Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are bon of water and the Spirit.” - John 3:5
Wow, as I read commentary after commentary on this phrase, I never thought so few words could spark such stark controversy. Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about being born again, or better interpreted, born from above. Jesus is speaking about entering the kingdom of heaven. Some say He refers to baptism, others say it is figurative language. In the end, what is the truth?
Many people have asked me the question, is baptism a requirement to be saved? Well this is a very tricky question. Salvation first and foremost is between the believer and God, I do not hold the power to pronounce condemnation or salvation for any man, lets get that out of the way. People ask, what about those without water who profess and the thief on the cross? Again, I am not the Savior and I do not decide those special cases. However, perhaps a better question is, if you believe you are saved, why are you not baptized or being baptized?
Doesn’t being saved require faith and belief? “By grace we have been saved through faith.” (Eph 2:8) Faith always requires action. Never once is faith mentioned in the Bible without action being performed, it is explicit throughout scripture. Therefore, it is by means of faith in grace that we have been saved.
What is baptism? Some say it is a work, but I disagree. What work am I doing when I am baptized? I do not baptize myself, someone else does the baptizing, therefore I perform no work, but only come into full submission of God’s command, “Repent therefore and be baptized each of you for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Furthermore in Acts, there is only 1 example of a person not being baptized when accepting God’s message, this passage is vague at best.
Furthermore, in Romans it talks about participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It says, how can I be raised with Christ if I have not yet first died. It is only in that participation that we find freedom from our sins. (Rom 6)
In the end, Jesus Himself was Baptized, therefore I too must be baptized. If I do not, I am not obedient to the commands of God. If I am not obedient to the commands of God, do I truly believe and have faith? Baptism is essential, Jesus commanded it, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20) It is essential for me as a believer in Jesus Christ to be obedient and therefore baptism is an essential part to the beginning of my Christian life. It is all about the heart, if I truly believe I will be baptized.
In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at the tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their table. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of Here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” – John 2:14-16
Jesus responds with righteous indignation to the people who had come in and defiled the temple. It wasn’t even so much the buying and selling as it was the cheating and degradation of what the temple stood for that was the issue here. People were buying and selling forgiveness; telling people their doves weren’t good enough for sacrifice so you have to buy one of ours. Or telling people your money isn’t good enough you have to exchange it for our, for a price of course. It was the sin in the place, that bothered Jesus so.
But if we go down just a bit we find that Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (Speaking of His body, John 2:19) See it wasn’t about the Temple itself, it was about the sin that was in the temple that made Jesus angry. It is the same with our bodies now, which are the temple, how do we treat them? Do I fill mine with righteousness and grace or is it the sin which fills me up?
God wants us to be filled with joy and peace and love, but the only way to do that is to treat the temple, the body, as Holy Ground. Treat ourselves right by not filling it with much sin, but instead with the things that are righteous and good, like the Word and prayer. Like being kind to one another and showing mercy and grace.
It is a good day to clean out our temples. It is time to allow Jesus in with his whip and table tossing. Let’s get serious about clearing out the temple and allowing room for God and His righteousness to enter. Let Jesus drive out the junk and let God fill it with peace and mercy.
God be With You All,
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” – John 1:19-20
John led the way ahead for the Lord. He proclaimed who Jesus was and that He was on His way. He never once tried to step into His shoes. He never once tried to be Jesus, but was content in His mission to proclaim the Lord who was to come.
I have to remind myself every single day, “I am here to represent Jesus, not to be Jesus.” I have not forgiven sins, only the blood of Christ can do that. I have to keep my pride in check every single day; if I don’t then I will begin to think that I can save people, but I cannot. It is only in the power of Christ that people can find salvation.
I am merely an ambassador, one who is clearing the way for the Lord to come into people’s lives. I am only here to proclaim this glory and His salvation not anything about me. When I make it about Him, He can accomplish so much more through me. For it is His message and not mine that is powerful and needed in this world today.
Finally, when I stop trying to be Jesus, I find that I don’t want to condemn everyone all the time. Instead I remember how bad off I was without Him and remember too that I am a sinner in need of Him. This leads my heart to grace instead of condemnation. To judge by the measure I want to be judged by, grace and mercy.
Praise the Lord,
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Neh 12:43
They were rejoicing because they had come home. They were back in Jerusalem and the people had God back with them. The priesthood had been reestablished and the people could offer sacrifice and honor God once more.
