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baptism salvation Uncategorized

“WHAT PREVENTS ME FROM BEING BAPTIZED?”

Neal Pollard

Philip encounters a man returning from worshipping God in Jerusalem. The man, an Ethiopian eunuch, was reading from the scroll of Isaiah.  Philip engages him in conversation, asking the African man if he understood what he was reading.  This very important man was humble enough to ask for help, and Philip climbed into the chariot and delved into the text, Isaiah 53 as we would recognize it today, and taught him about Jesus.  This led the Ethiopian to ask, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NASU).  He is saying that he understood who Jesus is, understood his need, and was now at a place where there was sufficient water for him to be baptized in order to have his sins forgiven.  Perhaps Philip pointed out the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and through baptism we reenact those very aspects (cf. Rom. 6:1-6). Perhaps Philip discussed the fact that a baptism “washes away sins” for believers in Christ who act in obedient faith (cf. Acts 22:16).  Whatever Philip preached about Jesus, it led the eunuch to correctly deduce his need to be baptized.

There are a good number of people who are currently or were formerly in a Bible study with someone, learned their need to be baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27), but have yet to do so.  There are an untold number of young people who are of accountable age who as of yet have not been baptized.  How many spouses of Christians know they need to do it, but have not been baptized?  Each individual mentioned in the groups above, as well as all others, are of infinite value to God (cf. Matt. 16:26).  No doubt, God would desire anyone who has yet to come to the knowledge of the truth to do so and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).  Would he not want us all to ask, “What prevents me from being baptized?”

Certainly, one might give many answers to this question.  Let us examine some answers commonly given to this question.

“I’m Not Ready.”

Some individuals are not ready.  There are some too young to truly know right from wrong.  There are some who have not yet been sufficiently taught.  However, there are some who are not ready for the commitment, the sacrifice, and the submission needed to make Jesus Lord. There will never be a better sacrifice than Jesus.  One will never have more time left to give to the Lord than right now. God cannot possibly extend more love or grace. If one is not ready, he or she should ask, “What will ready me?”

“I’m Afraid.”

Fear is understandable.  Jesus apparently experienced it (cf. Heb. 5:7; Lk. 22:42). Paul experienced fear (Col. 4:4).  Peter certainly grappled with fear (cf. Matt. 26:69-74; 1 Pet. 3:14-15).  John exhorted the Christians in his audience not to succumb to fear, as it is a barrier to salvation (Rev. 21:8).  

One might fear the change that follows becoming a Christian.  One might fear failure in their Christian walk.  One might fear the reaction and even the rejection of others.  Jesus once taught, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).  One must evaluate those fears and ask if any of them is worth risking the fearful prospect of standing before the Lord without His blood covering their sins.
“I’m Not Sure.”

Peter unquestionably says, “Make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Pet. 1:10).  However, he is not giving people an excuse to put off obeying Christ.  Remember, he is speaking to those already purified from their former sins (1:9)–those who had already been baptized. There is a need to reason through scripture (cf. Isa. 1:18). Paul reasoned with individuals about Christ on many occasions (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 24:25).  The fact is that the biblical claims about who Jesus is and how one receives the benefits of His grace are most reasonable. Rationalization, hard-heartedness, and self-will may be the seeds that grow into weeds of doubt, but there is no need to doubt or allow doubt to prevent one from submitting to Christ.

“I Don’t Believe.”

One may or may not say those specific words.  Yet, when one sees the truth of scripture, knows the personal accountability demanded, and does nothing about it, that one essentially does not believe.  At least, faith is insufficient to properly respond to God’s amazing grace. This is a hard truth to confront in ourselves.  I see it.  I know it.  But, I will not act upon it.  The Hebrews writer says the Israelites could not enter the promised land because of unbelief (Heb. 3:19), and he warns us against imitating them (Heb. 3:12ff).  Even the demons believe and tremble, though it does them no good (cf. Jas. 2:19).  We must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).

Perhaps you are one who could ask yourself, “What prevents me from being baptized?”  Cast a long mental gaze at the cross of Calvary and comprehend the love and sacrifice evidenced there.  Such was for you (cf. Gal. 2:20).  God’s love for you is personal. He wants nothing more than for you to live with Him eternally, and He has told you what is involved in that (cf. Acts 2:38).  What prevents you from being baptized?

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Categories
evangelism Uncategorized

A Literal Appeal For “Help”

Neal Pollard

In an interview given at her home, Ann Rodgers appears a bit eccentric but a wonder to behold. The 72-year-old woman survived 9 days in an Arizona desert by eating plants and drinking pond water. She was driving to Phoenix via a remote stretch of back country road on the White River Indian Reservation when she got lost and subsequently ran out of gas. Thus began a series of efforts, building signal fires to draw the attention of rescuers or the forest service. She got lost while climbing a series of ridges trying to get cell signal. She and her dog faced gloomy odds, but she kept trying. She went missing on March 31st. On April 3rd, she used sticks and rocks to spell out “help.” To further draw attention to it, she found an antelope skull nearby and placed it with her message (via nbcnews.com). Since moving out west, I have learned that people frequently get lost in the vast stretches of deserts and mountains. I cannot find statistics for how many people get lost or how many are found alive or dead in the United States, but each incident is obviously traumatic for those involved. Can’t you imagine how desperately and completely those who realize their lostness long to be saved?

