Victory Over Sin Isn’t An Event

One of the blessings of being part of a community of bloggers is that I get to read some thoughts and reflections that are expressed with crystal clarity on topics that need to be brought to our attention. God is very big on remembering. On many occasions throughout the journeys of the children of Israel, God would tell His people to have feasts and erect monuments for the purpose of remembering. In the same way, reading purposefully what God has put into the hearts of others, is a helpful way of calling our attention to the truths of His word, to take back to the Scriptures which help us remember who God is.

This issue of victory over sin is a reminder of God’s grace and never ending love for us. The apostle Paul lamented that sometimes he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. (Romans 7:7 ff)

Today I’m sharing the story of a woman who is deeply committed to following Jesus. Her thoughts about the journey here on earth are worth sharing with my readers. A helpful reminder of the grace and patience of our God.

While the original post can be found at Growing4Life, I’ve posted her comments here.   The words of Leslie …

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it, we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

"Your task is to be true, not popular." ~~Jesus

I’m in a very busy season and reblogging the excellent thoughts of men and women I follow is a good thing for me this week. Here is a helpful reminder that truth and faithfulness to Christ, who gave His life for us will win the last day. Thanks to Michael Wilson for this helpful reminder.

Quotes, thoughts and musings

Being true to Jesus runs counter to our culture. Of course, being true is exactly how Jesus lived. Jesus calls for a radical commitment. He is truth.

Jesus knows that there’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests.

Jesus challenges me to live and say the truth. He does not demand I be popular.

May I win the truth contest.

Your task is to be true, not popular.” ~~Jesus (Luke 6:26 The Message)

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Breaking the Code v. 5

Matthew records this description of Jesus spending time with His Father, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone …”

Prayer … Jesus did it and, when they asked, He taught the disciples how to pray by giving us what we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Matt 6) Why does it seem hard at times to even begin? What should a good Christian’s prayer life look like? At times I don’t even feel like a good Christian and feel like I can’t even get God’s attention. Books have been written on prayer, but when I think I should pray, I have things on my heart that make those books seem distant and kind of … not applicable in my situation.

So often I’ve found myself feeling unworthy and at a loss for words when I know there are things that only God can solve. When I think about some things that I need to leave with God, I know there are many unknowns about the situation that it is presumptuous for me to propose a solution that may be completely inappropriate. There are also things that are within my scope of responsibility but beyond my power to resolve.

Peter wrote (5:6-7) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the almighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Instead of continuing to own all of life’s issues, as we’ve been trained to do, we need to humble ourselves and place our anxieties at His feet. He tells us that He cares for us. Which of us, when a child asks for a piece of bread will give that child a stone? God cares for us as His children. He tells us to look at the flowers in the field and how they are adorned. Even Solomon in all his riches and royal attire was not dressed as well as the flowers in the field. Still, God loves us even more than the flowers in the field. He cares for us and wants us to give Him all our cares.

There was a religious man in the temple square speaking eloquently so that all could hear, “Thank God I’m not like these peasants and ne’er do wells.” Jesus calls our attention to a tax collector standing quietly in the corner of the temple square, beating his chest in agony, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18) This parable of Jesus is intended to show us that it is not fancy words, but a contrite spirit (as Peter wrote) that captures God’s attention and is forgiven.

There have been many times in my life that I just needed to share my heart with God. In one season, I was in the habit of clearing the passenger seat of my car of all papers, and use my commute time to talk with God who I invited to travel with me so that we could just talk. That proved to be a time when I learned to really give Him all my junk and express the true desires of my heart. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went alone in the garden, and asked the Father to let the burden of this crucifixion be done a different way, and to let Him escape it. He asked this, knowing full well that this moment was why He had come into our world and that this was the only way our sins could be covered. Jesus modeled baring His heart and soul in making the desires of His heart known to God, His Father. Paul wrote in the letter to the church at Philippi, “… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

Don’t over-complicate your prayers. Just sit down with God and speak to Him the desires of your heart. Some have envisioned the acronym ACTS as they think about prayer.

