Baptism now saves you

1 Peter 3:20-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

 

20 because[a] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
 Make this statement on line; “Baptism saves you”, the response will be immediate, “no it doesn’t”. The respondent never really says what does. Of course those who make their “decision” to “accept” Christ. Well just how magnanimous and smurfy of them. Because of course Jesus is waiting there just begging them to accept them, just hoping that they will be so kind as to accept Him so that He can then be their gini in a bottle.
Baptism saves you. You are led to church to be baptized. It is your sign that God has accepted you, that you are now born again in Jesus Christ, that you are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has become the Lord of your life through baptism, in His church, through His chosen minister. Not the concierge of your life.
For those self-appointed arbiters, who are basically taking direction from others that are more cheer-leaders and entertainers than Bible scholars, back up and really understand what you’re saying. You want to be baptized, as soon as possible. You want to be given that new life in Christ. You want that it is entirely God’s call and not yours. Why? Because when it’s God’s call, God’s action, God’s result, you know that it’s completely true and will not fail. When you presume to “decide”, “accept”, “make”, you look back after awhile and begin to think “did that really happen?” “did I do it right, right time, right way…” You don’t have any assurance, you just have continued doubt.
When someone comes to the altar at a, real, Lutheran Church, be they 8 hours, 8 days, 18 or 80 years old and are presented for baptism and baptized by a Christian minister, they know it was nothing about them and all about God. They are saved! Can they mess it up, can they reject and lose that salvation? Sure. But then they know it’s all about them and nothing about Jesus. Jesus did all that was necessary to save them. If they reject that, or presume on that, then it’s entirely on them.

Spiritual? Cut it out! Isn’t it time to get serious about Jesus?!

“If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours.” John 15: 7

Why do we study history? There is such great wisdom, people who’ve confronted the same issues we’re confronting today and have given us such deep thought. Dr Martin Luther wrote voluminously is his time. He has created such incredible wisdom, he really did conflate the left and right hand kingdoms (the left is the government/society, the right is the church) in that both are in God, and both need to be focused on God’s will and not man’s. He gave us so much guidance in how we should deal with trials, he spent a good deal of his life being a marked man by the Roman Catholic church which wanted Luther burned at the stake. He certainly knew how to deal with the trials in his life. He gave us so much on how we as Christians should see those who are lost in the world.

I refer you to Dr Luther in a particular writing on prayer. I would stipulate that many people who pray and who are not Christians, and what Dr Luther points out as the profound difference between the two types of people:

“This is a miserable world for unbelievers. They work so hard, yet accomplish nothing. They may even pray a lot, search all over and knock at the door. Yet nothing is gained, found, or achieved, for they’ve knocking on the wrong door. They do all this without any faith. That’s why they can’t really pray.”

“Prayer is the work of faith alone. No one, except a believer, can truly pray. Believers don’t pray on their own merits, but in the name of the Son of God, in whom they were baptized. They’re certain that their prayers please God because he commanded them to pray in the name of Christ and promised he would listen to them. But the others don’t know this. Instead, they pray in their own name and believe they can prepare themselves. They think they can read enough to make themselves worthy and smart enough to make prayer into an acceptable work. And when we ask them whether their prayers have been heard, they reply, ‘I prayed, but if my prayers were heard only God knows.’ If you don’t know what you are doing or whether God is listening, what kind of a prayer is that?”

“But Christians don’t approach prayer this way. We pray in response to God’s command and promise. We offer our prayers to God in the name of Christ, and we know that what we ask for will be given to us. We experience God’s help in all kinds of needy situations. And if relief doesn’t come soon, we still know that our prayers are pleasing to God. We know that God has answered us because he gives us the strength to endure.” ( Martin Luther quoted in “Through Faith Alone” Concordia Publishing House 1999 Jun 11 page)

