Painting Pictures

Sermon Summary

This is the first part of a three part series on the two ordinances our church practices: Baptism and The Lord’s Supper (Communion).  This message begins the discussion of the pictures we paint when we experience water baptism by emersion.  John the Baptist came baptizing people before Jesus began His ministry. Through this John was using the physical act of baptism to paint pictures of very important spiritual principles such as a person’s decision to repent, God’s initiative in salvation, the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness, the filling of the Holy Spirit and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus! Next weeks message will focus on the picture of new life painted in Baptism.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. While you may not have understood all of the pictures you were painting when you were baptized, do you remember your baptism and what it meant to you at the time?

2. Baptism doesn’t save a person, but is a picture or an expression of the decision they made, which brought about their salvation. It has to do with repentance and what God brings about in a persons life once they do turn from sin to God. Discuss the meaning of this picture.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:10  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

1 John 2:1  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

1 John 2:2  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

3. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward experience. If a person hasn’t repented of their sins and allowed Jesus to come into their life, they have no picture to paint with Baptism. But once a person allows Jesus to come into their life by way of His Holy Spirit, they are not only cleansed of their sin, but they are given the ability through The Spirit to overcome the power of sin. What does this mean in a person’s daily life?

Titus 3:3  At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

Titus 3:4  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,

Titus 3:5  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Titus 3:6  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Titus 3:7  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

4. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He was showing how He would someday make a way for people to be cleansed of their sinfulness. It was a picture of the sacrifice He would make. When we are baptized in water, we paint a picture of that sacrifice. It is our testimony to the world.  If someone were to ask you to explain how baptism symbolizes that sacrifice, what would you say?

1 Cor 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

1 Cor 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

1 Cor 15:5  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Painting Pictures

On this Memorial Day weekend, I pray we never forget the reason we can worship openly and freely is because of the sacrifices of the men and women who have defended that freedom in battle! Many gave their very lives and we must never forget their sacrifice.  As we pray this morning, let's remember the families who have an empty seat at their Memorial Day festivities due to this sacrifice.

Let's pray…

"Father God we do worship You and for all Your goodness we will keep on singing! There are ten thousand reasons plus for us to sing Your praise! We are so grateful we have the freedom to openly worship You! I pray we will never forget the sacrifice of so many in years past and even this very year, who made the sacrifice serving our nation and standing for freedom around the globe. We are grateful! We do pray for their families and pray You will continue to bring healing to their hearts. We also thank You for Your sacrifice on the old rugged cross those many years ago that made it possible for us to have a personal relationship with You! Today as we talk about one of the ways we paint the picture of that sacrifice, baptism, I ask You to help us see that baptism paints way more than one picture! Help us to understand what this means in our daily lives. Thank You for being such an awesome Savior, God, Father, Lord, and best Friend! Speak through me, in Jesus Name I pray, Amen!"

I've told you all many times that I'm not much of an artist. That's why I take pictures with my camera and try to see things with an artist eye, because I certainly don't have the artist hand! But years ago, when I was a young man, I did paint one masterpiece! It was when I stepped down into the baptismal waters and reenacted the event that changed my life and my eternity: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! This week and next week we're going to talk about the amazing pictures, which are painted through the act of baptism, and next week we will have a baptism!

Ceremonial washing with water has long been a part of religious expression in various faiths, but Christian Baptism takes it to a whole new level of meaning. A form of baptism was even used in Judaism as an initiate rite for converts to Judaism. It was practiced by John the Baptist, who was not only Jesus' first cousin, but was also the prophet of God called to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry. But John the Baptist was baptizing those who were already Jews and it was before Jesus had died on the Cross. So what was he doing? What picture was he trying to paint? We're going to find out and it will help us better understand baptism.

Let's look at the first part of our text, Matthew 3:1-12 and see what we can find out...

John the Baptist Paints a Picture

Matthew 3:1-12 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Ok, would you say John the Baptist was a bit of a fiery prophet? Yes he was, but he had good reasons for everything he said. He was trying to paint a picture for the Jewish people of his day. It was really a matter of life and death, spiritually speaking for his people. So let's examine the details of the picture John was painting and see if we can discover his message.

Baptism pictures a decision made!

Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Before Baptism can have any meaning at all there has to be a decision. John told the people to repent. There were things in their lives that were killing them spiritually and they needed to turn from those things. The word repent means "to change one's mind." It means to feel sadness over wrongdoing, but it also means to stop going in one direction and go in another direction. Because it's a decision, we dedicate babies rather than baptize them. We let them get to a point where they are old enough to understand what baptism means and then let them make the decision to follow Christ. Why? Because baptism happens after a decision to turn from wrong doing towards right doing and for the right reasons. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 7:10ff…

2 Corinthians 7:10-11a  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done...

You see, when a person is truly repentant of wrong done, they make a decision to live a different kind of life. Those who decide to follow Jesus understand they need His help to live that new life! They understand they could never cleanse themselves from past wrong, or have the power to overcome temptation without God's divine intervention. This understanding leads a person to call upon the Name of the Lord for His forgiveness, His help, His strength, and His salvation! This is called Godly sorrow and people who have made this decision do not regret it! But Paul says worldly sorrow only brings about death. Why is this? Because worldly sorrow is only sorry it got caught and there is no change of heart, therefore they continue down the path of destruction. They don't repent by turning around and away from the destruction at the dead end!

