The “War on Christmas”- Almost Laughable!

I, like many, have been hearing a lot about this “war on Christmas” lately. It seems that for the past several years, this topic almost dominates the social and even political conversations that go on in our society. Everyone from the President of the United States to the fellas at the barber shop is talking about how there is a “war on Christmas”!

After searching though the search engines of the internet to see what might be being said about all of this, and you know that what is on the internet is always trustworthy, I found an enormous amount of political debate about the meaning of Christmas and what should and should not be acceptable forms of celebration during Christmas, often referred to know as the Winter Season or Winter Holidays.

Since I am a Christian and a Preacher, I suspect that most would expect this blog post to be the typical defense against the attack or “war on Christmas”. Well, I am quite sure that most will be disappointed by this post if that is the case.

The entire idea of a “war on Christmas” is almost laughable if you ask me. Especially when looked at from the perspective of the believer, those who call themselves Christian. The Christian is a person who is confident in the truth about Jesus being the Christ. The Christian is a person who is sold out to the absolute truth about the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary for the purpose of giving Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all.

For the Christian, the responsibility and expectation given to them as disciples of Jesus is to show the World what God has done in your life. This is how the Christian is to be the witness. Many times in the accounts of the Bible when a person was healed they went everywhere telling everyone about what Jesus did for them! This is what it means to be the witness to the world for the Kingdom of God!

It is not the Christian’s responsibility to prove that God exists. It is not the Christian’s responsibility to prove that Jesus is the Christ. God does not need our proof. It was Jesus Himself that provided evidence to Saul on the road to Damascus.

It was Jesus all throughout the gospel of John that provided proof of His Lordship to the Pharisees and the rest of the Jews. It was God who raised Jesus from the dead and proved to the entirety of existence that He Is!

No, the Christian’s role in the Kingdom of God is to bring glory to the King! We do that by being faithful to what we believe about Him and His plan of salvation to all who likewise believe! Love God and Love people. That is what is to be focused on!

For the Christian, loving God is all about worshiping Him and serving Him as ambassadors! Part of that is taking time to stop and acknowledge that thousands of years ago, a baby was born as a fulfillment of God’s promises! Acknowledging that without this baby, who was God in the flesh, there is no hope for humanity as far as any relationship with our Holy God!

Too many of us are spending all of our time trying to force others who are not believers to accept our ways or traditions at Christmas. I mean, really! Look at Daniel for example; here is a man who was taken from his home, culture, and even an attempt to change his religion/faith was attempted.

Did he put out a bunch of news flyers about a “war on Christianity”? No! He simply continued to be faithful to what he believed about his God. Sure, he was ready to “defend” his actions, although I would look at that as being prepared to give reason for your beliefs!

Where did this idea of a “war on Christmas” begin anyway. Surely the rest of the world is experiencing the same type of social and cultural debates about Christmas and even Christianity. Let me suggest that what is now called the “war on Christmas” is indeed the same as what is referred to as “the war on Christianity”. This has been happening since Adam and Eve were lied to and gave into temptation!

The enemy, Satan NOT PEOPLE, has always been trying to destroy God and the ones that He loves! A few headlines in the news are saying that Donald Trump is winning the war on Christmas, and that we are once again allowed to say “Merry Christmas”. Other articles and blogs show that Henry Ford began a campaign against Christmas in defense of Jewish and other religious holidays being left out back in the 50’s.

As long as we are pointing fingers, why don’t we say that the “war on Christmas” was started by King Herod during the time of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew chapter 2. Or we could blame the King of Egypt who sought to kill all the male babies which, had he been successful, been the end of God’s plan of salvation!

As long as we are blaming, we would have to look at every person who stood in the way of or tried to stand in the way of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus! This is why I say that this so-called “war on Christmas” is laughable. What is happening in society today is nothing new! God’s true enemies have been trying to stop His plans since the beginning of the world! It is a hopeless pursuit on their part.

Let me finish by pointing this out. The only real war that is going on is the war against the faith of human beings. The battle field is in the minds of each person, and the heart/soul be the spoils to the victor!

Therefore, Christian, do not be fooled by the ways of the world as those ways broadcast some absurd propaganda intended to lead everyone to believe that any one person or group of people have the power to change any part of the absolute truth about Christ! NO! Christmas and your celebration of it, is totally up to you!

Our President, the President of the USA, can publicly give society permission to say “Merry Christmas” or some other person which the world gives authority can instruct society NOT to say, “Merry Christmas”. It will not change how I celebrate Christmas.

I personally do not hold ill feelings toward anyone who does not believe what I believe about God. Nor am I offended by anyone who even protests my faith. No, I feel compassion and concern for them. No, it is not that I have no concern about others being offended by my actions, yet when it comes to how I and my household love God and love people, yes, there is a limit to my participation in the manners in which society seems to demand of all of us.

“If it is disagreeable in you sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will sere: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”                                Joshua 24:15

Christian, do not let the world dictate what you are about at Christmas or any other time. The only way to truly have a Merry Christmas is to love God and love people in a way that honors God and brings glory to the Kingdom of God!

To Give or Not to Give- That is a Good Question

 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 (NASB)

Often times in bible studies and just casual conversation, I hear people bring up the topic of discerning when to give to those who ask. Usually this question refers to those who are seen on the street holding the cardboard sign which is intended to explain their situation. Other times, people will call or arrive at the church office wanting some assistance with something.

I personally believe that this “dilemma” is born out of a torn heart. Many Christians genuinely want to help those in need. I mean, if we are genuine Christians, then it would be in our hearts to show love and compassion for the needy. On the other hand, Christians are people and people don’t like to be taken advantage of. When it does happen, and it seems to happen often, it king of leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

Some respond by cutting off all benevolence to anyone, after all that would only be fair and safe, right? Others take the attitude that they will just give what they can always, leaving the receiver in God’s hands. Many leadership meetings at churches have been spent discussing this matter. Ultimately, churches and Christians alike really want to help those in need and minister to them, yet at the same time do not wish to be taken advantage of and allow some to steal from them.

