Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles. The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?
Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus. In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia. He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region. He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come. In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again. Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him. He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)
In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience. He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification. Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness. We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in. We should have a different attitude. We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it. Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection. This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
We do not have to fear the times that we live in. All of these things are given to us as a sign. A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today. Today we have another 100 year event. It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year. This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19. This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future. The way we interact with one another will be different. The way that foreign government interact and support one another. Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed. Individual freedoms will be forever effected. Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased. Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.
This virus is already affecting all of those things and more. We are losing family members. Some are questioning God. Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him. Others have renewed their faith. Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out. This same dynamic plays out in the family circle. Many families are being drawn together. Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten. Parent spending time with their children. Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love. However; with these things we see unfolding. The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold. With these things, and the very upfront reality of death. Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.
We know the times and the seasons in which we live. This have been told to us before. Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer. He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them. When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan. These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.
For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort. We know, that everyone has an appointment with death. As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world. We are not to cling to things of this world. We know that the things of this world are temporal. That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary. Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually. Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor. It is here one moment and then gone. For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things. We know that there is life after death.
We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were. Instead, we have a new life. We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh. We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death. We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead. He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.
This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another. What he just said is that Christ is eternal. Christ is returning. We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.
We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort? We know that we dwell in him. We are his children. 1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love. He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him. We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ. With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful. We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.
We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do. Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki. People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived. Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.
We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him. We can also pray for one another. Pray without whole hearts. Pray aloud. Pray boldly. Pray in faith and in hope. The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence). Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
After these things is referring to the previous chapter where a great war had happened between many powerful kings. In the process Abram’s cousin Lot was taken captive. This spurred Abram to get involved. He rallied an army and went an defeated the evil king and set the captives free. When the King of Sodom and the other kings came to pay tribute to Abram, Abram gave glory to God, and took no rewards from the kings for himself, because it was God who delivered the enemy to Abram.
God now reaffirms Abram. I know, why should Abram have to worry after such a great victory and the adulation of the surrounding kingdoms? Well this undoubtedly would make the surrounding kings a bit cautious of Abram and to possibility that if Abram so decided he might take their kingdoms. After all by this time God promised to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) I don’t know about you, but if God told me those things, I would probably tell others about it. That is some pretty exciting news.
No matter is the other kings knew why Abram had journeyed so far away from home, it was easy to see that he was a great leader of men and soldiers. He had a clear head for tactics, he was unafraid, and people from all over the region would now look to him for safety. You can see how a king would want him for an ally or would see him as a possible enemy to their own heads.
So God reassures Abram. “I am thy shield”. God lets Abram know that he is his protector. It is more than just that. The shield for a warrior is the brunt of the battle. It is close at hand. The shield absorbs impact, protects from missiles and other unforeseen dangers. Often a shield was worn on the back and allowed for protection from an attack from the rear, and allowed the warrior to concentrate on what was in front of him.
I think this is very important. God is not telling Abram that there will not be trials, or unforeseen dangers ahead. God is not telling Abram that he is going to do for Abram what Abram is called to do. Instead God is telling him to “Fear not”, because he is there with him in the battle, and he will protect him in his fight. Abram is expected to stand, fight, and have faith in the LORD.
God further encourages Abram when he says that he (the LORD) is Abram’s “exceeding great reward”. Abram can have faith in God to fulfill his promise. Abram can have confidence in God to stand by him, and see him through all of his afflictions. Even more important is the expectation of God towards Abram. Abram is encouraged that he will see the faithfulness of God in his life, and will be greatly rewarded for walking in faith. Walking in faith is something that Abram had done from the first time the LORD called him. If we take a study of Abram’s life, we will see that every success Abram had in his life is when he walked in faith. God was true to this promise to Abram. It is funny, because when most of us study the life of Abram, and the Promises of Abraham, this promise is often overlooked. This one little promise is the picture of faith in action and the expectant results.
Fear not, is what God told Abram. Fear not, I am your protector when harm is upon you. I am your protector when you see the danger, and when you do not see the danger. I am a rewarded of those who love me. Great is that reward for those who have faith in me to keep the promises I have made. I tell you of one thing. If you look at the New Testament and study the history of the saints, that some took ill. Paul had to be nursed back to health, after getting so ill he almost perished. Other saints in the New Testament and in missionary positions throughout history have fallen ill, and some have died after being exposed to diseases as they ministered for Christ.
