Today, like you obviously heard from Monaye, and you see from the streamers and balloon around you today, is the first one-year birthday of our public ministry and being in this building. And that’s so exciting, and we thought, what better way to celebrate the birthday of the church than to celebrate with those who are being born into the church through the waters of baptism?
IMAGES OF BAPTISM
I don’t know if you know that that’s kind of what we think is happening in this moment with these waters, that God has attached his promises, and Jesus says that in these waters you are born again, and by the way, born again–If you’ve ever heard the phrase born again Christians–it’s not always a compliment. And deservedly so. But that’s where this comes from, and Jesus says you’re born again in these waters.
Scripture also talks about this moment, baptism, as a “washing”. The word baptism is not a magical word. It’s just a Greek word that means “to wash”, and there’s scripture that talks about how your sins are washed away in these waters, because it’s a washing.
Scripture also talks about how baptism is like this idea your sins are buried in the tomb with Jesus, and then just as he rose to life, you raise again to new life, and you breathe in his new life from these waters. That’s mainly what scripture says about this.
But my favorite description of baptism is kind of an obscure one, but it’s my favorite because of what it means and what it implies. So, what I would like to do very, very briefly is unpack this one other description, an image of baptism that’s associated with this moment so that not only can we understand what we’re celebrating today, but also that you can ask yourself, “What does this mean for me and my world view, and what does this mean for me going forward from here?” Because it does put some questions on us.
So, the phrase that I love comes to us from a man named Paul. He’s an apostle, or like a first century follower of Jesus, and Paul is just describing this moment of baptism, and check out what he says. He says that, “In baptism, all of you are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, and all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ,” and then he says just a few verses later, “So that he could adopt us as his very own children.”
Adoption. Once you were an orphan, but then you were baptized. Now you are a child.
My wife and I are parents through adoption to some amazing kiddos, three amazing kiddos, and anytime people are like, “Oh, your kids are adopted?” I go, “No, they’re my kids. They were adopted, but now they’re my kids.” I don’t mean to just make … Right? I’m not trying to take a little jab at them or anything. I’m just saying, they’re my kids, with all the rights and privileges and advantages of being my child. They’re my child. They were one adopted. Now they are my child, and the reason that that’s so important?
I got my daughter’s permission to tell this story because it’s an amazing story. Last Saturday, so a week ago on Saturday, I was in the kitchen with my kids, and Selah, my daughter who’s eight, is painting at the kitchen table, and Acacia is crawling on the kitchen floor. She’s one. So, I pick up Acacia and I’m gonna put her down to a nap, and so I’m walking out of the room, and I say to Selah, “Hey, Selah, I’m gonna put Acacia down for a nap,” and then she goes, “Okay, Daddy,” and as I’m about to leave the room, she says, “Daddy, can I sprinkle some glitter on my painting?” You think you know where this is going. You don’t know. You think you know. You don’t know.
So, I’m like, “Yeah, absolutely, honey,” and then I say, “But be careful,” and she says, “I will.” So, I leave the room, I turn the stairs, I go up the stairs with Acacia, and I lay her down in the crib, and I sing her a quick song, pat her back, tiptoe out of the room, one minute, tops. One minute I am gone. Let me stress that again. One minute I am gone. I then come down the stairs, I’m walking down the stairs, and my daughter, Selah, is now on the coach in a blanket watching TV. I didn’t think anything of it. I turn the corner and go into the kitchen, and then I see it, and when I say I see it, I see it, but I don’t even know what it is, but I see it, and it is everywhere.
I can’t even really fully describe to you what I see, but what I think I can do is give you a timeline and sequence of events that I’ve pieced together through eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence that I believe is a fateful sequence of and just me kind of going as a dad, discerning what I’m hearing, I know what I think happened, and I will now lay out to you what will be ever known in the Paavola house at the Glittering. So, when I leave the room, she takes the glitter jar that’s on the table there, and she’s painting, she puts the paintbrush down, and there’s two options on the top of the glitter jar. There’s option A, the little holes that you can sprinkle, and then obviously, glitter factories are evil because they make an option B, which is a gaping hole of sin.