As I address this issue, let me make it clear that I personally to not have a concrete, “this is what to do” answer. What follows is just my two cents. I pray that it is helpful.

First, we see in John 13:35, among many other places in Scripture that the Christian is one who loves others. In fact, that is how we are to be distinguished from the rest of the world. Jesus even taught that we are to love God and love others. I will submit that loving God and loving others is not something that the Christian strives to get better at and achieve, rather it is what is in us. It is who we are.

The Christian is one whom in the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. Even though the trinity cannot be explained completely, we can know that the three are one. Therefore, since God is love,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.     1 John 4:7-8  (NASB)

and the Spirit of God is God, then we can conclude that love is in the believer. This is why the Christian has this “dilemma” in our hearts when it comes to showing love and compassion to those who present themselves in need. I think that the first point of focus would be with self. We Christians would do good to ask ourselves, who is making the decision as to whether or not a person is genuinely in need or not?

The question that we usually ask ourselves almost immediately is, does this person really need help? Or, is this person being honest, or are they just making up a story to get the help they are asking about? My not so favorite one that some have asked is, how do I know they won’t go buy drugs or alcohol with what I give them?

To 99% of the people in the world, it seems that those questions are legitimate questions. However, for the Christian, we must remember that since the Spirit of God is living in us, our approach may be different. I am not saying that it is wrong to think about those questions, however, I am saying that they should not be out guide to reach the conclusion to the “dilemma”.

Second point. I do not think that the Christian is “obligated” to give to everyone who presents a need. The scripture is clear that we are to help others when we have opportunity and the means. Along with that, I will submit that the Christian has a responsibility to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted in their care.

I do not believe that God desires for the Christian to be taken advantage of. Nor do I believe that God desires the Christian to be taken for a fool. After all, we are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God to this world. We must look at benevolence of any kind as an investment. An investment in the work of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus taught a lesson using a parable about a wealthy man leaving his wealth in the care of three men. Each having the same responsibility. Two were successful, the other failed. The two that succeeded increased the wealth of the Kingdom because they feared their master and thought to do what he would want them to do. The third, on the other hand, was more afraid of failure than the master. He did what he thought was best and did not consider what the master would have him do.

The same is true here for the Christian. The Master, our Lord, has given us His valuables. We have the responsibility to be stewards of that wealth. That wealth, by the way, is His love, the gospel of Christ, Salvation. This should lead us to the question, why does the scripture teach us to give when we can give?

I often try to insert into those conversations about this matter the answer to that question. At least what I believe to be the answer. It is two-fold really. First, but not foremost, the scripture teaches us to give because that is what love is. If love resides in a person, then compassion will rise to the surface. Second, and foremost, the scripture tells us to give because of John 13:35. The world will know the Christian because of the way we love.

As far as knowing when not to give or be taken advantage of. I often think about Acts chapter 3.

“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”               Acts 3:6 (NASB)

Here Peter and John were presented with a man in need. It so happened that this man had a genuine need. However, they did not give the man what he asked for. Instead, they invested in the Kingdom of God by giving him what was most valuable. The result was that the crippled man encountered God and the world around them was impacted greatly by the witness! If you don’t believe me, go read it for yourself.

The point that I am getting at here is this. There are times to give and there are times not to give, that is when it comes to the things of this world. When it comes to giving the love of God, there is never a time not to give. For the Christian, the key is to seek guidance from the Master. “What would Jesus do?” even though that has become a cliché, it still rings true.

The letter to the Galatians instructs us to keep in step with the Spirit. That means that we are not making the decisions. I know, that is hard to accept, but it is the way the Master set in place. The Holy Spirit will guide us away from poor investments with the Master’s wealth, and make us aware of the good investment opportunities for the Kingdom of God.

I hope I have explained this well enough that you all can see that it is a matter of making disciples in everything we do. We help the needy in hopes that they will encounter God and His Kingdom, whether they are Christians or not. We help the Christians who are in need for the purpose of getting them back in the Kingdom work force, and we help those who are not Christians for the purpose of exposing them to the love of God! So, we must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes to helping the needy in this world.

Oh, one last thing. God does not expect nor desire anyone to become needy for the sake of helping those in need. Give what you can, when you can. If you have not the means, seek the Lord for other ways to help. Peter and John told the crippled man, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give you.” Acts 3:6. If we genuinely have the Spirit of God living in us, then we always have something to give.

We should offer that whether it is received or not.

 

Life is Short- You Do Not Have to Die!

Life happens. Not only does it happen, but it happens really fast. One day we are making plans for the future for ourselves as well as our families. It seems that we are keeping up with the pace of life. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan.

We all have dreams, plans, and maybe aspirations. Some have extreme motivation to chase after them, others not so much. Either way, when we get momentum behind our life’s plan, we tend to believe that life is good and we are on our way to meet our goals and desires for our lives.

Who we are and who we become in life greatly depend on the things that happen to us and around us. Also, the consequences of decisions and choices along life’s path. Let’s not forget that the people we choose to be around also affect who we are and become. Finally, our beliefs and worldview impact the course of life.

Generally, we live our lives according to the plans that we make and sometimes make adjustments along the way. Some are better at this than others. When life is playing out as we have planned, we say “Life is good”, or even “God is good”. Yet when these plans derail or seem to change against our will, we struggle to adjust. We tend to panic, stress, or even give up on the plan.

