Baptism has nothing to do with salvation

SPIRITUAL MYTH #6 “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation”

baptismYou often hear it said in evangelical circles, “Once you give your life to Christ, you need to be baptized as the first act of obedience.  However, baptism has nothing to do with your salvation.  You are saved simply by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and repeating the sinner’s prayer.”

I think that’s a partial myth that needs to be debunked.

There are actually two sides of the mythical coin associated with the ordinance of baptism.  One is that baptism in and of itself saves you.  Parents tell their children, “Of course you are a Christian, we had you baptized shortly after you were born”.  The implication is that infant baptism, performed against your will, was sufficient to forgive your sins and guarantee you eternal life in heaven.

Some treat immersion as an adult in much the same way.  They will say, “Of course I’m saved.  At age twelve, I was baptized by immersion at the end of a new member class.”  Again the idea is conveyed that baptism alone makes a person a Christian.  This misconception is termed, “Baptismal regeneration” in theological circles.

Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly teaches that salvation is granted to those who choose to place their trust in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and not their own goodness.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” John 3:16, Romans 3:28, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 11:1 all make it very clear – the first step of obedience is to place our faith in Christ.

The other side of the coin is the very popular misconception that since we are saved by grace through faith, baptism has nothing to do with salvation.  Baptism is just an act of obedience.  We trust Christ then, sometime later, we are immersed in water as a symbol of what happened to us when we were saved.

But the ordinance of baptism is more than an act of obedience.  It’s more than a symbol or, “an outward sign of an inward grace.”  Baptism was originally intended to be a means of receiving Christ’s grace.  It’s a God-given benchmark that testifies to the fact that we are beginning a new life in Christ.

When Jesus healed people, He often requested an act of obedience as a test of faith.  “Go show yourselves to the priests”.   “Go wash in the pool of Siloam”.   “Stretch forth your hand”.   When the needy persons obeyed, they were healed.   Their efforts didn’t heal them, Jesus did.  But their step of faith was when they were made whole.

In New Testament times when needy sinners put their faith in Christ they were not commanded to repeat the sinner’s prayer, raise their hand or sign a card, although those responses can be helpful.  Those who believed in Jesus were instructed to repent of sin and be baptized.  And they responded by doing so as soon as possible.

It’s not a myth that we’re saved by faith in Christ.  It’s a myth that we receive salvation by just repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Read through the conversion stories in the book of Acts and ask two questions: (1) What was required of those who wanted to accept Christ as Savior? (2) When did they respond to Him by being baptized?  Here are a few examples:

Acts 2- Those who believed the first gospel message were told to, “… repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins”.  Three thousand people were baptized that very day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Acts 8 – When the Treasurer of Ethiopia believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah he requested that the evangelist Philip baptize him immediately, in a pond along the road he was traveling.

Acts 16 – The Philippian Jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. Then he and his family were baptized in the wee hours of that D7K_3325-1981462688-Omorning.

Acts 22 – Three days after Saul of Tarsus had been humbled by Jesus’ appearance to him outside Damascus, Ananias asked him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

Someone may protest, “Are you saying that a person can’t be saved without being baptized?”  What about the thief on the cross? He was saved and Jesus said nothing to him about being baptized.”  Yes, but he was still living in the Old Testament dispensation – the blood atonement and bodily resurrection hadn’t yet been completed.  Jesus, God in the flesh, promised the dying thief he would be in paradise when he requested it.

“Well, what about a dying soldier who makes a death-bed confession?  What about a person who is physically unable to be baptized?  Won’t they be saved if they just put their faith in Christ?”

We certainly hope so.  We can only trust God’s grace is sufficient in those instances.  But the assurance of salvation is promised to those who demonstrate their faith by repenting of sin and being baptized into Christ.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, Cincinnati Christian University professor, points out, “Baptism is not the first step a convert takes as a Christian; it is the last step the sinner takes to become a Christian.”

