Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jesus and Baptism

Being Jesus: Baptism

"Dang, that's cold!"

Jesus’ Life:
Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Mat 3:13-17 NAS)

Jesus wanted one thing in his life—to do God’s will. Jesus knew of John’s ministry. He knew that John was preaching against people’s sins and that he was baptizing those of the people of God who needed to give up their old lives and to renew their dedication to God. He knew that he did not need to repent of his sins, but he came anyway, in accordance with God’s will. John saw that it was unnecessary for Jesus to be baptized, but Jesus said that God’s will came first. And because of this, God gave Jesus three things:

a. God gave Jesus the Spirit. From this point on, God would be speaking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would be giving Jesus the Father’s words directly and the Spirit would be granting Jesus power to do whatever he needed.

b. God gave Jesus a job description. The Father said of Jesus that he was “my beloved Son.” In the Scripture, the “son of God” is the Davidic king who would rule over Israel (II Samuel 7:12-14; Psalm 2:6-8; John 1:49). At this point, Jesus was a carpenter, not a king. So God gave him a new direction for his life and a focus for the rest of his days.

c. God gave Jesus his stamp of approval. The Father said of Jesus, “I am pleased with him.” Jesus was pleasing to God because of his faith, because of his devotion to God. In this way, he would be the greatest king that ever lived.

Because of this experience, Jesus was required to change his whole way of living. Before he was a carpenter, a faithful son and brother, a student of the Scriptures and an upstanding citizen of Nazareth. Now he would be a wild card, an unknown, a person led by the Spirit. Jesus would now be someone seeking to fulfill God’s desire that he be king of the Jews. Jesus would be someone whose approval by God would be marked by a radical new lifestyle that no one had lived before. And all this happened because of one baptism.

Our Lives:
Romans 6:3-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:3-11 NAS)

Baptism has a long history in the Scriptures. Fundamentally, baptism is passing through death, as represented by waters, in order to gain a new life in God.

The earth was baptized before God created the world (Genesis 1:2-13).
Noah was baptized in the ark through the flood and then he and his family lived a new life (I Peter 3:20-21).
Moses and the children of Israel were baptized in the Red Sea (I Corinthians 10:1-2).
Joshua and the twelve tribes were baptized in the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14-17).

In every case, God led his chosen ones through the power of water and they died at that point—their old lives were destroyed for them and there was no going back. The waters they passed through were powers of judgment and powers of death (Psalm 74:12-15). But God caused them to pass through the powers of death in order to gain a new life.

Even so, when we are baptized, we pass through waters in order to show that our old lives are dead—we can never go back to them. Instead, we are living new lives in Jesus—we are living the lives of Jesus in reality (Galatians 2:20). The old things we depended on, the people we used to live like, the things we used to appreciate—all of these are gone, dead. We now live new lives like the new life Jesus lived after his baptism.

• Nathan was baptized in the Jordan River and so was cleansed from leprosy and then dedicated himself to Yahweh (II Kings 5:1-19).

• John the Baptist baptized sinners and prostitutes in the Jordan River and they repented of their sins and lived before God (Luke 7:29).

• Peter baptized three thousand people coming into Jesus (Acts 2:41)

• The Samaritans were baptized in water and then they were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 8:12-17).

• The Ethiopian eunuch believed in the message of Jesus and was baptized. (Acts 8:27-38)

• Paul was baptized and was no longer a persecutor of Jesus but a proclaimer of Jesus (Acts 9:18-20)

• Cornelius and other gentiles were baptized after the Spirit came on them through hearing the words about Jesus (Acts 10:44-48).

• Some who were disciples of John were baptized into Jesus and then they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7).

• Early Christians were taught the way of Jesus for a year and then they were baptized. After the baptism, they were given the Lord’s Supper and prayed the Lord’s Prayer with God’s people.

• Conrad Grebel and others were baptized as adults in 1525, which started the Anabaptist (Mennonite) movement, which caused all of them and many of those in the new movement to be killed by Zwinglians, Lutherans, Catholics and (later) Calvinists. But their new baptism gave them new lives which emboldened them in the Holy Spirit.

• A woman raised a Muslim decided to become a Christian. She went to underground Christian meetings and prayed and spoke to others about her faith. Her strict Muslim father was accepting of her, until she became baptized. Then he beat her and locked her in a closet and threatened to kill her. She ran away from home to live with the Christians. He let he know through others that she is no longer his daughter and that if he saw her again, he would kill her.

Living It Out

Seeking out the life that God wants us to live
Just as Jesus sought to do God’s will, even if it didn’t make sense, we need to seek out God’s desire for us, no matter what is costs us, no matter what God tells us. (Romans 12:1; Luke 14:28-32; James 1:5-6)

A believer being baptized in water
In accordance with our belief in Jesus, we need to be baptized in water. We are baptized to show our past lives as something that is dead and we are baptized to show that we are living a new life. (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:38)

Baptism in the Spirit
We need to ask for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). We need to wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). And when the Holy Spirit comes we need to listen to him and follow the new life of love we have in him. (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:19-23)

Listening to God’s plan for your life
The Spirit will tell us what God wants of us and what he expects of us. Our lives are, after baptism, at God’s disposal, to do with as He pleases. We are his servants, ready to do as he commands. And so we need to listen to him as he tells us what to do and how to live and what kind of work he wants us to accomplish—no matter how degrading, no matter how insignificant it seems. (Mark 1:16-17; Acts 9:1-20; Luke 17:7-10)

Giving up your old life.
Once we know what God wants us to do, what he wants us to accomplish, we need to realize that we can never go back to our old lives, our old ways of living, our old jobs. (Mark 1:16-20; I Peter 4:2-5; Romans 12:2)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Living Jesus' Humility

The Life of Jesus:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Phi 2:5-8 NAS)

Jesus was great. He was equal to God in the heavens and no one in the heavens could gainsay him anything. He could have remained that way for all eternity. But instead, he set aside all his greatness and he determined to be lowly. He could have done anything he wanted—and he chose to be one of the most insignificant things on earth—a human.

