And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. -Luke 2:8-20Continue reading →
Ron Boatwright wrote this webpage, arguing that without baptism one is not saved, and then sent me an e-mail asking me to read it and tell him what I thought.
From the website: Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned“. But just as 1+1=2, Jesus says belief + baptism = saved. One needs help to misunderstand Jesus. How much clearer could Jesus have said it? Jesus placed both belief and baptism prior to being saved.
What Jesus said and what Boatwright claims he said are not the same. Jesus lumps believing and baptism together as almost one single activity – he who believes and is baptized. What Jesus says next is “He who does not believe will be condemned.” Not believing equates with condemnation (hell). In Mark 16:15 Jesus had told the disciples to preach the gospel to every living creature. Those who believe that message, and are consequently baptized, will be saved. Rejecting the gospel is what sends non-believers to hell, not refusing baptism. If this were the case Jesus might have also said “He who believes but is not baptized will be condemned.” He didn’t say that. Jesus does not equate belief and baptism as being essential to salvation, but he is assuming belief and baptism are a package deal. Continue reading →
Where is God? Lots of people have a take on where God might be. Atheists believe that there is no god of any kind, anywhere. Agnostics believe there may be a god or some type of higher power, but we either don’t know what that is or perhaps we cannot know. Deists believe the universe was set into motion like the gears of a clock, but that we are tiny and insignificant to such an omnipotent God. Then there’s New Agers, Scientologists, Oprah and so forth. Some spend their entire lives looking for God, but he isn’t hard to find. The truth is it should be hard to miss God. Continue reading →
Today is January 2nd, and we are nearing the end of Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas. Western Christians (i.e. Roman Catholics and most Protestant faiths) celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. Let’s continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus by recognizing that when Jesus arrives, thing change.
Colossians 1:15-20 is a short passage that describes who and what Jesus is. While the following sermon does not provide exegesis of these verses, they describe not only the incarnation but also the purpose of it. The birth of Jesus is the meeting of heaven and earth; it changes everything. Let’s start simple and work our way up. Continue reading →
John 3 is a familiar text for those of us that grew up in church. That is exactly the point I mean to get at. When Jesus says the words born again, we know what he means by that. But to a person on the outside looking in, our choice of words can alienate the very people we are trying to reach. Terms like born again, regeneration, converted or even saved have meaning to the Christian believer but require explanation to those not versed in our church jargon. So, perhaps you are trying to find out what it means to be born again. Otherwise, we could all use a reminder from time to time; it helps when explaining it to others. Continue reading →
Hebrews is easy to preach because its form is much more like a sermon than an epistle (letter). At the heart of its message is an impassioned plea not to leave the Christian faith for another, and so in order to be convincing the author of Hebrews makes many comparisons between Christ and all the things of the Old Testament he is superior to. We have already seen that Christ is superior to the angels, and that through suffering he becomes the perfect founder of our faith. Chapter 3 begins this way:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:1-6
There was a time I wondered why so much emphasis was placed on the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross as the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. Even if there had been no resurrection, his sacrificial death would have brought salvation; what could be more important than that?
The blood of Jesus was a more excellent sacrifice than that of bulls, sheep and birds. His death on the cross brought an end to the temple sacrifice system. The entire Gospel pivots around the cross. It is the universal symbol of Christianity. But the implications of resurrection are equally powerful, a fact that I can now appreciate as well. Continue reading →