I want you, for a few moments, just to turn with me to Romans chapter 6, the passage that we had read to us this evening - Romans 6 - as we think about what is going to happen later on in our service.
Suicide is a terrible thing. Some psychologists would tell us that suicide, especially with young people, is a cry for help. But others tell us that, indeed, suicide is a method for some people - they think - of escaping the problems of life. They have problems, there are perplexities, anxieties, fears that they have in their life and they think that by taking away their life, or by escaping from life, that they will escape those problems. Of course, we know that that is wrong - because they may, through death, face an even bigger problem, and that is death without the Lord Jesus Christ.
Death is what our passage, this evening, was speaking about. Death - not physical death, but what is 'spiritual death'. Death to sin. You see, the Christian life that we are portraying this evening, that we talk about, that we preach about - being a Christian is a matter of life and death. Paul posed a question in verse 1 of chapter 6 of our passage this evening, he said: 'What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?'. And this was a question that Paul was posing, as if people in [the] society that he was living in were pointing this question at the believers - you see, the Christian believers were preaching a message of grace, and grace simply means that we have received something that we do not deserve. They were saying that all their sin, all the wrong that they had ever done in their lives, had been wiped out - the whole slate had been wiped clean, everything they had done wrong in their past, their present and their future was now forgiven. So these clever-clogs were coming up to them and saying, 'Well, if that's so and your future sins are forgiven, does that mean that you can now go out and do as you please?'.
Some Christians, to look at them - and maybe you know some of them - you would think that was the case. But Paul says: 'No! That is not the case. If you sin more it doesn't simply mean that there'll be more grace to cover that sin - that's not the attitude of the believer'. He goes on to say that Christianity is a life and a death matter. You see, the Christian, the believer, the person who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord, dies! You see, sinning is not an option for a Christian, because when a person becomes a Christian their old life - their life of sin, their life of pleasing themselves, their life of self-righteousness, self-gratification - that life is supposed to die with the Lord Jesus Christ. It's as if there's a funeral taking place, and your old life, like a body, is taken and put in a coffin, it is put six feet under the ground, it is left there - it is gone forever. It's dead! You see, these people that were posing the question, they had misunderstood this - they had thought it was easy to be a Christian, that you just got saved, your slate was wiped clean and you could go on and do as you pleased. But Paul says, 'That's not the case. We have died to sin'.
There were two commands that the Lord Jesus Christ left with believers when He left this earth - only two. He said that they, week by week, Lord's day by Lord's Day, were to come together as a body of believers, they were to have a meal, break bread and drink wine. He said this was to show forth His death, till He would come again. The other command that He left was that you - after you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ - you were to be baptised. Two commands. I wonder are you a believer here tonight? How many of those commands - only two of them - how many have you obeyed? So many believers, week by week, disobey the Lord and leave His presence - week after week - and don't break bread, and so many believers in their life have never, ever been baptised.
Jesus Himself had a baptism. Now, I'm not talking about the baptism in water that He had, although He did baptise and He was baptised. You remember the time that the Lord Jesus Christ came down to that lake, and John the Baptist was there and he said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'. Jesus told John the Baptist to baptise Him, and John says, 'I can't baptise You! I'm not worthy to even loose the sandles of Your feet'. But the Lord Jesus was baptised, and He was baptised so that He might identify Himself with those who will be baptised tonight. But there is another baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ that we read about, and this is what this water baptism this evening symbolises - and we find it Luke 12 and verse 50, when the Lord Jesus Himself said these words, listen: 'But I have a baptism to undergo, I have a baptism with which I will be baptised; and how distressed', He said, 'I am until it is completed!'.
You see what you are going to witness this evening - whether you're a Christian or whether you're not a Christian - what you will witness this evening is symbolic. It represents something, it represents the baptism that the Lord Jesus Christ had to undergo - the baptism that He said He was so distressed about. What was that baptism? We read about it in the Psalms, where the Psalmist - as he pictures the Lord Jesus Christ - he says this: 'All thy waves and billows are come o'er me'. You see, when the Lord Jesus Christ was taken and by wicked hands He was stripped naked, when men spat upon Him, when men mocked Him, when men took Him and nailed His physical flesh to a piece of wood, and lifted that piece of wood and dropped into a socket, when He stood - men gaping upon His nakedness - when He was there on the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ had a baptism. You see the word 'baptism' simply means 'to be immersed'. It means to go under something, to be covered by something - and when the Lord Jesus Christ was upon the cross He was immersed with something, He was covered with something, and do you know what it was, this evening? He was covered, He was immersed, He was baptised with the wrath of God. The anger, the fury and the wrath of a holy God - a God who could not look upon sin, could not abide the presence of sin - that holy God took His Son and poured, baptised Him with His anger against sin. And Jesus died on the cross, and He died for your sin, and He died for my sin, and He died for the sins of the world - and the word of God tells us that He was buried, after He died He was taken and He was buried, and three days later as He promised - and as the word of God had prophesied - He rose victoriously from the dead!
That's what baptism symbolises, tonight. We have four people tonight who are going to be baptised - and these people have been born again! And just like the Lord Jesus died and was buried and came to life, these people have had an experience like that - not in a physical way, but in a spiritual way. In their sin, they were dead, they were separated from God, they could not worship God, they could not approach God - but because of the baptism that the Lord Jesus Christ had on the cross, when He took their sin, when He was punished for their sin, because of that they have been born again, they have been born into a new life. They now experience eternal life, the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been baptised in the Holy Spirit of God. This water baptism that we're going to look at tonight is simply representing, simply showing, it is a picture of what has happened in their life. Their old life, their old sinful life - and maybe you know what this is like tonight, maybe you're a sinner and you know it! And you're still living in your old sin, and those sins still control you, and you wish - like the suicidal - that you could just escape! That you could get away from it!
