A new life!

Later, at my church at around 2 pm we will be celebrating life; a brand new life in Christ. Thirteen newly committed Christians who have made a decision for Christ will be baptized. This is a life paid for by Christ and it was a heavy price of pain, torture and blood. But why do Christians get baptized?

The simple answer is that Jesus commanded us to be baptized. In Mark 16:15-16 Jesus tells his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” But why did Jesus instruct us to baptize new believers?

Jesus made a commitment to come to this world, and gave his life in the most horrific and public way possible. He suffered the crucifixion and the entire world witnessed. When we give our life to Christ He wants us to also make that commitment in a public way for the world to see that we are his disciples and now He is our Lord.

Romans 6 helps to explain that the baptism also provides a powerful visual of how our old life without Christ is put to death in the water and when we rise out of the water we are now starting a new life with Christ. It is also a powerful reminder that like Christ we will be resurrected and live forever with Him.

Our new life is certainly an abundant eternal one and we will celebrate!

 

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Faith and a flood

In a world that had forgotten God, a world filled with violence, there was one man who God considered “perfect.” His life was a story of faith. There were no bibles or churches. No place to go to strengthen your faith. No group to seek comfort in. It was an entire civilization that had turned its back on God. Somehow Noah had managed to stay faithful to God. He was proof that even when we must stand alone it is possible to keep the faith.
God challenged him even more. He told Noah that he was going to do something that had never been done. He was going to destroy His own creation with a flood. Imagine what the naysayers said. “Noah you’re mad. You’re just hearing voices.” Perhaps they said “But God created us and loves us. He’ll never destroy us.”

However Noah was a believer to the end. He built an ark that was 450 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet tall. It included 3 stories and was built to occupy his family and a multitude of animals. How he managed such a feat the bible does not explain. In the long time it took Noah to build the ark his faith never diminished. (Genesis 6)

Due to his unwavering faith Noah and his family were saved. This is the faith that is necessary today. Many have lost faith. Those that believe in God, the bible and see Christ as their savior appear to be fewer with each generation, however Paul prophesied a “falling away in the last days” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) or a falling of the faith. Like in the time of Noah, Paul also prophesied a coming destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Like in the time of Noah most are not concerned. However Christ is faithful to His word and will surely return. Therefore like Noah we must strive to keep the faith even in the most difficult of circumstances; a storm may be on the way!

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Because He lives

Death, it is the cause of nightmares and fills our heart with fear;  it causes men to take the most horrendous actions and make the poorest choices. We do not know all its secrets but we know its reason and its condition. It is the price we must pay for our fall and it is the state of being apart from God. (Genesis 2:17) We are sinners. How can we escape it? How can any debt be escaped? Someone must pay.

The creator in his infinite love and mercy looked down upon us and knowing our hopeless state came to our rescue. He, the Messiah, became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14) With supernatural power He changed the lives of multitudes. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed thousands and caused legions of demons to flee. Nature itself bowed to His will. While all this was done to relieve a suffering humanity, it had an even greater purpose, to help their unbelief. Yet most still did not comprehend that the Messiah would have to die. (Isaiah 53:7-9)

They came with soldiers and thought they had captured Him. But it had always been the plan. He gave himself up to be stripped, beaten and whipped. Then they nailed Him to the cross and completed the sacrifice. With every drop of blood he cleansed our sins and made us new. He would say “It is finished” (John 19:30). The price had been paid. But there was one last enemy to be vanquished.

They placed our Savior in a tomb and sealed it with a stone. They set a guard of several soldiers and thought that was it. (Matthew 27:65) They thought Jesus was defeated. But then came Sunday Morning.

It had been prophesied (Matthew 12.40), it had been told, but no one seemed to be ready. While the disciples cowered in unbelief, the rulers celebrated their victory, and the devil rejoiced in his darkness, an Angel came upon the tomb. He rolled the stone and out came the King of Kings and Lord of lords. (Matthew 28:2) He vanquished death for all time. He shone as the sun, and Instead of the lamb he rose as the mighty Lion of Judah. He had set the captives free, washed away the sin, crushed the devil on his head and freed us from the nightmare of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) Because He lives we know He is the Messiah, the promised one. We now know that we will be safe in his arms.

Because He lives we know that we need not fear. Our God lives and we shall forever be with Him!

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Forsaken

Jesus hung on the cross, fulfilling the will of the father and paying the price we were all supposed to pay for our sins. His suffering to this point had been horrific. What else could He possible endure, only the most painful experience of His eternal existence.

John explained rather clearly that Jesus had always existed. (John 1). Jesus was the eternal word and everything that was ever made was made through Him. He then became flesh, also known as Jesus. What should be realized is that Jesus had always been with the father from the eternal past until the moment He was nailed on the cross. His relationship with the father was one of perfect unity and love. Jesus said on many occasions that the Father and Him were one. (John 10:30, John 17:21). Such a relationship was truly incomprehensible by human standards, a level of oneness and unity that can only be attained by the trinity.

Then all the love, strength and comfort that such a relationship created, for one moment in time, would feel completely lost. Jesus said “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46) Jesus felt alone. He felt abandoned. He was carrying all the sins of Humanity past, present and future. In that moment covered in sin he felt forsaken by the Holy Father. It may have been the worst that He had to endure. We must never forget, He did it for us. He became forsaken so that we would not be forsaken! He did it so that we could be saved, forgiven and be with Him for all eternity.

 

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Tending to others while on the cross

Jesus was beaten, whipped and nailed to a cross. After all Jesus had been through, you would expect him to hang there in His misery crying in pain or casting judgment. Surely we all have the tendency to focus on our own problems and difficulties. We can be rather indifferent to others when we are in the midst of great tragedy and sickness. In truth even the smallest setback can make us a bit self-centered. Some would call this survival instinct. Perhaps we can call it selfishness. But Jesus with His last breath, and little strength, fighting pain, saw the women that had been with Him since childhood and the most faithful disciple He had. He saw their hearts and knew their needs. He saw a mother losing her son and a disciple losing his friend and companion, and knew how to care for their needs. He drew them together with this statement “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27) He knew that one could supply the need of the other.

Jesus still sees our hearts and knows our needs. While hanging on the cross He made the needs of His followers a priority; surely our needs are also His priority. Wait one minute; this was Mary and John! Are we held in the same regard? Actually we are! Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”(Mark 3:35)

Jesus has never be too distracted or busy to tend to our needs. He proved that on the cross. One other note here is that He took care of the needs of two individuals by bringing them together. Often God uses us to satisfy the needs of each other. It is one of the many reasons why we are called to do His will (John 14:23) and tend to those in need (Matthew 31-46). In doing so we do what is best for our lives and all those around us. We also become more like our Savior who was able to tend to the needs of others while in His most difficult time.

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Today you will be with Me in Paradise

Jesus had been tortured mercilessly and finally nailed on the cross. He was practically drained of all His blood and breathing His last few breaths. This was not enough torture. One of the criminals crucified with Him blasphemed Him and said, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) There is no record of a response from Jesus. He does not condemn the foolish criminal. That was pretty remarkable. However something rather surprising follows. The other criminal crucified with Jesus who also was witnessing the death of the Christ, and could plainly see that Jesus had done nothing to save Himself, displayed faith. He is not dissuaded by the bloody and dying Christ. He holds firmly to the belief that this Jesus, who appears helpless on the cross, is the son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He believed that Jesus will be returning to His celestial Kingdom and made a plea before his dying King “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Did this criminal, two thousand years ago, understand the plan of salvation? Did he understand that the Messiah had come into the world to die so that all who believe in him could be forgiven of their sins and saved? Apparently he did.

However the criminal did not have time to change his life. He did not have time to pay for all he had done wrong. He did not have time to show the good fruit of the Spirit and produce many good works in the name of Christ. This was not a problem. Jesus saw to the heart of the man and had this to say “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40) He was instantly saved. The criminal was saved because he believed. The criminal had recognized his sins when he said “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41) He recognized that he deserved to be crucified. This was no small deal. The Romans reserved the crucifixion for the worst criminals. This criminal was not some misunderstood misfit. He was truly a bad guy. However he recognized his sin and humbled himself before Jesus. He also believed in Jesus.

For some it is difficult to see Christ for who He is; like many who abandoned Christ when he hung on the cross. However, like this criminal, if we can see the true Christ. Then regardless of our state in life, salvation is always near. It does not matter what we have done. All we have to do is sincerely repent of our sins, recognize the sacrifice on the cross and accept Jesus as our Lord. In that moment we are instantly saved, nothing else is necessary.

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Father forgive them

If we were arrested unjustly, stripped, beaten, made fun of, whipped until our skin was ripped from our bodies, and had the strength to speak, what would we say? What if after losing a great deal of blood, we were made to climb up a hill, and nailed to a cross, what would we say? Perhaps we would cry for mercy. Another logical response is to exclaim our innocence. We might have enough energy or voice to condemn those who tortured. Now imagine if for some magical reason we all of a sudden had the power to escape. All the pain could end suddenly. All the wounds healed and we could reappear in paradise. What would we do? What if we had the power to get immediate revenge? We could zap to death all those responsible for our capture and pain.

Jesus went through everything mentioned above. He had the power to stop the pain anytime he wanted to. He had the power to destroy his enemies with just a simple word. The Mountains would have certainly obeyed and swallowed them all, the seas could have been commanded to come upon them or a legion of Angels would have defended him. But Jesus did none of these. He certainly could have condemned the soldiers responsible for his torture. But Jesus spoke no such words. Instead these were the first words he uttered on the cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

This is truly the loving God that did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. (John 3:17) While going through all that pain and injustice all he thought of was mercy. Mercy was his mission and purpose. It is the reason why he gave his life. It was the price paid for our sins; that we might be saved from eternal condemnation. He is still saying “Father forgive them”. All can be forgiven, all we need to do is believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord, and repent of our sins.

 

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