When we lived on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, there were some spectacular views along the coastline, especially when one drove along the cliffs and could see the beaches below. Perhaps one of the best views was from the Bible Garden looking down to Palm Beach. Interestingly, some people (not all) who have spent megabucks purchasing their dream mansion along the coastline were soon bored with the view and after a while rearranged their furniture so that they didn’t have to look at the ocean all day or sold their mansion. I am not too sure how you could be bored with those great views, but some were. Perhaps I would be too if all I had was the ocean to look at.
Now you may be wondering, “Where is this going?” Well, it’s going to the graveyard! I once attended a graveside service on the northern beaches in NSW and I overheard the comment, “I would like to buried here – it has such a great view?” Well, I could certainly appreciate the view, it was spectacular, to say the least, but I have a strong suspicion that the Christian brother we buried that day is enjoying a far better view in glory. Sometimes we need to be reminded, despite the tranquil and picturesque surroundings at cemeteries, our loved ones are in glory and not in the grave looking up or out to some picturesque scenery. Dearie me, if that is how we think we will spend eternity, it will be very disappointing, for even the best scenery soon becomes ‘dead’ boring.
This past week we laid to rest the earthly remains of a brother in Christ. I mention earthly remains, for as Christians, although we wish to show respect to the earthly body, we don’t believe for a moment that our soul (spirit) remains with the body nor do we believe that this is the body we will have in eternity. There is enough evidence in Scripture to understand that from the moment we breathe our last our soul goes to be with the Lord (Jn 11:25-26; Rev 6:9ff). Furthermore, when Jesus returns there will be a great resurrection and Christians will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and be given glorified bodies that are fit to live with our Saviour forever. We will no longer have perishable bodies, but imperishable. While on earth, we have the image of the man of dust, but when the last day arrives we will bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Cor 15:42ff).
So, let’s be thankful that Scripture teaches that the grave is not the end and that heaven will be something spectacular. How good? I wish I could tell you, but I cannot. Even the man (possibly Paul) recorded as seeing the ‘third heaven’ and being ‘caught up into paradise’ was not allowed to utter what he had seen (2 Cor 12:1-4). But this I do know, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9).
So let’s not be too concerned about the views around us, not when we are living nor when we are buried. Rather, let us be concerned presently that we love the Lord dearly, and continue to fan into flame the gift of faith that He has given us. JZ
One annoying thing that keeps niggling at our assurance of salvation on occasions is whether we will be like some others who have at one time done their profession of faith but now seemingly have given their Christian faith away. One trap we fall into as Christians is looking for assurance of salvation in the wrong places. It is so easy to be what I call ‘belly-button’ gazers and continually look at ourselves to see if we can somehow qualify or quantify what God is doing in our lives. For instance, we may be looking at our own spiritual growth or whether we are being obedient to God’s will or even doing good works.
Now some of these things may be useful and be evidence of our salvation because Jesus Himself said that “by their fruit you shall recognize them” (Mat 7:16), but they are not what we should base our assurance of salvation upon. There may come a day when we can no longer do the good works, perhaps due to illness or even the frailty of old age. Nor should we place our trust in how we ‘feel’ for one day we may feel great and the next day we may feel lousy!
Rather, we should find the assurance of salvation in the objective truth of God’s Word and hold on tightly. The thief on the cross had no chance of doing any good works. In fact, his life was probably one of all ‘bad-works’ and yet Jesus assures him of his salvation that very day because the thief believed in Jesus and the objective promise given to Him by the Saviour of sinners. Abraham, years earlier, believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This is the key to assurance of salvation. We can only be confident that we are saved based on the objective promises of God contained in His Word, and not because of what our hands have done or any other other subjective experiences.
There are many verses in Scripture which testify that God wants his children to be certain of their salvation and not to be tossed about ‘to and fro’ by the storms of life or their continuing self-doubt. For instance, John 20:31; “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Or again, 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (See also John 3:16; 5:24; 6:37; Acts 16:31. Rom 5:8ff; Rom 8:28-39; 10:9; 2 Cor 5:21 and others). Jesus gave this assurance, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28-30).
