Baptism: Is it a Big Deal?

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

Is getting baptized a big deal? It all depends on what it means. To get an idea of its importance, think about the following.

What if you’re attending a wedding ceremony, and the pastor asks the groom, “Will you take this woman to be your wife? If so, say ‘I will,’” and the groom responds, “Do I really need to say that?”

Or, let’s say you’re at a ceremony for new citizens, and the judge says, “Please rise to take the Oath of Citizenship and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution,” and a non-citizen immigrant says to the judge, “I want to have the benefits of being in America, but I really don’t want to be called an American citizen. Can I sit this one out?”

In God’s world, being washed with water has always symbolized for the follower of Jehovah and Jesus that they want to be morally pure and to be cleansed from their sins. It means one more thing: that they want to publicly acknowledge personal allegiance to their God.

Is your baptism a big deal to God? Look at one encounter of the first century to get a picture of what it means to God to see you baptized, and what he’ll do to help make it happen.[1]

In Acts 8, Philip, called the Evangelist, had been kicked out of Jerusalem because of persecution against Christians by the Jewish leaders and was leading a revival in Samaria. In the middle of all the activity, the Spirit said to him, “Get on the road to Gaza.” And so he went, not really knowing who he was looking for. Running alongside a chariot, Philip overheard the words of Isaiah being read. In the chariot was an Ethiopian eunuch, the chief treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia, who was leaving Jerusalem and returning home after traveling over 1,000 miles to worship God at a Jewish feast. It wasn’t long before Philip had explained who Jesus was to the eunuch, leading him to the place where the eunuch said, “I want to be baptized and identify with Jesus.”

While there’s much more to the story, the main point is this: The way that God orchestrated a million logistical details for one person to know Jesus and have a desire to be baptized gives you insight into what He does in your life to bring you to the same place. After he was baptized, the Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing.

If you haven’t been baptized, why not? To God, it’s a big deal for you to publicly declare, “I belong to Jesus, and He belongs to me. I proclaim my personal allegiance to him.”

[1] Read Acts 8 for a full account of how the Spirit of God was working mightily during this time of early church history.

Are You Speaking God to Those Around You?

By Angel Turbeville, MBC Bethesda Director of Small Groups

Monday started with not enough time with God. I spilled my jaded, exhausted, questioning heart to Him and ran out the door to go work at the church. Yes, you read that right…go work at the church. Part of my prayer was that God would show me that He is at work. My quiet time was pathetic, incomplete with no adoration and a list of frustrated demands. Yet, apparently God received my honest mess and that was exactly the prayer He chose to answer that day.

I went to the office, wrestled through my day with as much faith as I could muster and decided I would attend our Arlington campus for service that night. My friend Dan was being baptized, and I thought it would be fun to surprise him. I ended up meeting another friend, Derek, for dinner, just before service.

My prayer came God-sized full circle when I sat at dinner with Derek. During the course of our conversation he reminded me that I had brought him to church five years ago. At that time, I didn’t work for the church. He was a co-worker who I shared the Gospel with. Through the course of conversations and attending MBC Arlington he came to the full realization of God’s love and redemption. My friend Dan, who was being baptized that night, was impacted by being invited to church by Derek. His involvement with MBC Arlington helped him grow to a full understanding of a personal relationship with God and resulted in his statement of faith through baptism.

God-sized Full Circle

Dan and Derek after BaptismBut wait, the circle got bigger. At dinner I met another friend Derek brought to church—a neighbor from Morocco who is a non-practicing Muslim and curious about God. Derek, who had only a distant awareness of God five years ago, was sharing the Gospel together with me to his friend. During our conversation we discussed the Muslims, the Jews and the lack of peace in the world. He has been questioning why there isn’t one true faith that will bring peace. I explained Christ is peace and quoted the Philippians passage stating that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord. We then went into service, and he heard our Jewish pastor share the Gospel and quote the exact same passage we had discussed at dinner. His story is still unfolding, but he is asking the right questions, and I can tell his heart is opening.

Monday night, I was reminded of God’s work in each of our lives. At the end of the day I’m not sure how concerned God is with the name of the employer on my paycheck. Yes, now I “work” at a church. Part of my story is serving His church and that is such a privilege. However, the bigger part of the story in each of our lives is sharing Christ. God started an eternal chapter five years ago when I shared my faith with my co-worker. At that point we were mere acquaintances and only obedience to the Holy Spirit can explain the story that has unfolded. Five years later, we together shared the Gospel to his friend.

