On Easter Sunday, CityLights Church baptized 45 people. It was an awesome sight to see all of you publicly declare your faith to the world that you belong to Jesus. Jesus did a marvelous work in your heart that day which most likely produced a mix of emotions like sorrow for the sins we have committed against God, joy to know all our sins are forgiven, relief that we are made new in Christ, hope in Christ’s resurrection power defeating death and the power of sin over us, and excitement to serve God and commit or recommit our lives to him, and walk in newness of life. But lo and behold, the world around us probably did not change much on Easter Sunday, or the next day. In Chicago, there were 36 people shot on Easter weekend, 9 of them fatally. This is the tally and sad reality we woke up to in our city on Monday morning. We still have jobs to go to, bills to pay, children to get ready for school every morning, homework that was due yesterday, and yes, our worldly temptations. As the days have gone by, your excitement might have started to wear a bit. Maybe you are confused as to why your old self is creeping up again or thought you’d be this super Christian who can face anything by now. The truth is, you most likely aren’t a super Christian and your old sinful desires come up frequently. But that’s OK. Baptism is NOT something you do in order to be a better person, nor is it an event which obliterates the old nature in us. The point of baptism is to publicly declare what has already happened in your heart, a transformation that God’s Holy Spirit does within you so that you can be able to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ – that he came in the form of a man, to live perfectly for you, die for you, bear the punishment your sin on the cross and resurrect for you, defeating the power of sin. Because you believed the gospel, repented of your sins, and trusted in Christ alone and his record to save you, you are forgiven and are a child of God. In baptism we are relating with Christ’s in his death when we go under the waters and relating with Christ in his resurrection when we come up out of the water. Baptism does not save us, rather it is an outward sign that we have already been saved. Understand that you are now in what’s called the life-long process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which you become more like Christ. You are sanctified which means you are set apart for God and his purposes. This happened when you were saved and believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now you are in the stage of progressive sanctification where you get to practice holiness and walk in obedience as you await Jesus’ return. This does not mean that you won’t sin or be tempted, but it does mean that God is with you and his Spirit has been poured out through grace to empower you to look and think and behave more like Christ daily. Don’t get discouraged if you feel you are not growing at the speed of sound. God is faithful and will bring to completion what he started in you. As Paul states in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Perhaps you feel life is harder now. Maybe it is…or maybe you are just more aware of the battles in life because of the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart. Perhaps you feel discouraged because your family members or friends do not understand what happened to you and don’t seem to be celebrating. That’s OK, because through the gospel we are accepted and loved and celebrated in Christ by the one who created us – God Himself. Because you are part of God’s family, we want you to grow in Jesus and look more like him as the days, months, years and decades go by…remember this is a lifelong commitment and it will take God to get us there together. We believe these are three practical things you need to do as a believer after your baptism in order to grow in Jesus.
1. CONNECT WITH GOD
You are joined to God! Connect with God daily on your own through Bible reading and studying. If you don’t have one, you can download one for free on your Smartphone or smart device from the app Youversion. At CityLights, we read the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible, but we recommend you also get a physical ESV Bible in front of you. Feel free to write on your bible, highlight, and take notes. Memorize verses to encourage yourself and keep your mind on God throughout the day. A very helpful app for this is Fighter Verses ($2.99) which will have you memorizing scripture in no time. Think daily about the goodness of God in saving you in Christ. Pray to God. Speak to him as you read the Bible and ask him to give you an understanding of it. Spend a chunk of time alone with God and also connect with him throughout the day as well. Cast your burdens and requests to God in prayer. Worship God in prayer. Let your heart bring praise to him. Thank him for his saving grace. Worship God daily through your actions as mundane as they might seem. Sing to him. Tell him he’s worthy of your praise. Love your family. Work diligently at your job. Love your neighbors. Remember that worship is a lifestyle in which God becomes supreme through our thoughts, words and actions.
2. CONNECT WITH GOD’S PEOPLE
Join a community group! You are a member of a spiritual family – the church. At CityLights we don’t believe our Sunday services are more important than our smaller, more intimate gatherings in homes as Community Groups throughout the city during the week. We believe both are just as equally important and vital for you to grow in Jesus. Join a Community Group where you will be able to fellowship with believers, pray with believers, and serve with believers. God uses the believers around you to grow with and encourage and support you. Understand that there are no lone rangers in Christianity. Jesus died for us so that we would be united and be one just as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17). Be committed to gather when the saints gather – on Sundays and during the week in Community Groups and Boot Camp Discipleship groups.
3. CONNECT WITH YOUR WORLD
Join the mission! The church’s mission is summarized by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The church is on mission 24/7. We are on mission together through community groups seeking to love our neighbors, serve their needs, and address their deepest need in this world to be reconciled to God through the gospel. We are also on mission with our family members, friends, co-workers and fellow students who don’t know Jesus. Tell the people in YOUR world about Jesus, who he is and what he did for you. He has reconciled you to God by taking your sins and dying for you on the cross. Pray with and for people who need Jesus. Invite people to community groups and church services on Sunday. Do not be afraid! Jesus is with you!
Now that you are part of God’s family at CityLights Church we look forward to growing with you in Christ. Visit our page at www.lightinthecity.com/community/ to learn more about the times and locations of our Community Groups. Don’t be shy and introduce yourself to our leaders at the VIP section on Sundays. We want to know you, serve you and connect you with a Community Group.