Repent and Be Baptized

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Here it is, the first proclamation of the post-resurrection gospel. Jesus was raised from the dead and is King. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, the King. “But what are we to do,” the crowds cry out. This is not polite plea for more information. This is no quiet request to know how to get saved. This is a desperate cry. “We killed the King, what are we to do?” Do you think they expected Peter to have a response? Don’t you know they expected to hear, “Well, nothing. I mean, what could you do? You killed the Messiah. You’re toast.” That, however, is not what they heard. Peter responded by saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here is the very first time people responded to the gospel message that Jesus was the resurrected Lord and King. What was the response? Repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Every other story we read in Acts about forgiveness, salvation, submission to King Jesus is predicated on this very first explanation of the gateway into the kingdom. It’s odd to me. Many people today will turn to all kinds of passages to explain to people what they should do when they want to surrender to Jesus as king. But they won’t turn to this, the very first time it ever happened for anyone. Why? Because this one doesn’t say what they want it to say. It doesn’t say, “You don’t have to do anything. If you’re chosen, God will do it.” It doesn’t say, “All you have to do is believe.” It doesn’t say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” It says, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” May I ask you a very simple question. Have you repented and been baptized for the remission of your sins? That is, have you decided to let Jesus be your King and then been immersed in water in order to let Jesus forgive you? If not, why not surrender to King Jesus the same way the very first kingdom citizens did? Why would you try to accomplish that any other way? There is no way to enter the kingdom but God’s way. Can we help you enter today?

Next week’s reading is Acts 3.

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Holy Spirit Evangelism

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

What prompted one of the greatest evangelistic events in all of Christian history? Or perhaps I should say “Who.” The Holy Spirit. About 3000 souls were added to Jesus Christ on that very first day of Pentecost all because the Holy Spirit attracted the attention of myriads of people dwelling in Jerusalem. The Spirit caused the noise of a tornado and then caused the apostles to speak in tongues. All of this attracted and grabbed attention of listeners. I think if we are going to come anywhere close to having that kind of addition to Christ’s church today, we are going to need the very same starting place. That is, we need the Holy Spirit to grab the attention of people in order for them to listen. That being said, I don’t believe the Spirit is going to grab our community’s attention with the sound of a tornado or with our speaking in tongues. However, I do believe the Holy Spirit will grab people’s attention by bearing and growing His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). When we demonstrate that Spirit empowered fruit, living in ways that are so incredibly different from how the worldly live, some of the worldly will wonder why and how (see 1 Peter 3:15). They will want to know exactly what is our hope? Then, as we share our hope with them, some will repent and be ready to glorify God on the day of visitation. However, where will it begin? It will begin with the Holy Spirit attracting the world’s attention. May we sow seed to the Spirit (Galatians 6:7-9) so our lives will burgeon with the Spirit’s fruit.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 2.

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Devoted to Praying

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

I have no desire to make any of us feel guilty. However, today I can’t help but notice how the apostles and other disciples behaved as they awaited the coming Holy Spirit. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14, ESV). I have to ask myself a tough question. If Luke were writing about me, could he remotely record, “Edwin was devoting himself to prayer”? Then I have to ask about my congregation. If Luke were writing about us, could he remotely record, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer”? That is, not only are the Christians in the congregation praying regularly, but are we devoted to praying together as a congregation? I have no doubt Luke could record that we are devoted to learning. Between sermons, classes, “short” talks, and even Lord’s Supper devotionals, our devotion to teaching and learning is clear. But what about prayer? What about prayer together? Recently, I was pondering the seemingly universal decline in the attendance of Sunday night assemblies. I think it is clear that fewer and fewer Christians view what their congregations do in a second assembly on Sunday evening as really all that important. It makes me wonder what would happen if we turned Sunday evening assemblies into times to be devoted to praying. Would the attendance increase? Would your attendance increase? Would your participation increase? Or would the thought be, “Oh, they’re only praying tonight”? Again, I have no desire to heap any guilt upon us. I just can’t help but pondering and doing some self-examination. Would Luke remotely be able to claim I’m devoting myself to prayer? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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Replace the Spirits

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

While we are certainly supposed to put our sins to death, being a disciple is not about stopping behaviors. It is actually about replacing behaviors. If all we do is cast out the evil spirit, we can do our dead level best to sweep up the house and keep it in order, but that spirit will simply bring seven more. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does our very being. If all we strive to do is get rid of bad stuff in our lives, we will only ever find the bad stuff taking over. It’s like trying to make yourself not think about pink hippopotamuses. Jesus doesn’t verbalize the actual instruction when He offers the warning. But can there be any doubt what the instruction is? When the evil spirit is cast out, it needs to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. I can try with all my might to keep out the evil spirit, but if I don’t invite God in, allowing Him to take up residence, rearranging the furniture as He sees fit, controlling the remote, calling the shots, and filling the space with His presence, then all my attempts at control are nothing more than vacuuming the carpet as the tornado targets my house. Don’t evict the spirits, replace them. That is discipleship.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.

