities and, and we were like faithfully, I I even helped them baptisms, but I was not like baptized by immersion at that time.
Pastor Mike (18:28):
And so I had this like struggle. So then I had the opportunity to go on a, on a youth trip. It was my first kind of like camping retreat type experience. I only had one in my life like that. And so I go and it was from my youth group that was on from a totally different church. And, um, and we’re up in the mountains and you know, they do all these like mountain stuff that scares you to death and all that kind of stuff where it scared me. And then, um, yeah, I got stuck at a cave when we were s splunking and all that. So you, you’re thinking about life, but then, but then we have like all these like really great like worship experiences and compelling preaching and all this stuff. And one day I forget where we were, but I know we’re like, somewhere in the, all I remember was like, where we went was like near Cloudland Canyon, Tennessee.
Pastor Mike (19:14):
Okay, that’s, that’s all I remember this like location wise. But apparently like there was this waterfall and they said, Wow, like, you know, today for all of you who had that amazing experience yesterday after we had that altar call and that prayer session, all that, we’re gonna give you the opportunity to be baptized under this waterfall. And man, it was like the be it was a beautiful waterfall. And I’m like, and then I was like, Are you gonna get baptized? You was like, Yeah, I gotta get baptized. You know, the, I was baptized here then. And other was like, well, I was also baptized with the Jordan, but, and everyone’s telling me all these like multiple baptized experiences. I’m like, Oh shoot man, I just had this like one little infant baptism. And so, uh, so I, I mean, I mean like mine have any notches in my belt except the one, you know?
Pastor Mike (19:54):
And then so finally I said, Okay, yeah, yeah, this is it. I wanna go get baptized. So I get baptized and I’m surrounded by a bunch of people that I really don’t know. I think there’s only two people at the whole retreat setting that I actually like, knew and considered a friend. Everybody else was at acquaintance that I just met on the trip. The youth leaders that baptized me, I did not know them. My family didn’t have any idea that this was happening. And now mind we had all these like family talks about maybe we should get reaped, maybe we should get reaped. And, and then I remember after I got baptized that second baptism, I didn’t have the experience that I was expecting. It wasn’t magical. Like, like everybody was like acting out. I mean, I, I, I was like, ooh, yeah, we got baptized, but it didn’t, something was missing.
Pastor Mike (20:41):
And then I remember it took me a couple weeks to get the courage to tell my mom and my sister what I had done. And they were like, What? You didn’t like, you didn’t even like let us know. Like we couldn’t be there. We couldn’t get a, a picture, not get a picture of it, you know? And it just felt so weird. It actually took me like more than a year to tell my father. I mean, that, that’s how like deep this, this hit me. And so part of it I felt like I, I betrayed a huge part of my Christian story because a lot of my call was tied to that infant baptism experience. It was built upon it. And, and I felt like I betrayed all that. And it took me years to reconcile that, to understand like what God was doing in the midst of that and, and how do I go forward. And, and what helped me, um, was this verse in Luke, Luke chapter three verses 21 to 22, when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized two, and as he was praying, heaven was open and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove and a voice came from heaven. You are my son, whom I love with you. I am well pleased.
Pastor Mike (22:06):
You see in Corinthians it talks about, you know, these things of the faith and, and, and they use this word one, one faith, one hope, and one baptism. And it wasn’t until God revealed this scripture to my heart that I understood about the one baptism part because after my conversion experience, I felt so much of was like my response to God’s grace, right? You know, I wanna get baptized in, in response to that. And which would be fine if I was like raised in a pagan environment, you know, if I, if I wasn’t introduced to any form of Christianity and I was a new convert, but I wasn’t a new convert, I was a, I was a Christian transplant that had an awakening. And then I got transplant to several other churches. And eventually when I was considering being transplant to another church, I got baptized at their camp again.
Pastor Mike (23:06):
And so what I’m saying is, is that what I started understanding from this text when God said that you are my beloved son with you, I am, well please, that is what God does when we are baptized, it’s God’s claim upon us, God’s spirit comes upon. So it’s not, it’s not that that youth pastor that baptized me, it’s not the priest that baptized me when I was a little infant that I don’t even know his name. I got now I’m thinking better, dig up my certificate, find it. Um, but, but it’s not that the, the, the baptizer is God. And I think that if we can get ahold of that and, and get ahold of that as our foundation, that God is the one, it’s God’s spirit is the one that’s coming upon us that’s confirming with our hearts that we are a child of God.
