Baptism

Q: Do you have to be baptized to be saved?

A: Look to what Jesus said to the thief on the cross.

But your question may be leading and may not be asking what actually needs to be considered and asked. Words like “have to be” or “should do” create a bias in the question that is legalism instead of using words that talk about the results of a changed heart and the Word of God being written on our hearts to lead us as a new creation in a new direction that isn’t about us “living up to” or “meeting the requirements” — but is about our wanting to “give God all the glory for what He has done for us”.

Those who do not believe that God has done much for them will not love Him, will not truly worship Him, will not be publicly baptized, will not share this Good News as far and wide as they can, will not live a life that brings God glory , will not bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, etc. But those who have been forgiven much love much.

Q: What is the call given to those who have surrendered their lives to The Way and love and seek God with their whole heart?

A: Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

What? Repent AND be baptized

Who? every one of you

How? in the name of Jesus Christ

Why? for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

People can build logical justifications fir their rebellion based on their natural man resisting things they hear with “have to” and “should” type of wording — but understanding and believing that the Why is true — should have us excited about the What, the Who, and the How.

God bless you, friends!

Prove That You Really Are

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.

So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NLT

What does this look like?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬25 NLT

This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2‭-‬3 NLT

The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:

faith…

moral excellence…

knowledge…

self-control…

patient endurance…

godliness…

brotherly affection…

love for everyone.

You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1‭-‬17 NLT

The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15‭-‬23 NLT

If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.

If you have never truly repented and believed,

If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,

Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,

Read this Good News:

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!
Mark 1:14‭-‬15 NLT

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16‭-‬21 NLT

And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26‭-‬39 NLT

Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25‭-‬35 NLT

We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.
Luke 15:3‭-‬10 NLT

And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11‭-‬24 NLT


Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!

[Spruce Pine] Proverbs 9 Questions

Chapter 9 – Judgement

1) What does wisdom urge the simple to do? (Verses 4-6)

2) What do fools & mockers do in return for correction or rebuke? (Verse 7)

3) How do the wise respond to correction? (Verses 8-9)

4) Where do the guests of folly go? (Verse 18)

Cross References

How does the proclamation in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 confirm and agree with what we have read in Proverbs chapter 9?

How does the encouragement of 1 Corinthians 6:11 confirm and agree with what wisdom urges the simple to do in Proverbs 9:4-6?

Puke and Rally!


This morning, on my morning run with a friend who is faster than me, I was doing fine until I tried to clear some congestion from my throat. Instead, I gagged myself and ended up puking and dry heaving for several minutes,  as He slipped completely out of site ahead of me. 
I thought to myself,  “well that ends my run” — even though I was only halfway into a 1.8 mile run and was at the absolute furthest point possible from getting back home. As I continued wrenching for about 4 minutes, I wondered how long it would take me to get home in this condition,  and realized there was no easy way to just call someone to come get me.
Then I remembered a rally cry from Billy Bob on the movie Varsity Blues who cried out, “Puke and rally!” 
Now that might seem like an interesting rally cry reference for a Christian message,  because for Billy Bob that was a cry for him as he ran back into the party for more alcohol abuse. But I remembered it because in my younger days, puking was more often the result of alcohol abuse and partying than it was from sickness or pushing myself near the limits of exercise, etc.
In this case,  I just wanted to make it home,  so I started talking steps, then before I knee it,  I was back to a fast walking pace,  and when I got to that first downhill, I was running again. You see, I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up. What was my option? To lay down and die in the mix of mud and my own puke? No!
I say this to encourage you today. No matter where you are. No matter what you have gotten yourself into. No matter how far away from home you feel you’ve gone. No matter how far away you feel like you are from God and how hard you think it might be to get back. Puke up that mess that is in your life that isn’t glorifying God. Give it up, it is killing you. Turn back to God. Stay walking home. Just take that first step of submitting yourself to Him. Accept Him not just as a promised Savior, but as a living Lord of your life, and He will come and strengthen you like a good friend and will bring you home.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,  and he asked one of the servants what was going on.  ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,  but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.  Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” – Luke 15:4‭-‬32

Sin, Repentance, Righteousness, Judgement

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in  it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:21-25 NKJV

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under  the  sway  of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – I John 5:16-21 NKJV

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let  yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you  do these things to  your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:1-11 NKJV

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are  dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. – Revelation 22:14-15 NKJV

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. – Ephesians 5:1-7 NKJV

But we know that the law is  good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – I Timothy 1:8-17 NKJV

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. – Hebrews 12:12-17 NKJV

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the  testimony  of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:26-31 NKJV