The fact is, even though we all have free will to make choices in this life, there are some things to which we have no say. Many people like to say, “no one has to do anything but pay taxes and die.”. I would disagree with that, no one really has to pay taxes. We have the freedom to choose not to pay and suffer the consequences. However, being born and dying are in fact the two things that no one can choose.

Really, only being born is what we do not have choice in. Many have chosen to take their own life. In that regard, I guess that dying would be a choice, although not usually an option for people. The reality of it all is, people generally do not get to know how many days will be given them, only God knows some things.

“Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”                                 James 4:13-15

It is real easy to get caught up in living life and fail to recognize the value of it. People have been living in this world for thousands of years. Each of them living the life that was theirs. All of us have been given life by the creator. God is the one who created life and breathed breath into man. Living our lives without acknowledging Him as Lord is foolish!

People these days generally live no more than 100 years. Most live to be in their 70’s or 80’s. Even though that seems like a long time on the calendar, it is not much time at all in the grand scheme of things. The bigger point here is that on one is promised another day. Life happens.

It is important that we all look at what is the most important thing. That is, what goes on beyond this life. What the Christian believes is that there is eternal life. A choice is to be made. Will that time be spent in the presence of God? Or, will that time be spent separated from God forever? The time that goes on after life in this world is eternal and will not change.

For those who do not believe in life after death, well then it is important to make good use of the time you have in this life. It does not change the fact that life is short. It does not change the fact that death can come at any time. Either way, whatever the belief is, it seem foolish for a person to ignore the fact that death can come at any time.

I am not sharing this to scare anyone or to be a gloom and doom kind of person. I am sharing this because it is important that people acknowledge that life is short and that we are not promised tomorrow. Maybe it will help us to slow down and notice what we are missing.Maybe it will help us to get off our hind parts and start living life the way God intended it to be lived! Either way, the opportunity to have confidence in the eternity that happens after this life is over is there.

Yes, the gospel. It is the most important, most urgent piece of information in existence. The message that all people have fallen short of God’s glory and need a savior to pay the debt owed to this Holy God. That message that says that Jesus is that Savior and anyone who believes that it is true can be with God for eternity!

“”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 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. 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 2:36-39

The bottom line is this; Life is short! You or I, or even all of us may not be given another breath. Are you confident? Are you confident in what you believe about life after a person is dead? If you believe that there is not life after death, are you positive? And, if you believe like I do, the Christian belief, that there is life after we die and there is a choice to make. Then I would ask you, are you sure that if this be your last day to live in this world, would you spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God or will it be spent for ever separated from God?

Whatever pictures or movies can be displayed about what Hell will be like, I will say that I do not pretend to know any more than what scripture describes about it. However, I will say that the worst thing about Hell is that God is not there, and it is a permanent situation!

Life is short ya’ll!

Skipping Church for the Holidays

Here it is, once again. It is the time that people begin to travel and meet with family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Plenty of food, fun, and work! Most of us tend to eat way too much food and some even drink way too much drink. However, for many, together with Christmas, this time of year is special.

If you are like most, these times can also be very busy and cost way too much money. Family members arriving from wherever they live. The stress level many times goes sky-high. Everything must be just right, after all, family does not always get together.

And then there are some families that do not look forward to these times. Some families do not enjoy being around other family and sometimes life has caused things to be unpleasant. But each year they go through the motions.

Thanksgiving is a National Holiday here in the United States of America. It is not a Christian Holiday or any religious Holiday. Christmas on the other hand is very much a Christian Holiday! But, that is another blog post so stay tuned for that one.

Getting to the point. It seems that the preachers and Elders of the churches have some of the same conversations around this time of the year. This conversation is centered around how many people attend or do not attend church services on the Sundays before and after both of these holidays.

It is expected that people will be traveling. Because of this, the attendance numbers will either be larger than usual or lower than usual. It all depends on who does the travelling. The mystery lies in whether or not those who attend church regularly, will attend church while traveling or not. Within that question, another question needs to be answered.

It seems to be a two-sided coin when it comes to getting any conclusion to the question. The church leaders have come to expect that numbers will either be high or low on these holiday Sundays. But they do not have to be so drastic.

The first side of the coin. Previously, I mention the question of whether or not people who normally attend church, do so when they are travelling. Although I have no statistics, I would say that the majority, more than 50%, do not. Those that do attend while travelling, usually do so because the people they are visiting also attend church. Therefore, it would be easy for them to attend.

However, many of those people who are not visiting other people find it easy just to skip going to church for that Sunday. After all, they only have so many days of traveling and want to make the most of it. This is why I guess about 50% of regular church attended who travel will attend church while traveling.

The second side of the coin. This side of the coin deals with those who travel as well as those who do not travel during these holidays. First, there are those who travel and visit family, friends or others who are not church goers. Many of these people find it difficult to attend church when those that they are visiting do not. It can get a bit awkward. Although it really should not be, it is.

I will get back to them. The second point about this side of the coin is about those regular church attenders who do not travel for the holiday season but have visitor at their home. Again, there is an awkward situation which occurs when family, friends, or others have traveled to visit but are not church goers. So, they skip church for the sake of not having to have the conversation with their guests.

Both of these situations are the same situation. It comes down to having the conversation about who we are as Christians and either feeling like we are being rude or offensive by inviting our guests to church or leaving them for the hour that it takes to go to church, or actually being a witness to what it means to be a Christian and allowing the world, the guests, to see how important your faith is.

Let me just point out that it is not sinful to skip church on Sunday. Do not think that I am trying to make that statement. This blog post is simply an effort to bring out some truths that I think should at least be thought about, if not talked about within our homes and churches.

The reality is that if the Christian did a better job of prioritizing their relationships with God and taking every opportunity to worship God and be His witness, especially to those who are not believers or church goers, then the church attendance conversation between church leadership circles would not be such a big conversation.

