fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Baptized on the other side of the Jordan

Baptized on the other side of the Jordan by Julie McAllen

Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

 27To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:23-30)

Like John the Baptist, parents, pastors and “friends of the bridegroom” can be credited with leading individuals to Christ, but at some point Christ himself takes over. The role of discipling someone is to lead that person to repentance, but the role of teaching has always been given to the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27) Nothing can be received without it, a humbling reminder for those called to teach. Nothing illustrates this better than the example of John in accepting and understanding his role in God’s purpose. John understood his role. When people pointed out that Jesus was baptizing and gaining followers, John humbly and clearly stated ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ He understood the bride belonged not to him but to Jesus, the bridegroom. His role was simply to prepare her to meet him.

 11″I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matthew 3:11)

John’s baptism was one of repentance. The second baptism is into Christ himself.

There is a lesson for us today in how we view our place in the body of Christ. Are we more dependent on the one who led us to Christ or are we growing more dependent on Christ himself? Are we baptizing people to keep them within our teachings or praying they grow to maturity in their own relationship with Christ? Do you see the difference between John the Baptist’s humble attitude and the arrogance of some religions? Both do a good work in leading people to repentance, but in the case of some teachers they see themselves as the end and therefore GREATER than the one we really need to be baptized in–Jesus Christ. Who must become greater? You will know you are in a safe church when Christ becomes greater and they are not threatened by becoming less. Friends of the bridegroom rejoice when this happens, but those who desire to be greater than Christ intimidate, persecute and criticize those who truly desire to follow Jesus. I can see that even when a small gathering of Christians is sincere and they branch out to include more brothers and therefore have need of a building and some governing rules, it can easily become corrupt–simply because now they have things to pay for. Can an established church today even AFFORD to let go of its people as they grow in Christ or do they keep ’em locked in to pay for their pews and programs?  Am I saying organized religion is bad then? No, but I am cautious with it. Would those who know Christ now have known him if they had NOT been exposed to the pews and programs first? For many, Bible truths are learned in their childhood churches. I know in my case, I did not receive a biblical education as a child and therefore believe I was actually led by God to the religion where I received instruction not only in the Bible but also in understanding the dangers of religion. I simply learned as an adult what many come to realize and reject as children. It was necessary to my spiritual growth, but I did not reject God when I rejected my religion. All too often, those hurt in organized religion do this. There is a delicate balance between Law and Spirit then. It seems to be the process as God did the same thing with the nation of Israel. He gathered and led them through law first before opening the way to Him through Spirit. The law was not opposed to the promises of God, rather it was put in place to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:21-25). If you have a grievance against the religion that raised you, this is a reminder that though God eventually divorced Israel and ended the old law covenant, those tutored under it valued it and used it as a platform from which to minster to others. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

What we minister through the word as the church can only go so far. As we share God’s truths from the Bible, those who hear may be given the grace to embrace wholesome living and obedience. Teaching someone is a good work as the student becomes aware of what sin is and the promises contained in the Bible. If you are a believer, no doubt you have a specific memory of who taught you and when you were led to repent of your former sinful ways. Parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers and friends along the way shared in that joy and they should be remembered with respect and honor for the good work they started. But there is more. It is not enough to know and teach accurately. There is another teacher. It is not enough to simply be baptized in water. There is another baptism.

24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26)

Isn’t that interesting? Apollos had a thorough knowledge of scripture and even taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He did not know the way of God adequately. What was missing? Read on in Acts 19:1-7

1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.

Apollos, though bold in his accurate witness was seen by those spiritually mature as lacking something. He was not offended, he yielded to the greater baptism. John the Baptist saw his role and let go knowing he was the lesser part in a person’s spiritual awakening. We may leave the religion in which we were water baptized, but we can never leave Christ in whom we were born of Spirit. We rest in him and yet, our need for fellowship with others may lead us back into a religious environment. John the Baptist may be teaching for a while, but somewhere along the way we meet Jesus. Is there a tug-o-war at that point? Do we mingle back into religion WITH Jesus at our side now, or has that religion run it’s course? The religion may not be wrong for others along the path, just wrong for us now. Let it be. Maybe it’s like running back to John the Baptist. What more can John do if you’ve crossed the Jordan?

