Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

By 

If we were to compile a catalog of practices that are essential to the Christian faith, what would be included? Among other essentials, baptism would certainly need to be high on the list. Baptism is one of the means by which Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). It’s also central to the preaching of the gospel at the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, the idea that Christians should be baptized—regardless of when or how—is central to the Christian faith. This should come as no surprise.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that Jesus himself was baptized. Baptism wasn’t just something Jesus commanded his followers to do, but an experience he also underwent. As familiar as we may be with the Gospel accounts, the fact that Jesus submitted himself to baptism may still strike us as odd.

The plot thickens even more when we consider that the baptism Jesus submitted himself to was John’s baptism, which is described as (1) accompanying “repentance” (Matt. 3:2); (2) in conjunction with people “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); and (3) as the means by which to “flee from the coming wrath” (Matt. 3:7).

It doesn’t take much pondering to realize that this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what the New Testament says about Jesus—that he was God’s virgin-born (Matt. 1:19–25), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:15), perfectly obedient Son (Heb. 5:8–9John 17:4), fully pleasing to the Father (Matt. 3:17), who pre-existed as divine but laid aside his glory to take on flesh (Phil. 2:5–8). Nonetheless, Jesus says it is fitting and appropriate that he be baptized (Matt. 3:15).

All this leads to an important question: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Both Mark and Luke record this story but don’t raise the question (Mark 1:9–11Luke 3:21–22). John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the events of Jesus’s baptism but emphasizes the same effect as the other Gospels—that the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, anointing him as the Son of God (John 1:32–34). Only Matthew raises the issue by including a piece of the story that the other Gospel writers don’t—John himself was hesitant to baptize Jesus. John, aware that Jesus wasn’t just another person coming to repent and confess his sins, protests: “I need to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14).

Jesus’s answer to John’s reluctance is instructive, both in answering our question and also in revealing an important aspect of Matthew’s theology. Jesus said, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). This is a weighty answer, containing two words—“fulfill” and “righteousness”—that are central ideas in Matthew’s Gospel. Something important is going on here.

Nonetheless, Jesus’s response to John remains a bit esoteric for most readers today. So allow me to offer the following paraphrase: Jesus is fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent (i.e., to live in the world wholeheartedly devoted to God).

Read the rest here.

Scrap Paper

I  have an update on Pat’s new book, which looks like it will be published this year in late summer or possibly in the fall. After much prayer, she has decided to name it “Feast of Joy.” I have already written an enthusiastic endorsement for the back cover and am really looking forward to reading this addition to her joyful series of books. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Scrap Paper

By Pat Knight

The paper is now yellow and tattered with only one sentence written repeatedly on both the front and back. It was more than fifty years ago when I wrote determinedly until there was no space left near the torn edges. Recently I have taken steps to preserve the relic by laminating it. Now the sentiment of my past remains safely tucked inside my Bible as a poignant reminder of the exceptional, unexpected methods God devises to draw me to His side.

I clearly recall the frustration I felt when I sat at my desk in my college dorm room staring at a monumental stack of books written in a new and unfamiliar language. I had managed to complete three weeks of the first semester. Now my assignments were piling up, and my only reaction was defeat. Many miles from home in an alien city, I was lonely. I had met many new friends, but unlike me, they all exuded confidence. Was there anyone experiencing the disarray of emotions I was feeling? I was overcome with a sense of helplessness that I feared would lead to certain failure.

With the last shred of emotional energy remaining that evening I grabbed my Bible and adroitly flipped to a favorite, reassuring verse. There was no need to find the passage; I had memorized it long ago. As I pondered the verse, I began scribbling on a random piece of paper. I prayed the words of the verse as I wrote, as if putting the promise in my own handwriting would transplant them in my mind this night. The apostle Paul admitted, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). I was scribbling feverishly and ultimately covered the half piece of paper, front and back, for a total of eighteen repetitions. Completely spent, I then plopped into bed. No homework was done that night. But, I had a new commitment. I would make it through college with Jesus at my side, empowering me each step of the way.

