Sunday, November 4, 2018

Lord's Day 27

Thoughts on Devotions – LD27

Q. 72 Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins? Q. 73 Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the water of rebirth and the washing away of sins? Q. 74 Should infants also be baptized?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “Vivacious Baby-Baptizing.” He says that, “One of the best things I get to do as a pastor is to administer the sacrament of infant baptism to the covenant children in my congregation. Before each baptism, I take a few minutes to explain why we practice infant baptism in our church. My explanation usually goes something like this: It is our great privilege this morning to administer the sacrament of baptism to one of our little infants. We do not believe that there is anything magical about the water we apply to the child. The water does not wash away original sin or save the child. We do not presume that this child is regenerate, nor do we believe that every child who gets baptized will automatically go to heaven. We baptize infants not out of superstition or tradition or because we like cute babies. We baptize infants because they are covenant children and should receive the sign of the covenant.”

Monday: Bible-believing, creed professing Christians may differ in what they believe about baptism. Some hold to paedobaptism (baptism of children) while others hold to credobaptism (believer's baptism). Some sprinkle water, while others immerse. What Christians do agree on is that baptism itself does not wash away sins. Baptism is the visible sign of an invisible reality – that Jesus blood, shed on the cross, is able to wash his people of their sins. The Holy Spirit works in a person's heart to regenerate them (bring them back to spiritual life!) so that they can trust Jesus. The Spirit applies the blood of Christ to cleanse the believer or sin.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 Thess. 1:4-5a We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, in that our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction

Tuesday: The Holy Spirit spiritually resurrects a person – they were dead in trespasses and are made alive, putting their faith in Jesus Christ and their sins are washed away. Baptism is a “picture” of what is happening inside the person. Sometimes Scripture verses might sound like baptism itself is doing the washing – for example, Ananias told Paul to “rise and be baptized and wash away your sins.” Baptism is such a clear picture of what happens that it can be used in this literary way. In another place, after hearing Peter's preaching a group of people profess faith and Peter calls for them to be baptized immediately. The Holy Spirit gives faith and sins are forgiven – baptism is then applied as an assurance of God's promise of saving grace.
Titus 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
Acts 10:42-48 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.

Wednesday: Paul met people in Ephesus who had been baptized into “John's baptism” for repentance. He explained to them that John had prepared the way for Jesus, and explained to them the Gospel – they were then baptized again in the name of the Lord Jesus. Baptism by itself, even to show repentance, is not enough – forgiveness of sins requires faith in Christ.
Acts 19:1-6 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there and said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul said, “Into what then were you baptized?” “Into Johnʼs baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.

Thursday: Israel, as described in the Old Testament, had a special relation relationship with God. God bound himself to them by making a covenant, and people used the physical sign of circumcision to show that they associated themselves with those in covenant with God. Circumcision did not “save” people it only commemorated God's covenant promise and obligations to be God's people. In the Great Commission Jesus commanded his disciples to take the Gospel to all people – there was no longer a special national distinction – and they were to apply the mark of baptism to designate those included in the covenant.
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight - the only thing that matters is faith working through love.
Romans 10:11-13 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
1 Cor. 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

Friday: Paul contrasted physical circumcision and circumcision of the heart, which is true circumcision. He describes this as “putting off the body of flesh” and putting to death the “old self” that loved sin. He also talked about being buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him through faith – an indication that sin no longer had power over a Christian in the same way that it once had. Baptism, the sign of the new covenant, in that way signifies a greater fulfillment of God's promises.
Colossians 2:11-14 In him you also were circumcised - not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

Saturday: Some Christians believe that only believers should be baptized, as a sign of professed sin and accomplished forgiveness. Others who equate baptism as a sign of the better covenant in the New Testament and believe that it should be applied to children, just as the Old Testament sign of circumcision was. Whatever practice is followed, it is clear that the sign is an acknowledgment of God's promise that he is gathering a people to himself based on trust in Christ's sacrifice for the washing away of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit for regeneration to new life.
Acts 2:38-41 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.

