Why Should I Attend the Ordinances of the Church?

This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, November 19, 2017.

Intro:

If you hear on Sunday morning that Sunday evening there will be a baptism or we will be observing the Lord’s Supper, does that make any difference to you? If you had not planned on coming Sunday evening would that cause you to change your plans? How important is it to attend the ordinances of the church?

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 Would it make a difference if you knew the person being baptized? You see I think there is a danger in Baptist life. Because we do not view baptism and the Lord’s Supper as sacraments we tend to view them as optional or not that important. A sacrament dispenses grace. We do not hold that grace is dispensed but rather that they are symbols or memorials of God’s gracious acts in Christ. It is a mistake however to think of them as “mere” symbol. As if that is all they are. Yes, they are symbols but not merely symbols.

We, as Baptist, refer to baptism and Lord’s Supper as ordinances. What are ordinances and how many are there?

A Christian ordinance is a ceremony that the Lord Jesus has commanded to be permanently practiced by the church. In the New Testament we find two ordinances given to the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These were ordained by the Lord himself, they are not the result of a church council or traditions handed down through the history of the church.

Ordinances are distinct ceremonies not just general actions or attitudes. Christ commands us to love. Love in fact is to be a hallmark of the church but love is not an ordinance.

Some groups add “foot washing” as an ordinance based on what happened on the night when our Lord instituted the Supper. However we do not find it indicated as a practice in the New Testament and there are no direct commands to practice it.

It is also important to recognize that the ordinances are given to the church not to individual Christians. That is why we don’t encourage people to baptize their children in the bathtub or to take the Lord’s Supper in small groups apart from the rest of the church.

Why should I attend the ordinances of the church?

I. Why should I attend the ordinance of baptism?

Let me give you some reasons for why you should make it a point to be present every time there is a baptism.

  1. By being present at baptism you demonstrate your commitment to the Great Commission.
  2. By being present at baptism you show commitment to the importance of baptism.
  3. By being present at baptism you accept a new member into the family.

II. Why should I attend the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper?

Why should you make an extra effort to be present at the table of the Lord?

  1. You should be present at the Lord’s Supper because it is commanded by Jesus.
  2. You should be present at the Lord’s Supper because it is loved by Jesus.
  3. You should be present at the Lord’s Supper because it is a spiritual participation in the body and blood of Jesus.
  4. You should be present at the Lord’s Supper because it is a memorial to Jesus.
  5. You should be present at the Lord’s Supper because it is a proclamation of the death of Jesus.

Conclusion:
Both baptism and Lord’s Supper are treasured ordinances of the church. Both proclaim the gospel. Both celebrate the saving work of our gracious God. Both are necessary for our spiritual growth and development. Whenever given opportunity we ought to joyfully participate.

Does Baptism Matter?

“Does Baptism Matter?” by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, November 12, 2017.

Intro:

I have to confess I don’t get it. You’re watching a football game on TV and the camera pans the crowd. Here is a group of guys, in freezing weather, with no shirts on, their bodies painted purple to match the team’s colors – their faces painted, strange things on their heads, screaming at the top of their lungs – and we respond with a sense of admiration – “There’s a real fan.”

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Or how about the case of Giles Pellerin. An avid fan of the University of Southern California football. “Avid” is not a strong enough word. He didn’t miss a USC football game – home or away – for 73 years! He made it to 797 consecutive games before he died at age 91. One year he had an emergency appendectomy just 5 days before a game. Still in the hospital on Saturday, he told the nurses he was going for a walk and instead went to the stadium! When asked about his fanaticism, he responded – “It’s just all part of being a fan.”

Here is what I really don’t get. In light of such commitment to an athletic event – why is it some Christians hesitate to boldly, publicly identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ through Christian baptism? There are people who claim to honestly, legitimately love Christ who consider baptism insignificant or at best something to think about “tomorrow.” How important is baptism? Why should anyone seek baptism in a local church?