Pastor Mike (23:55):
That’s, that’s witnessing to what’s already happening inside of us and say, you belong to me. And it would change everything because I was going through this struggle of always, still, even though I knew I was saved by grace through faith, I was still trying to earn God’s approval and my baptism at that time. And again, this is the way I understand, maybe I had a, some re residual Catholic guilt, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I thought that by being like baptized again, it would somehow fix things or change things. But actually it didn’t change anything because you know what, from the very beginning, God was claiming me, God was loving me. God said, You know what? I am pleased with you. And, and, and when I started getting a hold of that, it started to free me from all this internal dialogue that I would have or that I would, or these arguments I’d have with other Christians.
Pastor Mike (24:50):
Cause we’d say like, Well, you know, do you really know how can you really believe unless you, you know, you know, be baptized unless you really believe we’d have all these arguments. But then a lot of it was like even when I thought I believed, I look at what, what I believed back then and when I believed now and like the depth of my faith. I mean, I mean it’s like, God, I was like really, really shallow. I mean, and yet I thought I was so mature. So what I started understanding is, is that it’s not about like the, the intellectual level of, of what we have that qualifies the baptism. It’s God who qualifies the baptism. It’s God who claims us. And I wonder if you and I what our life would look like and even how will we treat other people if we knew that we were already claimed by God?
Pastor Mike (25:34):
And that God’s grace is, is really the law to live by. And that changes everything more than what we try to do on our own. But again, you know, we ask ourselves these questions then, but like, how do we qualify? You know, you know, who’s, who is, who can be baptized? You know, there has to be some kind of criteria to, to organize this thing. And I, and I think about like Paul and Silas when they’re in jail in Philippi. And, um, and so when they meet this Philippian jailer, you know, like they have this incredible experience and they get freed and the jail is ready to kill himself and all this kind of stuff. And Paul shares the gospel to him. And eventually, you know, this Gentile brings them into their house. And it says this in Acts chapter 16, verses 31 to 33, they replied, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole household.
Pastor Mike (26:31):
Somebody needs to hear that right now. I’m, I’m going off my notes, but somebody needs to hear this. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and you and your household. Why I wanna hold onto that, I’m just gonna just divert for one second is that, remember God is not a respecter of persons. So what God promises, jailer that promise is, is available for you two. Remember, God makes these crazy promises and God keeps them. And all we have to do is just receive them and believe them. Okay? Back to the sermon. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your whole household will be saved. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. And at that hour of the night, the jailer took them, washed their wounds, and then immediately he and all his household were baptized.
Pastor Mike (27:19):
You see, we we’re reading this from like, I mean, centuries later, right? And we have all this like Christian tradition that we’ve inherited. And so we’re reading it through the lens. But, but let’s try to unpack this a little bit. You know, in the very beginning of Christianity, it was just a sec a a religious renewal inside of, of Judaism. And so basically the first per people that really started following Jesus were, were Jews that already believed that God made a covenant with them. And the sign of that covenant was, was circumcision. And as the, the, the, the early church started to grow, you know, more, more Jewish people started coming to the faith. And, and they, and they, they started baptizing them immediately cuz they were like converting. They started understanding that, hey, we are something a little bit different than Judaism. So, so they repented, they believed and they were baptized.
Pastor Mike (28:11):
Cuz also there was this sense of urgency at the Messiah was gonna come back. I mean, think about it. Jesus died on the cross, right? Three days later he’s back again. 10 days later he is popping up again. I mean, he’s on popping up until finally get the Pentecost doesn’t show up anymore. And they’re like, what do we do with this? And so they keep on preaching the gospel, trying to figure this out. And then all of a sudden the Gentiles non-Jewish people start believing in Jesus. And it creates a problem because according to the Jewish tradition, you know, if you are a male, you are supposed to be circumcised. That’s a sign that you are part of the covenant. And they said, No, no, no, we, we gotta start digging the scriptures again. There’s gotta be another way. They said, No, no, no. We see that the scriptures talks about a circumcision of the heart, a new heart that God’s gonna give us.
Pastor Mike (28:57):
And and then so therefore baptism and the early church became the sign that you were part of the covenanting. You’re part of the new covenant. But here’s the thing that, that we always forget with this is that in this world, when that Philippi Philippian jailer came to faith and that promise was given, you and your whole household will be saved. That meant your entire house, not just, not just the everyone that’s 13 and up. It meant everyone, including, you know, your slaves. Cuz people, he probably owned slaves back then. It included the children, included everyone. And so what we see here is that eventually Christians started taking that, that portion of scripture in other places and started understanding like, wow, just like God made promises to the Israelites and just like God said, Hey, you know what, um, your children, even though they don’t have the intellectual capability to understand the great plan of salvation, they’re still part of the holy family.
