Fighting Sin Through the Power of the Flesh or the Spirit

Sin is bad; we’re not supposed to do it. How, pray tell, do we fight off sin though?

There are many Christians who think if you just faith enough God will make you not sin, or that you won’t be tempted. There’s a magic moment when you truly call out to God in surrender and the battle is forever over. Sinlessness takes over.

Others think that sin should be fought, that there are actual things we do to defeat sin.

The first option means we do nothing except surrender. God does it all; we’re just passive victors of what Christ does for us.

The second view says we have a part in our own sin battles. That the level of sin in our lives has a direct correlation to our effort to stop it.

The surrender option would be cool, I know why it has a lot of people who believe it. I do nothing and still win! Sweet gig.

The battling view seems more legit, however, both from a practical and a biblical approach.

Paul says we are to bring our bodies under subjection; there are literal physical things we can do to fight off sin. We lay aside the weight of sin, we flee youthful lust. Hebrews says we sin because we haven’t yet striven against sin to the point of shedding blood. Most of us have made peace with sin in our lives. We’re not fighting it as much as we’re covering it so we don’t get caught or look bad.

I think bringing our bodies under subjection is largely something you have to put your mind to and exercise the option. For instance, if your flesh is getting carried away with any number of sins, fasting can be a good route to practice controlling your flesh. Maybe even use it as a punishment for indulging the flesh, make a severer consequence to your actions.

Now, this is where heads explode. “That’s legalism! You’re putting yourself under a yoke of bondage! We have freedom in Christ. You’re undoing grace and trying to overcome sin with works!”

Am I though? How pray tell does sin suddenly stop by me doing nothing?

So if I’m truly tired of a sin I do, how do I get it to stop? Do I just believe more? Surrender more? What does that even mean? How do I go about believing more and surrendering more? What if I already am believing and surrendering, how do I do more of it? Wouldn’t doing more of that be me doing a work?

There is no answer really. All that camp has on their side are increasing levels of doing nothing, which seems entirely weird and hopeless as a strategy.

I’ve run into a number of people who tell me they don’t do anything and now they enjoy levels of no-sin that boggles the mind. I have hung out with these people. I have never been struck by the reality of their alleged sinlessness. Of all the people I know who take the “do nothing to beat sin” approach, they do not strike me as paragons of spiritual attainment.

Yes, there is a pitfall in legalism, just as there is a pitfall in being a lazy bum who does nothing but sit around and wait for Jesus to eliminate their sin struggles. You can attain levels of behavior through sheer will power and discipline. Paul uses the example of athletes striving for a temporal crown as an example.

But Paul’s next point isn’t “So do way less than athletes striving for mastery, in fact, just sit on the couch and do nothing until Jesus magically eliminates your sin battle.” Nope. What Paul says is be like those athletes and do everything to win.

Paul is not a passive person. He attacks. He uses discipline and strategy. I recommend the same thing. I know that’s hard and it would be nice if we could theologically eliminate personal accountability from our levels of sin, but Judgment Day looms and guess what? You will give an account for every deed done in the body whether it is good or bad.

This is a fight worth fighting. It’s why Paul calls it the “fight of faith.” He doesn’t call it the “sit on your butt and do nothing of faith.” I suggest you start fighting your sin by any means necessary, even if it involves you doing something. The entire time you are praying and listening to Scripture. This isn’t some flesh overpowering the flesh thing.

This is the flesh being mortified by the Holy Spirit, it’s having our bodies walk in the Spirit and not fulfilling the desires of the flesh nature. Your body responds either to the flesh or Spirit. Your flesh wants you to sit and do nothing and let sin reign, wait for someone else to take care of my problems. The Spirit wants you to get up and fight with what Christ has given you in the Gospel. Go. Fight. Win.

How Your Speech Keeps you From Spiritual Growth

People talk a lot. The Bible consistently tells us to keep our mouths shut. Yet we keep talking.

The Bible also lets us know that talking is not what we are solely judged on. In fact, God seems not as much concerned with what we say as much as with what we do. Jesus tells a parable where two sons are told by their dad to go work in the field. The one who says, “Yes, sir” never goes. The one who said, “No,” ends up going. Which one did the will of the father? Not the one who said the right thing, but the one who did the right thing.

Christians are confused about faith. We know we are saved by grace through faith. God showed grace through Jesus Christ; our response is faith. Unfortunately, most think faith is the doctrines we believe. We think faith is believing the right stuff. And it is, in part, but it’s way more than that. The test of faith is what you’re doing. Doing things is hard. So instead we talk.

There are three wordy crutches that hurt our faith. Three things we say that keep us from doing what is right but feeling good all the same.

1. Right doctrine
We’re good at spewing out our accepted doctrine. We get our theological camp and get indoctrinated; we say what we’re supposed to say. We quote the right theologians. We use the right proof texts. We know how our favorite commentaries interpret verses. Because we say the right stuff about doctrine we assume we have faith. We know we’re saved because we’re Calvinist, or not Calvinist, or believe in sign gifts or don’t. I don’t know what your particular “anyone who doesn’t believe this isn’t saved” doctrine is, but that’s the thing that’s keeping you from actual faith. On the other side, some delve into doubt. They have unending questions about doctrine. Since they have questions they can’t be expected to do anything until they have no more questions left. Doctrine just becomes an excuse. “How can I listen to God if I don’t understand the nuances of the Trinity fully?” You’ll never do anything, but will sound intellectual in your laziness anyway.