There is a real danger in Baptist life of cheapening baptism. This is strange given that many of our forefathers died for their convictions concerning this ordinance of the church. But I’m afraid that our insistence that baptism is a symbol has been interpreted, as baptism is not important. In our insistence that salvation does not, in any way, depend upon our baptism, we have implied that baptism is optional.

I was reminded of this a few years back when I received a phone call one afternoon from a man who taught a high school Sunday School class at a local Church of Christ. He asked if I would consent to a telephone interview on a Sunday morning with his class. They were studying what other groups believed and taught and would I agree to give the Baptist perspective on baptism. In the course of the interview I was asked if I believed Christ commanded us to be baptized. I said, “Of course the scripture leaves no doubt about that.” The response was – “So is it your position that Christ’s commands are insignificant or unnecessary?”

I would expect such a response from a person whose perspective differs so dramatically from mine. What concerns me is that so many Baptist seem to justify such a false portrayal.

Baptism is very significant. I believe baptism is necessary – not for salvation but for obedience.

If one refuses to be baptized, I want to know why? Why does a lover of Christ not want to be publicly identified with Christ? Why is one who is not ashamed of Christ embarrassed to participate in such a public demonstration? Why refuse to perform this act of obedience?

Let me give you three biblical reasons for why baptism is necessary for the genuine believer.

  1. Baptism openly identifies you as a follower of Christ.

    Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

    Although baptism is never equated with faith or salvation it is closely associated with both.

    For instance. Acts 2:41, Acts 9:18, Acts 16:30-33

    Baptism was – and should be – the first public expression of faith by those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

  2. Baptism openly obeys the command of Christ.

    Baptism is not a ritual created by the ancient church and passed down through the ages. Baptism is a practice ordained by Christ Himself.

    Note again – Matthew 28:19-20.

    The King of the universe – the Eternal One – the Judge of us all has commanded it. What do you think? Is it optional?

  3. Baptism openly expresses your faith in many truths.

    Baptism is symbolic of many things. To submit to baptism says that you believe what baptism represents.

  • Baptism expresses your faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.
  • Baptism expresses the fact that your sins have been washed away.
  • Baptism declares that you have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection.
  • Through baptism you declare that through Christ God has given you new life.

Some Thoughts on Reformation Day

This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, October 29, 2017.

Intro:

Growing up in a Baptist church in the heart of the “Bible Belt” I hadn’t thought much about it. I went to school with, played ball with, ran the neighborhood with kids who were Catholic, Methodist, Church of Christ, Assembly of God and other normal kids - you know, Baptists.

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I don’t remember why or where but I remember the first time I saw a form that asked for religious preference and listed was Catholic, Protestant, Jew or other. I remember thinking, “Is that it? Am I other or should I write in Baptist?” Later, in college, I remember coming across the little book by J.M. Carroll, “The Trail of Blood.” Carroll claimed that we Baptist were not Protestants we were part of a heritage that went back to Christ himself and were not tainted by the Catholic church. I kind of liked that idea. It seemed so pure. The more I studied and looked into the matter, I came to the conclusion I’d rather be identified with the Catholics then some of the folks referenced in Carroll’s book! Later in college I came across some writings that were very anti-Catholic. Some written by people I greatly admired and respected for their theological knowledge and insight who spoke of the pope as the antichrist. This sounds serious. I guess I really need to understand what the differences are and why they matter.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In fact it was 500 years ago this coming Tuesday, October 31 that Martin Luther struck the match that ignited the Reformation. The groundwork for the Reformation was laid by the various reform movements of late medieval Christianity, by the increased interest in learning that marked the renaissance, and by the printing press. Europe was ripe for Reformation. All it needed was a spark. That came when Luther, a German monk, nailed his 95 thesis to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. The door was a public bulletin board. The thesis were written in Latin. It was a call for scholarly debate within the church. The 95 thesis were not focused on great doctrinal issues as much as some of the errant practices within the church. Front and center was the selling of “indulgences.” Johann Tetzel was touring Germany at the time, collecting money in return for the promise that the pope would release dead relatives from purgatory. Indulgences are a release from temporary punishments that the Roman Catholic Church said that people receive for sins they commit, sins which were not bad enough to send people to hell. Martin Luther argued that the pope had no such power, and if he did, then he ought to use it—without monetary return and as an act of love—to remit all temporal punishment.