But a person who has godly sorrow has an earnestness, an eagerness to become clean! They have indignation and alarm at their past foolishness. They have a longing, a concern and a readiness to begin doing the right things for the right reasons! Not to earn or work for their salvation, but because of their salvation. Because of what God has done for them. And to paint a picture of the cleansing God has done in their heart is something they want to show others. They want to paint a picture for others to see.

Baptism pictures God's initiative!

Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

God had prophesied through Isaiah that He was going to send a Savior and He had also prophesied that He would send someone to prepare the hearts of the people to receive that Savior! God has always been the one taking the initiative when it comes to humankind. He created us and revealed Himself to us, yet we rejected Him. But that didn't stop His love, so He had a very detailed plan to save us! In fact, let me let you in on a little secret…God knew when He gave Adam and Eve a choice, and you and me a choice, that if we made a bad choice there would only be one way to give us another chance to make the right choice. And it would be an initiative of God! Listen to what Peter wrote in his letter...

1 Peter 1:18-21 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

So God has taken the initiative to establish a relationship with you and it was not an easy step for God to take. It cost Him dearly, but that's how much He loves you and me. God has chosen to love you, will you chose to receive that love and then paint the picture of that experience through Baptism?

John 1:11-13 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Baptism pictures Cleansing!

Matthew 3:5-6 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

The word baptize literally means to "dip under." Back in Bible times and still today in many developing countries, where you find a body of water, you will find a crowd of people. Washing clothes, bathing, filling up buckets with water to take home. When you dip something under the water, it was to clean it. Baptism symbolized this cleansing. It was a powerful picture, but only a picture. Water can't wash away sin, because sin is not on the outside, it's on the inside. It affects the outside, but it is a spiritual issue of the heart and human will. If a person has not made the decision to repent by responding to God's offer to forgive and to cleanse them on the inside, then no matter how many times they are dipped in the water, there will be no change, no cleansing.

Listen to what happens next...

Matthew 3:7-9 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

Here's the deal: If you could be saved by being baptized, then John would have said, "Okay, come on in the water and I'll baptize you and wash away your injustice, your hypocrisy, your dishonesty, and your unfaithfulness!" But he didn't say that! He wouldn't baptize them because they had not made the decision to repent, to change, to turn away from evil. And John new them pretty well. He knew they would claim salvation because of their bloodline through Abraham. But John lets them know God could raise up children for Abraham out of stones. Salvation isn't something you inherit because your father was Abraham, Moses, or a preacher! It's a choice you must make to let Jesus cleanse you from the inside out! Jesus would later confront the Pharisees in a similar way...

Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Baptism pictures the work of The Holy Spirit!

Matthew 3:11-12 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior He comes into their heart and life by way of His Holy Spirit! The way the blood of Christ washes away our sin is when the Holy Spirit of God comes in and applies the perfect life of Christ to our imperfect lives! How that all happens is a divine mystery, but we know this: The Blood of Jesus cleanses us from the penalty of our sin and The Holy Spirit gives us victory over the power of sin! Water baptism is a picture of being covered, filled, and led by The Spirit of Jesus! In fact we read this in the book of Acts...

Acts 2:36-38 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The actual Greek language says repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins were remitted or forgiven. So when we repent, and call upon the Name of the Lord we are baptized in His blood, our sins are forgiven and at that point we receive the Holy Spirit!  Water baptism paints the picture of this spiritual Baptism!

Ok, so what does the verse about the winnowing fork and the chaff and the fire mean? A winnowing fork was a tool used to toss wheat up into the air. The lighter chaff floated over to the side and the heavier grain fell to the ground. The chaff was worthless and burned. When you allow Jesus to come into your life, His Holy Spirit will start to winnow out the sin in your life. You are already forgiven but getting rid of the old habits and weaknesses takes time. Water Baptism symbolizes the fact that the penalty of sin has been washed away by the shed blood of Jesus and that The Holy Spirit is now going to begin helping you overcome the power of sin in your life!

I love the way the writer of Hebrews put it in Hebrews 9:14...

Hebrews 9:14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Jesus and John Paint a Picture

Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Why did Jesus compel John to Baptize Him when He had no sin to repent of? What picture was Jesus asking John to help Him paint? Jesus was identifying with the sinners He had come to save! Jesus was going to be baptized at the Cross with judgment for the sins of those He came to save. Jesus was painting a picture of His coming death, burial and resurrection and was publicly committing to fulfill His mission even though the disciples nor John the Baptist understood fully what Jesus would soon face. And what was the response of God the Father?

Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And did you know this aspect of Jesus' life and ministry was also prophesied in the book of Isaiah? Check this out...

Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

Here's my question for you today…Have you ever made the decision to allow Jesus to Baptize you with His justice, His forgiveness, His mercy, His compassion, His power, and His presence through His Holy Spirit. And if you have, have you painted the picture through the act of emersion baptism? A question I ask is why would anyone not want to be baptized with God's amazing grace? And if you've been baptized by with His love, why wouldn't you want to paint a masterpiece by reenacting His death, burial and resurrection through baptism?

Water Baptism won't save you, but if you've accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, He's asked you to paint a picture for the world to see. Let's pray!