Thursday, September 12, 2013
Today’s Topic: Are We Living In Disobedience?
Today’s Text: Acts 16:31-34 (ESV) And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
On Tuesday morning I had breakfast with a post-graduate student who is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Brought up in a works and sacraments based religious system, she had discovered the truth of faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation from sin through a connection with fellow students involved in a faith-based campus ministry.
The reason we were meeting was to discuss baptism – true biblical baptism by immersion as a public testimony to one’s saving faith in Jesus Christ. As I listened intently to her testimony of faith, I interrupted her as I wiped tears of joy from my eyes. I asked her why she had not been baptized sooner. Her simple reply revealed something to me that I want to address today. She said, “Because it was never taught as a part of my discipleship training.”
As we talked more the joy of what God was doing in her life now overcame my initial reaction to what she said. But as the hours went by after the meeting, it began to weigh on my heart. Why would we in the so-called “modern” church age de-emphasize the fundamental command of Jesus for all disciples to be baptized? What do we believe He meant when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you?” How can we teach them to observe all the commands of Jesus when we ignore the first command of discipleship that He gave?
Throughout the New Testament, without any confusion of the truth of salvation by faith alone without any works of man or any sacrament of the church, people who were saved were baptized, and it happened as soon after their salvation as possible. Let’s be very clear – baptism does not and cannot save anyone from their sin, at any age. But let’s also be clear about this truth – baptism is a command of God to be celebrated and experienced as a part of the salvation experience, and disobedience limits the potential for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, just as any disobedience to God will do.
I believe that the church has de-emphasized the importance of baptism as a result of cultural pressure to be more accepting of everyone’s personally selected belief system. Someone, in some religious system eons ago, decided that baptism wasn’t important, or that it was erroneously granted the status of being a means of receiving the grace of forgiveness. As well-intentioned people continued to live public lives of faith, personal experience was elevated to a place of priority over the command of Jesus. The church began to accept disobedience as “normal” because other areas of people’s lives didn’t appear to be all that bad of an attempt to be Godly. I’ve known dozens of people – maybe hundreds – who I will see in heaven who have never been baptized by immersion as a testimony of their personal faith in Jesus Christ . But the truth is that every one of those people, whether living in ignorance of the truth or not, has been living in disobedience. (Keep reading please before you get angry…)
Again, to clarify, I have been baptized and I live in disobedience at times as well. I do not always obey everything Jesus said. The point is not to condemn one area of disobedience as more significant than any other, but to be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When I sin through willful disobedience, I hear the Holy Spirit convicting me. I know I must repent and turn from that disobedience. Only then will the fullness of the Holy Spirit be restored to my life. Only in obedience can we have intimate fellowship with our one and only Holy Father in heaven.
The same is true about baptism. It is only in obedience and in accordance with God’s truth in Jesus Christ that we can have a complete and full relationship with God. Can we be saved without baptism? ABSOLUTELY. Can we be all that God intends us to be without obedience? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
On Sunday, September 29th, right after church, no matter how cold it is, I will be baptizing this young woman in the Chippewa River. She is excited. I am thrilled. She is in obedience to Christ by being publicly baptized by immersion as a testimony of her saving faith in Jesus Christ. I am in obedience by baptizing her as a part of her discipleship. Maybe you want to join us and be obedient to Christ as well.