Baptisms on Resurrection Sunday - 16 Apr 17
The church for whom Jesus died joyfully gathered this past Sunday to celebrate the risen Christ! The choir decked in colours led us to praise and worship the Lord and Saviour who has conquered death once and for all, is now seated at the right hand of God and will one day return.
To the King who conquered death
To free the poor and the oppressed
For lasting peace
For life and liberty
In the Son
Let it be my life’s refrain:
To live is Christ, to die is gain;
Deny myself, take up my cross
And follow the Son
Christ we proclaim,
The Name above every name:
For all creation,
Through the Son!
(“For the Cause” by Keith & Kristyn Getty)
It was also the day that we welcomed six young adults to the GBC family: Nathaniel Tan via transfer of membership; and Christopher Kho,Jonathan Tan, Kagen Lim, Alvin Chio and Samantha Ngo via baptism. We thank God for their willingness to come before us to testify publicly their faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
From L-R: Nathaniel Tan, Christopher Kho, Jonathan Tan, Kagen Lim, Alvin Chio and Samantha Ngo praying with Caleb and Andrea before the service.
The baptisms on this day were conducted in a manner unique in GBC’s history. For the first time, the person who had been involved in discipling the person to be baptised stood in the waters with him or her. Andrea Lim stood in the waters beside Samantha Ngo, and Caleb Yap stood besides Jonathan Tan, Kagen Lim, Alvin Chio, and Christopher Kho. It was a beautiful picture of the community of Christ – disciplers and the discipled – modelling to the church that a Christian’s journey in coming to faith and persevering in God’s call to Himself is not carried out in isolation.
Ps Ian explained that the baptism pool is a grave where Christians come to die to their old selves. Baptism itself does not save the soul but is a symbolic act of participating in the death of Jesus – being buried with him – and being raised to life as he was, created anew by His Spirit.
Snippets of testimonies from the six young adults
“Growing up, I knew in my head that God existed, that He hated sin, that Jesus died for my sins, and because of that I was accepted by God. ...Because I was not outrightly doing anything bad, I thought I was living the life of a real Christian. However I was really living a me-centred life that did not honour God as Lord of my life… [Some] big questions in my mind were: would I be able to cling to my faith in Jesus Christ after leaving my community of friends, believers and mentors? Is my faith really my own or just something inherited from my parents?
Kiyoko (my wife) whom I first met in university brought me into the Young Adults ministry here at GBC. …amidst this community of believers, I got to know this brother. He took the time to show me how to read the Bible carefully. He helped me put together the gospel truths that I thought I knew well, and showed me how it related to me personally.
I would like to encourage anyone here today who, like me, thinks they know the Gospel, but do not feel the wonder of it to please, seek out someone to closely read the Bible with you. I say this not as someone who has achieved anything, but someone guided by the sovereign hand of God who used events and people to bring me to Himself.”
“My life before the gospel was people-centred. I valued my friends above God, my parents, and basically over all authority. I based my identity on my friends and that all soon crumbled about me.
When I came back to Singapore to visit family, I heard the gospel. My brother had started to talk to me a lot about (it) and whether I really knew what it was. He had gone through the same school, same community, same culture, and knew that the gospel wasn’t clear enough in my life.
Now I’m living with a purpose and that is all because of Christ. I am free from feeling obligated to make my time with friends feel ‘super special’.
Why am I joining this church? A church is not a building. It is God's people meeting together to join in worship of God. And this church has welcomed me with open arms."
“I was a staunch atheist with a big ego. I hated the idea of God and believed that religious people were crazy. …Yet, I was blind to my own disillusionment. I was seeking the recognition of others and of the world. In June last year my life took a turn for the worst. …I was silently suffering from depression because of things that happened in my life. …everything I took pride in was demolished. I was helplessly trapped in a torrent of hopelessness that manifested itself day and night – as the superficial things at the foundation of my life eroded away. These were my idols. My life felt increasingly cold and empty.
One night as I contemplated suicide, I decided to pray for the first time in my life. …an imperfect prayer of surrender.
Subsequently, I turned to two Christian friends… (who) warmly embraced me into the Christian community. Patiently, they shared the gospel with me and closed up the huge gaps in my understanding of God.