Though that experience occurred in my youth many decades ago, it left me with an impressionable lesson. Philippians 4:13 was my new goal. I have used it often and with conviction. God proved that He and I could accomplish anything together that conforms to His will.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he penned a letter to his fellow Christians in Philippi. If Paul grasped the reality of God’s promises from prison, surely I could acknowledge God’s interaction in my own life, to be and to do what He establishes as my goals every day. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Old Testament reveals that due to disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. As a result of their outcry, after four hundred years as slaves in a foreign country, God revealed His magnificent plan to free His people.

God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and land ownership in the Promised Land. But Moses was resistant and flatly refused the assignment. He told God he wasn’t eloquent of speech or believable and he argued at every reassurance God offered. Finally, God had witnessed enough rebellion and insisted that Moses accept the appointment.

There were many challenges ahead for Moses as he frequently dealt with a defiant nation of people who first agreed to God’s commands, but soon thereafter disobeyed them. On many occasions Moses wanted to quit, but God always provided the needs of both Moses and the people, often in miraculous ways.

Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian militia, and he delivered the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God’s hand. For forty years he led a large and stiff-necked people. In his lifetime Moses progressed from a skeptic to a believer who was totally reliant on his Lord. What an example Moses left for all of us!

Every day we face opportunities, responsibilities, and questions for which we do not know the answers. Assured God is always available to help and lead us, we are willing to obey what He asks of us. “‘Call to me and I will answer you, great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3). What an exciting Christian life is possible when we remain malleable and obedient for God to use for His purposes!

Whenever God sends us to witness and work for Him, He desires to accompany us. There is nothing to fear when God is near. Moses demonstrated God’s partnership in his life by developing into one of God’s most powerful and effective servants. He didn’t begin that way. When God presented His plan, Moses argued, asking God to send someone else. Have we unwittingly refused God’s plan for our lives? If we feel His leading and refuse to follow, we act as stubborn and as disobedient as Moses did. When God formulates a plan for our lives, He intends to make it a rich, growing experience, one with a secure future in which we work side-by-side with him. “‘So is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’” (Isaiah 55:11).

There is peace and joy serving God, with no limits to what you and God can accomplish together. If you harbor any doubts, then I suggest you grab scrap paper and start writing: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Allow plenty of room on the paper—repetition reinforces ideas and you may want to save your work as a life-long reminder of God’s leadership!

Faith That Works

Sharing today from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Faith That Works

by John MacArthur

Saving faith is a divine gift, not a human work. But that doesn’t mean true faith is passive or unaccompanied by good works.

The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: “God . . . is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”). Thus faith is inseparable from obedience.

Louis Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: An intellectual element (notitia), which is “a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction [and affirmation] of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including a surrender . . . to Christ.” [1] Augustus Strong argues similarly concerning the volitional element of faith, saying that it involves “surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled, to Christ’s governance.” [2] Modern popular theology tends to recognize the intellectual and emotional elements of faith but dispenses with the volitional aspect. Yet faith is not true faith if it lacks this attitude of surrender to Christ’s authority.

Writing about the verb “to obey” (peithō), W. E. Vine says:

Peithō and pisteuō, “to trust,” are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hebrews 3:18–19, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. . . . When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. . . . Peithō in N.T. suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith. [3]

So the person who has believed will yearn to obey. Because we retain the vestiges of sinful flesh, no one will obey perfectly (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 Thessalonians 3:10), but the desire to do the will of God will be ever present in true believers.

Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh, and in that passage Paul acknowledged his changed attitude to sin despite the ongoing struggle. He wrote that the desire to do good was his consuming passion as a believer:

I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

The willing [to do good] is present in me. (Romans 7:18)

I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (Romans 7:22)

I myself with my mind am serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25)

Although the apostle Paul described himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), those who love reveling in debauchery will not find a kindred spirit with him.

Read the rest here.

Shoe Leather

Shoe Leather

By Pat Knight

How long could we wear one pair of sandals before the construction or materials deteriorate? Since the 1950’s the garment industry has manufactured what has become known as disposable clothing. Due to its lower production costs and cheaper materials, a substantial amount of our clothing is considered dispensable after a season. The concept of shoes and clothing with lifetime endurance is a foreign idea.

“During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, their sandals and clothing were supernaturally preserved by God for four decades. From the very beginning of the wilderness journey, God delivered food from heaven with explicit directions of how to gather and prepare it. This sustenance became known as manna, a daily provision of balanced dietary nutrients the Israelites ate for the next forty years.