If you were trained to instruct converts to receive Christ by repeating the sinner’s prayer but they refused to repeat the prayer, would you conclude they are saved?  You would probably have doubts about the legitimacy of their faith.  Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

God offers the free gift of salvation through the atoning death of His Son on the cross.  A believer’s response is repentance and baptism.  To refuse to obey is evidence of insufficient faith.  James said, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Simon Peter taught that just as the flood waters buoyed up Noah’s ark and saved his family, “…this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:21)

Dr. Beauford Bryant, Milligan college professor, often said, “Baptism is a tomb and a womb.  A tomb where, by faith, we die with Christ and a womb where we’re born again into His Kingdom.”

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-5)

Fasting From Spending For A Year

buy buyAfter much thought, discussion, soul-searching and prayer my wife, Sharon, and I have decided to take a fast from spending for twelve months. As daunting and impossible as it might seem we are committed to shutting off the spending flow and sticking with it no matter what the urge, temptation or challenge might be.

EXPECTED REACTIONS

For some this might seem to be an insane decision. Such ones cannot even fathom the remote possibility of denying yourself the luci surprisedprivilege of spending for an entire year. Who would ever want to do something like that and why, why, why? We live in a culture of affluence. I mean, spending is what you do in America. Americans are the biggest spenders in the world. To fast from spending for an entire year is not only insane, it is just UN-American.

THE REASON: FOCUS SHIFT

So why in the world, or at least in America, the land of buying more, are we embarking on an adventure of fasting from spending? To begin with, this is going to provide an extended time of taking our focus off of stuff. It seems that most of life revolves around stuff and material possessions. From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, much of our time is devoted to stuff. And much of that time is all about getting more of it. So our decision to go an entire year without getting any more of it gives us a whole new focus, at least for that year. Who knows where it might lead from there.

Materialism is the acquisition of stuff. It is get, get, get. It has been described as get all you can, can the rest and then sit on the can. What better way to break the grip of materialism then to take an extended time of not participating in the insanity of it all?

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS

Taking our focus off of buying and stuff will then enable us to focus on more important things. We can have a transfer of focus from buying to, most importantly, God. Fasting is for the purpose of turning our attention from one thing to another. In the case of eating it is to take our attention from food in order to place it on God. In the case of stuff, spending and buying, it is for the purpose of taking our attention off of these things and placing it on God for an extended period. It lowers the importance of stuff so we can draw close to him. It is a time to hunger and thirst for him rather than more of whatever.

no spendingTaking our focus off of stuff and spending also leaves us with more time to devote to other things that are far more important, like relationships. Instead of spending we can be serving. Instead of buying stuff we can to be devoting that time to being a better husband, better wife, better parents, better neighbors, and better friends. Buying is time-consuming. Not buying leaves us with more time to invest in others.

Then fasting from spending and buying will leave us with more resources to use in loving God and loving others. According to Jesus nothing in life is more important than loving God and loving others. And one of the most significant and practical ways we can express that love is through the resources we have acquired. A spending fast will provide resources that can be used to bless others and meet their needs. We serve others by transferring some of what we would spend on ourselves to meeting their needs.

And finally, fasting from spending will immediately leave us with more resources to give to God, his church and his mission in the world. Wow, what an eternal difference that will make for so many.

THE INVITATION

So, I would like to invite you to consider a similar fast, whenever the time might be appropriate for you. It might be for these reasons or for your own. This could be the most awesome and transforming year of your life. This could be the breakaway you have been needing.

Sharon and I went away for a few days and worked out some *guidelines that we will follow for our fast in order for both of us to be on the same page. I would love to share them with you, if interested.

The Power of Model

One more thing to consider. If you have kids still at home or even ones that have moved out of the house, imagine how much your model could communicate to them in a year about what is most important in life. Instead if it being stuff, spending and materialism they would see self-denial, self-sacrifice, generosity and service to God and others. This is one teaching opportunity they will never forget.