2. Syrupy sentimentality
We use gushy words about God and Jesus, who is our lover and friend. We say the happy lovely thing about life. Always happy, always smooth, always nice. There is lovely sentimentality all over the place, sickly sweet. Your Christian language is a perpetual Contemporary Christian song lyric. It’s not realistic. It seems to miss any depth, nuance, or perhaps pain. But you know you’re supposed to “be strong,” so you keep saying the syrupy stuff. Maybe if you say them enough your doubts will go away. If you actually started living your faith, doing the hard thing, speaking the truth, the sentimentality would fade away because faith is a fight, it’s a long run, it’s hard. We can’t afford do anything that might make me look or feel not “strong.” Therefore, it’s safer to do nothing and feel sentimental than take a chance at losing it all.

3. Christian clichés
You have no idea what you’re talking about, but you know what you’re supposed to say. “God is still on the throne!” Great, what do you think that means? Is God on the throne a replacement for you being responsible? A replacement for you confronting someone over sin? An excuse for you to not apologize? What clichés do you use and why? Do they mean anything, or are they just band aids to cover problems you’ve deemed too hard to resolve? Cliches sound nice but mean little, but we flop them out there to fit in, to say the admirable thing. “Wow, if they say ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’ when their mom dies, they must really have faith.” It’s possible, I sure hope so, but if not, woe to you when you reap the whirlwind from sowing hot air.

Words replace actions. People talk about going on diets more than they diet. People talk about exercise more than they move. People talk about reading the Bible more than they read it. We say stuff. We want our words to replace action. They don’t.

But since we sound good and fit in, we’ll leave faith at that. We’d rather fit in than do weird stuff like doing what God says and risk being the weirdo. Hebrews 11, the great chapter about faith, says at the front of each biographical sketch “By faith” and then it describes what they did. By faith Enoch walked with God. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham got up and moved. By faith Moses left the riches of Pharaoh’s house to suffer with God’s people. By faith they each did what God said.

Enoch didn’t talk about walking with God and go on about how wonderful it is to walk through the roses with his lover, Jesus. Nope, he just walked with God. Noah didn’t discuss ark building schemes and talk about blueprints and his intentions. Nope, he just built the ark. Abraham didn’t talk about the journey and make pithy self-help motivational memes. Nope, he just got up and walked. Moses didn’t say nice words about renouncing wealth and suffering with God’s people as a theory, a throwaway line. He just left the riches and moved into the desert.

Faith does what God says. Doing what God says is hard. Your flesh wants no part of it. Don’t be surprised if instead of obeying you just talk a good game.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
–Matthew 7:20-21

Holiness and Pastors Oprah Likes

I’m reading a book by a popular pastor. He’s been on Oprah. He’s gotten in much trouble over the years from Evangelicals. I’ve read several of his books and totally get why he’s in trouble with Evangelicals.

His take on Christianity is typical in our day. He’d rather be cool and hip and smooth over the rough edges of Christianity rather than actually deal with the Bible. He has theories and finds a few phrases from verses as backup. He mocks all those serious Christians with their hardline Bible interpretations. “Everyone should be cool like me then everything would be cool, man.”

So yeah, I’m annoyed.

Here’s one annoyance:

He’s talking about the strong divide many make between the spiritual and secular world. Why are people called to ministry but not to making tacos? He actually used that example. Taco makers are lower than pastors in this take. I’d agree to an extent. I think the whole “call to ministry” thing is a crock, but alas, whatever.

Anyway, he doesn’t stop there, he goes on to state that everything is holy, spiritual, and of eternal value. Everything. He can’t just make the simple point, oh no! He has to go all the way. So, here’s a quote:

“Jesus comes among us as God in a body, the divine and the human existing in the same place, in his death bringing an end to the idea that God is confined to a temple because the whole world is a temple, the whole earth is holy, holy, holy as the prophet Isaiah said.”

I hope that paragraph troubled you. For several reasons. First of all, at no time does the Bible say the earth is a temple. Revelation 11:19 says God’s temple is in heaven. The earth is not God’s temple.

Secondly, did Isaiah say the whole earth is holy, holy, holy? Short answer: no. Long answer: absolutely not. Isaiah 6:3, which I assume is what he’s referring to, says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.” In this passage, what is holy, holy, holy? Seems pretty clear that the Lord Almighty is. The glory of His holiness is seen throughout creation, but Isaiah does not say the earth is holy.

Pastors and taco makers are equal before God. Both jobs provide a service that people can value. I can go with that point. But to say that all the earth is God’s temple and is therefore all holy is just silly. In what sense are believers saints? To be a saint means to be holy, set apart. Come out from among them and be ye separate. How does that even make sense if everything in creation is holy? Why does creation need to be redeemed if it’s already holy? If everything is holy, then nothing is truly holy, since holy means set apart. If everything is equally set apart, then nothing is set apart.

In an effort to make a point in one area, he’s just completely undermined Scripture in all kinds of other points. All the guy had to do was properly quote Scripture, but he couldn’t, he had a cool point to make. He bent Scripture to fit his point and now Pandora’s Box (which isn’t holy) has been opened.

Be careful with Scripture and also with any pastor who has been on Oprah.

Does Religion Make People Hate?

Probably.

Many Christians have found it popular to say, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” This is inane because most of our relationships are religious. “Religion” just means the stuff you do regularly. Any relationship of any worth is going to have regularity in it.

Jonathan Swift said, “We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

I don’t know the larger context of why Swift said this, I just saw the one line quote. I imagine it’s something like this:

Most people are half-hearted with their religion/spirituality/faith/Christianity. People are double-minded. We want the easy parts of Christianity, but not the hard parts. Just the blessings please.

