You’ve heard me say on any number of occasions,“I’m a Christian by conversion. I’m a Baptist by conviction. I’m a Southern Baptist by choice.”
I’m here to tell you this evening that I’m grateful to be a Christian, and glad to be a Southern Baptist.
I’m a Christian because on a Tuesday in June of 1973, half-way between St. Louis and Columbia while driving a delivery truck, God came flooding into my life through His Holy Spirit. That was thirty-nine years ago. A year later, I felt that same Spirit calling me into ministry.
I’m a Southern Baptist because after God saved me I bought a Bible and began to read it and check Baptists out. I had been attending the Baptist Church where Linda and her family attended and really liked it. But before I joined I spent the next couple of months watching Baptists, and listening to Baptists and learning about Baptists before I decided to become a Baptist. It’s a decision, I’ve never once regretted. If someone ever asked me the question, “What would you be if you couldn’t be a Baptist?” I’d tell them I would “Be ashamed.”
There are many, many reasons why I’m glad to be a Southern Baptist. Let me take a few minutes this evening to give you the three most compelling reasons.
I. I’M GLAD TO BE A SOUTHERN BAPTIST BECAUSE OF OUR DOCTRINE AND THEOLOGY
- first of all, that I am Southern Baptist because of who we are doctrinally
- the Apostle John wrote three letters to his beloved church at Ephesus where he had been the pastor
- they are letters in response to certain heresies that had crept into the church
- ILLUS. The testimony and writings of the early Church Fathers tell us a man by the name of Cerinthus introduced one of those heresies into the church. Cerinthus believed that Jesus and Christ were two different people. He said Jesus was human and Christ was divine. When Jesus was baptized the Christ came into his life, and when he died the Christ left Jesus. That heresy infiltrated and affected the early church. It came to be known as Gnosticism, and taught that knowing Jesus was just the first of a whole series of spiritual steps required to get to heaven. John writes in these three epistles in an attempt to combat and to answer these heresies and to call the church back to doctrinal purity.
- “The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.” (3 John 1-3, NIV)
- three times in these verses John refers to the truth
- the word for truth that he uses, refers to: the truth as taught in the Christian faith, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ
- in other words, John is referring to doctrinal truth
- it is absolutely critical that the church in every age contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3)
- 1 Timothy 6:3-5 ?"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth . . . “/ NIV
- like the Apostle John, Paul is referring to pure doctrinal truth
- the Apostle Paul writes that teaching doctrine leads to sound instruction concerning our Lord Jesus Christ
- let me give you a few examples
A. WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD MATTERS
- Southern Baptists are unapologeticly committed to the Word of God
- 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” NIV
- he's talking about those in the church to whom the Word of God does not matter
- people outside the church have never cared about the Word, they don't like the Word … they're not interested in the Word – except maybe for the parts they like
- ILLUS. Many folks are like Thomas Jefferson. They just cut out the parts of the Bible they don’t like or don’t believe. Thomas Jefferson believed that the ethical system of Jesus was the finest the world has ever seen. In compiling what has come to be called "The Jefferson Bible," he sought to separate those ethical teachings from the supernatural elements of the four Gospels.
- they want somebody to affirm and confirm them in their sin
- they may not say it openly, but their attitude is, “Let me live the lifestyle I want to live and don't ever bring to bear on it the Word of God.”
- ILLUS. Every year – including this one – a group called SoulForce pickets the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. It is composed of homosexual activists who insist that you can be openly Gay and a committed Christian. You see . . . they just ignore the Scriptures they don’t like.
- it is the infallible, and the inerrant, and the authoritative Word of God
- ILLUS. Well over one hundred years ago B.H. Carroll – one of our great Baptist forefathers wrote, If [all] the words [of Scripture] are not inspired, how am I to know how much to reject and how to find out whether anything is from God? When you hear the silly talk that the Bible contains the Word of God, it is not the Word of God, you hear a fool’s talk.
- Scripture alone is to be the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct for the Christian
B. WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST MATTERS
- ILLUS. The hubbub over Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is proof of that.
- every year, we have to hear from a symposium called the Jesus Seminar
- they’re an interesting group
- each symposium gathering consists of between 20 to 30 scholars presenting papers and essays to each other
- every year they choose a topic to debate – like did Jesus really rise from the dead?
- then – at the end of all the presentations and discussion – they use colored marbles to vote on the veracity of the Scriptures
- and gee, guess what? according to the Jesus Seminar folks . . .
- Jesus was not born of a virgin
- He didn’t do any miracles
- He wasn’t sinless
- He didn’t raise from the dead
- and He didn’t say 90% of what the Gospels say He said
- now I ask you, what’s left to believe?
- almost every year Newsweek and Time and U.S.A. Today magazines will do a cover story showing a picture of Christ and the headlines reads, "Who was Jesus Christ?"
- He’s a Radical Rabbi
- He’s a Wandering Holy Man
- He’s a Rabble-rousing Old Testament-type Prophet
- He’s an Itinerant Philosopher and Would-be Healer
- He’s everything but the Eternal Christ, the Son of God Incarnate who came to take away the sins of the world
- OK, what does the Bible say?
- John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
- I believe He was born of a virgin . . .
- I believe that He was tempted just as we are and yet He remained absolutely sinless
- I believe He was born very God of very God and very man of very man – He was the God/man . . .
- I believe He was crucified . . .
