Baptism. a great step in your journey to follow Jesus. Westwinds Community Church

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1 Baptism a great step in your journey to follow Jesus Westwinds Community Church June 5, 2011

2 The fact that you re reading this thinking about being baptized probably indicates that you re at a significant point on your journey to know God. For centuries, people just like you have walked a similar path and eventually came to that place where they wanted to deeply align their lives with Jesus. Baptism was, and continues to be, that unique way people like you express this new story they sense being written into their lives. So let me assure you baptism is not something you do once you ve gotten your life all figured out. It s not what a person does once they have all the answers. Baptism isn t about committing to live life perfectly. But it is about admitting that you no longer want to live a single moment without God. It s about realizing that following God is the right thing to do. And it s about being so thankful for Jesus that you are willing to be known as someone who is committed to follow him. You may or may not realize it yet (and none of us fully comprehend it ever) but Jesus has been thinking about you for a long time. And his thoughts have been filled with love for you the kind of intense love that makes a person willing to do just about anything to make sure that nothing could keep you from the one you love. And that s exactly why Jesus was willing to die on a cross. It was so you and he could always be together forever. You ve probably seen pictures of Jesus hanging on the cross almost naked. But actually, he wore all the things that you and I have ever done that went against the way he intended for us to live all the thoughts and actions and choices that result in somehow adding to the chaos in our lives and in this world. He chose to express his love by dying on that cross. And by doing that, he paid the price required for those sins so that God would never ever hold our wrongs against us. Instead he sees us as well, brand new completely clean and forgiven free to live without fear of God rejecting or being angry with us free to enjoy life and all that he created for us when he made this world free to dream and become and create and restore things to what they were intended to be. And when you are baptized, you are marked as one of his own and become part of a wonderful family of all who seek to follow him. So welcome to your new life and welcome to the family. You ve come so far; yet an amazing journey still awaits you. The next few pages will give you more information about the baptism experience and tell you how to register. So look it over carefully. If you have any questions, give me a call or send me an . I ll be happy to help in any way I can. I d love to have you join us for a Baptism Information Meeting on Sunday, May 29 at 10:15a in the office. I won t keep you long, but we ll go over all the details together so you ll be prepared and comfortable at your baptism. It would be great if you brought your story and your registration form with you to that meeting too. Sincerely, John Voelz, Coriolis: Experience

3 WOW! This looks like a lot of information! Do I need to read all of this??? We want this experience to be meaningful to you. It will mark a turning point in your life. The following pages will help. But if you re not much of a reader, please jump to the end pages that tell how you can register and coach you in writing your story. Then join us for the Baptism Information Meeting on Sunday, April 17 at 11a in the office. Baptism is identifying your self with Jesus Christ by participating in an experience that somewhat re-enacts what Jesus did for us. It s important that you understand the symbolism behind baptism and the truths that it represents. When a person was baptized in Jesus day, they would wade into a nearby river or lake. Tradition tells us they would make some kind of declaration recognizing Jesus Christ as their rescuer and ultimate leader sometimes referred to as savior and lord ). After that they would be dunked quickly under the water. Through this brief submersion, the new follower was declaring they believed several truths with their whole body Jesus was different. He died, was buried and came back to life when a person is placed under the water, it s a portrayal of Jesus death and burial. But because he conquered death and came back to life, we won t hold you under the water! Lucky for you! In Christ, I am clean the reality of the water completely washing over them in baptism symbolized their belief in the reality that Jesus blood on the cross completely washed them of all sin. In Jesus all is forgiven. That s great news! Because of Jesus, I get a brand new start just as Jesus came back to life in Jesus we get to start all over, this time to live life with God and for him. God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us on our journey, so we re never ever alone again and to give us the power to life differently. I m going public as a Christ-follower baptism is a public declaration of our intention to follow Jesus beyond our self interests. From now on, everything changes at least that s our desire. Just as a wedding establishes the commitment of two people before witnesses, being baptized in some public way will establish your commitment to Jesus before the others who join to celebrate your faith journey. You re saying, I have a new reason to live and my view of the world is different because of Jesus.