A – say a few words of Adoration from your heart to God, the Creator of all things. He is worthy of our praise. Look into some of the Psalms for some ideas of how to praise God our Father. Admire his creation if nothing else comes to mind.

C – one can’t help but come into the presence of the Almighty without Confessing our sins and shortcomings. We need to admit that we are sinful and need His forgiveness for our sins. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive those sins.

T – expressing Thanksgiving for the things in our lives that He has provided. Even when life is not going well, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” James wrote that we should consider it a joyful thing when we encounter various trials. He also wrote that every good and perfect gift is from above. So give thanks to the Father for His goodness to us.

S – we should offer prayers of Supplication. What is supplication? Well, it is asking for something humbly and leaning on the promises of God that He cares for us. Yes, it’s a 50 cent word but it completes the acronym with by telling us why we came here in the first place. This is the time to ask God for anything and everything that is on your heart. Christ did it and so should you.

Honestly, there are times when there simply isn’t time to go through all these steps. There are times when I’m talking with someone about something really important and I say a prayer asking God to guide my words so that they will honor Him. There are times when a situation is spiraling out of control that all we can do is cry for help. There are times when we lose someone we love dearly when we ask God for the comfort that only He can provide.

Prayer, the act of talking with God, helps us invoke a power beyond our own capabilities. The disciples were effectively praying when they awakened Jesus from His slumber in the middle of the storm, begging Him to help them. They had no idea that they would see the response they witnessed and the winds and the sea were stilled. When we pray we need to be ready for God to respond in ways we didn’t anticipate because He cares for us and loves us.

The letter to the church at Thessaloniki tells us to pray without ceasing. Live in an attitude of prayer. Let prayer become the lifeline for your courage and love for others. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1) I leave you with that same word.

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Breaking the Code v. 4

Often we invite people to church and want and expect that they’ll feel comfortable in this place where we go to worship as a body of believers.

I’ll never forget my friend Joe (not his name) who was having trouble in his home and Image result for worshipgenuinely looking for answers. So I invited him to come to church with us and he agreed that maybe he’d find something there that would comfort and calm his storm. We walked in together and found a seat. Everything was good. Then the music started and everyone stood up. One song after another and by the middle of the third song, Joe’s eyes were as big as a full moon and it was obvious that he had no idea what was going on. I had not done a good job of preparing Joe for what was going to happen. Joe gave it one more chance, but could not absorb a service clearly aimed at mature believers. To this day I pray that God will have used that experience for good in Joe’s journey.

We Christians have this thing we do that is called worship. But what is worship? The first usage of this term is found in Genesis 22 where Abraham took his son Isaac up to the mountain to worship. The word means to prostrate one’s self before a divine being, or in Abraham’s case, to submit himself to the will of God. Other implications include to give reverence to, to pay honor to, to bow down humbly. From these various phrases, we come to understand that when we worship, we are bowing our hearts to God’s holiness and majesty. From this, we see the attitude with which we gather together each week for worship.

Worship is more than just the musical portion of the service, yet we have “worship leaders/pastors” who lead only in the music intended for us to sing praises to the Lord our God. I have concerns about this being another area where our terminology is being holy-hijacked by a group of well-meaning people. The worship portion of the service has come to mean the singing of songs of praises to God. The Lord gave us His hymnal in the book of Psalms to show that He wanted us to sing to Him. He tells us to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth.” (Psalm 100:1) Many of the songs we sing today contain key phrases from these ancient Psalms.

In many churches, we continue our worship by remembering the work of Christ through His death and resurrection, in the act of communion. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 tells us, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Some churches celebrate communion every week, some monthly, and some quarterly. But nearly all Christian churches celebrate communion as a part of their worship.

