Jan 242013
 

If you have been around churches for any length of time you will know that there has been a lot of confusion through the years over water baptism. This week we are going to look at what the bible says about this very important subject which could be described as one of the first steps of discipleship.

Jesus was baptised

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Water baptism must be important because Jesus was baptised Himself. He was the last person who needed to be baptised because He was sinless. There are various reasons for why Jesus chose to be baptised but principally it was to identify with us as sinners and as an example for us to follow. As He was baptised He was looking ahead to His own crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus will not ask you to do anything He was not prepared to do himself and asks all his followers to be baptised as we see in His command in Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is for believers.

It does not make you a Christian, it is for those who have already committed their lives to Him and decided to follow Him.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.(Acts 16:31–33)

Baptism is a public declaration that you belong to Jesus and have submitted your life to Him. When Jesus was baptised He was identifying with you. When you are baptised you are identifying with Him. There is a wonderful connection, what happened to Jesus happened to you as well. As you get into the water you are showing everybody that your old life is dead. As you are submerged under the water you are declaring that your old sinful life is being buried. It is a funeral for your old life! As you come up out of the water you are being raised from your old life by God’s power (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead) raised into a new life with Him.

Next week I will be looking more into what baptism actually is. If you haven’t been baptised, why not seek God this week about what He wants you to do. If you have any questions or anything you want covered next week, please put a comment in the box below and I will do my best to answer it.

 January 24, 2013  Posted by at 7:11 pm Baptism, Confession, Discipleship, Repentance, Resurrection, Salvation No Responses »
Jan 172013
 

Les miserablesLiz and I had the opportunity to go to the cinema together last week (quite a rare occurrence) as she was keen to see Les Miserables. As a Christian I thought it had a really interesting story which I would like to share with you, but don’t worry-I’m not going to give away the plot! I was quite intrigued by it; I knew the stage show was a musical but I hadn’t realised that the film was too. It came as quite a shock for me to see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) having a sing-off in the opening scene. I half expected the claws to come out!

I’m really not a fan of musicals. To me it seems so unnatural for people to suddenly burst into song in every situation they find themselves in. I was determined however to embrace the film come what may and I’m glad I did. You soon get used to the singing and actually appreciate how cleverly it is all put together, with people singing different parts simultaneously yet all in harmony with each other.

What struck me most about this film was the very obvious investigation into the conflict between legalism and grace and how different people react and respond in different ways. The story briefly is about a criminal who experiences extraordinary grace (probably the part of the film I found most emotional). He experiences this grace on a personal level and he then takes every opportunity to extend that grace to others. Legalism is shown in the person of a policeman who cannot accept that a person can change and is determined that the law be fulfilled to the letter.

The film is also an exploration into injustice; one of the main characters had been condemned to 19 years hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving relative, whilst another character is victimised by work colleagues to such an extent that she loses her job and is forced into prostitution. Injustice is a constant theme in many Hollywood films; it psychologically causes a stirring of a sort of righteous indignation which in turn creates an emotional attachment to the characters, (hence the shares in Kleenex rocketing over the last few weeks-I suspect the reason the film was so loud was to the muffle the sound of sobbing!)

This would be an excellent film to take your non Christian friends to see as it creates a fantastic opportunity to discuss with them the grace that God extends to us through Jesus Christ.

I would love to know what you thought of the film; please drop a comment in the box below.

 January 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:26 pm Grace, The gospel 4 Responses »
Jan 102013
 

faithLast week we looked at the whole subject of repentance. As they fit so easily together, this week we are going to look at Faith. They are like two sides of a coin and make up the basis of God’s great salvation which many of us enjoy.

Faith is a great theme throughout the bible. In Hebrews chapter 11 you will find a list of men and women throughout bible times who did great exploits and were commended for their faith. In fact this chapter starts with a really good definition of what faith is “….faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

Any dealings we have with God by definition are by faith as we cannot see Him, touch Him or hear Him.

God makes it clear throughout the bible that He loves faith. In fact it says in verse 6 of Hebrews chapter 11 “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”.

Faith, like repentance is a gift from God.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 it says For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Many people today understand faith as ‘blind faith’. They refer to a ‘leap of faith’, a vague hope that things will turn out alright. This is not biblical faith. Biblical faith is built on the evidence of the bible and how God has revealed himself. It is a reasonable faith.