Now it is one thing to know all this, it is another thing to hold onto it tightly. Yet even there, God preserves us so that we will continue to persevere and hold on tightly. The Apostle Paul encourages the Philippian Christians in 2:12-13 to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. It’s not that Paul doubted his salvation, rather, he understood that the sanctifying process calls for ongoing obedience (See WCF 16.3). Furthermore, Paul did not place any confidence in the things he ‘felt’ or ‘did in his flesh’, rather, he considered everything a loss, but rested in the righteousness gained by Christ, given by God and is by faith and kept working at it (please read Phi 3:7-14.)
So, yes we can have assurance of salvation, however, there is no room for being a ‘lazy’ Christian. Don’t neglect feeding on God’s Word, participating in the sacraments, spending time in prayer, gathering for worship. These are some of the means of grace God has given us to encourage us in our faith and walk of obedience. May we all be able to say with Paul, (2 Tim 4:7-8) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Prayer: “Lord, thank you for giving us such great promises in Your Word. In light of them, forgive us when we doubt or do not trust your promises. Holy Spirit, please help us in times of doubt to trust in Jesus Christ and to recall to mind the wonderfully promises and assurances given to us in Holy Scripture of our eternal salvation. Amen. JZ
As most of you would know, we have been in Europe this past month, catching up with some family and friends and seeing some spectacular scenery. One of the highlights of the trip was being able to see the history of Europe, which included some of the early architecture, the narrow streets that are sprinkled with little shops and of course the Cathedrals.
Of all the Cathedrals seen, perhaps the Milan Cathedral was the most spectacular of all, at least from the outside. It took six centuries to complete. It's hard to imagine that people worked on that structure all their lives and many after doing so never saw it completed. Of course, many of these workers saw this as a service to God and hence were willing to commit their whole lives to these projects.
History has recorded that the indulgences demanded by the early Roman Church paid for these structures. Today, many of these Cathedrals have their doors open to the public, but most of them charge a price, from about five through to twenty euro or pounds for entry, depending on where you were. Much of those funds are used today to cover the expenses associated with maintaining these buildings.
One sad thing was to see that many of these churches, along with their lavish artefacts and beautiful paintings, still had crucifixes depicting a ‘dead’ Jesus on the cross. Some had little shopping (souvenir) areas inside the building where people could buy all sorts of memorabilia associated with the particular Cathedral. Perhaps one of the most disturbing things was to see the public invited to purchase a small candle for three euro, light it, say a prayer, and be given an assurance that their prayer would be heard for it would be carried on the wings of the saints.
There was only one church where we didn't see a crucifix and that was at St Peters in Geneva. Yet even there we were charged five euros to go up the tower for a view of the city. And then not to be out done, we were charged quite a bit more to see the Reformation Museum around the corner. This museum was very dated and had very little or no modern content at all. In some ways, it denied the reformational concept of an ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’ (a church always reforming).
However, we did have the opportunity to attend an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cambridge. We just loved being part of a fellowship where we could understand and hear faithful preaching, great singing and enjoy Christian fellowship (sometimes we forget how blessed we are to be able to enjoy this every week). This particular Sunday, they had a guest preacher for their previous minister (Iain Hamilton) had retired. When speaking to one of the elders afterwards, he remarked how difficult it was to find ministers who were willing to move to a new congregation and finding willing and gifted men for the eldership. Nothing new under the sun!
