Posts Tagged baptism

Immersed

Acts 1: 4 – 5

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord,” (Matthew 3: 3). He announced the coming of the Messiah and prepared the way of his coming. “As for me,” he said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” (Matthew 3: 11).

I don’t know if there is any more misunderstood spiritual directive in the whole Bible as this. I think it may be so challenging, in part at least, because there is nothing physical in this baptism. The practice of water baptism is easy to recognize and follow because there is a physical element involved. Whether a person is sprinkled, dunked or has a pail of water poured over them, we understand the principle involved.

This idea was baffling for the early church believers as well. Even John the Baptist said, “And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit,” (John 1: 33). John didn’t know exactly what to expect either, but he knew God had spoken about this new baptism and how to recognize he who would author it. As we see from this scripture, the first phase of this new paradigm was for Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit. God identified the Holy Spirit baptizer to John the Baptist as the one upon whom the Spirit remains.

Fast forward – Jesus has come, gone to the cross, was buried and arose. After his resurrection he appeared to his followers. After greeting them, “He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (John 20: 22). Are some of the circles beginning to close for you? Jesus has taken us right back to breath. After this he appeared to them again and told them not to leave Jerusalem but rather to await for that which the Father promised. Then he spoke today’s verse. The Apostles were commanded to remain and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This baptism is recorded in Acts 2, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance,” (Acts 2: 1 – 4). Don’t you find this exciting? It makes me want to shout. Can you picture how elated the Apostles were that day?

This became the new normal for the Apostles. They now had a revelation of what was spoken in the earliest days of Jesus’ ministry. No longer was it theology for them. This baptism in the fire of the Holy Spirit became their reality. Later when Peter was called to minister to the Gentiles he saw the same outpouring of the Spirit on them whereupon he remarked, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 11: 16).

I would fail you if I didn’t include the Apostle Paul. Paul came to understand this new baptism as well or better than anyone. In fact, if you run your search on the Spirit in the New Testament you will get a feel for how well acquainted with the Holy Spirit Paul was. Related to the Holy Spirit baptism, “He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying,” (Acts 19: 2 – 6).

Paul divulges that there is a new baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a free gift from the Father. None the less, there appears to be something required of us. Otherwise, all of these faithful believers would have automatically received the gift when first they believed. When they heard from Paul about the baptism of Jesus in the Holy Spirit, they must have asked to receive the baptism right then because the next thing that happened is that Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them.

This baptism is for all of us too. Our Father promised thousands of years ago that He would pour out His Spirit to every person. No one is left out of the promise. John the Baptist came and prepared the way for Jesus proclaiming that Jesus would baptize us in the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus ushered in the Spirit saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth,” (John 14: 16). We know that Jesus does not lie and we have the evidence of Acts 2 that He and the Father have fulfilled their obligation. There is nothing left but for us to bathe ourselves in this anointing from God and be showered with the Holy Spirit of God.

Saved by Fire

1 Peter 3:21                God’s Word Translation

Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life.

Everything changed with Jesus. John came preaching a baptism of repentance. Jesus brought a new baptism. A baptism, not out of something or removing something, but rather a baptism into something. That something is salvation, we are baptized into salvation. “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 11: 17).

Baptism, like so many things, experienced a fulfillment and renewal when Jesus came to the earth. Peter’s words in today’s verse are very perplexing because this is not the baptism we were raised thinking about. He wrote about an appeal to God for a clear conscience, not forgiveness of sins. Isn’t that amazing. This is a baptism of salvation but the salvation happens on the inside of us. We are made new and that renewal must occur in our minds as well as our spirits.

In this new dispensation, we are baptized in the Holy Spirit of God who has been likened to a river. So, we are still going to get our water baptism, it is just happening by Jesus in the river of the Holy Spirit. Can we even wrap our heads around this? God is doing something amazing in us by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as we are immersed in him, does not cleanse us from our sin. The blood of Jesus already did that. The Spirit washes through the inside of us cleansing out the sin consciousness. He washes out the sin identity and replaces it with an awareness of our life in Christ. No longer does the memory and stain of sin color our hearts and minds. The baptism in the Holy Spirit restored us. He cleanses out the memory of sin and replaces it with the remembrance of Jesus. He replaces the injuries in our hearts with the image, and in fact, the very presence of Jesus.

Salvation, at this level, takes place in our conscience. Jesus has done his part. He has saved us from sin. His love has cleansed us. However, many people carry around the consciousness of sin in their hearts and minds instead of carrying around the thoughts and memories of a loving and victorious Jesus. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is meant to cleanse your thinking. This baptism renews your thinking to what Christ has done rather than what you have done. Being immersed in the Spirit of God sears the pain, loss and destruction from your bones and allows new cells to grow, new cells which are the very DNA of Christ himself. When Jesus speaks of renewal, he has a very comprehensive view. And, if you want to revel in the whole truth, he is a lot more literal than we give him credit for.

