Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Interactive Book: Introduction

After 33 years in the Churches of God, both corporate and independent groups, I’ve seen a lot … some things that seemed to work pretty well … others that were obvious mistakes … some that were disasters. For years, I talked about giving a sermon entitled “The Interactive Book,” did a lot of self-examination, study, and soul-searching before actually giving a sermon with that title. I was overwhelmed with the volume of material that comes into my mind … enough really for several sermons. It ended up as a 3-part sermon, which I’d like to share in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.

What do you mean“interactive”?

What I’m definitely NOT talking about is inserting present-day human beings into offices described in scripture. “Oh, this church leader is an apostle … this church leader is Zerubbabel … this one is Joshua … this one is the Elijah to come … and this world leader is definitely ‘the beast.’” I’ve “actually” met the two witnesses (or at least a man and his wife who claimed the title). The problem is, if you bother to peruse Revelation 11, there are some things in there that don’t really match up with what I saw. And who among us hasn’t met at least one “watchman on the wall?”

It seems some human beings have such a need for significance, and recognition these days, they’ll make just about any crazy claim just to get that “15 minutes of fame.”You see that happening on Facebook all the time – everyone wants to be a big shot. Well, what I’m talking about is Bible interactivity for little folks who are small in their own eyes, and want to stay that way. When it comes to Bible interaction, the only type of, “I am” statement that should even cross our minds is “I am a servant, son, friend, or slave of God,” or as Paul said in Philemon 1:1 “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:6-11)

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We should want Bible interaction with the goal of becoming more like God and Jesus Christ, to bring our wayward thoughts and ways into line with Their thoughts and ways. How would you like to be one of those in whom God’s Word does not return void, who accomplishes God’s pleasure for His glory“? And what do you think it would be like to have the next verse as your reward?

For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Is. 55:12)

Jesus Christ was sent to show us the way to do just what we read about in Isaiah 55. What was His attitude? “Hey, look at me!” or “I’m the messiah. See, I’m a big shot!” Let’s look at His reaction when “the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” after He healed a man on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:14).

But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust.” (Matt 12:16-21)

Jesus knew the violent thoughts plotted against Him, and He left peacefully but He also drove home the lesson that it’s ok to do good on the sabbath! This passage says He healed all who followed him! That was an even greater miracle than the one He did before. His attitude was one of quiet humility before God. The things that He did do, which gained him “fame” were simply to see to it that God’s word accomplished it’s purpose in Him.

This Being is our example of living by every word of God. We were called to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21) We were not called to read God’s word faithfully for a half hour a day, and then go back about our business. We were not called to support a man’s vision of what “the work of God” should be, or to pray, pay, stay, and obey. We were not called to give until it hurts – I know families that have done that to the point where their kid’s only impression of “the work of God” was living in grinding poverty, and wearing clothes to school that had another kid’s name on them. If we have truly “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls, we will desire to follow His example in every balanced way that we can (1 Pet. 2:25).

How did Christ interact with His Father’s word and will?

We all began our real spiritual walk with God at baptism, so … our example … was baptized in Matthew 3, and this was really a bit confusing for John. He knew that his baptism was just a token of something much greater that would be done by the One Sent, the Christ, the messiah on a spiritual plane (Matt. 3:11-12).

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. (Matt. 3:13-15)

When the One Sent came to him to be baptized, the biggest question on John’s mind was, ”wait a minute! who should be doing the baptizing, here?” Christ’s reply says a lot to us about how He intended to live His converted life. He knew He was going to live a perfect life, and thus had no personal need for physical baptism in water, but He knew it was His father’s will. His father backed Him up with visible signs, and a voice from heaven declaring His pleasure with Christ’s actions (Matt. 3:16-17).

Christ’s interaction with the Father on a very personal level is recorded all through the gospels as an example to us. An example is something you imitate. God is doing a creative work in us now. We are all supposed to end up with the likeness of the Firstborn, so He sent the Word in flesh as our example, our Teacher with that end in mind.