Sure, because people will travel and others will not be able to attend even if they wanted to, there would still be an influx of attendance, high and low. The real dilemma is about the proper witness that the body of Christ is putting out into the world. Or is it really what it sometimes looks like. The Christians put God first always, unless it is uncomfortable or is inconvenient.

“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”   Hebrews 10:24-25 (NASB)

This blog post is intended to be a reminder and an encouragement. That all of us who are believers, Christians, would do everything we can to be the best witness and bring honor and glory to God during this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ultimately God knows our hearts.

I pray that God will bless you all and that this Thanksgiving will be memorable and sweet for each of us. Blessings to you all!

“Me and God have church by ourselves”- Do Christians Have to Go to Church?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Over my time in full-time ministry, I have had many conversations with a number of people about going to church. These conversations centered around many aspects, ranging from availability due to work schedules, physical ability or lack there of, and my favorite being “Me and God do our own thing on Sundays”.

Now, I know that there are many other ways that this conversation goes between the Preacher/Christian and others. The one I am focusing on here is the idea presented about whether person must go to church to be a Christian.

First, let me make it clear that it is a fact that there are people who work on Sunday mornings. It is a fact that there are plenty who cannot physically get out or come to church. It is also a fact that there are countless individuals who would love to be at church on Sunday as well as be involved with what a congregation is doing as a whole!

Let’s put all of those aside for the moment. What I am dealing with here is the idea that a person who would say that they are a Christian and also stands in the position that he or she does not “need” to attend church. That they and God do their own thing and that is good enough.

It would seem that the question at hand then would be, “does a person have to go to church to be a Christian?” To that question, I would say that going to church does not make you a Christian. But that is not the question really, is it?

When a person presents the idea, “me and God do our own thing”, the real issue is being presented in a subtle manner. What this person is really doing is challenging or daring the Preacher or whoever else, to question their salvation based on the fact that they do not go to church. It really is a defense tactic because usually the person is asked if they would like to attend church or the Preacher mentions church.

The core of the problem is that people, church goers as well as non-church goers have a misunderstanding of the purpose of attending church or being a part of the ministry of the church. The church goer sees it as evidence that a person is saved, where the non-church goer sees it as a test of their salvation or belief. This is why this conversation is such a problem in the Kingdom of God today.

The real question that church goers should be asking themselves and others is, “do I/you know Jesus?”. At the same time the real question that non-church goers should be asking themselves is “do I really know Jesus?”. If everyone would focus more on this question, the church attendance conversation would be non-existent.

As was presented at the beginning of this blog post, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us some insight into what this Christian life is to be about. In verses 23-25 we can see that words like “hold fast”, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, and “not forsaking our own assembling together”, which draw a picture for the believer and the “Church”.

The picture that is drawn for the believer here is that of community. A picture of people who although are different in many ways, share life together. Just as we can see all throughout the book of Acts, every time the believers shared life together in work, prayer or fellowship, God blessed them and their numbers grew!

God, the creator, does not make mistakes. He has created human beings to need fellowship. He created a mate for Adam because He knew that is is not good for man to be alone. Jesus’ death and resurrection is all about restoring fellowship and unity! I know, many thought is was about God letting people go to heaven as apposed to going to hell. Yes, that is true, but it is a very surface level understanding of the work of the cross. Not to mention a little bit selfish.

The truth is, you and I are offered grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation by the blood of Christ not primarily because we need a Savior. NO! All of that happened so that God would be glorified! Only God could take what is broken and make it whole again! Only God can take the rebellious soul and administer consequences and yet spare the law-breaker!

No, Jesus was born in the flesh, gave His life brutally on a cross, and then God the Father raised Him from death so that all of creation and all the universe would know that He indeed is Lord of it all! Oh, and by the way, because He loves His creation, that’s you and I, we get to experience the blessings that come with His glory and Lordship!

So, maybe it really is a question of salvation. Scripture tells us that those who believe would “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39. This goes together with chapter 17 of the gospel of John. We can read there that Jesus Himself prayed to the Father that the believers would be one with Him as He is with the Father. He prayed for unity in the body of Christ.

All who are genuinely saved are a part of the body of Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit living within each of them. So, when James teaches that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful, I cannot believe that here is a more powerful prayer than that of Jesus our Lord!

Therefore, it would be logical and actually expected that those who are believers, those saved by the blood of Christ, would be united! As we grow spiritually along the way, our desires fade away and the desires of the Holy Spirit begin to be dominant in our hearts. All of this should take us back to our original question. Must a person go to church to be saved?

I will conclude with this answer. A person does not get saved by attending church. That would be a work and we are not saved by works. However, if a person is genuinely “saved” by faith in the blood of Christ through repentance and baptism, and the Spirit of God is living within them, then would we not desire the fellowship of the body of Christ? After all, that was our Lord’s Prayer in chapter 17 of John.

No it is not a sin to work on Sunday. No it is not a sin to miss church service. However, if a person is a true believer, there would be a desire to be a part of the body of Christ. Notice, I still have not said that there should be a desire to go to church on Sunday. That is because there is more to being a part of the church than going to church on Sunday morning.

If a person works on Sunday morning or is unable to physically attend worship service and there is that desire to be a part of the body of Christ, they will find a way. People generally do what they want to do.

Most church congregations hold worship services on Sunday morning. Many have other times of worship such as Sunday evening, Saturday evening, and even on Wednesday evening. So there really is no excuse. After all, that really is all that it is, an excuse. Aside from worship services, there are bible studies, outreach programs, evangelism, and much more that the body of Christ is doing.

