How to Survive #Finalszn

I decided to do some research before gathering my thoughts on getting through finals week, and I wanted to share my results.

How to Get Through Finals Week

  1. Laminate your notes to ensure no damage from any tears.
  2. After you review your paper and realize nothing makes sense, just keep typing.
  3. Allow multiple five-minute breaks for sobbing throughout your studying.
  4. Do not stand, sit, climb, or sharpie on sleeping students.
  5. After reading your rubric and realizing it isn’t clear, I highly recommend making an educated guess.
  6. Need a tutor? Yahoo Answers is always a reliable source.
  7. Lastly, at the end of it all, may the curve be ever in your favor.

In all seriousness, finals week is both exhausting and emotional. It is the week every student dreads and questions why they chose the major they did. Why is it that all of our emotions are tied to one week out of the whole semester? Why is it that these four or five classes can make you feel as if your whole world is ending?

Is it possible that we have attached too much weight on our finals? Have we become a people who are marked by our grades, forgetting the redemptive identity we’ve been given in Jesus?

Trust me. I understand wanting to study hard for tests and write stellar essays for your professors. I understand putting tons and tons of hours in but getting little-to-no-sleep. I would know; I have been around finals week a time or two—or eight. So, I get it! But have you ever thought that how you approach finals week reflects whose kingdom you are working for?

An Opportunity to Glorify God

We have been given a great opportunity to work for the glory of God in the midst of finals week. The way you study, the way you write your papers, the way you take time to sleep and care for yourself, and even the way you view finals week at large, can be to the glory of God and not self.

In Matthew 6, Jesus emphasizes the notion that our hearts deeply treasure and value something in this world—something of finite value or that which is eternal. Jesus continues on in verse 25 to warn us against anxiety. Jesus compares how he cares for the birds of the air and lilies of the field to how our Father cares for us: “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). Here’s the thing, Jesus is warning us against being anxious because he is aware of how quickly we place value in worldly things.

Somehow, we find ourselves so wrapped up in worrying about getting the A, that we have forgotten about the security we have in Jesus.

It’s no wonder why we are so emotional and exhausted as a result of finals week. In the midst of all the studying and writing and complaining, we have simply forgotten where true hope lies. It is okay to grind hard over these next few weeks but do so in light of your security in Christ.

So, friends, walk out of your finals with your head held high, knowing your hope is not in how well you did, but in Jesus Christ himself. Your grades are not certain, but Jesus surely is. Your GPA is continually changing, yet Jesus remains constant. Trust the One whose love is steadfast and endures forever, even in the midst of finals week.

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1

-Rilee Blackwell (College Team)

Monday Extras: The Mighty Works of God

Mercy Hill,

Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.

Sermon Recap

This past week, we started a short series entitled A Story Unfolding which seeks to look back at what God has done at Mercy Hill and talk about the big things we are asking God to do in 2019. We will be compelled to believe God for the future when we stand in awe of him for the past. Psalm 150 teach us this and that we should be passionate for God’s glory.

Verse 1 points us to the idea that there is a song that has been constantly sung in the heavens, by the angels and stars in the sky. And when we sing praises to God, our voices join the voices of those already praising God’s glory. Verse 2 tells us to praise God for his “mighty deeds” and “excellent greatness.” The mighty acts of God are both biblical and personal. Not only are we to praise God for what he has done in creation and history in the gospel, but we also praise him for what he has done in our own lives and in the church and in the world.

We can see God’s mighty works in what he has made. Creation presses the magnitude of God upon our hearts. Yet, it is within the salvation story of the whole Bible, especially in the culmination of the gospel, that we see God’s greatest works. The mightiest act of God is sending his Son to the cross in our place. We can tend to be lazy in remembering what God has done for us and all creation, and then we start doubting God’s greatness. But when the mighty acts are in view, the abundant greatness isn’t questioned. Are we in the word, celebrating what God has done?

