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Baptism Is a Big Deal!

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1. Baptism reminds us of the Lord's love. 2. Baptism reminds us of a caring Christians. 3. Baptism reminds us of the miraculous meeting in salvation.

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Baptism Is a Big Deal!

Acts 8:26-39

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - August 21, 2016

*Baptism is a very big deal in Ukraine. Most of the churches don't have a water tank inside to baptize people. And the winters over there are very cold, so they only get to baptize once or twice a year. On those days the whole church loads up and goes to the lake or river. And I have seen 70 people lined up on the bank of the river to be baptized!

*As each person came out of the water, the choir broke into a chorus of praise. Then they greeted the people coming out of the water with hugs and kisses. They also gave them a bouquet of flowers, and a new Bible.

*Baptism is a big deal in Ukraine. It's also a big deal in here in Grayson. Let's look into God's Word and see why.

1 First: Baptism is important because it reminds us of the Lord's love.

*Baptism can remind us how much God loves each and every one of us.

[1] In today's Scripture, we see the Lord's love in the way He directed Philip.

*That's one of the things I have always loved about this story: The way the Lord directed Philip to the Ethiopian. Back up in vs. 5-8, God's Word tells us that:

5. . . Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

6. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

7. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.

8. And there was great joy in that city.

*There was a great revival going on in Samaria, and we might have told Philip to stay right where he was. But God cares about the one just as much as He cares about the crowd. God cares about you just as much as He cares about the crowd.

*So the Lord had another assignment for Philip. In vs. 26: "An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, 'Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' This is desert."

*God sent Philip in a new direction. It was a desert place, and ordinarily it was a deserted place. But God knew who was going to be on the road that day, so, the Lord put Philip in just the right place at just the right time to help the Ethiopian.

*God loved that one Ethiopian man, and God loves you! In a world of over 7 billion people, it's easy to feel small and insignificant. In a world of big cities, small towns may feel insignificant.

*I like a story that was in Reader's Digest years ago. It was about a little town in Iowa called Imogene. At the time only 80 people lived there. Someone from Imogene put out a funny magazine once a month. It was called "The Imogene Hub" One month they had this big headline: "Imogene Zoo Closes" Underneath was a one-line story that said, "The chicken died." (1)

*Well, you may feel smaller than a one-chicken zoo, but you are important in God's eyes! He loves each one of us! We see it in the way the Lord directed Philip.

[2] And best of all, we see it in the way the Lord died. We see Jesus Christ's love in the way He died on the cross for our sins.

*Now at first glance, you might not think this man from Ethiopia needed the cross. Verses 27-28 tell us that he was:

27. . . a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,

28. was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

*This man was a very rich and powerful leader in his country. He had almost everything the world could offer. Plus he was religious. The Ethiopian had been to Jerusalem to worship. He was even reading the Bible when Philip got to him.

*But his religion was not enough to save him. His money was not enough. His position was not enough to save him. His power was not enough. His prestige was not enough.

*That man desperately needed Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for our sins! Everybody desperately needs Jesus! And vs. 29-30 point us to the cross, because here:

29. . . The Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot.''

30. So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?''

*God led Philip to the Ethiopian just in time to hear him reading a passage of Scripture from Isaiah 53. It is one of the most vivid descriptions of the Lord's suffering in the whole Bible. We find it in Isaiah 53:2-8, and there God's Word says this about Jesus:

2. For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

3. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.

8. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

*Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins. The way He was beaten before He was crucified was enough to kill most people. Then, when Jesus was crucified, spikes 5 to 7 inches long were driven through His wrists and feet.

*Lee Strobel explained that the spikes in the Lord's wrists crushed the median nerve, which we call the funny bone. Experts say that that would be like squeezing our funny bone with a pair of pliers. Death by crucifixion was so painful that a new word was created to describe it. That word is "excruciating," which is Latin for "out of the cross." -- So Jesus suffered maximum, excruciating pain. (2)

*But the Lord's physical suffering was just the tip of the iceberg of what He went through for us, because God the Father laid all of our guilt and shame on Jesus! Again, Isaiah 53:4-6 says:

4. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

5. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

*Baptism reminds us of the Lord's great sacrifice for us. Going under the water and coming back up is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So baptism reminds us of the Lord's love.

2. It also reminds us of caring Christians.

*And Philip is a great example of a caring Christian. Philip really cared! In vs. 27, he cared enough to obey God and go out to the desert. Then in vs. 29-30, he cared enough to run to the Ethiopian's chariot:

29. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot.''

30. So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?''

*Yes, Philip ran because he loved the Lord, but he also ran because he loved this man. In fact, he loved the lost man because he loved the Lord.

