Growing In Godliness Blog
By Paul Earnhart
When Jesus was about 30 years old, His cousin, John the Baptist, began his preaching campaign. “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt. 3:1-2). John was preparing the way of the Lord.
Mark records in Mark 1:4-5 that John’s preaching included “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins.”
Verse 9 tells us that “in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mk. 1:9) John was actually reluctant to baptize Jesus. John’s baptism was “for forgiveness of sins.” But Jesus had no sins, so “John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time, for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Mt. 3:14-15).
From the very beginning of the mature life of Jesus, we see His firm determination to do everything God wanted done. Coming to John for baptism was not a convenient thing for Jesus. In fact, He had to walk about 60 miles from His home to get to the place where John was baptizing. He did not need baptism, as others did, for the forgiveness of sins. But John was a preacher from God, he was preaching baptism, and Jesus wanted to do whatever God wanted people to do. Do you want to do God’s will enough that you would walk 60 miles to do it?
Jesus has commanded baptism for us (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Many people, however, hesitate. Some do not feel it is necessary; others complain that it is inconvenient. Such excuses are not Christ-like. He was determined to “fulfill all righteousness.” Are you?
When Jesus Was Baptized
By Paul Earnhart
Mark records the baptism of Jesus in these words: “And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heaven opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “This is My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.” (Mk. 1:9-11)
There are some interesting things here. One is the fact that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river-not near it, but in it. Furthermore, He came up out of the water after His baptism. The word baptize means “to dip, to plunge, to immerse.” If Jesus was not immersed in the Jordan, there was no point in His going into it. Did you come up out of the water after you were baptized?
Another thing is made very clear…what Jesus did was approved by Heaven. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, and God spoke in a voice from heaven, confessing Jesus as His Son.
The confession that God made is one that we all must make if we are to be saved. Rom. 10:10 says, “For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” All men will eventually confess Him. Phil. 2:9-11 tells us that “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
How much better to confess Him now…while we live…and be saved, than to wait until it is too late when we confess Him when He comes in judgment. If this confession is to be valid, however, it must be backed by complete submission and obedience to Him as God’s Son.
The Parents of Jesus Went to Worship
By Paul Earnhart
Jesus was the Son of God, but He was entrusted to earthly parents when he came to live on the earth. Parents can learn much by observing Joseph and Mary, the two individuals with whom God entrusted his Son.
Luke 2:41 tells us that His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. Going to Jerusalem each year was not easy for them. It involved a journey of 50 miles or more each way, a journey which they most likely made on foot. This meant that they had to abandon their occupation and lose the income for more than a week. Then they had to go to the extra expense of spending a week or two away from home. The Law required it, so they did it.
And that was only one of three feasts which the Law required them to observe in Jerusalem. We may be sure that if the parents of Jesus went for one, they went for all. Such obedience was a good example for Jesus. But they were not content simply to give Jesus a good example. They took Jesus with them. In Luke 2:42-52, we read about one of those journeys which they made when Jesus was 12 years old.
Some parents do not involve their children in religious activities. They say, "We will just wait until our children are old enough to decide for themselves what they want to do about religion." Such parents do not let the children decide what they will do about going to school or about coming home at night, but they want to let them decide about religion. God did not entrust His son to parents who reasoned that way. Joseph and Mary took Jesus with them. And in Jerusalem he demonstrated a knowledge of the scriptures which indicated that those parents had had Him in weekly synagogue worship and had taught Him God’s word even at home.
Are you that kind of parent? Do you take your children to worship faithfully? Do you teach them God's word in your home?
The World Needs Lights
By Mark McCrary
Viruses. Racism. Injustice. Riots. Financial upheaval.
It is tempting to think that things have never been worse, yet our field of vision over the course of time is very narrow. The reality is human existence has always been filled with all of the above, along with earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, famines, awful diseases, conquests, pillagings, dominations, food and water shortages, mosquitoes, snakes, lions and tigers, and bears… and the lists go on and on.
Reasons to be upset, scared, anxious, concerned, frustrated and the like are nothing new. They have been the constant companions of the human experience and while we travel this earth, they always will.
Despite these realities, the Bible holds several enticing possibilities before us: we can have hope (Psalm 42:11; 62:5-6; Romans 15:13; 1 Timothy 4:10), joy (Psalm 16:11; John 15:10-12; Galatians 5:22-23 ) and peace with others (Psalm 34:13-15; Isaiah 32:16-17; Luke 2:13-14; Romans 12:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:11)—even in this life. It does not give us these things by taking us out of the world, but by giving us tools to use while in this world. What are these tools?
There are numerous passages we could look to, but let’s spend a few minutes contemplating Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-16).