4 Paul who was baptized after he came to faith in Jesus too wrote some things that sum it all up. Romans 6:1-14 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new gracesovereign country. Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sinmiserable life no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time remember, you've been raised from the dead! into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God. The Bible offers some stories of people coming to know Jesus and then being baptized. You might have to read between the lines a little bit, but I m pretty sure you ll see some similarities to your story. Acts 8:9-13 Previous to Philip s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him the Great Wizard. He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him. But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn t leave Philip s side. Acts 16:14-15 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart and she believed! After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, "If you're confident that I'm in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests." We hesitated, but she wouldn't take no for an answer.

5 Some other scriptures that you might find helpful 2 Corinthians 5:17 Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! Galatians 3:25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe Christ's life, the fulfillment of God's original promise. Ephesians 2:7-13 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. But don't take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God's ways had no idea of any of this, didn't know the first thing about the way God works, hadn't the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God's covenants and promises in Israel, hadn't a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ dying that death, shedding that blood you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything. Titus 3:3-8 It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come an eternity of life! You can count on this. All scriptures are taken from The Message version of the Bible.

6 It s normal to have lots of different feelings about what you are about to do. Acknowledging them to God just being honest with your self and with him is so important. You re on a journey with God. REFLECT So what are you thinking after you read this? What are you feeling? Have you come to a place on your journey where you understand that Jesus died for you when he died on the cross? If not, how would you describe where you are? Would you say that you re trusting in Jesus to forgive all your sin? Or are you trying to somehow earn his love by trying to be good and obey all the rules? Basically, are you trusting him or yourself? Have you given your life to Jesus and is it your intention to follow him each day of your life? Are there any reasons why you might be hesitant to be baptized? If so, what are they? Take some time to talk to God about your thoughts, feelings, hesitations or the questions you have. Talking to a good friend or trusted leader at the church may be helpful too. MOST OFTEN ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BAPTISM Okay, at least a few people had these questions once. This whole thing is so new to me. How can I be sure that I m really ready to be baptized? That s a great question. Baptism isn t something that anyone should feel forced into. Each person should only do it when they re ready. Having said that, some people worry that they have to live perfectly from now on. Some even have expressed there are some things that I need to get out of my life before I get baptized. It s great when we want to bring our lives in line with Christ s instructions, but being baptized is more about starting the journey with Jesus than having everything in your life in order. Things start to fall into place in good time. So relax. Baptism is about celebrating God s forgiveness and the new journey ahead. Of course, if there are things in your life that you know conflict with what Jesus wants for you and yet you have no intention of ever letting those things go, that probably indicates unwillingness to let God guide you. Be assured that God still loves you and will be patient with you on your journey, but you might want to think through if you re ready to embrace following Jesus. While we ve all got things in our life that we struggle to turn over to God, a bold unwillingness to follow God in a known area of your life conflicts with the statement baptism makes. Struggling to surrender is normal and to be expected. Open defiance probably indicates you re not quite ready, at least to say you are following Christ.

7 Why at Westwinds do we baptize by immersion (fully under water)? While we don t believe immersion represents the only valid way to baptize someone, we do believe that it is what they did when scripture was being written. The word baptism means to dip or immerse. We believe that baptism by immersion clearly portrays the reality of someone who identifies themselves with Jesus as so closely aligned with him that it is like dying along with him and being raised with Christ to new life. In a nutshell, baptism by immersion symbolizes best what really happened to Jesus and to us when we trust him. There are some cases in which it might be impossible or unhealthy for a person to be baptized by immersion. In those cases we are more than willing to baptize people through another common mode called pouring. If you have a health concern with being baptized by immersion, please give us a call so we can discuss your options. Can a child be baptized? We believe that baptism is a personal decision. It s not something that anyone else can decide for another person, even a child. We believe that a person should be old enough to decide for himself if they want to announce their intention to follow Jesus by being baptized. For that reason, we do not baptize babies although we offer parents the option of dedicating their young children to God. If your elementary age child has expressed an interest in baptism, we want to support parents by providing several tools that may help you discern if your child is ready for baptism. Please contact Lori Tate, Kids Journey Pastor at for this material and to set up a time she can meet with your son or daughter. Baptism is a wonderful and powerful celebration of a kid s spiritual journey. We want to make it a memorable experience for your child and family. If I was baptized as a baby or young child, should I get baptized again? Two questions can help you clarify this issue. First of all, since baptism is a conscious choice on the part of the person to be baptized, did you make that decision on your own? If not, then becoming baptized may be a good way for you to personally express your desire to follow God today. Secondly, when you were baptized, did you understand what Jesus had done for you and were you sincere in your intention to give your life to him? If not, but you now would say those things are true for you today, then baptism would be a great next step. The bottom line is baptism is something that should be done after one understands and decides to follow Jesus.