God is faithful. He will do the work. He will take your one step of faith, your one conversation, and He will multiply that for eternity.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

The Common Ground of Water: The Greater Story of the Great Commission

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

Racial divides and cultural conflicts have been the cause of human tragedies around the world for millennia. Ethnic cleansing is but one horrific example of one group’s attempt to completely expunge another from the face of the earth. The root of such atrocities isn’t mere preference, not even prejudice, but what the Bible calls “partiality”, the looking down on one group while looking up to the other.[1] Taken to its extreme, mixed with fierce pride, hearts of people seethe with anger and resentment towards others. Devastation and destruction, enmity and hostility––sometimes raging for hundreds of years––are the results.

What is powerful enough to break down the entrenched barricades separating people, and at the same time build up strong bonds of commonalities and kinship? A key part of the answer is found in the Great Commission: love for the same Person, dedication to the same cause, and of all things, water, the ritual of going down into then coming up out of water. We call it baptism.

In the early days of the Christian faith there were groups of people who were once not on speaking terms. When Jesus said to his disciples in the Great Commission, “…baptizing them…” they didn’t immediately recognize the amazing phenomenon of what was about to take place. They were perhaps thinking of what baptism meant in their baptism at seaJewish religion,[2] or perhaps they were thinking of John the Baptist’s baptism[3], but they didn’t know that there was an aspect of baptism that they had never before experienced: a unity among people by way of a common experience in water.[4]

God was going to use water baptism[5] as a way for converts from different classes and cultures to find each other while finding Christ.

How did that play out in those early days when Jesus and his resurrection were first proclaimed to the world? Here are just three examples.

  • Three thousand God-fearing Jews separated from one another because they lived in twelve different nations and spoke different languages were one day united in Christ through baptism.[6]
  • Samaritans––historically despised because of their mixed Jewish and Gentile blood––were baptized in the name of Jesus, the same way as were the “pure Jews” of Jerusalem who had also believed. [7]
  • The Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile, (not liked by Jews) on his way back to Africa from Jerusalem was baptized by Philip, a Hellenistic Jew (the Jews who adopted parts of Greek culture in their lifestyle, thus, held at arms-length by Hebraic Jews).[8]

Our human nature is the same as people of the first century. Our people groups don’t like other people groups. Hispanics, whites, blacks, Asians, Indians, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Pakistanis, Americans…the list is long and complex…we’re all contaminated with the poison of partiality.

But, imagine a baptism service in which people that “your people” don’t like are being baptized along with you. How does that experience change your attitude and perspective?

Let’s take it further. Imagine hearing that a former arch enemy has been baptized. How do you feel about him now? Remember Saul, how he brutalized and terrorized Christians? All of a sudden, he was claiming publicly that he was one of them, a fervent follower of the same Jesus. Did Christians believe him? Many didn’t, that is, until he was baptized.[9] Without the testimony of water, they wouldn’t have believed his testimony of faith.

So there is a greater story behind the Great Commission, a meta-narrative of God bringing all the people together on the same common ground. Of course, it isn’t the ritual or practice of baptism, but rather what it means: our common faith in our same Savior, the Lord of our lives, Jesus Christ.

I wonder what it will be like talking one day to others from every nation, people group, tribe and language, listening to their stories of life on earth. I’ll want to ask them, “What was it like for you and your family and friends when you were baptized, the day that you told the world that you were following Jesus?” I’ll be in awe of the common ground we all had through water.

FOOTNOTES

[1] James 2

[2] Washings in the Jewish religion were common, whether liturgical, or for physical sanctification, or symbolically of inner cleansing from sin (see Ezekiel 36:25 as an example of how God used the idea of washing with clean water for this purpose).

[3] John’s baptism was from heaven, Jesus said (Matthew 21:25). It was a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, meaning that a person who believed his message regarding the Messiah would be baptized as an acknowledgement of their belief and would have their sins forgiven. A turning from known sin and belief in the promised Messiah were affirmed in one public act of baptism.

[4] After Jesus’ death and resurrection, to be baptized in his name meant to be publicly identified with devotion to him and dedication to his followers, fellow members of the family of God.

