Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] To be an authentic Christian you must receive the promise of the Father. You know there are many people who proclaim Jesus or try to follow some of His teachings, but still have not received the promise of the Father. Today we're going to look at the promise of the Father and what it means to you.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on Beyond Today.
[Gary Petty] Have you ever heard of the promise of the Father? Receiving this promise is necessary if you're going to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We call it Christianity. The first Christians simply called it The Way, but what they meant by The Way can be very different than what is taught in practice by many Christians today. In this series, we've been exploring the lives of people who first responded to The Way, the cities where they lived and the reaction of their neighbors. Today we'll look at how the Christian movement started in the city of Jerusalem.
At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was already an ancient city. King David made it the capital of Israel. Almost a thousand years before Jesus and during Israel's united monarchy, they became an important economic center on the trade route between Egypt and the entire Middle East. Now Jerusalem fell into decay after the Babylonians destroyed it. In the 580 BC and about three generations later, Jews returned to rebuild their capital. When the Roman Empire conquered the Middle East, Herod the great remodeled the Jewish temple into a magnificent building and once again, Judea as it was called, then became a bustling region situated on the trade route between Egypt and all of Europe.
Even though it's been almost 2000 years since Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, it is a place of pilgrimage from all over the world. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim that it's a birthplace, a holy city, a religious city, and it is the birthplace of The Way. It was in the springtime just before the Passover, that Jesus rode into Jerusalem riding a donkey and was greeted by thousands of people. The huge crowd shouted, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." This was the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the hope for all humanity prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish religious leaders were so upset that they went to Jesus and demanded that he order the people to stop making these outlandish statements. And Jesus responded with, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
He would then enter into Jerusalem, observe the Passover with His closest disciples, then He'd be arrested and beaten and crucified. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and told them to stay in Jerusalem because it was there that they would receive this promise of the Father. And this is very important. To be a disciple of Jesus, to be an authentic Christian, you must receive the promise of the Father.
You know there are many people who proclaim Jesus or try to follow some of His teachings, but still have not received the promise of the Father. Today we're going to look at the promise of the Father and what it means to you. First followers of The Way stayed in Jerusalem for weeks waiting for this promise that Jesus had told them about until it came time for the late spring special day of worship called Pentecost. And as they met together on Pentecost, suddenly the room was filled with the sound of wind and what appeared as tongues of fire came upon them and they began to speak in different languages. They had received the promise of the Father. The Way is the path to God and the life He leads us to walk upon. It involves believing in God the Father and in Jesus Christ as Lord, but the ability to walk The Way is made possible only by receiving the promise of the Father.
Think about this for a minute. How do you spend the time every day of your life? Is your life filled with nothing more than work and video games and meaningless relationships? As you try to escape this emptiness you feel, are you filled with fear? Are you constantly wracked with guilt and hatred and consuming victims or feelings of being a victim, and envy and confusion? Well, the power those first Christians received on Pentecost is the same power God wants to give to you. And as we have seen in this series, when people accepted The Way and received the power of God, their lives dramatically changed.
God wants to create those same changes in your life. He wants to develop in you the faith in Him that helps you conquer your fear and anxiety. He wants to give you the spiritual power to break the shackles of addiction and slavery to your emotions and thoughts. It seems like we're always slaves to our own emotions and thoughts. He wants to develop in you the ability to have unselfish love, and He wants to give you the remarkable privilege to have a relationship with God, the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ.
Now before we discuss how you can receive this power of God in your life, let's briefly go back to this speaking in tongues that was part of the launching of The Way in Jerusalem. Immediately after those first Christians received the Spirit of God, this special promise, a crowd gathered because they had heard this sound of a rushing wind and they came in to see what was going on and the event is actually detailed in the book of Acts and here's what it says. "And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together and were confused." All the people there around the temple, they came, they were confused, "Because everyone heard these Christians," they weren't called Christians yet, but these people who had been there and received this gift, they heard them speak in their own language.
Now, some Christian teachers say that speaking in tongues is a form of gibberish, holy laughter, even making animal sounds or shouting while violently convulsing as proof that they've received this miraculous promise from God. And the result is a bizarre form of religious experience filled with confusion, loss of self-control. And what we're going to see is a form of godliness but denying its power. So let's look at the authentic promise of the Father and what it means in your life.
The Bible calls the promise of the Father, receiving the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. Now the New Testament contains two letters written by the apostle Paul to a young minister named Timothy, and in his second letter he wrote, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Notice that God, what He's given to people when He gives them this promise, His spirit, it's qualities of who He is because the power comes directly from God. God's spirit in us, literally dwelling in our minds, helps us conquer fear and anxiety and develops in us power, a spiritual power and love, the love of God and a sound mind. A mind that can understand and follow The Way. And this same miraculous life-changing promise of the Father given to the earliest followers of The Way, I keep saying this, it's available to you if you're willing to walk in The Way, if you're willing to follow where God leads you, but understand God doesn't possess you and turn you into a mindless puppet. And that's what we see a lot of times in this speaking in tongues. People just, they lose control. His Spirit makes it possible for us to understand who He is and to communicate with Him. It means that we share in His life and the life of Jesus Christ and that they share their lives with us. Now we must cooperate by giving our will to Him and having His Spirit work in us.