8 What would I say to my parents (who had me baptized as a baby) if I choose to be baptized again? That s certainly something that would require prayer and careful consideration. But our perspective is that it is an opportunity to tell anyone you like about your faith journey. You might look at your story as the completion of the journey your parents desired for you when you were young that you would truly know and follow Jesus. So your baptism as an adult is you coming full circle to fully embrace the truths your parents hoped you would understand on your own. Sure, you may not choose to do it in the same church, but it is the same Jesus you are following. Try to avoid focusing on anything negative about your church experience as a child or any difficulty you might have with their current church situation. Celebrate the things you have in common and keep the focus on following Jesus with all sincerity. ADDITIONAL THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW Please come wearing the clothes in which you plan to be baptized. Appropriate attire would be boxer swim trunks or shorts with a dark, loose-fitting tee shirt. Modesty coupled with good sense is the key. Please bring something to wear on your feet that you can step into after you ve been baptized so you won t slip on the floor as you walk to the bathroom to change. Sandals or flip-flops are a great option. Please bring your own towel. If you have any questions not answered in this packet, give us a call at the church office ( ) or send an to

9 REGISTRATION INSTRUCTIONS: By June 2, 2011, mail the following page to: Westwinds Community Church 1000 Robinson Road Jackson, MI Fax to: Drop off: Church office during business hours or the Information Desk on weekends or the Baptism Information Meeting on May 29 at 10:15a in the office YOUR STORY (testimony) As you know from reading the information in this packet, baptism is for people who want their entire lives to be marked by the reality that they are trusting and following Jesus. If this is true of you, please tell us your own story of how Jesus came to be more than just a religious figure in your life but someone around whom you want to build a new life. Your responses to the following questions will provide the skeleton to your story. Just answer them on the sheet provided or type it out. Keep things simple. Don t write to impress others. Give just enough detail to help people understand this part of your unique journey. Some people answer each question with one sentence, while others write much more. Remember, it s your story. a. Tell a bit about your life before you decided to trust and follow Jesus. What did you think/feel ab out life, yourself and others? b. What brought you to the point when you began searching for more which eventually led you to Jesus? c. If you remember a key experience when you surrendered your life to Christ or came to understand what he did for you on the cross, tell us about it. d. How has/is trusting and following Jesus today making a difference in your life? Thanks for taking the time to tell us your story.

10 Name Date MY STORY

11 BAPTISM REGISTRATION FORM - Complete this form and return it no later than June 2, 2011 PLEASE PRINT Name Address City State Zip Phone Date of Birth I was/will be at the Baptism Information Meeting on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 10:15a in the office. (Please bring your story with you.) I would be willing to let you use all or part of my story in one of The Cue services or on the website. I would be willing to share my story but ONLY for it to be used anonymously. Because we can only accommodate so many people in each of The Cue services, please give us your first and second preferences for The Cue in which you d like to be baptized A SPECIAL NOTE: You may request any pastor or someone other than one of the pastors to baptize you, such as your satellite group leader, the director of your ministry team, a person on staff, an elder, a person who was instrumental in leading you to Christ, or a special friend who is a Christ follower. Name of person you would like to baptize you. And if that person is not available, please list your second choice

12 Please briefly respond to the following questions: When did you first start attending Westwinds Community Church? What or who influenced you to visit Westwinds? Where would you describe yourself spiritually when you started attending? Check one. Cynic Seeker Growing Believer Skeptic New Believer Stagnant Believer Spectator Other Are you currently in a satellite group or serving on a ministry team? If so, which group or team? What motivated you to get baptized? Check one. Friend Satellite Group The Cue Messages Reading my Bible Ownership Process Community

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