As God the Father promised the Holy Spirit to the early Church, so He still promises that same Spirit to the Church today (Acts 1:4, 5). Anyone who becomes a new creation in Christ possesses the Spirit of Christ the moment of conversion. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
You can think of baptism as an immersion. An image that comes to mind is that of a child jumping into a swimming pool on a hot, summer day. The child is immersed into the water and becomes fully engulfed. In like manner, when a sinner becomes a saint, he or she is fully engulfed or submerged into the Spirit of God. He or she becomes “fully wet” or baptized in the Spirit.
John the Baptist baptized or immersed the repentant in water. The purpose of John’s baptism was designed to bring people to confession of sin and repentance. But an additional purpose for John’s baptism was for people to place their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 19:4). John the Baptist attested to this truth (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the descension of God the Spirit onto individual believers. As John’s baptism is the shadow of the change which God brings in the heart and mind of a person, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the essence of regeneration. It is the progression of God being with man; cleansing and making him or her into a new creature (II Corinthians 5:14-21). Every believer in Christ has God Himself living on the inside of their being.
The Spirit’s baptism is a part of God’s restoration of His kingdom upon the creation, but it is not the final part. There is a time to come in which God will completely reclaim Lordship over all things. This time is when Christ returns. In the meantime, God continues to change His elect through His Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit within them, believers have the power of God.
We can all relate to the pain of being wronged or hurt. Some wounds inflicted by the injustice of other people can go deep and last a long time. Although wounds heal, there may be scars which last a lifetime. I do not want to diminish any suffering that victims of wrongdoing experience. Injustice on any level is wrong and hurtful. However, I do intend to point out that injustice, even though it may wound us, does not have to destroy us.
The difference between overcoming hurt and being overtaken by hurt rests upon how we respond to wrongs and offenses. We have the option of seeking justice or vengeance. We must choose wisely. The wise choice is to always pursue justice.
Justice is not the same as vengeance. Justice upholds a moral law and responds to wrong behavior within that moral law. Vengeance ignores moral law and returns wrong behavior with similar or worse behavior. Justice is objective. It works within a system. Vengeance is arbitrary. Justice heals. Vengeance destroys.
Victims who turn to vengeance become perpetrators themselves. Their innocence is overtaken by their guiltiness. They become that which caused their suffering. They walk a path of self-destruction.
Jesus teaches us to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love requires the victim to entrust his or her pain into the hands of God; to let the Lord handle the matter with justice. Love does not seek to strike back but seeks that which is best for another, even if the other is someone who has hurt us.
Love does not mean that wrongs and offenses are ignored or excused. Rather, it places the issue before the One who can exercise perfect justice. With the responsibility of justice in God’s hands, the victim can move on from the injustice rather than remaining a victim. Love frees victims of injustice.
Have you been hurt by another? Do not discount the pain from that hurt. Allow yourself time to fully comprehend the wrong done to you. Justice is never served by ignoring evil. But once you have come to terms with the pain, let it go. Turn over the one who caused your pain to Jesus Christ and seek the best interest of your enemy.
To get context for this article, please read Romans 13:1-7.
The United States is currently facing questions about the role of civil authority (government) in the lives of its citizens. The questions are not new. People of the United States like debating the extent to which government is involved in everyday life. The debate should continue, if done with respect and civility. It is a good thing for the citizens of a country to ponder the civil authority they have chosen and to critique that selected authority. It is especially important for the Church to think about authority. But for the Church to engage in such an endeavor, she must turn to the Bible for guidance.
What does the Bible say about civil authority? What is God’s intent for government? These questions are complicated and asking them risks hard thinking. The answers I present are not designed to be exhaustive. I bring up and address the subject with the hope that Christians will be stimulated to think.
