Author Archives: Steven Sarff
We often sing a song entitled “Just as I am”. The song conveys the idea that Jesus accepts us in any condition that we find ourselves. This is a true statement and yet we need to look a little deeper.
Probably one of the best examples of accepting a person “just as I am” would be the apostle Paul. A devout Jewish believer and a diligent persecutor of the Church, Paul was given an up close and encounter with the Risen Lord. Ananias was sent to Paul (then known by the name Saul) to heal the blindness and share with Paul what it was that the Lord had in mind for his life. (Read Acts 9, 16, 22)
The thing worth noting, of course, is that Paul did not continue to live his life persecuting the Church. Quite the opposite, he began to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and completely changed his actions. As he puts in in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.English Standard Version
Today, it is not uncommon to see those who say that they are Christians but whose lives have not changed. They say that they are saved and are glad that God saved them but they don’t attend services, they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t help promote the cause of Christ. Their dress, language, and entertainment are aligned not with modesty, edification, and purity but rather aligned with the ego, pride, and sensuality of the world. If you were to ask them what is different about their life now as compared to before, they wouldn’t be able to answer you.
A few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance of mine who claimed to be a Christian. He appeared to be bothered, so I asked him how he was doing. He said that his family was upset with him because he was living with his girlfriend. He seemed upset at such judgement. Then he said “But they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” Obviously, he was under the impression that God would make an exception for his admitted and unrepentant immorality.
It is the greatest news the the world has every heard. God will save sinners. He will save murderers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, the envious, gossips, foolish, faithless, ruthless, prideful, rapists, molesters, and in other sinner whether he engages in small sins or big sinners (I speak in human terms) HOWEVER, even though God will save such a person, he does not and will not continue to extend His glorious grace to the one who will not change his life.
We preach the Gospel to all. We are not to judge who will and who will not respond to the call of obedience. Those that respond and obey the Gospel message are baptized into Christ, they put on Christ. They submit to the waters of baptism a repentant sinner who believes the message and come up out of the waters a Saint, granted mercy from God “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16)
As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “and such were some of you…”. Notice the past tense. “WERE” not “ARE” or “continue to be.” We are now to be friends of God not friends of the world. Because as James says:
James 4:4 ESV You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The life of a Christian needs to move away from what the life of the sinner was in the world and towards what the life of a saint is in Christ. God will save any and every sinner just as he is so that we can truly sing the song:
“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
But then we want to start living and singing: “Just as I was, you received, welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved….” Let us not continue to be of the world, rather let us live as lights among the world in which we shine as an example of God fulfilling His promise in us and the hope that He can do the same for them.
If someone were to follow your example, would they go to Heaven?
The question is not as far fetched as you might think. The fact of the matter is that we are always following or setting examples in the lives of other people. This is a good thing as long as the example is good.
Paul urged the Corinthians to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ” and to the Philippians he added “and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Phil 3:17) It wasn’t just Paul’s life but the life of those who followed Paul’s example that the Philippians were to follow.
I know someone who as a young child would imitate the song leader at home. He would sing songs and keep time with his hand just like John did. “I’m John!” he would say. When it came time to go to bed however, he refused (or tried to) insisting that “John doesn’t go to bed, I’m John.” Well, he was right….John never went to bed early or late….he worked a graveyard shift and so this young boy wanted to imitate John’s song leading AND bedtime habits.
Young children are known for being impressionable but they are not the only ones so our example in our life should always be one we want others to follow.
David shows both a bad and a good example in the sin with Bathsheba. While it is true that he admitted his sin when confronted (and that is the good thing), his example of sin was so bad that God’s name was blasphemed among the nations.
2 Samuel 12:14 MKJV Only, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, this child born to you shall surely die.
It is not that the enemies of God used His name with profanity but rather that they would speak less of the God of Israel because David, the king of God’s people, had done such a horrible act. Because of that, they were less likely to honor God.
Peter urges Christians to leave the ways of the world behind. This leaving of the ways of the world would be so noticeable that the non believers would take note.
1 Peter 4:3-4 ESV For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (4) With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
Earlier he had said:
1 Peter 2:12 ESV Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
And to the wives of non believers he says:
1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
We can not be sure that if we live a good life before God and show the unbeliever (and believer alike) the proper way to serve God that they will follow our example and go to Heaven. However, we can be sure that if they do not see a good example, that they will not know the way.