In verses 3-5 we see that remembering his mighty works leads to white-hot worship. Worshiping God is the reason that we were created. Are we worshiping with the passion of people that are responding to God’s great grace to us in the gospel and to what he has done in the world?

Verse 6 leans on the notion that everyone everywhere should be praising God, but how can we praise God without realizing that there are people all over the world who are not praising God because they don’t have a witness? And that’s the reason why we go to the nations. Like John Piper says, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.

The big application is that we ought to praise God and pray for more. The progression goes like this: memory fuels praise, praise fuels the mission. Praise catalyzes prayer for the mission. Therefore, praying for more is dependent upon praising God. If we want Mercy Hill to be further involved in the mission of God going forward, we must praise God.

Further Resource

Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper

The modern-day classic work on how the praise and worship of God drives us to mission.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)

Using Christmas to Start Something New with Your Kids

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. All those . . .” well, I’m not quite sure what the rest of the song says. Whatever it says, it’s at least a reminder to us that there is something significant about this time of year. While the stores would have us think it’s about purchasing presents, the movies would tell us it’s about someone’s heart growing three sizes, and our taste buds telling us we need some cider, it’s really about much more: celebrating the birth of the King.

We Might Have a Problem . . .

As a parent, it’s hard to navigate the Christmas season sometimes as we try to point our kids to Christ and what he has done. My wife and I had our own enlightenment moment the other day when one of our kids blurted out, “I like toys more than God.” The statement was honest. While a toddler couldn’t understand the weight of that statement, we understood it completely. We understood it so well because, even though we may not say it, we struggle with the same thing. In our own hearts we must daily remind ourselves of the beauty of the gospel and the Gift the Creator has sent us in his Son.

So, how do we, as parents, walk through the Christmas season in a way that reminds ourselves and our kids of the gospel? As parents, our goal should be to point kids to the gospel through what we say and how we live. First, we should examine our hearts and motives towards Christmas to make sure that we are focused on celebrating the birth of Jesus and remembering his death, resurrection, and coming return. If we ask ourselves honestly, do we desire his praise more than our presents? In what ways do we need to repent of focusing on ourselves and remember the Savior who gave all of himself for us?

Once we’ve examined our hearts, we can guide the kids that God has entrusted to us. Pointing kids to the gospel is more like brushing your teeth than a trip to Disney World. It’s everyday reminding your kids about the truth that Jesus is amazing and has done everything for them, not just having the conversation randomly once or twice through their childhood. Maybe you’re wondering how this is done and don’t really know what it looks like to consistently point your kids to Christ. Good news: Christmastime is a great opportunity for us to set up a new rhythm of remembering the gospel.

Mercy Hill Kids Advent

Not only is Christmas a good time to set up a new rhythm, we’ve created a resource to get you started! This year we are offering our Mercy Hill Kids Guide: Advent Edition! This is a great tool to use weekly, starting December 1, to help teach your kids at home what they are learning each weekend at Mercy Hill. The guide is made to be used at whatever times work best for you. Use it at meal times to create conversations, before bedtime as you pray together, or post on the fridge and come back to it each day. Click here to access the guide and find information on how to setup family devotion times.

Last thought: Don’t get overwhelmed and think you’ve got to be the perfect parent. The truth is we are all trusting that God will use our brokenness as parents to display his goodness and mercy to our kids. That’s really the point of Christmas—to remind us of the love that God has shown us and the truth that we can rest our lives fully on Him.

-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)

From the Field: Business as Missions in Japan

Former Mercy Hill members, Phil and Bethany, now live in a tiny ski village in Norikura, Japan as hotel staff and gospel missionaries. Here’s a look at how they are living cross-culturally to share the gospel without burdening the resources of the church.

