A Carrot and A Stick – REPENT

Ezekiel 13 – 15

Ezekiel 14 3 NIV SGL

 

In Ezekiel 14, we’re told that some of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel.  God told Ezekiel in 14:3-6, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?  Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry.  I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’

“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!’”

 

I see two attributes of God at work here:  justice and mercy.  For those claiming to follow God, but not really following Him, there will be justice (i.e. punishment).  They will be made an example so others will see and turn to God.  This is a scary concept, and should cause us to repent and turn completely back to God so this doesn’t happen to us.

 

We see God’s mercy as he says to those not following him, “Repent!” and “Renounce all your detestable practices!”.  This too should cause us to repent and turn completely to God.

 

It doesn’t matter whether we respond better to a carrot or to a stick, since we’re given both.  The simple fact remains that we need to repent, renounce all our detestable practices, and turn completely to God.

 

And once that happens, we’re told in 14:11, “Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins.  They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

 

May this be said of us too.  But it is conditional upon repenting and turning completely to God.  The choice is yours.

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 13-15

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezekiel 16-17 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Called and Used by the Generous God

Jeremiah 1-3

Jeremiah 1 5 NIV sgl

These first 3 chapters of Jeremiah have several applications for the reader. In the beginning of this book, we learn about the calling of Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah was even born, the Lord set him aside to be a prophet. God wanted to use Jeremiah to fulfill this calling. Jeremiah at first believed himself incapable of such a thing. But the LORD said he would be with Jeremiah. He would not only guide him; he would also protect him. Jeremiah then trusted God and began this work.

We can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes it is easy to doubt ourselves and believe that we are incapable of something. We may think that God couldn’t use us because of x, y, and z. In reality, though, it is not by our strength or ability that we serve the LORD. It is rather him working through us. So, by doubting ourselves, we are doubting the ability of the LORD to work through us. Jeremiah also did not believe himself capable of being called, but nonetheless he was. The LORD called many sinners such as David, Jonah, Paul, and countless others. So, do not doubt yourself. The LORD is capable of calling you and through him, you are capable of answering that call.

Another interesting thing found in these three chapters is the fact that God warned the people of their ways. He did not make them guess. Sometimes when we are upset with someone, we think that the offending party should be able to figure out why we are upset with them. God did not do this. He used Jeremiah to tell them what they were doing and what they needed to do. If I really think about this, I think of how generous and caring this act is. Even though the Israelites were completely in the wrong and should know what it was they were doing, God still communicated with them. He did not keep them in the dark even though they were ignoring him.

It is interesting also that it seems like the main thing that God is asking of the Israelites in these chapters is for their repentance. Through Jeremiah, he tells them that they should not continue on in their ways as though they are doing no wrong. They should acknowledge what they are doing and repent. They needed to accept that they were wrong.

It can be hard though to admit when we are wrong. By doing this our pride is injured and we have to humble ourselves. It is far easier to keep doing what we were doing and act like we are in the clear. This, however, is not right. We need to admit when we are wrong. Through doing so, we can grow and mature.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 4-6 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

True Repentance

2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26

2 Kings 15 9 NLT sgl

 

Today’s reading might have seemed a bit repetitive. Going back to the history books, we are reviewing the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and several kings of Israel. Did you notice a pattern? Nearly every king is described as having done, “what was evil in the LORD’s sight.” While there could be many ways in which these kings sinned, I noticed every time the phrase “evil in the LORD’s sight” was used it was immediately followed by, “He [the king] refused to turn away…” It seems to me the author is trying to get across a point. The refusal to turn from sin is just as evil and displeasing to God as the sin itself. What God desires, and what none of these kings had is a true repentant heart.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we are human. He knows we are going to make mistakes. That’s why he sent us Jesus, a way for us to be redeemed. God knows we are going to sin. He is not shocked by our mistakes, while we might be. We might find ourselves in a place we never thought we would be, walking down a road of darkness we never thought we would find. We may see ourselves as too dirty to present ourselves to God, and so continue down a path of sin. Perhaps we find ourselves unworthy of forgiveness and so decide God must feel the same. We keep ourselves from God, and by doing so, remain in sin.

