In Romans 6:3, Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” He was writing about sanctification. When someone has been justified by faith, God saves Him from the power of sin. Verse 1 says he is “dead indeed unto sin.” He cannot live any longer therein. His lifestyle changes. In 2 Corinthians Paul said he is a “new creature,” “old things passed away, all things become new” (5:17). This death to sin is pictured in baptism. When someone is baptized, he is baptized “into” Jesus’ death. “Into,” the Greek preposition eis, shows identification. Later in Colossians 2:12, Paul writes, “Buried with him in baptism.” Water baptism pictures the old man, the former person being buried, so that all can see. When we receive Jesus Christ, we receive His sacrifice for our sins. By receiving Him, we die to ourselves. It is not longer our righteousness, but His. Like He raised from the dead, we are too raised unto new life.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
After Jesus was born, His parents brought Him to God’s house. It is obvious when you read the text of scripture that they kept bringing Him to God’s house every year as prescribed by the Old Testament. Before Jesus was born, He dwelt in the heavenly house of God with His Father. The house on earth was a shadow of the reality of the heavenly house. When Jesus was twelve years of age, on another occasion of His parents bringing Him to the house of His Father in Jerusalem, they left Him behind there. When they came back to find Him there, He said He was going about to do His Father’s business, which was in His Father’s house. When Jesus began His ministry, He cleansed His Father’s house, indignant that it had been made into a den of thieves. In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul calls the church, the house of the living God. We begin 2017 in the house of God, where Jesus still abides (Mt 18:18, Rev 1:19-2:1). When Jesus returns, He will welcome His own into His own house, where they will be with Him forever.
Romans 8:28-30 read, “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” All things, both bad and good things, work together for good to believers, who are those who love God. Why? As you read through those three verses, you see that the ones whom God foreknew before the foundation of the world—because He is omniscient and timeless—He called, justified, and will glorify. It says they were glorified, as they are as good as already glorified to God. However, those very people, He predestinated to conform to the image of His Son. God only predestinates those who He calls and justifies. Believers, therefore, will conform to Jesus Christ. How will they conform? By God working all things together for their good. Their “good” is conforming to the image of the Son, and since that is God’s goal, He will do what it takes to do that. That is a guarantee. Whatever He uses to do that, for that we can be thankful. When the bad things come, we know He is using them for our good.
Christmas time presents a lot of activity in this world and in the United States. You have certain family and work obligations and travel. It isn’t the same routine. As these different occupations fly at you, your eyes observing and mind appropriating, remember to live by faith and not by sight. The plan of the kingdom of Jesus Christ still marches on. Eternal souls still hang in the balance. God’s Word is still God’s Word and His will is still His will. A nice prayer is the one in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” When there is a lot to see, we can tend to live by sight and not by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Living by faith is living according to God’s Word – just believing Him, so loving Him and doing what He says. That still is God’s plan despite the flurry around you. It never stops being that, and these days at the end of the year are part of that life of faith. They can provide a unique opportunity of living by faith because you are out of your normal routine. You have some different people and different situations to apply the Word of God. This is being faithful to God. He will be faithful to you. He will sustain you and He will continue saving and sanctifying you. Set Him apart in your heart and be ready for Him.
What are the traps in this season? I’m going to suggest some possibilities, so that we can have as good a season as we can.
First, vow to put God ahead of everything at this time of the year. There is the temptation to think about yourself and things. Grow spiritually. Don’t stagnate.
Second, don’t be too lazy. Get some rest, sure, but get something profitable done so that it doesn’t seem like a waste. Perhaps you could think of a couple of reasonable projects. This is part of your life too, and God isn’t the One who turned December into what it is. December still counts.
Third, be careful about expectations. December is one of the most depressing times of the year for many, especially right afterwards. Unmet expectations is the cause of discontent, discouragement, bitterness, and some other form of anger. If you put the expectations on yourself and not on others, you’ll be fine.
Fourth, minister to others. Help someone else out. Say an encouraging Word. Preach the gospel to someone. Help build someone up. Give someone else a break. Don’t expect anything in return. Do it out of love, whatever it is.
Christmas time will be great for you on purpose. “So teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12).
One request in the Lord’s model prayer with which He instructs us to pray is “Thy will be done.” Scripture is not mysterious when it comes to the will of God. God wants His will to be known. He wants us to do it. If you take all the passages that say, “the will of God,” and then do them, I am proposing to you that you will do the will of God, that you will be in the will of God. This isn’t a mystery. Some of what God has for you is a liberty for you. You have liberty to do certain things that are not taught in scripture. Later when the founding fathers wrote the United States Constitution, they did something like that. Whatever power was not delegated to the federal government was reserved for the states. This is the 10th amendment. Whatever is not spoken in scripture either through precept or principle are liberties. Certainly, we are guided in our liberties. You can do what you will within the principles that guide the liberties. For instance, everything is to the glory of God. You don’t have liberty to do something you want for your own glory. However, God’s will is found in scripture. It is His will for you to receive Jesus Christ, that is to be saved. God is not willing that any should perish. Your sanctification and giving of thanks are both the will of God, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5. Suffering for well doing is God’s will in 1 Peter 3. Look at Scripture for God’s will.