When you play around with religion, never take it seriously or devote your whole heart, soul, and mind to God, you will be defensive and guilt-ridden.

Defensiveness and guilt results in attacking others. One of the most effective ways to justify yourself and feel spiritual is to attack others.

Half-hearted religion turns people into monsters.

If you were to take Christianity seriously you would grow in love. Every time it’s tried love is what happens. So if love isn’t happening, then you’re not doing Christianity right.

Don’t be half-hearted in your faith. Hot or cold, God spits out the lukewarm. The double minded man is unstable in all his ways. How long will you halt between two opinions? Choose you this day who you will serve.

Stop playing around with faith. Either do it or don’t. Half-heartedly fence sitting will just make you an angry, lonely, judgmental, abusive jerk. No one needs that.

The Good Samaritan and Your Journey

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar. Two religious guys avoid the beat up guy in the ditch, while the lowly, despised Samaritan stops and helps him out.

Obviously the point of the parable is love your neighbor. It was given in answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Everyone, especially those in need. Brings to mind the “when I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink.”

There’s a little phrase in there about the Samaritan that was brought to my attention, I don’t know if it’s significant or not. Notice the way it describes how the three men were traveling:

–there came down a certain priest that way

–a Levite, when he was at the place

–a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed

The two religious guys are just described as having gone that way; the Samaritan is described as being on a journey. Probably this just has to do with the fact that a Samaritan didn’t live there, he was on a journey, not near home, just passing through. Whereas the two religious guys lived there, it’s the way they went to work perhaps.

Maybe there’s no significance there at all. Maybe it’s a condemnation that this actually is the physical neighbor of the two religious guys, whereas the Samaritan being a foreigner had less obligation to help but did anyway.

I imagine that’s the point. But the book I was reading said we are all on a journey. We’re all growing and changing as we go through life. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in our growth and journey, too busy being awesomer, to notice and take time to help someone else.

The religious guys didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The body was left half dead, perhaps it looked dead. This would risk being unclean according to the law. The letter of the law forbade them in their minds.

The Samaritan, who is already unclean, isn’t troubled by being unclean more.

So, several points. If your sense of righteousness prevents you from getting your hands dirty in loving people; you’re not very righteous.

The point of being righteous is to do right things. If you can’t fellowship with sinners for fear of risking your reputation, your outward appearance of religiosity, then you’re doing it wrong.

(There are biblical reasons to not fellowship with certain people, but make sure you get them right. If you’re going to be tempted into sinning then avoid them. If they are so-called brothers who are ruining the reputation of the church then back away. Get those reasons right. Paul clarified that if he said never to hang out with sinners you’d have to leave the world! This isn’t as black and white as people make it—never sit with sinners or always sit with sinners. I’ve heard people stress both points. Neither is right. There is a time and season for such things.)

If your journey, physical or spiritual, makes you superior to everyone around you, you’re journeying in the wrong direction! Being like Christ should not make you more isolated. If other people and their opinions make you want to stay home in your righteous bubble, you’re not growing spiritually.

Love is the whole point. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He didn’t float above us for all time; He came among us. Love. Love is a big deal in the Bible.

Spiritual growth always leads to being more loving. Always, no exceptions.

The Fruit of the Spirit begins with “love.” Love has to be there. It is THE PROOF that you are growing in Christ.

Unfortunately, human pride makes us think spiritual growth puts us above others. That’s self-righteousness, not Christlikeness.

Love people even if they aren’t your responsibility. Love people even if it means getting your hands dirty. Love people. If that is getting harder for you to actually do, then you’re not growing spiritually; you’re growing self-righteously.

Angels are not Fat Flying Babies

Satan is a deceiver. His main goal is to diminish the glory of what God has made glorious.

You can see that with Satan himself. He was an angel of immense gory, yet he chose to rebel and diminish his glory. His existence ceases to give God glory.

Beyond that, Satan wants to diminish your understanding of his glory even more so you won’t take him seriously. That’s why there are so many cartoon images of Satan as a red beast with horns and a pitchfork ruling hell. He’s a cartoon character. You might dismiss him like Santa Claus.

Satan wants you to think of God as a senile old man floating in the clouds, or to view God as an impersonal, uncaring force.

Look what he does to humanity, creations made in the image of God! All his lies and sin destroy people. Our sin kills us. It distorts the image of God. Satan’s point in attacking you is so God’s glory would be covered up with your grossness.

Then there are angels. Angels always make me think of old ladies with Precious Moments fat baby angels, or fat, flying baby Cupid shooting arrows through people’s hearts.

Yet when you see angels described in the Bible, or when people in the Bible see angels, they are blown away. Isaiah 6 has impressive angels that look nothing like fat flying babies. Joshua sees an angel with a sword and immediately falls to the ground. John is corrected by an angel when John falls in worship before him.

People don’t worship fat, flying babies.

Angels have been stereotyped in imagery but also in function. Angels do not guard you from tripping. Angels are on missions from God to accomplish things on this earth. Much of what they do is unseen and will remain so.

The Bible gives us fleeting glimpses of angelic activity. I don’t know what all they are doing currently, but if we saw their activity we would be blown away.

Even demons have been trivialized, again because Satan either wants you to not take them seriously so they can get away with stuff, or completely freak you out so you don’t do stuff.

Stick with Scripture and what it says about Satan, God, humanity, and angels and demons. Most of what you know about them is based more on popular media and goofy traditions. Don’t defend your take on angels with your feelings or what your grandma said. Use Scripture. Get to know these impressive creatures correctly.

One day we will behold them and it is going to be awesome. They will not look like fat flying babies! I’m totally looking forward to this!