Bringing our tithes and offerings is another part of our declaring His provision and goodness by returning a portion of the blessings He has given to us. Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. And in 1 Corinthians 16:2 we read, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” We make a statement of honor and reverence when we return to Him a portion of what He has provided for us.

Listening to the teaching of His word, the Bible is another part of our act of worship. Something that those who love God want to hear is what He has to say to us as recorded by those He chose to receive His words through His Spirit breathing out what they should write. 2 Timothy 3:16 assures us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Listening to the teaching of Scripture bends our heart and will to His commands and instruction.

The worship service was somewhat described in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In chapter 3 verse 16 he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” It is interesting to note that at the top of the list is the teaching of the word.

When you come to your next worship service keep in mind the many ways that we humble ourselves in reverence to our God. We submit to His word, we remember the work that Christ completed on the cross, we bring our tithes and offerings and we sing praises (most of us make a joyful noise) to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Psalm 95:6) If God is who we claim He is, He deserves our true worship, adoration, and obedience.

There are as many different styles of worship as there are churches. Find a church where the music connects your heart to God and the teaching stays true to the meaning of the Scriptures and focuses on pointing you to Jesus as the author and finisher of your faith.

Blessings!

Subtle Influences

C.S. Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letters, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Letter XII

Most of us have heard the term “slippery slope.” We hear it and, in today’s world, we Image result for discerningallow ourselves to become distracted because we know whatever follows is someone’s projection of imminent disaster at some future point in time. There are voices from all aspects of the political and sociological spectrum forecasting the demise of society as we know it resulting from an initial tiny step being approved today by some arm of our government. The fact that God is in control gives us great comfort, but we must also deal with the reality that He gives us great latitude in determining our own, and society’s, pace of ethical and moral decline. Refusal to acknowledge the broader and long term implications in favor of a short-term pain point or vocal minority viewpoint, has, over the years, led us to depart from God’s perspective in making our decisions.

Because of many of these decisions, the new reality of our world is that we live in a very different world than the one in which many of us grew up. Just yesterday, I was talking with family members about how life was when our daughters were growing up. And, yet, we wonder how we have arrived at the place in our world in which we now live. Why do we feel so much more insecure? We have just purchased cameras for the security of our home? Why are we becoming increasingly concerned about the worldview of our society? Our institutions of higher learning were once paragons of free speech and places where various worldviews could be openly discussed. Today, public speech on our campuses is limited to those who agree only with a narrow band of worldviews. Opinions arising from other worldviews are not given a voice.

During the days of the Revolutionary War, battles took place in an open field with opposing forces marching toward each other. Everyone knew who and where the enemy was. The Vietnam War was notable for the guerilla warfare that made the enemy less visibly identifiable. The enemy was not always uniformed military. During this war, the enemy took on the appearance of common citizens. More recently, wars are being waged against invisible networks of people inspired by ideologies that are spread transparently across the internet.

I was reading a pre-release copy of a book by Dr. Jeff Myers, “The Secret Battle of Ideas About God.” In his book, Dr. Myers compares the ideological battles of today to that of fighting a virus. Rather than debating specific ideologies, i.e., Islam, Mormonism, post-Christian society, et al, Christians today, must focus on being grounded in a system of truth against which to test all the random values and ideas that are surfaced by today’s various communications media.  These inputs can come in the form of commercials, news analysis, headlines, social media, and pronouncements made by high profile personalities. These are just a few. At least part of the danger lies in repeated intake of messages. Being constantly barraged with bad thinking based on invalid worldviews does have an effect.

These messages seep into the church. Our Christian friends repeat things they have heard, a pastor says something that sounds right but doesn’t really align with Scripture, a Bible Study leader offers an opinion that is counter to Scriptural truth, a church leans on its own tradition rather than what the Bible says, and down the road we go. Just because something goes viral in social media, doesn’t make it the truth. The slippery slope has begun. I was reading an interview with a former pastor who has been given a credible voice because he wrote a book containing a restatement of an old line of thinking that suggests all will go to heaven because God loves everyone. This interview focused on this man’s perspective on Scripture. He indeed has taken the next steps in the slippery slope created by his new truth system. His view of the Bible is that it is a collection of ideas that have been put together by several human writers, that lead us to think divine thoughts. Rubbish!