I wonder, is my approach to worship the same as theirs was then? Do I find myself in a state of joy as I offer my life in His service? It seems to me when the word sacrifice is used, there tends to be a bit of a groan that goes along with it. However, is the word sacrifice all that bad?
I think of athletes; do they not sacrifice their time and energy to get better at what they do. I know working out hurts, but unless you sacrifice short term pain, the long term goals can never be reached and so people are willing and even joyful to give up their bodies in search of greater gain.
What about our children, wouldn’t we gladly sacrifice something in order to ensure their success in life. Do we not sacrifice our time, our energy and sometimes even our own dreams to see theirs come true? Yet there is no groaning in this, but a willingness.
It is the same with my worship. When I offer up my sacrifice for God it is not with groaning or reluctance, not it should be with joyful zeal and a sense of honor. For my God has given so much for me, it is nothing that I should want to give back all that I have. So when I sacrifice I honor my God with a joyful heart and glad offering as my worship to Him.
God be Praised,
Now prior to this Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil. Prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.
It was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah’ s household goods out of the room. Then I gave an order and they cleansed the rooms; and I returned there the utensils of the house of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense. Neh 13:8-9
Before the return of the exiles, the people had forsaken the house of God. They even moved in people to the rooms specifically for God’s offering that was for the Levites. However, when leaders become aware of these sins, they go through, as Nehemiah did and they clean house.
It is important from time to time to clean our Spiritual and Church houses. All of us from time to time get a bit slack on our duties and responsibilities. And the best way to repent is to clean house. This sin can come in all forms, whether it is over indulgence and gaining too much weight, I’m guilty. Or giving into our lusts, I’m guilty. Or just being lazy, I’m guilty.
Whatever the case may be, periodically we need to clean our houses. Get rid of the temptations and sins in our lives. Remove from within ourselves what is preventing us from being closer to God. I find that fasting and prayer are great ways to initiate this cleansing. Repenting from what holds us back and giving back to God what rightfully belongs to Him.
The same goes for our congregations. We must spiritually clean house there as well. We can do this by mending relationships, volunteering more for what is needed and by just being there to serve and love one another, instead of always asking, what’s in it for me. I know that today I will be spending some much-needed time in prayer for what I need to clean out of my own Spiritual House.
God Guide Us,
The rest of the Israelites, with the priests and Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, each on their ancestral property. The temple servant lived on the hill of Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them. – Neh 11:20-21
Reading through some of Nehemiah can be a bit daunting with all the strange names and places. It, amazingly enough, almost reads like a history buff. Now I am no history buff and I am usually willing to kinda skip over these parts, especially when it encompasses a whole chapter. However, lately I have been disciplining myself to read these chapter especially.
Why? Because this is history. This is my history and your history, if you are found in Christ. These are the Jewish people and they are real and their lives were real. I know at some point in all of our lives, we find a place of doubt and ask ourselves, “Is this real, this God stuff?” The answer is YES.
Here in Nehemiah 11 I am reading about real people, rebuilding a real wall. All of the historical texts confirm the information in the Bible is not only true, but accurate. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures have passed the most rigorous of historical tests and it has come to be one of the most reliable of historical texts.
So, if the history is true, then far be it from me to question the other information in the Scriptures. Reading these sections of text embolden my resolve and belief in the Word of God. It also ties me personally to the Jewish people and their lives. These are real people, just like you and I, which gives me time to pause and feel what they felt and see what they saw and that gives me perspective.
Perspective can influence our beliefs greatly. I don’t want people to walk away from Scripture thinking that was a nice story and a good moral point. No, we must walk away believing that the people and events are true, because they shape our everyday life.
We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons. – Neh 10:30
It was not so much that the Jews were introverted, but more that they wanted to protect their children from the World and its wickedness. Anyone, who truly wanted to become a part of the Jewish community and accept their ways were welcomed, but the Jews were never to accept the ways of others because they were to follow what God had to say and be Holy.
Today, it saddens me when I think that our world has become so publicly immoral in its intentions and actions. It has become selfish and self-centered. But I am grateful that I can protect my children from that by teaching them the ways of the Lord and not accepting the ways of the world.
More than that, I accept the responsibility not to give my children over to an immoral world and let them fend for themselves. It is my job as a parent to raise them up to know the Lord and His ways. To teach them that His ways are good, holy and righteous. To teach them, by following His ways my life becomes more that it ever could have been.