So, she takes the glitter, and she starts to pour it, and she chooses option B, by the way, and she starts to pour it, and it comes out, and she’s eight. She’s doing the best she could, and this anthill mound of glitter falls onto the painting. Listen carefully. She then takes the glitter jar and puts it on the table and takes a pinch of glitter, I believe, and tries to sprinkle it into the jar. Now, you know … Well, we’ve all learned the hard way. What we’ve all learned the hard is that glitter, it sticks to your hands very much. It just does, right?
So, she’s like, “Oh, my goodness. This is devil dust,” and she can’t get it off, and so then she’s like, “Well, this isn’t working,” so she picks up the paper, obviously. This is what you would do, right? We should dispose of this problem. I fully follow her logic here. She picks up the paper and begins to walk, but she forgets that the jar is on top of the paper. So, when she picks up the paper, the jar falls over onto … Oh, I got glitter on the table now. Whoever gets baptized in the bowl is gonna get glitter on them today. Sorry. It falls over, and when it tips over, a little shoot of glitter comes out, and that’s fine, but she’s got a choice to make now. She’s committed to holding this. Do I take care of that, or I take care of this? She’s already committed here with the paper, so she begins to walk.
As she walks past, I don’t know what happens. We’ve tried to piece it together the best we could when I talked to her, but either she bumped the table or something happened, but the jar of anthrax begins to roll off and falls off the table and onto the air vent below. You think I’m kidding. You think I’m kidding. You think I’m … So, it hits, and now there is a Stranger Things evil cloud of glitter billowing through, wafting through the house, but she dedicated in this moment. What are you gonna do? So, she’s still got the paper. So, she goes and puts it on the counter, and when she puts the paper on the counter it’s next to the … Because she wants to throw it away, but the trashcan’s under the kitchen sink, so she has to put the glitter paper onto the counter, and that is why our bananas sparkle, and she opens the draw, and she does her thing.
But then she grabs paper towels and wets them, thinking that’s gonna take care of glitter. Anyone has tried this, right? She takes paper towels, glitter and paper towels, walks back over, and gets back to the table. That was the first 30 seconds. So, she’s now standing in glitter, barefoot, so it’s on her little feet, and she tries to wipe it and clean it up, but it doesn’t work. All of us have tried this, but it doesn’t work. It makes a glitter cement of some kind, so it’s just … Our house is an old house with wood floors, and there’s cracks in between them, so the glitter is falling into the cracks.
So, she takes that, and now she has this wad of kind of glittery wet paper towels, and she tracks golden little footprints all the way back to the trash, and throws them away, and then she just realizes … So, she at some point comes back to the table, tries to get it off, and it’s a lost cause. So, she just resigns herself to her fate, leaves the room, tracks a chem trail into the living room, across the carpet, lays down on the fabric couch, covers herself in a blanket, and waits for her impending doom.
So, Dad, coming down the stairs. I see Selah. Oh, hey there, Selah. I turn, and I see it, and I freeze. Right? I have this time stood still moment. I’m having a conversation with myself, and immediately there’s anger. You’re just like, “I can’t …” But it’s so over the top, you’re like, “How can I even be angry? This is ludicrous and ridiculous,” and I’m looking at this, and I have this little internal conversation because it was just … I was frozen, and I realized no matter how angry I get, no matter how much I yelled, no matter how much I disciplined, I knew in that moment it wouldn’t clean up the glitter. In fact, if I told her she’s gotta clean that up, I’ve seen her work. I knew that I was gonna be cleaning up glitter, because I’m her father. Let me say that again. I’m cleaning up the mess because I’m her father.
