Tag Archives: theology

Baptism

Baptism-2019Praise God for His wondrous grace by which He provides everything we need for our salvation. Salvation comes to us by grace through faith alone which is His gift (Romans 4, Ephesians 2).

In spite of these specific declarations of God’s salvation through grace alone, numerous people, both Catholic and Protestant, still believe that we need water baptism for salvation. They insist on this though nowhere in scripture do we find Jesus, Paul or anyone else making such a specific declaration. If baptism were absolutely essential for salvation, why wouldn’t Paul say it outright, leaving no guesswork or need for debate? Since he doesn’t, that should settle the matter.

Think of those saved in the Bible who did not receive baptism—the paralytic man in Matthew 9, the penitent woman in Luke 7, the publican in Luke 18 and the thief on the cross in Luke 23. Nowhere does the Bible mention anything about infant baptism. Biblically recorded water baptism takes place only among people who first choose faith for themselves, and always by immersion.

If baptism does not bring us salvation, why does Jesus command His disciples to baptize at the same time He commands His disciples to preach the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

To follow Christ means to change our identity. Baptism publicly declares our identity is now with God’s people and what He did through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism publicly declares we have died to our old life, and we are raised to new life in Christ. We are united with Him.

When Jesus first saves us, He saves us in spirit and soul. But we also consist of a body, and our bodies must work in harmony with our spirits and souls. A visible sign, an action of our bodies, confirms outwardly what we have already done inwardly.

A wedding ring does not in itself bring a man and woman into relationship with one another. Neither does baptism bring a person into relationship with Jesus Christ.

But a wedding ring does signify that a dramatic change has come about in that relationship. A covenant has been made and vows taken between two people that mean new commitments and responsibilities to one another, to future generations.

Baptism should signify a dramatic change in one’s relationship with Christ not just serve as a rite of passage. No longer are we content with passive church attendance, but we publicly identify with the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

With Christ’s finished work as our life foundation, we publicly declare our readiness to bear new responsibilities for Christ. We are ready to take an active concern for those things that move the heart of God. Just as the wedding vows mean new responsibilities, so baptism should become the beginning of new commitment and responsibility for God’s kingdom.

Baptism should signify to the rest of the world not only that we are members of God’s family but that we identify with those eternal things that move the heart of God
our Father.

One of those things that moves the heart of God is fulfillment of the Great Commission that will lead to fulfillment of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As true children of God, we will take outward action to fulfill the Great Commission through our prayers, gifts and time.

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Generational Curses

adult-bride-child-1250452Generational curses are common in India. There is increasing talk about them in western countries and among Christians.

Someone has defined a generational curse as “the cumulative effect on a person of things that their ancestors did, believed or practiced in the past, and a consequence of an ancestor’s actions, beliefs and sins being passed down.” What does the Bible tell us about generational curses?

A verse often cited is Exodus 20:5 which tells us that God’s wrath is visited to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God.

Too often, however, this passage is isolated from its full context. The passage also tells us that God’s mercy is visited upon thousands of generations of those who love God. Note the contrast—three or four generations of wrath, but thousands of generations of mercy. The purpose of this passage is not to communicate a specific number of generations He will bless and curse but to contrast God’s greater mercy with His wrath.

We should note that the term “generational curse” appears nowhere in the Bible.

Generational curses do not come from God, but from sinful human nature. Sin results from our distrust of God, our alienation from God. We shut out God’s light, and spirits of darkness take over, replacing God’s truth with lies. We wander into traps of our own making, leading to all kinds of slavery.

Sinful lifestyles are learned by example by one generation after another. For example, when a parent adopts a dark view of life, it can result in lifestyles of alcohol or drug addiction, abuse, divorce, gambling, incest or sexual promiscuity. It is likely the children will pick them up.

Our first ancestor, Adam, alienated himself from God, and through him, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Through our first ancestor, we all face the prospect of a generational curse.

Generational curses are a human-made form of captivity, blindness and oppression in which many generations may suffer.

Jesus Christ tells us that “He [God] has sent me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Paul the apostle writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). He became the curse through His death on the cross. He broke the curse when He rose from the grave.

Paul also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Second Adam who frees us from the curse. “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so the result of the one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

Through His cross and resurrection, Jesus Christ has broken the power of every curse including the generational curse.

In Christ, we no longer must live as victims of the past. Let us put these things behind us and enter the new way of life Jesus Christ has already provided through the cross. Let us renew our minds daily with this truth (Romans 12:2).

The best news is that this is a free gift paid by God through Christ. Let us live in His grace and experience His freedom. Let us also proclaim it to all of India and beyond.