The Gospel of Mark – Chapter 1

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:
“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.
John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
Q: Who is this section of scripture talking about?
A: John the Baptist
Q: Where was John the Baptist?
A: Out in the wilderness
Q: What was he doing there?
A: Preaching and Baptizing
Q: What did the people need to do to be baptized?
A: Repent of their sins.
Q: What does “repented of their sins mean”?
A: That they have turned back to God, and confessed they are sorry for their sins, and decided to change their way and walk in obedience instead of disobedience.
Q: Who did John tell the people was coming?
A: Jesus, the Messiah.
Q: John baptized with water, but he said that Jesus would baptize with what?
A: The Holy Spirit (like a dove).
Q: And what is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit of God come to live in us and to guide us, teach us, and lead us in the way.
The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Q: Where did John baptize Jesus?
A: In the Jordan River.
Q: What happened right as Jesus was baptized?
A: The sky opened split apart
Q: What came down from the sky after it was parted?
A: The Holy Spirit descended
Q: Why was John arrested?
A: He was speaking against sin
Q: What did the voice from heaven say?
A: God acknowledged Jesus Christ as His son and that He was pleased with Him.
Q: What did Jesus then go and preach, telling the people to do?
A: Repent of their sins and believe.
Q: What does God call us when we repent of our sins and confess Him as our Lord and Savior?
A: He calls us His children.

Cornerstone or Stumbling Block

You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.

As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.

Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
1 Peter 2:4‭-‬12 NLT

This idea of grace, of forgiveness of sins, this testimony of Christ who is God come in the flesh that died on the cross for us – it will either be the stone that we build a new holy life upon – or it will be an excuse people use to continue in their lives of sin.

Knowing about Christ will either push us  into a life of grateful obedience – or we will use it as an excuse to justify our remaining in captivity.

And it all boils down to belief, true belief in our hearts,  not just that he existed as a good and wise teacher – but that He is who He said He is, and that is God come in the flesh, who is risen and who will judge the whole world on that day to come when we will be changed in an instant, when we will be in the presence of the Lord.

What is Christ for your life today?

Won’t you build upon the foundation that He had provided by walking His way in your life today?

Won’t you deny your flesh and surrender your life to produce the fruit of His nature?

Won’t you yield to His will and be His Kingdom representative to the world today?

Whatever you do today, let it be done in Truth and in Love, because our lives are that living sacrifice, that reasonable service, that true worship that we lift to Him in Spirit and in Truth.

Go, let your day be that worship. Let them see that YOU are the church,  and that Christ lives in you!

Go, Baptize, Teach

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matthew 28:19‭-‬20 NKJV

Christian, you are purpose built and newly created to fulfill that purpose. And it is in your weakness that you are strong. God did not use the army to defeat Goliath,  but a young boy. God repeatedly shows His power through those who are just willing to say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” – and “Send me, I will go”.

God uses words of action and purpose in His directions – He isn’t satisfied with the learned thinking man’s prayer for deep knowledge and understanding of the Word of God that is never put into practice. He isn’t satisfied with the religious who want to be powerful by their own knowledge that puffs up, He wants people that will humble themselves and ask Him for the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.

He is interested in our walking close with Him, becoming more like Him. He wants our sin to make us aware of our need for repentance. And our reliance upon Him for the synthetic to truly repent to reveal grace. And our grattitude for grace to reveal the opportunity of a life of discipleship. And our reliance on His Holy Spirit to be that faithful disciple and servant to reveal sanctification.

The walk of a Christian is in God, in this body that He has given us to be a vessel for His Holy Spirit – not just in a religious practice where we tithe to Him a piece of our time. Not just in a check we give to a hireling to tithe a piece of our money. Not just in generous gifts to family and friends a few times a year to tithe a piece of our generosity. Surrender to Christ is meant to consume our lives like a roaring fire – both freeing us from the chains of our sinful past and burning away those things that don’t bring Him honor and glory – refining us to be more like Him.

So, Christianity is not whether or not you’ve said a prayer with your mouth, but whether you’ve believed in your heart.

So, Christianity isn’t whether you talk about Him and hear about Him on Sunday,  but whether or not He lives in you and His will is being done in your life each day.

So, Christianity is not about your church membership or religious pedigree,  but whether or not you love Him and His ways.

If you love Him and His ways, Go, Baptize, and Teach.

If you do not yet love Him and His ways, Repent, Believe, and Prepare yourself.

If you will not love Him and His ways – if you insist on your own way,  go and chase your desire for sin,  and He will give you your heart’s desire,  but do you know what you are giving up? Is there anything in this world worth your eternity?

Conformed? Or Transformed?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2 NKJV

The word conform means things like abide by, follow, accept, obey, go along with, fall into, fit in, age with, be like, and be consistent with. The original Greek word is συσχηματίζω (syschēmatizō) is used only twice in scripture and gives a very similar message in 1 Peter 1:1

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
I Peter 1:13‭-‬16 NKJV

Yes, Romans 12 as a chapter is about “Being a Living Sacrifice”(v1-2), “Serving God with Our Gifts”(v3-8), and “Behaving like a Christian”(v9-21).