So again, I ask the question: If someone followed your example, would they go to Heaven?
”In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” And so begins the Universe and the creation of our world and even, of course, the creation of us, mankind. However, before “the beginning” what had God done?
God did what any good builder does. God planned it out:
Luke 14:28-30 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? (29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, (30) saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
How many times as you have read Genesis, have you imagined God, thinking, “oh no, Man ate of that tree….what are we going to do now?” Yet, as you read the Genesis 3 account of sin entering into the world, it doesn’t feel like God has been caught off guard. Immediately, even before sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He speaks prophetically to Satan.
Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is commonly understood to be a prophecy about the coming Messiah and even the virgin birth since it was the seed of Eve mentioned not the seed of Adam.
When we fast forward to the NT however, it is more clearly understood that God did indeed have this all planned out. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God had a plan. Here is a rather long but significant part of what Paul wrote.
Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (12) so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (13) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Notice first, and I dare say, foremost, that all that God planned, he planned IN Christ. Everything was brought to completion by Christ and through Christ and so when he describes us as IN CHRIST, it only seem natural that we would need to be.
This passage, one long sentence in the Greek text, is very rich in meaning and I don’t plan an in depth explanation of it but it is worth noting some things from this passage.
Those of us who are IN CHRIST:
- Are Blessed with every spiritual blessing
- Are chosen as sons by adoption
- Are sealed with the Holy Spirit
That is a LOT. Just the first one alone blows my mind. EVERY spiritual blessing is IN Christ. In my way of thinking, it is a good thing that I am IN Christ.
Also worth nothing is that those of us who IN CHRIST:
- Have redemption through His blood (redemption is to buy back. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and Revelation 5:9)
- Have the forgiveness of our trespasses (Colossians 2:13)
- Have an inheritance (And a great one at that: 1 Peter 1:3-4)
- Have knowledge about His will. (A great blessing that even the Jews had…if they had only listened. Romans 3:1-2)
These, of course, could simply be a list of some of the “every spiritual blessings” Paul say we have in Christ and I would count them as blessings. Which of those 4 items is most important to you?
And yet, as the saying goes, with great privilege comes great responsibility and so it is true that IN CHRIST:
- we are to be Holy and Blameless
- to the praise of His glory (i.e. bring praise to him. Mt 5:16)
So many times, people want the blessings but not the responsibility. As John Maxwell said “They have uphill dreams but downhill habits.”
We all want to enjoy the blessings of God that we have IN CHRIST, however, it is truly a very serious thing to consider that the same God who chose us in Christ, chose us to BE holy and without blemish. Therefore, if you choose to be IN CHRIST, you need to also choose to be holy and without blemish.
Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
We KNOW what God wants for our life. Holy and Blameless. Do you agree? If you agree with that then you can walk with God. If you disagree and want to have all spiritual blessing and yet not be holy and blameless, then you cannot walk with God. However, the choice is yours.
Are you IN Christ? How did you get there?
As we begin the new year of 2019, just like with any year’s beginning, it is common to focus on making improvements in our lives. Whether it is increasing our financial stability, our health (and shape), or simply being a ‘nicer’ person, the resolutions we make as Christians need to be well founded on Biblical principles.
For example, weight loss and getting in shape are two very common resolutions we make. Without a doubt exercise is good for us but so often we focus on the physical and forget about the spiritual.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (8) for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Now, don’t use this as an excuse to NOT exercise; you will note that “bodily training is of SOME value” but it is very clear that the emphasis and better focus is on the Spiritual. The reason for this is easily understood by the spiritually minded. When we see with spiritual eyes we will always keep in mind three things.
First, life is short and unpredictable. We do not know how much time we have left so…
James 4:13-15 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— (14) yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (15) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Second, we are one year closer to our death. No one wants to think about this but how ever much time we do have—if you finished last year, you are one year closer to death than you were last year. But for the Christian that means “salvation is nearer than when we first believed” Romans 13:11 So we should use our time building spiritual 401k rather than ONLY building the earthly ones. (Luke 12:33; Matt 6:19-21)
Third, We will all stand in judgement before God. (2 Corinthians 5:10) On our own we will fail but IN CHRIST, we will succeed. So making sure we are IN Christ and STABLE in Christ is important.
So here are 3 good resolutions for a Christian to adopt this year (and even on a permanent basis) because these three will have a positive affect all the other resolutions you wish you make.