Anyhow, one thing became apparent and that is the need to pray for renewal and revival and may the Holy Spirit begin with us. We need to pray for a ‘new’ reformation where people will bow the knee before King Jesus and Him alone. We need to pray that people everywhere may understand that God is not concerned in the first place about bricks and mortar or gold-plated icons, but a heart that loves Him and desires wholeheartedly to worship Him for Who He is and all He has done, not least in sending His Son for our eternal salvation. To that end, may we always be seeking renewal and 'reforming' to reach the lost for Christ, to the glory of our Father in heaven. JZ
As another year draws to a close it is useful to look back and reflect on what has happened this past year, not just in the world around us, but also in our personal lives. Often on New Year’s eve, Psalm 90 is read, and why not. This Psalm is ascribed to Moses and it takes the form of a prayer. In verses 1-2, the Psalmist acknowledges God’s power, greatness and His eternity. In contrast, verses 3-6 highlights our frailty. In verses 7-12, the Psalmist speaks about our sinfulness and its consequences, namely death. In the closing verses, 13-17, the Psalmist calls on God to bless them with His wisdom so that they may count their days correctly, as well as show His compassion towards them and to bless them with happy days, so that they can tell others about Him as their great God.
Sometimes people accuse Christians of using God as a crutch and perhaps there is some truth to that, but what a good crutch to have. Who can we compare to Him? Where would we be without Him? Where would we be without His sustaining grace this past year? And then looking forward, to whom would we look for help as we enter into a New Year? Moses reminds us that the one who trusts in God has a secure “dwelling place” (refuge) in Him for our God is from eternity to eternity and His faithfulness stretches from one generation to the next.
In direct contrast to God’s eternity, we know that earth has no permanence about it at all. We may like to think we can put down deep roots and last forever, but the Psalmist (and reality) reminds us that we are like grass or a flower in the field. We blossom and bloom for a short while in the dew of the morning and then the sun dries us and we’re gone and no one remembers us.
Moses (v4) and the Apostle Peter (2 Pet 4:8), reminds us that with the Lord a thousand years is like a day and a day like a thousand years. Moses’ point is not that time passes quickly for God, but that it passes quickly for us. In my ministry, I have the opportunity to visit many elderly people, occasionally on their birthdays. Some are pleased they have been granted many years and are remembered by the cards and well wishes they receive, but in the end, unless the Lord returns, they too will be swallowed up by death and their place remembered no more.
Thankfully, the Psalmist doesn’t end on that note but gives us some instructions going forward. First, the Psalmist calls upon us to count every day and every moment as a gift from God. So instead of being poor mathematicians, let us count and live each day, knowing that it may possibly be our last day. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future or work hard, we must and it is our duty to do so. However, let us do it to God’s glory and call on the Lord to help us live holy lives. May we not be like the rich man who kept building bigger and better barns so that he could live a life of luxury. This rich man did not give God or His glory a thought and Jesus tells us that such a man is a fool! (Luke 12:13-20). “Only one life! ’Twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Second, it is only when we acknowledge each day as a gift from the Lord that we can sing and be glad all our days. When God fills our hearts with His love, not least for our salvation, we will be most satisfied. So don’t place your trust in man or in ‘things’ or to building bigger and better barns without having a godly focus. Saint Augustine prayed, “You made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they find rest in you.”
Third, the Psalmist asks God to establish the work of his hands. While we have breath, redeemed by Christ, we have work to do. Let us find out, guided by God’s word, what that work is and do it to His glory!
So in light of our great salvation and the few ‘short’ years we have, let us be a blessing to others in the New Year, so that when our years are done, we may hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Have a blessed New Year.
There are a number of great events on the church calendar year which we focus on throughout the year. For instance, in the past, some of our churches have focused on Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Pentecost, Ascension Day, Reformation Day as well as the six-week period of Lent and of course the four-week period of Advent.
The two main periods are Christmas and Easter, and it is good to focus for a moment on both these in the final week of Advent. The very thing that is obvious is that both were necessary. The writer to the Hebrews connects both events in Ch 2:14, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil.”
We know from Scripture that when man sinned, the just sentence from God was death (Gen 3:19; Rom 6:23). Hence, since mankind sinned, our Saviour had to share in their humanity, taking on our flesh and blood, otherwise, He would not have been able to save those God had chosen unto eternal life beforehand (Eph 1:4). Although we understand this to be the case as taught in Scripture, we should not belittle this event. We are speaking about a mystery that is in many ways too wonderful for us to fully comprehend. Before Christ came as a baby in a manger, He was the eternal Word and was with God and was God at Creation (John 1:1). He clothed his deity with flesh and blood and became fully man whilst also remaining fully God (Phil 2:5ff).