The Biblical Reason for Government
God ordained and established civil authority after the fall of mankind. With man’s rebellion against God came an infection which has since spread to all the world’s population. The main symptom of this infection was a propensity to continue rebelling. For example, when God told mankind to love their neighbor, mankind responded by hating their neighbor. Because of this natural bent toward harming each other, God established an authority on earth over man. That authority has had its hands full ever since.
The Biblical Role of Government
Civil authority is a servant of God which implies it is a servant of the people. How does it serve? Government serves God and man by keeping mankind’s nature (the nature to rebel) at bay. The way in which government does its job is simply explained but is implemented with great difficulty. Civil authority serves God by rewarding good (moral) behavior and avenging bad (immoral) behavior.
What is moral behavior? In a succinct definition, moral behavior means loving your neighbor. How do we love our neighbor? To love our neighbor, we must do no harm to our neighbor. Instead, we seek what is best for our neighbor.
So how does a new creation view civil authority? A Christian must be for civil authority. This is because God endorses government as a minister to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. God’s endorsement of civil authority is not an endorsement of any immoral action of government. Neither should the Church blindly nor unconditionally endorse every action of civil authority. When government fails to protect and uphold moral laws, the Church has a responsibility to keep civil authorities accountable.
Keeping civil authorities accountable cannot be done through immorality. Citizens cannot confront evil in their rulers by committing evil against their government. Both rulers and the ruled must abide by the law of love. Failing to submit to government as a ministry of God is as unbiblical as failing to call out the immoral actions of government.
27 My sheep give ear to my voice, and I have knowledge of them, and they come after me:
28 And I give them eternal life; they will never come to destruction, and no one will ever take them out of my hand.
John 10:27, 28
It is said that people have a great fear of loss. I believe this is true. For example, in the world of sales, a great motivator to buy is the fear of not having. Are you guilty of purchasing a product with the premise that you may someday have a need for it? If you stand guilty, you understand this fear.
Interestingly enough, there are some people who fear losing that which they can never lose – eternal life. And because of their fear, they go about life with a cloud of dread hanging over them. If you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, I hope that after reading this little article, you will no longer allow that cloud of dread to remain with you. Life is difficult enough without phantom fears tormenting you.
The loss of God’s gift of eternal life is a phantom fear, a specter of impossibility. It cannot ever take place. How can I say this with such confidence? I stake my claim upon the solid foundation of God’s promise which is found in His word.
I included some Scripture from John’s gospel at the beginning of this article. Did you read those two verses? If so, you have read a great promise from the Master. The promise was made for all believers for all time. If you are a believer, it was meant for you too.
Jesus promises eternal life to His sheep; to those who are believers. May I ask you when eternity ends? If you answered that eternity does not end, you are catching something important about God’s gift. Jesus does not just give life to believers. He gives life which is eternal. The gift which the believer receives from God is perpetual. Eternal life is never-ending. Once you have eternal life, you cannot ever be without it.
Gifted with perpetual life, the believer can never come to destruction. The destruction of which the Lord speaks is that reserved for the unbelieving. This destruction is the eternal death of being out of God’s presence. It is a death whose destination is Hell.
As you look again at the Lord’s promise, when can a believer ever come to this state of destruction? Jesus answers that a believer will never come into this state. At this point, those who fear the loss of salvation may say, “But you do not know what I have done or how many times I have done it.” My reply is that your objection is irrelevant.
I do not mean to imply that sin in the life of a believer is irrelevant. God does not want His people to remain in that from which they have been freed. My point is that salvation is not based upon the lack of or the degree of sin. Salvation is based upon God’s gift of eternal life. For those who accept this gift by faith possess eternal life. Once a possessor of the eternal, always a possessor of the eternal.
As those who possess eternal life, believers sit firmly safe in the hands of the Lord. From their safe seat, no one can remove them. In this instance you are “no one” because not even you can remove yourself from the safe hands of the Lord.
