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Tag: obedience

What Does The Baptism of Christ Mean?

Image sources: DesiringGod.org, Bonnellart.com. Artist: Daniel Bonnell

I was reading my Bible plan on youversion the other day when it led me to the baptism of Christ. I’d never thought much of the event before, but this time it stood out.

Why did Jesus submit to baptism? There are two parts to this answer we should explore: the role of baptism in Jewish life; and what baptism seems to represent in the New Testament Scripture. We will look only at the second for now.

Baptism represents several things. I believe that baptism is representative of repentance from sin, and it prepares our souls for public affiliation with Christ. But why would Christ himself need to be baptized? Is he not sinless? Is he not our master, the one by whom we are named? What is the significance of his act?

While thinking about this and reading a couple articles about this passage, I think that baptism is representative of work that is public and work that is private. Or maybe I’m more correct to say that Christ’s baptism reflected both private and public reality simultaneously. More than this, it referred to Christ’s present and future work, simultaneously.

In Matthew when Jesus says that his baptism fulfills all righteousness, that is a present reality. The reality of the death of Christ is already present to him and he is already working in the task he has been prepared for. It is like a war. When we speak of World War II, or Haiti’s War of Independence, we can think of it as a series of battles, but it is all one event historically. All of these events come together as a unified whole. This is how God sees the work of Christ. In submitting to baptism, Christ also indicates-privately since no one else has knowledge of the event at the time-his obedience to the Father’s plan for redemption of man. This is why He says He is well pleased with His Son. His Son has accepted the cross, and descending and ascending into and from the waters symbolizes his descent to and resurrection from death on the cross.

It is public because everyone witnesses these events. The completion and fulfillment of God’s plan is announced. But it is also indicative of future work. It points in human time to a future reality that will be fulfilled 3.5 years later at the conclusion of his public ministry. The baptism is a symbol that promises the completion of a future reality.

Therefore, the baptism is important because it is yet another testimony of God’s faithfulness to Himself and His promises. To Him, He has already completed His work in you, and your salvation and glorification is one complete and unified event. But he is also promising the fulfillment of a future reality. That you will be presented along with His Son faultless before the throne. It is private because your baptism indicates your obedient acceptance and participation in His plan. But it is public because you declare your identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Present and future, public and private.

Peace and blessings.

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Henri Nouwen on Obedience

To be obedient means to be constantly attentive to this active presence and to allow God, who is only love, to be the source as well as the goal of all we think, say, and do.

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction (2006)

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Count Not Just the Cost, But Also The Worth

We have been writing Lenten devotionals in our church’s Foreign Missions Ministry. This post was originally written to be published on our minstry’s blog, but it was not required. I think that I’d like to share it with you all on my personal blog, so here goes…

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 14:28-33

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?    For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,    saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?    If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.    In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

During my discipleship class this week, we were discussing this passage. If you turn to Luke 14 in your Bible, and start reading from verse 25, you will see that Jesus had been followed by very large crowds. Seeing the condition of their (and our) hearts, He says to them “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.    And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” These are probably among the most famous words in the Bible. Jesus is clearly telling us that it will cost us everything to follow Him.

But this time, reading this passage, I couldn’t help feeling that we were missing something.

I think that Jesus knew we’d miss the point, so He uses a parable to explain why it is that it is worth giving up everything.  This pair of parables is our Scripture focus today.  First, Jesus compares to a builder who “estimates the cost” of his building and evaluates the plans that have been established. Second, Jesus compares to a king who is about to go to war and considers “whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand.” This is strikingly different than what Jesus says above in that we must “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters…” How does the “hate” meet up with “estimate the cost.”

I believe Jesus uses these parables to show us that our focus should not be on what we are losing, but what we are gaining! The point is not to fail to build the house, but to make sure your secure the mortgage before you start! The point is not to stay home from war, but to make sure you have 20,000 troops or alliances that will protect you!

So, what am I saying. Why does God tell us count the cost? Because we are to clearly see that God’s life, and life with God is much more valuable than anything that we currently have.  This is the goal. And anything less than life with God is like building on a foundation without securing the mortgage. Living this life without rebirth in Jesus is like us in our will and wisdom (10,000 men) going up against God and His holiness in eternity (20,000 men).  The foolishness of this task is just as clear as the folly shown by the foolish builder or the foolish king. This foolishness is compounded by the fact that the solution is simple in both cases.  Consider buying a home: very few of us have the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars required to build a home. However, the value of home ownership for building wealth is worth so much to many people in our culture that we see clearly the advantage of committing to a debt greater than a substantial part of our financial worth in order to pursue the vision of homeownership. While many of us will spend the majority of our working adult lives paying down our mortgages, it is not seen as a sacrifice at all.  Consider the king going to war. If one can’t defeat his adversary, he goes to him and makes terms of peace. One will have to give up his autonomy and live under the King’s authority, but it is infinitely worth it. If we make peace with God, we will be part of His Kingdom!