When you sin, what God requires is full repentance. To completely turn away from sin and enter a life of freedom. True repentance means recognizing our sin, turning away from it, and no longer allowing it to define our lives. This last part is key. Do not act as your own judge and jury. God has already forgiven you. He forgave you before you were even born. According to the passages read today, not repenting, continuing to live in guilt, can have just as many negative consequences.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+15%2C+2+Chronicles+26&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Isaiah (chapters 1-4) as we continue hearing from God’s word on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Works with Broken Spirits

Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122

psalm 51 10 niv sgl

Have you ever done something and lacked the words to express everything to God? Saying, “God, forgive me” seems to fall short of what my sin deserves and how I feel about what I have done. If any of you have grown up in a church that was severely focused on obedience but didn’t give a full picture of who God was then you probably have felt this way, too.

Today as I was reading over Ps. 51, which is one of my favorite Psalms, I was conflicted about what I really wanted to write. What I really wanted to write about was Ps. 51.17 and correlate that back to Matthew 5.3. I actually wrote a devotion on Matthew 5.3 earlier this year and didn’t want to just duplicate the material. So today I am going to look at this Psalm in a new way.

This Psalm at its heart is a psalm of complete repentance. It expresses David’s emotion right after being confronted on his sin with Bathsheba. David’s heart is over flowing with that godly grief while in the moment of confrontation and writing his prayer to God he may have laid out a model for us to use in our own repentance. I want to break the Psalm down in sections and look at it in parts.

I think verse 1-2 provide a good preamble for what David is going to prayer for. I don’t think there is real reason to dive too deep into it.

Verse 3-6 is our first real section of the Psalm. Until recently when I looked at this section I thought lines seemed unconnected and kind of thrown together. I have changed my view on this now. I now know that all of these verses are looking to serve one purpose. In verse 3 David confesses of his sin and acknowledges that his sin is before him. Verse 4 is extremely interesting setting aside the “against you and you only” I think that this verse is referring back to 2 Samuel 12.9. David is acknowledging, according to God’s response through Nathan, that he did evil in God’s sight. By acknowledging that what God says is true is an act of obedience and submitting to God’s truth. David in line 3 and 4 says that he is admitting his fault in order to acknowledge the judgements of God as righteous and true. Verse 5 David admits that he has a deep sinfulness rooted inside him from his mother’s womb. Verse 6 is where we have the truth shine through. David says that God delights in truth in the inner being and he teaches him wisdom in his secret heart.  This is a strange statement in context at first glance. David starts out this section with confession and ends it with God delighting in truth. What is confession at its root? It’s simply telling the truth. David is acknowledging throughout this whole section his sin before God and confessing God’s truth to him. He is acknowledging God’s judgements are true and the full depth of his sin. The drive of this section is confession. We can’t ignore this last line either. God teaches him wisdom in his secret heart. This sounds almost exactly like the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made David fully aware of his sin before God. So, to close this section out verses 3-6 are entirely about confession.

The next section comprises verses 7-12. They articulate exactly what I want God to do to my heart. Verse 7 in summation is, “God cleanse me, wash away my sin”. In verse 8 he is asking God to bring joy back into his heart. His sins had just drained the joy from him. In verse 9 he is asking God to overlook his sins and remove his iniquities. In verse 10 David asks God to create in him a clean heart and to put a steadfast spirit within him. In verse 11 David is asking God to not cast him away from his presence and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. In verse 12 David asks God to restore the joy he once found in how God saved him and help him have a willing spirit. I think you probably get the point but in every one of these verses David is petitioning or asking God to help or cleanse him from his sin.

I want to really delve into each one of these verses in the section 13-17 but I don’t want to wear out your attention here. So, I am just going to give away my point. In each one of these verses David is telling God his response. In each one of these verses David is ascribing an action or a change that David is making in his heart. True repentance always comes with with a new set of actions or a change in heart.