I’ve seen many genuine Christians pray, and yes I understand we all know to where/whom, they are praying. But I would certainly encourage Christians to end all their prayers “In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen”. Then there’s no doubt what you are doing, that our prayers are only in the Holy Spirit to our Lord Jesus Christ. Any other prayer just doesn’t matter, so why even pray it? I was asked to open sessions of county commissioners meeting. The only caveat was not to pray in Jesus’ name. I respectfully refused. Why would I do that? What’s the point? I’m a Christian pastor, there’s only one way I’m going to pray. I understand in today’s world of American Christianity (which is at best nominally “Christian”), we have accepted this civic sort of “To whom it may concern” prayer. Again what’s the point? I’m frankly a little afraid of what/who we’re praying to if not in Jesus’ Name. Which of the many idols we see in America are we actually offering prayer? Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:13 that we should pray in His Name. There’s only one, God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and it is in the all powerful Name of Jesus Christ our Lord that I offer any prayer.

Apologetics, 1 Peter 3: 15

Christian apologetics has become a pretty hot area in the last few years. Seems to me that Christians are starting to get serious about their faith, especially Christian men. The Lutheran Hour Men’s Network that I was part of starting a few years ago and very  ably led by a layman Geoff Abendschoen, became very involved in group studies of Christian apologetics.

The word apologetics, apologist, not someone who’s worried about past failings. You’re not saying you’re sorry about something. It is from the Greek word ἀπολογία apologia. To defend: “Christian apologetics (Greek: ἀπολογία, “verbal defence, speech in defence”) is a branch of Christian theology that aims to present historical, reasoned, and evidential bases for Christianity, defending it against objections.” (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_apologetics) In his epistle Peter writes ”

1 Peter 3: 15; “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

Peter uses the word  ἀπολογία in his epistle. We have to have a good reason why we believe what we believe. We have to be able to understand it well enough in order to articulate it to someone who is either a non-Christian (and they are a lot more common today, I was one). Or to defend against those who are actively antagonistic towards the Christian faith. I will stipulate that it usually doesn’t work against those who are antagonistic. Frankly they are very set in their belief, they are not interested in changing their beliefs and if anything, have chosen to oppose your Christian belief. They are not interested in other points of view and really never make critical examinations or understanding of their own points of view. I know Christians are often accused of that mind set, but I’ve seen it a lot more in secularists. They really don’t have a good understanding of theology, of philosophy, of science, etc, and they really don’t care. “It’s all about what I can see, touch, quantify and everything else is fantasy…” Something to that effect. Well, there’s a whole lot in the world that we know is there, but we really can’t explain it. Try explaining electricity or gravity to start with.

When I was in seminary (Concordia Seminary, St Louis, Mo, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod), apologetics was actively discouraged. I certainly understand why, being a Christian is based in faith, the faith that God gives us to believe. We don’t need to have a hard and fast reason. God gives us the faith we need, one of the “solas”, Sola Fide, by faith alone. God gives it to us and we aren’t going to talk someone else into faith through apologetics.

Yes, I get it, and we should never expect that analysis of history, philosophy, theology etc, will make us Christians, it won’t, only the Holy Spirit will. However, we still have Peter’s urging and there are still people out there weak in their faith and knowledgeable clergy and lay people have a responsibility to articulate their faith. Interestingly, the LC-MS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), has published a report buttressing the need for apologetics. The CTCR’s concern is particularly in the area of “scientism”, this is a belief system that has arisen in the last few decades where “believers”, the “faithful”, trust entirely in whatever they can quantify in science. Needless to say this is a stand that is very tenuous. Science certainly doesn’t have the answer to everything, in fact, many times, scientific answers aggravate a situation. Look at medical science, it has made incredible strides, but, first, we are all going to die. Second, remember the last time you heard a television ad for a medication? Wanna stay healthy? Stay away from taking medications. The world is in desperate need of hope and promise and Jesus gave that 2,000 years ago and based on His resurrection, I know what my ultimate reality will be, the New World of the resurrection.

