Baptism 1

The Aim of this devotional study is to grow in understanding and obedience of Biblical baptism.

Scripture

Matthew 3:1-12

1  In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”  4  Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

5  Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6  and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8  Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11  “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Observation

  1. John brought about a big revival in Judea in his day. Let’s ask the interrogative questions to understand John’s Baptism.
  • What did John preach? (What was the core of his message?)
  • Where and to whom did John preach?
  • Why did John preach? (v3, v11-12)
  • What was the result of John’s preaching? (v5-7)
  1. Think of what John was doing in his ministry – preaching repentance and baptizing people. Why do you think his prophetic ministry had such a powerful impact on the nation at that time?  (Think of the link between his preaching and his action – word and symbolism).
  2. In essence, John’s purpose was called to prepare the Jewish nation by calling them out of their sinful ways and calling them to seek God and his way (repentance) and point out Jesus as the Messiah (Greek: the Christ). He said “I baptize with water… [Jesus] will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (v11)  Read verse 12 to understand Jesus’ ministry compared to John’s ministry:
  • What is the imagery used here to describe Jesus’ ministry?
  • In the wheat sifting process – what is kept and what is discarded? How is it discarded?
  • John says Jesus will “sift wheat with the winnowing fork” – whom will he sift and how will he sift them? What is another word for Jesus’ “sifting” ministry? [hint: think court of law…]
  • Regarding Jesus ministry: Who will he baptize with Holy Spirit? And who will he baptize with fire? [for instance, look at John’s comments to the Pharisees v7-10]
  • In conclusion, how does John and Jesus’ “baptism ministries” relate?

Application

  1. “How one responds to John’s call to a baptism of repentance will determine whether Jesus will baptize you will the Holy Spirit or with fire.” What are your thoughts and feelings to this statement?  Do you agree that repentance is necessary for salvation?
  2. When and how did you go through John’s baptism of repentance? How did you change so that there was a marked life difference (“fruit in keeping with your repentance” v8)?

Prayer

Pray with David and ask God through his Spirit to lovingly reveal your heart to yourself, as he sees it, and respond appropriately: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24)

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Salvation 15

The Aim of this devotional study is to reflect on Jesus’ substitutionary death for you and me, and respond appropriately.

This short video by Judah Smith will help to reflect on today’s text.

Scripture

Matthew 27:15-26

15  Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.  16  And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

17  So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

18  For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.  19  Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

20  Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

21  The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

22  Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”

23  And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24  So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

25  And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

26  Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Observation, Application and prayer

In which ways can you identify with guilty Barabbas being freed and innocent Jesus taking his place on the cross? Spend some time in reflection, prayer and worship to the God of grace.

Salvation and the Spirit 5

The Aim of this devotional study is to grow in the knowledge and understanding the Holy Spirit’s function in our ongoing salvation.

Scripture

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

1   Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

7  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Observation

  1. As Paul starts to conclude his letter to the church in Thessaloniki he addresses the cultural acceptance of Greco-Roman immorality. From this text try to summarize
  • his appeal to them (what should they do?) v1-7
  • the motive of his appeal to them (why listen?) v3, 7
  • the warning he gave them (what if they won’t obey?) v6
  • the urgency of the situation (why is this important?) v8
  1. What is the link between the appeal to holy conduct, the warning of punishment and the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Application and prayer

  1. Paul is writing to Christians, reminding them of previous instructions (v1-2). Do you find it strange that they be reminded to walk in holiness now that they are saved?  How do you relate, since we live a similar promiscuous world?
  2. Consider your own daily life with your thoughts, feelings, motives, relationships, actions, dreams – now think of Paul’s appeal “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness… [He] gives us his Holy Spirit” (v7-8). What thoughts and feelings /convictions does that conjure up in you? Bring those thoughts and convictions in prayer to God – in confession or repentance or humble reflection.

James 4:4-5  Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

  1. Consider also the similar instruction of James 4:4-5 above. We have discovered in the previous posts on Salvation that God has saved us from the sin, death and the world, marking us as his own through the seal of the Holy Spirit – setting us aside to and for himself.  Spend time in prayer to reflect on this truth of salvation as being set aside for God, who has given his Spirit to live in us so we can have fellowship with him. How will this change your life today?  Write down your thoughts and talk it through with a friend.

Salvation and the Spirit 4

The aim of this devotional study is to understand and appreciate the Spirit’s participation in our continuing salvation.

