Baptism

“Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” ~Acts 2:38

Paul was in a small church conveniently located three blocks from his apartment. In his youth he had attended a Baptist church with his family. Although he enjoyed his experience, he was never “saved”, which meant being born again. Born again is an experience where a person believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins and was raised from death on the third day. Paul was 14-years-old at the time of his confession of faith (he made this out of a sense of obligation, not really from his heart). However, once in college, his mostly worldly wise and faithless professors chipped away at his faith which was fading into the background anyway since he didn’t bother to find a church or Christian study group, even though there were an abundance of such groups.

But now, it was different, college was long gone and Paul felt it was necessary for a true confession of faith, time to share a belief in the Savior.

At the next mid-week service, Paul stood and professed his desire to “be saved”. Friends gathered around, laid hands on Paul and supported his prayer of faith joyously. Lots of hallelujahs followed.

A week later, Pastor Sam called to set an appointment with Paul to discuss baptism. “I want to discuss being baptized, Paul. What are your plans for that?”

“My plans? I want to be baptized soon, just like it says in the New Testament.”

“Well, you have to attend our baptism class first, Paul, and then we can schedule a time when we have at least five people wanting baptism.”

“How long will that take?”

“Oh not long. No longer than, say, six months.”

“Six months? I want to be baptized right away. I want people to see my confession of faith just like in the New Testament.”

“Well, maybe we can shorten the wait time, but the class is mandatory.”

“What’s the class for, pastor?”

“To make certain you know what you are doing and that you make a full confession of faith in the Lord.”

“But I just did that last week in the service. You were there.”

“Well, you know, Paul, it’s part of the deal here, just like in the churches I’ve attended in my life. Baptism class is necessary.”

“Pastor, you know more about the Bible than I do and you know there are verses that talk about people being baptized right after they confess their faith. Look at Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“Later in verse 41 we see the incredible baptism of 3,000 souls: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

“And here in Acts 8:12, “When they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”

“Pastor, I’ve allowed myself to sink into a mediocre faith in Christ, hanging onto some tepid version of following my Savior. I am tired of that lifestyle. I want to be obedient and effective for the Lord. I need to follow Him in being baptized so the world can see where my heart is. Please let me be baptized. I’ll gladly go to a river or lake or someone’s pool, pastor.”

Tears welled in Pastor Sam’s eyes as he realized that he, too, had become mediocre in his walk of faith. Rather than “devoting himself to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers,” (Acts 2:42), he had become self-obsessed, more concerned with personal comforts and accolades from his small congregation. The Holy Spirit was pricking his heart through young Paul whose desire to follow the Lord burned brighter than his own.

The words found in Revelation 2:4-5 stung Sam’s repentant heart: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

“Well, my dear fellow,” said Sam, “let’s get you baptized. How about me making a few calls to see if there are others who want to have the mighty experience of baptism as well. Phil Williams has a very nice pool that would work just fine.”

Ephesians, Part 4

coffee cup in hand (2013_06_21 16_53_37 UTC)

“Put on your new nature and be renewed” Colossians 3:10

Ephesians Chapter 1

4 “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.”

Talk about a mind bender! How do we wrap our human minds around this simple verse? “Before He made the world, God loved us?” How can that be, we ask? First we struggle with the idea of whether or not God made everything in six literal days and now— we read that God loved us before we existed; prior to making any of the heavens or the earth. This is a stunning concept truly beyond human comprehension.

Of course it is beyond human comprehension, we are His creation and He is the Creator. Can you remember back to a time in school when you began a new class and your mind was in utter confusion, struggling to understand the necessary concepts? I can recall a class in which I was completely in the dark, ready to give up. As I shared my confusion with the professor one day he said, “Oh I know how hard it is to grasp this concept but don’t give up. I can tell that you are just about to break through. Don’t give up!” Fortunately I listened to his advice. Within that very week, the understanding exploded into  my mind. I was so joyful. I had faith in the professor’s observation.

In a way, attempting to understand all of God’s mysterious Scriptures while we are still living on earth is similar. But the complete revelation of God’s truths is yet to come. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Cor. 13:12

The first verse of the first book in the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 Do we understand what this means? Can we imagine this act of creation? Absolutely not. We understand the words and the idea but not literally. We are totally dumbfounded. It is beyond human comprehension. And so is the idea that verse 4, above,  expresses. Before God made our world He loved us. God loved me personally before he created the world! Then surely I owe my allegiance to Him.

Not only has God loved us before He made everything, He “chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Holy and without fault? Will everyone who feels holy and without fault please raise your hand! We shrink back from the very idea. If you only knew me, we think. Holy and without fault? Far from it. And yet, through the filter of Christ’s blood, God does see us as holy and without fault. Not only that, before He created the world He saw us in this way.

God says to you, “I love you and have loved you before I created anything!”

Ephesians, Part 3

“The Word of the Lord endures forever!” 1 Peter 1:25

 

Ephesians Chapter 1

2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Paul continues with his earnest desire for all the followers of Christ; that the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father pour out supernatural grace and peace on their lives. This is not a casual thought or passing greeting as we might say, “Have a great day!” Far more, this is from Pauls great desire that each follower of Christ walk in God’s grace and peace. Imagine those days when the whole ball of wax of our lives seems to melt before your eyes. Paul’s hope is that we will walk through the trials of life, understanding we have God’s eternal grace and peace every minute of every day.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Stop and think what we’ve just read. Have you relished the power of these words? Go back and read them again. This is not a to-do list, a grocery list, a few reminders. These are God’s Words! The living Word of God, passed down from the beginning of time according to His holy plan.

Do you have a favorite book? One you take off the shelf once a year or so, knowing how you relish the story, the writing style, how it speaks to you with each reading? There’s just something you love about the book. You value it. As believers, that book should be the Bible; Written by God as He spoke the words via His Holy Spirit into the hearts of all the authors. Clearly then, reading our Bible should be an act of joyful anticipation, expecting the Holy Spirit to give us personal revelation.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,—” Not some or lots of— ALL praise to God. How many billions of people inhabit the earth? How many billions have passed into eternity since the beginning of time? If we could fill the planet with every soul who has lived and every voice would continuously sing praises unto God— that would not be too much. He is worthy of all praise. His purity and perfection should generate spontaneous peals of HALLELUJAH! (Praise You, Jehovah!)

Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms—” What can this mean? Do we understand such a glorious proclamation from God? In short, we do not understand this promise. And it is a promise from God. This must mean that in spite of our feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and failure, we have been blessed with spiritual blessings by God. Specifically, every blessing in the heavenly realms. Since this is so mind boggling, we are tempted to set it aside as too hard to understand. Don’t do it. God does not lie and He has written in the Bible that we have been blessed with specific heavenly blessings whether or not we can grasp this fact. Pray about it. Ask God about it. Search the bible for the answer. Have faith! “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)

The Future

We shall be saved much heartbreak if we stop forever expecting what we would call ‘fair’ or ‘just’. Frequently the innocent suffer and evil men prosper. This has been the pattern since the world began.

It is not, of course, the final answer, for that we cannot see in this world, but in the present tangled field of human life, both good and evil grow together until the harvest.

The Christian has such and advantage as he faces a new year. He knows that nothing in life, however painful or distressing, can ever separate him from the love of God.

Always, at all times, waking and sleeping, he is held in that unfailing love. As John Greenleaf Whittier put is so rightly, “I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care.” ~J. B. Phillips