Why Missions Often Fail

Japan isn’t the first country to come to mind when you think of missions, but maybe it should be. Only 1% of Japanese are Christians and, after all, robot makers in Tokyo need Jesus too. Japan is one of the hardest mission fields. Here are two big reasons why missionaries and mission projects often fail in Japan

  1. Japanese are already religious. A typical Japanese person will identify themselves as either Shinto or Buddhist while simultaneously, and sometimes unknowingly, practicing both. Buddhist tradition protects the ancestors and Shinto superstition provides protection and good luck in this lifetime. Neither religion speaks to a personal relationship with a creator-god and, from their prospective, what’s the need?
  2. Japanese are very private. Generally speaking, Japanese will avoid discussing any controversial topics. So while discussing which temple they will go to for the traditional New Year’s prayer is common, deep discussions about religion are saved for their closest friends. Breaching this topic too soon often leads Japanese to build walls around their hearts and avoid the offender from then on. How do you make disciples when the mere mention of religion runs the risk of losing a friendship?

A Different Field Requires Different Tactics

Our approach is to use business as missions (BAM). BAM is 100% business and 100% missions. BAMs have four bottom lines built into their structure; three they share with most modern corporations, and one that makes them different.

  1. Profitable – BAMs need to be self-sustaining and create additional profit that can be leveraged towards the other bottom lines.
  2. Socially Conscientious – BAMs need to be a benefit to their community and to the world.
  3. Environmentally Friendly – BAMs need to help the environment.
  4. Spiritually Effective – BAMs seek to create and raise up disciples who reproduce within their communities.

Relationships Are the Point

BAMs who are successful in the first three bottom lines earn the respect of the community and create long-standing relationships within their community. These relationships are the point. Relationships can turn into deep friendships and open the hearts of the Japanese to listen to and accept the gospel.

Northstar started as a hotel and adventure camp in 2001. Our staff is half Japanese and half foreigners. This might have been strange to the locals at first, but the core staff who have been there since the beginning are full-fledged members of the community. They’re members of the PTA, ladies groups, tourism boards, etc.

Our CEO’s wife, Yoriko, is a nurse at the local clinic. Everyone knows she’s Christian—and also that everyone at NORTHSTAR is—and they don’t mind. They know us as friendly and honest people. So, when the local doctor wanted to learn English, Yoriko recommended me since Japanese hierarchal culture prevents Yoriko from teaching her superior even if she is more qualified.

About two months into our lessons, the doctor pauses the lesson to confirm that I am Christian and then said she is thinking about becoming a Christian herself. Panic and joy both almost overtook me as I realized it was working. Our mission is working! It’s slow but it’s working. BAMs work.

Norikura is our mission field, NORTHSTAR is our means, and it’s working.

To learn about opportunities with Northstar, click here to visit their website.

-Phil Yarbrough

Monday Extras: Real Faith Takes Endurance

Mercy Hill,

Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.

Sermon Recap

In week four of our In the End sermon series, the campus pastors spoke on Revelation 2:8-11 and the questions of what makes faith genuine and how we can be assured that we are saved. Many times in the South, people will point to the past when they said a prayer or walked an aisle as proof of their salvation. Because salvation has been reduced to a formula like this, many people that shouldn’t have assurance of salvation do, and many that should have assurance don’t. The main idea we see in Jesus’ letter to Smyrna is that faithfulness proves salvation, not a formula.

In verse 9, Jesus says that the church in Smyrna is being slandered by Jews. At this time, the city of Smyrna had strong ties to Rome and a large Jewish population. It was likely that the Jews of the city were lying to Rome about the Christians being subversive. Perhaps, then, they were poor because they couldn’t find work. American Christians rarely see this type of persecution, but if we were to come into a time where we lost things that were valuable to us because of our beliefs, would our faith stand?

In verse 10, Jesus tells the church that persecution is coming, and he asks them to endure through it. He doesn’t tell them to run away and hide; rather, he says “Do not fear . . ..” We often can’t square Christianity with suffering, but there are many verses that speak to it (1 Peter 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12).   