God did not send the baptism of Jesus, which is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as a symbol or a representative ritual. This baptism is real and it is meant to accomplish a real transformation in us. The Holy Spirit is a cleansing fire. He burns away all that Jesus overcame. Whatever is in us that is not of Christ and his renewal, the Holy Spirit will sweep away. The sin of your past is dead. Jesus has overcome sin and death in your life. However, the shadows of that sin may remain in your heart and mind. These are the memories, the guilt, the condemnation, and the marred self-image. They are like debris from a volcano, black and lumpy, littering your internal self. The Holy Spirit cleans all of that rubble from your inner self so that fresh, new, healthy tissue can grow. There is life in Jesus so it is imperative that our insides have this regenerative opportunity. This affects your emotional and spiritual life. Does it also impact your physical health? Sure. Jesus came to give you abundant life (John 10: 10). That means renewal in every facet of your being.

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Be immersed in the Spirit of God. Let his cleansing fire fill every cell of your being. He will sear your conscience of the sin stain and fill it with the knowledge of the love of Christ Jesus and him resurrected in glory. Be made whole.

Jesus’ Baptism

Matthew 3: 11

I baptize you with water for repentance but after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

It is a new year and with the new year, hope springs eternal. I pray that you have great expectations for this year. I pray that you are looking for new revelation and new challenge. There is something fresh and optimistic about the beginning of a new year. Let’s pray together that we can challenge our assumptions and reach for the fresh new revelation that the Lord has for us this year.

Today’s verse represents one of those areas where we may challenge ourselves and perhaps open the door for new insight into the Lord Jesus and his hopes for our lives. John the Baptist was speaking. He spoke about his ministry and about the one who was to come after him, namely Jesus. Each, it would appear, has a baptism ministry. John’s baptism was of water and that baptism was for repentance. Most of us are familiar with water baptism. In fact, most readers of this devotional have been baptized in a water baptism. The curious part of the verse is John’s description of Jesus’ ministry of baptism. He revealed that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. What does that mean? Honestly, we are much more familiar with John’s baptism than we are with Jesus’. There is something in that truth that rankles. Since Jesus is our Lord, it seems we should be more familiar with his baptism.

I am not going to suggest what I believe it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire. Instead, I wish to offer this inquiry to you. This question can be our journey for the year. Each verse we read, each devotion may lead us into a deeper revelation of what John meant. Every word Jesus spoke may give us a glimmer into what it means to live in this baptism from Jesus. Each revelation from Paul and the other writers of the New Testament reflects on the ministry of Jesus even as the entire Old Testament was a prophetic forecast of the coming Messiah. My point is this, Jesus ministry is revealed in every Word from God. Every revelation since the beginning of time was intended to reveal the Messiah. Since the Messiah came to earth for the benefit of humanity, then each of these revelations was for the betterment of our lives.

I offer this question to you then, what is this baptism of Jesus? What is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire and what was it intended to accomplish in our lives? The Messiah is come. In his wake is a plethora of gifts and anointing and revelation. What will Jesus show us this year about himself? What does he long for us to understand? Have great expectations and allow the Lord, our Christ and friend, to fill you this year with more of himself.

The Sacrament

1 Corinthians 10: 16

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

Of course, Paul’s topic here is we call the Lord’s Supper. It is also widely known as “Communion”. Though the word Communion does not appear in the Bible, it is widely practiced and accepted amongst most Christian groups. In fact, it is valued as possibly the highest sacrament. 

The word sacrament is defined in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms as “an outward sign instituted by God to convey an inward or spiritual grace.” It is a rite or ritual that Christians participate in which is meant to be an external acknowledgement of what God is doing and has done in our spirits. There is wide disparity over the sacraments. Catholics identify seven sacraments while most protestant churches only recognize two. Other Christian faiths abandon the practice of sacraments wholly.   

Thomas á Kempis wrote in the Imitation of Christ that “in this Sacrament spiritual grace is conferred, the soul’s strength is replenished, and the recipient’s mind is fortified and strength is given to the body debilitated by sin.” For Kempis the sacraments, especially communion, are not just outward signs but something spiritual.  Some people feel that in the receiving of communion they experience Christ more than at any other time. Drawing deeper on Kempis we can see that the keeping of the sacraments were important to him because within them the spirit, soul mind and even body are benefited.

While my writing and thoughts are not on par with Thomas á Kempis I would like to offer a thought. If the rites and rituals of the Christian faith are meant to be events which stir our spirits and confer blessing on our minds, souls and even bodies then I wish to suggest that reading the Bible and meditating therein is the most powerful of all Christian activity. At least I find that my greatest connection with the Divine Trinity occurs over the Word.  

Some people find their greatest connection with Christ over the Word while others find their expression of Christian faith more easily in the sacraments. Those, like Kempis, who honor the keeping of the sacraments, would never suggest that they are meant to replace the Word. However, I do find that some of the church is divided on this point. Were I to suggest that we not observe any of the Holy Rites, especially Communion and Baptism, some people’s skin would peel right off of them. Nonetheless, I have seen whole congregations who give a high place to the sacraments but largely ignore the Word of God. This is not as it should be. 

We may observe the sacraments as fits us for there is a denomination at every level of sacramental observance. That is good. The Christian church does not have to be one size fits all. However, a church, a congregation or a believer without a steady diet of God’s word is one which can be led astray. Further, without the feeding on the word, that believer, congregation or even whole denomination will die. Practice seven sacraments if that suits you. Participate in daily communion if you like, but follow this piece of advice: forsake not the Word of God.