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Think about that “in the beginning.” Before the Old Testament, before the New Testament, all the thoughts and then some were in the mind of this being. The character, the thought processes, who and what He was and is came out in the words of this book during His interaction with His creation. Some of that interaction was very positive, some of it was very negative, but all of it shows us a little more about His character and person. His being, and how He has learned to deal with the creation, including us, during the thousands of years of human history, and pre-history.

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). All things: angelic beings, planets, galaxies, constellations, the universe, the elements, DNA. Then, in verse 14 we see a great miracle: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He became the One Sent, the Emmanuel – “God with us” – to dwell with us and to show us the glory of God in the perfect example of His behavior among men. He demonstrated a very personal interactivity with His human creation.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Is it too much for our minds to think of the Bible as “God, personified” in the One sent, and to begin to interact with it, as we would interact with a far superior human being? We often have no problem at all subjecting ourselves to “ministerial authority,” which sooner or later usually disappoints, betrays, deserts, or fails us entirely. Real faith relies on a conviction in that which is not seen.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation

God’s Threshing Floor, Part 2

Since we talked about the church as God’s threshing floor in the previous post, I’d like to take a look at how the winnowing process took place in the personal life of Peter. In Luke 22:31, Jesus tells Peter “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The Greek word for “sift,” sineadzo (G4617), means to agitate, and prove by trials and afflictions.

It’s interesting to note what Christ does NOT say in the following verse. You would expect our Shepherd to just stop Satan from sifting Peter. “Don’t worry about Him Peter, I’ve got your back, man” … but instead He says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” What He does NOT say speaks volumes about what He is willing to allow Satan to do. Let’s not forget that in Matthew 4, Jesus Himself was “sifted as wheat” by Satan, and it was a part of God’s plan. The process of spiritual winnowing involves separating the spiritual being (wheat) from the body of sinful flesh (stalk, husk, chaff, and weeds). It’s a tough process to go through, but it’s worth it.

Winnowing Peter

So then we see in verse 33 how Peter responded to what Christ had just told him, by saying “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Christ told him exactly how Satan would sift him, before it even happened, yet Peter failed this test 3 times as he denied Christ before the cock crowed to “save himself” (Luke 22:54-62). We can only imagine what might have gone through Peter’s mind that very night after he had denied his LORD three times, but I should think for this night and many after that, the words of Christ from Matthew 10:33 would echo in his thoughts: “whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Now Peter strikes me as being more of a “hard-shelled” guy than me … my conscience would have been accosting me unmercifully as Christ appeared to the disciples after His resurrection twice, during which, it seems He had no direct, one-on-one interaction with Peter until the third meeting with them in John 21.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:15-18)

Boy, after denying Him three times just as He predicted, that question – “Do you love Me?” — must have really stung! Notice, He asked variations of the same question three times, one for each denial. And then Christ followed the whole ordeal with vs. 18. He might as well prefaced this with “Satan still wants to sift you, Peter.”

Words Of Eternal Life

Let’s take another look at the winnowing, purging process as it took place during Christ’s own ministry, and how it effected those who weren’t quite as committed as the 12 disciples. In John 6, we find a discourse of Christ’s that took place after one of Christ’s greatest miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 with five Barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:8-14). By the time we get to verses 14 and 15 the people want to make Him KING because of a free meal (much like the US today … free cell phones, food stamps, welfare). So He starts to teach them a lesson about who and what He actually is to the church He will build.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:26-27)

In verse 34 the people seem to be saying, “As long as it’s easy and straighforward … we’re IN!” But it’s not as easy as they hope and expect. You can read John 6:34-56 for His full reply. Here’s a few verses:

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. …

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. …

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:35-37, 43-44, 53-56)

Following this discourse – an explanation of some of the deep things of God – many of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:60).

When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:61-66)

breadIt’s verse 66 I want to focus on. These people who refused to continue following Christ were drawing conclusions based on what they knew to be true up to that point in time. They knew Christ only as a physical man with a physical body, but Christ was pointing ahead to a symbolic spiritual concept that they weren’t even aware existed at this time.

