Tag: jesus christ

Personal Faith in a Public Baptism (a baptism homily)

We made our way down the well-worn path, the one that leads right to the (free) side of Barton Springs, the place where all kinds of Austinites gather throughout the year. We were gathered, not around the Springs, but around Jesus. With the nudists thirty yards down, pot-smoking hippies a little further up, tattooed hipsters waist deep in the Springs, and dogs and their beloved owners all around, the weird Christians descended upon one of Austin’s most public and loved spots. About a hundred of us lined the bank. I waded out into the clear, to-be baptismal waters. And there, in the midst of the diversity of Austin and its weirdness, adult after adult proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord as they identified with him in the watery grave, and emerged taking their breath of resurrected life.

We also sang songs of worship, hear stories of grace, ate a lot of food, and heard the gospel preached. We plan on publishing some of the stories, but for now, here is the brief baptismal homily I gave before we descended upon the waters.


This is one of my favorite things we do. Baptism at Barton Springs. In the midst of swirling currents of spirituality and the diverse cultures of Austin, we get to wade down into the waters and join God’s new disciples in professing that Jesus Christ as Lord of All.

So welcome: church, family, and friends as we celebrate God’s grace through Baptism today. We are gathered to celebrate God. In particular, his liberating, forgiving, and renewing grace in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin and forever union with Christ. Following Scripture, we commemorate this work of grace in a person’s life through the practice of baptism. Today Stephanie, Grant, Pete, Mackenzie, and Sarah are going to be baptized because of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. So here’s the plan—we’re going to sing a couple of songs (like we mean it), then ill briefly explain the meaning of Baptism, then we’ll get to hear a couple of stories from Grant & Mackenzie. Afterwards, we’ll all go down to the Springs and each person will come out to the water one at a time, with whomever they have invited to join them. Then we will all come back up to the shelter and sing one more song, and then feast!

What is Baptism?
What is baptism? Baptism is a wonderful picture of what God has accomplished through Christ in someone’s life. This picture symbolizes repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. What is repentance? Repentance is giving up on faith in anything other than Jesus. We all have faith. We all trust in something or someone, even if it’s ourselves. Even the atheist has faith that there is no God. The question is where are you going to put your faith? Repentance is a decisive turn away from faith in yourself, your good deeds, your spirituality, your career, faith in your spouse, faith or worship of other lords AND a decisive turning to faith in Jesus, faith in his goodness, his spirituality, his intimacy, his supremacy.

Why is Faith in Jesus Better?
Clearly I believe that Jesus is the better place to put your faith, but why? Why is Jesus a better place for faith? Three reasons: he’s true, forgiving, and renewing. First, Jesus is the better place to put your faith because he is true. He is the true Lord and God (the Spirit & Word of God convince us of that). God appeals to our reason throug the Scriptures and our longings through his Spirit. Jesus is the one, true God. Second, Jesus is the better place to put your faith because he is a forgiving God. He is more forgiving than your friend, even your best friend, than your spouse, even they fail to forgive at times, certainly more forgiving than the career ladder, where the weak are crushed, more forgiving than your parents, more forgiving than any other God because he pays for our forgiveness at his expense. Forgiveness isn’t wishful thinking for our God; its not a cosmic sweep of sins under the rug. No, he deals with the sins that need forgiving. He forgives us at his expense. We sold him out; we put our faith in other things; we refused to worship him but insisted on worshipping other things. We should pay for betraying him, but instead, Jesus is betrayed and pays for us. He dies the death we deserve. Why should we trust him? He’s the true God…and he’s the forgiving God, more than any other person or thing, God forgives us in Jesus, at his expense, the death of his very own Son. Finally, it’s better to put faith in Jesus not only because he’s true and he’s forgiving, but also because he’s renewing. God doesn’t leave Jesus in the grave. He doesn’t leave us there, forgiven but dead set on sinning. No, he renews us; he’s a renewing God. God raises Jesus from the dead to new life. He receives a new body of new quality, the body we are promised, but he gives us new life right away.The old life is continually renewed by the power of Jesus new life. He transfers his new life to us right away, which we work out over a lifetime. His death and resurrection become our death and resurrection. He’s a renewing God. So, it really is better to put your faith in Jesus than in all those other things because Jesus is true, forgiving, and renewing–more than anyone or anything else!

