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.
Gospel for All
By Larry Coffey
The Bible clearly teaches the gospel of Christ is available for everyone who seeks it. While reading a book on the life of Walter Scott, a preacher in the early 19th century, I noted two good examples of this fact. Scott moved to Carthage, OH, a small village near Cincinnati and lived there 13 years. When he moved there, the village was described as flourishing with drunkenness, profanity, idleness, and neglect of the public and private duties of religion. The single redeeming feature was a Sunday school where an incident of interest took place on Scott’s first visit.
In one of the classes was a bright girl about 13 years old, who, along with others, had to find the answer to the question, “What shall I do to be saved?” She searched her Bible and found the answer in Acts 2:38. When the day came for the class to answer the question, she was the only one with a ready answer. With a feeling of childish triumph, she quoted the passage: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Rather than receiving the teacher’s approval, she was disappointed to learn she had not given a satisfactory answer. Soon the class was over and the superintendent asked the same question. She rose and quoted Acts 2:38, but her answer was not approved again. She cried and wondered why her answer was not accepted. Just after this, Scott preached in the village school house and the little Sunday school scholar was present. To her surprise his text was the very passage she had read in Sunday school. Her response to his lesson was a request to be baptized. Her example caused six men to step forward and be baptized at the same time.
These proved to be the first fruits of a great harvest. Many more soon also obeyed the gospel. Among the converts was one who had long held in the village an unenviable notoriety—a poor fellow who was regarded as the most hopeless of an exceedingly irreligious and immoral population. He was a clever, dissipated good-for-nothing by the name of Parker. When it was announced in the village that a strange preacher was to be there to hold a series of meetings, for reasons unknown, Parker decided to attend. After a few nights of sitting on the back row, he came forward to be baptized. Needless to say, Walter Scott looked upon him with surprise and astonishment.
After Parker’s conversion, he made this statement: “I was as great a sinner as any of you; a drunkard, a gambler, poor, miserable, and wretched. But now I am redeemed from my former ways and have become a man.” As far as was known, both Parker and the 13-year-old girl remained faithful the rest of their lives. The cases mentioned show that the gospel can be brought to the comprehension of a little child and its power can be felt by one as wicked as Parker. Walter Scott’s labors resulted in planting a church that had 200 members within about two years from his first visit.
By Matt Hennecke
His name was Frederick Justus and his story is one of resistance and stubbornness. Over the years he refused to listen to the appeals of his own son and daughter-in-law as together they tried repeatedly to speak to him of Christ. Perhaps his heritage had something to do with it. He had come to America from Germany when just 18 years old. Germans, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for being stubborn and unyielding. Perhaps he didn't think his own son could teach him anything. Perhaps it was unbelief. Whatever the reason, he was unyielding to the message of salvation.
And time marched on.....
Frederick Justus became a grandfather. First a granddaughter arrived in 1943, then a grandson in ‘50. Three years later another grandson and finally another granddaughter. Four in all. Despite Frederick’s gruff exterior, he loved his grandchildren. You could tell by the twinkle in his eyes. Whenever they came to visit they brought bedlam and left messes, but he didn't seem to mind too much. During those visits, the story of Jesus was mentioned, but still Frederick resisted.
And time marched on.....
With age comes maladies. Aches and pains at first, then more serious conditions. When Frederick Justus was 88 years old he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. More likely it was just old age. In the last few years he could hardly walk. His body was bent. He carried a cane. He sat more than he stood. Then, one day, he was hospitalized - Saint Joseph's Hospital in Chicago. His son and daughter-in-law visited, and despite the many times their message had fallen on deaf ears, they again spoke softly of the Son of God and of the hope of glory. This time something was different. This time Frederick listened. This time he heard. In barely a whisper, he at last said, "I want to be baptized into Christ."
The hospital was Catholic, so the son prepared for battle. Baptism as immersion doesn’t sit too well with Catholics. Additionally, the old man was very sick, but the son was adamant and stubborn. No surprise there, for he was German too. The son had as much stubbornness as his father - maybe more. Nothing was going to prevent the very thing he had prayed about for so many years. The doctor said “No,” so the son went to the charge nurse who thought the idea of a baptism wonderful. She said, “We don’t listen to doctors.” The nurse located a large metal bathtub with harness system that could be used to lower Frederick into the water.
On that day, the stubborn, self-willed, infirm Frederick Justus finally let go, and gave himself to Christ. He was baptized by his own son for the forgiveness of his sins, and the blood of Christ removed all infirmities of the spirit. He was born again into the kingdom of God.
A few days later, the hospital, unable to provide any further treatments for Frederick suggested he be admitted to a nursing home, but the son and his wife wouldn’t have it. An ambulance brought Frederick to his son's house. Three days after his arrival, at breakfast time, Frederick Justus coughed once and died. A Christian for a mere 3 days - a heavenly reward for eternity....
Frederick Justus Hennecke - my grandfather. I will see him again.
-Matthew Justus Hennecke
Faith of Demons
By David Norfleet
The Bible is full of amazing accounts of people’s faith. The 11th chapter of Hebrews alone speaks of those who, motivated by their faith in God and His promises, traded wealth for poverty, exchanged the known and comfortable for the unknown and frightening, and sacrificed that which was precious for a greater relationship with God.
But I would like to think about the faith of another group in Scriptures – the demons. We think about those spiritual beings as our enemies, and rightly so (Ephesians 6:12), but we might not think of them as having belief or faith in God. But Scripture says in James 2:19 that they believe and even shudder. But, what do they believe?
Consider Matthew 8:28-34 and the parallel text Mark 5:1-13. In these accounts we find Jesus is casting out the group of demons self-identified as Legion, but what is revealed within these interactions about their faith is fascinating (Even if their tone is derisive it reveals a level of belief beyond what we would normally ascribe to these beings.).
- First, I would note how they identify Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus Son of the Most High God (Mark 5:7). By identifying Jesus as the “Son of…” they are recognizing a fact the gospels make abundantly clear, and that Jesus is God.
- But that is not the only revelation concerning their faith in their use of this title, consider that they recognize the Father as “Most High.” In Hebrew that is El Elyon or God the Highest. What that means is even the demons recognize God’s preeminence.
- Furthermore, they recognize there is punishment, they are subject to it, and Jesus has the authority to execute this judgment. Note the question they ask in Matthew 8.29, “…
Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).
- But these demons realize and believe in another aspect of God’s nature and that is that He is merciful. Note their plea in Mark 5: 10 “And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.”
Let us look yet further into the beliefs of these evil spirits. Not only did they understand who Jesus was, that there was punishment, and God was ultimately merciful, they also understood and were able to recognize that God had a means of salvation. While traversing the city of Philippi to the place of prayer, a slave-girl with a spirit divination, spoke concerning Paul and his companions, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:16-18).
This set of beliefs was not merely cold and lifeless to these demons, but resulted in a response whether of their own volition or not. Note the account in Mark 3: 11-12, “Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’”
Are you astonished to the degree that the demons believed? Does it startle you to think of their body of belief? And yet, James describes their faith as incomplete, barren, and lifeless (James 2:14-26)
So, what is the point? There was something lacking in their faith. James says in James 2:22 that works (actions/obedience) completes, finishes, and brings faith to its intended goal. If we want a faith that is complete, alive, and useful it must go beyond that of demons and include our obedience to be justified before God.