As I said apologetics was kind of discouraged when I was in seminary (for the record that was actually this century, I graduated in 2010). The CTCR, came out with its report in 2015 saying:

“There is something of a renaissance of apologetics both inside and outside the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), and this is a great opportunity to forge alliances between theologians, scientists, philosophers, and professional apologists in our church for the sake of defending the faith. While the Word of God has its own authority independent of reason, scientific apologetics can play an important role in creating the intellectual and cultural space that allows the Gospel a fair hearing. To be sure, reason cannot produce faith. But it can clear away misconceptions and refute erroneous worldviews that lead people to reject the Christian claim out of hand. Christian scientists and philosophers can help here by marshaling evidence that this is a created world and that human beings are a special part of it. This task has become more important because of the rise of the New Atheism, which seeks to use materialistic science to discredit revealed religion.”

“This report will provide guidance and encouragement to a number of constituencies who seek to combat scientism (italics mine) and recover the sense of science as a vocation which glorifies God and provides beneficial services to the neighbor. These constituencies include:

  1. Students, teachers and investigators in the sciences;
  2. Pastors and other church workers who minister to those involved in the sciences n regular congregations and in campus ministry.
  3. Administrators and teachers at Christian high schools and universities who would like input to help them think through the hard task of integrating the Christian faith with science education;
  4. Non-scientific Christian laity whose faith is being attacked as an unscientific relic of the past.

(In Christ All Things Hold Together The Intersection of Science and Christian Theology A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod February 2015 p 12)

It kind of stuns me to talk to a lay-person who is telling me how Christians are just talking myths and it’s all about science, and the person obviously has no understanding of genuine science. Most genuine scientists today will agree that there has to have been some kind of Intelligent Design of the universe, down to the very basics of the universe. Take the cell, DNA. There is no way that either could have come about accidentally. Anyone who tells you otherwise is making it up. In fact most genuine scientists will stipulate that DNA is an incredibly sophisticated code. If there’s a code, then there has to be a Coder. The same can be said in terms of our environment on earth, our position in the solar system, even the galaxy. Yet people who have no idea of any of these concepts will look me in the faith and tell me Christianity is just myth. Jesus is the most studied man in the entire history of mankind, there is no doubt that He lived and no reason to discard what the Bible says He did. If you did that you would have to reject the entire all of antiquity. Jesus has been studied more than anyone, if you can’t accept His life and what He did, you can’t accept anything prior to modern history (14th century, give or take). Frankly I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, or believe in Scientism, (sounds a little too close to Scientology for me).

God created an incredible universe, the only way that creation could have come about is by a Creator. To believe in anything else is to either be in complete denial, or simply ignorant of the facts. We have way too many people today who create their own reality and deny, well, reality! Our society today has become not just less intellectual, but if anything anti-intellectual, mostly brought about by those who presume to be intellectual and are simply not. The lack of critical thinking in today’s society is stunning. Deny Christianity? Sure, and for no good reason. Believe what you see on the Internet or CNN? Sure, because that’s based on science. I had a person tell me once that Einstein proved that everything is relative, his theory of relativity. There’s a lot of people reading this right now who will say “sure, that’s right”. His theory of relativity was about how light travels, how time slows down the closer we travel to the speed of light. Nothing about how your belief system is just as valid as another. Sorry, as I said, I can’t have scientific knowledge and believe that there’s no Creator. That’s a psychotic mindset.

Based on this, we Christians do need to become much more sophisticated in all the basic subjects. We need to be much more critical in our thinking and ready to assert that. We are in the midst of an ignorant and lazy society that expects us to believe non-sense and reject Christ. That’s ridiculous and we have a duty, 1 Peter 3:15 to defend the faith, present it to those around us, especially those who are weak in the faith and might fall from salvation believing the world’s ignorance.

And This Amazing Blue Seeing the Creator through Landscape Photography Paul Sanders

When I joined the London Times in 2002, it was my dream job. Soon, however, the pressures of heading up a department with a million-pounds-per-year budget and a staff of thirty-three were overwhelming. Every day I looked at between seventeen and twenty-five thousand photos. I soon went from a ten-hour day to a twelve-hour day, to a fourteen-hour day, to a sixteen-hour day. I stopped eating and sleeping properly and my marriage fell apart. I ended up having a nervous breakdown. In 2011 I decided to leave. Looking back, I don’t regret it at all.