- I believe He literally died on the cross as an Atoning Sacrifice for the sins of His Elect
- I believe He was placed in a tomb and He was raised bodily out of the grave and ascended to the Father in heaven
- I believe that some day the trumpet of God will sound, the dead in Christ arise to meet the Lord in the air and so be with Him forever
C. WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT THE BLOOD MATTERS
- this gets quite old fashioned . . . but I believe in the power of the blood of Jesus
- Jehovah Witnesses say the blood of Christ has only partial cleansing power
- they believe that salvation comes through surviving Armageddon and coming to Jehovah through good works
- Christian Scientists say that the blood of Jesus is absolutely incapable of cleansing lost men of their sin
- the Mormons say it is ridiculous to think that the blood of Christ can cleanse sin
- but the Scriptures tell us something different
- Hebrews 9:22 “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” NIV
- 1Peter 1:18 ". . . knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life that you inherited from you forefathers, but with precious blood as of the Lamb unblemished spotless the blood of Christ for He was foreknown before the foundations of the World, but has appeared in these last times, for the sake of you.”
- a Baptist can look at every lost person in the world and say with authority, Jesus died for sinners, and if you’ll repent of sin and confess Christ as Savior and Lord and follow him, you will be saved
- He shed His blood so He could take away your sins
- He was resurrected so He could give you eternal life with Him
- ILLUS. "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains."
D. WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT BELIEVER'S BAPTISM MATTERS
- Baptists practice not just baptism but believer’s baptism
- what’s the difference you ask?
- ohhhh – a big one
- it means that the only people we will baptize into the church is the person who understands that they are sinner, who is willing to repent of their sins, and who makes an open and public confession that Jesus is risen from the dead and is Lord
- that statement immediately nullifies the baptizing of infants
- not only do we practice believer’s baptism but we practice believer’s baptism by immersion
- only baptism by immersion gives a true picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
- baptism by immersion is a perfect picture of the death of our old sinful nature and our resurrection with Christ in newness of life
- these are some of the keys to our faith that are expressly taught by the Scriptures
- I’m glad to be a Southern Baptist because of our unapologetic commitment to the Word of God
II. I’M GLAD TO BE A SOUTHERN BAPTIST BECAUSE OF OUR CHURCH POLITY
- polity is a term we don’t hear much about in Baptist life any more
- the term refers to the form of government of a social organization
- in simple terms, polity refers to the way we do church
- folks, I’m glad to be a Southern Baptist because I believe the way we do church, and what we believe about the church, and the way support the church and church causes is the right way
- ILLUS. Early this week I received a phone call from a gentleman who works for a fund-raising company. He introduced himself, and then said, “I’m sure ya all do fund raisers in your church!” I said, “No we do not. We rely on tithes and offering to support the work of the church.” There was a moment of silence and then he said, “You’re kidding.” I said, “Nope.” And he said, “Well, thank you very much.” and hung up.
- we observe two ordinances – baptism and the Lord’s Supper – believing both to be only symbols – albeit very important symbols – of a deeper spiritual reality
- and when we baptize we do it by total immersion
- and when we go to the Lord’s table we do it as a memorial not as a mystical way to get more grace
- I think that’s the right way
- we believe in only two offices within the Church – pastors and deacons – and believe that each congregation has the right to call to those positions those they feel led of the Holy Spirit to call
- I think that’s the right way
- we believe in cooperating with other Southern Baptists when it comes to supporting mission and benevolent causes
- to cooperatively support those ministries we believe are important we have what we call the Cooperative Program where even the smallest church can have an equal part in supporting Christian causes
- I think that’s the right way
- we believe in a congregational form of government
- that means authority rests with the membership of the local congregation – one Baptist, one vote
- it means that higher human authority within the church or over the church is denied
- it means that pastors are regarded as full-time servants – not church managers
- it means that the denomination itself is governed by local churches who send messengers to give direction to Nashville, not to take orders from Nashville
- I think that’s the right way
III. I’M GLAD TO BE A SOUTHERN BAPTIST BECAUSE OF OUR MISSIONARY AND EVANGELISTIC ZEAL
- there is no boundary that Jesus does not cross
- there is no people or land or culture that He does not want us to penetrate
- He wants us to go everywhere lost men are found – and that’s every corner of the world
A. SOUTHERN BAPTISTS TAKE SERIOUSLY THE GREAT COMMISSION
- we profess, promote, and practice personal evangelism
- I was reminded of this great truth once again at our annual meeting
- ILLUS. A number of years ago, Southern Baptists began using our convention’s annual meeting as a focus to reach into the city where we were having our convention with an evangelistic campaign. This evangelistic emphasis is called Crossover. On the Saturday and Sunday before the annual meeting, hundreds of Baptists from across the country join Baptists from the host city in evangelistic efforts: Door-to-door witnessing, block parties, prayer walks and all kinds of novel approaches are used to share the true Gospel. At this year’s Crossover, over 10,000 Southern Baptists fanned out across the New Orleans metropolitan area to evangelize the city. By Wednesday evening, over 2,500 professions of faith were registered.
- more than any other evangelical denomination
- our North American Mission Board and our International Mission Board combined support just over 5,000 missionaries in every state and 127 countries of the world
Baptists have some definite distinctives that set us apart from other denominations. We do not apologize for our forefathers declaration of those truths which were designated Baptist distinctives and we proudly and courageously declare them now by the grace of God to the glory of God. True Baptists are different! We are different because of certain important beliefs and certain important doctrinal emphases. We glory primarily in the Cross – the redemptive work of Christ, but there is more to a true proclamation of the Gospel than that. There is a necessary presentation of the "whole counsel of God", or heresy easily creeps in other areas. I therefore affirm our Baptist Distinctives without apology. I’m a Christian by conversion. I’m a Baptist by conviction, and I’m a Southern Baptist by choice. I’m grateful for being a Christian. I’m glad to be a Baptist.