Thursday, August 31, 2006

We Believe in Baptism

We believe that believers in Jesus must repent and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.

When people are convinced that the good news about Jesus is true, they are called in scripture to respond to that faith by repenting of their sins and being baptized so that their sins will be forgiven.

By definition, baptism is an immersion. Acts 8 helps us understand that this immersion is in water. Acts 10 lets us know that even in the incredible event of someone being given the Holy Spirit so that they could speak in tongues; they were still responsible to the call to be baptized. Acts 19 explains that if someone had experienced the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but had not been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, they were subjects for baptism in the name of Jesus.[1]

Many people who profess the Christian Faith agree with what we believe regarding the Oneness of God, the deity of Jesus, the work the Holy Spirit, and the authority of Scripture; but do not believe what we believe about the significance and necessity of believer’s baptism. They contend that baptism is a work; and since salvation is by faith, not by works, baptism cannot be mandatory.

We believe that salvation is by faith, not by works. We believe that one must be baptized to be saved, too. Furthermore, we believe that those beliefs do not stand in contradiction to each other. Baptism is not a work by which we earn salvation – we have no reason to boast when we have been baptized. Baptism is our response of faith, and God does the forgiving and saving in that faith response, so the work is his, not ours. Baptism doesn’t save in a meritorious fashion, as if I’ve earned salvation. Baptism saves through the resurrection of Christ; once again, the work of God.

It cannot be denied that Peter preached that believers were to “repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Ananias did say to Paul, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Whatever one believes about the meaning of “saved through faith,” it should reflect the significance of baptism, not dismiss it.

[1] Later in Acts 18, Apollos; who spoke about Jesus but only knew about the baptism of John, was instructed by Priscilla and Aquila regarding the information that he lacked. One would suppose that their instruction was about baptism, considering the context. There is no mention of Apollos’ baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus like there is regarding the disciples of John in Acts 19. We are only told that he was given fuller instruction, we are not told whether he was baptized on that occasion. We know that his response was positive enough to what he had learned that when he left he wanted to go to Achaia to continue teaching about Jesus and the disciples were told to welcome him there. I believe that he was baptized at that time.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


My wife ordered enchiladas with sour cream sauce, Mexican mashed potatoes, and Mexican corn (in a white cream sauce). Everything was white, including the plate. Our youth minister Josh saw her plate and remarked, “You know, you can’t order that after Labor Day.”

Customs are interesting, aren’t they? White shoes on August 30 are fine, but not on September 4. The bride’s family arranges the wedding, and the groom’s family provides for the rehearsal. Men remove their hats when a prayer is being offered.

Laban justified his trickery by claiming that it was against custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older. John and Mark remarked that customarily a prisoner was released around time of the Feast. Mary and Joseph took their infant Jesus to be consecrated before the Lord because that is what the “custom of the Law” required.

Sometimes customs are cultural. They may stick around for a long time, that’s what makes them customs, but they are subject to change with time and location; and if they change, that’s fine. Other customs have their roots in Scripture, and if they change, that’s not fine. Men and women marry when they seek lifelong companionship. Adult children take care of their aging parents. Believers in Jesus are immersed for the forgiveness of sins. Followers of Jesus pray for those who persecute them. To live, you work instead of steal. Some customs are not supposed to change. That’s Life at Work!

We Believe the Bible

We believe that the Bible is the only written revelation from God. The Holy Spirit moved men to write the messages from God. Those messages, combined in the Old and New Testaments completely equip us to do God’s work.

There are Buddhist texts called Tripitaka, the “three baskets," containing the discourses of the Buddha, commentaries on those discourses, and rules for monks and nuns.

There are Hindu writings called Vedas which many Hindus believe have no author because they are eternal texts. Historians have determined that the writings are old, but not eternal. Most Hindus have never read the Vedas or the other texts sacred to the Hindus.

The sacred text of Islam is the Koran. Muslims believe that the Koran is the revelation from Allah to the prophet Mohammed through the angel Gabriel. They believe this revelation is superior to the Bible because it is a later revelation than was given through Jesus.