Why Did Jesus Say There Will Always Be Poor People?

Jesus could say offensive things. When Judas criticized the woman who poured ointment on Him because the ointment could have been sold and given to the poor, Jesus said:

“For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:11).

Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t help the poor; He’s specifically telling this group that this expensive act of worship was well done. She’s taking advantage of her opportunity while Jesus is still alive to show Him worship. She, Judas, and the rest of them can spend the rest of their lives helping the poor! They won’t run out of opportunities.

This is like people who can’t make it to church on Sunday for an hour because they have to clean the house. You can spare an hour for church; you can only go to it when it’s time for it. You have many other hours in the week to clean the house; the dirt aint going anywhere.

People aren’t as offended by the serve me while I’m here part as much as His assumption that there will always be poor people.

Everyone and their mother knows how to solve poverty. Republicans and Democrats both have their ideas. Commies and Socialists and all other political groups think if they were in charge the world would be bliss.

It’s not true.

This isn’t some cynical statement by Jesus, nor an off the cuff remark. Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Now think about what is said here. He’s talking about the Promised Land; the land flowing with milk and honey. The land where God’s law would reign as people followed the Lord’s guidance.

This is the best land in the world with the best governor over it—God Himself! And even here, in this blessed land under God’s authority, there will always be poor people.

If God Himself can’t eliminate poverty in the best land in this world, you think your political party can do it?

(Notice that the verse still says to help the poor. Saying that there will always be poor people doesn’t mean helping them is pointless.)

The Bible is very consistent on this issue. The Bible was written over thousands of years and throughout all those years there are commands to help the poor.

For thousands of years of writing the Bible, the poor are still there. There will always be poor people.

This isn’t a spiritual statement or prophecy; it’s a simple statement of truth. It’s an observation of how life works.

In statistics there’s a thing called a bell curve. A bell curve is the way things get distributed. The Middle Class will always be huge. There will always be a smaller group of poor and rich. It’s just the way stuff gets distributed in this world.

People are poor for many reasons. Some choose to be so—vows of poverty, disinterest in work or wanting more stuff, being a pastor with three kids, etc. Some are forced into it—physical or mental issues, poor family environment, lack of escape, corrupt governments, and so on.

There will always be poor people as long as there are people on this earth.

There is a new earth coming, which will be free from the Curse and from sin, where God’s righteousness will reign supreme. At that point, and not until then, will poverty be eliminated.

Living in a fallen world has consequences. I appreciate the desire people have to end poverty, but frequently the well-meaning intentions make the problem worse. It also gives people the idea that they don’t have to actually help the poor because, “I pay taxes and I vote for the people who will help them.”

Our job as believers is to give to those who ask of us, to be a Good Samaritan, looking for opportunities to share the love of God, not in kind thoughts and promises of prayer, but in actual prayer and giving.

Stop worrying about political wrangles over the issue and waiting for Your Guys to get in there and solve it all. You personally go help someone. That is what you’ll be held accountable for.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (1 John 3:17).

Other People Determine Your Doctrine More Than Scripture Does

Protestants are people who protested against the Catholic Church. But specifically they are people who used to be Catholic, who then became not quite as much Catholic.

There were other churches around during the height of Catholicism. Baptists have been around forever and various other churches were around as well. Catholics get the most publicity; many think the entire church was Catholic at one point.

That’s mostly because Catholics have always been expert at getting people’s money and also killing opponents and destroying their work. When you have the power and money, you dominate the narrative.

Luther was Catholic and wanted to stay in the Catholic Church, and he would have if they hadn’t booted him. Calvin copied Augustine on 90% of doctrine and Augustine is considered the Father of Catholicism.

Most of the doctrinal differences between denominations today is how much not-Catholic they are. Most denominations and churches will tell you that their sole authority is the Bible, but reading the doctrinal statements of all these churches lets you know someone aint giving authority to the Bible.

If all churches who said the Scripture was their authority actually had Scripture as their authority, there would be lots more unity. There isn’t. Why not? Because a lot of doctrine is formed not on Scripture but on Let’s Not Be Like Those People.

People are great at throwing babies out with bath water. In fact, sometimes we just throw out babies and keep bath water.

Churches throw out the baby (the Scripture) and keep the bath water (whatever drivel they decide to believe instead). Each assumes they are spiritual because spiritual maturity is mostly measured by comparison with other people. Since we’re Not Like Those People, we assume our not-likeness is where we are better, more mature, more right. Simply being better than others is good enough.

This is not growing into Christ though; this is just growing into being Not Like Those People.

We’ve reached a point where true uniqueness is a church that actually has Scripture as their authority. Does this church exist? I think it’s about impossible.

2,000 years of church arguing and factions has created an environment where it is very difficult to agree with any Christian anymore. Human philosophy, church and family tradition, and many other things have clouded our vision.

Is it possible for a church to have biblical doctrine? Maybe, but it’s highly doubtful. Is it possible for a person to? It’s more likely, but also very difficult.

How do you know if your doctrine is based on Scripture? Well, read the Bible a lot. Anytime a verse annoys you, pay attention, that’s probably where your doctrine is based on something else. If you read the Bible over and over, every time you should learn more, and it should slightly inform and change your doctrine.

If that’s not happening, then you aren’t paying attention. You’re simply reading the Bible and your brain is doing confirmation bias—it only notices verses that agree with your doctrine.

If you claim you’ve attentively read the Bible and didn’t change/modify any views, then you have to conclude you have 100% perfect doctrine. That’s quite the claim. I know people who get pretty close to claiming this and well, they don’t agree with each other on doctrine!