So, it really is not about going to church on Sunday morning. It is more about knowing God in such a way that not only allows a person to be reconciled to Him in spite of that person’s rebelliousness against Him, but also to know Him in a way that the person’s desire is to be a part of the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, a Christian will have an overwhelming desire to surrender to a life of participation in the body of Christ and glorifying a Holy God!

I pray that we all have the desire to be a part of the body of Christ! Oh, the answer that you might be looking for from me is, NO! No, you cannot be a Christian and not be a part of the body of Christ.

Who Told You That You Were Different? – God

I  have just started preaching a Thanksgiving sermon series. Yes, it will be a longer series but that is OK. I started off in chapter 3 of Colossians. All of this book of the Bible is about how Jesus is the center of everything and holds everything together. A regular visitor to my mind appeared as I studied.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”   Colossians 3:9-11 NASB

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This regular visitor being the thoughts surrounding the differences people have and show that seems to be a great source of conflict and sin, instead of being a great source of strength and glory. Why is it? Will there be no end? Where do we start?

The fact is, people are different. Men are different than Women, Adults differ from youth and children. People are different by race, culture, religion, personality, mentally, physically, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with being different! So why is it such a problem? Why is it such a powerful tool for hate and division?

Although I do not presume to have the answers to those questions, however I may have a good place to begin, I do have some thoughts which hopefully will be of some use to others. My thoughts about this great and vast topic, which has many avenues of discussion available, ultimately lead back to what we read in Colossians 3:9-11. These verses use the words, “no distinction between”, when pointing out the differences in people.

Lately, I have had numerous conversations with others about some aspects of this topic. It is not new to me that this problem of division over people and their differences is not exclusive to the world, the church is just as guilty maybe even more so. After all, the church has no excuse. The church has the truth, in scripture, as well as the Holy Spirit. There is no excuse!

I sometimes think back to Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God and then realized that they were naked, they then tried to cover themselves up. For the first time, they had a real knowledge of their differences as well as a knowledge of how different they were from God Himself. It is only when God shows up and asked the question,

“Who told you that you were naked?”    Gen.3:11 NASB

What a powerful and deep question! I suspect that Adam and Eve did not even comprehend the depth of the question. Really it was a rhetorical question. God was revealing to them just how he knew that they had eaten of the forbidden tree. They should not have know that they were naked. They should not have known so deeply of their differences.

Sometimes I wonder if God does not ask His Church the same question when it comes to the divisions over race, gender, age, music, non-essential doctrine, and so on. Sometimes I wonder if God is not asking the Church and the world, “Who told you that you were different?”

According to the scripture that the church believes to be absolute truth and God breathed, it says that there is to be “no distinction” between any people. You see, it is sin that causes us to see our differences as a problem!

Too many times I myself have been involved with, worked with, or heard about churches that are filled with on type of person. Some are larger churches and still only are only filled with people of “their kind”.

Some are smaller churches who do not reach out. Many churches that are located in the middle of ripe fields of harvest, refused to grow and be used for the kingdom of God because the people who live around the church are not like them.

I have seen to many “White” churches not reaching out to other races. “Black” churches only reaching out to other people like them. Financially well off church members giving off a subtle vibe of judgement to those who might dare come and visit their church who are different. One denomination shunning others who do not like the same style of music or are not as liberal or legalistic.

I have had conversations with many people of all backgrounds and ages about how the bible says that it is a sin for a man and a women of different races or cultures to marry. Let me just say that I do not find that anywhere in the Bible.

First, I will point out that Timothy was a product of interracial marriage. Acts 16:1. Oh, and Moses married a Cushite woman. Numb. 12:1. And if anyone is going to quote old testament scripture about it, their interpretation or application is wrong, or even both.

Oh, it’s true, if someone visits the church, most will put on the church face and welcome and love them while they are there. Yet, what would happen if many people who are different come, and actually stay? The church is guilty, more times than not, of self segregation. The fact is that if the Church is going to be like Christ, than there can be “no distinction” between any person. We must reach out to all with “no distinction” without compromise or sin!

I am not saying that we should not embrace our differences. I would even go so far as to say that we should celebrate our differences in a way that brings honor and glory to God, the one who created us and allowed those differences to be!

So the next time a brother or sister in Christ makes the mistake of separating another from the fellowship due to the fact that they are not the same, be the one that is willing to help that brother or sister have a different understanding. Let’s be The Church! The Church, like Christ, makes “no distinction” between male/female, Old/young, Asian/Hispanic/Black/White/Etc…., US Citizen/visitor.

In the eyes of our Lord, there is no difference. Jesus died for all! We must ask God to help us see others the way He does!

 

Same World, Same Conflicts, Same God!

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ” Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:1-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Never forget who you are. Wise advice given by many who have been around the block more times than others. Over the years, or generations, cultures change as well as political and social atmosphere. Yet as was found stated in the 1st chapter of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Indeed, life may not be the same as it was yesterday, last year, or in our early days, but this is the way the sand flows through the hour glass. I too have found myself looking at the world and the events in it with great concern,sorrow and even anger at times. Regardless of my own personal worldview, beliefs, and political stance which all contribute to my own reaction. Which by the way is true for everyone.

The core of the problem is that people, all created equally by God, simply cannot find peace among ourselves. It seems that every people group, nationality, religion, political party, and even individual have some feeling of oppression, or persecution from most of the rest of the world. We scream out our complaints throughout social media until they pour out into our homes, workplaces and community streets. This goes on and on until we get distracted by the next offense or wrong doing against us.