Scripture

Ephesians 1:7-14

7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12  so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Observations

  1. It is very helpful to replace key words or phrases with appropriate synonyms to better understand the fullness of a Text. Re-read the text out loud and replace the words in bold with synonyms (similar phrases).
  2. According to this text, what is a function of the Holy Spirit pertaining our salvation?
  3. What is meant with the phrase “sealed with the …Holy Spirit”?
  4. What do you understand is “our inheritance” that is kept for us?
  5. What does Paul mean when he says the Holy Spirit in us “is the guarantee” of our inheritance?
  6. What does Paul refer to when he says “until we acquire possession” of our inheritance?

Application

Paul writes that we are “sealed” or “marked as God’s property” through the Holy Spirit.  He adds that we have the Spirit as our “guarantee” or “engagement ring” – the promise that we will forever be united as through marriage.  Thus the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer brings security that He is united with God in Christ through the indwelling of His Spirit, and therefore his eternal salvation is certain – he is now and forever one with God, the Source of Life.

  1. How do you know that the Holy Spirit lives in you?
  2. How do others know that the Holy Spirit lives in you?
  3. How confident are you that your salvation in God is certain and secure?

Prayer

If you have the gift of praying in tongues, spend significant time praying in the Holy Spirit and asking God for interpretation now, otherwise ask God to fill you with His Spirit and ask Him for spiritual gifts you desire from Him.

Salvation and the Spirit 3

The aim of this devotional study is to understand and participate with the Holy Spirit’s work in our continuing salvation.

Scripture

Romans 8:8-17

8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  12  So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  15  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17  and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Observations

  1. The “Spirit” is mentioned 10 times in these 9 verses. List the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life according this passage.
  2. Now, in one sentence, explain what the Holy Spirit does for the believer’s salvation from this passage.

Application and prayer

  1. What is your greatest (fleshly) weakness? Write it down, then next to it write verse 11.  Spend some time in declaration, for instance “since the Spirit of Him who rose Christ from the grave dwells in me, he who rose Christ from the grave will give life to this [fleshly weakness] through the Spirit who lives in me” and “[fleshly weakness] I owe you nothing but by the Spirit I put you to death” (v12-13).  Spend some time ask God for grace through his Spirit to overcome this weakness.
  2. Read again verse 15-16. Do you feel like a son/ child of God? Do you feel accepted and loved and confident before God? If you have surrendered your life to Christ he has poured his Spirit into you, and then you are his child. So personalize and pray verses 15-17 out loud a few times. Thank God for the gift of sonship though his Spirit.

Salvation and the Spirit 2

The aim of this devotional is to grow in understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in our (ongoing) salvation.

Scripture

Genesis 2:7  then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

John 20:19-22  On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Observations and reflection

Note: As mentioned in previous studies, the Gospel authors recorded the life and teachings of Jesus while many times hinting at Old Testament accounts to bring out greater significance to what Jesus was doing or saying.  Most Biblical commentators link these two passages above, convinced that John hinted back at the creation of man in this section.

  1. John repeated refers to the Holy Spirit as life-giving (John 3:3-5, 6:63, 7:38-39 etc). With that in mind, what do you understand happened with the disciples in John 20:22?
  2. Why did Jesus need to breathe his Spirit on the disciples?
  3. This happened after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Why did Jesus not do this before his crucifixion?

Application

  1. Could you point to one instance in your life when Jesus “breathed his Life-giving Spirit into you”? What changed that moment?

Prayer

Spend some time worshipping Jesus with this truth from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 15:45  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit.”

Now pray for someone on your heart who is still dead in their sins, that he/she would meet Jesus, the Life-giving Spirit.

Salvation and the Spirit 1

The Aim of this devotional study is to consider the relationship between salvation and the Holy Spirit.

Scripture

John 3:1-8

3  Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’   8  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Observation

  1. According to this teaching of Jesus, how does one get “born again” / “saved”?
  2. According to this teaching of Jesus, what is the key characteristic of those who have been “born again”?

Note: It is important to emphasize here that “God’s salvation’ is synonymous with being “born again”, is synonymous with “entering into the Kingdom of God”.  The way which God accomplishes this work of salvation in us is through regeneration by his Holy Spirit. You cannot be born again without the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in your life.  This truth is a key focus in both John and Paul’s writings, which we will look at in the next five posts.

