Ivan the Great was the emperor who welded together the Great Russian Empire back in the 15th century. He was so busy conquering new territory and bringing tribes under subjection that he had no time for social affairs. He had never married, and his advisors urged him to take a wife. He said to them, “Find me an acceptable wife and I will marry her.” They went bride-hunting all over Europe and finally found a beautiful woman named Sophia, the daughter of the king of Greece, whom they thought worthy of recommending.
So, Ivan the Great went to Athens to call on the king of Greece to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He carried with him five hundred of his crack troops, the best soldiers he had – the elite guard. The king of Greece agreed for his daughter to marry Ivan, but with one stipulation – Ivan the Great must join the Greek Orthodox Church. The emperor agreed, was accepted into the church and was baptized – three times, face forward by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Ivan’s five hundred well-trained and dedicated soldiers, seeing the example of their leader, decided they also wanted to join the Greek Orthodox Church. Five hundred priests were secured so that each soldier would have a priest to teach him the catechisms. The time arrived for the soldiers to be baptized, but there was one problem – professional soldiers who kill people were not permitted to become members.
This proved to be a serious problem for both the soldiers and for Ivan, and this is how the problem was solved. Five hundred priests led the five hundred soldier candidates into the water. At the moment when each soldier was to be immersed, he quickly pulled his sword from its scabbard and thrust his fighting arm and sword into the air. Their bodies – with the exception of their fighting arm and sword, of course – were baptized. Their bodies were received into the Greek Orthodox Church, but their fighting arm and sword belonged to the state. It has to be the strangest baptism in history.
Is this not a graphic description of what happens in far too many churches today? Many individuals, who at some time in the past committed themselves to become followers of Jesus Christ, joined the church and were baptized, have dropped by the wayside. They have forgotten the importance of worship. They seldom, if ever, attend church. Those who expect to answer when the roll is called up yonder should make an honest effort to be present for worship each time the roll is called down here – not just on Easter Sunday.
Every Christian church has been given a divinely assigned mission. This mission cannot be carried out successfully by any church if it has too many partially committed members – those who have unbaptized tongues, unbaptized talents, and unbaptized arms. Genuinely dedicated Christians will not say to Christ, “Lord, I will give you my life – well, part of it, anyway. There are certain things I want to reserve for myself.”
Apostle Paul said to the church in Rome, “I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).
You do realize that the church is a workshop and not a dormitory, don’t you? Boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina prepares marines for battle. Joining fellow Christians on a regular basis to worship God is one way God prepares you for the work He has for you to do in the community where you live and work.