It distresses my heart to hear those who say, “I thought you had faith…”, as if faith is what is used to keep you well. The faith we have is not to keep ourselves well. If is not even to heal others. Miracles and healing was not why Jesus came here and died, and rose again. It is not the reason we are left here after we have believed on Christ. Jesus came to save that which was lost and to disciple others to know God, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why we are here. You want to be like Christ? Then live for Christ, as Christ lived for his Father in Heaven. Seek those who are lost, share the Gospel of Christ, and disciple others to do the same. Fear not, the LORD is with you. The LORD is your shield. The LORD is your exceeding and great reward. We are not immune to the tragedies of this world, but we are harbingers of the hope in the next. Walk in the faith that the LORD has risen, and HE said that HE will raise us up! We do not fear death, because our lives here are already forfeit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd. This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in. The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services. Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy. This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station. A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities. In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit. I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes. In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me. There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber. The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.
When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors. Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area. What is the income level? What is the major ethnic population? What is the major health or poverty driven issue? What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease? How many children per home? How many single mother homes are in the populace? All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church. However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground. The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age. This is true in more than one way. But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental. We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.
I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room. The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach. They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour. The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”. In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying. The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all. Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved. The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.
I want to make something clear. Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service. It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry. They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.
Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service. They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed. They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things. In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items. We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down. The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved. Men are the leaders in the church. When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear. A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done. A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished. A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.
These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service. John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ. He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom. We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men. I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”. However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders. Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself. We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church. Men need to be held to a standard and accountability. These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them. These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church. To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.
I showed up at one of these churches early one morning. While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name. I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.” Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying. The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared. Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry. I joined the church that service. That was all it took.
Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel. Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings. There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.
Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another. We should also pray for one another. Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16) Wow! Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe. Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry. However, it also includes mentorship in Christ. Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.
Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services. I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies. The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning. It means to share on one’s self. This means that we should be living in fellowship. We should be involved in one another’s lives. We should be giving towards one another. We should be living with one another on a daily basis. Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another. This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches. Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.
The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”. This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding. We should act like mature men, not like children. We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit. We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture. We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error. We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures. We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God. In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men. Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost. Men who lead. If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her. The husband may not go. She has no authority to make him. The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.
The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church. This is because, boys want to be like their fathers. The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?” In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself. However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church. He has that authority. The wife who wishes to please her husband will go. The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents. More so if the father is actively involved in the church. Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance. The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ. A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.
The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society. To much of that nonsense has already happened. We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community. Men that are bold in their profession of faith. Men that stand up for what is right. Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.
When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men. When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men. The first recorded martyr was also a man. The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today. That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service. He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock. Then he gives some criteria.
I know what you are most likely thinking. This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these? He says that a man of God should be blameless. There should be no cause for accusation in his life. He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church. He should be the husband of one wife. This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife. He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy. He should be vigilant. This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others. Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him. He should be sober. He should be of a good nature and not into mischief. He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others. He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself. The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)
These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches. Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord. Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church. In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties. Israel became scattered having no leadership. The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey. They were weak and sickly. This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?
Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”. Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church. He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal. They are not doing the things of the Lord. Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out. Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close? They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.
Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church. In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church. Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect. You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life. We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing. We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows. (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptizedevery one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 (King James Version)
Baptism, a tradition in our common faith, that a number of us do without full knowledge of how important this act is. Quite often, we are baptized at a young age before we know the importance and the meaning of the act of baptism. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, plenty of people in the Bible as we will discuss we simply told be baptized and so they got baptized. Though as you mature in your faith, it becomes important to understand just how import this symbolic act is.
The act of Baptism was so important to God, that Christ Himself got baptized and is one of 8 events that is recorded in each of the gospels (the others being: call of the first disciples, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the agony at Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal of Christ, Peter’s denial of Christ, Christ before Pilot, then the death, burial, and resurrection). You can read the story in John 1:29-34, Luke 3:21-22, Matthew 3:13-17, and Mark 1:1-11. Mark 1:1-8 reads as this:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
And Matthew 3:13-17 gives us a better completion of the story:
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (KJV)
Christ felt it to be so important to be baptized that He led the way with His own example. Then God, the Father said He was well pleased with His Son for the act of righteousness and faithfulness. So, if God almighty humbles Himself to be baptized, that should speak to the level of levity that this act has.
So, what is the big deal??? Well, Paul writes on that subject in Romans 6:4-11:
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (KJV)
It is the marking of our new life as believer’s. Used to be the circumcision, but now our mark which also serves as an outward symbol and metaphor for the death, and resurrection of Christ. To show the world that we are no longer who we used to be. That from that day forward we are Christians, followers of Christ renewed by the Spirit of God. The act of being fully submerged is the dying to our former selves as Christ died on the cross to take away our sins, and then the reemergence from the water a parallel to the resurrection of Christ in that a promise was fulfilled and our sins are no more. When we are baptized it is our symbol of dedication and a public testimony that Christ has begun this work of Salvation in us that will be completed on Christ’s return (Phil 1:6).
