Janet and I attended our usual Saturday evening church service last week-end and it was probably one of the finest services that we have ever attended. We are in the midst of a series on examining our faith and whether we are believers in Jesus Christ or not. Apparently, the largest percentage of the population is now considering themselves to be “none” – meaning that they don’t really belong to any particular religious group. Then there are several other classifications of people including casual Christians and surrendered Christians.
Based on the survey that you look at, this classifications can change and there are different definitions for each group, but it has been my experience that people either don’t believe in Jesus, they say they believe but don’t really understand the theology of believing (and are part of a mainline denomination that they may even have grown up in) and then there are the really committed people who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ and make Him the priority in their lives. They truly live a God centered life and while some statistics would say that this encompasses as much as 25% of the population, most surveys put the surrendered numbers at closer to 10%.
Whatever the numbers, one of the main points of Christianity is the process of what we can progressive sanctification – the idea of becoming more like Jesus as we progress through the years of our faith. And the series that we are doing at church examines a piece of the faith story each week – causing each of us to become a little more introspective and challenging us to become more like surrendered Christians – assuming that we haven’t arrived there yet. This past week, the message was a pretty simple but powerful message – you can only live your best life when you believe in Jesus and those who don’t believe will eventually face judgment and that judgement, we are told, will be quite unpleasant.
As has happened each week this series, people have been invited to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ at the conclusion of worship. I know just on Saturday evenings alone there have to have been more than 100 people who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and that doesn’t even begin to approach the numbers as to what has happened on Sunday mornings with two services and thousands of people attending. But this week there was an added dimension to the whole service. The Senior Pastor did impromptu baptisms – yes, right during the service while the congregation was involved with musical worship.
Throughout the week-end there were more than 320 people who came forward – having received Christ during one of the series sermons and now they were taking the next step of being baptized. The audience really got into the emotion of the moment. There were wild cheers each time someone was baptized “in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.” Toward the end of the service we attended, an older woman in a wheelchair came forward and professed her desire to be baptized by immersion. Well, I could just see the complications of this. She was virtually unable to move without the help of her attendant but that didn’t make any difference. Others came forward and after the woman changed out of her street clothes into clothing more appropriate for immersion, men and women who had watched this whole event unfold moved forward and carried her down the steps and into the water. It was incredibly moving.
Then, she was baptized and the place went up for grabs. Here was this woman, at least in her late sixties or seventies, making the decision to show her obedience to Christ by following His command to be baptized. It was quite something to see and both Janet and I were both profoundly impacted. The verse for this evening highlights a statement from Jesus about asking people to come to Him. We are told, in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
My encouragement tonight is that God wants each of us to grow closer to Jesus throughout our lives. Whether that is the first step, reaching out and seeking information about Jesus, or whether you are on the road to being a committed or surrendered Christian, God will celebrate your faith journey every step of the way. My prayer is that you will be drawn closer to Jesus and through you, others may come to know the saving grace of a life fully surrendered to God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…