Now, what does all this—he’s true, forgiving, and renewing—have to do with baptism? Faith in Jesus? Well, baptism compresses all of this—the gospel—into a picture. It signifies our death with Christ, as we are lowered into his “watery grave,” and life with Christ, as we are raised to take our first breath in his new life (Rom. 6:4). In baptism, we are meant to see that Jesus death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection. The life that emerges from the “baptismal waters” is a life forgiven of all sin and alive to the Savior! We don’t have to live by faith in lesser gods anymore. We can enjoy freedom and life in Christ. So you see, Jesus is worth trusting because he’s true, forgiving, and renewing. He doesn’t just forgive us; he renews us. He gives us a new life in where we can enjoy his love, grace, and a thousand other benefits. He gives us himself. Death to the old gods and life in the one, true God. That’s what we are all celebrating today, people in our church who have given up on themselves and given into the wonderful love of Christ by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Baptism is a public picture and declaration that Jesus is true, forgiving, and renewing.

Meditate on the Cross

This Friday we remember the brutal, unjust suffering and death of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Try not to treat it like any other day. Take some time to meditate on the cross. Consider God’s great cost in reconciling us to himself through the death of his Son. Consider the greatness of your sin that would require the death of God, but don’t stay there. Also consider and how much greater is God’s forgiveness, the triumph of his love…and anticipate his resurrection for your life.

As you meditate on the cross, consider reading some of the brief chapters in John Piper’s booklet 50 reasons Jesus Came to Die. You can download the whole book for free here. Here is a reprint of

For the Forgiveness of Our Sins:

When we forgive a debt or an offense or an injury, we dont
require a payment for settlement. That would be the opposite
of forgiveness. If repayment is made to us for what we lost,
there is no need for forgiveness. We have our due.
Forgiveness assumes grace. If I am injured by you, grace lets
it go. I dont sue you. I forgive you. Grace gives what someone
doesnt deserve. Thats why forgiveness has the word give in it.
Forgiveness is not getting even. It is giving away the right to
get even.

That is what God does to us when we trust Christ: Everyone
who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name
(Acts 10:43). If we believe in Christ, God no longer holds our sins
against us. This is Gods own testimony in the Bible: I, I am he
who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake (Isaiah
43:25). As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove
our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).
Christ Suffered and Died . . .

But this raises a problem. We all know that forgiveness is not
enough. We may only see it clearly when the injury is greatlike
murder or rape. Neither society nor the universe can hold together
if judges (or God) simply say to every murderer and rapist, Are
you sorry? Okay. The state forgives you. You may go. In cases
like these we see that while a victim may have a forgiving spirit,
the state cannot forsake justice.

So it is with Gods justice. All sin is serious, because it is against
God (see chapter 1). He is the one whose glory is injured when we
ignore or disobey or blaspheme him. His justice will no more
allow him simply to set us free than a human judge can cancel all
the debts that criminals owe to society. The injury done to Gods
glory by our sin must be repaired so that in justice his glory shines
more brightly. And if we criminals are to go free and be forgiven,
there must be some dramatic demonstration that the honor of God
is upheld even though former blasphemers are being set free.
That is why Christ suffered and died. In him we have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses
(Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness costs us nothing. All our costly obedience
is the fruit, not the root, of being forgiven. Thats why we
call it grace. But it cost Jesus his life. That is why we call it just.
Oh, how precious is the news that God does not hold our sins
against us! And how beautiful is Christ, whose blood made it right
for God to do this.

