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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

petrus-venter-baptism.jpgHere’s an awkward scene: Two pastors in shorts, kneeling down in a hot tub in front of the congregation, holding a member of the church by the back in preparation for baptism. The recipient of baptism’s testimony has been read and now sits waiting to be immersed, arms folded, nose plugged. The lead pastor declares, “We now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” and leans the member backward into the water.

Nothing awkward about that? Hold your breath.

What should take only moments stretches into seconds as the recipient of baptism fails to emerge from the water. Are the pastors holding him under? Is he unconscious? Seconds stretch to a minute, and then a few minutes more. The pastors wrench the body of their church member from the water, lifeless. This public proclamation of faith in Jesus has turned into a funeral. How did this happen?

This Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I pause to mourn the absence of His resurrection from churches across America for the remaining 364 days of the year.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are are vitally important to the believer because of the believer’s spiritual union with Him. By faith His perfect righteousness is credited to us. By faith our sin is credited to Him on the cross, drinking dry the cup of God’s wrath (Matt 26:39). And by faith we are born again, being joined to Him in His resurrection. All three elements are vital, but the resurrection of Jesus is most important because it completes the picture. His resurrection is the period at the end of the sentence. His resurrection seals the victory over death (1 Cor 15:55), and ensures His eventual return in victory (Matt 26:64). As the Scriptures say:

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4)

But when countless professing Christians want to claim the benefit of Christ’s perfect obedience and death for the forgiveness of their sins, and walk in darkness UNLIKE the manner of His resurrection, I am grieved. Those who want the benefit of Christ’s work without being born again (John 3:3,7) and repenting from sin deny the fullness of God’s work. Those who seek Jesus for food (John 6) and not for regeneration draw a picture of baptism in which the recipient of baptism never emerges from the water.

The nature of God’s work is that He glorifies Himself by seeing what He starts to completion:

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Without the resurrection, there is no new birth (Rom 6:4). Without the new birth, there is no eternal life (John 3:3,7).

Which picture of baptism best suits yo?. Do you claim to benefit from Christ’s perfect life and death? Are you born again? There is no ther way to the Father than through the Son, and if you would have the Son you must have Him completely.

drowningivy.jpgIs there a turning from sin in your life? Can you lay claim to being pulled from the waters of baptism? or does your embrace of sin leave you yet in the grave? Have you turned from your sin or are you still powerless to effect real change? Are you trying to steal God’s favor without submitting to His demands? An unchanged life betrays and unregenerate heart. You cannot take from God, you must submit yourself to him in honor of what is right; that your Creator calls you to be reconciled to Him through the blood of His Son. The power for your liberation lies in your union with His resurrection! Come to Him in faith, laying your sin at the foot of the cross, and find new life at the mouth of the empty tomb!

You can come out of the water now. He is risen indeed!

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Something just doesn’t add up.

As I have mentioned before, my job has taken me into a lot of churches. I could probably bore you for hours about experiences and encounters I had in these various churches. Some of the stories are interesting simply because they occurred in a church. Ironically, some very un-Christian behavior occurs inside churches. Truly, if I compiled a list of the top ten meanest people I’ve met in sales, five would be from churches. Sad but true.

Some of the stories involve the strange or extremely un-Biblical things I’ve heard people say in churches. Some would just involve things I’ve seen. For example, apparently John the Baptist practiced baptism by sprinkling and not immersion. A mural I saw at a Lutheran church proves it!

T his week I saw something that really grabbed my eye. Walking up to the front door of this church, I glanced at the brick paving stones that lined the sidewalk. Churches often have these brick engraved with various names of church-members or donors or slogans or whatever. But one particular engraving grabbed my eye. It read:

“FAITH + WORKS + ALIVE” followed by some initials.

Well there you have it. My pastor had just spent the last two Sunday mornings preaching on the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith….ALONE. Martin Luther said that the doctrine of justification by faith was “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” I agree with both of them. So what does the Scripture say?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

and,

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Romans 4:4-5)

and,

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

Good works, to the shock of many, have nothing to do with salvation. Why?

“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)

There will be no high-fiving or handshakes in heaven. there will be bowing and praising and singing to God, but there will be no chants of “We did it!” God, in Christ, is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:12).

No doubt this brick engraving refers to James 2:17 (“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”) and/or James 2:26, which says basically the same thing. Both verses have been historically abused by the Catholic church to prove to protestants that our salvation is based in part on our merit. Pile up good works, don’t commit mortal sin, do your time in purgatory, and you’re in. This has also become the teaching in the major denominations (like the United Methodist church where I saw this brick) once they gave into to the corruption of liberalism.

James 2:17, 26 do not teach that works added to faith equal salvation. The very example used, Abraham, pictures a time when Abraham had ALREADY been considered righteous for his faith. His works were the PROOF, not the grounds of his salvation.

But the war machine of heresy trudges on. Sinners refuse to admit that they can’t please God. God has allowed their salvation on the ground of faith in the FINISHED work of Christ. He perfectly obeyed God’s law, died as a criminal in our place on the cross, and rose from the dead. By faith we are united with His life, death, and resurrection.

To bring our works to the table, is to come to the back door of a man’s house for dinner, covered in the blood of His freshly murdered Son, and expect to get in because we came with a check for $150. What will the Man of the House say?

He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Sometimes FAITH + WORKS = DEAD.

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