Then Jesus Christ asks the disciples the same question we could imagine Him asking us each time we go through a spiritual crisis of the faith, when we run into things in the Bible that we can’t find easy answers for, when we go through another church split, when a good friend or relative or a minister departs or does/says something that wears down our faith. “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67).

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

Peter’s answer told Christ all He needed to know about Peter. Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who was later sifted as wheat by Satan, who denied Christ three times, had to re-affirm his love for Christ three times, and then to REALLY die for Christ in a most excruciating way.

A few years back, a guy named Steve Buchanan described John 17:3 as “the SPS of the entire Bible.” A Specific Purpose Statement is a brief nutshell phrase or sentence that conveys exactly what you want to tell your audience during a speech. That description rang true when Steve said it, and it still rings true for me today. The verse reads “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Here, Jesus Christ is giving us the same thing that He had given Peter that provided his answer in John 6. This defines our life goal, and what should be the aim of every Bible study. The answer to ALL of the really big questions in life lies in our understanding of these two beings. Who and what are they? What is their purpose in creating us? What do they want us to do? What do they want us to become? How do they relate to each other and to us? How do they want us to relate to them?

Peter gave a similar answer to a question Christ asked in Matthew 16. When Christ asked, “’But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15-16). This answer wasn’t just something Peter came up with on his own, for “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 16:17). Peter’s answer didn’t come from Peter, and it didn’t come from any other man or woman on earth. The Father in heaven implanted this in his mind. The ability to see Jesus Christ for what He really is – to see His ultimate value – comes from GOD!

Entering the Barn

Now after going through all of that, I’ll just remind us what we’re talking about today. The main topic is that Jesus Christ is baptizing us “with the Holy Spirit and fire” and that “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-12). No matter how hard the fan blows, no matter what obstacles are in the way, no matter how difficult the sifting or purging, the wheat is going to remain and He will remain to gather it into His barn.

Brethren, no matter how much we would like for the obstacles in our path to go away, they are only there to prove that you and I are wheat instead of chaff or weeds (Matt. 13:24-29). Ever drive by a wheat field that has just been harvested? All the wheat in the field is put into a few wagons and trucks off in the corner of the field to be hauled off to the grain elevator. But the whole field is covered with stubble, weeds, straw, and chaff. The lives that we have left behind and forsaken are the stubble and straw left out there in the field. The chaff that clings to us are stubborn sins that are hard to get rid of, but the winnowing fan is in His hands. He is thoroughly purging His threshing floor.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:13-14).

It can make us feel pretty insignificant to realize that we are just one grain of wheat among an innumerable multitude in a semi-truck in the corner of a field, – but the good news is that you ARE one of the grains of wheat IN that truck, or on the threshing floor, and God Himself cares enough about you to winnow, and purge you. And just like Christ said to Peter, He has prayed for us that our faith fail not.

I worked with my Dad in a grain elevator when I was still in high school, and harvest time was when we got all our overtime pay. The farmers would all bring their wheat in as they took it off, and we were there to run the tests for weight and moisture on it, and run it up into the big bins, and load it onto railroad cars.

Brethren, we want to be wheat so heavy with good Christian works, that no matter how many times the winnowing fan is used, we fall back to the threshing floor. We allow Him to purge away the chaff of sin, the refuse of our worldly, fleshly lives, and through it all, we remain faithful to Him, and we try our best to encourage other grains of wheat to do the same so that in the end, we will all be gathered into the spiritual grainary and barn … the Kingdom of God!

God and His Son are doing all of this work looking forward to a great harvest. He wants to bring all of His wheat into the barn, every last grain … and He’ll do everything in His power to bring that about. It’s very re-assuring to know that “His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor.”

