Merry Christmas


~ Wishing for you an exceptional Christmas Day ~

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The picture above is the Christmas I hope to one day experience. Oh, I’ll have to go someplace else to do that. Louisiana, even NORTH Louisiana, is not going to provide that kind of setting. On this Christmas morning at 7:00 am it is 73 degrees and we are expecting rain sometime soon. Good thing we all know that Christmas is about what happens in the heart, not the atmosphere.

As I contemplate a quiet Christmas day with my wife and mother, I am very mindful of others who have a painful journey today. This year, in particular, the season has been one of loss. I know of too many who are facing a first Christmas following the loss of a child they loved. Families that are painfully divided; children without one parent or another. A friend who said goodbye to his dear wife of many years just a day or two ago … and another who suffered the loss of her father. Those are just the ones I know. There is suffering throughout the world.

All of which reminds us that we need a Savior. Not just a hero. Not a CEO who can make bold decisions. Not a world-class bully who can take down others with brute force. Not even a King with imperial power. We need the most powerful and able One to come be one of us and show us how to get where we need to go. Jesus born as a human is stunning … born into poverty to two nobodies … raised as a carpenter’s son … until one day he wades into the waters of Jordan and is baptized by his cousin. Thus began a three year ministry that would change the world.

And He will change your world too. That’s really what Christmas is all about. This Jesus who changes every life he encounters will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. He will take upon Himself your burdens and cares and when your trek on this earth is done, the Resurrected One promises this is not the end.

So, Merry Christmas. And thanks for reading.  JD

blessedchristmas

Baptism 4

water baptism

“For John baptized with water,but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” ~ Acts 1:5

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at the subject of baptism in the New Testament. To start at the beginning, click HERE.

In previous posts we examined some Scriptures about baptism from the words of Jesus. After his death, burial, and resurrection Jesus spent some forty days with the disciples. We do not know a lot about this time, but there are some things revealed in Acts chapter 1. Even though he had very little time to spend with them and was about to ascend to heaven, Jesus still took some time to talk about baptism. This reminds us that it is an important subject to Jesus, and to us.

One of the things he told them was that they would experience a baptism with the Holy Spirit “in a few days”. Following that they would spread the good news about Jesus throughout the known world. Of course, Jesus was not wrong in his statement as one can read beginning in Acts 2. Some have called Acts 2 ‘the hub of the Bible’ because there seem to be many prophecies pointed to this day, and afterward many references back to it.

Acts 2 is an account from the Day of Pentecost, a day that the Jews celebrated the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jews from all over the known world gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this ‘feast of weeks‘ as it was sometimes called. What a perfect moment for the first Gospel sermon!

Among the miraculous elements on that day was the sound of a rushing wind, what seemed to be fire on the head of the Apostles, and the ability to speak in languages they never had learned. Remember, people from all over the world were gathered … and they heard the Gospel message in their own tongue (language)! Appealing to many Old Testament prophecies Apostle Peter concluded his message with this stunning truth:

God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” ~Acts 2:36-37

What would you do if you discovered that someone you considered a criminal just a few weeks ago is revealed to be the long awaited Messiah? The Jews of that day were ‘cut to the heart‘ … this was not just a religious discussion to them. It was a matter of life and death.

Remember that our own sin is a matter of life and death as well. Sin separates us from God and it carries a penalty ( For the wages of sin is death… Romans 6:23). That question, “What shall we do?” is very important … and also the answer.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” ~ Acts 2:38-39

At this crucial moment, on a stage before believers from all around the world, Peter plainly and clearly tells them the answer their important question.

Repent. This is simply a turning away from the sin in one’s own life.

Baptism. Immersion in water for the forgiveness of your sins. Though there have been eons of discussion about the purpose of baptism, I don’t know how this statement could be any clearer. When our faith moves us to be baptized, our sins are washed away.

Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to live in each person who is penitent and who is baptized.

Promise. This is not just a neat sermon on a special day. It is a promise to them. To their children. To everyone. To you and to me.