In verse 11, we see our main application of this passage. Jesus is saying, “Be faithful in this life and you can have confidence about the next.” We may not be persecuted like Smyrna, but we will all have our faith tested, and it will reveal if our faith is authentic or not. We need to examine our faithfulness to see where we stand with Christ. We ought to consider carefully whether we believe our faith would endure suffering because if our faith cannot be tested it cannot be trusted. Here are three ways that we can be “full of faith” (faithful).

1) Saturate yourself in God’s word. We will grow in our faithfulness as we grow in our confidence of God’s word. 2) Trust in the gospel to produce faithfulness. We can’t produce faithfulness on our own; faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit is given through faith in the gospel; therefore, you have to believe before you are. And 3) gather with God’s people. Continue to seek out community for confession, accountability, and encouragement.

Featured Resource

30 Days of Prayer Guide

We have put together a 30-day prayer guide that acts as a devotional to guide your prayer times each day. The Scriptures were selected to follow the themes of the In the End series.

 -Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)

Take A Break with Us; It’s Science

Finals can be daunting. I know because I’m the proud survivor of four years’ worth of finals. As the survivor of four years of finals, I know exactly what you need to do to make it through yours. While you’ve been getting together all your sources for your final papers and presentations, I’ve been getting together some sources of my own, sources that should sufficiently support how you should spend the afternoon of December 2, 2018. Take a break with us; it’s science.

You’re probably already dreading everything that comes with finals. You’re part of four different study groups. You’ve racked up all the Flex or Dining Dollars you have left and put it towards your “Coffee Will Keep Me Awake to Study” Fund. You’re planning your final day of freedom on Reading Day. You’ve also selected which days in the upcoming weeks will be all-nighters. Maybe you’ve even decided an outfit that you’d be okay with wearing for four days in a row.

But there’s one thing you all know is going to happen. It’s inevitable, and it’s almost always unplanned. What am I talking about? Study breaks.

1. The Wrong Kind of Study Breaks

Whether it’s your first #finalszn or seventh, think about how much time you waste scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or everyone’s favorite, old Vine videos. You can get caught in the vortex for ten minutes if you’re a super-focused studier who knows they need to get back to work. Perhaps you’re like me, though. Your brain is fried, and what was supposed to be a quick relief turns into an hour of watching ridiculous videos. Studies show that taking breaks on social media actually make you more distracted when you return to studying. However, there are good kinds of breaks. Breaks that make you more productive. So, take a break with us; it’s science.

2. The Right Kind of Study Breaks

Studies show that taking breaks during work or study allow you to recover. However, they have to be the right kind of breaks. Many researchers agree that the best kind of breaks involved socializing with other people. It allows you to relax, even if only for a few hours. You can get away from the stresses of studying and campus, which will actually help you perform better later when you get back to studying.

So, you have an opportunity before you. Let’s face it, you’re going to take a break or several breaks while you’re studying. They’re either going to be productive, or they’re not. Now that we’re being honest that you’re going to take a break, you should take it with us; it’s science.

You know what’s even better than taking the right kind of break. Planning to take that break. Guess what? We’ve already done it for you! So, whip out your phone or your planner and type/pencil it in.

On December 2, at 5:00 pm before MH College Live, we’re having a study break. There will be a coffee bus, popcorn bar, and Christmas cookies. We’ll even stream some Sunday football and play cornhole in ugly Christmas sweaters, which we highly encourage for everyone. Take a break with us; it’s science.

-Greta Griswold (College Team)

If I Pray, Will I Be Heard?

As we are continuing in our 30 Days of Prayer season, many of us may be starting to pray for the very first time. And some of us are thinking that God doesn’t seem to be hearing or accepting our prayers; he seems distant—cold. You may be thinking, “Why would God be listening to me when I haven’t been living in a way that’s pleasing to him? He’s obviously disgusted with me.” Or what about those who are not Christians? Does he hear their prayers?

The answers to all of these questions are not simple, but when we look at God’s word, we can thread together some responses.

