In the pathway of grace and in the life of Jesus the resurrection is the breakthrough event that ushers in the work of the Holy Spirit. In the listing of first principles in Hebrews 6, the resurrection of the dead is the principle that corresponds with the bringing of life in the pathway of grace. It is the singular event that demonstrates the efficacy of Christ’s suffering and theresurrection (1) victory over sin, death, and hell God brings to us through Jesus Christ.  The book of Acts repeatedly proclaims that it is the resurrection of Jesus that exalts Him above all others. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, (whom God raised from the dead) both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2: 36)

In Acts 3, Peter gives Jesus the title, the Prince of Life. The Holy Spirit has been poured out so the apostles and all who repent and believe in Jesus might become witnesses to this fact.  Peter goes so far as to say whosoever will repent and be converted to follow Jesus will have their sins blotted out and experience the time of refreshing promised by God. (Acts 3: 19) Even more stark and declarative, Peter quotes from the Old Testament warning to those who refuse to turn to the Resurrected Prophet. “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3: 23)

But, as Peter shares in his own epistle, God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 9) This is shared in Acts 3: 26, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Yes, this is the divine plan: for you to experience life and that more abundantly.

Please remember though, that life is mediated through one person – Jesus.  Peter says, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 10-12)

And Paul later speaking to the philosophers and thought leaders of Athens says much the same thing.  “For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 29-31)

“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” (Acts 17: 32) I hope we will hear again about this matter.  Our lives depend upon it.

Remember, we are reviewing the first principles of the doctrine of Christ beginning with laying a foundation from dead works and faith in God. Today, we review the next principle, immersing ourselves in the discipleship process or as the writer of Hebrews 6 shares, instruction in baptisms. Some translations, like the NIV, use the words cleansing rites but I want to stick with the word, baptisms. There are four baptisms I want to share very briefly about.  The first is water baptism, then we will look at the baptism in the Holy Spirit, being baptized with fire, and the baptism into the sufferings of Christ. In this short blog, I will not do the subject justice but want you to be baptismbuilt up in your faith, nevertheless. I do not mean to define all of these as separate events or necessarily separate experiences but ways in which we distinguish the overall work of the Spirit in our lives.

Water baptism is the means of grace through which we are initiated into Christ’s body, the Church. Oft times, baptism is looked upon as an outward sign of our repentance.  That would be in line with water baptism meant to follow the ministry of John the Baptist.  But, Jesus, when He calls us to water baptism is calling us to join Him “in fulfilling all righteousness”. In water baptism, we are aligning ourselves with the death of Christ that the life of Christ might be quickened within us.  It is a means of grace to build up our faith.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is where we are filled with the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  It enables us to receive power from on high and to become witnesses of the Lord.  Witnesses are those who have received power to become martyrs for the faith, those who lay down their own ways for the way of the Lord.  It is a means of grace that makes us signs of the resurrection!

The baptism of fire is the work of the Holy Spirit that gives us grace to separate ourselves from our old connections and purify our hearts towards a single-minded alignment between our heart and the heart of God. This baptism is necessary not only for spiritual discernment and judgment but for making progress towards perfection in love.

The baptism into Christ’s sufferings is a baptism of God’s comfort at work in us. “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1: 5-9)

Yes, we ask the Lord for the baptism into His suffering so we can say as the Apostle Paul says, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” (2 Corinthians 1: 12)

As we lay our foundation of repentance from dead works we add the mortar that holds our life together with God – faith. Without faith, our foundation of repentance deteriorates back into a stubborn bias or crumbles into a hopeless exercise in trying to change.  But, according to Hebrews 11: 1, with faith, we now have the substance for what we hope for.  We now have the proof or that which can be tested in time and circumstance to demonstrate what cannot be seen by our eyes – the evidence of God’s amazing grace at work in us.

faith

Faith is the means of exchange through which all of the old things of our lives are replaced with all that God is making new.  Without faith, nothing changes. You have your opinion and I have mine. Without faith, God’s will remains unseen and unknown. What’s normal is our own small, defensive state of blindness.

With faith, everything changes. God’s kingdom can come. God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We are saved from ourselves and all of our sin, by grace through faith. We are made new creations in Christ Jesus.

Yes, let’s trust and follow Jesus, who declares: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1: 15)

repentIf anyone wants to live in the right direction, this is always the starting point. If anyone wants to build themselves up as a spiritual house, a dwelling place for the Spirit, then the foundation of repentance has to be laid.  The writer of Hebrews is even more specific. He says, the first principles of following Christ as our Chief Cornerstone is initiated in repentance from dead works.