Read the Bible. Change your beliefs where necessary. Be part of a body of believers. Don’t isolate yourself. Hopefully you can at least find a church that has a couple humble people in it who truly want to grow and don’t think they’ve already arrived. You can help each other detect bias.

Please read your Bible. Over and over. Pay attention to context. Do the work.

But also know that knowledge puffs up. If you have all knowledge and have not love it profits you nothing. Doctrine is not simply for picking fights. It’s for informing your life and changing you into the person of Jesus Christ. And please try your hardest not to fall into the trap of “Not Being Like Those People.” Just follow Christ. Let Him change you.

What Does “Eye for an Eye” Really Mean?

“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

So goes the saying. It appears as though this saying came from Gandhi, or at least one of his biographers as a summation of Gandhi’s thoughts. It’s popular for many Christians to celebrate Gandhi. I am not one of those Christians who does so.

Gandhi was a fine political leader and accomplished a perfectly noble political end. I’d celebrate his political accomplishments. As far as his religious views, and more precisely his biblical views, I’ll take a pass.

Exactly how would the whole world be blind if we enacted an eye for an eye? I’ve lived for 47 years and never poked out anyone’s eye. I don’t know anyone who has poked out anyone’s eye.

The context of the edict is from Exodus 21:23-25, “But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Physical harm is what is in mind. If you hurt someone, the punishment for so doing should be equal. This is the reverse of, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

The context is also the political setup of the nation of Israel. The Old Covenant law was not a means of salvation. It was, in part, the legal code to direct the nation of Israel. This is what a Messiah-creating nation’s laws would look like if God were its King. People get punished for their sin.

The Book of Proverbs tells people to use just weights and measures, not to favor the rich and disfavor the poor, nor should you nail the rich and let the poor off the hook. They should judge with equity and fairness.

Today there are stories where people get millions of dollars for burning themselves on hot McDonald’s coffee. They do that because McDonalds has a lot of money. Let’s stick it to The Man! Make em pay! Israel’s law was written to prevent such extreme court results.

Jesus brings up an eye for an eye in The Sermon of the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Ah, so Gandhi was right! Down with eye for an eye!

Nope: context. Remember, in Exodus God is giving a nation their legal code, how to enforce the law of a nation consisting of believers, non-believers, Jews and non-Jews. Jesus is correcting the notion of individuals seeking revenge on those who wrong them.

When it comes to individuals, let wrongs against you go. It’s not your job to smite those who smite you. If you are a nation, then yes, your legal code should have a fair and consistent form of punishment for evildoers.

Jesus was correcting the personal desire for revenge that many took that verse to mean. That’s not what it’s talking about. It was specifically a command for the nation of Israel and their legal code.

So, in summation: Context is king. Gandhi is not a good interpreter of the Bible. Don’t poke people’s eyes out first or second.

I’m Hoping There Are Visitor Centers in the New Earth

I recently returned from traveling 11,500+ miles across the western half of the United States. It’s a big country with lots of cool stuff in it.

On this trip we visited 35 national parks and monuments, each of which is filled with signs explaining various things about the land we were viewing.

Every national park told us that “at one time this land was covered by water.” They explained how the land features were created over billions of years by forces of erosion and whatnot.

Now there’s actually no way to know how these land features were created. The sign maker wasn’t there and neither was I. They have their theories and I have mine. Mine tend to involve world-wide floods and so forth. They admit water was over everything but certainly not world-wide flood waters!

But no one really knows how mountains and canyons actually got there. As Hebrews 11 says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Faith is the opposite of seeing. I didn’t see the Grand Canyon get made. I and the evolutionist can clearly see it was made, but how it got there is anyone’s guess (some more plausible than others).

So then my brain got thinking: what if, and this is purely speculation, the New Earth looks just like this one and you can travel around it, except at every cool spot there are signs explaining how these formations were actually made?!

There would be visitor centers and they would show movies and the voice of God would explain over video footage showing the formation of the Grand Canyon. We’d get the full scoop on how this stuff was made, get a God’s eye view of flood water draining away and forming stuff or whatever else made it.

I think that would be cool.

Whether the New Earth will have all these things in it is beyond the scope of knowledge. I have no idea. But it would be cool and satisfying if we could know for sure how the Rocky Mountains and Grand Canyons and so forth all got here.

God’s got to be sick of hearing about random chance and erosion doing all this awesome stuff. I’m willing to bet God would like some glory for His handiwork!

7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture

Christians live for the approval of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we have His approval, we don’t need anyone else’s.

It’s not bad to have people’s approval; it’s a nice thing, depending on who the people are! But ultimately we’re concerned with being approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed.

Cancel Culture is the latest manifestation of the world trying to knock everyone into conformity. Conformity is their big weapon. Their world is a giant junior high lunch room.

But the Bible tells us to not be conformed to the world. Christians should resist all intimidation and Cancel Culture power trips.

Resisting conformity only happens if you don’t need the conformer’s approval. If you can get by just fine in life without being applauded, appreciated, or praised by people who can’t stand you, then Cancel Culture will affect you much less.

Who gives a rip what the world thinks?

Continue reading “7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture”

How to Look Forward to Suffering

There’s stuff going on in our country right now that bodes for an unsettled future. I do think there are things moving in the direction of what Bible prophecy seems to indicate will happen.

Do I think The End is about to drop? I have no idea. No man knows the day or hour. What I do know is that the spirit of antichrist is already at work in the world. I think we are going through some trial runs for an antichrist system.