Wherever you go today, the vast majority of the people you encounter are going to be wandering through this world lost in the most profound way. Without rescue, they are heading for a fate infinitely worse than physical death. “Lost” is the way Jesus, the Good Shepherd, describes those not right with God. While He uses the word that way in three of the four gospels (Mat. 10:6; 18:11; Luke 19:10; John 18:9), it is the parables of Luke 15 that most vividly speak in these terms. The first parable, that of the lost sheep, draws on the search and rescue metaphor (Luke 15:4). That’s how Jesus likens the situation with one outside of God’s redemption.

Be watching for signs from the lost. They often send signals, if we are looking in the right places. Whether personal problems, major life changes (like marriage or having children), those new to the area, or those demonstrating an open mind, they may be just like the Ethiopian Eunuch and hoping for someone to guide them (Acts 8:30-31). Jesus has us here to conduct search and rescue missions. May we have our eyes peeled and keep ourselves equipped to rescue the lost. They are out there everywhere.

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Categories
attitude Uncategorized

You Sure Do Have An Attitude!

Neal Pollard

Unavoidably, you do! And consider what hinges on what kind of attitude you have. Often, the difference in winning and losing is attitude. Happiness and sadness is a matter of attitude rather than circumstances. Failure and success is determined, many times, by what kind of attitude we have toward the task. Even one’s attractiveness and repulsiveness are, many times, gauged by his or her attitude in life.
You, the Christian, have an attitude! You can be a sour-faced, negative, paranoid, bitter, fearful, stressed out, unhappy, grouchy, withdrawn, depressed, whiny, angry, hypercritical, pessimistic, suspicious, and therefore poor specimen of a Christian. Or, you can be a hopeful, interested, enthusiastic, peace-filled, joyful, bright, forgiving, compassionate, holy, pure, winsome, righteous, smiling beacon of light in a world filled with tons of negative, disgruntled, and chronically unhappy people.
Since your sins are forgiven, your Lord and Master is unmatched, your life is blessed, and your future is exciting, isn’t it natural that you should have a good attitude? A good attitude can transform the people around you, positively impact your circumstances, win the hearts of rivals and enemies, transform your own inner trouble, and give pleasure to the God of heaven. You didn’t know you had that much influence, did you? But you do! Use it for good by wielding a good attitude.
Salvation to restore a sin-sick soul, forgiveness for a guilty heart, and acceptance from a loving God despite our unworthiness are often more unbelievable to folks than any physical feat to attain. If our attitude reflects the consequences of having received those things, we can appeal to untold others to achieve the same state of life by following our lead. So, how’s your attitude?
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Categories
endurance lost salvation

Shipwreck

Neal Pollard

The hope of finding survivors on the cargo ship El Faro has severely dwindled, as one of two lifeboats, severely damaged, has been discovered as well as one body.  While the other lifeboat from the ship, with a capacity for 43 persons, has not been found in the ocean waters off the Bahamas, the 735 foot long ship sent a distress signal Thursday from near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin as it battled 20-30 foot waves.  The Coast Guard is hopeful, but the realistic expectation is that this will soon be a recovery rather than rescue mission (info from cbsnews.com and reuters.com). Out of all the frightening ways to face death, being lost at sea has to be near the top.  There’s the foreboding strength of battering waves, the immense, liquid darkness of the deep, the mystery of what lies beneath the surface, the horrific experience of drowning, and the overall helplessness in the face of a fierce overwhelming force.  Since maritime history goes back for millennia, people both ancient and modern have faced the terrors of shipwreck. Dating at least as far back as the ship found off Dokos, Greece, dating back to 2700-2200 B.C. carrying a cargo of pottery (read more at http://www.mhargolid.nl/data/webb1992.pdf), mankind has experienced the sinking of ships.

No wonder New Testament writers seize on this common situation of life. Luke records (Acts 27:14) and Paul looks back on (2 Cor. 11:25) literal shipwrecks the apostle survived.  How fitting that he is the one who describes those who lose their faith as those who have “suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). Preventing shipwreck, according to Paul, necessitates.

  • A fighting (1:18). Just as crew members must strain at their tasks on deck, despite weathering difficult winds and choppy seas, we cannot be passive and yielding in spiritual storms. Paul warns Ephesus against being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (4:14).  Faith is vital to equipping one for the spiritual fight.
  • A keeping (1:19). You can imagine someone clinging to ropes and rails or staying at the helm or rudder as they weather the storms of life. But the lifelines to which we must cling in such torrents is faith and a good conscience (see 1:5). Our spiritual constitution and fortitude spell the difference between survival and lostness.
  • A teaching (1:18-20).  Training often spells the difference in surviving out at sea.  Certainly, keeping a cool head and being able to use, when needed, that which has been previously learned is vital!  Paul says as much regarding the survival of spiritual shipwreck.  He mentions an entrusted command (1:18), prophesies (1:18), and being taught (1:20). The best teaching may not help the literal sailor in storm-tossed seas, but heavenly teaching is guaranteed to rescue those so equipped even in the face of the most seemingly insurmountable difficulties of life.

We had the feeling of finality of those lost at sea.  Thankfully, as long as one lives, he or she can be recovered from spiritual shipwreck. But, they must come back from such depths and take hold of God’s life preserver, His Son Jesus Christ! Let us do our part to rescue the perishing, snatching them with pity from sin and the grave (2 Pet. 3:9).