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In the middle of it all, we all are fighting for the freedom to be who we are. Sometimes the problem is that most of us have forgotten, or at least from time to time forget, who we really are. For example, I just read an article titled: “Even ‘Sons of Belial’ Can be Saved” written by Christian Post Columnist Rev. Mark H. Creech. I will quote this article as follows;

Antifa (Anti-fascist) are the very opposite of what they claim. They are the fascists – radical authoritarians characterized by despotism. These groups are like the “sons of Belial” described in the Old Testament, a phrase used for characterizing worthless, wicked, lawless, godless, idolatrous persons. They speak out against hate but personify it in their words and actions. They argue for equality, but marginalize, silence, and persecute anyone who differs with them. They are “scoffers,” hardened and at ease with their sin. God is not a part of their thinking. They believe his sovereignty is a kind of slavery from which to be freed.”

The statements made by Creech in this article some will agree with and others will not. I share this article to show that people often begin with a passion for what they believe and associate themselves with a mission accordingly, only to become something different.

I am using Rev. Creech’s comments to point out Antifa as one example out of all the many. The entire article is about that group and how they are not presenting themselves according to who they say they are. This is the point of my quoting him in this blog post.

No one, or group of people, have ever been able to truly stick to who they present themselves to be, not 100% of the time. No, not even the church! From Adam and Eve to Abraham and all throughout the New Testament accounts of the church there have been failure after failure when it comes to presenting who we are in Christ.

That is not to say that the Body of Christ has failed, I am simply pointing out that people fail from time to time. Every kind of people in every generation, nothing is new under the sun!

All of this to bring me to this point. The question must be for all of us is how do we do a better job at being faithful to who we are? Christian or not, this is the question we should all ask. However, since I am a Christian, I can only answer for myself and offer advise to other Christians who may believe the way I do.

I have recently started teaching through the book of Acts at the church. Although we are only in the 4th chapter at the moment, one major theme has demanded the attention of my mind and heart. As I study these people, who filled with the Holy Spirit, begin to function in their world in a way that they never had before, I am convicted as always.

These people, Peter and John as well as others, actually lived what they believed. Not because they tried real hard, but because they believed and submitted themselves to the Holy Spirit, they were able to BE the Kingdom of God in their world which was not unlike the wold we live in today.

Chapter 4 of Acts stands out at this moment due to the reaction of Peter and John as they are confronted by the powers that could have them thrown in jail and possibly killed. Yet they were bold as lions and wise as serpents when preaching Christ even to those who hated them the most! They did not stand firm in who they were, they stood firm in who Christ was and still is!

Sometimes, those of us who believe what Peter and John believed forget what they preached. Many times we find ourselves engaged with the rest of the world in an effort to prove that what we believe about Jesus is true and that what we believe is right. When  that is not at all who we are in Christ! When this happens, we surely have forgotten where we started.

We find ourselves in the same shoes as the likes of, to use Rev. Creech’s example, “Antifa”. What we present to the world is not at all who we believe we are, or are supposed to be! The sad part of it all is that who ever is guilty of this, usually cannot or will not see it as truth about themselves.

Rev. Creech’s article is simply making the point that was made by Peter and John in chapter 4 of Acts. Jesus died for all. Every person we come in contact with is who we are to somehow “preach” to. Even those who are given over to the ways of the world. Especially those who are given to the ways of the world! The key is to remember that Peter and John, and the others, did so while filled with the Holy Spirit!

When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?””

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.””
‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:7, 19-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

That is who the Christian is. According to our faith, we are those who are saved by grace. Filled with the Holy Spirit with a task of sharing the Kingdom of God with the world. When we are true to that, we then can be guilty of allowing the Holy Spirit do great things in the world!

Forgiveness, One of the Greatest Stumbling Blocks of Man

One of the most difficult things for human beings to do is forgive. Many might agree that it is in fact the most difficult thing for people to be able to do. Often time’s people will carry burdens in their hearts for many years, sometimes for an entire lifetime. Many families, friendships, churches, and businesses have been totally destroyed because of the lack of forgiveness.

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Click the pic to get book

Also there have been many who have suffered unnecessary physical, mental, and spiritual illness due to not being able to forgive. Why is that? What makes forgiveness so difficult? Why is it that something so healthy to the human life and so beneficial in the hearts of human beings is so difficult to do?There are many people in the world today that are holding on to bitterness and resentment or even anger simply because they fail to understand what forgiveness really is.Most people’s understanding of forgiveness is not a very good understanding and some even are simply completely wrong in their understanding. You see, the key to being able to forgive is first being able to have a good understanding of what forgiveness is!

What Forgiveness is

Using the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forgive) we can find the definition of the word “forgive”.

to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgivean insult>
to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon<forgive one’s enemies>

God’s definition or explanation of forgiveness is simply love. Just as we saw in the Webster dictionary, God seems to want us to know that forgiveness is a choice between demanding what is owed or deserved and choosing what is good and right. Choosing love.

What forgiveness is NOT

Now that we have taken a glimpse of the definition of the word forgive, that means that we might come to the conclusion as to what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not and “easy button” you can pick up from your local office supply store. Forgiveness is not a tool to be used to go back and act like nothing ever happened. It did.

Forgiveness also is not a tool for leverage. Those who believe that if forgiveness is extended to others that somehow the forgiven now owe the forgiver is inaccurate and only contribute to the already serious problem. This is “mafia” mentality and this type of thinking is not in any way true forgiveness.

Many times we have questions about forgiveness or certain situations get in the way of being able to forgive. It is important that we seek the wisdom of God’s Word for the answers that we seek.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who goes to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NASB)

The Problem with Un-forgiveness

Holding a grudge or harboring bitterness toward another is sort of like when a person seeking revenge sneaks to the another person’s house in the blackness of night, setting their house on fire, killing all their livestock, and turning donuts throughout their harvest field with a monster truck and walking away laughing sinisterly while eating the last Klondike ice cream bar from their freezer. All of that only to find out as the sun rises that it was his own house, livestock, fields, and Klondike ice cream bar.

