Manual Jesus, Your Beauty (Holy River)

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And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage a secret? Neither does God. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual.

Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end. When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow?

Does she know every temptation or challenge?

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But both know the love of God and are responding to him. Please understand, it is not the act that saves us.


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  • But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water. Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not to be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure.

    The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning. Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism. Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

    Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism is the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

    It is appropriate to dedicate a baby though more appropriate to dedicate the parents. At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration.

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    But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms. First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults.

    God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you into the pool of his grace until every inch of yourself is clean.

    If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you. You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian official in Acts 8; the jailer in Acts 16; and the conversion of Paul in Acts In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. What did they understand at Pentecost?

    How did they respond? What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian? What was his response? What did the jailer understand? How did be respond? What did Saul know before be was baptized? Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

    Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm.

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    There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea that they were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross.

    Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistry.

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    Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their heads a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross?

    If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question. This question is best answered with a question. There are three possible answers:. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

    God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus.

    True believers not only offer their sins, they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of a believing heart. Or evangelism? Or service? While Jesus is clearly offering the water of the Spirit, it is not entirely clear to whom him refers v. Both the ancient church and modern scholars are divided over whether him refers to Jesus or the believer cf.

    NIV text and margin. A reference here to Christ is more in keeping with John's thought. Christ is clearly described as the one through whom believers receive the Spirit; he breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit" Although John "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"--refers to the believer with language similar to that in verse 38, Jesus speaks there not of an outward flow to others, but of an inward well of eternal life.

    Christ indeed dwells in believers and radiates from them his light and life and love, but, despite the claims of some contemporary ministers, believers do not mediate the Spirit to others. Rather, they bear witness to Jesus , and people come to him and receive the living water of the Spirit from him. This is clear in the context of Jesus' invitation, for it is to himself that he invites the people to come and those who believe in him are the ones who receive the Spirit No Old Testament verse speaks of living water that flows from within him, him being either a believer or the Messiah.

    But there are many Scriptures that speak of God's provision of water as evidence of his grace and as an image of his gift of life in his presence. Indeed, many of these texts were read at this festival, such as the gift of water from the rock Ex , the water from the eschatological temple Ezek ; cf. Joel and the water from Jerusalem that will flow in the age to come Zech ; cf.

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    Beasley-Murray In Nehemiah there is a reference to the water from the rock in the wilderness Neh , which is followed by a description of God's gracious provision: "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst" ; cf. Carson In Nehemiah the focus is on the giving of the law, but the connection between the gift of the Spirit and the giving of manna and water suggests correlations in the Jewish tradition.

    Given John's motif of Jesus as the fulfillment of God's earlier revelation, the reference here to Scripture probably recalls a general set of images in the Old Testament rather than one particular text. Jesus provides the promised water of the age to come, which was itself a fulfillment of earlier provisions of water. The people could not receive this Spirit until Jesus was glorified Jn , that is, until his death cf. In the Son's death the glory of God shines brightest since God is love and love is the laying down of one's life 1 Jn ; One of the Spirit's roles is to bear witness to Jesus Jn , and he could not do this until the revelation was complete.

    Until the Son's death, the heart of God could not be known and thus eternal life, which is knowledge of God Jn , could not yet be experienced cf. Until the death of the Son, the life of God could not be conveyed by the Spirit.

    Jesus' offer of the Spirit is both universal and addressed to individuals: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink v. The first requirement is thirst. Everyone has spiritual thirst, for it is part of the human condition. Our need, our thirst, is what we bring to our relationship with God. This verse is one of many revealing, diagnostic texts in John. What do we thirst for? What do we really desire? Sin is our seeking relief from this thirst in something other than God. Jesus invites those who know their need, those who are poor in spirit cf.

    Mt , to take the initiative and come to him and drink v. Drinking refers to believing cf. Such faith will enable one to receive the Spirit and enter an abiding relationship with Christ after his glorification. All of this is based on who God is and what he has done for us.

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    Water and the Holy Spirit

    When we believe we open our hands to receive what his grace offers--we come and drink. Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. The next step is to choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and then enter your payment information. You can cancel anytime during the trial period. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate, click the button below.


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