To pull all these together, David started out in verses 3-6 with a pure confession and a confession of God’s truth in the world. In verse 7-12 David petitions God to cleanse and purify him, to replace his heart, uphold him, give him a right spirit and finally to restore his joy. In verses 13-17 David tells God what he is going to do in response. David says he will teach transgressors God’s ways, his tongue will sing aloud of God’s righteousness, his mouth will declare God’s praise and finally give God the true sacrifice which is a broken or contrite spirit. This model of confession, petition of cleansing, and response is a great example for us. It firstly acknowledges our sin, then asks God to cleanse us and then gives God the response to our sin. This model allows us to do what we can do and allows God to do what ultimately only he can do. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our sin but ultimately, we can’t cleanse ourselves or restore our joy. Those things are dependent on God and David in this section of scripture acknowledges that fact. David doesn’t just stop his life, though. He acknowledges that he can still praise God and he can still offer up the proper sacrifice of a broken spirit through which God can work.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32%2C+51%2C+86%2C+122&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 13-15 as we progress on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Over and over and over

Monday – Judges 3-5

Judges Devotions (1)

Judges reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”—the one where Bill Murray, the local weatherman, relives the same day over and over and over. While not a single groundhog makes an appearance in Judges, the book does repeat itself over and over and over. You see, the Israelites are in a downward spiral, stuck in a vicious cycle of sin. In the reading for today, Judges 3-5, we see this cycle play out three times, once under Othniel, again under Ehud, and finally under Deborah. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this cycle using the example of Othniel:

1. SIN – “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). The Israelites neglected to kick out all the bad people from the Promised Land, and they often find themselves tempted by the Canaanite’s sinful ways. Their temptation leads to habitual sin, tearing themselves further from God.

2. OPPRESSION – “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathain king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years” (Judges 3:8). I think, perhaps, God uses oppression as a tool to bring His people to their knees. His people become so desperate with no other choice but to turn to Him.

3. REPENTANCE – “But when they cried out to the LORD…” (Judges 3:9a) In their newly humbled position, the Israelites cry out to God. They recognize their sin and run from it, towards a God whose arms are always open.

4. DELIVERANCE – “He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war” (Judges 3:9b & 10a). God works for His people through His people. He fills people with His Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.

5. PEACE – “So the land had peace for forty years” (Judges 3:11a). With a newfound trust in God and a godly leader to follow, the Israelites find peace. Unfortunately, after Othniel passes, this peace leads to complacency which leads right back to sin.

As a soon-to-be English teacher, this literary structure of the book of Judges is impressive. As a follower of God, this repetition is alarming. Why do the Israelites keep finding themselves back in a stage of sin? Why am I a repeat offender of the same sins?

Temptation and habit.

First, just like the Israelites were tempted by the corrupt and wicked ways of the Canaanites dwelling in the Promised Land, we, too, are surrounded by temptation. Set healthy boundaries from whatever may be luring you towards sin because the more distance we give between ourselves and temptation, the less likely we are to fall into sin.

Second, the Israelites were caught sinning over and over and over—their sin became their habit. Recognize the power of your habits and work diligently to set healthy rhythms that honor God. Ever since I read this quote, I’ve been convicted of the power of my own habits: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” -F.M. Alexander

Let the boundaries and habits you set lead you away from sin and towards God.

 

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Judges 6-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.  Reading God’s Word daily is one healthy habit to pursue.  Keep at it!  It has the power to determine your future.

Nothing is Hidden

Joshua 5-8

Joshua 7 12 b NIV

Joshua chapters 5 and 6 recount the sacking of Jericho.  This is one of the most memorable stories in scripture.  Jericho was the first city the Israelites encountered after crossing the Jordan River, and it was a doozy, perched on a hill with large fortified walls.  And yet it was no problem for God, as recounted in these chapters.