[5] God also used a special Spirit baptism, unique only to this period of the Christian faith, to unite groups of people long separated by religious and cultural hostilities. (Acts 19:1-7)

[6] Acts 2:41

[7] Acts 8:16

[8] Acts 8:36-38

[9] Acts 22:16

What Might God Have in Store: Snapshots from Multiply

By Sue Moye, MBC Tysons Campus Director of Intergenerational Discipleship & Leadership

Empty coffee mugs line my kitchen sink, dining room chairs need to be moved back around the table, and my heart is delighted. Our couples Multiply group just cleared out, after lingering to visit. What a privilege to gather with these people! Most of us are or are close to becoming empty nesters and stand on the precipice of the next chapter of our lives. Younger ones challenge us with the realities of their generation and the need for investment. What might God have in store?

I log into Facebook to see if my college daughters are online. Instead of finding them, I find numerous pictures of young adults being baptized at MBC Arlington! What might God have planned for their lives?

I scroll further and read a post from someone at MBC Tysons:

“Hey Community in Prayer, there are lots of awesome things happening with the ROCK and we need your help!! If you have a heart for youth (high school) and want to get involved, give me a call or text…. Let’s multiply, people!!!!”

I do one last check of my email for the evening and find this waiting for me:

Hello beautiful women! This is just a friendly reminder that we will be discussing Chapter 2 of MULTIPLY this Wednesday (Oct. 9th) @ 7pm. …our wonderful team builder, Jackie, had a great idea. The suggestion is that the group care for one another by sharing our biggest obstacle to discipleship. (so we can support one another) So here’s this week’s question: What is currently your biggest obstacle to being the disciple that Jesus wants you to be??

On Sunday, I wanted to see what Multiply looks like at MBC Tysons, so I took a tour. I found Community Rooms busting full of people, each emanating a palpable energy. Was this happening all over the church? My curiosity led to a full church scavenger hunt to see what I could find. See for yourself in the pictures that follow, one packed out room after another, including groups meeting in the hall.

Wow! The potential is staggering. It is also sobering. None of this means anything if I, and every other person in these groups don’t respond to God’s call personally. How am I going to be obedient? Months ago, I gave a woman that I know a copy of the Bible in her native language because she did not have one. Today I finally reached out and asked her if she wanted go out for breakfast. I plan to invite her to explore our Bibles together. As excited as I am about all that I see happening around MBC, I am finally asking the right question. What might God do in and through me?

This Sunday in the Friends & Fellowship Community Group.

This Sunday in the Transitions Community Group.

King David, God and Multiply

By Joe Kelty, MBC Tysons Director of Men’s Discipleship

It’s great reading about the life of King David in the Bible. While he came from humble beginnings, and seems to have been the “runt of the litter” among his older brothers­, God made him into one of the greatest warriors and kings of all time.

Why did God pick this unassuming shepherd boy to become king? The Bible says that God saw something within David’s heart––a desire to love God.

David learned to trust God even more than himself or worldly powers.He took the leap of faith required to have a meaningful relationship with God. It was the ideal Father/Son relationship.

After years of respect, love and obedience to his Father, David was finally established as King of Israel. He wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but God lavished even greater blessings on David. One of these blessings was Jesus Christ, the future Messiah.

David responded to God in 2 Samuel 7:18-27 saying, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

Doesn’t this remind each of us about when we ourselves accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts and put faith in His sacrifice for us on the cross? We did not deserve such forgiveness. We certainly did not earn it. Yet God provides us with adoption into His family, and with eternal life, and with a place in heaven to share in the glory of Christ forever! (Romans 8:17)

This is the heart of what we are learning in Multiply. Relationships are what matter most. It’s all about love for God, love for other people, and helping them cultivate their own love for God.

Why Disciples Are Not Ascetics

By Will Pavone, MBC Tysons Young Adults and Edge Community Pastor

In chapter one of Multiply Francis Chan says, “Love for God and obedience to Christ cannot be separated.” That is a bold statement by Chan, but one that is backed up by Jesus’s own words in John 14:15. There, He says to His disciples, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Our love for Christ is demonstrated by a lifestyle of obedience to everything Jesus has commanded. Neither Chan nor Jesus is talking about a life of sinless perfection. We know that only Jesus could perfectly fulfill every part of God’s holy law. However, we see that genuine love for the Lord Jesus will necessarily result in a sincere (albeit imperfect) walk of faith-filled obedience to Him.