Resolution #1 Improve your relationship with God.
In the last year, has your relationship with God improved or declined? James 4:8 ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. One should expect a better spiritual maturity from the Christian who is 5 years in Christ over a babe in Christ. But we should continue to draw nearer to God and further from the world. To this end, we should:
Read our Bibles every day! Now I know that things come up that may prevent this but far fewer excuses can be given for not not reading/listening to the Scriptures than 20 years ago. With all the Bible apps and audio versions, hearing God’s word is easier than ever. Here is a link to a post that will give you 7 reasons to read the Bible daily.
But, Read our Bibles for understanding! Do NOT just read to check off a box in your annual daily reading list, read so that you can learn and remember and understand. What was written was written for our understanding and learning, (Romans 15:4) so let’s learn something not just read something.
Also, we need to be diligent in prayer to improve our relationship with God. Jesus, as our High Priest, is ready and willing to help us be we do need to ask. Additionally, we need to be thankful in our prayers not just asking in our prayers. There is so much to thank God for. (1 Chronicles 29:14, Phil 4:6)
Resolution #2 Become closer to the brethren.
Unfortunately, the things of this life and sometimes the resolutions of this life can keep us from such important relationships. Mark 4:19 ESV but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. What prevents us from being fruitful are the everyday things of this life when we focus on them.
Perhaps we need to resolve to invite over or have dinner with 6 people/couples this year. You may be surprised how that will help bind you together.
Resolution #3 Become closer to NON-Christians.
While we are to do good to the household of faith in particular, we also get to, and should, do good to those not in the household of faith as well. (Galatians 6:9-10). Again, eating together can be a good way to encourage and build a relationship. We do this in order to influence them not to be influenced by them. We shine as lights in the dark. (Philippians 2:14-15) so if we do not shine in their lives, how will they see the way to go?
A follow up to this blog should center around self control. The stick-to-it-ness that we need to carry these and other resolutions to accomplishment. Until that blog post happens, keep in mind what God said of Man in Genesis 11:6
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
We can accomplish great things when we set our mind to it, so let us set our mind to these three resolutions!
What resolutions have you made for this year?
As we look at Genesis chapter 9, there are many thoughts we can take away from it. This post will mention three. We see the apparent beginning of mankind eating meat, the covenant of the rainbow, and the cursing of Ham. While this will make the post extra long, I can’t decide which one to omit.
Should we be vegetarians?
According to verse 2, there is going to be a dread of mankind from the animals; the same animals that went into the ark with Noah. Just the wording of the verse indicates that this is a new thing. In fact, if we go back to chapter 1 we will see this:
Genesis 1:29-30 ESV And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (30) And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
In Genesis chapter 9 verses 3 and 4 read this way:
Genesis 9:3-4 ESV Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (4) But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Here we seem to have a clear indication that originally man was a vegetarian and so were the animals. This, of course, does not mean that we should be what we were (if we were) before the flood but it does show a difference between how we lived before the flood and what God allowed after the flood.
In addition to this allowance of eating meat were two restrictions. One, not to eat meat with blood. That seems to continue even to this day.
Acts 15:20 ESV but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
The second restriction involved the death of either man or beast who kills a man. The reason? Man is created in God’s image. To kill man is to kill the image of God. This is the basis, as I understand it, for capital crimes. The death penalty seems to be enacted here first.
The covenant of the Rainbow
What does it take to make a rainbow? Well, it takes two things: Rain (water particles) and Sun. This is one reason why I think that perhaps, it really did not rain in the world before the flood. Two passages before the flood and one from here in chapter 9.
Genesis 2:5-6 ESV When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (6) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—
Hebrews 11:7 ESV By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Genesis 9:13-14 ESV I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (14) When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
If you look at all this verses, you might come to the conclusion that it had never rained on the earth when God told Noah that he would bring a flood by having it rain 40 days and 40 nights, to which Noah said “What’s rain?” (concerning events as yet unseen-never before seen) and afterwards God brings clouds and with the clouds come rainbows. A reminder of the flood and a promise never to do it again.