God’s Threshing Floor

Living in a rural, agricultural part of Ohio, I’ve witnessed many a harvest season. The modern process of harvest takes a great deal less time and effort than ancient practices described in the Bible. But when I drive by an Amish field and see these big shocks of corn, it reminds me that when the pace is slowed, and things are done by hand, there is a greater opportunity to think about what is actually taking place as the grain is gathered into bundles, stood up on end to ripen and dry, carried to the threshing floor, beaten out, and winnowed to separate the grain from the chaff.

This all serves as a lead-in to the fact that, when writing my series of blogs on “Baptism For Life,” I left some unfinished business back in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17.

 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11-12)

What does threshing have to do with Jesus being the One who “baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire?” We’ve talked about the concept of baptism as a life-long process instead of just a one-time event, which enhances the importance of water baptism as the action that kicks off the whole process. But verse 12 adds even more to Christ’s responsibility as Head over all things to the Church, and as the One who really is doing the baptizing. As the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, He has this winnowing fan in His hand, and He is diligent in this responsibility to “thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the garner,” as it reads in the old KJV. The Greek word for “thoroughly purge” means “to cleanse perfectly, or throughout.” But what, and where, is this threshing floor He’s talking about, and how does it effect our lives as you and I strive towards the Kingdom of God?

Temple Back-story

In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we see that “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The back-story for this it found in 1 Chronicles 21. It begins with an assault on David by the adversary: “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. “ (1 Chron. 21:1). It’s interesting that this whole thing began with a grievous sin committed by David, and provoked by Satan himself … or was that REALLY the way it was?

There’s another account of this in 2 Sam. 24 that sheds a whole different light on it. Here it says, “Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (2 Sam 24:1). Now we know from the 1st chapter of Job that Satan is used by God to accomplish His divine will among men, even if it temporarily grieves or hurts us, to bring about a greater end. What had the people of Israel done to provoke God’s anger? The commentaries I’ve read can only guess, and that’s all I can do too, but the last 28 verses of the previous chapter tell of the exploits of David’s mighty men. The sense that I get is that both David and his subjects took great pride in the prowess of their heroes in battle, and there are many scriptures that warn us not to trust in the arm of flesh. With that in mind, let’s pick up the story in 1 Chronicles 21, after David sinned by numbering Israel.

The Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chron. 21:14-15)

The word “relented,” or “repented” in the KJV, means, to sigh, or by implication, to be sorry, to pity. It can also mean that God was consoled, or avenged of the evil committed against Him. When He told the destroying angel to stay his hand, the angel was standing in a particular place – by this threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, “Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” (1 Chron. 21:16-17)

We see that David’s eyes were enabled to see this angel with a drawn sword in his hand. He accepted full responsibility for his sin, and offered himself and his own posterity “me and my father’s house” as a ransom for the lives of the rest of his people, which may have been why God relented.

In verse 18, “the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So David went, and paid Ornan more than a fair price for the use of his land, though Ornan was ready to give it to David with no haggling. David paid for it out of his own purse, and then he built an altar there on that spot.

And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. So the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the Lord and the altar of the burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. (1 Chron.21:26-30)

So while the tabernacle and altar of the burnt offering were still at Gilgal, still functional and still being used, because of this necessity, David inquired of God right there on the spot and God answered him right there on the spot.

Building The Temple

Following this experience, “David said, ‘This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel,” and he began to make preparations for his son Solomon to build the temple on Ornan’s threshing floor (1 Chron. 22:1-19). Interestingly, some Bible scholars believe that this was the very spot in the land of Moriah where Abraham set up the altar to offer Issac upon (Gen. 22:2).

Leaving the Old Testament temple for now, I’d like to go to cover several New Testament scriptures that say Jesus Christ is, in symbol, the Rock, King, Builder, Temple, and Threshing Floor for His heavenly kingdom.

In Matthew 12:42, and Luke 11:31, Jesus Christ speaks of Himself as being “greater than Solomon.” In John 18:33-37, He answers Pilate’s question “Are You the King of the Jews?” by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “You say rightly that I am a king.” He was, and is, a greater king than Solomon, but His kingdom is to be a completely different kind of kingdom with a different kind of temple.