He came as a baby and became fully man with one main purpose in mind, to save sinners who repent and believe. He came to secure their salvation which meant He came to die as a man and that is why He took on our humanity. Man sinned and could no longer save himself and hence a sinless man had to die to satisfy the justice of God. Good Friday, therefore, is inextricably connected to Christmas Day and is indeed the reason for the festivities at this time of year.
However, it wasn’t only God’s justice that needed to be met for man’s sin by our Saviour’s death, but by his death, he would destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil. The baby born in Bethlehem did this by covering our sin with his perfect righteousness through His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection (Rom 3:21ff). Hence, when we stand before the judge of all the earth, no legitimate accusations can be levelled at us, because they are all covered by the broken body and shed blood of our Saviour. What was previously Satan’s weapon against us, our sin, has been taken care of by the baby born on Christmas Day on Good Friday.
What does this all mean? The debilitating fear of death has been taken away and it no longer has hold over us (v15). We can now rejoice in the Saviour Whom God has provided and in thankful response live in the joy of our salvation every day. Have a blessed Christmas enjoying God’s greatest gift of His Son to us and while you’re at it, tell others about this gift too. JZ.
There are always ‘things’ that happen that defy human reason and logic. Everything that happens in this world doesn’t always have a logical explanation, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that somehow we have to demythologize the event so that we won’t look silly trying to explain.
In the Old Testament, there are several events that seem to defy human logic or explanation. For instance, the talking serpent (Gen 3); that people lived for more than nine-hundred years (Gen 5 - can we really understand that in light of what we see in our own bodies today?); The flood (Gen 6); the plagues in Egypt (Exo 7ff); the parting of the Red Sea (Exo 14); the daily manna from heaven and the supply of quail (Exo 16); the talking donkey (Numbers 22); that the Sun stood still for a day (Jug 10:13); the tumbling walls of Jericho (Josh 6); Jonah in the belly of a big fish (Jonah), and so on.
In the New Testament, it continues. The virgin birth, the conception by the Holy Spirit; the angel’s visits (Mat 1), the miracles of Jesus (Gospels) and the disciples (Acts); the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9); the release of Paul and Silas after a great earthquake (Act 16) and so on.
At this time of year, one of the events around Jesus’ birth that always seems to raise considerable interest and baffles our curiosity is this ‘star’ that the Magi followed from the East to Jerusalem (Mat 2:2). It raises all sorts of questions. The text doesn’t tell us that it led them as the pillar of cloud led the OT people in the wilderness. The ‘star’ didn’t just bring them to Jerusalem, it also brought them the 7.1 kilometres to Bethlehem from Jerusalem (v9). And then this ‘star’ rests over where the baby Jesus was lying (v10).
How do we explain this phenomenon that seems to defy human reason and logic? The answer is quite simple really – we cannot, for we don’t really know how it happened. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but we finite, limited, mortal human beings don’t know how God performed this miracle. We just accept that he did, for Scripture records that it happened.
In the past, people have tried to explain this miraculous event by suggesting that it was a ‘shooting star’; or the planets were all lined up and this caused a star to be brighter than all the rest for a short time; or an eclipse, or as some suggest, it is just a fable and didn’t really happen. Well, it did happen for the Bible says it did, period.
There is a real danger in spending too much time trying to find logical explanations for everything that occurs in Scripture, especially these miraculous events. Furthermore, it has the negative impact of robbing us of the joy of the gospel and the great event these miracles are pointing to, namely Jesus Christ and the wonderful salvation we have in Him.
It seems that the story of the ‘star’ has primarily one purpose, to bring people from a foreign land (Gentiles if you will), to worship the One and Only True King. And the One who is causing this star to move and guide these Gentiles is none other than God Himself. Surely, it is not beyond the power of the One who created all things, including the stars above, to move this little star to do His bidding!