Over the next four hours, while we’re cleaning up … By the way, a little quick tip, if you have a Glittering happen in your home, fabric softener sheets are miracle workers because they kind of repel glitter. It’s amazing. So, just FYI, parents in the room, kids, if this happens to you and you don’t want Mom to see you, use fabric softener sheets. They’re amazing. If you get nothing else out of church, you got that. So, there you go. While I’m cleaning with her, though, at no point while I’m cleaning up the mess did I ever think she wasn’t my child, and at no point in cleaning up the mess did she ever think she wasn’t my child. So, why would it be any different? Why would it be any different? Why would it be any different with God? Someone say amen.
YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER
Why would it be any different with God? Once you were an orphan. Once you were adopted. Now you are his child. No matter how big the mess is, you are no less his child. No matter how big the mess is, you are no less his child. For the people who are getting baptized today, they’re gonna line up, and they’re gonna come to these waters, and when they emerge from these waters, the moment of their baptism is the moment of adoption. Once they were an orphan. Once they were adopted, but now they are his child. Going forward from this moment here, no matter how messy their mess gets, no matter how broke their broke gets, no matter how sick their sick gets, no matter how much glitter they get on their hands, they can tell themselves, “At this moment, I know, no matter how big the mess is, I am no less his child.”
No matter how big the mess is, I am no less his child. Others, they may look in on the mess in their lives and judge them, call them hypocrites. They may critique them. They may tell them what they should do to fix themselves, but they won’t offer help, but not their heavenly father. Their heavenly father is unafraid to enter into their mess because in this moment he pledges them as irrevocable, unconditional, and everlasting love, and no matter how big the mess is, they are no less his child. Amen?
FOR THOSE STILL CONSIDERING
I get it. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, if you’re just looking into this thing called Christianity, if you’re trying to understand what it all is, this seems too easy. This seems too gracious, too unjust almost. This seems too generous. God is being irresponsible as a father. He’s enabling us. But that’s the way it looks until you’re the one with glitter on your hands, until you’re the one with glitter on your hands, and then the grace that you were so quick to call cheap is the grace that you can’t help but now call amazing. Listen. I don’t know if you’re still looking into Jesus, and you can be here as little as you’d like or as long as you’d like. Take all the time you need, but just be very careful of building your life around a world view that makes no room for the possibility that your greatest failure may be in front of you. In these waters, no matter how big the mess is, you are no less his child.
We have people who are gonna be baptized today. This is gonna be awesome. I’m gonna pray. They’re gonna stand up while I’m praying, and they’re gonna line up over here, and they’re gonna be baptized. You can be in that number, too. This can be your day of adoption. No matter what happens from this point forward for you, no matter how broke your broke is, how messy your mess gets, how sick your sick gets, you can say, “No matter how big the mess is, I am no less his child.” Let’s pray. Heavenly father, we love you so, so very much. We thank you for your grace that is impossible to understand. It’s reckless. It’s lavish. We haven’t earned it. We don’t deserve it, and yet you give it to us, and now somehow God, through these waters, you adopt us as your own, and you call us child.
Once we were orphans. Once we were adopted, but now we are your child, and we thank you for that, Lord Jesus. I pray today for the people who are being baptized, that you would impress and sear this truth on their life, that they are a child of God, and that you are now their heavenly father, and no matter how big the mess is, they are no less his child. It’s in your name we pray, King Jesus, and all God’s people say amen. Take a look at this.
I found out about All Nations with my girlfriend, and she invited me. She kept inviting me. I finally came to the service one day, and I enjoyed the pastor, the way that he was teaching that day, because I felt like he was talking to me. For many years, I’ve been running the streets. I was a thief, did drugs, and I was tired, and I kept seeing myself coming closer and closer to Christ every time I came in. I was tired of living the old life I was, and I made a promise to Christ that I would fully give myself to him, and what I heard of baptism, I heard a clean slate. He says mercy is new every day, and that’s what part of baptism is to me, his mercy, his grace, and that’s what I love about him.
Antwon, come up on. Y’all welcome Antwon to the waters of baptism…