This is how we stray from the truth. When we declare that truth, as handed down by God Himself, is simply a collection of human ideas that leads us to think of God, we have no truth at all. We’ve begun to slide down the slippery slope. The virus gains a foothold into our immune systems. How can we reverse the slide or stop the viral infection? Is there an antidote?

Scripture attests to itself that “all scripture is God-breathed.” The Bible is a trustworthy foundation for our worldview. The antidote is to become familiar with its words and its teachings. If its teachings come from God, then nothing can overrule it. The Psalmist wrote, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

We need to store God’s words in our hearts so that we can fight off the infection of false teaching by recognizing it when it comes to our ears. False teachers will infiltrate even the most Christian environments. After listening to the Apostle Paul, the Bereans would go home and search the scriptures to see if what he said was true. We need to do the same so that we are able to fight off infectious viruses that make us spiritually sick.

Perhaps it is time for a good helping of spiritual food that will help us ward off viruses. Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” A good place to start.

Be well, friends.

Breaking the Code v. 3

What is grace? We have churches named Grace this and Grace that, yet many of the people inside have no idea what the name of the church refers to.

Image result for GraceA majority of the apostolic letters open with the words grace and peace to you and that greeting is ascribed to Jesus Christ our Lord. First, what is an apostolic letter and then, what is the meaning of the greeting?

An apostolic letter is a letter written by one of the Apostles (Paul, John, Peter, James, Jude) to the churches. These are letters that provided guidance to the churches that were formed as a result of the spread of the gospel through various means. Paul took the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles as far as his travels would carry him on three different missionary journeys. Over the course of time, the Apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote letters of encouragement and instruction to these new believers. Their teachings have become part of our Scriptures or the collection of books we call the Bible.

Regarding the greeting, going back to the original Greek language the word we interpret as grace is “chairo.” In a spiritual context, it means the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life of the recipient. The Greek language often expresses concepts rather than narrowly defined terms. With chairo we have implications of acceptance, benefit, favor, gift, grace, and joy.

Some have explained the “grace” of God by calling it unmerited favor. It was our ancestors who sinned in the Garden of Eden. But this didn’t catch God by surprise because He already had a plan. That plan was through His grace to provide a way for us to be in eternal relationship with Him. It is because of His grace that we are saved when we place our faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He did not have to do this, but by His benevolence (grace), He has extended to us the offer of salvation.

The popular song “Amazing Grace” really has it right when it says, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” This song, that once was a hymn sung only in churches, is known by the masses as a beautiful tune that can be sung with passion and great artistry. Yet the true meaning of the first few words is completely lost on most who would never otherwise refer to themselves as wretches. We are indeed unworthy of God’s grace.

In considering the grace of God and what it affords us, one can’t help but be amazed and broken of all our pride. If we are honest with ourselves, this grace is truly nothing we have deserved. In his letter to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). It is God’s favor made available to us for the simple act of placing all our faith, our confidence, our hopes for eternal life in the work of Jesus Christ. It is available to every human on this earth, regardless of their current belief system. That, in itself, is pretty amazing. That is not the way people would think without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Understanding the grace of God will bring us the peace of God, because by His grace we have confidence that God has a plan for us and this world (Jeremiah 29:11), a hope and confidence in our life beyond death’s door into eternal life with Him. That should give us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Two key passages on grace could be Ephesians 2:8-9 and Jude 4

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Jude 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designate for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

So, grace is an extension of God’s love for us, not conditioned on our good deeds or behavior. But that gift must not be distorted to claim freedom to indulge in perverted lifestyles that deny the teachings of Jesus. To claim this grace, we need only to place our faith in Jesus Christ as our only hope.