Peter Jenkins, author of Walk Across America and The Walk West, walked from the east to the west coast of the continental United States from 1973-1979. During his prolonged walk, he wore out thirty-two pair of boots. He also wore threadbare a pair of sneakers in just eleven days while journeying across rugged terrain.

Walking over rough ground erodes shoe leather from the exterior as perspiration deteriorates interior shoe components. Walking with a broken down pair of shoes can be dangerous. When all support from within the shoes is diminished, back and hip pain may result. A flopping sole could cause one to trip and fall.

God eliminated any health hazard from ill-fitting, worn-out sandals during the Israeli’s wilderness walk by miraculously preserving their footwear. During their forty year march, the wandering Israelites wore the same pair of sandals and outfit of clothing, ate only the food God distributed every morning, and were protected from communicable diseases that could have swept through the camp of millions of people, devastating their population. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). 

God established a covenant with His people, explained by an “if-then” formula. When the Israelites obeyed God, He blessed them; if they disobeyed, then God punished them. There were consequences for their actions. God “has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (Deuteronomy 2:7). In response, the people consistently disobeyed and broke the covenant they established with God. Sadly, they suffered the consequences.

In Genesis 14, we learn of the first recorded war in the Bible. When Abram was alerted that his nephew, Lot, had been captured by an alliance of rulers from surrounding countries, Abram amassed a small army from his household members to rescue Lot. With only 318 fighting men for his cause, Abram was greatly outnumbered. But, due to God’s help Abram developed military strategy that freed Lot along with all of the other captives. He then confiscated all the booty plundered by the enemy forces from the city of Sodom.

Following the victory, the King of Sodom generously offered Abram all of the spoils of battle. Abram refused the gift, explaining that he had sworn an oath to God not to accept any of the plunder from the battle. Abram’s only desire was to save Lot and praise God for the victory.

If Abram refused to accept the booty, the King of Sodom would be unable to claim any responsibility later for any portion of Abram’s riches. He wanted to give God total credit for any wealth he attained. Abram was completely obedient and for His loyalty and worship, and God rewarded him. Abram was eighty-five years old when God announced His plan to give him a son as his heir. God then took Abram outside to gaze at the stars, He promised, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). God later confirmed His promise to Abram: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). It would be difficult to gain an inheritance that exceeded the generosity of God.

Abram’s obedience was the compliance God expected from the children of Israel for whom He supplied all material possessions during their wilderness wanderings. God wanted His people to know that whatever wealth they eventually accumulated in the Promised Land would not occur as a result of their own efforts, lest their hearts swelled with pride and they forgot how God miraculously provided for them. Due to His provisions during their walk, it was obvious only God possessed the ability to feed, clothe, and maintain the health of His people. God wanted them to be constantly reminded of His love and faithfulness.

“I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:6b). The Lord was testing His people’s obedience; most of the time it was lacking.

God desires to interact in our lives as much as He was fully involved with the children of Israel. He cared for His people when they were wandering in the wilderness just as He promises victorious journeys to us in this current age. Whenever our Lord provides answers to prayers, protects us from harm, or performs a miracle in our lives, it is for the foremost purpose of shining His light in a dark world to bring glory to His name.

The Israelites didn’t need a change of clothes or shoes; neither of them deteriorated for forty years. What miracles God performed in His children’s lives! It is His desire to do the same for us, to be intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. After all, aren’t we all wandering through this wilderness of life? It is best to travel with God’s guidance and provisions. “My God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19). Depend on His promises, for they are vast!

Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.

Bleating of the Sheep

Bleating of the Sheep

By Pat Knight

Historically, God’s chosen people displayed a chronic disobedience pattern. Nearly as soon as God communicated a new decree, the Israelites either ignored or blatantly disobeyed His command. Few people took God seriously; fewer still took His laws seriously. The punishment for breaking God’s laws was particularly severe: disease, plagues, capture by enemy forces, and sometimes immediate death. Yet the grave consequences were not sufficient to motivate the Israelites to consistently obey their God.

The prophet, Samuel, relayed God’s instructions to King Saul: “‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, named after Esau’s grandson, Amalek. The directions were simple in terms of clarity. King Saul understood explicitly.