Un-forgiveness can make the most beautiful person become one of the ugliest and ill- tempered people. Not only does it affect self, it affects everyone connected to self. Un-forgiveness is also destructive to relationships, more importantly it is lethal to a person’s relationship with God. Un-forgiveness is sinful. Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew chapter 6 as he was teaching them how to pray,

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, you Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew :14-15 (NASB)

Much can be written about the topic of forgiveness, and much has been written. I myself have put together a small book about forgiveness, it is titled “Forgiveness-An In Depth Look”, in hopes that it will be of help to some who may be struggling with and suffering because of un-forgiveness. Forgiveness plays a crucial role in the relationship between each one of us and God.

There are so man questions surrounding this very complex and difficult topic. I only scratch the surface of a few of them in this book. Topics like:

Why is Forgiveness so Difficult?
Why is Forgiveness Necessary?
How Do I Forgive?
Does Forgiveness Include Forgetting?
How Can “THAT” Be Forgiven?

I hope that you seek wisdom from God through prayer and bible study for the true understanding of forgiveness. There are plenty of books and articles out there which can be very helpful as well. If you choose to read my book, I pray that it will be a blessing to you. (You can click the photo to find the book)

What I know to be absolute truth about forgiveness is that if what a person understands or believes about forgiveness does not agree with what God Himself describes as forgiveness, well it just simply is not and cannot be forgiveness.

What the Bible says about Baptism and why we do it the way we do.

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I could write out everything I believe and teach about what the Bible teaches about Baptism but I chose instead to share with you a writing that was produced by a fellow Preacher. Kurt Honican of Lexington, KY who happened to be used by God to usher me into the ministry along with a few other brothers is now preaching in Eastern North Carolina at Christian Chapel Church of Christ. Since he produced this document about what we teach about baptism it seemed silly for me to re-write the same things so with his permission, here it is.

