Monthly Archives: September 2019

September 30; Baptized With The Spirit

Matthew 2:1-23, 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 2:41-52, 3:1-20; John 1:1-18

John baptized with water for repentance. But he was always quick to say One greater than he would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The thing about saying baptism saves, or repeating a prayer saves is that it gives people a false sense of security. The Jews thought they had an in because they were circumcised. But the Bible clearly teaches nothing we do can save us. Not surgery, not a dip in the pool, and not even saying a prayer can save anyone.

What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Many people point to the dramatic initial coming of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the book of Acts, and say that receiving the Holy Spirit is accompanied by euphoric babble. (which is not at all what we see in Acts) There are many examples in the New Testament of quiet humility in response to God’s grace.

I was appalled when I Googled “receive the Holy Spirit,” and found dozens of books written on the topic: “How To Receive the Holy Spirit.” As if there is something we can do to force God’s hand, or demand that He give us the gift. Friend, put those books down.

Salvation comes when we repent of sin, turn from sin, and ask God to forgive us. The Holy Spirit is given to us the moment we accept Jesus as the Savior. You can’t separate the Trinity. Paul in I Corinthians 12, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1 makes it clear that if a person doesn’t possess the Spirit, he doesn’t belong to Christ; that when we believed we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. There is no indication that a person is saved, then receives the Spirit after jumping through some hoops.

I’ve always bristled when anyone talked about “true” Christianity, or people who are “really saved.” I found that to be judgmental. After all, how can we know a person’s heart?

Well, I am beginning to realize my non-judgmental take on salvation is not Biblical. God through His Word, is showing me I not only can, but I need to recognize what is true and what is false in my own life, and in the lives of those around me. John said to the crowd, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8a) It wasn’t a suggestion.

How often did Jesus call people out for being hypocritical? How many verses can you find where Paul insists that the way we live is a direct result of our relationship with God? James went as far as to say, “faith without works is dead.”

If we receive the Holy Spirit when we repent of sin and accept God’s gift of grace through the blood of Jesus, then God Himself lives in us. Our lives have to look different than they did before that happened. They have to.

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit produces fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.

Notice Paul says “fruit” not “fruits.” All these things listed above are a direct result of having the Spirit in us, being baptized with the Holy Spirit. All of them.

So, am I saying if a person is kind or patient, but isn’t gentle and self controlled he’s not filled with the Spirit, and therefore not a Christian?

I’m not saying that. But I’m beginning to think God is.

September 29; God Speaks

Matthew 1; Luke 2:21-40, 3:23-38

I’ve heard it said that, of course Joseph believed his fiancé was carrying God’s child. An angel appeared to him and told him about it. Who wouldn’t believe if God sent angels to us like that?

It’s true Joseph believed the baby was the Son of God after that dramatic encounter with the angel. But it occurred to me that Simeon recognized who Jesus was without an angel introducing them. Anna believed Jesus was the Messiah, and I don’t read anything about an angel visit her, either. Simeon and Anna believed the moment they met Jesus.

We have something more wonderful than mere angels relaying messages from God today. We who have accepted His grace, have God Himself living in us. We don’t need to hear from a third party, even one as glorious as an angel, to receive God’s message. He Himself wrote us a love letter, telling us everything we need to know for this life and eternity. We can read His heart any time of the day or night in the pages of Scripture.

Meeting Jesus through the pages of His Holy Word results in the same realization as we see in Simeon and Anna. Jesus is God. He is the Messiah. He is my Savior, and yours. Some people will reject the Truth. But they cannot deny the Truth forever.

God speaks through Scripture. Are you listening?

 

September 28; How Old Is Too Old?

