Baptism

Written by: George J. Elling

In this blog we will discuss baptism; what it is, what it means, and how it is performed at Baptist and similar churches.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is an act that is performed by most all Christian churches. While details of the act will vary, it is designed to symbolize what happens to a person when they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. It represents and deepens the born again experience a person goes through when they put their faith in Christ. It is also usually performed simultaneously with a person formally joining a church if they have not been previously baptized.

What is the meaning behind baptism?

To understand the meaning of baptism we need to first understand what it means to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

When a person comes to Christ or puts their faith and trust in Christ for salvation, they are “born again”, that is, they have a spiritual birth. The Bible says,

Therefore if any man be in Christ, 
he is a new creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

If you think about it, this is like having a new birth, like starting over, but more than that. The person who has been born again has had a spiritual birth or awakening, and now has the life of Christ within them. The Bible says,

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you,
he that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Romans 8:11

How is this possible? The Bible teaches us that when we put our faith in Christ we are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection unto a new life. The apostle Paul described it this way:

3 “For what the law could not do,
in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;
but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death;
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:
for it is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,
if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin;
but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you,
he that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Romans 8:3-11

The Holy Spirit is the one who “baptizes” us into Christ when we come to faith. Spiritually we have died with Christ, were buried, and rose again to new life in Christ with the Holy Spirit indwelling our spirit. Thus, spiritually, we come to have Christ’s life within us, and we become a new creation (see above).

The act of baptism is designed to symbolize this process of dying, being buried, and raising to a new life in Christ, i.e., being born again.

How is Baptism performed at Baptist Churches?

The act of baptism uses water as a medium for the symbolic death, burial, and resurrection of the person who presents themselves for baptism. You will walk down a few steps into a tank of water, called a baptistry. Or, if the church does not have a formal baptistry, a natural body of water or a pool of water can be used. The pastor will be there with you. The pastor will ask you if you have placed your faith in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. He will then allow you time to express your faith. Upon this profession of faith, the pastor then immerses you into the water and raises you back up.

If that sounds a little scary or awkward, it’s not. Before being baptized, candidates meet with a pastor or deacon to review the meaning and the process of baptism. At that time, you can ask any questions you have. If there are health issues which might make it difficult to be immersed in water, accommodations can be made. All of this can be discussed beforehand.

The Joy of Baptism

Baptism is a joyous occasion and a time to celebrate your new life in Christ with family and friends. It brings you closer to Christ as you identify with Him and follow Him in obedience to be like Him.

What Baptism is Not

Baptism, as simply a religious ritual, does not save you (see 1 Peter 3:21). The act of recognizing your sinfulness, and calling upon, and placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, saves you. This is the act of being born again by the Holy Spirt. Baptism symbolizes what has already taken place in a person’s life.

-GJE

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God’s Tumbler

Written by: George J. Elling

Did you ever wonder why the various people in your life are there? First there is family. They are there because of biological relationships and marriages. Then there are friends which we “pick” to be there. As the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.”

Next are people with whom we choose to have a professional relationship with, like doctors, dentists, auto mechanics, lawyers, etc. Then there are co-workers, bosses, employees, managers, business associates, etc. Some of us have teammates from a sports league or fellow volunteers from a charity we engage with. We may have fellow worshipers from a church or synagogue we go to. And, of course, there are those who are our neighbors and other people that don’t fit into one of the above categories.

We all interact with quite a few people in the course of a week. But, why are these particular people in our lives? Is there something deeper about why certain people are the people we interact with in a given week? Does it go beyond happenstance or “our choices?”

A tumbler is a barrel or a drum in which you place stones, or parts, along with some grit in order to polish them. Round and round the drum turns. The items inside are forced into each other, interacting with some friction, enhanced by the grit, to wear down the rough edges of the objects in order to achieve a smooth and polished result.

We, and the people in our lives, can be like the items in a tumbler. We are all going round and round, being forced to interact with each other, sometimes easily, and sometimes with a great deal of friction.

It is easy to simply view people in your life in terms of what they can do for you; a utilitarian view. You can also view people in terms of mission or ministry. These are people whom we are to “love on” and help. But, what if God has this particular set of people in your life to help shape and polish you as well as for you to help shape and polish them? What if you are in God’s tumbler?