Does this mean we live a life of strict rule keeping where we must suppress our desire for pleasure and joy? In a word, no! The opposite is true. Pursuing a life of obedience to Christ IS pursuing a life of the deepest joy, meaning and satisfaction. That’s what Jesus says later on in the Gospel of John as He continues to stress to His disciples the importance of keeping His commandments. He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11). What a radical idea, or at the least a counter intuitive one. Jesus’s commands to us are not only for our good, they’re for our joy! The apostle John restates this in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

I am struck by that last part of verse 3, “His commandments are not burdensome.” Do you believe that, Christian? Do you believe that the deepest joy, and life in the truest sense of the word are found in keeping His commandments? Has that been your experience? I know that there are times when His commandments do feel burdensome. Most often, that’s only because I’ve been keeping them in my own strength OR because I’m despairing of the fact that I’ve failed to keep them (which again, I’ve tried to do in my own strength). Jesus was very clear in John 15, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” We’re called to live a life of obedience to Christ’s commands, but we’re only able to do so by the strength that He alone can provide.

Do not despair, friends! Pursue your joy in Him today and demonstrate your love for Christ by walking in obedience to His commandments by the strength that He provides.

Memory Verse Challenge (Week 12) – Witnessing (Romans 1:16)

by Brian Walters, Director of Discipleship @MBCLouduon

Romans 1:16 (ESV) – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

So why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel?  Hint: look at the next part of the sentence, for it is God’s power for salvation because it reveals to us that the righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 3:22; 4:5; 5:9; Phil 3:9). Christ who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), took on our sins, in that we might become righteous in God’s eyes. Salvation is a FREE gift (Eph. 2:8). Salvation sets us free from sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Meaning we are no longer separated from God (Isa. 59:2) or unrighteous in his eyes (Rom. 3:10), and get to spend eternity with him (Rom. 6:23). A question we should be asking ourselves, if salvation is a FREE gift, and if it is the greatest gift ever known to man, why wouldn’t we tell everyone about this gift?

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” We are called to have an answer for why we believe in Jesus, but we must do this with gentleness and respect.  No matter the persecution, trials, peer pressures or what the world says, we must not water down the gospel.  We must boldly proclaim its truth in love and, like Paul, we should not be ashamed to proclaim it.

Additionally, I would like to point out that the gospel is for everyone regardless of a person’s racial background.  Not just the Jews, but the gentiles as well (Col. 3:11).  When witnessing we should witness to everyone we have the opportunity to.

Prayer: Almighty God, we are so thankful for your son Jesus Christ and what he did for each us on the cross.  Help us to remember this and his resurrection in that it would be a catalyst every day of our lives to share our faith with others. That we would share our faith boldly and lovingly because there is no greater gift to which we could ever share with anyone in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Memory Verse Challenge (Week 11) – Witnessing (Matthew 4:19)

by Brian Walters, Director of Discipleship @MBCLouduon

Matthew 4:19 (ESV) – “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

One thing that sticks out to me in this verse, when it comes to witnessing, was Jesus used terminology here that the fishermen (Peter and Andrew) could understand and grasp. This is an important point not to miss because when we witness to others we too need to take our audience into account. Jesus promised Peter and Andrew that just like they caught fish with a net, he would teach them how to catch men and women with a net, which is the gospel.

We see Paul also take his audience into account when he spoke to philosophers in Athens (Acts 17:16-33) leveraging one of their own altars to an unknown god as a doorway to share the gospel. Paul appealed to their religious side knowing Athens was full of idols. We need to be like Paul and Jesus in having the ability of accommodating ourselves to others, understanding them, while we are seeking to lead them into the knowledge of Christ.

While witnessing we also need to remember this doesn’t mean we follow the worldly slogan, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That would be in direct contradiction to what Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” We still need to keep our eyes focused on Christ and loving our neighbors. Christ does not call us to lose our holiness, but to gain theirs when we are witnessing.

Prayer: Lord, please help us always take our audience into account when witnessing. Please aid us in not using fancy Christian terms and lingo that can trip people up or confuse them. Help us to share your Word in a way that is relevant and impactful. Lastly, please help us not to forget that our actions are just important as our words when witnessing. We pray this all in Jesus precious and holy name.