In Matthew 12, “Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath,” and the pharisees rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. Christ’s response was that “I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:1-6). Jesus Christ standing in a cornfield was greater than the physical temple. He also described His body as a temple (John 2:19-21), and He referred to Himself as the Rock, the building site for His church (Matt. 16:18). In the Psalms, King David repeatedly called this Being “my Rock.”.

The physical temple – a type of the church – was built on a rock called Mount Moriah, which was the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite that king David purchased for God and where God had appeared to David. Now, the church is told “you are the temple of God” and that “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16-17, see also Eph. 2:21 and 2 Cor. 6:16).

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:5-9)

These verses make it plain that we are the stones that are being built up into a spiritual house, or temple, for God. Our bodies are called the temples of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “temple” in these verses is naos (G3584), which speaks of a special part of the larger temple complex. The temple as a whole is refereed to by the word hieron (G2411), while naos is specifically the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.

Purification

As the body of Christ and the temple of God (Rom. 12:4-5 and 1 Cor. 12:12-27), one of the ways that Jesus Christ works in us is to purify us.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Eph. 5:25-30)

We are His Body, the temple built on the Rock, who are cleansed and purged in much the same way as a threshing floor is purged of chaff to leave the good grain. So would it be too much of a stretch to conclude that “His threshing floor” today could be the church?

Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. (Ps. 65:1-4, KJV)

To dwell in the presence of God, our transgressions must be purged away. Jumping into a prophecy in the book of Daniel, we read that “some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:35).

In Part 2 of this message, we’ll look at how Christ’s “winnowing process” … the “purging of His threshing floor” took place in the personal life of Peter, one of Christ’s closest and most intimate friends while He walked this earth in human flesh, and just how tough it was on Peter to be “purged” on Christ’s threshing floor

Baptism For Life, part 6

In this post, let’s take an even closer look at this harsh reality of a “baptism of fire.” Even if we have counted the cost, and know our lives are in the hands of the Master Baptist, we can find ourselves balking when faced with the fire, and perhaps feel like cowards. We can feel guilty, like we’re letting God down if we aren’t acting like God’s little “storm-troopers” eager for the heat of battle. If we let it go far enough, we can feel like we have failed God – failed to live up to the terms of our calling.

As we’ve already talked about, Christ is our example for life. He is our example in every way, “in all points tempted as we are” and “yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15). He was fully flesh – it was not “easier” for Him than it is for us!

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:7-9)

This was no cakewalk – He was crying real tears. The word “vehement” conveys real emotion. It means strong, valiant, sincere to the point of literally sweating blood (Luke 22:42-44). Matthew’s account shows that Christ was pleaded with the Father three times to be excused from the coming trial (Matt. 26:39).

Back in Luke 12:50, Christ spoke of His baptism as something that He was “distressed” by. The Greek word is sunecho (G4912), and means “to be in a mental strait, in a constraint, distressed, perplexed … to be seized, affected, afflicted.” So He was tormented mentally and emotionally by the thought of going through what remained of “His baptism.”

Now something else that is important to realize in Hebrews 5:9 is that “He became” something that He had not been before He went through His baptism of suffering. We can see the product that the Father (Christ’s “baptist”) was producing in His own Son using the same process that is intended for us. “He became the author of eternal salvation.” Zodhiates says the word “author” “does not fully convey the meaning” of aitios ( G159), so he translates this phrase, “the cause, or source, of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” The word“obey,” from hupakouo (G5219), refers to an obedience which springs from a sense of duty and dependence upon a parent.

Let’s not forget one more aspect of this that is really, really important. If Christ was in this process of being baptized throughout His life until it was fully accomplished, His Baptist was fully involved as well. In John 16:32, He said “the Father is with Me.” You see, the One doing the baptizing was right there with Him, hands on and fully involved, and all of it as an example to us.