*As our personal guidelines will reveal, our fast is from new spending. Providing for upkeep and necessities is permitted, but only as detailed in the guidelines and agreed upon by both parties.

You don’t have to wait to be accepted.

acceptance 2Anyone with college-aged kids knows the inundating routine that is college applications. Visit campuses. Choose a few schools to focus on. Make applications. Fill out forms. Write essays.

For anyone who hasn’t “been there, done that,” the filing of the application and financial aid forms is nothing compared to the waiting. It’s like the first time you look at your girlfriend or boyfriend and say, ‘I love you.” You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait to see if they respond in turn.

For the college applicant, the end of the waiting is signaled with a letter in the mailbox – hopefully saying “You have been accepted.”
We all have a desire to be accepted, don’t we? In fact, that desire made it into Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs. He theorized that acceptance is basic to our nature and to our psychological health.

Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story. She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.

Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead,accepted-1024x240 Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.

Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too along with his mother Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the two spies Joshua sent into the land.

debtFour “Shocking” Statistics About Debt in America

  1. 1.     The average household debt in the US is now 136% of the household income.  That means, whatever the average person makes, they owe that much plus 36% of what they make in a year. Insane! That is incredibly sloppy and dangerous money management! The only institution that does that and gets away with it is the U.S. Government!

 

  1. 2.     When it comes to credit cards and those carrying a balance, the average credit card debt is $14,517.00. That is a whole lot of shoes and belts and “cheap” jewelry and “necessities” and online purchases and $4 caffeine drinks. That’s a lot of debt!

 

  1. 3.     The average 21-year old owes $12,000. That’s also insane! But in only seven short years from the age of 21 to 28, they owe $78,000 by the time they’re 28. No wonder marriages struggle, and no wonder there’s so much tension; we live in a world where people are strapped.

 

  1. 4.     And this could be the scariest of all: The average number of U.S. households living paycheck-to-paycheck is 55% and some studies say as high as 61%. That means that if over half of you,  lost your job or didn’t get paid you couldn’t pay the house payment, the rent payment, or the car payment. You are in big, big trouble and over 50% of the people in our country are living that way today. Let me say it again, no wonder there’s so much tension.

What is normal in our culture when it comes to finances? Normal is debt, normal is car payments, credit card payments, student loan payments, house payments. Normal is fighting about money. Normal is divorcing over money. Normal is laying awake at night worrying about money. That’s why I believe with all of my heart if you’re a follower of Jesus we are not called to be normal, we are called to be different; we are not like this world. You don’t have to settle for normal. When people who are living this way give you advice they say “Well, you’re always going to have a car payment!” If you believe that, you always will, but there is a better way and it is God’s way, following His principles. To hear the first step of the better way I would invite you to click on this link and listen.  http://relaxedchurch.sermon.net/da/1199944377/play

time is running out

A few days ago I sent out a communication inviting individuals, pastors and churches across the state and beyond to join together in 40 days of prayer for our country leading up to the election. We currently have 35 days in which to pour out our prayers to God on behalf of our land. 35 is better than 0 if you haven’t started praying every day for the direction of our country. If you missed the post here is a link to it.

https://stevethornton.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/40-days-of-prayer-for-america/

I want to invite you to join me in one other effort on behalf of America. Would you join me in attempting to get everyone we can to register and vote if they are not registered already. Here are three things you can do:

  1. Begin with yourself and make sure you are registered and you will be voting on November 6.
  2. Talk to the people you connect with on a regular basis and encourage them to make sure they are registered and will be voting.
  3. Encourage your church to set up a registration table the next two weeks to register people at your services. This is not pushing a party or candidate but just getting people registered and ready to vote. We had our first registration day yesterday at New Venture and did have new voters and new resident register. NV will be doing two more registration Sundays.