What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?
Personal Response Inventory:
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Kurt Honican
Christian Chapel
Church of Christ (Click the image)
Realizing that God loves me and created me to have a personal relationship with Him, and that my sin makes me guilty and separates me from God– I have responded in the following ways:
I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for me upon the cross.
I have REPENTED of my sins, turning from my old way of living to God.
I have publicly CONFESSED Jesus to be the Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver) of my life.
I have been BAPTIZED (immersed) in obedience to Christ’s example and command.
Commonly Asked Questions about Baptism 
Many of the people who come to our church come from backgrounds where baptism was not taught or emphasized. Several questions seem to surface repeatedly. Some of the most common are dealt with below:
  • What is the meaning of Baptism?
*It illustrates Christ’s burial and resurrection
Christ died for our sins… He was buried… and He rose again.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ.” (Colossians 2:12)
It illustrates my new life as a Christian
By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that , just as Christ was raised from the dead… so also we may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4)
* Baptism does not MAKE you a believer– you are baptized because you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The act of baptism alone doesn’t “save” you. Christian baptism is preceded by personal faith/trust in Christ and is coupled with confession and repentance.
You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)
He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
“Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of you sins.”
(Acts 2:38)
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the man said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The man answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)
If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10: 9-10)
* Baptism is like a wedding ring: it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart. It is the pledge of a covenant relationship with God.
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
2. Who Should Be Baptized?
* Every person who has believed in Christ
Those who believe and accepted his message were baptized…” (Acts 2:41)
“Simon himself believed and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13)
But when they believed Philip as he preached the Good News… and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
3. Why Should I Be Baptized?
Because you want to follow the EXAMPLE of CHRIST.
At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river.” (Mark 1:9)
*Because Christ COMMANDS it!
Jesus said, ‘Go then, to all the people everywhere and make them disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28: 19-20)
* Because it demonstrates you are a BELIEVER.
…many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
* Because OBEYING Christ’s command shows you know Him.
We know that we have come to know him, if we obey His commands.” (1 John 2:3)
* Because it is the appeal to God for a CLEAN conscience.
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves yo by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
*Because it UNITES me with Christ in a very special way.
You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 6: 26-27)
4. Why do you baptize by immersion and not sprinkling or pouring?
The original language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. When Paul and others wrote with reference to baptism, they always used a word in the Greek that meant, “to dip, submerge, or immerse” which was “baptizo”.
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible uses the Greek word baptizo to describe that event. When Jesus commanded that His disciples be baptized, he used the Greek word baptizo to instruct then how to do it. Every baptism recorded in the New Testament was by immersion, consistently using the Greek word baptizo to decscribe the event.
Example: “then both Philip and the man went down into the water an Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39)
Other words in the Greek language mean, “to sprinkle or pour.” If the writers had viewed these as acceptable modes of baptism they would have chosen the appropriate words. Instead, they specified immersion.
  • Immersion was the commonly accepted form of baptism in the church for hundreds of years. It was only in later centuries that men began to substitute other modes.
  • Jesus was baptized –by being immersed in water.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up out of the water.” (Matt. 3:16)
· Every baptism in the New Testament was by immersion.
The Apostles, consistent with Jesus’ example and command, instructed new believers to be immersed into Christ, using the Greek word baptizo to describe the action.
Example: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
  • It is the best way to picture a burial and resurrection!
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead… we, too, may have new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Consider the statements from the founders of three denominations:
Martin Luther (Lutheran Church): “I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the work imparts and mystery signifies.”
John Calvin (Presbyterian): “The word ‘baptize’ signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
John Wesley (Methodist): “Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
5. Do you baptize Infants?
In order to address the question of infant baptism, one must first ask about the nature of human beings in general. The question is this: is each of us bourn with the mark of sin already on our lives? … or are we a “clean slate”, and not viewed by God as “sinful” until we are old enough to personally choose to act in opposition with what we know God has commanded?
We believe that the Bible teaches that we all have a “sin nature”. That is to say that we all have a “tendency toward sin”. However, we believe that a just God does not hold us accountable for sin until we are old enough to understand that we are in rebellion against Him. When one reaches the age where he or she is old enough to realize that he/she is a sinner, then we call them to accept Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.
In the Bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them, prayed for them, blessed them, and told His disciples to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell any else to baptize them. Biblically speaking, baptism is appropriate only for those who have a made a personal decision to trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
At this church, we will not baptize a child unless they are mature enough to place their faith in Christ and understand the true meaning of baptism and receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior.
We realize that many parents have had their newborn children baptized for reasons of making a public declaration of their intent to raise the child to know God. Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible, which was only for those old enough to believe and make a personal and informed decision to accept Jesus Christ. We think this is admirable but unnecessary in that we do not believe that an infant is a sinner; therefore an infant is not in need of obeying the Biblical command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The purpose is to publicly confess you personal sinfulness and give authority of your life to Christ. At this church, it is expected that every member must have been baptized the way Jesus demonstrated, even though a person may have been “confirmed” as a child.
6. What about those who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have never been immersed?
The difficulty in answering this question is the silence of the Bible on this subject. In the first century, where the events and doctrine of the early church were explained, there was no one in the situation of accepting Christ without being baptized. In fact, there was no one like this until recent times. In the early church everyone who gave his life to Christ was baptized.
The closest example we might find in the Scriptures of a man to whom this question applied was Apollos (Acts 18: 24-26). Apollos was a very spiritual man who had a great fervor about his relationship to Jesus. He had been taught incorrectly concerning baptism. He knew only John’s baptism, which was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. He was not familiar with Christian baptism as it was taught by the Apostles and early church leaders. When Priscilla and Aquilla taught him, the Bible says he was willing to change his ideas and submit to Christian baptism-baptism into Christ.
Perhaps the crucial question is, “Why NOT be baptized?” What does one have to lose by doing so? Some feel that baptism after years in the church indicates that they were not really Christians previously. This does not seem to be the attitude of Apollos when he realized more accurately the way of the Lord. We have no record that he concerned himself with the past at all. He was simply glad to move ahead.
7. Does Baptism actually save a person?
The Bible teaches that Christ alone saves. Acts 4:12 states that salvation is found “in no other” than Jesus Christ. However,, receiving Christ necessitates some response on our part. The Bible makes it clear that our response should include faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Each is important. None is more important than the other. These are the ways we express the fact that we have trusted Christ for salvation. They do not save us, Christ does, but each is mentioned in reference to salvation in the Scriptures.
When people accepted Christ as Savior in the New Testament times they BELIEVED in HIM (Acts 16-31), they REPENTED of their sins (Acts 2:38), they CONFESSED Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:16-18, Romans 10: 9-10), and they were BAPTIZED (Matt. 28: 19-20, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:36-38).
We feel that our role as Christians is to teach people to do the same things that the Apostles taught people to do. Some argue about “at which point” are you saved? Instead we simply repeat the command of Scripture that people who would accept Christ should: BELIEVE, REPENT, CONFESS, AND BE BAPTIZED. Throughout Scripture, we see that these were immediate responses to the Gospel and so they all happened within moment of each other. We encourage all who seek the Lord to follow the pattern set by scripture and in doing so we can say that we followed the instructions set forth in Scripture. Any judgment about anyone who has followed a different pattern belongs only to God. We believe that we will all give an account to God about our response to His teachings.
8. Isn’t baptism just a “work”? And, doesn’t the Bible say that “we are not saved by works”?
Baptism is not a “work”; it’s a response of one’s faith to Jesus Christ. It is a demonstration of one’s commitment to the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His commands. Again, we are saved by TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE, HOWEVER, THE Bible has given us clear ways to “act out” and demonstrate our faith. Baptism is one of them. We don’t baptize into membership. We baptize into Christ. Baptism into Christ makes it an act of faith. The only “work” happening in the baptistery is the justifying “work” of God.
9. Are you saying that those who are not baptized are not Christians?
According to what we read in the Bible, there is a plan of Salvation that by both direct command and precedent is clearly stated. We are simply teaching the Scriptures. Again, God alone judges and to Him we are accountable. We preach through believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized.
10. Why can’t I be a member of the church and not be baptized?
The elders and preacher of our Williamston Church of Christ are responsible to God for the doctrine we teach. Our interest is in leading our people to lives of godliness and growth in Christ. The position we have taken is that baptism was an ordinance in the New Testament church. Everyone seeking to return to Biblical standards, we feel that we should simply “do what they did” and “teach what they taught” in the Scriptures. Baptism is too important a doctrine for us to compromise. We realize that not everyone agrees as to its importance, but again, as leaders we are called to shepherd as the Bible instructs us. Thus we believe that members of our church should hold an elevated view of baptism and not take it lightly.
11. When should I be baptized?
As soon as you have believed.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized…that day.” (Acts 2:41)
Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, ‘Look, here is water! Why shouldn’t I be baptized right now?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are “perfect”, you’ll never feel “good enough”!
12. Can my family be baptized together?
YES! If each family member understands fully the meaning of baptism, and each one has personally placed his/her trust in Christ for salvation, we encourage families to be baptized at the same time. It is a wonderful expression of commitment. Young children who wish to be baptized are asked to meet with the preacher.
However, it is important to remember that baptism is a personal decision, not a family tradition. It is not Scriptural to delay your baptism while waiting on other family members to make their own decision to accept Christ, particularly children. This puts an undue pressure on them, and delays your obedience and response to Christ.
Written by: Kurt Honican of Christian Chapel Church of Christ
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what baptism is all about. If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask. Also feel free to share this with friends and family as well. God bless!
Archie L. Gilmer