Deeper Baptism

We’ve talked before about Matt 20:22-23, where He spoke of this baptism as an ongoing thing for the disciples as well. “Are you able?” He asked. In other words, “Have you counted the cost?” They answered that they were able, and He said, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.”

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:3-6)

There is a deeper meaning to baptism than just a ritualistic church tradition that we have to go through – a hoop we must jump through in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to be God’s children.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col. 2:6-12)

Here is another of the “deep concepts” that all of us really need to become comfortable with. That throughout our lives, God the Father, and Jesus Christ are working on us sight unseen. No one sees the hands that are circumcising our hearts, just as no one sees the hands of the Master Baptist, working His life-long work in us.

This word “working” in verse 12 is from the Geek energia (G1753), and it says so much about the true work of God that is done within the human heart. This word means active energy, being at work, and refers to the active exhibition of God’s power in mighty works and miracles. Also, notice how each of these things … the inner circumcision done without hands, and the ongoing baptism – are related back to how the Father worked in Christ.

Fellowship In Trials

There’s a verse in Daniel 12 that I’ve always thought of only in an end-time context, but I think that in reality, it is occurring all during the age.

And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. (Dan 12:9-10)

The purpose of trials is to purify us, and the scriptures use many analogies to show us this, including God as the Master Potter (Is. 64:8) purification of gold and silver (Mal. 3:3), and refining in the fire (Rev. 3:18).

In his general epistle, James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). I don’t know about you all, but when it comes to trials of life, especially the mundane, long-term, day-after-day trials, I’m a bit of a whiner. But the instruction is to be joyful, and the word, chara (G5479), means “cheerfulness, or calm delight.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “as our afflictions are in God’s hands, they are intended for the improvement of our graces.” This baptism of fire or fiery trials is there to help us, not hurt us. So I’m trying something new. When I get to the end of my tether, I try to stop and say, “Thank you Father for my baptism.” That’s the attitude with which Paul approached his suffering.

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (Phil. 3:8-10)

Paul was thankful for “the fellowship” – partnership, participation, communion, or benefit that is conferred upon us – of Christ’s sufferings. He wanted to be made “conformable,” or be assimilated into, “His death.” The last thought in our minds when we are suffering is that we are receiving a blessing or benefit from it. Human flesh hates suffering … I do … and even Christ in the flesh asked the Father to remove the cup from Him! That should tell us how hard a baptism of fire can be. But if it was necessary for Christ to learn from it, how much more is it necessary for us?

“If I do not wash you”

In Romans 8:17, it says we are “joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” The Greek word sumpascho (G4841) literally means to suffer together with.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

We are told to rejoice that we can be partakers, koinōneō (G2841), “to associate, communicate, participate in, share with” Christ’s sufferings as a part of his body. Notice also, at the end of verse 14, the association with of the Spirit of glory, and therefore the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This comparison is drawn even more clearly in Titus 3:5-6, where Paul talks about “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” which was “poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Regarding Christ washing His disciples feet in John 13, we’ve known and taught for years that washing someone else’s feet at the Passover was symbolic of our humility and willingness to serve others. When we do this, we are washing the feet of Christ “in” that person (see Matt. 25:40). But what is the act of allowing Christ in another person to wash your feet symbolic of? Submitting to this act was so important that Christ told Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).

This phrase may have a deeper meaning than we have realized. The footwashing ceremony is an integral part of the renewal of our baptismal covenant. When you allow someone to wash your feet, it may be symbolic of yielding to an ongoing process evidenced in submitting to His baptism – a lifelong spiritual baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire much like the baptism that He Himself experienced during his own physical life. He was completely yielded to the Father, putting Himself completely in the Father’s hands, and trusting the Father to see Him through to the end.