So this Christmas, don’t get too hung up about the ‘star’. Rather, let us do as the Magi did, bow down and worship the King who came as a babe, lived amongst us for thirty odd years and then gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our forgiveness and salvation, which by the way, is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.
Oh, one more thing. Nothing much has changed since the day the Magi were directed by the ‘star’ to the new King to worship. I would suggest that is still God’s will for the nations to come, worship and acknowledge Jesus as King, which is also how Matthew’s gospel finishes. However, instead of using ‘stars’, God in His wisdom uses us to bring the good news to the nations and with His blessing lead them to the King. It’s quite apparent, our work is not yet done! JZ
During the week I was chatting with a friend and he asked how our plans for the upcoming Europe trip were going. After making a few comments about it, I concluded by mentioning the date we hope to leave and that is when the ‘adventure’ would begin. My friend then noted that the first part of that word is also what we use for this time of the year, ‘Advent’. The definition of ‘Advent’ according to the dictionary is, “the coming into place, view, something exciting about to happen.”
This Sunday is the beginning of the ‘advent’ season, the first Sunday of four, before the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Although I am personally not such a ‘church-calendar’ man, it is good to sometimes remember these specific events, for they too can easily pass us by if we’re not careful. Of course, in some ways, every Sunday should be an ‘advent’ Sunday, for we come together to worship the Saviour who was born of a woman, lived amongst us for thirty-three years and then made the ultimate, perfect sacrifice for our sin. Unfortunately, we sometimes become so used to that good news, that it doesn’t excite us anymore and if we are not careful, it all becomes a little dull and boring.
So it is good to be excited about ‘advent.’ It is good to be excited about the fact that Jesus took a huge step-down from His exalted position to become our Saviour. It’s exciting to know that He became one of us (sin excepted) and made His dwelling with sinful man. It’s exciting to know that Jesus in perfect obedience to His Father, did not think equality with the Father something to be grasped but made himself like us so that He could redeem all those whom the Father has appointed unto eternal life (Phil 2:5ff).
There is nothing dull or boring about those truths, for without Jesus we would have nothing to be excited about. Without Him, there would be no forgiveness of sin, no peace that passes understanding, no eternal life for all who believe. So it is good to be excited about ‘advent’.
Interestingly, the thought of total obedience to the Father, the shame of being ‘cursed’ on the cross outside the city, and the redemption of all the Father has appointed to eternal life, filled Jesus’ with joy as well (Heb 12:2). Despite the fact that the road of total obedience to the Father in heaven meant suffering (Heb 2:10) and abandonment for Jesus, He willing endured, even to the point of shedding his blood and dying an agonising death. Thankfully, death could not hold Him and He rose to be seated at the Father’s right hand, a place of absolute authority.
I am not too sure what exciting adventures you are planning over the Christmas season. Whatever they may be, may our excitement about Jesus’ coming never diminish, but cause us to look forward with the same excitement to His second coming. JZ
I am somewhat surprised how many people, including some Christians, who have become unsettled with Mr Donald Trump’s election as President-elect. Some suggest that he is too rash, a little like a loose cannon. Others suggest that his foreign policy is far too confronting. Some suggest that he is not fit to have the nuclear codes in his hands. Others suggest that the policy towards illegal immigrants and Muslims is far too harsh. Still, others suggest that his ‘locker-room’ talk indicates that he is not morally fit for office.
Well, I am sure some of these concerns are justified, and sure, he has said some rather rash and unsavoury things. I too have my misgivings, but to be fair, I would probably have had them if Mrs Hilary Clinton had ben elected also. Perhaps, it is good to be reminded that Mr Donald Trump has no authority except that which God has established (Romans 13). Furthermore, God can even use a ‘crooked’ stick to strike some straight blows, and perhaps that is what the western world needs at this time.
