Making a Public Declaration of Your Faith

It is glaringly apparent that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. That should come as no surprise, as Jesus warned us of this very thing:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; and all children will rise up and rebel against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name, but it is the one who has patiently persevered and endured to the end who will be saved.” Mt. 10:21, 22. AMP

The world hates us just because we follow Christ. Why? Because if we do our best to emulate Him, we are vicariously heaping judgment upon it as He did:

“…it (the world) does hate Me because I denounce it and testify that its deeds are evil.” Jn. 7:7

AMP

“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Jn 3:20 NKJV

And so it is with us:

“…and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” Mt. 24:9 AMP

All you have to do is pick up any issue of the Huffington Post to validate that. Indeed, we are entering tumultuous times, where we will see both persecution and a falling away of many of the faithful:

“At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold. But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering to the end will be saved.” Mt. 24:10 – 13. AMP

The time will come when Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats. You definitely want to be in the sheep crowd. (Mt. 25:31 – 33.)

Sometimes, Christians are their own worst enemies, by letting their flesh take precedent over their spirit. For example, you have people playing with snakes, denying their children medical care, protesting outside of military funerals, killing abortion providers, advocating war over peace and putting politics over the kingdom.

We all have our human side, and fall repeatedly. This is where we must stay humble in the face of our sinful nature, take Jesus by the hand, and get up over and over to once again try our best:

“…he who comes to the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” Jn. 3:21 NKJV

And we mustn’t lose sight that Jesus is depending upon God’s children to spread the gospel message for the salvation of the world:

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world…Let your light shine before men is such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:14 & 16. AMP

“What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].” Mt. 10:27 AMP

So, it is both what we say and do for the kingdom that matters; and the more that we can do that publicly (teach the word, evangelize, volunteer, etc.) the larger the net we will cast for Christ.

Our public outreach begins humbly, but powerfully, with our first public declaration of our faith – our baptism. Why is that an important deed to undertake?

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above – spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:3 AMP

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:5 NKJV

This was Jesus’ first ministerial teaching – laying out the entire reason that He came, i.e. that there is nothing that we can do in and of ourselves that will get us into the kingdom of God. It is only open to those who allow God to birth them anew by changing what is in their hearts. Then, the continued presence in that kingdom is assured for those who do their best to live by those changes.

Water baptism is a requirement from God, through Jesus – not only for ourselves, but we are also called to help facilitate the baptism of as many people as possible:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mk. 16:15, 16. ESV

When we get baptized, our example of faith in God and our obedience to His word can potentially draw others to do likewise. It is an outward sign that our faith is both growing and being reinforced. Without the faith, the act of baptism would be worthless. The water is just water. It is the connection of the water to the word of God, by faith, that fulfills our requirement.

Water baptism by itself however, is not the way to salvation. It is a declaration of one’s faith in salvation through the Spirit. Baptism in water is a metaphorical demonstration of being re-birthed as a newly cleansed child of God, through the forgiveness of sins – confirming that your old ’worldly self’ has been buried (symbolized by your immersion in water) and that your ‘spiritual self’ has been resurrected and cleansed from the stain of original sin (portrayed by your rising out of the water).

The act of water baptism begins with your repentance of the actions of your flesh and ends with the declaration of your faith in the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

True salvation (having been made righteous from the cleansing blood of Christ) comes when you ask God for your Spiritual new birth by petitioning Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit – changing you into a new child in Christ. Only then, does God provide kingdom guidance and eyesight so that you can walk in His ways.

This is so BIG:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pt. 1:3 – 5. ESV

Declare…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Jesus Contact 24

Are You Kicking Against the Goads?

Shortly after Jesus ascended to His Father, the early Christian church fell under persecution by the non-Christian Jews. One such oppressor leading this charge was a man named Saul of Tarsus, (who would later become the apostle Paul):

…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3 ESV

Indeed, Paul himself later described his motivations and actions:

“…according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5 NKJV

“…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” Gal. 1:13 NKJV

Saul knew nothing of the gospel:

“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it…” Gal. 1:12 NKJV

Well, Saul and his henchmen were riding towards Damascus to hunt down more Christians, when suddenly a blinding light from heaven shone all about him:

Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:4, 5. NKJV

Saul knew that he was in the presence of a Divine manifestation, but I’ll bet when he realized it was Jesus, his knees commenced to knocking!

(A ‘goad’ is a pointed stick used to drive oxen. ‘Kicking against the goads,’ is a Syriac (western Semitic) proverb describing an attempt to do something that will only bring pain. Here, Jesus was implying that Saul was going to experience pain if he continued to oppose the will of God.)

“But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16 – 18. ESV

Only Jesus would transform His greatest earthly enemy into His mightiest champion. Paul would even go on to write (by the Spirit) the majority of the New Testament.

Similarly, there is no one else whom Jesus would not enlist to serve Him if they make the free-will choice to do so. He makes it pretty clear that the choice is either black or white:

“He who is not with Me is against Me…” Mt. 12:30 NKJV

I would venture to say then, anyone who is not with Jesus is ‘kicking against the goads.’  Why would someone do that? Perhaps they have not head the gospel message. That’s why it is so paramount that we spread the good news to everyone we can, because it is a life or death matter. (Dt. 30:15 – 20.)

There are others who have heard the message but suppress their spiritual pain in order to indulge in their desire for worldly things – effectively turning their backs on God:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:15 – 17. ESV

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory…all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on HIs right, ‘Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…”Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” Mt. 25:31 – 34 & 41. NASB

The outcome is not a good one for the ‘goats.’ But a goat can be saved right up until the time of his or her death. That’s why we never give up on those who love their sins. It is our duty. (Ezek. 33:1 – 9.)

Finally, there are people who have committed some infraction(s) in their past that they believe disqualifies them from salvation. But that clearly runs contrary to the love, kindness and mercy that characterizes our Savior:

“…every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mt. 12:31 ESV

So, if you approach your Father with confession and repentance, your pardon is assured, and you can get on with the business of living your godly life. We know that unrepentant sin brings death. (Rm. 6:23)

That ‘unpardonable sin’ Jesus talks about above consists of denying the Holy Spirit’s message of salvation through Christ, which will close the door on your redemption:

…you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be – if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins. Jn. 8:24 AMP

Thankfully, we have a loving eternal alternative:

“Repent, and turn from all your transgression, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezek. 18:29 – 32. NKJV

Besides, those goads are sharp! But they fall away when we make our Jesus contact…

Goodnight and God bless.