* The comments above are based on the book, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, by Starr Meade

Reading between the lines...

We are more often prone to speaking instead of listening. We have ears, but do we have ears to hear? Moses describes the Israelites as having hard hearts, blind eyes and deaf ears. This is the natural state of fallen humanity - spiritually speaking a greater disability than someone like Helen Keller (physical blindness and deafness). What hope do we have? Deut. 30 speaks of divine heart surgery. Somehow God breaks through so the deaf and hardhearted can hear – but it is always God breaking through. Without His revelation we grope in the dark. Isaiah also uses an interplay of heart, ear and eye in describing people's rebellion against God. If we are set against God we are not receptive, and his Word will actually further harden our heart. We need to be made into people who will hear and see and receive the Word. Isaiah talks about a time of salvation when people will have new hearts, and then we are able to hear God's Word – he calls us to give full attention. When Jesus comes to his people he has the same teaching – in the parable of the four soils in which he also says “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Jesus makes the same point – simply having ears does not mean listening; listening does not mean hearing; being in the audience does not mean receiving Christ's word. Receive God's Gospel Word when it is proclaimed.
Deuteronomy 29:2-4 Moses proclaimed to all Israel as follows: “You have seen all that the Lord did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, all his servants, and his land. Your eyes have seen the great judgments, those signs and mighty wonders. But to this very day the Lord has not given you an understanding mind, perceptive eyes, or discerning ears!
Deut. 30:6 The Lord your God will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your mind and being and so that you may live.
Isaiah 6:9-10 The Lord your God will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your mind and being and so that you may live.
Isaiah 55:2-4 Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?
Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing! Enjoy fine food! Pay attention and come to me! Listen, so you can live! Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, just like the eliable covenantal promises I made to David. Look, I made him a witness to nations, a ruler and commander of nations.”
Mark 4:3-9 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. When the sun came up it was scorched, and because it did not have sufficient root, it withered. Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked it, and it did not produce grain. But other seed fell on good soil and produced grain, sprouting and growing; some yielded thirty times as much, some sixty, and some a hundred times.” And he said, “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”
Romans 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

The parable of the sower: 4 types of soil, 4 responses by the seed; 4 types of people, 4 responses to the Word of God. First, the seed is “fallen by the wayside.” The seed falls on hard, unyielding soil and the birds/Satan snatches it away. The gospel is not always on offer and if you don't receive it, it may be snatched away. Satan is found “pecking at” the Word where it is preached. He asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say...?” and continues to distort the preaching and attacking listeners. Second, seed on rocky soil sprouts quickly but withers in difficult situations. Initial joy in the Gospel is not a guarantee of conversion. The third soil is “thorny.” The thorns are ordinary things: worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth and desire for things. The fourth soil is good and the seed produces a crop. It is straightforward – hear the Word, receive it, accept and you will have an abundant Christian walk. “Make room for the Word to do what the Word does and it will create life.” Do you think that making room for the Word of God can have this effect in your life? From an earthly perspective it does not seem likely to have such great effect, but that is the mystery and promise of the Gospel to transform lives. If it finds good soil, in time it will produce a bumper crop.
Mark 4:1-9 Again he began to teach by the lake. Such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there while the whole crowd was on the shore by the lake. He taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. When the sun came up it was scorched, and because it did not have sufficient root, it withered. Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked it, and it did not produce grain. But other seed fell on good soil and produced grain, sprouting and growing; some yielded thirty times as much, some sixty, and some a hundred times.” And he said, “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”
John 15:7-8 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.