If, after reading this, you still perceive that cloud of dread hanging over you, allow God’s promise to remove the cloud. The cloud is a phantom, but God’s word is real. Believe the Lord’s promise.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. It is the story of God’s love for people who have rejected Him and the lengths to which God goes to redeem sinners to Himself. I challenge you to listen to this beautiful story. The gospel just might stir you like no other story can.
The supreme God, the God above any other god, created people in His own image (Genesis 1:27). This supreme God made people different than any other part of His creation. Being made in God’s image, mankind bore a moral resemblance to the Creator. Mankind had the ability to choose good over evil, right over wrong.
There came a day when the human creation of God chose evil rather than good. This choice placed a wall of division between God and His created beings. That divisive wall was God’s justice. God’s justice was pure and as such, could not overlook man’s choice for evil. The just sentence for evil was death. So the supreme God, who is also a just God, pronounced death upon mankind.
The first rebellion against God infected mankind and all generations which followed. Therefore, all humanity, from the moment of natural birth, lived under a pronouncement of death. This continual judgment from God was just because all infected people choose wrong over right. Therefore, all people have rebelled against God.
The Creator of all things is a just God. He cannot ignore rebellion and remain just. But God is also a loving God who does not want rebellious people to suffer the death sentence under which they live. So God establishes a plan to redeem His rebellious creation and yet remain purely just.
The redemption plan must include a payment for mankind’s rebellion, a satisfactory sacrifice to pay the sentence of death. The sacrifice must also be without any infection from the rebellion. For an infected substitute cannot pay for the rebellion of another. It can only pay its own rebellion.
The sacrifice not only had to be without rebellious infection, but it also had to be able to suffer death. Furthermore, it had to die the death of a human being, for it was through mankind that the infection came. God, Himself was the only one suitable to be the perfect sacrifice. God was without rebellion and, being God, He could put on human flesh to suffer death. So then the plan was put into motion Genesis 3:15).
At the perfect time, God entered our world wearing human flesh (John 1:14). The combining of divine nature and human nature resulted in a unique life. God lived a life as a man but never chose evil. He willingly suffered death as a man because He was fully human (John 19:30). His death satisfied the death sentence placed upon all people. Because He was the supreme God, who was without rebellion, death could not permanently hold Him. So the supreme God, the maker of all things, the just and loving God, rose from the grave (Acts 2:32). Just as sure as His death paid the penalty for rebellion, His resurrection from death opened eternal life to all people.
The sacrifice has a name, Jesus Christ. Jesus offers the benefits of His sacrifice to all people regardless of how deep their rebellion. The benefits He offers are forgiveness of rebellion (sin) and eternal life. Jesus wants nothing from you. He simply wants to give these benefits as a gift.
The way you receive the forgiveness and eternal life is to simply ask Jesus for them. Asking is no simple thing. By asking Jesus for these benefits, you are trusting in Him to remove your sentence of death. The Bible calls this “asking”, this “trusting in”, believing in Jesus.
Anyone who asks Jesus for forgiveness of sin and eternal life is guaranteed by God to receive them. At the time these benefits are given, the person to whom they are given becomes a new creation. New creations are those beings no longer under a death sentence. They become free from death and free to live without rebellion.
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The work to reconcile you to God is finished. Forgiveness of sin and eternal life are yours for the asking.
When I was young, I had the unique opportunity to observe the effects of aloneness. I observed these effects as they wore upon someone living in our neighborhood. The person had lost her spouse. Her children had grown up and had left the house. She did not go out much nor did she entertain many visitors outside of the occasional visit from family. She was, most of the time, by herself, separated from people.
She did not have to be lonely. There were numerous opportunities for her to go places. My neighbor received plenty of invitations from others to socialize. But my neighbor, too often, chose to remain alone.
My neighbor’s tendency to self-isolate resulted in some sad and odd behavior. The curtains of her home were drawn at night because she feared someone would peer into her home, plotting some harm upon her. But she also kept her drapes shut during the day for a reason still unknown to me. She used no air conditioner in the summer and kept her drapes closed most of the time. I would sometimes check on her. On hot days, the heat wave that hit me as she opened her front door was overwhelming.