God’s edict may seem excessively harsh punishment to us, but God and the Israelites knew the Amalekite people to be ruthless, merciless, and savage. They were predatory, attacking the Israelites during their wilderness walk. From the rear of the traveling camp, the Amalekites stalked and killed the weak and the elderly as they traveled from Egypt. Their treatment of Israel was spontaneous and vicious, causing Moses centuries earlier to prophesy:  “‘When you were weak and worn out, they {Amalekites} met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you a rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!’” (Deuteronomy 25: 18-19).

God had been generously patient with the Amalekites, giving them over five hundred years to change their barbaric ways. Our heavenly Father is the supreme judge, adjudicating wrong and evil. He does not forget!

With thousands of soldiers, King Saul staged an ambush for the Amalekites. Saul was given the opportunity to demonstrate his allegiance to the Lord by obeying the assigned task of eliminating the Amalekite tribe. Instead of wiping out all life, “Saul and the army spared Agag {the Amalekite king), and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good;. These they were unwilling to destroy completely but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9).

God then spoke to the prophet, Samuel, expressing His sorrow that He had ever made Saul king of His people, for Saul refused to follow God’s instructions, relying on his own instincts and greed instead. When Samuel traveled to confront King Saul, he discovered the king had set up a monument in his own honor. From disobedience to false image worshipping, King Saul was puffed up with self-importance. Yet even before Samuel questioned him, Saul offered, “‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions’” (1 Samuel 15:13). Saul actually believed his actions were justified, but sinning against God is neither wise nor justified.

Samuel retorted, “What then is this bleating of the sheep I hear?
What is this lowing of the cattle I hear?”

1 Samuel 15:14

Saul shifted responsibility, blaming the soldiers for sparing the best animals to use as temple sacrifices for the Lord. Samuel then replied, “‘Enough!’

I can envision the prophet abruptly gesturing with his hand protesting Saul’s weak excuses. Samuel asked King Saul, “‘Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord? (vs. 19). Saul actually felt merit in completing his assigned military orders from God. It appears the details of God’s commands were irrelevant as long as Saul met his own selfish needs. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).

Our Lord values humility, repentance, and grief for sin. Saul’s heart was full of pride. Chief among the seven things God hates the most is pride, followed next in line by a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-19). Saul had employed both of the shameful priorities, masterfully disguising his rebellion and disobedience. Samuel replied with this rebuttal to Saul’s actions: “‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22). God removed His Spirit from Saul, dethroned him as king of Israel, and anointed another king in his place.

Upon self-examination, do we discover ourselves to be as shrewd as Saul, crafting insidious excuses for disobeying God? What personal justification do we use when God confronts us with our sin? We have ready access to all of God’s commands in His Living Word, through which He speaks to us. God commands that we love Him and others more highly than ourselves, discouraging our selfish motives.

It is possible that fear of reprisal prevents us from sinning on a regular basis, but we occasionally fall into temptation that is hard to resist. That is when our obedient devotion and love of God is paramount to  empower us to follow His words and His will. He has shown you. O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is the most compelling principle of behavior, defining a right relationship of men with Almighty God.

Our Lord loves us beyond measure, demonstrated by the gift of His Son, who died to set us free, creating a sovereign relationship that bridges between finite man and the infinite God. With God’s overwhelming love and attention to every detail in our lives, why would we even consider disobeying Him with the intention of indulging in self-desires? Why do we settle for second best when God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us?” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

We cannot come to God without faith in Him; faith leads to obedience. We want to please our Savior by serving Him. It grieves our Lord when we wander outside the boundaries He has established for us. “‘You are my friends if you do what I command. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’” (John 15:14-15). It is astounding that human friendship with Almighty God is even possible, deeming it imperative that we not react to His gracious gift with apathy or scorn exhibited by disobedience.

Instead of reacting like King Saul, blaming others for rebellion against God’s commands, let us take personal responsibility for sin, redirecting our energy to serve our Savior as His friends and fellow workers, seeking to consistently pursue His righteousness and faithfulness.

Obedience to God is palpable evidence of our faith. God considers our personal submission to His will so expressive of our love for Him that He accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. What assurance!

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

Ex4-13--AMP

The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

PTZ-Moses2

Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

Matt28-19-Cross-Foggy_Mountains--AMP

Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.