Application

  1. John 3:8 states that the key distinctive of someone being born again is a life moved and/ or transformed through the Holy Spirit – that people can witness even though they do not see or know the Holy Spirit. What evidence of the moving and transforming work of the Spirit is visible in your life?
  2. This verse also suggest that Christianity is not primarily an intellectual and philosophical religion, but a Spirit-empowered life. Reflect on how much of your relationship with God is focused on Biblical theory and how much is visible in power to become godly (2 Timothy 3:1,5) and power to minister with evidence (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?

2Timothy 3:1 ,5 “…in the last days there will be… [people] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

1 Corinthians 2:4-5  “and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Prayer

Thank God for the work of regeneration through his Holy Spirit, and talk to God about a life driven by His Spirit.

Salvation 14

The Aim of this devotional study is to learn about Jesus’ teaching of salvation to two very different people.

Scriptures

Today we compare two consecutive accounts in John to learn from the comparison.

John 3:1-12

1  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  2  This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3  Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9  Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

10  Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11  Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

John 4:5-26

5  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7  A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  8  (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)

9  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

10  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

11  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  12  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

13  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,

14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

17  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  18  for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

19  The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  22  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  24  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Observations

The accounts in John 3 and 4 are placed next to each other very purposefully.

  1. It helps to sometimes make lists or columns to see the arguments clearly. Take the following list of descriptive nouns and place them in the right columns to note the deliberate oppositeness of the accounts:

late at night || at noonday; in city|| outside small town;  this one initiated the conversation with Jesus || Jesus initiated the conversation with this one; man || woman; very educated || simple; elite || outcast in town;  ruler || commoner; Jew || Samaritan;

In John 3                                             In John 4

  1. Notice how both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman had their own theories of salvation. How did each one reason about salvation?  Briefly summarize Jesus’ argument to both?
  2. What element of salvation did Jesus highlight in these two very different methaphors? (hint: 3:8 and 4:23-24)

Application

  1. Each of these two very different people had their own theories of salvation, but Jesus confronted both with the truth. What do you think John wanted to teach his readers by placing these two “opposite stories with the same lesson” ?
  2. Is there someone with his/her own theories who comes to mind when you read these accounts? What does that challenge you to do today?

Prayer

Jesus was loving, fearless and shameless to confront other theories of salvation with the truth of himself.  Pray for that love, fearlessness and shamelessness as you remember Paul’s words “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

Salvation 13

The Aim of this devotional study is to learn about God’s forgiveness and salvation in response to our cries for help.

Scripture

Psalms 130:1-8

1  Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!  2  O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

3  If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  4  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;  6  my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

7  O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.  8  And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Observations

  1. Take one word from every section to summarize that portion of the Psalm

v1-2:

v3-4:

v5-6:

v7-8:

  1. Now in one sentence, summarize what you understand this Psalm is about.
  2. What do you think is his link between “depth” (v1) and “iniquities” (v3) in this Psalm?

Application

  1. When you read this Psalm, to whom would you recommend it as encouragement and guideline to help them with their situation? e. into what type of situation does this Psalm speak?
  2. What practical guidelines do you learn from this Psalm response to hopeless situations – even if they were caused by your foolishness or sin?

Prayer

Personalize and pray this prayer of deliverance for yourself or someone in a tough, hopeless situation.

Salvation 12

The Aim of this devotional study is to grow in understanding and appreciation for our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Scripture

Philippians 2:5-13

5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  9  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Observation

  1. The gospel (according to Paul, refer 1 Cor 15) is simply the announcement of how God dealt with our separation from him (resulting in our sinful depravity and pending death) by giving his Son as a substation for our punishment and death, and subsequent victory over sin and death. Look at this text and write down what you can see about the gospel (“good news”) of our salvation.
  2. Some say that salvation is an event, other says it’s a process. What would you answer them out of this text?
  3. Some say that salvation is by faith only, other ay you have to do something. What would you answer them out of this text?
  4. Some say that God saves us, others say that we need to work with God. What would you answer them out of this text?
  5. In reference to the immediate context, what was Paul referring to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”?

Application

  1. If someone asked you “how should I work out my salvation?” – what would you answer them?
  2. In a very practical, day-to-day way – how do you “work our your salvation”? And what aspect of your salvation are you working out at the moment?  (Consider also what is the Lord busy with regarding your salvation?)

Prayer

Thank the Lord that He “is always at work in us, giving you the desire and ability to fulfill his will” [Phil 2:13, NIV translation].  And ask Him what is busy with in your life – pray about that.