The message was so clear, so compelling, that it was received by thousands of people on that day.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. ~Acts 2:41

An encouraging truth from this is that some of the people who may have called out for Jesus to be crucified have now accepted him as Lord and been forgiven of every sin. I don’t know what sins need to be forgiven in your life, but when we seek forgiveness the way that God teaches us in His Word, we can be assured that He has the power to wash them away.

The very next verses begin to tell how this new group of believers, the ‘early church’ lived and functioned.

In this series of posts I’m surveying the New Testament passages about baptism and observing the clear and simple teaching on this beautiful and effective act of faith. Thanks for reading, JD.

Baptism 3

water baptism

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20 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 20:18-20

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ~ Mark 16:15-16

In our last post we noted some things that Jesus said about baptism. Another time when Jesus talked about baptism was when he issued the ‘Great Commission’ to his band of disciples. These are Jesus’ instructions for them to follow when He was gone. It is found in both Matthew and Mark. I want us to notice just a few things about this short passage.

Jesus is the authority for what we believe and practice. The goal of a Christian is to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are his disciples, his students, his learners. We submit our lives to him because he has all authority in heaven and earth! Although, we do acknowledge that we fall short and continually need his grace and mercy. 

Jesus is concerned with saving the entire world. He said, “Go into all the world” and “make disciples in all nations“. Christianity is not an American religion but it is a global body of believers joined together in a common cause. The international nature of Christianity cannot be forgotten. We live in a lost world, which Jesus came to save.

Jesus is concerned with the gospel being preached. The gospel in brief is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In addition, Christians believe in the reality of this truth that Jesus died for us, was resurrected, and will one day return for His people. This gospel motivates us to love Jesus and seek to live for him, to be his disciples. Wherever the gospel is preached, people have an open door into the glorious kingdom of God!

Jesus is concerned that the gospel be preached to all creation. There isn’t a person on earth who will be rejected if they will come to God in faith, believing in Jesus Christ as Lord. Whatever sins they have committed, they are not large enough to block the entrance into God’s House! You haven’t sinned too much for God to forgive. You haven’t gone too far. If you’re reading this, and you’re willing, God is waiting patiently for you to come His way.

Jesus desires that those who believe be baptized. In some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples as he directed them on their mission he mentioned being baptism! Some downplay the importance of baptism and suggest that it isn’t needed. Some tell new believers to  just put off baptism for several months until a good number of people are ready to be baptized. It is neat to have a day when a lot of people are baptized, but we don’t read about delaying baptism in the New Testament. Jesus clearly said that when we believe and are baptized we will be saved. Jesus instructed “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. How important baptism must be to be conducted under the authority of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The goal of the gospel is to create saved people out of lost sinners by the power of God. Baptism is a part of that picture.

Jesus teaches that a life of obedience to follow baptism. Disciples of Jesus are obedient people. Though we are saved by the blood of Jesus and living under the power of HIs grace, we desire to grow in holiness and Christ-likeness. Seeking God’s will and yielding to the Holy Spirit is the lifelong journey of baptized believers.

Jesus warns that those who do not believe will be condemned. The instructions of God are very clear. In an upcoming post we will write about the crucial relationship of belief and baptism. In this text Jesus lets those who choose not to believe know that they are choosing to be condemned when He returns on that last great day of judgment. Sometimes people say, “See, he didn’t say ‘whoever does not believe and is not baptized'” … he only talked about belief.” What Jesus said makes sense to me. Why would an unbeliever go through the effort to be baptized?

In a time when Jesus was not to be with the disciples much longer he talked to them about spreading the gospel to every creature in the world. He mentions that those who believe the message and are baptized will be saved. Baptized believers will then live a life of holiness and discipleship. Those who do not have faith will be condemned. The Bible’s teaching about baptism is not really very complicated.

If you are reading Mark 16 in a newer translation you will see that it is either divided out from the rest of the text or placed in a footnote. This indicates that many scholars believe this was not originally a part of the book of Mark, but was added by some ancient scribe. I’ll let you decide what to do about that. As I see it, the account of the Great Commission in Matthew and Mark are nearly identical and both should be considered.

Thanks for reading. For the next few posts we will next look at the book of Acts. There are many examples of people being baptized there!  JD