I personally think things need to get much worse on a global level. America going down is not the world going down, hard to believe for Americans, but it’s true. I also know things tend to swing back and forth. I will not be surprised if younger generations swing the other way and fix some of our mess.

I detailed some things I am doing to prepare for tough times coming. I don’t say these things to freak anyone out. I say these things to realistically look at the signs of the times and prepare. How can I best represent Christ in the coming turmoil?

I think of Joseph and the years of famine coming in Egypt. Before the trouble arrived, Joseph directed Pharaoh to take measures to be ready. Although I have not had any dreams or special revelation from God, I think the Bible and a brain can help a guy see the signs of the times.

I get why people would respond to warnings about preparing for trouble with fear. There will be things happening that will cause you to be afraid. Pain is real.

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How to Arrange Deck Chairs Before Hitting Icebergs

I’m not an alarmist, nor am I a guy who publicly pontificates about politics and stuff going on in the larger world. In the past 20 years the alleviation or avoidance of problems in my church and family has consumed me more than the fear mongering news.

But it has become very obvious to me that we are about to enter a time of trouble in our world and it’s going to get rough.

There are two sides to the “rough” that’s coming: Great opportunity for pleasure distracting us from faith and persecution.

It seems odd these things would go together, pleasure and persecution, but they will. Materialism and entertainment are overtaking the world. It’s already overtaken the church. The Health and Wealth Gospel is not a side note anymore; it is today’s Christianity.

The materialistic entertainment around us is removing the old standards of sin and morality. Those who will oppose the decadence will be done away with. I don’t know how exactly, it probably won’t be gulags. As government and business join forces (Babylon the Great of Revelation 18), it will be more like ramped up Cancel Culture.

I think the new persecution will look like removing your ability to make money and buy things. Here’s a quote I recently read:

“The old totalitarianism conquered societies through fear of pain; the new one will conquer primarily through manipulating people’s love of pleasure and fear of discomfort.”

As Revelation tells us, without the mark of the beast you won’t be able to buy or sell. I know many people mock the rapture and tribulation take on eschatology. You are free to do so, but I’m increasingly impressed with how exactly it is  moving in that direction!

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Does Taking Communion Forgive Your Sins?

Short Answer: No.

Longer Answer: Not even close.

The idea that taking Communion is a means of grace, an action we do to get sins wiped off our record, is yet another Catholic Church perversion of the Gospel.

Power is the main thing the Catholic Church wanted/wants. It invented doctrines to make sure people were dependent upon them.

Communion became a mysterious rite that required institutional guys to work a supernatural wonder to convert the elements into the literal body and blood of Christ. You can’t do that on your own, bub. You need US!

“Forget that noise” was the response of many people who really didn’t want to go to church. As people began skipping church, the Catholic Higher-Ups had to invent ways to manipulate people to come back. I mean, how else would they make money?

So they began teaching people that all the special churchy things they alone could perform were absolutely necessary for your sins to be forgiven. You don’t want to go to hell do you? Well, come to church where we alone can do special things to make sure that doesn’t happen!

Indulgences were the pinnacle of this. They came right out and just said, “Hey, give us money or you’ll suffer for your sins.” I mean, they just chopped out the middle man of ritual and went straight for the wallet. Unreal.

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What was in the Cup that Jesus Drank?

I’ve heard the question asked from time to time, mostly by Calvinists, about what was in the cup that Jesus drank?

The answer you’re supposed to give is that He drank the wrath of God.

Here’s how Desiring God, John Piper’s organization, puts it:

The disciples will drink a cup, too — a cup of suffering. But Jesus’s cup of suffering is different from theirs because Jesus’s suffering is under God’s anger. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. Heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring thoughts, lies — all of it will be punished by God. This is the cup Jesus drinks on the cross.

Those Calvinist types who enjoy detailing God’s wrath will go on to say He drank every last drop, the dregs, sucked it dry, and God unleashed anger and wrath on His Son because you are terrible!

This is all nonsense.

Jesus is indeed drinking a cup given to Him by His Father. John 18:11 Jesus says, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” In Matthew 20:22 He asks a couple disciples if they can drink the cup He is going to drink. In the Garden He asks if the cup can be taken from Him.

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What is Communion for?

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 are Paul’s words to sum up what Communion is all about. They should be read when you take Communion at church. If your church never refers to these verses while doing Communion, odds are you aren’t really doing Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Paul states that he received these instructions from the Lord Himself. Paul isn’t making this up. This isn’t his idea. Communion has divine sanction. Also, as the Old Testament repeatedly shows, when God gives instructions about how to worship Him, He really means it!

Be careful of weird variations on worship-looking things. Do it the way God says or don’t do it at all. Israel tried many times with God’s commands about worship to do it a bit different. Typically people died right after, sometimes even during. This is Paul’s warning that follows this passage. God means what He says.

The bread is the body of Christ broken for you. The cup is not His blood; people say that all the time. The cup is “the new covenant in my blood.” People who say the cup is the literal blood of Jesus are missing Jesus’ point. The cup is the new testament in His blood.

What does that mean?

I’m sure it’s deeper than we take it, but at its simplest it means the shedding of His blood is what brought in a New Covenant. The Old Covenant had blood of animals all over it. As Hebrews says, the New Covenant is a better covenant with a better sacrifice.

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Do People Really Die Because of how they take Communion?

The instructions about Communion as given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 contain a warning. We discussed yesterday what causes judgment to come on Communion takers—their flippancy in regards to what is going on in Communion.