*Philip also cared enough to go across barriers. The Ethiopian was from another country, another race and another social class. But Philip did not let all of that stop him from sharing the good news about Jesus.

*By the grace of God, one of the best times I ever saw barriers crossed was in Chernigov, Ukraine in 1998. The only reason I was these in the first place was because of some Christians who cared enough to help me go. And I was preaching in a church that Sunday morning, as a Ukrainian lady translated my message into Russian.

*That church had a ministry to deaf people, and there were about 5 or 6 of them on the front row. As the interpreter translated my sermon into Russian, another lady translated her words into sign language. And one of those deaf people got saved that morning!

*What an amazing blessing! God allowed me to go 6,000 miles to tell people about Jesus Christ. Then God translated His Word from English into Russian into sign language, all to get a precious lady saved. God loves to break through barriers, and He uses Christians who care.

*Philip cared enough to go across barriers. He also cared enough to build a relationship with the stranger from Ethiopia. Philip cared enough to listen to the Ethiopian and ask him questions. So vs. 30-31 tell us that:

30. . . Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?''

31. And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?'' And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

*And in vs. 34-35, Philip cared enough to be prepared:

34. So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?''

35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

*Philip was ready to tell the good news about Jesus Christ! He was ready, willing and able, because he cared about Jesus, and he cared about the people Jesus came to save.

*But what's that got to do with baptism? Actually, it has an awful lot to do with baptism, because nobody ever made it to the waters of baptism without help. It takes loving parents and grandparents, preachers, teachers, prayer warriors, witnesses, givers and Christian friends. In short, it takes Christians who care.

*And God wants us to care! God wants us to care like the people who went down to Baton Rouge to help the flood victims this weekend, and the people who helped them go.

*God wants us to care like the people who serve in dozens of different ways in our church. God wants us to care enough to do all we can to help other people receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And baptism reminds us of caring Christians.

3. It also reminds us of the miraculous meeting in salvation.

*This meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch never would have happened without a miracle from God. And in vs. 35-39, we see more great miracles take place:

35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

36. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?''

37. Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may.'' And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.''

38. So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

39. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

*Now that was a miraculous meeting. It took a miraculous message from an angel to get Philip and the Ethiopian together. And in vs. 39, the Lord miraculously caught Philip away, just like the church will be caught up at the rapture.

*Verse 40 tells us that Philip was found at Azotus, and that's about 20 miles away. Philip was whisked there immediately by our miraculous God. That was a miraculous meeting. It had God's fingerprints all over it.

*There are countless testimonies of how God worked in mysterious ways to bring people to Him. And you may not have a testimony like that, but that's okay, because the greatest miracle in the Scripture today wasn't the Ethiopian meeting Philip.

*The greatest miracle was when the Ethiopian met our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The greatest miracle was when that man believed in our crucified and risen Savior. The greatest miracle was when that Ethiopian received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. It's the same miracle that has happened in your life, if you have trusted in the Lord.

*Whenever anyone believes in Jesus, a miraculous transformation takes place. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ comes to live in our heart. We go from death to everlasting life, from darkness to light, and from eternal shame to eternal salvation.

*So baptism symbolizes what Jesus has already done in our lives, when we believe in Him. Going under the water symbolizes that that my old life is dead. That's my life without Jesus. But coming out of the water says that "I'm not dead. I'm alive with the new life God gave me when I received Jesus as Savior and Lord."

*Baptism also symbolizes that our sins are washed away. But our sins are not washed away by Grayson water. The only water that can wash away our sins is the spiritual water of God's Word. So in John 15:3, on the night before He died on the cross, Jesus told His disciples, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."

*Later on, Paul compared the bond between husbands and wives to the bond between Christ and the Church. And in Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul said this to husbands:

25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,

26. that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27. that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

*The spiritual water of God's Word is the only water that can wash away our sins. But most of all, our sins are washed away by the blood that Jesus poured out on the cross for us.

CONCLUSION:

*Before he believed in Jesus, the Ethiopian had everything this world could offer. But that wasn't enough, and it never is. Life without Jesus is doomed to end in darkness without hope.

*But thank God we don't have to live like that! And we don't have to die like that! We can have a miraculous meeting with Jesus Christ! And more than anything else, that's what everybody needs. So put your trust in Jesus Christ, and He will surely save you. Then like the man from Ethiopia, you can go on your way rejoicing.

*And thank God for baptism! -- Because it reminds us of our Lord's love. It reminds us of caring Christians. And it reminds us of our miraculous meeting with the Lord.

*Would you please bow for prayer.

(1) Found in Reader's Digest - Issue and date unknown

(2) Adapted from SermonCentral.com sermon “Jesus is Alive – True or False?” by Lee Strobel - Matthew 28:1-20

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