Over recent decades there has been a slow but certain demolition of biblical morals and standards in western societies, not only in America but also in our society. For example, the Lord’s prayer can no longer be recited publicly in many of our State run schools. We are repeatedly told that everyone needs to be tolerant of alternate ‘faith views’, although it increasingly appears that may not be true for those who hold to the Christian faith. The same-sex and civil unions debate continues in our parliaments; the Safe-Schools program leaves much to be desired; indeed, those who hold to the Christian faith are facing more abuse and ‘name-calling’ than ever before.
But even if Mr Donald Trump cannot stop the erosion of Christian principles and morals in our societies, alarming as that may be, Jesus is still on the throne and will be forever more! So don’t panic. Jesus has promised to be with us to the close of the age. When all is done and dusted, we as Christians don’t place our trust and faith in a mortal human being, albeit the President-elect of the most powerful nation on earth. We trust and place our faith in an almighty God who has revealed in His word that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And all His promises for His children are sure and yes and amen in Christ. So dear Christian, don’t let any election unsettle you too much, rather remind yourself that God is on the throne and will be forever.
Indeed, this is a great reason for thankfulness. There is one stable Rock we can stand and build on, even in the midst of a possible turbulent Presidency. We build on Christ Jesus and not on the moving sands which change with each tide. As the Psalmist says, God is our refuge and strength, therefore we shall not be afraid (or unsettled Ps 46).
It’s all good and well to express some concern at the result of any election, but our hope and futures lie beyond Prime Ministers and even beyond President-elect Mr Donald Trump. Prime Ministers and Presidents are like the flowers of the field. They may bloom for a day, but when evening comes, their flower fades and their place is remembered no more. The same is true of us.
And so we look beyond our immediate earthly surroundings and set our sights on the heavenly city, whose architect and builder is God. Jesus reminded us that He would be with us to the very end of the age and the He and the Father will never let us fall out of His hands. Paul reminds us that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ. Let us find rest and peace in the One who is really on the throne. JZ
There are several reasons why sinful man suggests that God is unfair to hold them to account for their rejection or total unbelief toward Him. For instance, some just flatly say that God cannot be real or true, for He cannot be seen (Atheists). Others suggest that they ‘believe’ there is a God, but that he cannot be known. Still, others say that if God was real and loving, He would reveal himself in such a way that people could not help but believe.
The Bible says that man is without excuse for their unbelief. The reason given in Scripture is not because God hasn’t revealed himself, but that because of man’s wickedness they have chosen to reject God and as a result, God has allowed them to continue on in their rebellious behaviour, which only gets worse.
The question I often think about as a believer is how to make contact with these types of people? What should our starting point be if and when we have an opportunity to discuss ‘religious’ things with them? Some Christians suggest we should start to speak about their sin. But then again, sin doesn’t mean anything to someone who doesn’t believe in God or that he is accountable to God. Others suggest that we should speak about the love of God, but again with respect, those who do not believe in God have no understanding of a loving God. On the contrary, they would probably give you evidence of an unloving God, especially when one experiences the tragedies of life.
Well, I think we should start where Scripture starts, namely, creation. Not only does the Bible begin there, so does Paul in Romans 1:18-20; “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
When a student receives a bad mark for an exam, they may be inclined to blame the teacher or lecturer. However, Scripture will not allow unbelievers to blame their teacher for their rejection or unbelief, for the teacher is none other than God himself. In fact, Scripture tells us that it is man’s own wickedness that is the reason or their disbelief.
While in Sydney this week, we went to the Petbarn store at Penrith. It is quite a big store, and along part of one wall, they have all these fish tanks with little and not quite so little fish swimming in them, literally hundreds of them, all made according to their kind! While I was so taken by the vast variety of fish, my mind went to Romans 1:18-20 and I concluded again that Scripture was right when it says God has revealed himself plainly and that man is without excuse. How could you say there is no Creator God when standing in front of such a vast array of creation in one small fish tank? Really, there is only one real answer and that is what Scripture also says, “It’s your wickedness that has brought you to that point.”