Now we will look at the judgment included in the warning. Here’s the whole passage:

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The manner in which someone partakes of the elements is the problem, it’s not because you sinned yesterday. Examine yourself: are you understanding what’s going on? Do you partake with the proper respect for what it represents? Are you treating others well? Are you showing off? Are you doing this to look good? Are you truly remembering the Lord’s death?

Those who are not “discerning” the body and blood of Christ, are not understanding the significance of what He did and act disrespectfully, are going to be judged.

Paul says some in Corinth are weak, sick, and others have died because of how they took Communion.

Wow. Is this for real?

Continue reading “Do People Really Die Because of how they take Communion?”

Paul’s Warning About Taking Communion

There are people who are afraid to take Communion. I respect that. It’s much better to be hesitant about it than to be flippant.

At the same time, when I hear some who are afraid to take Communion, I get the idea that their fear is misplaced. I don’t know their heart obviously, maybe they should be afraid.

But often their expressed fear is not based on Paul’s warning about taking Communion. So what exactly was Paul’s warning?

The context of the Corinthian church is part of the problem. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:17, “I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” Oof, that aint good.

The Corinthian church service was so bad, Paul says it would be better if they didn’t even have one! I wonder how many churches he would say this to today?

We all know about the divisions in Corinth, that was a big clue that things weren’t right. These divisions led to many other abuses and the Lord’s Supper was one of those abused things.

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)

The Lord’s Supper was extended into an actual supper. This wasn’t all bad. Based on some verses in Acts, the Last Supper, and here, it does seem as though the early church took Communion attached to an actual meal. Breaking bread together was more than a 7 minute ritual.

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Participation in the Body and Blood of Christ

Paul warns the Corinthian believers to leave their idolatry as it doesn’t fit with being a follower of Christ. To bring the point home he talks about taking Communion.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

A little bit of a side note here:
Your church doesn’t do Communion biblically. Notice what he said about the bread coming from one loaf? Most churches have individual little square, Styrofoam bits for the bread. If you were to do Communion strictly literally it would be one loaf with pieces broken off of it. It is supposed to be wine if you’re going literal and the wine is from one cup, which being poured from one container might suffice. You’d be hard pressed to find a church that does all these things, especially in our Covid freaked out day.

Anyhooo,

Taking Communion is a participation or sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What does Paul mean by that? Does it mean you are literally eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood?

Paul uses “participation” a couple times in this chapter, which is helpful.

Continue reading “Participation in the Body and Blood of Christ”

Eating Jesus’ Body and Drinking His Blood

One of the main points the Bible stresses in both baptism and Communion is unity. There is unity of the believer with Christ and also unity between all those who are partaking.

It’s important to keep unity in mind here. Let’s say that the bread you eat at Communion literally becomes the body of Christ. What do you do with the leftovers?

You may laugh but this was actually a big deal in the early Catholic Church. The reason you see old depictions of priests as drunk is because they drank the leftover wine because it was wrong to throw it away. What if one piece of bread got dropped on the floor and someone stepped on it and crumbled it?

The Bible says there are many members but one body. Christ’s body has to be one. Ephesians 4 says there is “one body.” If there are little parts of the body floating around everywhere doesn’t that destroy its unity?

In the Last Supper that Jesus ate with His disciples He said “Take and eat; this is my body.” He didn’t do any Latin mumbling to convert the pieces into His actual flesh. He just broke it, gave it to them, and they ate.

When it comes to the cup He says:

“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:27-29).

He says right there this is the last time He will drink the “fruit of the vine.” He’s drinking wine; He’s not drinking blood.

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Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and John 6 “Eat My Flesh”

The Lord’s Supper or Communion is another physical thing the Church does as ordained by the apostles and the Lord Himself.

Communion is supposed to center us on the Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate the unity all believers have in Him.

So, naturally, just like with baptism, church history is filled with arguing, fighting, and even killing each other over this issue.

Fun times. Who saw that coming?

You want to know why God doesn’t have more physical stuff for the church to do? Because we’d all have killed each other off by now if He had.

There aren’t too many verses about Communion. 1 Corinthians 10-11 are the primary instructional verses about it.

The Last Supper was the initiation of it, which ties back to the Passover supper of the OT. Jesus hints at the Lord’s Supper a few times in His poke-in-the-eye style from time to time (eat my flesh!).

And that’s pretty much it. It’s a simple idea representing massive things.

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1 Peter 3:21–Baptism that Now Saves You!

There are many people who say that being baptized is what gets you in heaven. You can live however you want, doesn’t matter, as long as you got wet at an official church function with an official churchy official person your entrance to heaven is guaranteed.

This is complete nonsense.

1 John, which is all about the assurance of salvation and giving you many tests to see whether you are saved, says not one word about baptism. Curious.

What John does bring up is whether or not a new life has occurred. Are you more like Christ? Are you loving people? Are you departing from the control of sin?

Instead of dealing with the entirety of the New Testament when it comes to figuring out how to get saved or how to determine whether you are saved, people instead take one phrase out of the New Testament and call it good.

Here’s a phrase from 1 Peter that gets trotted out in this context: “baptism that now saves you.” Boom! There it is! What more do you need? Some church dude did some water stuff to me, so Bible says I’m saved!

Well, what more you need is context. “Baptism that now saves you” is not the only phrase Peter wrote.

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Baptism, New Life and How Your Mom is Probably Messing it Up for You!

Baptism is the outward physical demonstration of Gospel truth. When you believe the Gospel you are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism physically does to you what has already spiritually happened to you by faith.

“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Buried and raised up, that’s what Christ did. By faith we identify with Him in this. Baptism literally shows this happening to us with the dunking in water deal.