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What Makes You Rejoice?

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

I can understand it. If I were able to cast out demons, heal the sick, speak in foreign tongues, raise the dead, speak prophecies, pick up snakes, tread on scorpions, I would rejoice. That would be so cool. In fact, I’m a bit bummed God doesn’t work through us in that way anymore. However, did you catch what Jesus said even to the people who did some of those things? “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, you and I have the exact same reason to rejoice as those disciples. We who are in Jesus Christ are recorded in heaven. God knows us. We don’t have to do miraculous things or even amazing things. Jesus has died for us. His kingdom has come near. No matter what else we accomplish or experience, we are enrolled as citizens in the eternal kingdom. Rejoice in that today. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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Hope for the Gentiles

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

I know we are reading in Luke today, but Isaiah 65:1-7 is a fascinating passage. There, the Lord explained He was ready to be sought by those who didn’t ask for Him or seek Him. He said “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation not called by His name. These people provoked God despite His calls to them. They sacrificed to demons (noted in the LXX, the Greek version of this passage). They sat in tombs. They ate pig’s flesh. And they told the Lord to “Keep to yourself, do not come near me.” Therefore, God explained He would repay them for their iniquities. Does any of this sound familiar? It’s like Jesus’s time in Gerasa, a city in the Greek region called the Decapolis, was modeled after this passage. The Gerasenes learn of the miraculous deliverance of the demon possessed man. However, instead of being in awe over the miracle, they were scared because of their financial loss in the pigs. They demand Jesus leave. Considering Isaiah 65, what might we expect for the Decapolis Gentiles? Judgment. Quick, brutal, complete, avenging judgment. However, how does this story end? As He leaves, Jesus sends the man delivered from Legion into the region to tell them what God had done for him. There is hope for the Gentiles, even for these Gentiles who rejected Jesus. This is the Savior we serve. Praise the Lord! There is hope for us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 8.

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Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 3.

What an amazing scene at Jesus’s baptism. Jesus has been immersed while praying, and the heavens are opened. In that moment, we see all three persons of the Godhead–the Son being baptized as the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the Father speaks from heaven. There are many ways folks have tried to illustrate the triune nature of God. All of those illustrations fall short somewhere. And the skeptics say, “See, this just doesn’t make any sense at all.” But isn’t this struggle actually to be expected? God is beyond space and time. He lives in a “dimension” beyond ours. We have no scope of reference to understand even the realm of His existence, let alone the nature of His existence within it. Doesn’t it stand to reason that trying to explain His infinite existence in finite terms to limited minds is going to be practically impossible? Would we honestly expect that explanation to be easily grasped? It would be like a 3-dimensional cube trying to explain its nature to a 2-dimensional square.

Cube: “I’m six squares placed at right angles to each other so that every edge connects to the edge of another square and forms a unified whole.”

Square: “O, so you’re six squares?”

Cube: “Well, actually, I’m one cube.”

Square: “Wait! What?”

Cube: “Try this. Imagine a million squares stacked on top of each other to form a kind of square that extends up.”

Square: “What is up?”

Cube: “You know, extending into space above the plane on which you exist.”

Square: “What is space? And what do you mean ‘above’?”

Cube: “Just try to imagine one square laying flat on top of you and another and another and another on up to a million.”

Square: “Okay, okay. I don’t know what ‘on top” means. But you’re saying you’re a million squares, not six squares?”

Cube: “No, I’m one cube.”

Square: “Which is it? Are you six squares or one cube?”

Cube: “Yes.”

My point is not that God is three persons added together to make one God. The point is simply to see that the struggle we have to understand the Triune God makes perfect sense. If He were easy to understand and comprehend, it would likely mean we made Him up. Keep studying. Keep working at it, but don’t let the skeptics get you down. This struggle to understand God is exactly how it should be.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 3

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