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 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 »
Sep 212012
 

Join a church 2In my last blog we took a brief look at the big picture of God choosing to have a people for Himself. Now we shall look at the following question:

Why should we join a local church?

In the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost we see 120 cowering followers of Jesus waiting fearfully in an upper room, not even quite sure what they are waiting for. Suddenly the Holy Spirit comes and fills them with power, Peter preaches and 3,000 people are added to their number. The word “added” is important here-it is evidence that a local church was organised and had actual members. We see later in Acts how elders are established and how home groups spring up as people fellowship together and practice their new found spiritual gifts. (Incidentally ‘lone ranger’ is not listed in the bible as a spiritual gift!!).

We see further through the book of Acts how churches are planted and established and how leadership in each congregation is developed. None of this would have happened without organisational and membership structures. Have you ever tried to organise and motivate people into a team who are not committed to each other or to you as a leader? If you haven’t I’m sure you can imagine what it would be like.

Leadership

Most of the letters that Paul and the other apostles wrote were to specific churches, for example the churches at Ephesus and Corinth. Much of the content of these letters included how Christians should be and act with one another and how they should submit to leadership. A lot of this would not make sense if people were not committed members of these congregations. A good example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 5: a member of the church is found to be immoral and Paul urges them to put this man out of fellowship. How could they have put him ‘out’ of fellowship if he was not ‘in’ in the first place?

This leads me to the role of leadership and specifically Elders. Elders are exhorted to look after those under their care. In Acts 20 v 28 it says “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Again in 1Peter 5 v 2-3 it says “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”. On the other hand the members of the church are instructed to “have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13 v 17). None of this makes sense unless a person is submitted to a leader through church membership. A leader cannot perform his shepherding care if no-one is submitted to Him.

Analogy of the body

Paul uses a very good analogy of what the church should be like in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

This for me is one of the strongest arguments for having church membership. God has put us together to rely on one another and be part of each other. If you are an errant body part you need to get back into the body. How strange a body would be if an eye was over here and a hand over there etc… It wouldn’t be an effective body at all.

There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body”. John Piper (sermon, July 13, 2008)

Gifts

Another reason for being a member in a local church is so that we can use our gifts in a safe environment, whether they be spiritual gifts or practical ones. In the local church we can prophesy knowing that our contribution will be ‘weighed’; we can practice hospitality; teach and encourage. We can also exercise our gifts of serving or helps; we can be part of a programme that ministers to the poor. We can find a myriad number of ways to serve in the context of membership within a local church.

Discipleship

In a local church there will always be somebody who can disciple you in whatever area you need it. You may be a new parent and you can look to couples who have successfully brought up children; you may feel you don’t pray very successfully and you can get alongside real prayer warriors and learn from their passion. Of course, your own contribution is vital as you in turn disciple others and play your part in the growth of your church.

Conclusion

Just because membership of a local church is not highlighted in a specific verse, the concept of being a member is implied countless times in the New Testament. It’s not necessary to keep looking for the ‘perfect’ church because it doesn’t exist and if you did find it and joined, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore! Until we get to glory, every Christian has imperfections and we will all have difficulties with each other from time to time. But God in His wisdom has chosen this imperfect group to be His people, bought with His own blood, to declare His glory to the rest of creation. We are His people and His delight and He has chosen us to be built together in Him. If you are still not quite convinced, go through the New Testament again and see the skill with which God builds his church together and then consider getting stuck in where you are. You have a part to play.

 September 21, 2012  Posted by at 12:00 am Community, The Church No Responses »
Aug 302012
 

community fishing 2I don’t think we get evangelism quite right in our churches. We tend to think of evangelism as something that evangelists do. They love telling people about Jesus, they seem to be quite good at it so we tend to let them get on with it. If we do have somebody who shows an interest we often wait until the next outreach Sunday and invite them to come along to listen to our evangelist speaker. Or we wait for the next Alpha course to begin and pack our interested friend off to have a meal and discussion with another evangelist. I am not knocking evangelists – they do a fantastic job! No, if this is your mentality then I’m knocking you! This mentality is basic laziness. (And before you get indignant, I include myself among the lazy ones!).