The significance of this new life blows by us though. Colossians 2 has some other stuff to say about this new life. We’ve already talked quite a bit about losing your grasp on your physical identity. Here’s another bit:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (2:6-7).

Baptism isn’t just this thing you do this one time and now you’re saved and all spiritual obligation is gone.

Continue reading “Baptism, New Life and How Your Mom is Probably Messing it Up for You!”

Baptism and Unity

The essential point of baptism in the New Testament is identification with Christ. You and Christ are no longer separated. You are in Him and He is in you. You are one. A member of His body.

This is what the passages about baptism stress.

You wouldn’t know this by listening to Christians talk about baptism. Mostly it’s just arguing about how to baptize, who baptizes, what church to baptize in, how old you have to be to be baptized, etc.

Argue, argue. Fight, fight.

Let me draw this together for you the way Paul does. Read this passage. Like, really. Read it. It’s Ephesians 4:3-6:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Then he lists a bunch of things that there are only ONE of. If we’re all focused on the ONE then we can’t argue about anything!

If there were two, yeah, we could argue about which is better. But there’s only one.

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Baptism Means Losing Your Identity

I’m going to hit this one more time, mainly because Paul does.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Baptism is you identifying with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. You are raised up with Him to newness of life. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.

This isn’t a metaphor or word picture.

This is what baptism is.

The result is that you lose all grip on your identity which has so long defined who you are.

Your old you, the old man, was filled with sin and sinful desire. It lived in sin. Was bound to sin. All it did was selfish. It lived for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

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What Does Paul Mean by Being Baptized for the Dead?

1 Corinthians 15 is all about resurrection. It’s specifically talking about bodily, physical resurrection: dead bodies living again. He’s not talking about the spiritual concept of being raised up to newness of life, as in being born again.

He’s talking physical resurrection.

In the midst of this chapter Paul throws in this doozy of a verse:

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (1 Corinthians 15:29)

What in the world Paul?!

I love how the Bible throws in stuff just to see if you’re paying attention.

There are various interpretations of this verse.

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Baptism and Spiritual Gifts

Baptism is an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

Salvation is a loss of self. You are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. You lose your life to keep it. You take up the cross and deny your self.

These aren’t just high sounding metaphors. This is what the Gospel literally does to the believer. You lose yourself in Jesus Christ.

When Paul speaks of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, he has baptism as a part of the foundation.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

You should note that he’s not talking about getting wet baptism. This is the baptism into Christ idea again. This is all done by the Spirit. Note also he says we “were all given the same Spirit to drink.” The Spirit is linked with water, or at least drinkable liquid!

Baptism is immersion into Christ. The life of the believer is now about edifying the Body of Christ. Before conversion the individual was entirely filled with pride and self-serving. Salvation delivers you from this.

Love is the outflow of losing yourself.

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Baptized into Moses

1 Corinthians 10 has a unique usage of baptism. Paul is describing some of the stuff that happened to Israel as “examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”

The Old Testament isn’t just cute stories and moral tales. It’s a description of how God does a covenant and how people treat God’s covenants.

Israel was set apart by God. He freed them from slavery and brought them into salvation in their Promised Land. The beginning of their deliverance was going through the Red Sea.

The intro to salvation is baptism. Moses is a type of Christ (remember Jesus is the prophet who is greater than Moses).

It’s important to remember that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. This is stated a couple times in Hebrews.

Not everyone in the Old Covenant was saved spiritually. There were unbelieving Israelites who made it into the Promised Land. As you may recall, there were 40 years of rebellious wandering after their baptism into Moses before they made it safely into their Land. And also remember the people who went with Moses were all dead by the time they got there!

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Why Didn’t the Apostle Paul Baptize People?

1 Corinthians 1 reveals Paul’s concern over the divisions in the church of Corinth. Members of the church were fighting over who they should listen to. This was upsetting to Paul and a blatant denial of the Gospel.

Here’s what Paul says about this:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptised in my name. 1(Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptised anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel  (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)

Paul says he only baptized a handful of people. You would think, as a major apostle of the New Testament and with all the hubbub we’ve tacked onto baptism, that Paul would have been a leading baptizer. Nope, just a couple people.

Why? It seems like Paul is saying that if he baptized people it would have caused strife. You can see this clearly with a little imagination. Imagine being baptized by the Apostle Paul! Would you not brag about that?

“Ha, loser. I was baptized by THE Apostle Paul; you just had some local pastor. How pathetic!”

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What does Being Baptized into Christ Mean?

The phrase, “baptized into Christ” is used twice by the Apostle Paul. Here are the instances:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? (Romans 6:3)
for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

For Paul, baptism has gone way beyond water. He didn’t say “as many of you as were baptized into water” but baptized into Christ. This is bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.

In Acts 19:1-7 Paul asks some people if they have received the Holy Spirit. They say they didn’t know the Holy Spirit was given. So Paul asks what baptism they received. “John’s.” Paul told them about being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did. Paul laid his hands on them afterwards and they received the Spirit.

If there’s no Spirit then there was no baptism in Jesus Christ. John baptized with water; Jesus will come and baptize with the Spirit. Water is often a picture for the Spirit. Baptism has something to do with the Spirit.

Being baptized into Christ sounds like something more than getting wet. Romans 6 is talking about being baptized into Christ, fully immersed and identified with Him.

Romans 6:3-4 talk about being baptized in Christ’s death. Whoa, what’s that? Total identification with Christ. Christ didn’t just die FOR you; by faith you died WITH Christ.

Christ didn’t just rise from the dead FOR you; you were raised up WITH Him.

Continue reading “What does Being Baptized into Christ Mean?”

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