It came to me when I attended a friend’s wedding, and they introduced me, not as their friend Paul, but as the “picture editor of the Times.” I suddenly realized that the job completely defined me. I was no longer a Christian; I was no longer a father; I was no longer a friend: I was just the job. I had been so frightened of losing that job because I would lose the salary, which would mean losing the house and then losing my family. I lost my family anyway as, sadly, my wife and I separated.

aerial view of patchwork fields by sea

For the first three or four years of my son’s life, I wasn’t a dad; I was just a person in the house who occasionally ate with the family. I was always busy: talking on the phone, answering emails, watching the news, and reading the newspaper. I spent all day rushing and trying to sort things out. As soon as anything newsworthy happened, that was it. Now my son is the most important thing in my life and we spend a lot of time together.

When I first started taking landscape pictures I tried to emulate photographers I admired. I bought similar equipment to what they used, and drove around a lot, but I didn’t take many pictures and it only made my depression worse. I got to a place where I just wanted to end it all.

One day I went down to Beachy Head on the South Downs to take pictures. The camera was a big, square thing that takes plate film. I had a light meter and put it on the ground beneath the tripod. When I moved I kicked it and it went over the edge of the five-hundred-foot cliff. I reached to grab it and I suddenly had the heart-stopping moment of – “What are you doing? There is so much more to life than what you’re stressing over. You’re going about it all the wrong way.”

photograph of sea

I’d been a Christian on and off since the mid-nineties. More off than on if I’m honest; the media world doesn’t really gel with being Christian. So I picked and chose when I believed in God, usually when I wanted to ask for something, but never when I had done something that I needed forgiveness for. I didn’t expect to feel anything when I was sitting up there on the cliff because I felt so alone. But then I felt as if there really was somebody next to me, telling me to find a different path. It was as if someone was saying: “You have got more to give. You’ve put your values in all the wrong places. There are people around you who love you if you let them love you. You need to just open your eyes.” I went away feeling completely different.

I started going to church again, but told the minister that I didn’t come very often because I have a little boy on alternate weekends. He told me that God isn’t just in church, and that if I find God when I am out taking pictures then I should do that. That was when I started shooting purely from the heart, and stopped worrying about the technical side of things. Now I go to places and I wait to feel moved. I try to show the emotional and spiritual moment I am in. Sometimes I pray that the light will improve. It is a matter of connecting with what I’m photographing: the world that God has created.

pebbles and pier on shore

Even in taking pictures, which is such a small part of life, you’ve got to have a faith, something that holds it all together. My faith
in God centers and grounds me. I used to think I was the most important thing in the world. Now I see myself as a small part of something enormous.

And I think God looks after me. Wherever I go, my eyes are open to different things. It might be just a curve in a river, light through a tree, or even shadows. I’m in awe of all the beauty I see. I have been guided to it, and I concentrate on that.

Leaving my job flipped my life on its head. Getting rid of everything I had valued made me realize the value I placed in things. Why do we run through life blinkered on the money? Life is so much more than that. By photographing ordinary things – a pole in the sea, some trees on a mound – I can show people that there is so much beauty around. I used to drive to work at eighty or ninety miles an hour. Now I don’t drive over fifty, partly because it is more economical, but more because I look around. If I come to a corner and see something that surprises me, I stop for a minute and admire it. It doesn’t have to be as pretty as a field of poppies. It can just be the light through trees.

I always come away from a shoot smiling. It might be an inside smile because most people think you’re mad if you walk around smiling all the time. But it’s the sheer joy I get from seeing the waves breaking on the beach and the shape they make when they curl, or from watching clouds move and how, when the light in them changes, the shadows become menacing. And from the way the colors change from blue during the day to purples, oranges, reds, and this amazing blue after the sun sets.

tiny lighthouse by huge sea and sky