The pope got word of the thesis, he sent a representative to debate Luther in the hopes of silencing this “wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ.” The hope was to get Luther to deny the authority of the pope thus Luther would be discredited and excommunicated. Luther obliged. The pope sent the paper declaring Luther was a heretic and was excluded from Christ’s church. Luther burned the announcement and the Reformation was on. That is a very condensed version of the story. The whole tale is fascinating, full of intrigue, political wrangling, kidnapping, charges and counter charges and is worth your time in studying.

Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The so-called “material” cause was the debate over sola fide (“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause, sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Luther had no desire to start another church - he sought to reform the church from within. From Luther and later Calvin and the other reformers, at issue was the gospel. How are we saved?

Out of the debate came the 5 solas of the Reformation:

  • Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone
  • Sola gratia - grace alone
  • Sola fide - faith alone
  • Sola Christo - Christ alone
  • Soli Deo gloria - glory of God alone

The Roman Catholic Church taught that the Bible was the Word of God and that the Church was its interpreter. Church tradition, the teaching of the church was thus, in practical terms, on equal par with the Scripture. They also taught that salvation was by grace but not grace alone. This is where the issue of justification comes in.

The Roman Catholic Church taught then and still does today that righteousness is infused - we become righteous through faith and the sacraments of the church. Luther and the reformers taught that righteousness is imputed to us. Abraham believed God and it was counted or credited to him as righteousness. We need an alien righteousness, a righteousness outside of ourselves. The word “justification” in Scripture is a forensic term. We are declared righteous. We are declared justified in the sight of God because of Christ.

You may think this is a matter of theological hair splitting - it is not! Rome understood that and at the council of Trent 1545-1563 declared the teaching heretical and anathematized it - damned it. To this day, according to Rome, we who believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone are outside of the Church and believe a damnable doctrine.

What we see in the Reformation is a recovery of the biblical gospel. What Rome sees is the abandonment of the biblical gospel. We believe a different gospel. We can’t both be right. If we are to take Paul seriously in Galatians 1:6-9 this matters!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The question is not sincerity. It is not simply - really believe what your believe, be genuine in it. What you believe matters. What is your authority? The Word of God or the Church? There are other differences but this is the core, the heart of the matter.

I’m a Baptist by conviction. I’m convinced that as a Baptist I’m a child of the Reformation, I’m a Protestant. I believe Baptist have our roots in English Separatism that grew out of Anglicanism that grew out of Catholicism through the Reformation. The other stream into Baptist life are the Anabaptist or the “Radical Reformers.” They thought the Reformers didn’t go far enough.

I’m convinced by Scripture that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. And I’m grateful for Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and their heirs. I’m grateful for the recovery of the biblical gospel and I believe the church must be always reforming in that we are to constantly bring our lives inline with Scripture. Further, I’m convinced that the church, the visible church, the local assembly will always be a mixed people this side of eternity. The tares will grow alongside the wheat. The “perfect church” does not exist. Thus in humility and grace we strive to live godly lives. We strive to order the church according to the Word of God.

What is to be our attitude toward the Church of Rome? How are we to think of our Roman Catholic friends? I think the Church of Rome is a false church because, as a church, it denies the biblical gospel. I believe there are genuine Christians who are members of the Roman Church and they are genuine believers in spite of what their church teaches not because of what their church teaches. By the way, I don’t believe all Baptist are genuine believers. I think there are many false professors in the Baptist church. There will be some Baptists among that crowd saying, “But Lord we did all these things in your name” and He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation we should pray as we do every day, "Lord be merciful to me, the sinner.” We are saved by the grace of God and to him alone belongs the glory.

Meditations for the Lord’s Table: “The Garden”

This is an exposition of Matthew 26:36-46. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, September 24, 2017.