1. Who Does God Hear?

In one sense, God hears all prayers—even the ones not directed to him. It’s a fundamental Christian belief that God is all-knowing (omniscient). So, when we ask the question Who is the person that God hears?, we are asking Who is the person that God pays attention to when they pray? The answer to that question can be found in a couple of different verses.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help (Psalm 34:15).

The Lord is near all who call out to him, all who call out to him with integrity (Psalm 145:18).

Indeed, the Lord’s arm is not too weak to save, and his ear is not too deaf to hear. But your iniquities are separating you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not listen (Isaiah 59:1-2)

. . . I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).

So, it is the prayers of the righteous, those with integrity, those who are without sin, and those who are humble and submissive to his will that God listens to. This is a problem for us. Why? In Romans 3, Paul quotes the psalmist: “as it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one’” (Romans 3:10-12).

We all, on our own merits, are not worthy to have our prayers heard by God. Yet, there is one who is worthy. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, is without sin, and the Father listens to his every word. And Jesus was righteous (1 John 2:1), had complete integrity because of his sinlessness (1 Peter 2:22), and was completely humble and submissive to God’s will during his time on earth (Philippians 2:8-9). And when we turn to him in faith, he becomes our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) because he lives constantly at the throne of God, interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25). And the author of Hebrews says that since we have Jesus as our mediator, “let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (4:16). Because of what Jesus has done, God listens to every one of our prayers when we place our faith in him.

2. So, Does God Hear the Unbeliever

On the basis of this biblical evidence, I think the answer is that God hears the prayer of the unbeliever, but he chooses not to listen to them. One pastor said that it’s like someone who is sitting behind a couple on a park bench. He can hear their conversation, but he isn’t paying attention. Now, there are instances in the Bible when God listened to the unrighteous when they humbled themselves and sought him out fervently, and this is the prayer and heart posture of one who is becoming a Christian. But, it’s a true posture of humility and a true seeking after the God of the Bible that captures his attention (Luke 18:9-14).

3. What Is the Type of Prayer that God Answers?

Many of us tend to forget that God can answer with a no. Receiving a no is an answered prayer. But which are the prayers that God is inclined to answer with a yes?

The apostle John says, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). The logic of this is followable. God has revealed his will in scripture. And the things he has declared and promised are in line with this will, and so, if we pray according to these things, we can be assured that he will say yes.

This truth should push us more and more to study God’s word, because the more we know God’s word, the more we know his will. And if we love God, our desires will begin to conform to his desires, which he has revealed in the Bible, and we will begin to pray more for the things that God longs to answer with a yes.

So, a very simple summary, we are only heard because of the righteousness of our mediator. When we pray “in Jesus Christ name,” and our prayers our in accordance with his will, we can both be assured that we will be heard and answered with a yes.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)

Monday Extras: The Danger of Lukewarm Faith

Mercy Hill,

Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.

Sermon Recap

Week three of the In the End series had Pastor Andrew leading us through the letter to the church in Laodicea. The congregation at Laodicea were full of themselves which made them indifferent about God. In this same vein, the main idea of the sermon was that self-sufficiency leaves us with a mediocre desire for God. In areas like the American South, a Christianity that is only fueled by a small desire for God is the norm.

In verses 14 and 15, after Jesus introduces himself as the Amen (meaning truth), the faithful and true witness, and the creator of everything, the church at Laodicea should know that Jesus is right in whatever he is about to say. He calls the church “lukewarm.” The lukewarm life lacks zeal for God. A lukewarm person or church has no passion for Jesus.

In verses 16-17, Jesus points to the heart posture of the church. Because the culture of the city of Laodicea was one of extreme wealth and self-reliance, the church ended up having this same attitude about God. It’s hard to be passionate about God if life convinces us we don’t need him. But Jesus reveals the truth . . .

In verses 17-18, Jesus calls out the church’s blindness. They thought they were rich and needed nothing, but Jesus says that they are mistaken about the truth of their own poverty. Self-sufficiency is a mirage. The world fools us into thinking we have control, but one news report, one phone call, or one misstep and everything could be taken away. Jesus’ words are meant to open their eyes to a false sense of security.

