Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Truth About Baptism

Some today teach baptism as an option for Christians who really want to “own their faith.”  However, did not their faith become their own the day they believed Jesus to be the Son of God who washes away the sins of the world?   It was Jesus Christ who instituted baptism and commissioned the church to practice baptism until He returned (Matt. 28:19-20).  Those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ are to identify with Him in the waters of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Even beyond obedience to Christ’s command to be baptized there is great spiritual significance to the practice of baptism.
Baptism is a public declaration of an inward renewal that has taken place in a believer.  This is why it is called believer’s baptism since it is believers who are to be baptized.  To be baptized apart from belief in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins only gets one wet. 
There are two significant lessons to be learned about baptism.  The first lesson is that baptism is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross for the payment for the believer’s sin.  Not only did he die on the cross but He also rose from the grave showing victory over sin and death.  Both Christ’s death and resurrection were necessary for our salvation.  When a believer is baptized they are stating that they are now dead to their sins in the same way that Jesus Christ died for our sins.  It means that the believer has put the sinful man to death~~never to live any longer.  (Romans 6:1-11)
The second lesson is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the same way that Christ rose from the dead we as Christians are raised to new life in Christ.  This is also pictured in the waters of baptism as the Christian comes forth out of the water.  What this means is that Christians are raised to a “new kind” of life or a “superior” life than what was put to death.  For Christians, this is a life that now magnifies and represents Jesus Christ~~it is a life of righteousness.  Jesus Christ was raised for the believer’s justification and sanctification.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross brought us back into relationship with God and allows the believer to become more and more Christ-like each day that they live.  (Romans 6:1-11)
It could be said that baptism is three things:  obedience to Jesus Christ; a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and a public declaration that as a believer we are now dead to our sins and risen to a life of righteousness (alive unto Christ). 
Our response due to our salvation and baptism should be, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Does God Change His Mind?

As God’s people can we truly petition God to change His mind about a situation if He is all-wise?  There are various passages of Scripture that speak about God’s character and His nature.

Malachi 3:6 says, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

Numbers 23:19 reads, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”

James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

According to these verses God does not change His mind and He is totally wise all of the time.  However, there are some verses in Scripture that are difficult to make sense of such as:  Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  There is also Exodus 32:14, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  A final example would be in Jonah 3 where God told Jonah to prophecy that the great city of Nineveh would be overthrown unless the Assyrians repented. 

In Scripture God has made conditional declarations that if someone repented then God would relent.  When people abide by God’s operating principles then they can expect relief and at times even blessing.  In the book of Jonah that is exactly what happened with the Assyrians~~they repented and then God relented the punishment that He was going to deliver to them.  We can also learn that in Genesis 6:6 God helps us to understand his sadness and frustration with His creation that chose to rebel. 

It is also worth noting in James 4:2-3 that we have not because we do not ask God and sometimes we ask with wrong motives of selfishness.  Apparently God does hear us and grant us the desires of our hearts.  However, at times when our motives are not pure then He withholds.  Similarly, Christ told his followers in Mark 11:24 that they don’t have because they lack faith in what they ask for.  God sets the standards of criteria for blessing and not blessing His people.  Many times things are conditional contingent on the Christians obedience.

So, does God change~~the answer is definitely no.  However, God works from the principles of sowing and reaping with His people.  God also fulfills His end of the deal~~always.  In fact, when a sinner (called an enemy of God in Romans 8:7) places their faith in trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, they are then called God’s beloved children (1 John 1:12).  What or who changed~~we do.  God’s moral character and His righteous judgments always stay the same.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why Do I Feel So Empty Inside?

Feeling empty inside is a very difficult emotion to describe to others.  Feeling empty may not always come from being physically fatigued.  At times, it feels like a part of you is missing and you can’t seem to put your finger on it.  At times it can come through grieving the loss of a loved one or not feeling love in return by another person.  You can feel empty due to failing to reach a goal or by something not happening that you were looking forward to with great anticipation. 
At times, you can be looking for the wrong things to satisfy your thirsty soul.  You end up coming back to the wrong well that will never satisfy your soul.  Who could ever understand the hurt, the longings, and the desires of our hearts?  Christ knows each one of your heartaches as well as your deep longings.
No matter what your lack of fulfillment may be, God’s Word gives hope and promises that you can cling to in your darkest hour and weakest moment.
2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 3:16-19, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Psalm 25:16-17, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Feeling Betrayed?

If you are feeling betrayed or have been betrayed, you are most certainly not alone. God’s Word reveals that there have been many individuals who were betrayed by their own friends, their own families, and even their own children.  Our own Savior, Jesus Christ, was also betrayed like no one else and He suffered like no one has ever suffered (Isaiah 53).  Please be encouraged and challenged with some thoughts from Scripture concerning betrayal.
1 Corinthians 11:23-24, Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
            Paul is writing to the church of Corinth that Jesus was betrayed for our sake and that He willingly gave of His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  If we have been betrayed, let’s try to think of the ultimate betrayal of Jesus Christ who was abandoned by everyone (except his mother) in order to provide us with the gift of salvation.  He was rejected and left alone to die but He never retaliated.  
Psalm 37:25, David says, " I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”
            David writes from a life of experience and from a personal knowledge of God that He will not allow the righteous to suffer or allow them to have to beg for bread.  In that same chapter he encourages God’s people, “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6).  In other words, God will ultimately vindicate you.  He also encourages them to, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).  David’s experience in this life taught him to be patient and to look to the right Person to settle the score.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, Moses speaks for God, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.  It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
            Moses was working to reassure Israel of the character of their God and to look to Him for strength, wisdom, and confidence about the uncertainties of life.  God is not like man who changes His mind or leaves when things get tough.  His promises are sure and His words are always safe.  God not only goes with us~~He goes before us as we look to Him into the future.