Luke 1

Elizabeth was barren. She and her husband, Zechariah, longed for children. But year after year after year Elizabeth did not conceive. Some who have studied her life believe she could have been as old as 80 when the angel appeared to Zechariah and promised they would have a baby boy. The only thing I know for sure is that she was “well along in years,” (vs 18) and the angel told Mary that Elizabeth was going to have a child “in her old age.” (vs 36)

So, when most women her age were bouncing their great-grandchildren on their knees, Elizabeth very well could have been experiencing morning sickness and swollen ankles. But her pregnancy was a miracle, a long awaited miracle, and I believe Elizabeth probably loved every minute of it.

God asked Elizabeth to give birth to and raise one of the most recognizable, significant men in the Bible. John the Baptist would herald in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus! In fact, John announced Jesus’ arrival even while he was still in Elizabeth’s womb!

Yes, Elizabeth was old. Really old. But God had a job for her to do, and she did it seemingly without whining about it. I think there’s a lesson here.

Let’s not let age determine your faithfulness to serving God in whatever way He asks. When He lays an opportunity at our doorstep, when He nudges our hearts, let’s not sit back and think, “I’m too old.” If God wants us to serve Him, He’ll give us exactly what we need to serve Him.

After all, like the angel told Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” Even using us who have been around the sun a few dozen times. How old is too old? I’m thinking there’s no such thing.

September 27; How?

Joel 3; Malachi 1-4

I don’t know about you, but reading Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Every time God says something, the people question Him. It almost seems like they are insisting God defend His position against them. Just the thought of demanding God explain Himself makes me feel uncomfortable.

But it must not have bothered Israel at the time. God told them He had loved them. “How?” they asked. God told them they were showing contempt for Him. “How?” they asked. And when God said they’d shown contempt by offering defiled food on the altar, the Israelites asked, “How?”

Oh, it doesn’t even end there. The Israelites questioned God when He told them to return to Him, and when He accused them of robbing Him. “How are we to return?” “How do we rob You?”

I might talk like that to a co-worker. It’s doubtful I’d talk like that to an employer. I’m pretty sure I’d never talk like that to my dad. But I can’t even imagine a time when I would be so arrogant to talk like that to a Holy God.

That’s not to say I don’t have questions once in a while. I noticed two key verses in Malachi that tell me how to handle my questions.

(3:7) “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

(4:4) Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

If I want to know how I’ve offended God, how I’ve disobeyed, and how I’ve grieved Him; if I want to know what sin is I need look no further than Scripture. Every answer to every question is lovingly written there by God Himself.

So after reading Malachi today, I realize the only “How” I want to come out of my mouth when talking to my Lord is the one followed by, “…can I serve You?”

September 26; It’s Sin

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Sometimes when we read God’s Word we tend to think, “this account was written to people long ago,” or “this one is about things in the future,” and we neglect to realize God is able to speak to us concerning our lives in 2019 through every word He inspired men to write in Scripture.

I have to confess I was reading Joel this morning trying to put the prophet’s words into either the past category, or the future category. It was a bit frustrating. Now, I’m not saying Joel wasn’t speaking about historical events, or events that had not yet happened when the prophet allowed God to use his pen to write His words. But my prayer every day is that God would speak to me, too, through His Word about my walk with Him. And He always answers that prayer.

So I started to read it again, and in verse 2 God seemed to ask me, “Has anything like this happened to you?”

“Like what?” I thought. “Locusts?” God prompted me to think again.

Verse 4 stood out as a picture of devastation. One bad thing happened, then another, and another. Has anything like that ever happened to me? Have I felt at a loss with nowhere to turn, crushed by life’s hardships?

Yes. Who hasn’t at one time or another? “Then read on,” God seemed to say. “Wake up and weep, you sinner. Sin has invaded your life.”

“Now wait a minute,” I argued. “I’ve repented of sin. You promised to forgive me. I am wearing Jesus’ righteousness. What sin are you talking about?”