In verses 19-21, Jesus calls the church to be zealous and repent and to open the door at his knocking. For many of us, he is knocking at the door, ready to come in and be the source of our passion and desire. Jesus expects zeal from you because he is zealous for you. We know this because of the cross. Jesus was made poor and shamed on the cross and blind in death, so that we might see clearly his love and the riches he has for us.

So, we, like the church at Laodicea, must repent of self-sufficiency and be zealous for God. We live in an area much like this church in Revelation. It is very easy for us Americans to think we have everything under control when, really, we have nothing under control. We think that we don’t really need anything. but having no felt needs fools us into thinking we have no spiritual ones. We must do whatever we have to do to ignite our zeal for God, because, in the end, lukewarm really means lost.

Featured Resource

30 Days of Prayer Guide

We have put together a 30-day prayer guide that acts as a devotional to guide your prayer times each day. The Scriptures were selected to follow the themes of the In the End series.

Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)

3 Reasons Route 56 Is the Place to Be

While the sound of coffee filling up cups is what fills the lobby at each Mercy Hill campus on Sunday mornings, sounds of laughter, giggling, and pens writing can be heard in Route 56 rooms at each campus. Route 56 is a special part of our Community Group ministry here at Mercy Hill, and there are three big reasons students love being a part of our ministry, and why we love having them.

1. Fun

Who doesn’t want to have fun? We tend to get excited when we are going to places where we have a lot of fun. That’s just the way we are. We love games, competition, being on teams, and being able to laugh at ourselves. Not only that, but sometimes our truest selves come out in competition. That means that when we play games in Route 56, we see the truest versions of our students. We see what makes them get really excited, their biggest fears like being rejected, and the way they love their friends. And we get to challenge them to step out of their comfort zone. We are constantly coming up with new games, and we love to see their faces light up when they finally figure out how to get good at that game and work together to beat their leaders in some instances.

2. Friends

Mankind was not created to live alone. We know this to be true. So even though our Route 56 team is extremely passionate about every student cherishing Jesus as their ultimate treasure, we know they can’t live out their Christian life alone. No one can. Not only that, but for those who aren’t yet in a place in their spiritual walk where they are surrendered to the Lord and walking daily with him, Christian community can serve as a great witness to the reality of our Risen King. If our students are walking with God, our ministry is a tool to help them grow. If our students aren’t there yet with the Lord, our ministry is a tool to show them that Christian community is altogether different than the way the world does community. Being around the word of God with people that you know love you and people that have your best interest at heart is a big deal to our ministry. We are passionate about seeing our students leaving our services each week knowing they are loved by God, by their leaders, and by their friends in that room.

3. The Word

We easily get the most excited about students being challenged by God’s word. This is where the real life change comes from; we want our students encountering God in his word. We are equipping them each week to become greater students of the word with the tools necessary to get the “gold” from God’s word. We pray these lifelong skills will serve to grow their relationship with the Lord more and more.

So, What Does This Have to Do with You?

Our Route 56 team strongly believes that all three things above are needed for a successful Route 56 experience. Why all three? Isn’t the word sufficient? Often times, if students aren’t having fun and don’t feel loved, they don’t want to come—even if they love Jesus a ton. The combination of relationships, having fun, and being challenged by the word is something we’ve seen God use, and we pray he will continue to use. Please pray that every student who connects to our Student Ministry here at Mercy Hill leaves with laughter, deep friendships, and conviction in their heart.

As crucial as fun, friends, and the word are to our ministry, leaders who get that vision and embody that vision each week in our classrooms are what drive our ministry forward. Route 56 volunteers are just that: they are leaders. They are the ones praying for students to take steps in discipleship, using every teachable moment, creating fun-filled momentum, and modeling for students how to walk with the Lord. If fun, friends, and the word sounds like you, we ask that you would prayerfully consider joining the Route 56 team. If this is something you would be interested in, please click here to email our Associate Director of Student Ministries, Tanner Hogue.

