‘“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”’ (Matthew 28:19 NASB)
I believe the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 demonstrate the importance and value he places on baptism. On the eve of his ascension to heaven, Jesus declared that the defining mark of his followers would be baptism.
Baptism was never intended for infants. In every New Testament command and narrative account of baptism, the requirement of faith always precedes it (Acts 2:38). There are no specific accounts of infant baptism in the New Testament. So at Life Church we love to baptise those who have personally accepted Jesus as their saviour.
But what is baptism all about?
Baptism is the overflow of a changed heart into a symbolic act. Let’s think a bit about symbols:
A teacher writes the word LOVE on the board, and tells the children it is a symbol for a commitment of the heart to another person.
At the top of the London Eye you drop to one knee and produce a diamond ring as the symbol of your undying love, as you propose marriage to your girlfriend.
Both are symbols, but are poles apart in significance! Baptism is a symbol of faith, just as that diamond ring is a symbol of your unending love. It’s a whole-body expression of your heart’s acceptance of Christ’s lordship!
The Bible always describes baptism in terms of total immersion. This is fitting, because what happens when you become a Christian is not just a matter of your heart, but of your whole body. It involves all of who you are (Romans 6). Since the lordship of Christ lays claim to our whole bodies, we should express our acceptance of that lordship with an action of that whole body. The action Jesus commands is baptism, symbolising our faith that we are God’s from head to toe.
I’m often asked, What do you teach about giving? and Do you believe in tithing? Here are my answers:
We don’t talk much about tithing at Life Church. To be clear, tithing is a biblical idea, and even Jesus honoured the Pharisees for their commitment to tithing their mint, dill and cumin. However Jesus also said ‘Woe to you’ – in modern language, ‘Buddy, you’re in trouble!’ Why? Because they had neglected weightier heart motivations. In short, Jesus was showing us that we can tithe down to the last penny, yet completely miss it if our heart motivations are wrong – or even absent. So, as elders, we want to try to foster four healthy heart motivations:
Obedience: Again and again the Bible speaks about the importance and priority of us giving of our material wealth. In light of this, giving is an obedience issue. Who will be king? Will it be King Jesus or King Me?
Joy: In 2 Corinthians 9:7 the Apostle Paul says, ‘for God loves a cheerful giver’. This is wonderful, and safeguards us from cold and dead religious duty. Give because your heart is saturated with joy!
Sacrifice: King David said: ‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.’ (2 Samuel 24:24b). Giving should hurt! I believe it should impinge on the things that we could do in life.
Mission: Give to the mission that God has put us on together. Everything we do as a church is funded through the sacrificial giving of people who are part of this church. So please give to the mission.
Each one of these motivations will tug against each other, so you need to find the place where obedience, joy, sacrifice and mission collide and overlap.
As I continue our 1 in 300 series, I want to attempt to explain what it means to be charismatic. First, it doesn’t mean blowing your theological brains out and joining some freaky fringe group that likes men in white suits (Did I go a bit far there?). It also has nothing to do with preferring guitars and drums in the band to violins and cellos. So much of what is often described as charismatic is about the packaging rather than the heart. So what does it mean to be charismatic?
It means that we believe that all spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:6-8) and ministries (Ephesians 4:11) are gifts of grace (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7) given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11; Hebrews 2:4; 1 Peter 4:10) and are valid for today. As Christians we are called to live Spirit-empowered lives (Acts 1:4-8) and to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Put very simply, a charismatic church is one that eagerly and fervently pursues the work and activity of the Spirit in every aspect and dimension of the church. Yes this will be seen in times of worship (Ephesians 5 :18-20) through new and songs, but it will be much much more than just that! It will be a church that is fizzing and bubbling over with the very life of the Holy Spirit! It should be an exciting community to be part of because there is always an air of the unexpected.
Let me finish with a quote from Terry Virgo:
‘The gathered church is meant to be a place where the presence of the Holy Spirit is evident; you can’t miss Him if He is Manifest!’
(The Spirit-Filled Church: Finding your place in God’s purpose)
series of articles, each answering one big question in 300 words. Can I do it? Read on …
1: What is grace?
Today I’m kicking off a new series called 1 in 300, which is my attempt to try and answer a big and meaty question in just 300 words. Yes, you read that right: Adam is only going to use 300 words! (And please note that these introductory words have not been included in the word count …)
I want to start with a vital but utterly impossible question to fully answer: What is grace?
Grace is one of the most wonderful words in the whole universe! It assures me that I don’t have to try to earn the love of God (Ephesians 2:4-5), but rather, he absolutely loves me, always has and always will (Ephesians 1:4b-5). Grace is the activity of lavish, extravagant and perhaps even wasteful love (Luke 15:11-32). Grace risks all, even the life of the Son of God, in order to restore relationships (Ephesians 1:7).
Grace reminds me that new life and restored relationship with God has nothing to do with me (Ephesians 2:7-9). It’s God’s work and a gift of sovereign choice (Romans 9). It flows solely from the character of God and has nothing to do with my attempts to try to please God (Ephesians 2).
Grace is outrageous, thankfully unfair (because I deserve none of its wonderful benefits), and utterly satisfying.
Grace is absolutely alien to me. Almost everything of our culture programmes me to believe that I must contribute at least something towards my restoration and ongoing relationship with God. But grace reminds me that I contribute nothing at all.
Grace is so alien that I need to hear this: grace sets me free to fail, flunk and fumble, and my net worth – my value in the eyes of God – does not change one iota. Grace is extravagant, outrageous and is the only thing that will truly silence the oppressive voice that so often tries to persuade us that our value is linked to our own performance.
Let the grace of God do its work right now by drinking in these wonderful truths!