God’s grace is a significant topic, one one which stirred the reformation some 500 years ago. Much more could be said, but just a few nuggets for thought.

Breaking the Code v. 2

One of the things in the church that is not well understood by many people is baptism. Baptism is one of those acts that was modeled by Christ and commanded by Scripture.
Related imageAfter Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came down initially to the disciples and then to the church, the disciples were out preaching with Peter leading the way. All those in Jerusalem were hearing these men preach in their own language. In Acts 2:38, Peter preaching to thousands of people who were in awe that everyone was hearing in their own language when he said, “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.” He pled with them “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Baptism was modeled by Christ who was baptized by John the Baptist, as he began His ministry. It was important for Christ to be baptized. Luke recorded the event this way, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus was about 30 years old at that time. (Luke 3:21 ff)

In Acts 19:4 ff Paul was talking to some men in Ephesus. Luke writes, “And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

So, baptism is an outward demonstration of heart level repentance and identification with Christ. Even though Christ had nothing of which to repent, nor could baptism make Him any less sinful (He was without sin), He felt it was important to model the step for all of us. When speaking of baptism we talk of following Christ in baptism. In the process of inviting Christ into our hearts, we must, by definition, repent and turn from our former way of life and thinking. New believers have a desire to follow Christ and baptism is one of those outward statements true followers want to make to the world around them.

From the earliest days of the church, baptism has been a demonstration of a new life and an ordinance, like communion, that believers participate in to identify with their Lord and Savior. The acts of baptism and partaking of communion have no redemptive or cleansing power, but rather are outward demonstrations of what God has done in the heart. Remember, man looks on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Is baptism required for salvation?

A key scene in Scriptures (Luke 23:30-41) gives us great insight into this question. Christ was hanging on the cross and the thieves on either side engaged Jesus in conversation. One hurled insults at Jesus and chided Him, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The other admonished the first saying, “Don’t you fear God? … We are punished justly … this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Here we have the moment of truth for Christ’s presence here on earth. It is the ultimate act of sacrifice for which He came to earth. One man being crucified for his crimes recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah. Jesus, seeing the man’s heart, hears his confession and tells him that on that very day, they would be reunited in paradise (heaven). This man had no opportunity for baptism and Jesus, seeing his heart, welcomes him into the kingdom.  The Holy Spirit has seen to it that this crucial and sensitive moment, is recorded for us as an affirmation of John 3:16 which tells us that whoever believes in the Son of God, will be saved.

Baptism is taught in Scripture, yet it is practiced in many different ways. Some practice infant baptism, some sprinkle, and some immerse. The question becomes whether there is a right way and a wrong way.

Immersion is symbolic of being buried with Christ and raised again to walk as a new creation. While the Scriptures imply that people are being baptized in deep enough water to accommodate immersion, there is no specific teaching that immersion was the only method or the only acceptable method. Many churches that do not have baptistries sprinkle those desiring baptism. Here we must trust the Scriptures again and know that the Lord knows the heart of men, just as Christ knew the heart of the thief on the cross and affirmed they would see one another that same day in heaven.

Yes, churches will have Scripture to support their approach, but the one thing that remains is that baptism is universally seen as an affirmation of one’s faith. Some in the evangelical community baptize infants as identification with parents who are believers, much like circumcision was an identification for Israelite infants. Circumcision did not guarantee the child’s affinity to the faith. It was an identity with God’s chosen people. Since Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the law (circumcision) was replaced with grace (baptism) in its outward manifestation.

Baptism continues from the days of John the Baptist to represent repentance and forsaking our former ways of life. It has always represented a decision that could only be made by a person of sufficient age to consciously decide to follow Jesus.

This matter is treated much more extensively by theologians, but for our purposes here, we simply need to understand the teachings of Scripture.

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