Intro:

There are many things about the Passion of our Lord that are difficult to look at. The scene of his being mock, spit upon and struck repeatedly in the face; the thought of the scourging and his back ripped to pieces. Finally his being nailed to the cross and publicly exposed to humility and shame.

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It is unthinkable that the eternal Lord of glory should endure such pain and humiliation and for what purpose? To redeem sinful, fallen wicked folks like you and me. But in my own mind there is a more terrifying scene. A scene that unnerves me. It is that scene of our Lord laying prostrate on the ground in a pool of blood crying, “Father if at all possible, let this cup pass from me.”

On the night before our Lord’s greatest triumph, at the threshold of history’s pivotal moment, that moment anticipated by our Lord for all eternity, fear grip his heart. This Jesus who with such command and authority silenced the storm and calmed the sea. This Jesus who, with a word, caused demons to flee. This Jesus who, by his touch, opened the eyes of the blind, comforted the afflicted and even raise the dead. This Jesus who repeatedly silenced his critics with his profound wisdom, who consistently amazed the multitudes with his authority – this Jesus now cried out in terror from a lonely spot in the garden of Gethsemane. Our text this morning is found in the 26th chapter of Matthew.

Text: Matthew 26:36-46

It has been quite an evening. Our Lord met with his disciples in an upper room to celebrate the Passover. As they gathered our Lord assumed the role of servant and washed the feet of his disciples. During the supper he introduced a new memorial meal, one that would look back to the cross. “This is my body given for you. This is my blood poured out for you.” He spoke of betrayal, denial, death and resurrection. After singing a hymn they went out into the night. They walked the familiar path to the Garden of Gethsemane. As they approached the Garden our Lord became strangely silent. As they crossed they Kidron brook he had a strange look in his eye as he stared down at the water now red with the blood of the Passover lambs. Upon reaching the Garden he told his disciples to watch and pray. Taking Peter, James and John a bit further he went on beyond them and threw himself on the ground. Such agony. Such pain. Everything in me wants to look away from this scene. But to do so would be to miss a precious and wonderful revelation.

Thesis: Our Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals the majesty and the beauty of our Savior.

This is the heart of Christian worship. Christian worship, I don’t want to lose you on this, is about Christ! It is about the beauty of his character, and the glory of his work on the cross.

Three things are revealed to us in this experience. Three truths that call us to worship and adore our Savior.

  1. Our Lord’s experience in the Garden reveals the absolute horror of the cross.
  2. Our Lord’s experience in the Garden reveals the tender compassion of the Savior for his own.
  3. Our Lord’s experience in the Garden reveals the iron-willed determination of our blessed redeemer.

Conclusion:
Our Lord’s experience in the Garden is a powerful revelation of the majesty and the beauty of our Savior.

It reveals the absolute horror of the cross.
It reveals the tender compassion of the Savior toward his own.
It reveals the iron-willed determination of our blessed redeemer.

This is the One we love.
This is what he has done for us.
This is the essence of the Gospel.

Out with the Old, and In with the New: God’s Redemptive Plan through Covenant

This is an exposition of Jeremiah 31:31-34. These two messages by guest preacher Jesse Johnson was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, and evening, July 9, 2017. Jesse grew up at First Baptist Prue. He graduated from OBU and then Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

From Sorrow to Joy!

From Sorrow to Joy!: Resurrection Sunday

This is an exposition of John 19:31-20:18. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, April 16, 2017.

Intro:

You know the movie was good when you walk out of the theatre and you are drained.  You’re not even sure you’re going to make it to the car.  You’ve been sitting for the last two hours and watching a movie but you are drained.  You are exhaust because the movie was so intense.  You traveled through the whole range of emotions.  You just don’t have anything left.  You’re worn out, drained, dead on your feet and you look at your spouse and you say, “I could see that again!”

The problem is when you see that movie the second time – it’s lost something.  It is not quite as intense the second time around.  You know the hero is going to make it out alive.  You know how it is going to end.  Oh, you may still enjoy the movie but it just doesn’t compare with the first time.

There is, however, a story that never grows old.Continue reading