There are 3 points I want to make about faith:

(1) We are saved by faith

One of the most well known passages of the entire bible is John 3:16 which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

We believe that Jesus has died for us, we put our trust in Him to save us from our sins and we receive, by faith, God’s forgiveness.

(2) We are justified by faith

Justification is a picture taken from the law courts. God first of all declares us guilty, every last one of us has sinned and the just judgement is death (Romans 3:23). The wonder of justification is that God then declares us righteous because of what Jesus does in our place. He takes our punishment, paying the debt that we should pay. We receive all of this by faith. This is wonderfully summed up in the following passage:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

(3) We walk by faith

The Christian life is a life of faith. The apostle Paul demonstrates this life of faith through the example of Abraham in Romans 4:13-21. We can take a number of points from Abraham’s life:

  • He heard the word of God and believed (v 13 and 21)
  • He placed his hope in that promise (v18)
  • He didn’t consider his own limitations or let them weaken his faith (v19)
  • He did not waver in his commitment to God’s word (v20)
  • He gave glory to God even before he received the promise (v20-21)

We would do well to imitate Abraham’s faith and gain faith by reading the bible:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

In what areas can you step out in faith this week?

I have found that there is a direct correlation between my faith in God and how often I read the bible. The more I read it, the more I believe that God can do in my life what He does throughout the pages of scripture.

A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ.” (George Whitfield)

 January 10, 2013  Posted by at 10:06 pm Faith No Responses »
Jan 032013
 

repentanceRepentance is one of the foundations of the Christian faith, however it is very much misunderstood in today’s society. It may be worth looking at 6 common misconceptions before studying what the bible says about it:

 

 

  • It is not a way to manipulate God. We can think that by simply saying sorry God is duty bound to forgive us. (In a similar way to when we insist children say sorry; as long as they say the words and look contrite all seems well, but they don’t really mean sorry because they do the same thing 5 minutes later).
  • It is not sorry simply because you “got caught”. We see this occur time and time again in the media: a well known celebrity being caught in some misdemeanour, they go into rehab, appear contrite, give some money to charity and then society decides ‘you’re ok now we will love you again’. That is penance and is not the same as repentance.
  • It is not mere confession. Have you noticed that some people say sorry and then go on doing the very thing they said sorry for? This is an acknowledgement of sin without repentance.
  • It is not a determination towards self-improvement. We all have a tendency towards striving to do better in our own strength, (I’m sorry I missed that target but I will get better at this and try even harder…..).
  • It is not shifting the blame. Some people blame their sin on their upbringing or their genes or any other number of ways to ‘explain’ why they are like they are. They say “I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am…”, or they have an affair, because “my partner is not giving me enough attention”, so justifying their sin and avoiding any personal responsibility.
  • It is not minimising your sin. We compare ourselves with others who, in our eyes, are worse than us, for example “…it was only a little white lie and didn’t hurt anybody. Not like that big fat lie that other person said…). When we minimise our sin it never feels quite so bad, but it is still sin and needs to be repented of.

Given the confusion in today’s society it is very important we understand what biblical repentance means.

The act of repentance means we don’t simply say sorry, feel a little remorseful and then carry on as before. Repentance means we stop, turn around and go in the opposite direction.

Repentance is actually a wonderful gift from God.

God reveals to us our sins and gives us a Godly sorrow that leads us to full repentance. This results in a change of heart and mind, leading to a change of action and behaviour which is then demonstrated through a changed lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily happen all at once but will show increasingly as we live a life of repentance.

In Luke 3:8, as John the Baptist is preparing the way he says “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. He is then asked what this would look like and in verse 11 John replies “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

So does this mean that we are saved by works? No, but our lives will change as we are motivated by God’s love, grace and forgiveness to do works which show how God has changed our hearts.

Repentance is not just a ‘one off’ thing we do when we become a Christian, like ticking a box to say, “I’ve done that, what’s next?”. It is an ongoing practice, a lifestyle. It keeps us humble and reliant on God’s grace which He continues to give us.

It is God’s desire that we should repent of our sins:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”. (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)

Having a repentant heart keeps us humble and reliant on a gracious God who is always willing to forgive us. Do you have anything that you need to repent of? Is there anything in your life causing you to keep God at a distance?

This week, read the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32. Let God speak to you through it.

 January 3, 2013  Posted by at 10:36 pm Confession, Repentance No Responses »