Pastor Mike (30:01):
They’re still part of the promises of God. And there to be included. Christians started doing the same thing in baptism. So today, now I I will say this, that even in the early church, I mean you start studying this, like the, the whole church wasn’t united on this like on the, on the whole practicalities of how to be baptized, you know, but a large portion of the church at that time had this understanding that, that this is part that we, we, we, what do we have to do with our children? We have to include them into it. And, and yes, there are some Christians, even in the early church time that said, Well, we’ll apply some of the Hebrew understanding of child, uh, dedication to God, and then when they’re of age, they’ll do this. So you have this dynamic going on, but I’m talking about the gathering place now and where do we land on this one for us today?
Pastor Mike (30:54):
Baptism. And I think this is really important to understand. I mean, this is a part of coming home. It baptism is an outward sign that that peop that you belong to this community. It’s a sign that says that, you know, if we have infants and children in, in our church that we’re gonna love them and give them the same rights as the adults. It’s a sign that says that even the most vulnerable and then the, the youngest, the most fragile are just as valued as the ones that are the biggest contributors that we see in a, in a physical sense. Baptism also says that for that young adult or that youth person or that, um, or that adult that has been all their life just going and didn’t know anything about Jesus, but then they finally encountered the love and grace of Jesus Christ. They said, You know what?
Pastor Mike (31:41):
I’m giving it all to Jesus and I was never baptized and I don’t have a home. Church baptism says, welcome home. That’s what it is for us. And then also, you know what? We, we do have to take it seriously. Yes, this is God’s work of salvation, but you know what, there is a responsibility tied to it, whether you’re an adult that’s bringing your child up in the faith and you say, Okay, I’m in a commitment to baptize my child. Or whether you are an adult that came to faith and said, Okay, um, I’m making that decision today. There are still vows that are made because eventually everybody’s gonna have to stand before God and be accountable to this faith that we have. And sometimes, you know, we forget our vows and I just wanna remind you of what our vows are. And, and and what’s interesting about these vows, the, the the language is similar all over the place, but the principles are still the same.
Pastor Mike (32:33):
They’re, I mean, golly, you could even watch The Godfather and you’ll hear these vows just don’t do what he did after the the vows. But what I’m saying is even Michael Corleone said the vows here, the first part of the vows, that that is, I mean this is part of the historic Christian tradition is that you reject the evil of this world. That you are no longer under the rule of, of the, of the evil powers of this world. And you repent of your sin. The next thing is, after you reject that, you know, your hands are free, what do you have to do? You have to accept the freedom and authority that God has given you. Remember how Jesus said all authority and power has been given to you. You have to accept that freedom and empower God’s gives you. And you have to be a part of God’s work in the world to do what?
Pastor Mike (33:18):
To resist evil injustice and oppression and whatever forms they present themselves, that’s part of our, our vows that we say in this church. So we resist the evil, injustice, oppression and whatever forms they present themselves. And sometimes man, we united Methodist church, I mean like, you know, we, we say we’re so enlightened in all that, but man, like we gotta live to our vows because the vows doesn’t end there. The next part of the vow is that after that, the very next part is that we confess that Jesus Christ is our savior and Lord and we surrender to his lordship. And so what happens in a lot of churches is that some of those, all they talk about is a confession and, and lordship of Jesus Christ. And they don’t do anything about the evil powers in the world because they’re just hiding their little under their little Christian rock and their little bubble.
Pastor Mike (34:11):
And then we got other Christians that are all about resisting and fighting injustice and oppression, but then they do it in a way that they forget that Jesus is their Lord and savior. We have to have both. And then it doesn’t even end there because then the church makes a promise. And those that are presenting and standing with those that are being baptized to say, You know what, you’re not in this alone. And you see, like in my rest of my Christian journey, like after my conversion experience, I thought it was just about me and Jesus. But I’m telling you what, when it’s just me and Jesus, man, I follow on my face and sometimes it takes me a while to realize that Jesus is there to pick me up. And it’s not until I have other Christians that come around me and say, Hey, you know what man, we’ve all been there. You need a little bit of encouragement. You need to hear some words of forgiveness. You need to hear the gospel read to you again. Well, we make a a vow, we make a covenant that say, you know what, we’re in it with you. And again, if you’re, if you’re asking yourself of the gathering place, and if you’re also asking like, am I even gonna invite someone to the gathering place, this is what we’re inviting people to life with God and life together.
Pastor Mike (35:28):
In fact, I mean these vows, this baptism has been so important, this understand baptism to the church. That’s why in almost all your historic cathedrals and all that, there’s always a baptismal front font toward the front because you’re supposed to put your hand in that dirty, nasty water. And it’s not the water that does anything, but it’s a reminder, It’s a reminder that we enter the family through baptism. And when we go out from the doors of the church, we remember that we’re called to live out those baptism vows. Now I know there’s a lot of stuff about this and, and I just kind of unpack that real quick. But, um, we are a church that is open to conversation. And if you wanna know more about this and you wanna just kind of explore whatever, um, I’m not, I’m not gonna argue with you.