This, of course, is not the only reason God allows, or places, people into your life. There are the practical and missional purposes as well. But, I think it is valid to consider how God is “polishing” your life when bumping up against others, especially when there is a bit of friction. We grow through struggle. This was true also of Jesus’ life. The Bible says;

“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Hebrews 5:8

Jesus came in contact with all sorts of people during his life on earth. While he healed, helped, and discipled many, he also clashed with many. Some helped his mission, some ignored him. Some tried to control him, and some betrayed him. Through it all, the man, Jesus, learned experiential obedience to the Father and was made perfect, or mature. As a result, he became the man God the Father intended him to be.

After describing the work of ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers), Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

15 “…But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Ephesians 4:15-16

Notice in this passage the special work of each of the various parts of the body of Christ (not just the professional ministers) and that they contribute to your becoming the man or woman God intends you to become. Not a generic man or woman, but a particular you, a part of the body of Christ who measures up to the standard and stature exemplified by Christ.

But how does this happen? Well, for example:

From the irritating, we learn patience and to appreciate calmness.

From those who persecute us, we learn endurance and to appreciate peace and security.

From the educated, we learn knowledge and to appreciate how much there is to know.

From the lovely, we learn beauty and to appreciate beauty.

From the helpless, we learn to give and to appreciate how God reaches out to us.

From the lonely, we learn to be a friend and appreciate God’s presence with us.

From the dysfunctional, we learn to bring and appreciate order.

From the poor, we learn to give and appreciate what God has given us.

From the ones who truly love us, we learn what true love is and gain a desire to share it with others.

I could add additional examples of how we are shaped by those in our lives, but I think you get the idea.

So today, why not reflect on how God may be shaping and polishing you by the interactions you experience with the people in your life. Pay special attention to the ones you feel cause discomfort and friction. God may be using that person to polish your own rough edges. And remember, it is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) who will give you the ability to see and understand what God may be doing. Welcome to God’s tumbler!

7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 
2 Corinthians 4:7

17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

1 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

-GJE

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WHY Do I NOT See The Blessings of God In My Life?

“I thought that things were going O.K. lately and didn’t realize that I was doing something wrong but apparently I guess I have been.”

Have you thought that recently but then in your daily life you don’t seem to see God’s hand working in your life?  You haven’t really seen God’s blessings apparent in your life or surrounding you?  If you are a “child” (under 18 or still living with mom and dad), has it seemed that you aren’t getting things like you would like them?

I could take this any number of different directions and none of them would be off course.  But, I will only try to stick to a couple of different avenues here.

I constantly hear people wanting to know how to find the will of God for their lives.  I also hear some of the same people ask why they don’t seem to see God’s blessings in their lives.

What do I mean by God’s blessings?  Some of us might think that God’s blessings would be just waking up in the morning and they would be correct, but people seem to take things like that for granted.  Most people consider God’s blessings to be something like finding a $10 bill on the sidewalk or something out of the blue like that.  Maybe it could be that your car broke down and a friend of yours fixed it for you without you having to incur major labor bills to get it fixed.

You see, when you are doing God’s will you will start to see some of these blessings pop up.  You also must realize that when you are doing God’s will, you are also accumulating rewards and riches in heaven rather than on earth, so, you may not see some of your “blessings” here on earth, but eventually you will see them and going the extra mile to do God’s will will actually be worth it for you.

Philippians 4:8  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

We find may places in scripture telling us what to do and what not to do.  It spells things out pretty clearly what God wants us to do to receive the blessings for our actions.  The above verse tells us that we are to think on, and eventually do, all of these things: True, Honest, Just, Pure, Lovely, Of Good Report, Virtuous and Worthy Of Praise — we are to “think on these things”.

How many times do we go through our days, one after the other, in our ruts, and we do the same things day after day… and everything we are doing (or at least most everything) is for us.  It’s all about “ME”.  We are all worried about ourselves and what affects us and our well being.  If something goes against US then we will most likely not do it.

When was the last time you held a door open for someone behind you going into a fast food restaurant and let them go into the line in front of you?  When was the last time you, when driving, let someone in in front of you when you didn’t really have to, instead of squeezing them out and not letting them in?  After all, they were the ones that were merging, not you.

That is just a couple of examples of selfishness – and I could go on and on with many more examples, but I think you might have the idea that I am getting at here.

Many times in the Bible, we see that God is telling us that we should always put others first before ourselves.

Proverbs 18:24  “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” — Here we see that we are to act first before we get the reward.  Here the action is to be friendly and the reward is to have friends.

Rarely is it that we get something before we do something to get it.  We aren’t going to get paid for doing a job before we do the  job.