As I continued to read I saw that sin has invaded God’s creation. At prayer meeting last night, someone prayed that God would shatter the teeth of Satan, and here in verse 6 God reenforces that idea by saying the enemy, sin, has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It is sin that has destroyed what God created as good. It is sin that brings the heartache and loss. Sometimes we experience the consequences for our own sin, but sometimes we are hurt as a result of living in a fallen, sinful world. It’s my sin, your sin, the sins of the world.

God seems to be saying, “Wake up! Call sin sin. Identify the enemy. Don’t pretend it isn’t there.”

“So,” I think, “Social reform isn’t the answer? Tolerance isn’t going to bring peace?”

“Exactly,” He seemed to say. “Sin has taken the joy of mankind.”

“So, what is the answer, Lord? Where do we find that joy again?”

I read words like mourn, grieve, despair, wail. And I ask myself if I am truly broken over sin in the world, and in my own life. Am I truly grieving the state of hearts that are dried up, withered, ruined because of sin?

Then in verse 13 God says, “Come.” He asks us to fast and pray, go to church and cry out to God. To turn to Him to come and heal our land, which is really the lives of people in our families, and communities, and the world.

“Heal our parched and worthless lives God, when we turn to You according to Your Word,” I pray. “To you, O Lord, I call, for sin has devoured our hearts, sin has burned up all the good You created. We, Your creation, pant for you. You alone are the answer.”

It’s not about luck, or Karma, or positive thinking, or tolerance. It’s sin that is the problem, and the repenting of sin that is the answer. It is sin that causes all the bad, and only through the blood of Jesus can there be any hope of anything good.

We have got to stop playing around with sin. It is the enemy. It is the cause of all the bad that happens in this world. And God, through Jesus, has destroyed sin’s hold over us. We just need to turn to Him according to His Word.

So today, God has brought some personal sins to mind, and I have repented. I want my heart to be fed and nourished by the living water that is Jesus. And God has challenged me to stand up for what I know is true according to His Word. I don’t want to take lightly the very thing that is destroying the people I love and the world God created.

It’s not God that is causing bad things to happen. It’s sin. It’s not God that is to blame for hardship and loss. It’s sin. My sin. And yours. What are we going to do about that?

 

September 25; Gatekeepers

I Chronicles 9:1-34; Nehemiah 12:1-47

Do you have gatekeepers at your church? Some churches hire uniformed police to be a presence during worship services, a sad commentary on our society, but a sight that may be more common in the future.

But the gatekeepers we read about in I Chronicles weren’t that kind of protectors. They had the enormous responsibility of guarding the things of God. Someone was on duty every hour of every day, making sure the holy things were not compromised.

So who is guarding the things of God in your fellowship? I’m not talking about guarding the gold candlesticks or the stained glass windows. I’m talking about Truth, the Gospel, God’s Holy Word. Who is making sure Satan cannot gain entrance into your fellowship?

Who holds your pastors and teachers accountable for teaching according to Scripture? Who address sin in a scriptural fashion, holding your members accountable for their actions?

All of us should be gatekeepers. We need to be protecting the things of God as earnestly as the gatekeepers we read about in I Chronicles. We possess a priceless treasure – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s protect it with our lives.

September 24; Keep It Going

Nehemiah 9:38-11:36

The people we read about in the book of Nehemiah weren’t satisfied with building the wall, then putting their feet up and relaxing. What we read in these chapters is their determination to serve the Lord after the job of repairing the wall was complete.

And once again, we see many people chipping in and contributing to the work. They even organized a schedule for people to provide the wood needed for the burnt sacrifices. No detail was too small. They had worked on their individual sections of the wall until it was complete. Now they were going to take on individual responsibilities to keep God’s work going.

Yes, Church. That’s a picture of us, or it should be. Are you doing your part, or are you allowing a faithful few to pull the weight of ministry in your fellowship? You and I are needed to further the Gospel through the body of believers with whom we worship. God has commanded us to go into our communities to tell people about Jesus, and to make disciples. Churches have been doing that work for 2,000 years. Will we keep it going?