Where in the Bible does it say “Give your life to God”? Paul, in the letter to the Romans says this, but it is clear that these statements are directed to people who are already Christians. Christ gave himself for us – only on that basis can we come to God. Giving ourselves to God has nothing to do with our salvation; it is a response of thankfulness for the gift of salvation he has given. In the parables of the treasure hidden in the field or of the pearl of great price, the explanation is often given that the treasure is Christ, passive and waiting to be found, while the merchant is us, active spiritual seekers willing to sell everything to gain Jesus. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of what these stories are saying. God's people often are described as a described as a treasure, and in all of the other parables in Matthew “the man” character is Christ while we are described as passive objects (e.g., soils). All the parables are about Christ seeking and saving us. Given that the obvious interpretation is that Christ gives everything to purchase the world to gain us, the church. Yes, we do belong to God, but it is only because he has sought us, given all to purchase his bride and bring us into his family.
Romans 6:13-14 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice - alive, holy, and pleasing to God - which is your reasonable service.
Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
Exodus 19:5-6 And now, if you will diligently listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the nations, for all the earth is mine, and you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.ʼ
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
1 John 4:19 We love because he loved us first.

John the baptist was the greatest prophet of the OT era (even though he shows up in the NT). He ministry was prophesied twice in the OT before he shows up. He heralded Christ with his whole being. He preached righteousness, challenged the status business as usual, including the behavior of King Herod. Herod liked to listen to John, but he didn't do anything about it. His wife, on the other hand, knew how to act and calls for John's execution. The ruler is ruled by his passions and circumstances. Herod's response is our natural response to the Truth. We might be intrigued by the Truth, but if we remain paralyzed by indecision something will have to give, and our natural inclination is to silence the Truth. Herod questioned Jesus at his trial, but Jesus gave no answer – the Word of God have him the silent treatment. This is the ultimate judgment for Truth haters – if you flee from the Truth, at some point it will let you go. If we are confronted by the Word we need to act now – respond to Christ's call, flee sin or whatever it is.
Matthew 11:11 “I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord; construct in the desert a road for our God. Every valley must be elevated, and every mountain and hill leveled. The rough terrain will become a level plain, the rugged landscape a wide valley.
Mark 6:17-18 For Herod himself had sent men, arrested John, and bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philipʼs wife, because Herod had married her. For John had repeatedly told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brotherʼs wife.”
Mark 6:20 because Herod stood in awe of John and protected him, since he knew that John was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him, he was thoroughly baffled, and yet he liked to listen to John.
Luke 23:8-9 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some miraculous sign. So Herod questioned him at considerable length; Jesus gave him no answer.
James 1:22 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.

In the Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer's communion prayer speaks of being unworthy to take the crumbs from under the table, but looking to Christ's mercy. Communion is having a meal with the friend of sinners – the last thing we should do is claim our worthiness – we are welcome even though we are NOT worthy. We have no righteousness of our own. Communion is “God's soup kitchen” and we are beggars – we must rely on his mercy. In Matthew 21, the first 20 verses talk about the sinfulness of the people of Jerusalem, but when he goes to Tyre he meets people of great faith. This is great faith – coming to Jesus with nothing and expecting everything. Scraps from Jesus is better than the feasts of emperors. Jesus – the Bread of Life – feeds the woman. If we feel that we are not getting fed we need to press in closer.
Matthew 15:27-28 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their mastersʼ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

What is the most insidious sin? Greed – the greedy, especially in a consumer society, often don't feel greedy. We don't notice that it is happening. Watch out! It can happen to any of us! We rest on our preparations and riches. We are envious of someone who seems to have it all – but God says, “You fool!” to someone who is focused on getting more now, but does not seek riches in God through Christ.
Luke 12:13-15 Then someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you two?” Then he said to them, “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because oneʼs life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:20-21 But God said to him, ʻYou fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?ʼ So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”

Is God an introvert or an extrovert? The Bible portrays God as outgoing – it the impetus for creation and the same is seen in salvation in reaching out to the world. Jesus told a story at a dinner party – those initially invited are more interested in gaining possessions for themselves and scorn the invitation. We shun the kingdom of heaven and pursue a kingdom of self. God goes out compelling people to come in. What is it to be godly or Christ-like? Often we picture it in individual terms, working at personal righteousness. But the parable challenges us to radical other-centeredness. What is Christ-likeness? It is offering an invitation to the world – he calls us to be evangelist, missionary minded, to be outgoing. When we forsake our self-centered project and find life in God's outgoing mission we live – He has promised “my house will be full!”