The cursing of Ham
So Noah got drunk. Then he went into his tent and uncovered himself. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the type of thing a righteous man would do. But we will focus on what happened. The text tells us the following:
- Ham saw his father’s nakedness
- Ham told his brother outside what he saw
- Noah realized what his younger son had “done” to him
- Noah cursed Canaan (the son of Ham)
Much speculation has been written about this and I am afraid that I could only add to such speculation. However, in such speculation, let us at least look at what the text says. From verse 24, Ham DID something to Noah while Noah was drunk. If the Genealogy given in chapter 10 is in order, Ham was Canaan’s 4th son, meaning he was born many years after the flood. That Ham was cursed seems to give cause for us to believe that he was somehow involved in this incident. So, since we are speculating because the text is void of details. I offer this. Ham (a younger man and perhaps subject to the follies of youth) saw grandpa Noah in a drunken stupor and told his dad. His dad rather than covering his father up decided to share the disgrace and further uncover his father’s reputation with his two brothers.
Proverbs 25:9 ESV Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,
His brothers did right by Noah and hid the shame rather than further spread it. If the thing Ham ‘did’ was a simple as that (though many suggest much worse), it would be bad enough and if one is correct is assuming that Canaan had a part in it, then the curse on him is not unjust at all, but becomes a punishment his father should have inflicted which Noah did in the absence of such punishment.
There is much we can look at in this chapter and discuss. Do you have an opinion as to what happened between Noah and Ham? Whether it rained before the flood or not? Whether men were vegetarians or not? please share your thoughts….
Genesis 8 shows Noah still in the ark and water is not just over his head, it is over the mountains. It takes a long time for the waters to start to recede from the earth and one might wonder what would happen to Noah during that time. A wonderful thing did happen:
God remembered Noah
Oh, to be remembered by God. If you have every had a friend who forgot about you, you can understand the pain of that loss, especially if they were a good friend, or perhaps even “more than friends.”
God knows all of us but it is the remembering that indicates a care and concern for us which Noah received in Genesis 8.
Genesis 8:1 ESV But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.
Of course, God was also concerned about the beasts and livestock too. Still, as Jesus will teach in Matthew 6, while God does take care of them,”we” are of greater value. God will take care of us.
Matthew 6:26 ESV Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
A more important question is “Do we remember God?”
God makes a covenant
At the end of the chapter God makes a covenant with Noah:
Genesis 8:22 ESV While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
This should be of great comfort to us because we know that, although the world will end someday, it will not end before God is ready to end it.
When I was growing up, among the big fears was Nuclear war. Post Nuclear war movies like Planet of the Apes, Damnation Alley, etc spoke of the horrors of the world “ending” with a Nuclear war. (Not that it actually “ended” it was just very hard living.) Even today movies show the world ending in terrible ways.
What God said, and I believe, is that the world will end when GOD says it ends and until then, we will still have seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night!
This is not to say that we should be care free with how we use the resources God gave us in our world but neither should we be overly concerned when those that do not honor God do things to that appear to destroy the world as if they will actually succeed!
Three things have been “end of the world calamities” in my life: Nuclear war, Global cooling, and Global warming. So far none of it has stopped seed time, harvest, heat, cold, summer, winter, day, or night! So do not be anxious, God is in control. In the end, we will all die so we need to live to God and be sure we are going to be in Heaven with Him.
In a recent sermon which I have entitled “Salt and Light”, we talked about the need for Christians to be an influence in the world. Sadly enough, it is often the world which influences the Christian. Sometimes is is abrupt and sometimes more subtle.
I would like to use two of the illustrations from that lesson in this post. (If you want to hear the whole lesson, you can click here.) The first one, we have all heard, I am sure. The second one, I am guessing, you have not thought about before.
In 1939, Gone with the Wind, was released into the movie theaters and there was ONE…SINGLE…SOLITARY…profane word in it. The nation blushed. Now, that same profane word is common place and even used, on occasion by some who affirm that they are Christians. Of course, it isn’t just the one word anymore. Many such words are heard in our entertainment; our books, our movies, our music and even, perhaps, our own private thoughts. Brethren, these things ought not to be. (James 3:10) Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)
The second illustration may cause some eyes to roll in that way that we do when we think someone is either kidding or making a big deal out of nothing. “Seriously!?”, the eye roll says! While it might seem to be harmless, and not nearly has shocking as some of the ways in which the world influences us, perhaps it is that very appearance of harmlessness that we have to be most careful about.
I am speaking of the calendar that so many of us use. Many calendars at home will still show the first day of the week as Sunday. However, many new calendars, particularly, in day planners formats show Monday as the first day. Where is Sunday? It is relegated to a shared space with Saturday. It is part of the “week-end.”