 

I am a big fan of Biblical apologetics, including Biblical Creation and Biblical archaeology.  The Jericho site is a fantastic example of archaeology confirming what the Bible says.  Several key findings back up the Biblical narrative:  Jericho was a walled city that was destroyed  The walls were discovered to have fallen outwards, which is the opposite of what you would expect during a siege.  Also, one section of the wall was still intact, with housing inside of it, which would match up with the account of Rahab the prostitute.  Finally, the city had been burned afterwards, and burned containers full of grain were found, demonstrating that the siege would not have been a long siege, and it would have occurred not long after the harvest, all of which again backs up the Biblical account.

 

You can read about these findings here: https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/walls-jericho-0012893  Findings like this should be exciting for Christians to hear about, and can always be used as a resource in developing the faith of others.

 

Chapters 7 and 8 recounts the sin of Achan and how it hindered God’s people in their ultimate success against Ai.  During the destruction of Jericho, Achan took some forbidden items for himself and hid them in his tent.  After the Israelites failed in their first attempt to take Ai, Achan’s sin was laid bare.  Many of us have regular hidden sin in our lives, such as addictions to narcotics, alcohol or pornography.  Greed, pride, envy and unrighteous anger are other examples.

 

Chapter 7, verse 12b says, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”  When you are living in sin, God cannot be with you.  When you choose a life of sin, you are in effect turning your back to God.  You are choosing destruction instead of life.  Secret sins are the most likely to deceive us because we are not getting wise counsel from others.  Also, we somehow justify continuing in these secret sins, having been deceived, and making them much harder to break away from.  On the outside we seem fine.  But on the inside, we rot away.  And God knows.

 

If you are suffering from secret sin, do the best thing you can do, which is to repent of the sin and share the struggle with someone else who can hold you accountable and support you.  This is proven to be the most effective way to break those hidden chains.  Choose everlasting life, not destruction.

 

 

Greg Landry

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Joshua 9-11 as we continue searching God’s Word on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Jesus’ Target Audience

Luke Chapter Five – Jesus’ First Disciples

Luke 5 10 11

Soon after Jesus began his earthly ministry, Jesus went out to find some people who would follow him.  One would think that Jesus would choose his followers from among the elite scholars.  After all, shouldn’t the king of kings have an elite group of close followers?  However, Jesus did not go that route.  Instead, we see in Luke chapter five, that Jesus chose the likes of fishermen and tax collectors to be his select, close followers.  Fishermen had very little to no education, and they would have been close to no one’s first choice when starting a revolution.  Tax collectors, on the other hand, had a poor reputation, as they often tried to cheat people out of their money.  Therefore, tax collectors would have been close to no one’s first choice either.  For whatever reason, Jesus chose this group to be his followers and to take over when he was to ascend to heaven.

 

A big part of Jesus’ ministry revolved around healing people of their ailments.  In chapter five, Jesus heals both a leper and a paralytic.  One would think that after Jesus got done healing people, he would want them to go tell everybody of the great miracle.  However, the opposite is true.  Often after Jesus would heal somebody, he would tell them to tell no one!  We see this in verse 14, as Jesus told the leper to tell no one.  Now, why would Jesus not want others to share of the great wonders Jesus had done?  The answer is because Jesus’ time to die had not yet come.  Jesus still had much to accomplish before his death.  If word had spread too much, they would have had him killed sooner.

 

After Jesus had called Levi, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples, Jesus went to eat with the tax collectors.  This caused the Pharisees to grumble and ask Jesus why in the world he would eat with the sinful tax collectors. Jesus replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:31).  Here Jesus says that his target audience are the sinners rather than the righteous.

 

Too often in church, our focus is on the righteous rather than the sinners.  We design our services, classes, and events for those that are churched and not unchurched.  Perhaps we should consider the words of Jesus in Luke 5:31. Perhaps we should put our focus on the sinners, rather than the righteous.  It is those who are lost and sinners that really need the church!  Our churches should contain people who are not currently saved but are on the road to salvation.  Jesus says it is these kinds of people that he came to call to repentance.  Our target audience should reflect that of Jesus’ target audience.  At the same time, we do need strong Christians within the church to bring up the unchurched.  There is a healthy balance somewhere that we all must find.

