Baptized, but Not at Church

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)

 

I mentioned in the sermon on Sunday that it’s dangerous for a person to be baptized without being part of a congregation because it paints a big target on their back for the devil to attack them.  I wanted to elaborate on that more.

 

In Baptism, there is necessarily an exorcism, a casting out of all evil spirit as the Holy Spirit enters in.  Martin Luther’s 1526 baptismal rite actually begins very boldly, “Depart, O unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit.” In the more familiar rite, this is what’s happening with the threefold renunciation of the devil (“Do you renounce the devil…all his works…all his ways?).

 

Well, once a person has had an evil spirit driven out, it’s necessary for the Holy Spirit to take residence in the heart and create and sustain faith.  But what happens to the person who is baptized, but does not stay in the Christian community around the Word of God?

 

This issue is personal for me, because I was brought to the saving waters of Baptism, but my parents rejected subsequent invitations to worship.  Whatever faith the Holy Spirit had created in my heart[1] eventually died because my discipleship was stunted (remember Jesus commands not only Baptism but also teaching in Matthew 28:19-20).  The result was I became a rank unbeliever and was even adverse toward the Christian faith.  For 23 years, my last state was worse than the first because I had lost the treasure delivered to me in Baptism and Satan sifted me like wheat.

 

Despite the sinful will and the devil’s evil plans for me, my Good Shepherd brought me back to the faith of my Baptism.  But it was rough going and I now bear the scars of a Christian who spent years under the devil’s sway.  The message for parents of baptized children who don’t go to church is get them into the holy ark of the Christian Church at all costs.  I mean, if you will drive them to dance, soccer, and Boy Scouts for their social and physical development, why not on Sunday morning drive them (or have a relative get them) to church for their eternal welfare.  Don’t put the Lord to the test.  Who knows?  You might even be saved along with them.

 

The point which the Lord makes, and which I was trying to convey in the sermon, is how profound Baptism is, and what an enemy the devil is.  It’s not safe out there in the world, and the baptized believer needs a community in which they are regularly renewed and prayed for.  Keep praying for your baptized, yet unchurched relatives.  I had people praying for me and I didn’t even know it.  Remember that Jesus is the Stronger Man who is able to cast out Satan and make room once again for His Holy Spirit.  Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Amen.

[1] Acts 2:38, Ephesians 2:8

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