Now, I know that for most of us, we use the ‘work week’ as a Monday through Friday or Saturday event. We schedule our life around our work. The caution that I am going to point out is that our lives do not revolve around our work but around the Son. (Sunday/Sonday) When we use the term “weekend”, which is a term I still use having grown up with it for so long, we need to make sure we don’t forget that Sunday is actually the week start.
In elementary school I thought Monday was the first day of the week because that when my school week began. Many of us think that the week begins on Monday today because that is when our work begins. Even easier when we say “How was your weekend?” or “I can’t wait until the weekend so I can rest” and we think of not just Saturday but Sunday as well.
For Christians, who gather on the first day of the week to worship God and remember Jesus’ sacrifice (Acts 20:7; I cor 16:2), we need to keep this in mind and not let worldly distractions enter into our thinking.
Things along this line: “Sunday is the only day I can sleep in.” or “it is a day that I can spend with family, recreating and enjoying some down time.”
Worse, perhaps, we allow our thoughts to be secularized to where Sunday completely loses it’s meaning to us, to our kids, and in the world, the light that we could shine, slowly goes out.
We know in our own mind, of course, that Sunday is the first day of the week. But if we do not live like we believe that it is, then it will not be long before we become like those who although “knowing God…did not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful.” Romans 1:21
Five times in the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded the people of Israel to “remember” that they had been slaves in the land of Egypt. In those passages, the context of the command deals with their service to God and their relationship to their neighbor, especially, the poor or needy neighbor.
Remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and rescued by God would help them keep a good perspective in life so as to not forget their need for God or to be generous to their needy brother.
We too can benefit from such a command. We should always remember that we were once slaves too. Slaves to sin and the ways of the world.
Galatians 3:25-4:9 ESV But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (4:1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of tofe had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?English Standard Version
We, who are IN Christ are now sons of Christ and freed from sin. However, it is beneficial to remember that we once were slaves. In this way, we can avoid mistakes like thinking more highly of ourselves than we should and forgetting God, or treating in others with contempt as if we are privileged ones and that God is lucky to have us on his team, while others are not worthy. (Luke 18:9ff)
Yesterday’s lesson deals with this need to remember that we were slaves in a little more detail. you can listen to it here if you wish. In the mean time, there is one other good reason to remember that we were once slaves of sin, owing a debt that could never be repaid. That is, it will help us be more forgiving. No sin or crime against us matches up to the sins we have done in marring the image of God He created us in. If God forgives us…we can and should forgive our fellow man.
Baptism is practiced by many in the Christian world. But do you know why? I do not think baptism is hard to understand but some people make it more difficult than it should be.
The first thing about baptism that one should be able to understand easily is that is a command to be obeyed. In two of the Gospel accounts, Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ last instructions to the disciples were to preach the Gospel to the whole world. As you read these, notice where baptism falls in the context.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) 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, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”English Standard Version
Mark 16:15-16 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.English Standard Version
Now in these two passages, there is only one command that needs to be obeyed in regard to baptism and the command is not “Be Baptized” but rather “Baptize.” It is not a command given to the person who hears the Gospel but rather to the person who preaches the Gospel.
Notice that Jesus in Matthew 28:19 says “Go….Make disciples…baptizing them…” Today, you will find many people who are willing to “Go” but not to baptize. That is to say, they will teach about Jesus and not even once mention baptism. They are content to teach about Jesus and when a person says they believe in Jesus then they move on and consider their preaching is done. (To be fair, some will tell these people that they ‘should be baptized’ at some point but “it is not necessary.”) Jesus then follows up his command to the Apostles by telling them to teach the new disciples all of his commands, one of which is to “Go…Make disciples…baptizing them…”
In Mark’s account, the message is a bit clearer. “Go…proclaim! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” In this command, the Apostles were to proclaim the Gospel. The purpose of proclaiming the Gospel is so that people can be saved. Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is “God’s power for Salvation” and so it makes sense that Jesus would have them preaching the Gospel. Then he tells them who will be saved from their preaching efforts: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”
But let me ask two questions here. Who will be baptized? and “Why would they be baptized? The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious: Someone who heard the Gospel message and believed. And for the second question: They would be baptized because they were TOLD TO BE BAPTIZED. There would be no other reason. Whatever the purpose is for baptism (that is, whatever reason God has for us being baptized) is completely separate from a command to be baptized.