Do you know there are estimated to be 9,956 different kinds of birds? 6,199 different kinds of amphibians; 30,000 different kinds of fish; 5,416 kinds of mammals, and last but not least, 950,000 different types of insects? Our God made them all, each with their own particular DNA. It’s mind boggling! And then to think some people never think about God, or reject him outright, or say he hasn’t revealed himself for us to be sure there is a God. How great is man’s wickedness to say there is no God or even to suggest it all started with some big-bang!
There are many ways to start a conversation with a non-believer, but perhaps to start where Scripture starts is worthwhile considering again. And if the Lord wills and blesses our approach, we could also remind them that God knew we needed help to believe in Him after the fall into sin, and hence sent His Son as payment for our unbelief and His Holy Spirit to quicken us to saving faith. As a result of that mercy and grace, we not only praise God for creation, but for our redemption and salvation! JZ
As most of you know, in our Reformed Church we practice both infant and adult baptism. Today, we actually witness the ‘adult’ or ‘believer’s baptism of Sean Sweeney. In a denomination where we generally see infants being baptised, it’s rather special to witness an adult baptism. Strangely, it is not all that different than infant baptism for all the promises in Christ that are true and sure for our little children when they are baptised, are also true for adults when they come to faith and are baptised. Of course, there is one major difference and that when infants are baptised they still need to come to faith in Jesus Christ, whereas in adult baptism, the baptism itself is also regarded as a Profession of faith.
One of the reasons why some parents prefer believer’s baptism rather than infant baptism is because in the past, parents who have had their children baptised as infants, believe, or at least behave in a way that presumes their children are guaranteed a place in heaven. Well, we know this is not so. The Apostle Paul speaks about the disobedience of God’s covenant children in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Most of the male children were circumcised on the eighth day (Gen 17:10-14) as a sign of being part of God’s covenant people, yet Paul mentions that God was not pleased with most of them and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
So, if anything, let’s take this warning seriously and not belittle our responsibility as parents. When our little children are baptised and become part of God’s covenant people, we as parents and as a fellowship have an obligation, more than that, a God-given duty to teach our little children about the love of God for them, particularly as seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and to live in thankful obedience and not in disobedience. So, circumcision in the Old Testament nor infant baptism in the New Testament guarantees a place in heaven.
A similar warning and responsibility exist for those who experience believer’s baptism as their Profession of faith. Just because adult baptism is linked with a Public Profession of faith, it does not guarantee a place in heaven for the participant. They too, have a responsibility to persevere in the Christian faith and to ensure that their Profession of Faith was genuine. And we as a fellowship also have an obligation to encourage those who receive baptism as an adult in their walk with the Lord. If they, who experience believer’s baptism, walk away from the Christian faith (as some have done), then it either shows their adult baptism as a profession of faith was a sham, or at the very least they are being extremely disobedient for a season in their lives. So, believer’s baptism doesn’t guarantee a place in heaven either.
Finally, when a person does their profession of faith, whether or not they were baptised as an infant or as a believing adult, one thing is sure, it is a sign of God’s grace and mercy towards that individual. In fact, every time we witness this, a small miracle has occurred. God by the power of His Word and Spirit going forth, has changed a person’s heart from one which was a cold, closed and hard as stone, to one which by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, is now softened, opened and warmed to became a heart of flesh, receptive to the good news of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the recipients of such amazing grace, do not embrace Jesus as Saviour unwillingly, as though their will has been abolished or changed by force. Rather, the Holy Spirit applies God’s word in such a way that it spiritually revives, heals, reforms and in a manner at once pleasing and powerful, bends the will back entirely, so that the recipient willingly embraces Jesus as Saviour. And when we arrive at that point, God continues to preserve us so that we can persevere to the end in good works (Eph 2:10). For God has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6) and that He, along with His Son, will never let us fall from His eternal hands (John 10:28ff).
So today, Sean Sweeney and we as a Christian fellowship have much to give God thanks for as we witness the public profession of faith in Sean’s baptism today. Gloria Deo! JZ