Under inspiration, Paul gives us some simple, doable actions we can put into place in our lives. First, he tells us not to complain. All of us complain from time to time. Sometimes, those complaints move from “time to time” to all the time. Spend some time this week paying attention to your speech; look over your social media posts. Be honest. How much do you see yourself complaining? It may be more than you think. We can post all the Bible verses we like on Facebook or Instagram, but when we complain—especially when people know we are a Christian—we aren’t showing the world that we are any different than anyone else. So, check your complaining. Complaints stem from too close a proximity to the world. Paul’s attitude (and Christ’s for that matter) was radical because he focused on different things: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When you make the decision to stop being negative, you must follow that up with an equal decision to being positive— shine as a light. Point people from the chaos of the world to the love and peace of God. You aren’t being self-righteous when you decide to model this; people need to see that it really is possible to have the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the “midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” People need to hear that injustices are real, that life stinks sometimes, but when one sets their mind on God in obedience, it really can change one’s life and outlook. We need to be living proof of this.
Finally, all of this is made possible because you “hold fast to God’s word.” Every day we are all tempted to cast aside the Biblical teachings to some degree or another. Don’t. Always remember that real freedom comes from following God and His word (Romans 6:15-19). The more we submit to God’s wisdom rather than our own, the more peace we will have. Hold on desperately to God and His word.
God needs a hitter this week in this game we call life. Let’s step up to the plate.
By Matt Hennecke
As was often the case, when I was a child, my Saturday plans conflicted with my father’s plans for me. I wanted to play all day and he wanted me and my brother to earn our keep by doing household chores before we went to play.
This Saturday was no different. It was the middle of summer and my Dad didn’t like the way the lawn looked. There were way too many dandelions, so he called my brother and me to his side and issued a command: “I want you to weed dandelions this morning. Each of you are to fill a shopping bag with 100 dandelions.” Then he added: “Work until you’re finished and then come and let me count your dandelions.”
Dandelion weeding was not an unfamiliar chore for me or my brother. We had seen both my Mom and my Dad weed dandelions before. On occasion we had even been pressed into limited, weeding service. Proper weeding involved a long metal skewer-like object which one would jab down into and under the roots of the dandelion and then a downward motion to eject the plant upward from the soil, roots and all. That was the theory, but dandelions are ornery critters and their roots run deep, so it took some work to effectively extricate an entire dandelion.
Now little boys who’d rather be playing than working often develop a certain, devious creativity. My little mind was spinning, and the thought occurred to me that by simply pulling off the heads of the dandelions I could quickly achieve my 100-dandelion goal. But the thought quickly faded because I knew what quality, dandelion-weeding looked like. I’d seen enough examples of what a well “weeded” dandelion looked like – it was the entire plant, roots, leaves, and flower. Anything less would be unacceptable, and Dad was going to pass judgment on my work. There seemed to be no wiggle room to speed up the process. Play-time seemed a long way off.
Seeing no easy way out I got quickly to the task. I worked steadily in the heat of the morning sun, counting as I went: 10, 17, 38, 52…. wipe the sweat from my brow, 68, 77…. the end in sight….84, 96, 100! Finished! The morning was largely spent, but the rest of the day lay before me.
I took my bag of dandelions to my Dad for inspection. He carefully examined my work and counted the dandelions. “Good job,” he finally said, and my heart leapt at the thought of bike riding and time with friends. As I carried my bag of dandelions to the garbage for disposal my brother made his appearance. “Hey,” he said, as he sidled over to my side, “why don’t we dump your dandelions into my bag?”
Now you might think I would have rejected his proposal outright. After all, I’d worked in the hot sun weeding 100 dandelions, but I must admit I was awe-struck by the brilliance of his plan. Little brothers are enthralled with big brothers. My father’s command had been that we each fill a bag with 100 dandelions. If I gave my brother my dandelions, he could fill his bag with my 100 dandelions and technically satisfy my Dad’s command. So, we did just that. My brother filled his bag with my dandelions and took them to my Dad where they easily passed inspection. My Dad never learned of our ploy.
What is interesting, is that though we were little boys and had no clue how to define hermeneutics, we knew in our little brains what it meant: Dad had issued a command, he had showed us numerous times what an example of good dandelion pulling looked like, and he had even inferred we each fill our own bag with dandelions from our own labor. Funny thing is, we knew it was a necessary inference as evidenced by our consciously not telling Dad just how we had accomplished the task. If we’d owned up to our little deceit, there is no doubt Dad would have shown us just how necessary the inference was – probably by adding another 100 dandelions to our project!
These days the method of determining how to study the Word so as to understand God’s will – what is called hermeneutics – is largely discounted, even ridiculed. Some see it as a conservative church concoction. It's not. Command, example, and inference are at the very heart of all communication. It’s how all dads and moms communicate their will. Even little boys get it.
So, whether picking dandelions to satisfy one’s dad, or living faithfully to satisfy one’s Father, we must study the Word to obey His commands, follow His approved examples, and acknowledge His inferences so one day we may go live in His dandelion-free House for eternity.