Think about it like this: An insurance salesman comes to you and shares with you your need to have his free insurance policy, you believe him and he gives you the policy which, he says, contains all the benefits. Now what? Well, if you are not told to do anything with it, then you might put it a filing cabinet or you might file it in the trash, the thing is, you don’t know. What if, what you don’t know is, the policy says that you need to sign the policy for the policy to be valid? How would you know?
Your first, and best opportunity, would be when the salesman offers you the policy for him to TELL you. (Salesman: It is free but you need to sign it for it to be effective.) Your second opportunity would be when you READ the policy and notice the words “Policy valid only with customer signature”. In either case, your signature would make it valid, even if the salesman ‘forgot’ to tell you.
I hope you understand what I am suggesting. If you preach the Gospel and you fail to inform your listener of his need to be baptized, you have not given him all the information.
We can infer a second command that applies those who hear the Gospel. That is, that the one who hears and believes must submit to the baptism. We infer this because if the preacher is going to “Go…and baptize”, someone has to be willing to submit to being baptized. A preacher might preach the Gospel to all creation and only wind up with people who hear. But what these preachers are looking for are people who hear and believe. These are the people who will submit to baptism….if they are told to be baptized.
Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.English Standard Version
Only those who received (accepted or agreed to) Peter’s preaching were baptized. Peter was simply following the instructions of Jesus and those 3000 souls were simply following the instructions of Peter: Repent and be baptized (verse 38)
So again, the first thing about baptism that needs to be understood is to be understood by the preacher of the Gospel. When you preach the Gospel, you baptize the believers. Whether you do it yourself or someone else does it does not matter, we are not keeping score because Christ did not send us to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Still, as a result of the preaching of the Gospel, believers are baptized.
Question: If you share the Gospel with someone and do not tell them to be baptized, why not?
It is January 1st again. A new year and a new set of resolutions for many of us. For those who profess to walk with Christ, often the resolution is made to “read through the whole entire Bible this year!” It is a good resolution but I am going to suggest a different one. The one I would suggest is “Remember the Word of the Lord this year!”
To Remember implies knowing.
Now to be able to remember something, it is apparent that you will need to know it. You cannot remember something that you never knew. So in this blog post I want to encourage you to “Remember the Word of the Lord”, knowing that it will require you to actually read it to accomplish that task. However, it is more important that you remember it than that you read it. If you read it only and then do not remember it, you have gained little and may have lost more than you gained.
Here are 4 reasons why you should Remember the Word of the Lord.
The Word of the Lord instructs us.
God’s Word instructs us on what we should do. It gives us examples of good and bad so that we can learn what to do and what NOT to do. It instructs us in perspectives that the world might not share but which God says are good.
Romans 15:4 ASV For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.
Acts 20:35 ESV In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The Word of the Lord is forever.
God’s word will last forever. It is not going to go away. Philosophies and civilizations will come and go but God’s word is going to endure. The people building the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) wanted to make a name for themselves…an enduring legacy. They are no more but God’s word is still around
Isaiah 40:8 ESV The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Those who forget God’s Word encounter great sadness when they remember.
If we ever learned it, we don’t really “forget”, we simply ignore or bury that voice of conscience so that we may continue on whatever wrong path we find ourselves. Take Peter for example, his third denial as Luke records it goes like this.
Luke 22:60-62 ESV But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (61) And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” (62) And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter was so sure of himself. He would never deny Jesus. Yet, when he uttered that third and final denial, before he went out and wept bitterly….He remembered the saying of the Lord. He remembered the Word of God.
How truly sad it is for us to commit sin and THEN remember God’s word.
Remembering God’s Word brings us blessings.
One of the blessings in remembering the Word of God is that it brings protection from sin.
Psalms 119:11 ESV I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Jesus must have taken David’s psalm to heart because in each of the temptations Matthew records in chapter 4, Jesus quotes from the Scriptures, specifically, the book of Deuteronomy: “It is written…” He answers Satan’s temptations with God’s Word and resists each one. We can too.
Another blessing in remembering the Word of the Lord (or “not forgetting”) is it helps us to continue on and endure.
Hebrews 12:3-6 ESV Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (4) In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (5) And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. (6) For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
There are many passages the deal with the need to remember what God has spoken. These are just a few that I hope will cause us to realize that it is not just reading the Bible that is important but that it is also remembering the Words of God.
What other New Year’s resolutions would a Christian be wise to make?