The God of new beginnings: the new birth’s cleansing

The letter of 1 Peter reminds God’s people how God has enabled us to have a new life and what we can expect from this new beginning. While its opening verses reveal that the new beginning God provides enables us to have hope for tomorrow, when we step further into the letter we discover that it also transforms who we are today! Continue reading “The God of new beginnings: the new birth’s cleansing”

Pro-choice

The nice, soaking rains that came to our middle Tennessee gardens this month were more than welcome after the heat and drought of this brutally long summer. Along with the rains came the return of all kinds of fungus, including those pretty yard mushrooms arranged in a darling little fairy ring on the lawn.

One of my friends wondered if they were good to eat. They certainly looked it! They even smelled nice. I warned her in no uncertain terms about eating mushrooms without proper identification. Another friend chimed in that some of them are delicious…for one time only! Continue reading “Pro-choice”

The new birth

During the 1st century some rabbis described Gentiles as “a new-born child” when they converted to Judaism (Yebamoth 22a, 48b, 97b). Proselyting to Judaism required a baptism. During the same time that the rabbis were using this language of new birth, John the Baptizer was calling people to reorientate their lives with a baptism of repentance. (Luke 1:15-17; 3:3)

This was the religious background when Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling class, visited Jesus.  Jesus taught Nicodemus that no one can enter God’s kingdom unless he is born from above, namely “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:3,5). Continue reading “The new birth”

Jesus and the one baptism

Many baptisms and ceremonial washings existed in the first century A.D. Yet, by about 60 A.D. Paul could affirm there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). God meant for this one baptism to be one of the foundations for a united people.

What follows are aspects of Jesus’ story and how the baptism that is “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) fits into the spread of Christianity. This water baptism is commonly referred to as Christian baptism. Continue reading “Jesus and the one baptism”

Dying to self & to sin: The moment of a disciple’s birth

“Disciple” signifies a follower, pupil or adherent to a teacher. In the Gospels it described those who followed John the Baptist as well as Jesus. Biblical authors also seem to have used this term to designate casual followers as well as those more fully committed (John 6:66; 8:31). The discipleship Jesus desires from us requires dying to ourselves (Mark 8:34-35). It also demands we abandon a sinful lifestyle, so that we might live for God (Romans 6:2,6,18,22).

While selfless living is commendable, it’s empty of eternal value and remains just a human-based spiritual activity, unless we are crucified with Christ. Paul knew that the life Jesus makes possible is not achieved by self-exertion. Continue reading “Dying to self & to sin: The moment of a disciple’s birth”

Baptism in the name of Jesus

“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there and said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ ‘Into John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. (Now there were about twelve men in all.)” (Acts 19:1-7 NET). Continue reading “Baptism in the name of Jesus”

Surpassing confidence. Possessing God’s approval.

How confident are we? Are we masters of the grill, gifted at our professions or perhaps certain of our flair for gab? Yet, who among us has not experienced an unexpected curve ball? The dinner turned out disappointing. A work project did not go well. We stood speechless.

What we expected slipped between our fingers. In such instances we discover our earlier confidence did not deliver. Just because we felt confident did not guarantee the results.

So what about really important things, like heaven? Can we surpass mere confidence to know for certain we are God’s forgiven people? Yes we can!

I imagine joyous exclamations: “by faith” and “by grace!” To be sure, these principles are intrinsically involved. Yet, throughout scripture a more fundamental principle exists.

Continue reading “Surpassing confidence. Possessing God’s approval.”