Over time, her self-induced loneliness took its toll. My neighbor eventually lost track of time, dates, names, and seasons. She lost her mind.
My point is simply that people were not made to be alone. The Creator desires that we regularly be around other people.
And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be by himself: I will make one like himself as a help to him”.
The cost of being alone concerns me as we “social distance” (a term I have come to abhor). People are not made to be alone. Our current technology cannot provide the same positive outcome of human interaction. Phone calls, texts, social media, and videos are only a reasonable facsimile for experiencing the presence of another person. There is a reason why prisoners are placed into solitary confinement and it is not to benefit. Perpetual aloneness and loneliness adversely affect us. We must be careful.
Solitude is certainly needed. Being alone provides the opportunity to get quiet, think, reflect, regroup, and recharge. But like many other things, solitude needs to be balanced. Just as there is an appropriate time to be alone, there is also a time to be with other human beings.
You are not designed for indefinite seclusion. Too much of it is unhealthy. A life without the touch of another person does something to you that you really do not want. It removes you from reality and leaves you vulnerable to a self-centered existence. Aloneness, if left unchecked, weakens you mentally until you become the sole citizen of your own little, fanciful world. It is not safe for you to always be alone.
Reach outside of yourself and towards others. Make an effort to be around other people. Talk to them and be quiet while they talk to you. Ask questions and be genuinely curious about others. Look people in the eye and engage them. Care about them.
You will find that in-person, social activities will make you happier. Social interaction will fill a void no other activity can fill.
Many regard God’s creation of all things as the foundational issue of the Christian faith. You may even hear others state the case that if the Biblical creation is faulty, the integrity of the rest of God’s revelation to man suffers. Although I am fully convinced that the creation record in Genesis is true, I argue that the veracity of the Christian faith hinges upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If there is no such thing as a resurrection of the dead, we must seriously question Genesis as well as all the Bible. Without a resurrection from death, the Scriptures must be accepted as fanciful fiction.
The resurrection of Jesus was the greatest miracle imaginable. It was a victorious operation against the two greatest enemies of mankind, death and Hell. The resurrection was a defeat of these two great enemies. Jesus submitted Himself to death, but death could not lay an eternal claim upon Him. Death was forced to release the Son of God, because it had no right to claim Him.
In a relationship between an employer and an employee, the employer agrees to pay a wage for a deed done while the employee agrees to do said deed for a wage. The relationship is built upon an offer and an acceptance between both parties. If the employee does not accept the employer’s offer of employment, the employee is not under obligation to the employer. Furthermore, if the employee does not do the work, he or she is not owed the agreed upon wage. This example is a great way to understand why Jesus could not be held by death.
Like an employer, sin offers a wage for work. The wage death. While Jesus walked this earth as a man, we read where He never did the work of sin. He lives a sinless life. Since Jesus does not sin, He is not owed sin’s wage. Jesus dies as a result of being a man who suffers crucifixion, but He is not owed a permanent death because He did not earn sin’s wage. Therefore Jesus’ grave is empty.
An empty grave is the supreme endorsement by God that Jesus is the Messiah. The apostle Paul writes this very thing (Romans 1:1-4). Without a resurrection, Jesus is not the Son of God. His death is not payment enough for humanity’s sin. He is not the sinless Savior. The rest of the Bible is not true.
But Jesus did rise from the grave. He is not in the grave, but He is alive. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The empty grave gives assurance that Jesus is the One whom sinners can trust for forgiveness of sin.
 Some deny the existence of Hell, but they cannot deny the existence of death. If some are so sure that there is no Hell, why do they struggle with the idea of dying and avoid it at all cost? Could it be that they may be inclined to think that any state after death is worse? And if such an after-life existence is less desirable than this present life, with its many sufferings and injustices, could that next state be defined as Hell?