Nobody Hates Jesus

Jesus is not the exclusive property of Christians. Polls reveal that Americans of all faiths view Jesus “overwhelmingly in a favorable light” and that he has “a strong hold on those with no religious training.” Amazingly, nearly half of the country’s non-Christians believe that Jesus was born from a virgin and raised from the dead. Here atheists and Buddhists are active producers and consumers of images of Jesus, who in many respects functions as common cultural coin. Talk to a Hindu and she might tell you that Jesus is an avatar of the god Vishnu. Ask a Jew and you might be told that he was a great rabbi. In a bestselling novel from 1925, Bruce Barton described Jesus as The man Nobody Knows. Today he is the man nobody hates.

– Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, 11

Three Phrases for Church Planters

I shudder at shepherding 150 eternal souls. Right now, Austin City Life is about half way there. We’ve grown steadily through the summer, in gospel depth and number. My wife has taken a spiritual beating. If the structure is strong, take out the foundation, right? If you are a planter, you know exactly what I am talking about. Add to this weight the strong possiblity of double numbers, double services, and double the ministry in the Fall. All of these things are an encouraging sign that God is for us, for our city, and that Satan is against us. But as I consider the responsiblity of being accountable to God for 150 souls, I tremble, not enough, but I do. Then I read one of the familiar Gospel stories of Jesus walking on the water.

Jesus very deliberately sets this whole story up. He piles the disciples into a boat and sends them across the sea, where he will meet them later. He is desperate for some communion with God, alone. So he goes to the mountain to pray. (I wonder if getting our clothes dirty would be an issue for mountain praying? It probably depends on how desperate we realize we really are, for everything.) In anguish, the disciples painfully rowed against the wind. Then Jesus came walking on the sea, which couldn’t have been a catwalk. You would think this would comfort the disciples–King Jesus walking the turbulent sea, a place aquainted with death in the Semitic and seafearer’s mind. But they mistake him for a ghost and cry out in terror. Yes, Jesus let it get worse before it got better. He set them up for this. Why? We are told that Jesus immediately spoke “with them”, not “to them.” We are intended hear the empathy in Jesus’ voice. He then strengthens them with three phrases: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.

  • Have Courage: In other stories Jesus tells them not to fear, but here he exhorts them to have courage. Turbulent waves are just the beginning for those that would take up their cross and follow him. This word for courage is often translated “be of good courage.” Good courage? What’s the difference between regular courage and good courage? The good courage exhorted by Jesus is courage with good reason. This is not a groundless command—a buck up come what may—but courage because of the promise of the presence of God. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) With God in Christ leading the charge, we have every reason to be courageous. This is no misplaced courage. In fact, this echoes Moses’ charge to Israel with the Egyptians on the heels and the Red Sea above their heads: “Be of good courage: stand and see the salvation which is from the Lord, which he will work for us this day; for as you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall see them again no more forever” (Ex 14:13). Courage with the hope of redemption, gospel courage.
  • I Am: The translation “It is I” is accurate, but the Greek is that simple yet profound construction used by John to underscore the deity of Christ–I AM. When the future is intimidating and we have trouble making out devils from angels, Jesus assures us of his unchanging presence—I Am. When circumstances and ministry demands are painful, overwhelming, and Jesus seems far away, remember—I Am. King of the storms, walker of the waves, messiah of the nations—Jesus is present in unflinching power and grace. Cling to him, cry to him, and he will come. He will come in those late nights and early mornings when you are slammed with untold emotional force and tears stream down your face, as you consider the gravity of your calling, the depth of sin, and the grace of eternal redemption proclaimed in and through your church. In those moments, call out to the I Am; he is ready to save.
  • Do not be Afraid: With good courage flowing from the hope of redemption and faith in a messiah who is the I Am, we have every reason to not be afraid. Don’t let the trials of planting or discipleship harden your heart; instead, let them be occasion for you to receive good courage from Jesus with good reason. Take the blows, not as a man, but as a disciple. Lead the charge into hell with heaven at your back, and by the grace of God rip away the chains of sin with tenderness of the gospel. Don’t be afraid. He is ready to save.