 

Kyle McClain

Prepare the Way

Luke Chapter 3

Luke 3 4

Luke chapter three talks about a very important and specific job that John the Baptist had.  This job that John had was documented all the way back in the book of Isaiah and quoted in Luke 3:4: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John needed to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.

 

Jesus’ public ministry only lasted about three years.  It was important that people were ready for his ministry, as he had a lot to accomplish in little time.  Therefore, John prepared the way, so Jesus could make the most out of his little time here on earth.  John did a number of things to help prepare the way for the Lord.

 

One way that John prepared the way for Jesus was to baptize people with water.  This baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” (Luke 3:3).  I’m sure that we all understand the importance of repentance and the forgiveness of our sins.  Therefore, we can see the importance of this baptism by water, as it was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

 

John also spent time teaching and preaching to help prepare the way for Jesus.  The crowds asked John, “what then shall we do?”  John went on to describe the importance of being generous with our possessions and money (verses 10-14).  John also focused on preaching “good news” (verse 18) to the people.  That good news that John preached about focused on the message of the kingdom, as evidenced by Matthew 3:2.

 

Preparing the way for Jesus was the main responsibility that John had.  We also have that same responsibility that John had.  Right now, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, but one day Jesus is going to descend from heaven and return to earth.  He is going to establish his Father’s Kingdom.  We have to prepare the way for Jesus to come back to earth.

 

We have to prepare ourselves and others for Jesus to establish his Father’s Kingdom on earth.  You can’t prepare others if you yourself are not prepared for God’s coming Kingdom.  Therefore, if you aren’t ready yourself, then get ready!  If you find yourself ready, then it is paramount that you focus on getting those around you ready for Jesus’ return.  In essence, we have the same responsibility that John the Baptist had.

 

Kyle McClain

 

The Witnesses

Revelation 11

Revelation 11 3 NIV

Following our strange detail about John eating the Scroll that God gave to him, we are finally going to learn about what the Scroll says through what John tells us! Unfortunately, it is very detailed, also strange in some ways, and has been the cause of many interpretations over the past 2,000 years. However, we are going to do our best to humbly try and understand what John says in this passage, while focusing on his main point. I don’t assume that my interpretation is 100% correct, so I invite all of you to critique it by looking at the text itself and speaking with other Christian teachers that you trust.

 

We are introduced to two Witnesses, or two Martyrs, who are proclaiming to people “their testimony”. Now, throughout Revelation, we see that John testified to “the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2, 9) and that the Christian martyrs from chapter six also had a “testimony” that they proclaimed (6:9). We will learn later that Christians are able to overcome Satan using “their testimony” as well (12:11). Narratively speaking, it is likely that these two Witnesses have the same testimony as John and the Christians. That testimony is the gospel message about Jesus’ death, resurrection and eventual return to establish God’s kingdom, as can be seen throughout the whole letter. In other words, the two Witnesses are two individuals that are faithfully preaching the gospel to those around them.

 

There has been speculation as to whether these are literally two individual people that are to come in the future, or whether they represent what the churches are supposed to be doing, since they are described as lampstands like the churches (compare 1:20 and 11:4). I assume that these are representatives for what the churches, and us, are supposed to be doing, but also don’t believe that John’s main point is in their identity; John’s main point to this vision is what is produced by their faithful preaching of the gospel.

 

After the two Witnesses are killed, resurrected, and exalted to God’s space, the people actually repent of their evils! In 11:13, it states that people “gave glory to the God of heaven”, which is repentance language. As we saw in the previous seven seals and seven trumpets, and will see in the later seven bowls, God’s judgment actions are not enough to bring about repentance; but the faithful preaching of the gospel message is enough, even if Christians die for it!

 

My encouragement to you today is to behave like these two Witnesses; faithfully preach the gospel, even at the expense of your own life. Whatever the cost may be for you, the reward is going to be more than you ever imagined! And just like the story of Revelation states, that reward is coming soon, after the Church does her job of faithfully preaching to the nations. Are you ready for that day to come?