In the Bible, the Spirit world is not a world that one cannot see or touch, a frail world. Rather, it is a world of greater strength and power. If you compare the words “flesh” and “spirit”, you will see that “flesh” is indicative of weakness and frailty, while “spirit” is authority and unimaginable power (Genesis 6:3; Isaiah 31:3; Matthew 26:41). When people face “spirit-beings”, they do not meet a ghostly presence, but a powerful being that they fear greatly because of its strength (Luke 1:11-12). Even so, when Jesus exchanged authority in the spirit world to become human, he exchanged greatness for frailty, authority for weakness.
Even this humility, however was not enough for Jesus, in obeying the Father, Jesus allowed himself to serve others, when he deserved to have others serve him (Mark 10:45). And his main service was this—that he would die for the benefit of others. This meant that he allowed himself to be punished, when he deserved no such thing. But he was willing to do anything, pay any price for the sake of others.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son." Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.
(Mat 2:13-16 NAS)

In becoming a human, Jesus became a baby, not a great man of authority. In becoming a baby, he was helpless and weak. While as a spirit-being he could defend himself and grant himself power, as a human baby, he was dependant only on frail, lowly humans to protect him.

And when one of the greatest and most ruthless kings of the world at that time threatened him, Jesus really had no protection. Jesus commanded no armies to threaten him. Jesus had no spirit-power that could destroy Herod at a glance. The only thing that could be done is to run away. This does not seem to be noble or what the great would do, but it was what power Joseph and Mary had. They ran out of the country.

And in time, they returned to Israel, but not to the great town of Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth. Rather, they returned to Nazareth, whose very mention in Israel calls for a sarcastic comment (John 1:45-46). To be raised in this town and associated with it is to be seen as insignificant.

Summary: Jesus wanted to be ruler of the world, the Messiah. But the way he chose to gain it was the long way, not the direct route. He wanted to be great, so he determined to be lowly. He gave up all of his greatness, all of his authority to become something lowly and insignificant.

Our Lives:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
(Mat 18:1-4 NAS)

In the ancient days, a child was not something to be honored or fawned over. A child could tell no one what to do and they were not raised carefully. Although children were given food and shelter, they were largely ignored and often despised until they were ready to be tutored at about ten. Even then, they were treated like slaves—even by slaves themselves—until they became adults at 13. At this point, they were given the responsibilities of an adult and they were treated with a little respect.

To be a child is to be the lowest of the low. It is to be in a state of humiliation and in a position of shame. This attitude can be seen by the disciples, because they were turning away children from Jesus, because Jesus was “too great” to be bothered by such insignificant humans. The last thing anyone would want to become is a child.

Even as Jesus determined to be lowly, and to gain his greatness through insignificance, even so we must as well. We must rely completely on God to give us our greatness, confident that even though others deride us and mock us and hate us and put us down, we know who we really are in God. And God himself will give us that position in the future.

Therese of Lisieux
Therese, from a young child, had determined that she wanted to be a saint. But what way should she become one? She could be like Joan of Arc and fight for her people, or she could be like Jerome or Augustine and be a scholar and a great writer. But she learned that in order to gain authority before God, you had to be lowest of all. And so she sought humility. If someone complained about her, she refused to defend herself. If an authority wrongly accused her, she accepted the punishment without complaint. No one recognized her lowliness, except for one woman, who asked her to write her autobiography. She did so for the sake of this woman, and soon afterwards she became sick and died. But because of her lowliness and her seeking God’s glory and not her own, she became the most famous saint of the twentieth century.

Living It Out:
Becoming Humble
Do not boast of yourself, but of God (I Corinthians 1:31)

Do not insist on privileges or your rights. (I Corinthians 9:1-12)

Allow authorities to punish you unjustly. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Give up all you have that makes you great. (Mark 10:29-30)

Look to serve others, even if it is against what is better for you. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Do good to others, even if you are mocked for it. (Luke 15:1-2)

Do not give yourself or seek out titles. (Matthew 23:8-10)

Do not put yourself in the places of honor, but allow yourself to be appointed by others. (Luke 14:7-11)

Do not do actions to be honored by people, but do all things for praise from God alone. (Matthew 6:1-18)

Do not seek to be the person at the center of attention. (James 3:1)

Treat everyone equally, whether they look (or smell) nice or not. (James 2:1-7)

Look for ways to serve the lowest of people. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Go out of your way to be friendly with, to touch, to chat with, to be equal to the outcast. (Mark 1:40-42)

If God is going to exalt you, don’t tell anyone—as much as you can—let God do it. (Mark 3:11-12)

Submit to authorities when you can, even if you don’t have to. (Matthew 17:24-27)

Do tasks that may seem to be demeaning, if they have to be done. (Mark 10:45)

Allow others to speak words of hatred and shame, and say nothing back. Don’t defend yourself, don’t return with a witty comeback. (Mark 14:55-61)

If someone persecutes you, run away. (Matthew 10:23)