I think there is a better way. You won’t be surprised to learn (especially if you have been following this series) that the most effective way to reach people is through community. We still need evangelists but if you think of a community as an arrow, evangelists are the sharp arrow point, but the body of the arrow is made up of the rest of the community working together to reach souls for Jesus.

Let’s remind ourselves what the great commission is:

“…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28 v 18-20).

This command is for every Christian. It is our privilege to be involved in Gods mission and He has equipped us with everything we need. I believe that every one of us should be able to lead somebody to Christ and be able to present the gospel (see my previous post on ‘giving the gospel’). As it says in 1 Peter 3 v 15 “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”. I am not saying we should all be evangelists, rather that we should not negate our responsibility. On the other hand however evangelists are very effective at winning souls, so working in partnership as ‘fishing in community’ we will all be even more effective.

Ok, it’s that time in my blog when I produce another list. I find it much easier to gather my thoughts in bullet points and so in no particular order I’ve gathered a few thoughts about how we can reach our friends and families through community:

  • By praying together. We need to start praying for each others’ friends, families or co-workers. In this way as they are introduced into your community you will be more eager to meet and get to know them because you already have an interest in them.
  • There is no pressure. Jesus wins people, we just introduce them to Him and tell them how great He is. Easy!!
  • We need to be adaptable. The apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9 v 22). Reaching out to people means meeting them where they are at.
  • There is huge power in testimony or telling your story. In a community we already know each others’ stories, so if we meet somebody with a similar story we can introduce them. (For instance somebody you meet may be struggling with an illness and somebody in your community has already been through the same thing – this can give hope and encouragement and create a real connection).
  • It is really important that people see we are ‘normal’. People have all sorts of strange misconceptions about what Christians are like. When they step into our communities they should see great friendship, interaction and a genuine love and respect among us.
  • It makes a huge difference to the world when they see Christians loving each other with genuine care and concern “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133 v 1). Every person needs good community, it is what God has put into each one of us and He wants His church to model what it should be like.
  • People are not trophies. We need to genuinely love them whether they respond or not. They will see through any shallowness.
  • Throw a party! Jesus loved going to parties and loving people, so much so that the religious people called him a drunkard and a glutton! (Matthew 11 v 19).

Let’s get out into our communities and get involved in the great commission. There is a wonderful sense of security and comfort in doing it together, and joining in the great celebration of heaven when even one sinner repents. Let’s go for it!!

 August 30, 2012  Posted by at 9:03 pm Community, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 072012
 

Easter Sunday – the day we celebrate the greatest event in human history! I have set out below some reasons as to why the resurrection is such good news. We celebrate the cross and rightly so, but if Jesus had not been resurrected, our faith would be useless, we would be hopeless. But praise God JESUS IS ALIVE!!

Some benefits of Christ’s resurrection are as follows:

1. Jesus proves He does what He says He is going to do!

Because of the resurrection we can be sure that what he said about Himself and His claims are true
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:22-23) Continue reading »

 April 7, 2012  Posted by at 12:51 pm Resurrection, Uncategorized 1 Response »
Apr 062012
 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is it called ‘Good’ Friday?”

Reading what happened on ‘Good Friday’ it seems far from good. An innocent man has just been declared guilty in front of a baying mob, he is dragged before two further courts who insult him, and beat him up in a really violent manner. He is abandoned by all of his friends who he has lived in community with for the last 3 years and one of his closest friends even denies him vehemently with an expletive ridden denial. He is then tortured further and made to carry the cross he will be nailed to, naked, in full public view.

But despite all the horror of that day, for us, this is really good news. Continue reading »

 April 6, 2012  Posted by at 6:44 am Salvation, The gospel 2 Responses »