This is What You Were Baptized For

September 20, 2017

Soon after his baptism, Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth and read these words from Isaiah…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18)

Are you aware that this is what you were baptized for as well? When you were baptized, you were filled with the Spirit of God for what reason? To impress people? To have the respect and admiration of your peers? To please a parent, spouse, or friend?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you and me for preaching Good News, works of reconciliation, mercy, deliverance, justice, and healing. This is what we were baptized for.

Recent events inspire me to emphasize two of these areas: racial reconciliation (“setting at liberty those who are oppressed”) and healing (“recovery of sight”).

In the last few years it has seemed we are returning to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. With murders, police brutality, demonstrations, and clashes between racially distinct groups from Ferguson to Charlottesville, and many places in between, we have seen how far we are from reconciling the races in America.

I finished watching I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin yesterday (on Amazon). It is a movie with scenes from movies and interviews, stark photographs, and articulate commentary. And it is quite painful to watch. Overall it is outstanding and I highly encourage everyone to view it.

Two scenes haunt me. One is of Dorothy Counts, age 15 from Charlotte, N.C., who is walking to school surrounded by a mob of adults and children, as school integration is happening. She is spat on, insulted, mocked, and she is alone. Tall and lanky, she looks like she could be my daughter.

And then there is a scene from the movie, Imitation of Life when a black woman whose daughter passes for white comes to the school during a storm to collect her daughter. She goes into the classroom and the teacher greets her at the door. “I am here to get my daughter”. “I am sorry but we have no black children in this classroom”. The daughter is ashamed of her black mother and puts a book up to hide her face from her. Then the mother sees her. “No. There she is.” And the little girl stands up and all the children start whispering…”I didn’t know she was black. I didn’t know she was black. She’s black?!?” She gets past her mother and then runs away crying and shouting at her, “I hate you I hate you I hate you!”

One of these portrays was an actual event. One was fictionalized from all-too-true reality in white-dominated society. James Baldwin asks rhetorically when reflecting on our history, “Where are the Christians?” It is pointed out that Sunday at 11:00 remains the most segregated hour of the week!

My friends, we have to lead the way in racial reconciliation. This is what we were baptized for.

Then on the healing side. I must confess that I am tired of those questions pastors get…”how is your church?” meaning, “How big is it? How many staff? How big a budget? How many churches have you planted?” Be careful how you answer because you will be graded, judged, and pigeon-holed accordingly.

I got here and my pastor/brother/friend Dr. Dan Sandoval asked me, “What is the spiritual climate in Santa Barbara right now?”

I love that question! I told him that the spiritual climate was very promising. Revival and renewal have been prophesied over the city for years now and I believe it is coming! But there are also challenges.

There is the reality of three pastors with three sad stories weighing us down in our city right now. One pastor was removed from his position for a moral failure and has moved out of the state. Another pastor was hurt by trusted friends and is in need of healing. The third pastor is avoiding confrontation and is allowing his worship pastor and youth minister to walk in sin because the numbers are up.

I believe these very different, but common tragedies could all be avoided by good accountability and healthy networking of pastors and churches outside their own bubble. We have to have humility and courage to ask and answer honestly such questions as “How is your soul? In what areas do you need encouragement right now? What, if anything, is hindering you from living more fully to God?” These are an example of what can bring healing and recovery to those broken, hurting, confused, and blind.

Now I am all about 3000 getting saved in one day, as Acts 2 reports. That is one of the things that will happen when believers are filled with the Spirit of God!

Keep in mind, however, that it is more than numbers alone, but also about reconciling those oppressed, brokenhearted, and ostracized for the color of their skin or their country of origin. It is about justice for the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, and deliverance for the captives. This is what you were baptized for.

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