Pastor Mike (36:19):
So if you’re, if you’re firm in your position and all that, then you know, praise God, you know. But if you really want to learn about it, or even though learn about more how I came to my place or more about our church, we’ll be happy to discuss that. And there’s ways that you can be in touch with me. But also I wanna say this, you know, you don’t have to drink the koolaid either, okay? Like, I’m okay if you don’t agree with everything I say. Again, like, I mean you look at the historic church, the church, and they, the whole church belongs to Jesus, right? All those beautiful denominations and, and people that are loving God, they all, they all belong Jesus. And, and yes, they have a, a different and faithful interpretation and there’s different traditions and they’re beautiful traditions when you start to explore them.
Pastor Mike (37:05):
And you know what, I’m okay with that cuz I don’t want to diminish what God is doing in those places too. Just like I believe that this way, this way, that we’re understand this way that we’re living our faith is integral to us on how we’re supposed to, to fulfill our mission. Because like I said, I can’t defend what the church down the road’s doing, but I can tell you what we believe and where and where we stand. And, and I believe that like that this, even though people probably disagree with us, and maybe you do too, and that’s, that’s okay. But I still believe that this is faithful to the biblical witness. You’re not gonna go to hell by practicing this, okay? I mean, I I think this is, this is faithful, it is part of our United Methodist heritage and also part of a larger Christian tradition.
Pastor Mike (37:55):
Um, it’s reasonable in a sense that, you know, I mean like you could theologically dissect this and still this, this makes sense. So I mean it’s not one of these things that we just do and there’s no rationale behind it. I mean it could be supported by logic and reason. And also there are millions of Christians that have that same common experience that goes beyond any kind of denominational line. And that common experience is this, it’s that whenever you were baptized it was God who was baptizing you. It was God who was claiming you. It was God who was making the promises that you are mine. And then I’m pleased with you. You are enough. I see you, I hear you cries and I know you and I’m with you. Why is this so important for us to fulfill our mission?
Pastor Mike (39:00):
I think a lot of times cuz we’re, we’re, first of all, we’re afraid to invite people to anything cuz we want them to have a bad experience. But if, but if we can get, if our cup can be full and we can be secure in our own identity, I’m telling you what, it helps us a lot to say, okay, you know what, I’m bringing people into a, a safe place cuz all we’re doing, like I said from a previous talk is that we’re inviting people to come see and to experience and let them make their own decision. But the other thing, and I think this is the part that this understanding of baptism informs everything else that we do, is that it’s integral to a receiving culture. See, if we’re not a receiving culture, if we’re more like in an earning transactional culture, you have to do in order to belong, you have to, you know, have, you know, align with a certain behaviors, you have to know a certain things, you have to pass a certain test. But we’re saying, you know what, if you can’t even read the scripture or maybe you don’t have the mental faculties of, of whatever to comprehend all these theological terms, you know what? You’re still a child of God and Jesus loves you and we love you and we want you to be part of our family.
Pastor Mike (40:14):
Couple takeaways from this. Like I said, this will inform your understanding of grace. If you can receive it for yourself, that you are a child of God, it will help you to stop being so critical and judgemental to other people. And I want you to know it’s very hard to be a gracious person when you’re constantly withholding grace from others. Do you hear me? It’s really, really hard to be that gracious person, to be that bucket filler, to be that person that builds people up when you’re constantly withholding grace from others and trying to see who is deserving of it. You see the sacrament of, of baptism and also sacrament and holy communion. I mean, that is a vehicle of God’s grace that is freely given. And then here’s something else that we need to, to hold onto the things that you and I need most in life. I mean the essentials to live.
Pastor Mike (41:14):
Just think about them. What are some of them? What are you, what are the core things you need to live? And we just went through, you know, we could have went through a potential hurricane, water, air, food, shelter, all those things. You know what we need? Love, family. All those, those things that are, that we need the most are freely given to us. They’re freely given to us. The essentials of life are freely given to us. And that means that we don’t have to seize them or earned them. Why? Because our God is so outrageous. Our God is good, kind, merciful, steadfast love. The things that we need the most are freely given. And if we can get this inside of our souls, it will change how we are going out over the world. The name of the Father, son, Holy Spirit, our men.
Hannah Hunter (42:24):
Hey beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Digital reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 1115. For more information about our community and faith, check out our website at thegatheringplacefl.org. Thanks for listening.