Wednesday, May 28

A Three-fold Cord ..Quickly Broken!

In First John we read that the "world" that threatens the Christian life is composed of three elements: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Also, we read that this triple threat to the Faith is part of another group of three. This three-part "world" is married to both the devil and with our own fleshly natures to resist God's redeeming work in our lives. Rather like a three-stranded rope set as a trap to bind and ensnare s! Faced with opposition like this, we have to ask some questions:


What was God thinking? He calls us to commit our lives to Him, to be converted away from all these evils, then here we are faced with resisting that kind of influence for the rest of our earthly lives?


How can we resist an enemy that is not only all around us, but is even part of who we are?


What is this "salvation," anyway? Can we answer questions with a question? Is God unrighteous? We can easier ask if water is dry, or fire cold. We do see, though, that the enemy we face is not one to simply be resisted or tolerated "until we get to heaven," because if we are resisting it as someone trying to stand against a stream of water, then we are soaked by the water, and involved in the stream, no matter how firmly we have planted our feet in its muddy bottom. No, God calls on the Church to overcome the world, not just to keep up a futile fight against it. Would God send His children into a battle expecting them to be defeated, or give them a task without giving them also the means to complete it?

Second, we see that we are fighting an enemy which involves itself in the very basis of who we are. Did God come in the flesh only to save our souls? Is the God Who created this Universe not able to redeem our bodies as well as our spirits? If we only trust Him to do those things which we cannot see, then how is our understanding of God any better than make-believe? No, He Who would redeem our souls from destruction would also redeem our souls from the corruption of sin, as He says,

Salvation means victory: Partaking in real life in Jesus' real life victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Overcoming means being free from their influence, and in full possession of all that our enemies had taken from us. Jesus said He had come "to destroy the works of the devil," and that those who trust Him "would not lack any good thing," but rather would "be made partakers in His divine nature." This truth is woven even into the very fabric of the Word!

We read in Revelation that the holy martyrs had overcome in three ways: "by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death." Three, met with three. First, the Blood is applied to our lives by faith, which is activated by our confession. Romans tells us that if we do believe to salvation then we will confess Him as Lord. The Early Church believed, and spread the Faith across the Roman Empire in the first generation. But there remains one more part to these three: "They loved not their lives to the death." What does this mean? The first eleven chapters of Romans go into some detail about the faith which we receive from the Lord, and then the twelfth tells us what is our "reasonable service," or response, to such a gift. Our lives are not our own! Our abandoning the worldly, fleshly, devilish, life for the life of Christ is what Holy Baptism is all about. But is a little water, or the grace relating to Church membership all that is involved in that Revelation picture? If so, then there must be a lot more to it than meets the eye! Hebrews mentions, among the "first principles," the "doctrine of baptisms." Why plural, when Ephesians says, "one baptism?" So far in this discussion we have seen several examples of the triune image in scripture: the world, the flesh, and the devil; the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life; and now the three weapons used to defeat that devil: the power they found in blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and the power they found in self-abandonment (that is, faith in Christ) which we see in Holy Baptism. So what is this first principle of baptisms? First, let us look at the water. The Bible tells us that in baptism we are buried and rise with Jesus, but that leaves us with a problem: We see millions of people who have been baptised at some point in their lives, but how many reflect the love of God in their lives? Romans tells us that those who are baptised into Christ live in the same power that raised Him from the grave! We also read that it is not baptism that saves, but "the answer of a good conscience before God." So is there another part to this picture? We also read that Christians are baptised by the Holy Spirit into Christ. This is a separate point in our histories from water baptism. In the first, an elder in the Church visibly introduces us into the visible church through the use of water. In the second, the Spirit of the Living God invisibly brings us into Christ Himself by means only He can use. We call this conversion. Before He ascended, Jesus, "breathed on (His disciples) and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" From this point, even after having spent all that time learning at Jesus' feet and having received the Spirit (..if any have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His!), they were not ready to be Christians! Jesus did not tell them to go out and be His witnesses, to heal the sick, cast out devils, or even to tell a soul about Him, but to return, and wait, in Jerusalem for "the Promise of the Father!" Even after having received the Spirit, in a short ten days the "over five hundred" there seem to have been on the mountain had dwindled to a hundred twenty. Minutes after the Promise was given, there were over three thousand souls added. What made the difference? The Third Baptism! John the Baptiser (No, he was not a Baptist, or any other denomination) said that he baptised with water, but the Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. This Third Baptism, completes the trinity of the "one baptism" as promised, and as received. Why do so many Christians struggle with sin in their lives when the Bible speaks so much about freedom from sin's control? Why are so many too timid about the whole salvation picture to speak about it, or even live it out, in their everyday lives? They may have some experience of the converting baptism by the Spirit into Christ, and they may have been through the confessing washing of water into the Church, but are they completely baptised? They have a position in Christ, and they have a place in the Church, but do they have the power of the Spirit? This is not some new doctrine from the charismanic corner, but a clear command to all the Church, "Be filled with the Spirit!

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