I’d like to end with Hebrews 12, and consider “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:3-11)

In verse 10, it says we are chasened “for our profit,” so that “we may be partakers of His holiness.” The word partakers is from metalambano (G3335), meaning to share in something with others. Our suffering, and the correction that God gives us, is what really links and bonds us together with each other and with Christ. Baptism with fire leads to more of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

If I could interject a little personal analogy in relation to verse 11, I am a life-long gardener. I just love growing healthful food at home, but gardening is hard work, and there are times every summer when I’m out there sweating in the hot sun, being harassed by biting flys and mosquitoes, pulling weeds, battling against insects, groundhogs, chipmunks, raccoons, wilts, mildews, and various other plant diseases, and it seems like, MAN, this is just TOO HARD!!! Why don’t I just quit, and buy produce at the local farmer’s market? But the results are what we are in this for, because “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness “ – the delectable taste of homegrown sweetcorn, fresh tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and potatoes enough to last ALL winter. We are trained to produce good fruit by our baptism of fire.

Brethren, our lives rest in the hands of the Master Baptist, Jesus, The Christ. Hopefully, in this series of six blog posts, we’ve taken a deeper look at the subject of life-long baptism, and seen with greater depth and clarity our need for the daily, ongoing baptism with the Holy Spirit, and with Fire. As we go through even the most difficult things in life, I pray we can sincerely thank God for our Baptist, and His Baptism which leads to eternal life.

Baptism For Life series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Baptism For Life, part 5

What if God had shown us right up front what we would have to suffer and sacrifice for His name’s sake? All the trials we would have to go through throughout our lives? Would it have scared us away, or would it have been encouraging if it were God Himself Who told you personally and added His assurance that He would be right there by your side every moment, hands on through every bit of it?

When Paul (aka Saul) was called, a disciple named Ananias was given the task of performing his physical baptism. When he protested this commission, “the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’” (Acts 9:15-16).

 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul’s Baptism

Paul was baptized here in verse 18, presumably by Ananias in water. As we have been talking about for the past four blog posts, this is where his baptism for life began. Look what God’s Spirit began to do with Paul after he had eaten and spent some time with the disciples at Damascus.

 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:20-22)

Here, we see his baptism with the Holy Spirit had begun with great power. In the very next verse, though, we can see that his baptism with fire began also, and was ongoing for the rest of his life.

Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.

And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. (Acts 9:23-29)

For Paul, these persecutors could have been among his best friends, and even family in the hierarchy of Judaism. He was most likely deserted by former friends and family, and totally lost his standing in the Jewish society. Now,  keeping in mind what we discussed last week regarding Luke 14:26-33, let’s look at Paul’s attitude about this persecution.

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:4-11)

If these things were happening to me, I might have just a little bit of resentment, but Paul had “counted the cost.” The word “count” is from hēgeomai (G2233), and means to judge, deem or consider. Again in Acts, we can see Paul’s attitude of joyful acceptance of his “baptism of fire”.

 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)

Life In His Hands

It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. (2 Cor. 12:1-6)

from OurDailyBread.blogspot.com

If we read between the lines, this passage shows the balance achieved in Paul’s life, at the hands of Master Baptist. Notice the personal involvement of Christ here.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

Remember your baptism? For me, it went this way: I was instructed to cross my arms over my chest and squeeze my nostrils with one hand as the minister gripped the top arm in front and put his other hand on my back. Then, he just pushed me over backwards, and down into the water, briefly immersing me, and then with the hand on my back, brought me up out of the water.

I hadn’t ever really thought about it in these terms, but in effect, when you submit to that ordinance, you are placing your life (however briefly) into the hands of the man who is doing the baptizing. I don’t imagine any minister that I’ve known over the years would have had the strength to actually drown me, but my daughter, for instance, would probably not be able to overpower a “psychopathic” baptist who had her in a vulnerable position like that. The point is – symbolically, at least — you are putting your life into the hands of the baptist.

Now if you carry that into the spiritual realm of the Baptist who comes after John’s baptism, Who is “mightier than” John, you are literally putting your life in the hands of this Baptist. This happens in every aspect of your life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Not in water, but for a baptism with the Holy Spirit and the fiery trials of life that lead to an even greater infusion of the Spirit.

 

Baptism For Life series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 6