Grace and peace,
-Route 56 Team

5 Reasons Not to Get Baptized

Getting baptized is a big decision, and people make that decision for a variety of reasons. Sadly, many of these reasons are not the biblical reason to get baptized. Now, the following list contains examples of reasons that people use as their primary purpose for being baptized, and why those reasons are faulty foundations. Yes, some of them are reasons why you should consider baptism, but they are not the proper foundation for making that decision. 

1. Don’t get baptized for a right relationship with God.

Here in lies the first question you should ask yourself before deciding to get baptized: am I doing this because I believe it is going to earn me something with God? The answer should be a firm no. I grew up in a tradition that believed that baptism was essential for salvation. Many of us high schoolers would have arguments about whether someone would go to heaven if they happened to slip on the edge of the baptismal and meet an unfortunate end before they had been dunked. The answer should have been: “Possibly. It depends on their heart motives for being baptized.” The truth is, it is only through faith in Christ that we have full acceptance before the Father by grace, not because of what we do.

2. Don’t get baptized to gain the approval of others.

It is easy when considering baptism to think about the approval that we will receive from our Christian family and friends. Some of you are being urged by others to get baptized, and frankly, you are a little tired of it; some of you are wanting to get baptized for greater acceptance in your family and among your friend circle. Appeasing them is not a reason to get baptized. This connects very closely with number three . . .

3. Don’t get baptized because your pastor told you to.

Yes, this is a controversial statement, so let me clarify what I mean. I do not want to discount the counsel and wisdom of your pastor or your Christian friends and family, but ultimately, they can’t make this decision for you. Their words (which could very well be Spirit given) should make you consider whether you should get in the water, but baptism is done in obedience to Jesus not for other people’s contentment.

4. Don’t get baptized for a “fresh start.”

Some of you are looking for your life to be turned around. You are looking for some stepping stone to give you confidence in attacking life differently, in a more positive way. Unfortunately, many people look to baptism as this path to a better life while sadly bypassing the one who has promised true, spiritual baptism. If you are looking for a new life, it can only be found in coming to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus and believing in him, the life-giving and death-defeating Savior. Water baptism will not answer your longing for a new life because there is no power in it to do so.

5. Don’t get baptized because of an emotional high.

There have been many people who have been baptized multiple times in their life because they went to a certain conference or attended a summer camp that convicted them anew of their sin. They then felt as if they needed to rededicate their life to Jesus through baptism (See number four. Rededication is good as repentance, but baptism isn’t the mode for doing that). Also, there are many people who have been touched by a worship song or the sight of other people getting baptized and they just wanted to be a part of an extremely powerful moment, and so they decided to be baptized with the crowd. This should cause us some pause when we consider that baptism for people in other countries marks them out for persecution. The cost of being a disciple of Jesus—the cost of handing the keys of your life over to Jesus, so that his commands become the rules for your life—ought to be weighed before making this decision.

So Why Should I Get Baptized?

Baptism is a step of symbolism and obedience. The truth is, though, that one cannot be truly obedient to Jesus unless they believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that he did what the Bible says that he did. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). It is Jesus who saves, and it is our faith that unites us to his salvation.

All throughout the book of Acts we see that there is a progression of faith first then baptism (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). Physical water baptism is the outward symbol to God and the rest of the church of several things: 1) that someone has believed the preached message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection 2) that they acknowledge him as Lord of heaven and earth and seek to follow him in complete obedience 3) that they confess their sin and turn away from living a life as their own master, and 4) that they want to be counted as united with Christ through faith in his death and resurrection.

Jesus does call us to baptism (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, we at Mercy Hill say that baptism is the first step of obedience. If you believe and want to respond to the truth of the gospel through a repenting of your entire sinful life and walking in obedience to Jesus as Lord, this is the reason to get baptized. Joyfully come to make this declaration of your salvation to the church so that we can give the glory to God for what he has done in your heart.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)