In fact,  verse 9 tells us what Godly love looks like –

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9 NKJV

The world would ask us to be accepting, tolerant, and conformed to its evil ways – it would say that wickedness is love, because that enemy is a liar and there is no truth in the father of lies.

True, Godly love is to see the good and cling to it and encourage it in people,  and to resist the evil. It is to conform to the ways of Christ. Christ did not leave people in their same broken and sinful lives – His touch and His words changed lives. It either pushed the hard hearted enemies of truth and love into a deeper fury against Him – or it transformed and healed and delivered people’s life to something radically different than before and they grew more and more in His way.

Christ does not say,  come accept my religion,  say a prayer, get baptized in water,  and then go back to fitting in with the ways of the world. He doesn’t say,  keep doing evil and coming back again and again for forgiveness once a week or on holidays to hear about me.

He says,  come, surrender your whole life to me, turn away from evil,  and be transformed to be like me.

He says, come, be set apart for holy use, by the Lord God Almighty,  who loves you enough to pay an ultimate sacrifice to bring you into His family.

He says, I have a purpose today, for the world to see something quite peculiar and different in your life – because they will see Me, My ways, reflected in your transformed life.

A transformed heart and mind produces a different life – a sober, obedient, holy life. And if this type of life seems distasteful to you, then I encourage you to ask yourself who it is you are really deciding to serve today with your life. If you want to serve the Lord,  if you want to call upon His name, if you want Him to hear your prayers, do not remember that sinner of your past, repent, turn to Him, and walk in righteousness, you saints, you children of God. You are freed, your chains are broken. You need not walk powerless,  but strong and bold.

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58:8 NKJV

I encourage you, do not doubt in the strength of the Lord to deliver you from the flesh to walk upright in the Spirit. Do not put on that old title of Sinner unless you have become a proud hypocrite. Put bear the title of Saint, Child of God, boasting only in what He has done for you. Stand tall,  not in your own power, but humbled by His mercy and His Godly love that is alive in you.

He chose YOU to come OUT. No excuses.

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.  Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.
John 15:18‭-‬23 NLT

“you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you”
Almost daily, I see a backlash from “carnal Christians” (who know the name of the Savior but who have only themselves as Lord of their lives) towards those who would share truth and warn others about the dangers of sin. I hear things like “you’re being judgemental” when someone speaks about sin, repentance, discipleship or sanctification from the, same people that sing proudly of grace as if it is a license to sin.

Wake up and hear the truth. If you are a slave to sin, see what the Word of God says:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NLT

If we are currently a slave to sin, but we know that we are called to be a child of God, the solution is simple – repent (turn away from your sin), believe in your heart,  confess with your mouth, and He will send the Holy Spirit to convict you against sin, to teach you, to guide you, so that you will walk in the Spirit of Christ, following His example and demonstrating Him to the world.

So we are either a slave to sin, or we are a new creation in Christ – and the two types of desires are so different from one another that the two are at war with each other. One desires sin and the things of this world as treasure and reward and the will of man,  while the other desires only Christ and the will of God.

“now they have no excuse for their sin”
Yes, many hate to hear the whole message of Jesus Christ – that He calls us to no longer be a part of the world,  to no longer live like the world. Many are satisfied with the idea that their sins might be forgiven,  but they have no real interest in giving up their sin. And when He says that we are free indeed,  and that He has given us the power to see evil flee from us – it really bothers those who no longer have any excuse for remaining in their sin.

It bothers those who are either:

A) deceived and confused because they can’t reconcile their own opinions about God with what the Word of God actually says

B) aware that their claims about being a Christian are nothing but outward lies

The Good News is that salvation is just a turn away. But it does take deciding to love Christ more than our sin.

And for many, the broad path seems so attractive when we can’t see and touch what is behind that narrow gate. The broad path seems so much easier when we can only see the struggle and strife and trial of those poor,  sacrificing Christian missionaries who are willing to give it all up to serve the Lord. The broad path seems so much more friendly and crowded when we can only see those “judgemental Christians” who are isolating themselves by standing firm upon the truth of the Word of God.

The broad path of finding a compromising “church” that will speak what I want to hear and won’t expect me to change or grow as long as I show up,  volunteer,  and tithe seems so much easier than actually picking up my cross and following Jesus,  making disciples, baptizing them,  and walking like Christ. People will say,  “Isn’t there someone else who will go? Isn’t there someone else who is better qualified? Can’t I just give my money to them and maybe God will leave me alone?”

Do you love your life,  or do you love Christ?

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
Luke 17:33 NLT

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
Revelation 12:10‭-‬12 NLT