Seeing the Invisible
Okay, imagine for a minute that two people are standing up here side by side. There is one person here, and one person here. This one person believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this other person does not. Imagine that.
It means that this one person believes that God created us but that we have been separated from God because our sin, and no matter how hard we try, we can never make it back to God on our own — but, because God is rich in mercy, because God is great in love, although we can’t make it back to God, God himself has come to us. This person believes that Jesus, God the Son, came here to this earth and walked in our shoes; he experienced all the temptations of life that we have experienced, except that Jesus was always faithful, always perfect — and because of his love for us, Jesus went to the cross and he died in our place. This person believes that Jesus suffered the punishment they deserved for their sins, and that after Jesus died, on the third day he was raised from dead. And now, because of what Jesus has done, we can all be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with God if we just turn from our sins and trust in Jesus.
This person believes that, and has done that, which means, this person, standing right here, is a Christian.
But the other person, standing here beside them, this person doesn’t believe those things at all. This person thinks he’s okay with God, that he’s not a bad guy, and that religion is just not his thing. This person is a decent person, but he doesn’t trust in Jesus, which means, this person is not a Christian.
Now, imagine these two people standing here side by side; they both believe something very different about Jesus — but by looking at these two people, do they look any different? When you look into a crowd of people, or at two people standing side by side, by just looking at the people, can you know who trusts in Jesus and who doesn’t?
The answer is no way. Now, if you got to observe someone’s whole life over time, you could probably discern whether or not they believe in Jesus.(This is the principle of a tree bearing fruit of its kind.) If you watched long enough, you would probably tell if someone was a Christian, but most of the time nobody can just look at two people and know who believes in Jesus and who doesn’t.
That’s because so much of the Christian life is invisible. Faith itself is mostly unseen. And that is what makes baptism and the Lord’s Table so fascinating. With so much of our faith invisible, Jesus has given us these amazingly dramatic symbols to show the world that we belong to him. Today, during our baptisms, that is what these people are saying. They are saying, and demonstrating in their baptism, “I trust in Jesus!” Baptism is one of those rare moments when you can look at someone — as they are immersed into the water and then resurrected — you can look at them say, “Those people are Christians!”
And we are excited to celebrate that together.
Prayer of Confession
Father, in this moment we acknowledge your goodness. You are good to all, and your mercy is over all that you have made. Everything around us in creation testifies to your glory; everything around us is a symbol of your worth; and yet, so often, we ignore you. We see who you are in what you’ve made, and we do not give thanks to you as we ought. Forgive us, Father, for this sin. Forgive us for distracting ourselves away from your nearness and love. Forgive us for this sin, and for other sins, and in this moment, by your Spirit, lead us in a time of silent confession. …