The Book of Mormon, according to Latter Day Saints founder Joseph Smith, is the result of revelation being given in North America so that the ancestors of Native American Indians could know about Jesus. That revelation was written on gold or brass pages and hidden until the angel Moroni led Smith to their location. Smith was given the ability to translate these writings which to the Mormons carry the same authority as the Bible.

The Buddha, the authors of Vedas, Mohammed, and Joseph Smith are all dead; and once dead, they stayed dead. Jesus, on the other hand, though crucified on the cross, resurrected from the dead. He had promised that his apostles and prophets of God would continue the story begun in the Jewish scripture, revealing the good news about salvation in him. His resurrection which backs up his claim regarding his authority, declares all these other “sacred” writings as bogus teachings. They have no real authority and can offer readers nothing in the way of wisdom from God.

When Jesus asked the disciples if they were going to desert him like so many others had, they replied, “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life!” They were absolutely right. The Holy Spirit has revealed Jesus’ words to us, and they are in the Bible! The Bible is the only revelation from God and is the only authority from heaven for our faith and practice. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ears to Hear

When Ben Franklin was still young, he told his mom,” I have imbided an acephalous mullouscous.”  She was convinced that he had swallowed something poisonous, so she forced him to take some medicine that prompted him to lose his lunch.

When he was over the trauma of the medicine, he told his mom what he had said before, but in a better way.  “I ate an oyster,” he said.  Then, his mom punished him for deceiving her.  He vowed that day that he would never again use big words when little words would do.

The communication problem between Franklin and his mom was one of vocabulary.  When Jesus’ communication with the Pharisees failed, it was a problem of the heart.  Jesus used common words and familiar word pictures in his stories (parables), but the hearers weren’t listening to hear.  They were listening to accuse and reject.  So Jesus told them, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving” (Matt 13:14).

There were others around who did want to learn, and Jesus had a message for them, too, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matt 13:16).

Jesus has some incredibly important thing for your ears to hear, but your heart has to prepare the way for the message.  That’s Life at Work!  

Friday, August 11, 2006

We Believe that Jesus is the Son of God

We believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God – God in the flesh. He is the Christ about whom the prophets prophesied. He was virgin born, lived perfectly, died for the sins of every person, was buried, and resurrected. Because of his death, burial and resurrection forgiveness of sin, access to God, and eternal life is available for us. Jesus is the only one through whom salvation can be obtained.

The Word, who was God, “…became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

There is a powerful negative side and a powerful positive side to belief in Jesus. Both sides are expressed by John in his gospel story. If we disbelieve, there are dire consequences. “If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins,” Jesus said. Then John reveals what Jesus said about belief and life: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). If we believe, there are rewards.

“Do you believe this?”

That’s what Jesus wanted to know after he told Martha about the connection between belief in him and eternal life. He wants an answer from you, too.

Do you believe that Jesus was the one about whom the Prophets spoke when they told about the Anointed One? Do you believe that in Jesus “all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9)? Do you believe that Jesus was perfect; and, therefore without spot or blemish, making him the perfect sacrifice for your sins? Do you believe that the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the message by which you can be saved? Do you believe that through Jesus, your relationship with God can be fully restored?

Do you believe that Jesus is the only one about whom these things are true?

Do you believe this? Believe and live! That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I was reading Norman Wright’s The Perfect Catch: Lessons for Life from a Bass Fisherman this morning. Like my family, Norm likes retrievers, so when he wrote about his retriever falling out of his bass boat, I pictured our dog, Rocky in that situation. It brought a smile to my face.

Norm makes a point about a wet retriever that is significant for us. When a retriever gets wet, he doesn’t get all wet. He gets sorta wet. His coat is thick enough that water doesn’t get to the skin in a short swim. He gets wet, but not saturated. That’s good for a retriever who has fallen out of the bass boat.

God used language sometimes, though, to describe how saturated we should be in him. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).
Steven Curtis Chapman sang in “Dive” (Speechless, 1999) about the plunge we should take and the reward of being saturated in what Jesus has to offer, “But we will never know the awesome power of the grace of God until we let ourselves get swept away into this holy flood.” Don’t get out of the water yet. Whether you dove in or fell out of the boat, get soaked to the skin in Jesus. That’s Life at Work!