This link is to a printable voter registration form for the state of Virginia. If you live in a different state the form for your state can be found on your state elections board website.

http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/Files/Forms/VoterForms/VoterRegistrationApplication.pdf  If your virus protection gives you problems with opening this, just copy and paste the link into the address line of your browser.

If you do registration as a church you can approach this in one of two ways:

  1. Have then fill out the form at that time and you will mail or hand deliver them. This will assure a higher degree of response than if they take them home hoping it gets done. If you collect the forms be sure to tear off the receipt part of the form and give it to the registrant.
  2. Or they can take the form with them and mail them in themselves. If they take them you might encourage them to hand deliver them to their county elections office.

Here is the critical piece of information. OCTOBER 15 IS THE DEADLINE FOR VOTER REGISTRATION FOR THE NOVEMBER 6 ELECTION, AT LEAST IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA. If you are not in Virginia you will need to check the deadline for your state. So all this will need to be done rather quickly.

I believe this election to be the most crucial one in my life time (and that is a pretty long time). We need to be willing to do everything we can to mobilize the people under our influence to first pray for our country and then to put some feet on their prayers and get to the poles and vote. I truly believe that if everyone receiving this communication takes these steps we can definitely have an impact on the outcome of this election and the direction of our country.

Time is running out and the future of our country is at stake.

Speaking the truth in love-assult on marriage in America

By ken Idleman

Are you aware that there is an all-out assault on Biblical marriage and the traditional family in our generation?  It was the ‘free-love’ movement of the sixties when war was first declared on the value of sexual purity in the United States.  [And when there is wholesale sexual indulgence in the name of sexual freedom, marriage and the family will always take the hit.]  Communal living was in vogue, college campuses initiated new open dorm policies, the plague of venereal disease was spreading and number of unplanned pregnancies began to escalate.  Something had to be done, so ‘sex education,’ including condom distribution, was introduced into many public schools, taught by teachers, many of whom had personally participated in the sexual revolution.  Then the Supreme Court stepped up and imposed a humanistic solution to the growing problem of unwanted pregnancies, passing Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, to make abortion legal as an alternative form of birth control.  Since then, we have performed in- womb executions, equivalent in number to one third of the population of the United States.  Now, the due bill is coming in with the economic reality that there are not/will not be enough employed workers in the workplace to perpetuate the Social Security system for the growing population of baby boomer retirees!  The impact on families is being felt already, a prelude to what is looming on the horizon.

With the rejection of Biblical absolutes [which are from God for our protection and preservation] the wheels began to come off.  The baggage of sexual regret being carried into marriages began to take its toll in the form of a growing number of divorces.  Pornography has gained acceptance, moving our society from ‘Playboy’ magazine to hardcore Internet porn as a multi-billion dollar industry.  Skyrocketing statistics on child abuse and victimization, the proliferation of sexual predators with offenders living in virtually every neighborhood, the scandalous sexual exposes of the entertainment, sports, business and political ‘glitterati,’ as well as high profile ‘televangelists’ and the priestly clergy, have rapidly taken us down a path of self-destruction.

Now, our Vice-President and President have come out, in the same week, with statements of unqualified support of same-sex marriage.  So, the wall of protection around Biblical marriage has officially been breached.  And, I predict that we will be overrun in the years ahead with the barbaric hoard of spin-off consequences in the lives of real people.  The patience and tolerance of our Holy God has been stretched to the breaking point.  His judgment will be inescapable. God’s wrath against sin is built into the human system.  We have never been here before as a nation. The protection of the innocent unborn has been eliminated by the state.  The protection of Biblical marriage and the traditional family has been eradicated by the state.  As a pastor, I will witness the carnage up close and personal.  As a father and grandfather, I am deeply concerned about the nation my children and grandchildren will inherit and the price they will have to pay for the sins of my generation.  More than ever before in my lifetime, I identify with the closing prayer of Revelation 22:20-21, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen.”