The Bible lays it out for us: if we are to receive a blessing, we are first to act in a manner that is bless-able (I’m sure that isn’t a word, but it works).  I have prepared a post that lists a whole bunch of Bible verses that spell out what IS the will of God, how to FIND the will of God and what to DO to be in the will of God. You can read it here.

I will give you a few references here that will give you an idea what I was talking about before – just so you know that this isn’t just me trying to get you to do something for ME but rather for your own well-being and for you to receive the blessings of God.  Keep following me here:

1 Peter 3:17  “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” — We are told here that we should do the right thing (“well doing”) even if it means that we suffer for it.

Mark 3:35  For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. — If we do the will of God as it is spelled out, we act as the family of Jesus.  What better blessing can there be than that?

2 Corinthians 8:5  “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” — Putting themselves last, they first gave themselves to the Lord as is the will of God.  If we do this, we will be more willing to put others before ourselves and therefore receive the blessing.

Ephesians 6:6  “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” — If we do the will of God from the heart, with the right spirit, we are the servants of Christ.  Because we are doing it in the right spirit, we are doing it for God rather than so that others can see us and we can receive the glory of men for it.

1 Thessalonians 4:3  “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:” — Staying away from fornication is just another way to do the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” — It is the will of God that we give thanks – even if things don’t go the way that we want them to go.  Remember that God has a master plan for our lives that we don’t know about.  Every time that something goes “wrong”, it might be an inconvenience to us, but in reality, it prepares us to be able to serve Him in another area, another time. Give thanks, always!

Hebrews 10:36  “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” — Patience is required.  God’s timing is perfect regardless what we think it should be or not, He knows what is best for us.  He promises to take care of us.  Give it to Him and let Him live out His promise.

1 Peter 2:15  “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” — Remember that when you are doing the will of God, the other “men” are the ignorant and foolish ones – not you!  Don’t worry about what they might say about you or do to you.

1 Peter 4:2  “That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” — The “flesh” is the lusts of men — the desires to live in sin and the sin nature that we, as Christians, have sworn off — we should live out the rest of our lives doing the will of God.

1 Peter 4:19  “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” — We are God’s, as Christians.  Therefore, as we suffer for doing the will of God we are to allow God to take care of us.

1 John 2:17  “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” — This goes with the previous verse:  the things of the world are only temporary and also the pleasure that is derived from doing the things of the world and those things will pass away – they are only pleasurable in this life – but, if we do the will of God, we will live forever with God in heaven.

Matthew 20:16  “So the last shall be first, and the first last:” — As we go through our lives and live for ourselves, putting ourselves first, the Bible here indicates that the first (or those who live for themselves as being first) will be the last, but those who live for others (putting themselves after others – last) will end up being first.  This can almost be a selfish thing to do.  If you live for others for yourself, you will not receive a reward, but rather, if you live for others in the right spirit, then you will receive the reward and thus become first.

1 Corinthians 10:31  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” — As we are living for others and in the right spirit, we deflect the glory from ourselves and onto God.  He alone should receive the glory.

Philippians 4:8  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” — I mentioned this verse earlier, but it comes into play here again, if we do all of these things and receive any “virtue” lavished onto ourselves, we are to give that virtue and any praise that might be given you, to Christ. This is similar to the wide receiver in a football game that receives a touchdown pass and kneels in the end zone and says a small prayer to show the fans that he is not taking the praise for the achievement but rather giving it to God.  This is not a show-off thing for him to do to make him look  better but rather he wants God to look better for allowing him and giving him the strength and ability to get that touchdown…

John 15:5  “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” We can do NOTHING without the power of God — even if a person isn’t a Christian, God has created them and has given them the ability to do whatever we/they do.  Without God, we are powerless!

I hope that with this list of verses, you can see that it is the will of God that we DO NOT live for ourselves, but rather for others.  We need to put this acronym into action:

J — Jesus
O — Others
Y — You

If you do things in this order you will experience true JOY.  It takes a lot of effort to do this and it really isn’t easy to start with, but once you start doing it, and in the right spirit, you will start seeing God’s blessings in your life and you will have more happiness than you have ever experienced before.

Teens reading this:
If you start living like this, your parents will think that an alien has taken their child.  If you do things when they ask you to do them — “Delayed obedience is disobedience”; “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20) — you will be doing the will of God in this regard and will notice that the air in your house will be much easier to breathe.  Your parents will not believe it is you.

If you are a new Christian and start living like this, you will be living as God wants you to live and you will make your parents wonder what it is that makes the difference in your life and that will give you the opportunity to share the gospel with them as well.  If they see no difference in you, you may never see them in heaven with you.

©2013 Mark Davis

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