Jesus says, ‘Be good soil.’ And that means hold onto the Word in stillness. Get rid of the hardness and callousness. Don’t squeeze God into a few cracks and crevices of your day’s business. But give him a space of daily quiet and don’t avoid repentance. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For God cannot be had cheaply. You come to God only if you allow yourself to be mobilized, and and if you march. This is not easy, and it means saying good-bye to many things. But this is the only way to find his peace. No battle, no cross, no crown. He who does not toil and sweat, and does not daily fall in line for service to God is exposing his inner man to decay.
Following are links to five articles on repentance that I’ve found to be of special interest and helpfulness.
“So what’s the point of wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday? The cinder residue is reminiscent of the biblical act of repenting in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:6). … Many Christians have no connection with Ash Wednesday’s tradition. But we all have need of what it represents. Every day. Ash Wednesday represents our need to repent.”
Not Your Typical Ash Wednesday [essential reading]
“My name is Josh Patrick. I’m a 36-year-old pastor in the Nashville area. I’m married to a beautiful strawberry-blonde haired girl named Joni, and we have three daughters, ages 8, 5, and 2. Today is unlike any Ash Wednesday I’ve ever experienced. … 4 weeks ago today … it was determined that I had stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to my liver. And just like that, our little world was turned upside down.”
Lent: Because Sometimes Rich Christians Simply Need to Starve a Little [required reading]
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
“I’m sorry God, I truly am … I’m sorry that I have not loved you with all of my being.”
“Have mercy on us, Lord. … Accept our repentance, Lord. … Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.”
Church, culture, demographics & multi-racial: The Changing Face of the American Church
“If you ask, would you like to have a multiethnic church, everyone says, ‘that would be wonderful’ … When you ask, what are you doing to make that happen—that’s when you hear the crickets.”
Contentment, life, meaning, significance & stimulation: What If Having an Extraordinary Life Isn’t the Point?
“What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding. … Sometimes, the best way to change the world is to live extraordinarily in what looks like an ordinary existence—to radically love and serve those around us every day, no matter where we are.”
“The tips and suggestions below are based on my research into cognitive psychology over the years as well as from reported experiences of men who have quit using porn. Again, there’s no silver bullet. What works for one man, may not work for you. You need to be ready to experiment and try different things.”
“Water has become a commodity …and the world’s poor are paying the price. … Twenty percent of the world right now does not have access to clean water. Twenty percent of the world also happens to live on less than a dollar a day. And it’s interesting to look at how much those two groups overlap.”
Complaining & gratitude: Complaining is a Spiritual Problem
“The problem is how I see the world.”
Racism & repentance: * It’s Time to Listen: Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice? (Part 1) by Leonce Crump; * Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japanese Cartoons During WWII, Then Atones with Horton Hears a Who!
* “We’ve launched a series here called, It’s Time to Listen. In it, we’ve asked African-American evangelical leaders to share from their diverse perspectives.”
* “In 1953, Geisel visited Japan where he met and talked with its people and witnessed the horrific aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. He soon started to rethink his anti-Japanese vehemence. So he issued an apology in the only way that Dr. Seuss could. He wrote a children’s book … Horton Hears a Who!”
Grace & the Old Testament: God’s Scandalous Grace in the Old Testament [required reading]
“Grace is not just a characteristic of God that pops up here and there; it’s the very backbone of the Old Testament story.”
“American medicine is the best in the world when it comes to providing high-tech care .. If you have an esoteric disease, you want to be in the United States. God forbid you have Ebola, our academic medical centers are second to none. But if you have run-of-the-mill chronic diseases like congestive heart failure or diabetes, the system is not designed to find you the best possible care. And that’s what has to change.”
Loving your enemies: Three Barriers Hijacking Christians’ Ability to Love Our ‘Enemies’
“1. Fear … 2. Nationalism … 3. Power. … What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?”
Revelation: Reading Revelation in an Unjust World [required reading]
“… just to be clear: Revelation doesn’t give us details about the rapture or who will be Left Behind. Revelation has as much to do with Four Blood Moons as Goodnight Moon. Revelation barely gives any details about the end times–even if it offers some clues about our perfect ending. Revelation doesn’t tell us about hell—even if some have been accused of Erasing Hell. The sole reason for Revelation’s existence is to encourage people who are suffering injustice.”
Anti-Semitism & Jesus: Jesus was a Jew (and I am not)
“Jesus taught like a Jew. Dressed like a Jew. Thought like a Jew. Ate like a Jew. Sabbathed like a Jew. Spoke like a Jew. Jesus taught, dressed, thought, ate, talked, and got his sabbath on like a Jew because–are you ready for it?–Jesus was a Jew. He came from Jewish parents. He was raised in a tiny Jewish town. Probably grew up learning Torah, the primary sacred text for Jewish children.”
Blessing, repentance & war: The Chaplain Who Blessed the Hiroshima Bombers, Repents
“Sixty-nine years ago, as a Catholic Air Force chaplain, Father George Zabelka blessed the men who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the next twenty years, he gradually came to believe that he had been terribly wrong, that he had denied the very foundations of his faith by lending moral and religious support to the bombing. Zabelka, who died in 1992, gave this speech on the 40th anniversary of the bombings. He left this message for the world.”
Childishness, cooperation, division, harmony, intolerance, partisanship & unity: The Headlong Retreat into Childhood Partisanship
“We are witnessing today a headlong retreat into the not-knowing and simplistic partisanship of childhood. Ideas that make people uncomfortable are banished. Science that calls faith into question is shouted down. Politics isn’t just hardball, it’s dumb-ball: I must win, at any cost, and you must lose. I am right, and you are wrong. My tribe is the only tribe that has value and rights. …
What is the way beyond partisan thinking? First, other points of view need to insist on being heard. … Second, rituals of compromise need to be maintained. …
“Extremist partisans are children out of control. They need “grownups” in the room to remind everyone that poison in the air kills all who breathe it.”
Guests, visitors & welcome: * 11 Church Hospitality Tips to Serve Guests; * 7 Easy Ways to Put a Not Welcome Sign on Your Church
* “… a list of 11 small things your church can do to make your guests feel more welcome.”
* “From personal experience — here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.”
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)
• Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)
• He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke 24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)
• Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”
2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”
2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.
3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?
2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?
3. One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.
4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?
5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.
2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.