When you look at the calendar for the year, you can see some strategy as it relates to the will of God for a church and for you in the church. During certain times of the year, our church and you are better off with ministry that is more family and personal, those right around you. It’s a different type of personal evangelism. You talk to people you know about subjects that are related to salvation—thanksgiving to God and then the birth of Christ, the Messiah, the Savior comes to the world to seek and to save them that are lost. You can send tracts to relatives, talk about the Lord in phone calls. It is also a special time of ministry, of doing God’s work, building people up, and doing discipleship. The weather isn’t conducive sometimes and people have different schedules. We can spend time in helping people become more obedient to God. They can read and study their Bible, pray. There are a lot of possible distractions in this season, one that is supposed to be about the Lord. It’s a matter of thinking different. It can be a time of great Christian growth instead of a wasted time. We can focus and prioritize on what is eternal in value. What I’m writing here is the way the calendar pace presents itself in this time. Other parts of the calendar open for a lot of evangelism to a lot of people. This is one where we spend time with individual people.
I’m going to be quaint here, something you might think for the inside of a fortune cookie – Not Thanksgiving, Thanksliving. Thanksliving: A Life that Proceeds out of Thanks to God. You give thanks, you live thanks. You could thank God, but if you don’t live for God, He isn’t being given thanks. This is how thanks reads in scripture. In Romans 1, the unthankful is the unbeliever, who lives for himself. If you are thankful, you don’t live for yourself, you live for God, because you get it. God has given you everything you have. Every good thing comes from God (James 1:17) and every bad thing comes because of men. You can’t separate yourself from the bad things, because even if you are born with a nature to sin, you also chose to sin. If sin entered into the world through the first sin, you’ve committed a sin, offended the law in one point at least, as James 2:10 mentions. Even if there is bad all around, the good things outweigh the bad, or else you would be sunk. You wouldn’t survive. The pilgrims knew that, and after they survived the Winter, they gave thanks for what God had done. Abraham Lincoln, I believe, instituted Thanksgiving as an American Holiday, fitting for a country that made its way through a horrific conflict, the Civil War, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, and coming through intact. For us, it’s redemption and eternal life through Jesus.
Last week I wrote about discouragement, and I said that one cure or solution to it is to think about the right thing. I didn’t mention in that short essay how that Paul said this was the cure for anxiety in Philippians 4, that is, to think on certain things. If someone is saved, and, therefore, has the Holy Spirit indwelling him, he has the cure for discouragement on the inside of him. If he is filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit, then he has the positive disposition or attitude of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. Discouragement or worry would not be on that list. Parallel to the control of the Holy Spirit, we know because of Colossians 3:16, is control by the Word of God, which comes from thinking and then living the Word of God. When you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, you are filled with the Spirit, then He, the Holy Spirit, will produce this disposition for you. This relates to a lot of passage of scripture that relate happiness to doing right. When you are doing right, you’ve got right things to see in your life right at the moment. It also means you are progressing, growing, and adding to your Christian life. That is how God intended you to live. You are being a success. If you have success to look at right now, you can be encouraged with that. That brings completion or fulfillment to your life. You are fulfilling God’s purpose for you, and you’re then happy.
What discourages you as a Christian? You can look at it in a few ways. One, you could say that you are discouraged because you fail to think about the truth, such as your position in and future with Jesus Christ. That remains true during whatever you face on earth. This really is a choice to be discouraged by a refusal to think about the truth. You have the truth to think about, but instead you think about a lie. It just seems bad to you. It’s not bad. It seems bad. Even if you are suffering, scripture says you don’t need to treat it as suffering if you are suffering for righteousness sake. 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” “Ye suffer” is a rare optative mode in the New Testament. There are only 68 in the entire New Testament. It treats the suffering like it isn’t really happening. Key here is treating it like it is nothing. The way you do this, I believe, is by projecting yourself forward to eternity by faith and then considering the suffering to be a reward. You’re suffering for the right reason, so like it and consider it not to be suffering. That’s the point Peter is making. He uses the optative, which treats the action as unlikely. It isn’t possible or probably, but unlikely. It’s as if the suffering doesn’t exist. It is not viewed as suffering, but as an opportunity for blessing. A first way to stop discouragement is changing your thinking.