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Ants in His Garden

Colorful-garden-flowers-hd-wallpaperAnts are highly organized, hard-working creatures who know nothing about the larger world around them. They work oblivious to planes, barking dogs, passing people. They care only about their little world. But that world can change in a second with the introduction of earth-moving equipment, or gardeners or builders. What means nothing to their world can change their world forever.

Many times, we humans think like ants. For the most part, we humans pay no attention to God. Yet God’s larger world can overrule our lives in a second, causing great terror for those who never think of Him.

Most of us never see God, but some people get glimpses of Him. Moses saw His back parts. Isaiah saw God’s holiness and said “Woe is me!” John saw Jesus’ divine nature, and he fell down as a dead man. Three disciples glimpsed Jesus divinity on a mountain, and the sight overwhelmed them.

Every person who glimpses God’s holiness is overcome by a sense of sin and shame. Even the smallest sin becomes a mountain next to God’s holiness. When God intervenes, nothing remains the same.

What is the holiness of God? Someone has described holiness as a distinct class by itself with no rivals or competition. It means to possess transcendent purity, surpassing all others. God’s holiness relates to every other part of His character and nature.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that he is merely holy or even holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Too easily, we say that “God accepts us as we are.” His holiness should make us re-think that casual idea. God never compromises His holiness. When Moses disobeyed God before the people of Israel (Numbers 20), he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because He insulted God’s holiness. Irreverence toward God’s holiness can exact a heavy price upon those who take it lightly. God’s holiness is why we are told to fear Him.

None of us measures up to God’s holiness. Yet in His holiness, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and clothed us with His righteousness. In Christ, we have no need to stand in terror before a holy God, apart from stubborn irreverence.

The holiness of God transforms even people like Karla Faye Tucker, a hatchet murderess, who heard the gospel and repented before a holy God. Her life changed so radically, she led many of her fellow prisoners to Christ, and a Christian man became so impressed by her Christ-like character, he married her. She paid an earthly price of execution for her crime, but she died praising the Lord for His holy and eternal deliverance.

A holy God has made a way for all who would take it. There are still many people oblivious to His great salvation, like ants in our gardens. Let us pray that the Spirit of God will awaken them to hear the Good News of what He has already done for them in Jesus Christ.

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The Lord’s Prayer

As we pray for India, we can find no better prayer model than the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, popularly known as “the Lord’s Prayer,” in Matthew 6. I say it is a model for prayer because it suggests larger, more detailed and specific prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Prayer enables us to discern if we are praying in the spirit of Christ or only in human power.

Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer is not for everyone. It is reserved only for those who recognize the sovereignty of the One who first revealed it to His disciples. It is reserved for those who are “possessors of grace and are truly converted.” A heart of trust in Christ reveals the power of the Lord’s Prayer to those who seek to pray effective and powerful prayers.

The Lord’s Prayer is a very organic prayer in which every part works together in perfect harmony.

“Our Father” sets the tone for the rest of the prayer, reminding us that prayer is not just reserved as a personal exercise but a corporate relationship with the One who possesses authority, love, responsibility, wisdom and goodness.

As His children, we depend upon Him and submit ourselves to Him. God may or may not grant our request, but He always does well and wisely as a loving Father.

“Who art in Heaven” reminds us that all our earthly needs and desires are best met, not with earthly wisdom, but in Heaven. Why is this? Because the name and reputation of the Father is “hallowed.” God’s reputation and character far exceeds that of the greatest mortal man. His eternal and triune Personhood surpasses that of any created earthly person who soon passes away.

At the same time, when we remember that this holy God is “our Father,” we know that God is approachable, that He is as humble as He is holy.

A hallowed Father excludes no one who approaches Him in deep trust with heartfelt needs. A hallowed Father rightly requires obedience to Him, not from fear but in a loving response to His love. A hallowed Father gives us peace, for nothing can shake our relationship with Him. A hallowed Father is committed to His children and gives them privileges that no earthly father possesses.

This hallowed Father possesses a Kingdom that reflects His ways, His character, His will, His plan, His presence, His authority. It is a Kingdom of Heaven.

We can realize this Heavenly Kingdom on earth, not only in some future time when Christ returns, but now. We experience the Kingdom of God on earth as we see Him meet daily needs, bring two people together in marriage, enable us with wisdom and power to conduct our businesses, study for school and engage in creative endeavors that glorify God and bless others as well as ourselves.

“Our Father” reminds us that we have many brothers and sisters who do not yet know their Heavenly Father and feel orphaned from Him. “Our Father” reminds us of the multitudes who feel abandoned by God because of circumstances beyond their control, who are ignorant of Him who has loved them for all eternity.

May His Kingdom come on earth to all of these who have not yet heard!

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