VIDEO Big Moments: Baptism

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41

Earlier this year, joy broke out in a jail in Walker County, Alabama. The sheriff’s office announced that 41 inmates had been baptized and 10 others had given their lives to Christ. The sheriff’s office encourages pastors to visit the jail on a daily basis. Sheriff Nick Smith said, “If we can help people break the chains of addiction, then I believe that they can live a better life both here on Earth and eternally. I’m proud of each of these people that made a declaration of their faith today.”[1] Some of the new believers have been convicted of murder; others had traffic violations. But on that day, the Body of Christ came together to worship and wonder at the grace of God.

Have you been baptized? It’s one of life’s big moments. It’s a public confession of a private decision. No one can see the secret work God has done in your heart, but they can see you testify about it. If you’d like to learn more about baptism, talk with a pastor or church worker. Don’t put it off any longer. It’s wonderful to make a bold declaration of our faith!

Baptism is an outward expression of an inward faith. Watchman Nee


Acts 2:1-41

Uncommon Era

The Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. Esther 9:23

Despite living much of his life as a pagan, the Roman emperor Constantine (ad 272–337) implemented reforms that stopped the systematic persecution of Christians. He also instituted the calendar we use, dividing all of history into bc (before Christ) and ad (anno Domini, or “in the year of the Lord”).

A move to secularize this system has changed the labels to ce (Common Era) and bce (before the Common Era). Some people point to this as yet another example of how the world keeps God out.

But God hasn’t gone anywhere. Regardless of the name, our calendar still centers itself around the reality of Jesus’ life on earth.

In the Bible, the book of Esther is unusual in that it contains no specific mention of God. Yet the story it tells is one of God’s deliverance. Banished from their homeland, the Jewish people lived in a country indifferent to Him. A powerful government official wanted to kill them all (Esther 3:8–912–14). Yet through Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, God delivered His people, a story still celebrated to this day in the Jewish holiday of Purim (9:20–32).

Regardless of how the world chooses to respond to Him now, Jesus changed everything. He introduced us to an uncommon era—one full of genuine hope and promise. All we need to do is look around us. We’ll see Him.  

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

How do you react to instances where it seems like God is being “banished”? In what ways do you see Him today?

Father, thank You for the history-changing reality of Your Son, Jesus. 

A Testimony of Faith

God has graciously given us the ability to plant seeds that will bring a harvest of good fruit.

Acts 8:4-8Acts 8:25-40

Many believers consider sharing faith with others a scary endeavor. The example of a faithful witness can be encouraging and motivating—and Philip is a wonderful model for us to emulate.  

He brought the good news of Jesus Christ to Samaria, where the crowd listened intently and many were baptized. Yet when God’s instructions redirected Philip to go speak to one particular man on a desert road, he willingly obeyed (Acts 8:26-27).  He carefully considered what to say and used the Scriptures to lead the traveler to salvation. Whether he was addressing large crowds or an individual, his words always pointed to Jesus Christ. 

Philip’s witness flowed from a life transformed by Christ, and that should be the same with us. He understood that God’s Word is the power for salvation. It’s not our eloquence that saves others, but God’s supernatural ability to open a heart to the message. 

As you approach different situations throughout the day, try to be like Philip. Recognize that the Lord will lead you to the people He wants you to speak with. Ask questions to open a door of opportunity, and courageously use the truths of Scripture to explain the gospel in an understandable way

Earnest of the Spirit

“Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 5:5)

This is a fascinating concept and a wonderful reality. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is said to be an “earnest”—that is, a pledge or deposit—on an ultimate fulfillment of a magnificent promise from God Himself. The word translated “earnest” (Greek arrhabon) is essentially a transliteration of its Hebrew equivalent (arabown), translated “pledge” in the Old Testament (see Genesis 38:17-20).

Now if the guiding presence of God, through the Holy Spirit, is merely an earnest payment, the fulfillment must be glorious beyond comprehension. This “selfsame thing,” as our text calls it, is a wonderful “house which is from heaven,” the spiritual body we shall receive when we go to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

The phrase also occurs in 2 Corinthians 1:22: “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” In context, the earnest payment here is associated with the “sealing” of God and the assurance that “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen” (v. 20).

The third and last use of this word in the New Testament is in Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom also trusted…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” We are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), and He is to inherit all things.

Thus, the Holy Spirit, a present possession of all who have received Christ as Savior, is also God’s pledge of a glorious future—a perfect body, a great inheritance, and the certain fulfillment of all of God’s gracious promises. HMM

Be Thou Exalted

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist….That in all things he might have the preeminence.Colossians 1:17-18

Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there.

Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there. POG030, 044

Rise, O lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes….Let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. POG099-100

The God of All Grace

But by God’s grace I am what I am.1 Corinthians 15:10

Is it any wonder that throughout the history of the Christian church, men and women have found the thought of grace so overwhelmingly wonderful that they seemed unable to get over it? Grace was the constant theme of their prayers, their preaching, their writing—and their hymns. Take this for example:

Great God of wonders, all Thy ways

Display the attributes divine;

But countless acts of pardoning grace

Beyond Thine other wonders shine;

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Many have fought to uphold the truth of God’s grace, accepting ridicule and loss of privilege as the price of their stand. Paul waged war against the legalists in the Galatian churches over this matter, and the battle to uphold this great truth has gone on ever since. Augustine fought it in the fourth and fifth centuries, as did the Reformers in the sixteenth.

I sense that the church once again is in danger of losing out to legalism as more and more Christians get caught up with doing rather than being. Talk to people about what they are doing, and they are with you at once; talk to them about who they are being (who they really are), and their attitude is one of deferential blankness.

The church of Jesus Christ is in a sad state when it can’t say with conviction and meaning, as did the apostle Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Prayer

God of all grace, give me grace to feel my need of grace. And give me grace to ask for grace. Then give me grace to receive grace. And when grace is given to me, give me grace to use that grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Further Study

2Co 1:1-12; 6:1; Gl 2:21

Where was Paul’s boast rooted?

What was Paul’s warning to the Corinthians?

God Remembers

“Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says:

I remember the loyalty of your youth,

your love as a bride—

how you followed Me in the wilderness,

in a land not sown.”—Jeremiah 2:2

Even when our hearts grow cold toward God and our devotion to Him weakens, His love remains steadfast. We may forget God, but He remembers us.

God was concerned because the people of Judah had allowed their hearts to drift far from Him. In a powerful moment, God shared His heart with His people, recalling what it was like when they first began loving Him. He remembered how they had loved Him, as a new bride loves her husband, with excitement and enthusiasm for the future. He recalled the kindness they had expressed as they willingly followed Him wherever He led them. God reminded them of the love they had once had for Him, so that the memory might rekindle feelings of devotion and their hearts might return to Him.

If you do not guard our heart, you will grow cold in your love for Christ. A time may come when He approaches you and reminds you what your relationship was once like. Do you recollect the joy that permeated your life when you first became a Christian? Do you recall the youthful commitments you made to Him, pledging to do anything He told you to do? Do you remember the thrill you experienced each time you came to understand a new dimension of His nature? Spiritual memory is important. You may not realize how far you have drifted from God until you contrast the love you are expressing to Him now with that of earlier days.

God has not changed. He is the same Person you gave your heart to when you became a Christian (Mal. 3:6–7). If your love for God is not as intense as it once was, return to Him. He will restore the intimate fellowship you once shared with Him.
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