I read a story about a Pastor - and some people think that Pastors have no problems, and it's probably the exact opposite - but Pastors at times can get depressed, they can get downhearted. And this Pastor had so many problems in his church, there were even problems in his family, everything seemed to be against him - and he was so depressed, so anxious and fearful that one day as he was driving along in his car, he stopped the car. He could go on no further, he was at the end of his tether and he simply cried out to God, and looked to heaven and said, 'Lord, I wish I was dead!'. And, as if from heaven, there came a reply and it simply said, 'You died long ago'. You see, this is what has happened to these four, this is what has happened to every believer here tonight - they have died to their sin. And when Jesus died on the cross, their life of sin died with Him - everything that they had done wrong was punished there and they, as it were, were crucified with Him! They were put to death, and now because of what He did, they are now free to live new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord! Colossians 3 verse 3 says: 'You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God'. You see, God's people are both dead and alive at the same time!
Baptism is a sign of their repentance. Repentance simply means to turn away from your sin, to leave it behind, forsake it, reckon it as dead, believe that it is dead and turn to God and be alive to Him, and live to Him. I wonder have you ever done that? Have you ever turned from your sin? Are you dead to your sin? Do you live to God? Baptism is a confession of the Lord Jesus Christ, these people tonight are showing that they belong to Jesus! They don't belong to an earthly kingdom, they don't belong to an organisation, or to a political situation - they don't belong to anything but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, they are pilgrims here! They're His disciples, they have given everything up to follow the Lord Jesus. Baptism is showing that they are totally dedicated to Him - the early Christian church used to call baptism 'Sacramentum' (sp?), and Sacramentum was an old Latin word that simply symbolised the Roman soldier's oath of absolute devotion and obedience to a General. No matter what their General told them, the Roman soldier would go and do it - and it's just like these folk tonight. They have a new Master, once their master was Satan, and their master was sin, and their master was the lusts and desire of the flesh - but now, because of the change that is in their life, they have a Master in Jesus Christ.
Baptism is like a badge to tell them who they belong to. I remember, when I went to secondary school, I wasn't really walking properly with the Lord and I knew that I had to take a step to show people in this new school that I belonged to Jesus. On the very first day of term I took a badge that my mother used to wear at school - it was a little 'Jesus Saves' badge - and I pinned it on my lapel, and I walked through the front doors, and immediately that was the first thing they saw and they knew that I belonged to Jesus. It was a hard step to take, I was nailing my colours to the mast right away, I was taking that stand - and it's as if these folk tonight are taking a public stand, wearing a badge to show that they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, they are His! It's total devotion, total dedication. They are showing that every area of their life belongs to Jesus. They can't take a little part and keep it for themselves - they can't say, 'Well, this area is my area'. They are dedicating everything, I wonder have you ever done that?
I remember hearing a story of a man who was just about to be baptised, and he panicked, and he got out of the water and he quickly ran into the back again - and the Pastor said, 'What are you doing?'. He said, 'I forgot my bank book!'. He [the Pastor] said, 'Well what do you need your bank book for?'. He says, 'I want my bank book to be baptised for Jesus Christ'. He wanted to make sure that there was no area of his life, no part - whether it be his pocket or his heart - that was outside the Lordship of Jesus. Everything had to be all for Jesus Christ!
Baptism cannot save these folk tonight, because they are already saved. But this outward show, this outward act, is to show an inward reality that they have in their life. Christianity is a matter of life and death - they are dead to their sin and now they are alive to God - and being a Christian is a matter of bondage or freedom. Let me ask you tonight: who is your master? Is it Jesus or is it your old life? Romans 8 and verse 2 says: 'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death' - are you bound this evening, by chains of sin, by chains of false religion? Would you long to be free, like those who are being baptised tonight and showing their freedom in Christ? If the Son sets you free tonight, you will be free indeed - and as our reading said, in chapter 6 and verse 14, sin shall not be your master.
I wonder would you long to have Christ as your Master, tonight? You know, if you would, and you would long to have freedom from sin, and have your sin done with, and have your sin buried with Christ and leave it - if you would long for that happen, do you know all you have to do this evening is yield yourself to Christ! Yield yourself! Say, 'Lord, I have sinned and Lord, I have done wrong. I know that I'm a slave to it but I want to be a slave to You, I want to serve You. I want to use the hands that I used for sin, and the mouth I used for sin, and the feet I used to go into sinful places - I want to use them for You and use them for Your glory!'. Be careful, because the wages of sin is death - but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I wonder is your prayer tonight that hymn: 'Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands, my Lord, let them move to Thy love. Take my voice and let it sing ever, only, of my King. Take my feet and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store'.
This baptism tonight is an act of allegiance, it is an act of worship, it is showing what Jesus has done in these folk's lives. Let me say, in closing to these four, that out of my own experience of baptism and through the word of God I read that after the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ came the temptation, the testing in the wilderness. And after my own baptism - and other believers may testify to this - Satan sees you now as showing publicly, showing to everyone that you belong to Jesus, and now he's going to go up a gear. Be careful, for now that you are standing firm for Christ, he will stand firm to pull you down. But let me leave you with the words that we heard this morning: 'Draw near to God and He will draw near to you'. May God bless you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at a Baptismal service in Portadown Baptist Church, Portadown, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Dead To Sin" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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