It marks the beginning of the relationship that you have with God. Like getting a friend request on Facebook or other social media, God has sent the request to everyone. And when you repent and accept Jesus as Lord, and Savior, that is you accepting the friend request. But, what makes a friend special on Facebook? It is the one you tag in everything, and the one that you talk about how proud you are to know them! Think of baptism as your first tagging of God in your life! That is the first moment that you acknowledge and profess Him before all of man! That is what is so important about baptism. What is the point of accepting Christ if you are ashamed of Him? There is no point, baptism is merely the completion of your old life and marks the beginning of your new one.
We can see this in the life of Paul, formerly known as Saul. In Acts 9, we read of Saul’s redemptive encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, but his new life did not begin until he was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). After his baptism Saul became one of the greatest apostles of Christ and went on to author the majority of the New Testament. Another great way to think about it is this: A brother in Christ once told me about this riddle. There are 7 birds on the wire, and all 7 decide to fly away. How many flew away? The answer might surprise you, but the answer is 0. None flew away, all 7 are still sitting on the wire. Just because you decide to do something, does not mean you have actually done it. This is the same with repentance and acceptance of Christ. If you never take the first step of Baptism, then have you truly dedicated your life to God?
In the Great Commission given to us in Mark 16:15-17 we are commanded to go all over the world and preach the gospel and “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16, KJV). We are actually commanded to believe and be baptized! The book of Acts contains another great example, in Acts 8:26-39 we have the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Now, eunuch was a man that was devoted to purity of not only himself but of generally a lady he protected or some position that he held. In other words, they were men of righteousness and were beyond reproach. In this story, we can tell he clearly believed the word of God, he just did not quite understand it. Phillip was directed to go and preach to this Eunuch that he might understand the word of God. The eunuch, having it been placed on his heart, was full of conviction and asked Phillip to baptize him then and there on the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere. That is how important baptism should be to us as believers!
The act of baptism should so important to us that when we confess our belief in Christ that we should straightway seek to act on that belief and be baptized! Even Christ did not begin His ministry until He was baptized! If nothing else is gained out of this, then remember that the Lord, your God, decided it was so important to Him that we should be baptized when we come to Him that He set the example and began His earthly ministry by being baptized. Now, yes Christ had performed miracles and even preached before then, but He did not set out to complete His Father’s work until after being baptized.
All of that to say this, baptism; is it important to your belief? Yes, we are all called to be baptized. If you are still having doubts about this whole Jesus is Lord talk, then I would encourage you to check out the other posts on this site and really read into the Bible for yourself and put to test the things you read in it! God is still in the miracle business, let the next one He works be in the transforming of your life! Repent of your sins, believe in your heart, and confess that Jesus is Lord and follow it up with baptism, and be saved! A future without worry of what comes after death is just a prayer away! If you have questions, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . God Bless You, and have a Wonderfully Blessed Day!
Fasting, for most of us this word means little more than just not eating or some trendy diet to try. Yet, when we look into the purpose and ideology behind fasting, we get a much deeper image and a truer sense of what it is to truly fast. The practice in the Hebrew tongue is read as ta’anit (pronounced ta’anith) and it holds a deep root in their traditions in remembrance for God delivering them.
The practice of fasting originates with Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) as we can read in Leviticus 23:26-32
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also, on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. (King James Version)
The word says we are to afflict our souls… the word afflict is defined as to cause pain or suffering. We are to atone or repay for our sin by afflicting our souls with how we live for the day, and if you did not follow you were cut out from the people. This affliction is done by not eating or drinking (to include water), not wearing shoes, no bathing, no wearing or perfumes or oils and additionally not working as on the sabbath. And this day was always followed by the observance of the sabbath day, so it would be 2 full days before anything was done. This was done as a direct commandment from God to honor Him and remember His will for His people, and as to make ourselves a living sacrifice for our own sins as this was done under the Law still.
The next earnest and voluntary example of fasting we find comes from David in 2 Samuel 12:15-21
And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. (KJV)
Here David has multiple reasons as to why he fasts. At first it is to plead for his son’s life, but then he begins to mature spiritually and he begins to seek God’s will in it all. He mourns for his son, but becomes obsessed with atoning for his sin that caused this situation in the first place (2 Samuel 12:13). Upon receiving news of his son’s death, the first thing he does before eating is clean himself and go praise the Lord in open worship before eating. David’s fast was again an atonement for his sins and in seeking of the will of God as was the purpose of the day of atonement that was set out in Leviticus.
Now, the way Christ fasted was on the complete next level… in the book of Matthew we see Christ venture into the woods for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-4)
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (KJV)
Christ denied himself any contact with others and prayed to strengthen His spirit for the things to come (not just the devil’s temptations). This is the first thing Christ does as part of His ministry. He got baptized by John and then goes straight way to the wilderness to fast, to prepare His spirit to meet the will of God for the ministry that His Father had ordained for Him. Christ later talks about fasting, and reminds us for whom we should be fasting. Reading Matthew 6:16-18 we see we aren’t to fast for others to know that our pride might grow, but rather that we might humble ourselves to God.