Three gifts I received from God: (i) the gift of prayer (Ps 34:4); (ii) the gift of repentance – today, as I put myself to death in the water, I am reminded that I will always need my Saviour and His saving; (iii) the gift of His people – it is impossible for me to describe how fellowship has helped me dive deeper into the gospel, and empowered me to be a beacon for those who desperately need to hear it.
We don’t need proof through big miracles to see God because sometimes, the biggest of miracles are the smallest of changes in a sinner’s heart.”
“I came to Christ sometime during my first year… in Junior College. After some trials that tested my faith, I found myself growing further away from God – I willingly let the vain pursuits of the affirmation of man and academic excellence take the place of God in my life.
It was only after Matthew Seah, my secondary school classmate faithfully brought me to GBC that I came to regain that first love for God and His word. …The gospel, as I understand it now, is the only truth that can save us from living our lives in meaningless, self-serving ways that leave us eternally estranged from God. My greatest hope and joy would be to see myself grow in the gospel… rooted within the community, and learn to follow Christ faithfully within this body of Christ.”
“To me, praying the sinner’s prayer, believing that Jesus was my saviour and going to church every week was good enough. Unknowingly, I still continued to live my own life with the false impression that I was living a renewed life for God. I served myself and only thought of God when I needed him. …church life became secondary, superficial and aimless.
5 years ago I came back to GBC and started attending church regularly again. Even though I was just going through the motions, I knew there was still something missing in my walk with God, something I saw in others: a passionate and genuine desire to want to be more like Christ. …someone sat me down and asked me the hard questions. Did I really know God? How can I believe in something that I don’t truly know?
After diving deep into His word, for the first time I was truly convicted of my sinful nature … there was a real desire to know Him, …that didn’t come from me or anybody else but God. It’s clear that God’s hand was in this from the start. I didn’t return to church on my own efforts or realise how sinful I was on my own convictions; it was the true work of the Holy Spirit that has guided me.”
“[Church] seemed like a duty I had to fulfil as a Christian. Back then, the God that I believed in felt unreal and Bible truths taught during Sunday school did not leave a deep impression on me. …I even questioned if the Bible was real or just a fictional story book. …I was someone who was constantly afraid of my peers because I was fearful of how they will judge me. Furthermore I was constantly on the chase for good grades because I felt that excelling in my studies was all that mattered. …As I continued pursuing the standards of the world, I felt a sense of emptiness in my heart.
Yet time and again, God was there for me and never once did He leave me. Through weekly family devotions, my family constantly prayed and encouraged me to run my centre of focus towards Christ. That was when I realised how selfish and terrible a Christian I was, when all that I have been devoting my attention towards were the desires of the world.
[Small group Bible study and one-to-one Bible reading sessions] allowed me to grow in the knowledge of His word (and) has enabled me to experience what it is like to be partners in the Gospel, with the aim of pointing one another to the cross.
Before, God was a stranger to me. Now, He is One whom I can turn to in all circumstances and find my rest in.”
After the baptisms, Ps Ian preached from Luke 24:13-35 about “Our Road to Emmaus”. Like how the two disciples who were headed towards Emmaus were suddenly surprised by Jesus, often God must surprise us on the way to something else because we do not naturally head towards Him. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had learnt from Jesus himself about all the things in the Scriptures concerning himself – referring to the Old Testament (OT) we have today (Luke 24:27). Jesus born of a virgin and the events of his life on earth in first century Jerusalem fulfilled an astonishing 48 OT prophecies that were written more than 1500 years before they happened (some examples: Micah 5:2; Isa 40:3, 53:5, 7; Zech 9:9, 11:12-13; Ps 41:9). The truth of Jesus’ messiahship overcame the disciples and their eyes were opened. This challenges us today to seek God through His word which brings us to encounter Him and know Him more fully. Nevertheless, it is God who by His grace first meets us where we are, in whatever state we are in – as the baptism testimonies so clearly revealed.
At the end of the service, Ps Ian asked if the church would be willing to commit to the growth of these newly baptised Christians, providing a safe and godly environment for them to mature in – to which many responded with a resounding Amen!
Many then lined up to greet these new members one by one. We rejoice with these young adults in their baptismal step of obedience! It was a privilege witnessing the authenticity of their faith and many of us were encouraged by them.