 

Talon Paul

Baptism – What is the Big Deal?

Matthew 3:13-17

Matt 3 17 (1)

Conversations abound over the importance of water baptism. Is it the baptism or simply a confession of faith? If baptism, then is it pouring, sprinkling or immersion? There is a semi-famous song about this. What about infant versus conscious baptism? What about those who do not have access to water? So many questions surround this topic. And these are just focusing on the methods and timing. What about what happens when we are baptized? What is the point or reason for being baptized? Why is it a public thing? It can be exhausting and at times confusing.

So let us look at the example set by Jesus. He travels from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan River where his cousin John is baptizing people in droves. Baptism itself was commonplace but it was a simple cleansing ritual. It was not too deep or meaningful and was certainly not a public spectacle. The people had never seen anything like what John was doing. In addition to the large masses of people coming to him he was telling them that this baptism was for the repentance of their sins. John was the precursor to Jesus, the keynote speaker if you will. He was highlighting the points that would be vital to Jesus’ ministry – repentance and the coming kingdom.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. John however recognized Jesus as the Messiah and understood that it was Jesus who should be baptizing John. He tried to argue with Jesus because he understood that among them only Jesus was righteous and sinless. Jesus was the only one who did not need this baptism.

Jesus’ response was that he must be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In doing so he was consecrated by God and officially approved by Him. His baptism had nothing to do with Levitical Law though. John’s message of repentance and the coming kingdom pointed to a Messiah who would be righteous and bring righteousness to the sinner. Jesus was identifying with the sinful world even though he himself was without sin. His baptism also marked the arrival of the long expected Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And finally his baptism was symbolic of his death, burial, and resurrection and was an example for his followers to come.

Upon being baptized the spirit of God rested upon him. This is the moment when God gave Jesus all authority and power to carry out his Father’s perfect will here on earth. Jesus later told his disciples that this same spirit, a portion only however, would come upon them. It is the same spirit received by all who come to God through Jesus and the waters of baptism. This spirit strengthened and encouraged Jesus when he needed it most, as it does for each of those who faithfully follow his example.

So he comes up out of the water and the Spirit of God comes upon him and then it happens! Something incredible! Something amazing! Something that has not happened for four hundred years. Man hears the first words from God since the close of the Old Testament. His silence is broken so that He can confirm Jesus is His son, “Whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” This statement in itself is timeless. God was not simply pleased that Jesus was beginning his ministry. It is the culmination of a millennia old plan to bring all people back to Him. The fulfillment of His covenant with Abram is realized in this moment. All people will be blessed through Jesus if they choose Yahweh as their God and Jesus as the way to Him. Past, present and future balanced on this man’s obedience to God.

John was baptizing in a river and most examples of baptism in the New Testament appear to be in or around large bodies of water so immersion in water makes the most sense for how we ought to be baptized. There are biblical examples of baptism of the spirit alone, a confession of faith without involvement of water. These examples however appear to be the exception and not the rule. People without access to water or without time to get to water are exceptions.

If someone has the means and opportunity to go through the waters of baptism and does not are they saved by confession of sin and repentance alone? I do not know just as I do not know if someone who confesses, repents, and is baptized is saved. We have biblical and personal examples of people being baptized and living in a way that is completely opposed to God’s will. God alone knows our hearts. He knows where we stand.

One of the radical things about what John was doing is that those who came to him to be baptized were obeying God from their heart. It is a conscious decision to be baptized. I was “baptized” as an infant but it meant nothing to me. I had not made the choice to change my life. I had not chosen God or His son until I was a grown man. That has been the point from the beginning, back when Adam and Eve were in the Garden. They had a choice to choose God or not, trust Him or not. They chose not. Jesus presents to the whole world that very same choice.

In this moment when Jesus was baptized God’s confirmation of Jesus was both for his assurance and for a witness to others. This is the same reason for us to publicly surrender and commit to God through Jesus. We need the inner confirmation of His great blessing upon us, and the world needs the testimony of a life committed to His will through Jesus.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom