Monday, August 18, 2008

A Thought on Eternal Life vs Eternal Existence

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. John 17:3"

How many people today seek after eternal life? Many seek after everlasting existence, but how many seek life…that is to know the only true God and Jesus who He sent?

I was thinking about this last night, after watching a anime about high school relationships (boy was it full of drama), and the thought occurred to me that we are so deluded as to what life really is! Think about the common human view of "life" after death. If people are true to themselves they'll admit that death isn't/can't "be it" or the end of existence. We all feel/know that there has to be more. "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Eccl.3:11" And so we come up with theories. What is Heaven and Hell in the mind of a common American? Hell is a place where the devil is king and punishes people because they wanted to have a fun existence and "party down." The people who commit social and moral indignities; things like drinking(alcohol), smoking, sex, drugs, murder, swearing, uncouth practical jokes (burning feces on a neighbors door step) etc. are sure to end up there. Whereas heaven, is a place where you get wings, a harp and some Philadelphia cream cheese while sitting in clouds surrounded by naked babies. Or it's a party with dancing, attractive people and a jazz band, where God is a king and if you don't behave you'll be sent to H, E, double hockey sticks.

Neither view involves eternal life, but instead everlasting existence, because neither view involves knowing Jesus. I think that is why Jesus said the road is narrow that leads to life and few find it. Because life isn't mere existence, it is something more wonderful than we can imagine…the ability to know and be one with God! "Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in me." Don't we who call ourselves Christians understand the significance of these words? We get to share in oneness with God! How could we not rejoice in all things if we remember this truth?

Perhaps it's that we often neglect the wonder that is knowing God and having true life. Maybe we think it's not a big deal because it's a free gift or because it's available for all who would believe and therefore less "special." Or maybe it's because we don't really want life, we just want an existence forever pleasuring in our own delights, ignoring the fact that they can't truly satisfy. I love the picture of this that C.S. Lewis gives in his book "The Great Divorce." It shows people that want to save their existence instead of have true life with the source of life and therefore find hell and run to it, without being sent there. "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." For as long as we want an existence that is selfish and based on our "being" only, we will never be able to have Spiritual union and oneness with God, which is life! For Christ came to bring the word of life, one in which there is a unity and knowledge of the life source, God the Father. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you have rejected knowledge…(Hosea 4:6)"

Why do we grumble and complain? Is it because we don't understand the love of God? For truly if we did, wouldn't we be like Moses and not the Israelites, like the prophets and not the people, or like Christ a servant of all first, and not like ourselves greedy little master "want to be." For if we recognize God's Lordship and submit to Him then we will be able to know Him. This is life, to know God and Jesus. If we love Him we will abide in His word and He shall personally bring us to communion with the Father. So rejoice in the hope of life, an honor without precedence, that God would choose part of His creation to share His person and eternity with. Quit complaining about the now, and rejoice in the hope of true life!

Now some may say in this life we have troubles. Indeed we will, for Christ suffered first and those who follow Him will also suffer because of the enemy, so that they may be made perfect through His sufferings. Yet, it has been also said He will give us His peace and not only that but as we serve Him He will be in us and with us.

What then is left? "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. Mark 16:15-18" Often today there are those who "hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these… (They're) always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Why? Because they don't want to know Him, "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (from 2timothy3)" These are strong words of warning, I hope we will abide in Him with our whole hearts, mind, will, and strength.

Let us go to the Author of life through the Son of His love and grace and know Him. Rejecting the wicked things of this existence and receiving life; we will hold on to truth and shall walk with the Lord God.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me. Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

"Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Baptism - Power and Purpose

Baptism – What &Why

I’m a little curious of the full significance of baptism in the life of a believer. I was told that it was not necessary for salvation but still very important for a Christian’s maturity. Following some baptism classes that I took before my own baptism when I was fourteen years of age, I understood that baptism was the responsibility of the maturing Christian. A seemingly powerless symbol to declare being “born again” as it symbolized our spiritual death and new life found in Jesus Christ. I was told it was to be a witness to others (usually Christian family and friends), a declaration to them of my choice in following Jesus Christ. That was it…holding no other significance… as much as I understood.

Originally that was enough, to walk in obedience in declaring my faith and love for God. However, the more I read of God’s word, the less this view of baptism meant to me. It seemed like it was missing some of the truth in its purpose and power.

When I was sixteen to eighteen years old (I can’t remember exactly when) I once had to give a report before my church congregation, at a youth baptismal service, about its significance. I found and studied as many Bible verses regarding baptism and its purpose as I could (around ten verses at the time) the week prior to the service. I couldn’t seem to put the pieces of understanding together at that time in my life (thanks to my teenage brain). The night of the service came and all I could think to do was read the congregation some of the verses, confirm the obedience and symbolic nature of baptism and concluded with “I think its important that you all get baptized” hoping that God could fill in the rest. Now, although I do believe God used me in my weakness, nevertheless, that left me feeling quite ashamed at my ignorance and lack of understanding on the subject. And since then I have just held its purpose as an act of faith (nothing wrong with that, but I like to strive on to maturity)

And so now about ten years later and with the help of God’s Spirit teaching me I’d like to look at it again.

Dictionary definition: Baptism - the ritualistic sprinkling of water on the head or immersion of the body into water as an action of initiation, dedication, etc. considered a sacrament (a visible sign of an inward grace) in both the Protestant and Catholic Church.

Through further study I still believe that water baptism is a declaration of oneness (like a marriage ceremony) with God the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. And it should not be forgotten that baptism is a sacrament (a holy command given by Jesus Christ to all those who believe) and should not merely be overlooked because people don’t understand it’s purpose or are to proud and think that they don’t need it to be saved so it can’t be that important. That is an arrogant, rebellious, and disobedient way of thinking about baptism by water. Jesus instituted it, just as He commanded us to remember Him in the Lord’s Supper and to love each other he also commanded us to baptize and be baptized.

Here are a few more things I’ve learned about the purpose and power of baptism. I put it in point form so as not to have to write a book and it does require some Bible studying on the part of the reader. The purposes for baptism are underlined under the sub headings of water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Supporting verses are found under each purpose. All in all I hope it’s a blessing, from God and not just me.

Baptism - Power and Purpose
As found in scripture

Baptism by/in/through Water

Sanctification/consecration (being set apart for God)-
In the Israelites baptism by Moses (1 cor.10:2-13)
In the Anointing the Levites (Lev.8:6)
Israel by blood (Ex.24:6-8)
In the baptism of Jonah
Baptism of believers in Jesus (1 Cor.6:11)

Cleansing (from past sins and unholiness)-
In the Flood
In the Levitical Laws (Num.19)
Israel (Lev.14:8 and throughout Num.8:6-8&19:7)
In the baptism of Jonah
Baptism of believers in Jesus (1 Cor.6:11, Eph.5:25-26, Acts 22:16, Heb.10:22)

In the baptism of John (Acts 13:24&19:4, Matt.3:6&11, Mk.1:4&8, Lk.3:3)
In the baptism of Jonah
In the baptism of believers in Jesus (Jn. 3:22&4:1-2, Acts 2:38&19:4-6)

(Obeying God’s command then undergoing baptism)
The Flood (Noah building the ark)
The Israelites (taking Passover/leaving Egypt)
Death of Jesus (Lk.12:50, Matt.20:22, Mrk.10:38)
The baptism of believers in Jesus (Acts 2:38&10:48&19:1-6&22:16)

Discipleship/Kinship (to God or man)-
In the Israelites baptism by Moses
In the baptism of John (Acts 18:25, Acts 19:3)
Baptism of believers (Matt.28:19, Jn.4:1-2, Gal 3:26-28, Acts 19:5, 1Cor.1:12-15)
In the anointing of the Levites

Joining in Christ’s death and victory leading to life/freedom from sin/death(and the curse)-
The Flood (1 Peter 3:18-21)
In the Israelites baptism by Moses (1 cor.10:2-13)
Baptism of believers (Rom.6:2-4, Col.2:12)
Jonah (ch 2 ending with his proclamation “salvation is from the Lord” which is what the name Jesus means)

A sign of God’s faithfulness-
Baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:16)
Death of Jesus (Lk.12:50, Matt.20:22, Mrk.10:38)
The baptism of believers in Jesus (Mk.16:16)
In the Israelites baptism by Moses (1 cor.10:2-13)

A declaration of faith/placing of oneself under authority-
In the anointing of the Levites
In the anointing of the Kings (1Sam.16:13)
Baptism of Jesus (Lk.12:50)
In the Israelites baptism by Moses
The baptism of Jesus (by John the Baptist)
In the baptism of John (Acts 19:3, Lk.7:29-30)
The baptism in Jesus of believers (Mk.16:16, Acts 18:8, 1Pet. 3:21, 1Cor.1:12-15)
The baptism of Jonah (Ch 2)

In the Flood (2 Peter 3:5-6)
Jonah in the sea (read Jonah)
Death of Jesus (Lk.12:50, Matt.20:22, Mrk.10:38)
Baptism of believers in Jesus (Rom.6:2-4)

A sign/promise given by God of Salvation/Redemption-
In the Israelites baptism by Moses (1 cor.10:2-13)
The baptism of believers in Jesus (Heb.10:22, Mk.16:16, Rom.6, Acts 18:8, Titus 3:5)

A sign of commitment/oneness with someone (like that of marriage)-
In the Israelites baptism by Moses
Jesus to the Father(Matt. 3:16, Mk.1:10, Lk.3:22, John 1:32)
Baptism in Jesus of believers (Eph.5:25-26, 1Cor.1:12-15&12:13, Gal 3:26-28, Rom.6:2-4)

Purification leading to a clean conscience-
Ceremonial washings of Old Testament Law
In the baptism of believers in Jesus (Heb. 10:22, 1Pet.3:21)

A sign/foretelling/shadow of the baptism of Fire/the Holy Ghost-
In the Flood (2 Peter 3)
In the Israelites baptism by Moses (1 cor.10:2-13)
In the anointing of the Levites Hebrews
In the anointing of the Kings
In the baptism of John (Lk.3:16, Acts 1:5, Mk.1:8)
In the baptism of believers in Jesus (Acts 2:38)

Baptism by/in/through Fire/Spirit of God

In the Heavens & Earth destroyed by fire & new heaven and new earth coming from God’s Spirit to last forever dedicated to God.(2 Peter 3:7&10-13, Hebrews 12:26-28, Rev.21:1)
The Church/bride of Christ in baptism and receiving of His Spirit (Lk.3:16, Matt.3:11, Mk.1:8, Acts.2:3, Rom.15:6&16, 2Thes.2:13, 1Cor.6:11, 1Peter 1:2)

Cleansing (from sins/curse bringing eternal holiness)-
The Church/believers (Heb.9:14, Is.4:4, 1Cor.6:11, Titus3:5, Ez.36:26-27)

Baptism of Jesus (Is.61:1, Lk.4:18, Acts10:38)
In the Church (1Jn.2:20&27, 2Cor.1:21-22)

Freedom from the Law/sin/death-
(Mk.16:16, Gal.5:1&16-25, Ez.36:26-27)

A seal of God’s faithfulness/promises and Love-
2Cor.1: 22, Eph.1:13-14, Romans 5:5

(Obeying God’s command then undergoing baptism)
Acts 5:32, Acts 10:44-47, Acts 19:1-6

A seal/contract of commitment/unity with God a oneness (like that of marriage)-
(Ez.36:26-27, John 14:16-17,1Cor 12:13, 2Cor.1:21-22&13:14, Gal 3:26-28)

A seal given by God of Salvation/Redemption-
Mk.16:16, 2Cor.1:21-22, Acts 10:44-48, Eph.1:13-14&4:30, Titus 3:5

The impartation of Spiritual fruits/gifts and teaching of truth-
Luke12:12, John 14:26, John16:13-15,Acts 1:8,Acts 2:4, 1 John 2:27, Romans 9:1, 1 Corinthians ch12, Hebrews 2:4, 2 Peter 1:21

John 16:8-11
The world and the wicked (Is.66:15-16, 2 Peter 3:7&10-13, Hebrews 12:26-28, Rev.21:1)
The people of Israel/bride of Christ (Isaiah 4:3-5, Heb4:11-13)
Sodom and Gomorrah (Lk.17:29, 2Pet.2:6, Jude 1:7)

Something interesting I noticed is the many connections between baptism by water and baptism by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Why get baptized in water? To obey God and to declare your willingness to love, honor and obey Him. To receive His promise of sanctification and to repent and be cleansed, rejecting the old solitary self and become a new person. Just as a husband and wife become one in the flesh so we become one in Spirit with God. Can some be married without ceremony? Yes, but this is God’s plan and He desires us to physically, mentally, and spiritually chose Him.

P.S. something interesting about baptism is the report of the Apostle Peter in the book of Acts chapter 10. Some gentiles listened and believed the report of Peter concerning Jesus and were filled by God’s Spirit and then Peter commanded them to be water baptized. So obviously the significance of baptism is not something to be overlooked by even Spirit filled believers.

“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. Acts 10:47-48”