ALIVE IN CHRIST
by Pastor Mike Fortune
April 18, 2009
As a family, we drove to Florida a couple weeks ago. We left at 4:00am in the morning. That was my idea. I wanted to get as much of the trip over with while the kids were sleeping so I figured, get up early, be in Kentucky before breakfast. Which worked wonderful. And so we drove along with many other minivans and cars and trucks loaded from top to bottom making our way south.
Very long trip short, we had a wonderful time [once we arrived] sitting in the sunshine and swimming in the pools and doing nothing for a few days. We squeezed in a couple days at Disney where we actually lost Lydia for 20 terrifying minutes [which I’m sure will be a sermon illustration soon] and we visited with friends and family who live down there enjoying Easter at the Markum Woods Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida.
But one funny thing happened on the way down there. We had stopped for lunch and in the parking lot, the same friendly driver we had been passing and traveling near apparently for hours, pulled into the empty space next to me. And upon seeing me, he said, oh you’re the gray van we’ve been following since Kentucky. What happened to the cargo carrier on your roof rack? I told him sheepishly, “Yeah, it’s not idiot proof.”
You see, more than a few times over the last few years I’d forgotten the hard plastic cargo carrier holding all our luggage was attached to the roof rack of our van before driving into a few parking garages and even my own garage more than once. Consequently, it has been smashed down and cracked in the corners leaving gaping holes I had recently covered with duct tape thinking that would prevent rain from leaking in. Which by the way, it didn’t. Apparently instead, somewhere south of Cincinnati the tape started snapping in the wind like the tail on a kite! Jackie was so embarrassed. And I’m sure we did look like the Beverly Hill Billies or Sanford and Son
But all tackiness aside, to be totally honest, I still kind of liked that cargo carrier on my roof rack. Because it’s traveled on all kinds of trips with us. Some good and some bad. It has endured all kinds of weather. Some hot but mostly cold. And through it all, it has kept our luggage dry. Or mostly dry. “And besides,” I told Jackie, “I really think people enjoy reading the bumper stickers plastered all over it listing the places we’ve been from Drummond Island, Michigan way up north in nearly Canada to way down south in Orlando, Florida.” That’s why I slapped some extra bumper stickers on there too. One with a Redskins logo. My fave football team. And another sticker I picked up at the Mudhens game last summer because it said Toledo, Ohio on it. Which Jackie doesn’t mind. But underneath that one I added a Tony Packos logo with their slogan that says, “The best gas with class.” Which I think is just hilarious. I mean, who chooses that as their slogan? Why would you be proud of that? But I figured if they’re courageous enough to use that as their slogan I’m courageous enough to slap it on my cargo carrier. Jackie does not value my rationale on that one, so she wasn’t heart broken at all when before our return trip we ditched the old cargo carrier with the tacky stickers and purchased another one just like it. Which I’ll be filling with new tacky stickers and logos as soon as possible. Why you ask?
Because stickers and signs are important to me. Whether they’re from restaurants or amusement parks or destinations, they often symbolize something memorable, significant, or special. And water, especially when we’re immersed in it during baptism as our video clip revealed, is important because it symbolizes something memorable, significant and special as well. So before we go any further in this very special service we’re sharing today, let’s read Romans 6:3-4 NLT and remind ourselves what those verses mean.
Verse 3 says, “Have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.” So baptism is about becoming one with Jesus by dying with him. But how is that possible?
He died over 2000 years ago! The answer is by faith. By believing that when Jesus died on the cross, we died with Him. Not literally.
Symbolically. By faith. And in doing so, we die to the idea that we don’t need a Savior. We die to the idea that our best behavior can save us. We die to the idea that our value is tied to our position or power or salary.
Being immersed under the water is like being buried in the tomb. We’re saying we believe Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. And because “Very rarely will anyone die for righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
[Romans 5:7-8 NIV]. He first loved us [1 John 4:19 NIV] and because He did, we want to sincerely serve Him. Acts 2:38 NIV reveals that baptism is the normal response of people who believe what Jesus did He did for them.
But baptism is not just a sign or symbol of Jesus’ death. It is also a memorable, significant, and very special sign of his resurrection and life. Verse 4 says, “And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” So we are immersed in water just like Jesus was placed in a tomb. But then we are raised up out of the water just like Jesus was resurrected out of the grave on Easter morning. As Pastor Rachel talked about that last week. When we’re baptized, we’re saying we believe God by His grace is going to help us live our ordinary lives with Him and for Him. On Fridays whether they’re good or not. On Saturdays. And every other day.
But how do we do that? The answer is we don’t. Because we can’t. But God can. So we invite God into our lives every day and throughout our day and when we do, Galations 2:20 NIV says He helps us by living in us. 2 Corinthians 3:18 [KJV] adds that is “By beholding Him, we become changed.” And we know we’re changing when people see more of these things in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. The apostle Paul in Galations 5:22 calls these things the “fruits of the Spirit.” They are what your new lives will look like.
But change is a little misleading. Because it's not like God is wanting you to morph into a weird new person. The change God is talking about is a whole lot like your old life—only better. You’re the same person. Just with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. What’s new is not a sudden immunity to all things evil. As if no bad things will ever happen to you now. What’s new is your response to all things evil. For Jesus said in John
16:33 [NIV] that “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!” What’s new in your post-baptized life is not that you never encounter difficulty. But that when you do, you aren’t alone in that difficulty. What’s new is not your sudden wealth or wisdom. What’s new is your contentment with whatever you do have. Writing from prison in the waning moments of his life, the apostle Paul writes these startling words in Philippians 4:11 NIV, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
So don’t you think both of these realities are worth celebrating? Both our death and resurrection in Christ? And that’s what the folks choosing to be baptized here today are doing. As a church family, I hope the songs, narratives, bubbles and balloons will all be signs to help us never forget the memorable, significant, and very special decisions being made here today. Joyfully, we can all be alive in Christ.