Memory Verse Challenge (Week 10) – Fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25)

by Kyle Cox, Former Director of the Rock @MBCLouduon

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV): And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

There’s a popular saying that we have a personal relationship with Jesus, which is a distinguishing mark of a Christian. For the longest time that meant my walk with Christ was mine and didn’t need to be interfered with or overlap with others. I think we all have a natural tendency to think of our spirituality as an individualistic thing. We pray, read our Bibles, fast, and do all of our other spiritual disciplines privately.

The problem is the Bible repeatedly gives us the same command that we find in Hebrews 10, our existence as followers of Jesus are not to be lived out individually in little boxes, but together in a body where Christ is the head of that body.

We take all our cues from the head of this body, from the gospel. When we model Jesus we see that he went to be with others. He left his throne and came to the place where we were. He stopped what he was doing in ministry to meet hurting people’s needs. Ultimately, his death made fellowship with God available to sinful man.

More and more I’ve found reflecting on the truth of the gospel will create a life that will not only honor the Lord but also be more satisfying. When I realize that all the good works that Christ did are now credited to me through his righteousness, I lose sight of trying to earn God’s favor and this personal relationship with Jesus beings to shift my focus toward others.

Real spiritual growth in our lives occurs when we look up to Christ and what he did on our behalf, then out to others and what they need. It will not happen if we’re stuck staring at ourselves and how we are doing. Martin Luther said it well, “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

Ask yourself does your spirituality, your relationship with Jesus, throw you deeper into yourself or does it cause you to live outwardly?

Fellowship is just the fancy Christian word for spending time together; Christ’s exhortation to us is to make the most of that time by centering it on spurring each other to pursue Jesus more passionately. The more time we spend reflecting the gospel to one another, the more we will desire to be together because we’ll be encouraged by the reminder of what our God did to save us and make us his children. Finally, it’ll create eager hearts that long for the return of our king to usher in an eternity spent with him.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for sending Jesus to pay for all that we’ve done against you and be our righteousness. As I consider the change you have done in me please create a heart within me that desires to see others around me changed as well. Give me your eyes to see opportunities to stir my fellow brothers to good works and love for you, amen.

Memory Verse Challenge (Week 9) – Fellowship (Matt. 18:20)

by Kyle Cox, Former Director of the Rock @MBCLouduon

Matthew 18:20 (ESV) – “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:20

I have to confess; I think this is one of those cliché, coffee mug type verses that get recklessly thrown about without people taking time to understand what is truly being said. Without the context of Jesus’ teaching around this verse it could make it sound like we need fellowship of at least one other person, maybe two, to experience Jesus’ presence.

But we know that’s not true, the person pleading to Jesus alone with no other brothers or sisters in Christ around can experience nearness to Jesus. God has promised he would never leave us (Hebrews 13:5), David cried out that there is no where between heaven and Sheol that would allow him to flee from the presence of God (Psalm 139), so what is going on here?

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 is directed toward his disciples about the community lifestyle that will characterize their relationships with others and specifically with other followers of Jesus. In our verse Jesus explains how to handle a situation when a person sins against you.

For guys relationships can be simple. You show me respect, I show you respect, if one of us gets out of line we say something (possibly hit each other). Then we walk away and cool off. Couple minutes later we’re back to sitting on a couch watching football together. That was my perception on relationships as I grew up all the way through college, but then when I got older something happened, relationships started to get a lot more complex.

I think these relationships got more difficult because the stakes got higher. If you’re married the stakes are high, you want to safeguard that relationship and care for it. Similarly, if you are in the church the stakes can get pretty high, and one thing is bound to happen when two sinful people engage in meaningful relationships together, stuff gets messy.

That’s when this promise of Jesus’ promise of his presence is so valuable to believers because we are bound to disagree; we are destined to wrong each other at some point as we go through life together. It’s inevitable, we’re sinners. But in that moment that we are wronged or we wrong someone else what more encouraging thing could we hear than to have our Savior say I’m divinely present among you. As you render these decisions for the sake of unity in my kingdom and for my name, remember I am with you.

The result of being in the presence of Jesus should always humble us, it should never allow us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and when people are humbled in the presence of Christ it becomes possible for us to be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. It allows us to do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility to count others as more significant than ourselves. This is the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:2-5)

Prayer: Father, I am thankful for those you have placed in my life but Lord I recognize there are times when my selfishness or theirs will hinder our unity. I ask you to be near to those I am in deep relationships with, that during these times I may learn to humble myself in your presence and reflect on the grace and forgiveness shown to me in your death on the cross. Amen.