Of course, to make peace with God, we must give up everything that we have (v. 33). But, in view of the alternatives, this is not a sacrifice at all! We are the opposing king who has just been made an ally in the most powerful kingdom in all eternity!

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don’t be ridiculous… don’t waste your life

I was listening to TD Jakes this morning with my wife while preparing for my trip to Australia. He was preaching from the story of David and Goliath, specifically the part of the account when Eliab, David’s brother, rebukes him for urging the men to fight against the undefeated Philistine champion.

Although I thought I’d heard this story before, I was totally unprepared for the sermon that followed. Bishop Jakes asked his congregation, “Is there not a cause?” I suppose this question came from his observation that, as David pointed out, Israel’s armies were the army of the Most High God and this ‘uncircumcised Philistine’ was taunting and mocking him. No matter how great a champion, God will not allow His name to be profaned, and He would protect any warrior who confronted the giant on His behalf. Clearly, this was a cause worth fighting for.

Instead, the armies of Israel considered God as one who would not look out for His name, and the soldiers decided to look out for themselves. Not even God Almighty was a cause large enough for them to seek God’s glory and not their own.

So, TD Jakes confronts us the same way. Is there not a cause that urges us to interests other than our own aggrandizement? Whom are we living for? Are we growing fat on God’s blessings? Are we calling God a liar when He assures us protection if we take risks for the Name?

It was a difficult sermon for me to hear, because even in the small things, I am living for myself. When you think about it, that is a truly ridiculous way to live, but I can’t seem to shake it. I want to live for others, but I find it difficult to discipline myself to look after the needs of others first. Lord, do I need the grace to make that transformation, before I’ve been disqualified for everything God wants me to do. I know that I’ve probably disqualified myself from some things through disobedience, but I hope I can change and be changed before my youth and my life is wasted.

I am not quite sure how to end this post. Let me do so by asking you to pray for me in this regard, and if you would like prayer from me, just let me know in the comments.

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When you want wine, just draw the water

Reading the Bible, we are sometimes separated from the often truly ridiculous things Jesus did and asked of His disciples. Often, to show reverence, we more politely call his methods “unorthodox” or out-of-the-box, but most of the time “ridiculous” is the correct word.

Maybe the religious among us would like to say that Jesus only challenged the social and cultural authorities, but the truth is that he sometimes challenges the fundamental way ordinary folks think the world is operating. The wedding feast is one of those times. Consider the following passage: (John 2:1-11, ESV)

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

This is a very familiar passage, but it is profound how Jesus does not do anything in this miracle except issue remarkable instructions and “rely” on the servants’ obedience. The obvious problem at hand is that there is no more wine during a wedding feast. Now, Jesus’ mother knew her son well enough that she knew it was appropriate to ask a resolution of him, and the servants must have thought the command to fill the cisterns with water was reasonable enough. But when was Jesus going to touch or bless the wine? Surely they expected something like that next.

But what happens is Jesus instructs them to take the master a drink. Somewhere between filling the cisterns and the master tasting it, the water became wine. But exactly when did the water turn to wine? If it was while the drink was being ported, imagine how incredulous the servant carrying the cup of water would have been.  Now perhaps the original Greek makes the timing of the transformation more apparent to the reader, but in English, it is not at all clear when, exactly, the water was transformed into wine.  I, for one, would have loved to see a footnote from the servant who carried the water explaining exactly what he was thinking at that moment.  Imagine being in the early churches hearing this account read aloud, and being the elderly servant who remembered this episode in his youth.  What would he have told the church?  What would his anecdote have been? When I read this, I couldn’t help but think about the impossible situations many of us face every day where a resolution is not in view, and we can’t see when they will turn for the better.

At any rate, the foci of the parable are the mother’s faith and the obedience of the servants, despite how extraordinary his command seemed.  Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast…

I keep being drawn to the fact that Jesus does not do anything other than expect the obedience of the servants in this event. Its as if the point of this story is to illustrate how God is glorified in our obedience. Sometimes in our lives we want confirmation of God’s empathy in His tangible interventions before we are willing to take a risk.  This account says, though, that this sign manifested his glory.  One may conclude that Jesus’ glory was manifested among the servants who had drawn the water [and all whom the servants told] once they had decided to obey such an outlandish command.  Often times in our modern, evidence-based culture, we want to wait for God to act.  Perhaps we should focus on obedience and let God perform the result.

Maybe when we want wine, we should just draw the water.
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