Winning Converts?

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin 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. 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.” (Luke 3:7-9 NASB)

One approach to ministry that has always confused me is the ‘seeker sensitive’ approach.  It seems that in our day pop psychology has everyone so concerned about self; self-image, self-esteem, self-centered, and so on.  It’s like we’re breeding for narcissism and histrionics.  It is the extreme edge of our American independence. And it’s very dangerous. And it is, in my opinion, a poor basis for ministry.

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Baptism Revisited

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:1-3 NASB)

Baptism is one of those hotly contested activities in Scripture that has divided followers of Jesus for two millennia.  So, here I am to finally put it to rest in 20 minutes and less than 1000 words… Okay, not that funny, but you may be asking why I bring it up at all?  Well, for two reasons really: 1) It’s in the Bible which I study relentlessly, and 2) I believe that its significance is such that I can’t simply skip it because ‘controversial’.  So I won’t.  And here I go…

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Forerunning God

 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
(Luke 1:76-79 NASB)

The people wondered what this child, surrounded by the clear work of God, would be (see verse 66).  Zachariah essentially told them.  The child he fathered would be called the prophet of the Most High.  And he would prepare the way for God Who was coming.  He would prepare them with knowledge of salvation through forgiveness because of God’s mercy.  He would be the forerunner of God Himself.

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Well Meaning Diversionary Friends

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.  And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.  But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.”  And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.”  And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. (Luke 1:57-63 NASB)

I was told when I was young by some old Baptist minister that, “The will of God can be overturned by a simple majority in a Baptist business meeting.”  I chuckled because it was supposed to be funny, but honestly, I didn’t get it.  I do now.  I learned it the hard way.  Elizabeth and Zachariah probably already knew it.  But, in spite of the risk of offending their well-meaning neighbors and relatives, they named their son John.

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