Thank you Lord for my children. Help me to continue to protect them, not giving them over to the ways of the world, but instead teaching them Your ways and truths that they may grow in You. I pray in doing so they would chose Your path in their lives and that I will always be there to guide and direct them.
Won’t you join me today in proclaiming to the Lord that we will not give our children over to the bondage of a sinful world, but that we will take responsibility and raise them in the ways of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
May the Lord’s Light Shine Upon You,
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent has separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. – Neh 9:1-2
Confessing sins is nothing new to the Christian life. It is all throughout the Bible and every time it is accompanied with a repentant heart. There is just something about confession that allows the soul to be healed back to God. Sometimes we confess between ourselves and the Lord and sometimes we just have to share our burdens. Here in Nehemiah we are seeing a public confession of sins in front of their people.
However, there are a couple of stand outs here I would like to address. First and foremost, confession is serious and not just a passing conversation. So, whether it is a public or private conversation it is important that our hearts are right and that our spirit is repentant. We cannot come to God with confession with a nonchalant attitude and expect anything to change. Our attitude and heart must be ready to change in order to confess properly.
Second, notice that the Israelites separated themselves. This is not because they wanted to exclude anyone, but some things are for those who are close and trusted, to witness. They were among brothers and sisters; there is a need for comfort and trust when confessing. Why? Because when we confess we bear our souls and broken spirits before others. We would hope to find compassion, but also privacy and honesty amongst the saved. Never take advantage of this and break that confidence.
When I have attended the Men’s Charges for All-In ministries, I have witnessed this very event. The confession of sins and the changing of lives. We were amongst brothers who were willing to serve and pray and just be there for one another through the process. Too many times we just hold on to too much junk. Confession is a reset button that allows the soul to heal and to be healed back to Christ. It is a release of junk that doesn’t belong to us; the throwing out of garbage.
Today is as good a day as any. If there is something on your heart or weighing on you, get rid of it through confession and repentance. It doesn’t have to be public, but it does have to be real. Share it with a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Let it go and accept the forgiveness that you have held at arm’s length for far too long.
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ… - James 1:1
I spent a great deal of time researching the phrase bond-servant this morning. What I came to realize is this term is used for the servant who has willingly given himself to something. This means that his servitude was not force buy voluntary.
The next logical question then is, “Am I a bond-servant to Jesus?” Have I come willingly, and I have I come as a servant. These are two very important words because it defines my relationship to the Savior.
First, willingly. This means I voluntarily accept His commands. He is not forcing me to follow Scripture, but I do so of my own free accord. Therefore, the Bible changes from a set of rules to follow to a life I have chosen to live. Also, then the opposite is true, I can choose to reject this life and live anyway I want. We are not forced captives of Christ but volunteers in His service.
Second, the word servant. This means, I have chosen to serve. If I am not doing what I do for Him, then I am not serving anyone but myself. But I have chosen to serve Him not myself. Therefore, I want to be a good servant because it is what I have chosen, not what was forced onto me.
So, when the opportunities arise to serve I should be ready to step up and give my all for Him. Not just when it is convenient for me, but anytime He calls upon me to move in His name. I want to be the best servant I can be, so Lord let my ears hear and my eyes see where you have for me to serve in this world and in the Church.
May the Lord Guide You,
“Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” – Neh 8:12
The people were celebrating after the reading of the Law of Moses. They had just returned from exile and now have had the Word of God read to them and explained to them and they were overjoyed. This seems like a strange concept to us westerners who have had scripture at the touch of a screen for the last 5 years and a Bible in every book store for the last 100. Perhaps we have taken it a bit for granted and in doing so have forsaken the reading and understanding of Scripture.
What is the best part of Sunday morning? Is it the music, the prayer, the fellowship, or is the public reading of God’s word? Here the Israelites were overjoyed at the thought and then reality of hearing the Scripture that they celebrated for 7 days because they were able to hear the Scriptures read aloud.
We have been spoiled with our freedom here in America. It is Biblical to come together and to read and understand the Scriptures together. This ought to be the reason for our meeting. Sure the music is awesome and fellowship brings us together, but the soul purpose is God and His Word, I think we have forgotten that, even in some of our worship songs.
This is why it is important to bring that focus back. Let’s us return to a time when we were excited to hear the Word of God. When we had reverence for its power and for the One who gave it. Let’s not forsake meeting together so that we can proclaim the Lord until the time of His return.