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:16-18,KJV)
So, what is the big deal with people coming out and saying I am doing the Daniel ‘fast’ and coming out trying to lose weight through intermittent fasting? Well, none, however it is not truly fasting as is described biblically. For one, the Daniel fast is based off of Daniel abstaining from delicacies to express his mournful state (Daniel 10:1-3) in addition to living out the Proverb 23:6, where it is said we should not eat even the bread of a miser (defined as someone who holds much wealth). When you do not eat because of a diet, you are not fasting, rather you are regimenting your diet or food intake to help lose weight, not abstaining from the world to seek God first. That is what a fast is all about. Giving God glory by truly denying oneself.
Let us look at what each example of fasting has in common, first and foremost, they were each done in response to, or in seeking God’s will. Yom Kippur was a commandment, while David and Jesus were preparing to accept the will of God. When you fast, you should seek God’s will first, no matter what it is that you are giving up, or abstaining from, your purpose should be to seek God’s perfect will and to put Him first with denial of yourself. When you fast you should truly live out as Christ said we are to do, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). The entire fast should be focused on reminding yourself of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do for you. God is an awesome, and powerful being, there is no one like Him, when you fast, your spiritual eyes should open up and take in just how awesome our God is! Your days of fasting should be filled with His praise and worship, also spent studying His word and perfect ways. A huge part of fasting is just pondering the endless aspects of God.
Secondly, it should be a true denial of yourself. When you fast, you aim to build dependency on God. Not eating or drinking is the baseline for a fast, not the be all or end all of a fast. With Yom Kippur, they did not even bathe or wear shoes! They were humbled to the point where they took no pride in their appearance, smell, and they even endured walking without protection for their feet. And its not like they had sidewalks or paved roads to walk on, they had the desert (they were still wondering the desert with Moses at this point), so often this meant great pain from the sand and rocks drying, cutting, and cracking their feet.
Which brings me to the final part of fasting, it should not be easy. When you fast, it should be a great burden on you. A large part of fasting is enduring by reliance on God. You cannot rely on when it is something that is within your normal capabilities. For example, as a soldier I am used to traveling and being alone, so isolating myself is not a good way to increase reliance on God, however giving up video games, social media, exercise and other things that would strain myself and increase my dependence on him. Remember, all of those are done in addition to the not eating or drinking, not just the other activities being abstained from.
In short, your fast is about God, not you. You should fast in order to prepare yourself for the will of God, not to seek the favor of God. Fasting is done in direct submission to God and His will for you. A fast is not some light hearted diet or trend, it is a lifestyle of worship to God. It is worshiping through sacrificing your self and honoring God with the true recognition He deserves and that is with everything you are.
James talked about enduring trials, but what kinds of trials was James talking about? I found this in Hebrews and thought that it was applicable to what we are discussing. It is important for us to understand that faith results in actions. Sometimes these actions are quite sever. However, going through these trials build us up in Christ and gives us the endurance needed to run our race well. Below is a table that shows some people in the Old Testament who were tested.
Two things of note. First, in Hebrews 11:29 the author briefly mentions when Israel crossed the Red Sea. Now something that may be overlooked in the casual reading of this little verse… each individual had to make a decision to trust God and pass through the waters. Any one who would have stayed behind, even though they would be “elect” of God would have died at the hands of Egypt (the World system). Those who truly believed God and used that faith to move forward were spared death. Without faith in God they would have never moved.
Second is the entirety of Hebrews 11:35-40 shows the trials that others before us have had to go through. These things they endured not only demonstrated their faith, but; gave a benefit for us. Without these martyrs we would not have examples of what faith looks like in action. We would not have the benefit of being able to trust in the Lord without seeing the faithfulness of God in their sufferings. We could even go so far as to say that without the trials of the faithful who have gone before us, we would not know God. Why then do we go through trials.
Offered Isaac in obedience of faith and trust in God
Blessed Jacob and Esau’s future trusting the promise of God
When dying Blessed his sons future trusting the promise of God
Commanded his bones be brought out of Egypt; believing God
Hid him 3 months without fear
Refused to be a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter
Kept the Passover in obedience through faith
Moses and Israel
Passed through the Red Sea in obedience through faith
Joshua and Israel
Fell the Walls of Jericho by obedience to the Lord
Received mercy salvation
Subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, etc… all through obedience in faith
Take some time this week to search out these examples and see what these saints did because of their faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Lord and stand in that faith, then we will receive trials. Trials are a good thing. Trials help us to grow and mature in our faith. Trials help us to trust more on the Lord and his promises. Trials help others to trust in the Lord and give an opportunity for others to learn how to respond in trials, and to encourage their own faith and endurance.