Now according to what Paul wrote to Timothy, here's what God wants to do in your life by sharing His life with you. He wants to give you power in the inner person. Now, I've heard sermons given on this subject that claim that the focus of receiving God's spirit is that God will give you the power to get wealth or to get health or to get other people to do what you want them to do. Well, let's look at what Paul told the people of The Way in the city of Ephesus when he wrote to them about this very subject. He wrote to them, "For this reason, I bow my knees to the father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Understand God does not give His power, His spirit to anyone unless they are humble before His greatness and His goodness. We must be absolutely dedicated to His greatness and to His goodness. If you think you can receive this power from God for your own aggrandizement or as a way to get things from God, then you may appear to be a Christian but actually deny the originating power of what it means to be a Christian. Paul goes on, "From who the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might to His spirit in the inner man."
The purpose of God's power given to us is to strengthen the inner man. You see, God changes people from the inside out starting with the way that we think, and the way that we process our emotions. If you think that God's power is expressed primarily in massive church buildings or grand social programs, or ecstatic ravings, you are missing the primary purpose of the promise of the Father. The purpose of God coming into your life is to call you to receive forgiveness for your crimes against Him and they are crimes against Him. That's what our sins are, to heal your heart and mind and change you into a child in His family. And here's how He does it. He continues here, Paul does, "That Christ might," listen to this, "dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love. " The purpose of God, the purpose of Christ, is to share life with you by connecting to your inner person, your mind, your emotions, your very being by His spirit.
You know this should stun you with absolute wonder that this is what God wants to do and it's unfortunately it's been cheapened in some of the teachings of modern Christianity. Paul says, "That we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and the length and the depth and the height to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who was able to exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us." Receiving the Spirit of God can involve visible miracles, healing, speaking in tongues, but the purpose of God dwelling in us is to change the inner person so that we become the literal children of God and He gives us the power of His love.
We go back to what we just read a minute ago in 2 Timothy, after Paul wrote that God's spirit gives us power. He wrote that it gives us the ability to love. All human beings are limited in our ability to love. Only by experiencing God's love can we actually share His love with others. Paul also said that God's spirit develops in us a sound mind. It's interesting the New International Version and many other English versions of the Bible translates that phrase, "sound mind" as, "self-discipline," the exact opposite of what we see in so many of the speaking in tongues demonstrations. God desires to develop in His children a mind that isn't filled with crazy thinking. It isn't filled with anger or hatred or lacking self-control, but a mind pursuing what Paul described as the fruit of the spirit. And here's what he said to the fruit of the spirit is, it's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This can only happen through submission and obedience to the power of God. And all of these changes aren't achieved simply by reciting a creed or attending religious ceremonies and returning to the old lifestyles the moment you walk out the door. It takes place in the inner person by the power of God.
In the same letter to Timothy, Paul explains the lifestyles of those who walk different than The Way. Okay, so this is the opposite of what God does in the inner person. Paul says, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come" and there he describes what it is not to walk The Way, this is what's natural for human beings. "For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful and unholy." Notice these people love themselves and money more than God and others. They're proud. They're so entitled that they're unthankful for even what God has done for them. Now does this maybe describe a little bit of sort of the society you and I live in? And yet this is a society where most people claim to be Christian. Paul continues, he says "Unloving, unforgiving, slanders, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good." Now here's the hard part. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to think about yourself and I want you to go home or I want you, when this program's over, I want you to take some time and I want you to think about yourself. Does any of this describe you? Some of this describes me. So you know what we need to do? We need to get on our knees and ask God to show us the promise of The Way and the promise of the Father. He continues. He says, "Traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Now listen to this, "Having a form of godliness but denying its power and from such people turn away." You know, we say, "Oh wow, he's talking about people that aren't Christians." But that last statement shows that they can be Christians or claim to be Christians because they have a form or appearance of godliness or being right with God, but they're not walking The Way.
You know what the truth is? Christianity has been proclaimed, ritualized, institutionalized, politicized, but seldom has it really been lived. Now if you find Paul's description of shallow Christianity to be harsh and condemning let Paul explain why. Because this is what he says to the Corinthians, which we did a program about Corinth, of The Way in Corinth. Here's what he said to them. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." You see without the promise of the Father, you nor I nor anyone can understand what God wants you to do with your life. Now because we're made in the image of God a person may come upon some spiritual principles. There are people who discover spiritual principles all the time, good ones, but we can only understand God's spiritual reality. Now this makes sense how much you think about this. You can only understand God's spiritual reality by being influenced by God.
After the original followers of The Way received the promise of the Father, what did they tell other people? How should other people, other people come into The Way and become followers of Jesus Christ? How do they get on the path? How do you begin to have a more authentic walk with God the Father and Jesus Christ? A common thread throughout the New Testament is that when the people responded to The Way they first recognized their need for God. That was the first step. Then they accepted that they had corrupted human nature and had spent their lives living contrary to God. Then they accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as God substitute for what they deserved. But then there was another step. They were baptized. They were baptized. For the people of The Way water baptism is absolutely vital to an authentic walk with God for a number of reasons. Let's look at a few of these reasons why this was really important to them and should be us to us today.
