Archive for September, 2011

I am dedicating “the journey” today to the subject of baptism with the hope that you answer the Holy Spirit’s call on your life for salvation and be baptized. Baptism touches a very emotional subject. Most people – regardless of whether they are Christ-followers or not, and whether they are Baptists or not – have an opinion about baptism. Baptism is a personal subject.

If you came from a church that practiced infant baptism, please do not stop reading. Please consider what I have to offer. You may have concluded that since baptism isn’t really essential for salvation, to you ask, “Why do Baptists make such a big deal about it?” Perhaps you consider yourself to be “spiritually baptized” so you have determined that you do not need baptism since immersion does not constitute salvation. You may have been baptized as a child; however, as an infant you could not have understood salvation. Perhaps you are no longer connected to your former church that practiced baptism in another way, but your parents had you baptized by a priest or a pastor and you don’t want to consider that that practice may have been wrong.

The Bible actually says quite a bit about baptism. Jesus was baptized. He told his disciples to make more disciples and to baptize them. (See also Romans 6 and Colossians 2.) The Greek word used in the New Testament, “baptisma,” was not translated but that has been transliterated as “baptism.” The word was used consistently before its use in the New Testament to describe something that has been immersed in water or liquid. Here’s the point: the word original word meaning “to baptize” had no religious or spiritual significance prior to its usage in the New Testament. Rather, it had a common everyday use. It meant to dip, to dunk, or immerse something under water or liquid. Furthermore, there’s no evidence anywhere in the New Testament that anyone ever sprinkled and called it a baptism.

Let summarize the practice of baptism in the New Testament. First, when a person turned to Christ in faith, he or she was baptized. The baptism followed conversion to Christ. Baptism is in obedience to the command of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Second, baptism in the New Testament marks the believer as a follower of Jesus Christ. It is an outward sign of an inward commitment and life change. However, I want to be clear that being baptized does not or will not save anyone. We receive salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Third, baptism identifies the believer with Christ, both in His death and in His resurrection (Romans 6:1-4). When I studies this passage many years ago prior to my own baptism, it gave me the clearest possible picture of the significance of baptism. The mode of baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ as the believer is buried under the water and raised from the water. Therefore, through Christ’s work in our lives, we “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about baptism. I encourage you to take seriously the demands of Christ for salvation and baptism and that you will follow Him for all of your life. You’ll be glad you did.

Of the hundreds and thousands images from September 11, 2001, one that stands out in my mind. It’s a photograph of a simple handmade sign hanging from a building near the World Trade Center. The sign contained a solemn promise: “We will not forget.”

Certainly, we won’t. We can’t. On September 11, 2001, our lives changed; our futures changed; the world changed. Not only that, we changed. Because of the events of 9/11, many of us began to see the world and our lives differently.

The terrorist attacks delivered an unfathomable religious jolt. On the Sunday following the attacks, people packed churches around the country to overflowing. Some will remember that although I had recently been released from a hospital stay, I returned to preach that Sunday to participate with our church family and preach a word from the Lord to our congregation. In the aftermath of the attacks, many people took the opportunity to rethink what they were doing, where they were going, and how they were getting there.

However a decade later, the soulful response seems fleeting. Statistically, the rush to the pews was a mere blip in a long-standing trend away from traditional religious practices. While some have experienced an “internal resetting” of their internal compass, most have returned to normal living. Only the publicity of the tenth anniversary has once again drawn our attention to this horrific day in our history.

Here’s the trouble: “normal” hardly look biblical any more. Increasingly, more people are losing their way. In fact, it’s more like what Paul wrote in the first chapter of Romans, they have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). In doing so, people live with a worldview that hardly roots in the Bible. Yet that worldview is filled with spirituality.

We live in a culture of spirituality. In a recent USA Today poll, 70% of American adults believe that many religions can lead to God. And in the culture of tolerance that has been percolating for decades, many Christians caved to the pressure of thinking that they cannot stand. One cannot read the epistles of Paul or the words of John in his gospel, or in his epistles, or in Revelation and conclude that the “normal Christian life” includes any shade of tolerating anything other than the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I think back on the events of September 11, 2001, I am forced to remember that we have an enemy. He goes by many names including Satan, Lucifer, Deceiver, Slanderer, and many more. Satan wants nothing more than to frighten us and to intimidate us and defeat us. But we have a Savior, who is none other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth., and He overcame sin and death so that we might have eternal life.

Faithfulness to God

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Discipleship, Pastoral Ministry

In 1983, Australia hosted its ultramarathon, a 573.7 mile foot race from Sydney to Melbourne. This race takes days to run, and professionals from all over the world come to participate. Shortly before the race began, a 61-year-old farmer named Cliff Young, wearing overalls and goulashes over his boots, walked up to the registration table and requested a number to enter the race. The people at the registration table deadpanned incredulously at Young. However, Young insisted, “No, I’d really like to run.” So they gave him a number and pinned it on his overalls.

Young walked over to the start of the race. All the other professional runners, decked out in all their running regalia, looked at him like he was crazy. The crowd snickered. They laughed even more when the gun went off and the race began, because all the other competitors ran with beautiful strides, but not Young. He didn’t even run like a runner and ran with an awkward, goofy-looking shuffle. All through the crowd people laughed, and finally, someone called out, “Get that old fool off the track!”

Five days, 14 hours, and four minutes later, at 1:25 in the morning, Young shuffled across the finish line of the 573.7 mile ultramarathon. He had won the race – not by a matter of minutes or even an hour or two. The second place runner finished nine hours and 56 minutes after Young. He had set a new world record for the ultramarathon. The press mobbed him wondering what kind of special running shoes he must have had. Wondering what he eaten during the race, they rummaged through his backpack to discover that Young had lived primarily on pumpkin seeds and water. Then they discovered the secret to his success: Cliff Young had shuffled his way to victory without ever sleeping. The other runners would run for 18 hours straight, and then stop and sleep for three or four hours. He endured running five days, 14 hours, and four minutes at the age of 61.

In the race we run – the ultimate ultramarathon called life – we must continue to the end with faithfulness. Faith in Christ begins the Christian life and we must endure until Jesus calls us to be with Him in glory. We should encourage one another to keep our focus on Jesus and away from any distractions. The Hebrews writer said it like this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).