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

August 31, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Beginning

ISAIAH 54:1-10

42-16482893While damaged caused by sin may at times be irreparable, we can look forward to a new beginning after having repented and received God’s forgiveness. The blessings that come from being reconciled to the Lord are (among many) a peaceful heart and the help to endure the consequences caused by transgression.

The nation of Israel also had reason to celebrate a new beginning. The Babylonian exile of Judah in 587 BCE didn’t mean that God no longer regarded them as a chosen people among other nations. Rather, it was just the opposite. God is a keeper of promises; He promised that Abraham’s seed would be blessed and the messiah would come from his seed and that of David. Although Judah was in captivity, Isaiah Chapter 54 depicts a time when God’s people would be reconciled to Him. In the meantime, Judah would be considered a “barren one” during her captivity.

 1(A)Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
         For the sons of the (B)desolate one will be (C)more numerous
         Than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD.

2(D)Enlarge the place of your tent;
         Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
         Lengthen your (E)cords
         And strengthen your (F)pegs.
    3“For you will (G)spread abroad to the right and to the left
         And your descendants will (H)possess nations
         And will (I)resettle the desolate cities.

Barrenness was a considered a disgrace for a woman during bible times.  Not being able to produce a child was comparable to someone useless, unproductive and unworthy; it was considered a curse or punishment from God. Judah was “barren” in a sense that she couldn’t produce fruitage.  However, Isaiah prophesied that Judah would rejoice again; God’s promise of reversal of their dreadful state and of restoration would be realized; they would again be returned to usefulness.  They will have to expand their tents due to the numerous residents in their land.

4“Fear not, for you will (J)not be put to shame;
         And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
         But you will forget the (K)shame of your youth,
         And the (L)reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
    5“For your (M)husband is your Maker,
         Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
         And your (N)Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
         Who is called the (O)God of all the earth.

Many people remain in guilt and don’t allow themselves to be reconciled to God – they remain in widowhood, producing no fruitage. God’s people have no reason to feel ashamed or disgraced.  Being a widow in Isaiah’s day was just as humiliating as being barren, but God promised to restore even the widow. He will give her a Husband, one who will forgive her and redeem her. Letting go of the grip of barrenness is only achievable by repentance. Only then can the Holy Spirit work in us so that we feel God’s peace through his forgiveness.   There is shame and disgrace associated with rebellion, but once you experience God’s mercy, you’ll no longer remember the disgrace; shameful pasts and failures are left behind.

 6“For the LORD has called you,
         Like a wife (P)forsaken and grieved in spirit,
         Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,”
         Says your God.
    7“For a (Q)brief moment I forsook you,
         But with great compassion I will (R)gather you.
    8“In an (S)outburst of anger
         I hid My face from you for a moment,
         But with everlasting (T)lovingkindness I will (U)have compassion on you,”
         Says the LORD your (V)Redeemer.

I especially love these verses in Isaiah because it paints such a portrait of a compassionate and merciful God. When we sin, we feel deserted and wounded in spirit. God hides his face from us in that he removes his protection and guidance. Our Father is not a dictator; he would never force us to obey him if we choose wickedness over Him.  He thus departs from us in love. However, He promises to take us back and restores us to Him if we turn back from sin.

9“For this is like the days of Noah to Me,
         When I swore that the waters of Noah
         Would (W)not flood the earth again;
         So I have sworn that I will (X)not be angry with you
         Nor will I rebuke you.
    10“For the (Y)mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
         But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
         And My (Z)covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
         Says (AA)the LORD who has compassion on you.

We have a new beginning in Christ; we’re no longer in disgrace or fallen. The peace we experience from being reconciled is wonderful; nothing compares to it.  Let us celebrate the One who called us to repentance and restoration and let us celebrate OUR NEW BEGINNING.   Amen and amen.

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A New Beginning


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