First of all, baptism is a proof that you have accepted the need to walk The Way. It is an open acceptance and you can't have an intimate relationship with God and to accept your absolute spiritual poverty without Him. Water baptism is a declaration that you are sorrowful and shameful for a lifetime of living a different way than what God has designed for you to live. It is a proclamation that you have repented, meaning that you have a desire to have God change your mind and your heart and your actions.
A second reason it was important is, baptism is an outward expression of faith. Baptism is a declaration that you have accepted the person of Jesus Christ and believe that His sacrifice can be applied to you so that God will erase the spiritual penalty of your wrongdoings. And what is the penalty for not repenting? Being cut off from God and someday standing before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ to receive the eternal death penalty.
Three, baptism symbolizes God washing away your sins. Any relationship with God and His ultimate goodness requires that we accept His forgiveness. The apostle Paul describes going under the water at baptism as symbolizing the death of the old person and coming out of the water as emerging as a new person. And this is why the biblical form of baptism is total immersion, not sprinkling. And Jesus gave His followers an example by being baptized by John the Baptist. He wasn't baptized because He was sinful and needed God's forgiveness, but because He was leaving us an example of how to follow The Way. If you really desire to follow Jesus in The Way you must follow His teachings and you must follow His examples. One of the last things He told His disciples was to go out and baptize people. Now I know sometimes you will hear a preacher say you don't need to be baptized for salvation. Those who say you don’t need to be baptized are teaching salvation by works and not by faith. You know this is disingenuous because it misses the point of the teachings of Jesus Christ. If a person is being led by God to receive salvation, that person will understand his or her spiritual poverty. They will be driven by a desire to love and follow Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation. And if Jesus leaves us an example, then we will be dedicated to following His example as what? As an act of faith. Otherwise, the person is just living a form of godliness but denying His power.
Four, baptism is a sign that you have entered into a covenant with God. And this is one of the least known teachings about water baptism. It is a sign that God through Jesus Christ has made a personal covenant with you.
Five, baptism is the public ceremony of receiving the promise of the Father. The baptism ceremony of the earliest Christians didn't end, by the way, with the person just coming out of the water. Elders would then lay hands on the person's head and pray for them to receive the promise of the Father.
Now, if you find yourself being motivated to explore the biblical teaching about baptism, we have a free study guide that can help you understand the remarkable meaning of this simple ceremony. "Transforming Your Life. The Process of Conversion" will take you through many New Testament examples of how important baptism was to the people of The Way. And you will see how Jesus set the example of what you must do to prepare for baptism. One of the chapters explains what is sin? Because without a definition of sin, we can't understand the depths of repentance God requires from us. You also discover the important reasons for water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God will transform your life by giving you spiritual power, love, and a sound mind. Then you will learn how to continue your walk on The Way. You can receive your free copy of, "Transforming Your Life. The Process of Conversion" by calling the number on your screen or going to BeyondToday.TV where you can download a copy or request a printed copy. If God calls you to respond to His calling, don't wait. Call the number on your screen. Go to BeyondToday.TV and read, "Transforming Your Life. The Process of Conversion."
So let's just quickly review why baptism is so important in order to be a follower of The Way. Well, baptism is a proof that you have accepted the need to walk The Way. It's a proof, it's an outward expression. Secondly, and this is really important, baptism is an outward expression of faith. It's not against faith, it's the expression of faith. You have to express faith for it to be real. Baptism also symbolizes God washing away your sins. We all have to come to the understanding of our spiritual poverty. We all have to come to the understanding of our wickedness, that we need God's forgiveness. We want God's forgiveness and God wants to forgive you. God isn't holding back forgiveness. He's offering it. He offers it through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who took upon Himself what we deserve, and that was resurrected to be there in order to present us to God as our intercessor. He presents us to God. Also, baptism is a sign that you've entered into a covenant with God, an agreement with God. And baptism is the public ceremony of receiving the promise of the Father, receiving God's Holy Spirit to actually dwell in us that we live in Him, He lives in us.
So far in this series called The Way we've looked at the earliest Christians in Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, and Jerusalem. And next time we'll look at a little known church in the city of Sardis. And the reason this is so important is because that group of people believed The Way, walked The Way, and went a different path. They went a different path. And so when we look at The Way in Sardis, we will look at a church that died. So join us next time on Beyond Today.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, "Transforming Your Life. The Process of Conversion" The Bible reveals that a person must become converted to be in God's family. Conversion is a life transforming process and it's only possible through the direct powerful involvement of God. Order now call toll free1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. It's time to finally overcome sin in your life. You'll discover what the Bible teaches about Christ's true followers and what it means to be called chosen and faithful. When you order this free study aid. We'll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Transforming Your Life. The Process of Conversion" and your free one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to BeyondToday.TV.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches you found the right place, visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.