What are dead works? Anything we do or have ever done that is done apart from Jesus’ will and kingdom.  A dead work is a work rooted in ourselves and not rooted to the grace and sacrifice of Jesus.  A dead work is a work that is reflective of our sinful nature rather than the result of us being a new creation in Jesus Christ.

This is why Proverbs can say, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.” (Proverbs 21: 4 KJV) Even good activity carried out apart from the anointing and leadership of the Holy Spirit misses the mark. This is why the scripture says Jesus begins his ministry “full of the Holy Spirit”. (Luke 4: 1)

So repentance becomes a necessity.  Every good work or wish becomes a dead work apart from the Spirit.  There must be an alignment with our spirit with the Spirit of God.  This is why the Bible talks about us turning to God. It is so we can move with God.  Jesus says to love God with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our soul, and with all of our strength. It is our with-ness that makes the difference.

As Jean Holmes, a dear saint of the Lord once told me. “You’ve got to have a with-ness before you have a witness.”  This is why, if you are to frame your life to be a spiritual house for the Lord, you daily and sometimes more often than that, lay a foundation of repentance from dead works.

 

Isaiah 28: 16 tells us :”So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’.” Jesus is that cornerstone. In Acts 4: 11, the Apostle Peter says, “Jesus is  ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’.”  Once, Jesus icornerstones the cornerstone of our lives what does our life look like?  If we are being built upon that sure foundation of Jesus, laid out by the apostles and prophets how is the structure of our life framed?

Turn to Hebrews 6 where we find this framework using the pathway of grace template. If you are not familiar with this template I direct you to read Moving at the Speed of Grace or one of our other books like More than Breathing to learn more about it.

The template for framing our lives follows this path:

  1. Laying a foundation of repentance from dead works
  2. Faith in God
  3. Instruction about baptisms
  4. Laying on of hands
  5. The resurrection of the dead
  6. Eternal judgment

Tomorrow, we’ll come back and give substance to each step in the process and Sunday, we’ll share it again. See you then!

WakinguptoGraceThe year has started off uphill for many but I’ve got a way for you to get rolling in the right direction. Start off each day – Waking Up to Grace. That’s the name of our latest project through Tate Music Group and you can order your copy before its official release on March 15, 2016. Go to https://paypal.com and click on Send. Use my email- reverendnorm@msn.com and order your CD today!

The cost of Waking Up to Grace is $10 + $2.00 postage ($12).

DIYThe Bible tells us ‘the just shall live by faith” and “faith is the victory that overcomes the world” but there are also things the Bible tells us we must do for ourselves. We count on God and it is grace that reconciles us and redeems us but we are to be responsible to the Lord.

What is our responsibility? What are the things to which God calls us throughout the revelation of His will and purpose that we need to do for ourselves?

  1. We need to watch ourselves. The King James version of the Bible says “take heed” to ourselves. Positively, we are responsible for ourselves. There are a lot of old sayings that find their root in this responsibility. ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse.’ ‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew.’ ‘Watch where you’re going.’ We are not aimless or accidental in our living, but we do indeed watch where we’re going. We are aware of ourselves. We’re honest about what we can do and what we can’t do.  This keeps us from thinking too much or too little of ourselves. This keeps us from doing an abundance of stupid things or from falling into temptation. The scripture becomes our guide and point of reference so we can say with the Psalmist, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  2. We humble ourselves. We do this under the mighty hand of God. We do this through prayer and fasting. We do this by admitting our wrongs and submitting our rights. We do this through serving others. We understand the “why” of life and therefore align ourselves appropriately to walk uprightly and confidently with God and others. When we are at liberty to do this one thing everything else becomes possible. Nothing is too difficult when we overcome the difficulty of humbling ourselves rather than having someone else do that job for us.
  3. We love ourselves. Taking responsibility for this is the means to love others. Loving ourselves gives us the recognition that we all feel like strangers sometimes. We all have borne the burden of being subject to another. We all have experienced the awkwardness of being less than what we want ourselves to be or have caught ourselves in trying to be too big for our britches.  We love ourselves and we want what is best for ourselves. Though, we fall short of what is best, loving ourselves allows us to see that as a unique creature we are like all other unique creatures: we are to live responsibly,  to love the Lord deeply, and to love our neighbor uniquely.
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