To any thinking person the baptism of Jesus presents a problem. John’ baptism was a baptism of repentance, meant for those who were sorry for their sins and who wished to express their determination to have done with them. What had such a baptism to do with Jesus? Was He not the sinless One, and was not such a baptism unnecessary and quite irrelevant as far as He was concerned? For Jesus the baptism was four things.
1. It was the moment of decision. For thirty years He had stayed in Nazareth. Faithfully He had done His day’s work and discharged His duties to His home. For a long time He must have been conscious that the time for Him to go out had to come. He must have waited for a sign. The emergence of John was that sign. This, He saw, was the moment when He had to launch out upon His task.
2. It was the moment of identification. It is true that Jesus did not need to repent from sin, but here was a movement of the people back to God, and with that Godward movement He was determined to identify Himself. It is possible to possess ease and comfort and wealth and still to identify with a movement to bring better things to the downtrodden and the poor and the ill-housed and the overworked and the underpaid. The really great identification is when people identify with such a movement, not for their own sake, but for the sake of others.
3. It was the moment of approval. No one lightly leaves home and sets out on an unknown way. He or she must be very sure that the decision is right. Jesus had decided on His course of action, and now He was looking for the seal of the approval of God.
4. It was the moment of equipment. At that time the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. [giving Jesus the power for His ministry]. There is a certain symbolism here. The Spirit descended as a dove might descend. The dove is the symbol of gentleness. He will conquer, but the conquest will be the conquest of love.
“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping things that creepeth upon the earth.” (Leviticus 11:44).
Some people think that to be holy means to be odd. No, we’re to be different. We have too many Christians doing unbiblical things who claim to be holy when in reality they are just odd!
Holiness is not achieved by what we have on, where we sleep and eat, or how many spiritual things we do. It is not primarily a matter of dress or style of hair. And we don’t become holy if we live in a commune, monastery, or convent. There is no holiness in a hole.
God makes us holy by the blood of His Son. And in return of this great love, we endeavor to live holy lives because we love Him. Holiness is a state of being, not doing. It is a God-induced, God-developed character trait that grows in us as we grow in our love relationship with God.
Take a snapshot inventory of your life. Where do you need to start making changes to live a more holy lifestyle? Do you know of any area in your life where you are not living in obedience to the call of holy living?
“I now send you, to open their eyes … that they may receive forgiveness of sins …” (Acts 26:17-18).
This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all the New Testament.
God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “… that they may receive forgiveness of sins …” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. The only sign that a person is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light. But that is not salvation; it is conversion – only the effort of an awakened human being. I do not think it is too broad a statement to say that the majority of so-called Christians are like this. Their eyes are open, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is a neglected fact in our preaching today. When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and no because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation mans that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.
This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “… an inheritance among those who are sanctified …” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.
“The Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
We must be very careful in judging our motives, searching them as detectives search each person who enters a public building or event. When we have, by God’s grace, been delivered from blatant forms of sin, we are still vulnerable to the subtle working of self during our holiest and loveliest ours. It poisons our motives. it breathes decay on our fruit-bearing. It whispers seductive flatteries into our ears. It turns the Spirit from its holy purpose, as the masses of iron on ocean steamers deflect the needle of the compass from the pole.
As long as there is some thought of personal advantage, some idea of acquiring the praise and commendation of men, some aim at self-aggrandizement, it will simply be impossible to find out God’s purpose concerning us. The door must be resolutely shut against all these of we would hear the still, small voice. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the good eye, and to inspire in your heart one aim alone: that which animated our Lord and enabled Him to declare, “I have glorified You on the earth” (John 17:4).
Is your primary desire to glorify God? Ask Him to reveal to you any wrong motives in your life.
~F. B. Meyer~
“When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8).
Pick at random a score of great saints whose lives and testimonies are widely known. Let them be Bible characters or well-known Christians of post-biblical times.
I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity. Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis, I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision. As David put it neatly, “When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8).
Lord, give me open ears, a quiet mind, a receptive heart and a willingness to obey. I commit before You my desire to acquire a “lifelong habit of spiritual response.” Amen
~A. W. Tozer~
“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4).
Certain things are done by the Spirit that we are told in the Scriptures can only be done by God. First of all, creation. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” There it is at the very beginning. Job says it also: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” This is the creative work of the Holy Spirit, again a proof of His deity. And we must remember also that Is is the special operation that we describe as regeneration. John 3:7 establishes that once and forever: “Ye must be born again.” “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit …” (John 3:5). This is the action of the Spirit; He gives the rebirth. Original creation and the new creation are both the special work of the Spirit, “It is the spirit that quickeneth,” says our Lord again (John 6:63).
The work of inspiration is also the work of the Spirit. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” says Peter; “… holy men of God spake as they were moved” – carried along, driven; it does not matter which translation you use – “by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). All the Scriptures were written in an infallible manner. So we have our doctrine of the infallibility of the Scriptures, and it is proof positive to us that He is God. It is God alone who can give the truth and inspire men in their record of the truth.
The work of resurrection is also attributed to the Holy Spirit. Very often people are surprised by this. But it is to be found quite clearly in Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” So we arrive at this – that the Holy Spirit is a person and a divine person.
A Thought to Ponder
The Holy Spirit is a person and a divine person.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
One of life’s important truisms is that strong temptation tends to follow every major personal triumph. The apostle Paul warns, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). In the aftermath of significant successes, we are often tempted to think the accomplishment came solely by our own strength and ingenuity. But just when we think success is here to stay, we become vulnerable to pride – and failure. Even Christ in His incarnation was not exempt from testing, such as what came on the heels of His God-affirming baptism.
In a parallel passage, Mark says, “Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (Mark 1;12). Mark’s use of “impelled” denotes the necessity of the Lord’s temptation, or testing. Although the testings would come from satan, it was God’s will that Jesus undergo them in advance of His earthly ministry and redemptive work.
So after His ministry and Person had been validated by the Father and the Spirit at the scene of His baptism, Jesus confronted the first great challenge to His mission. Our Saviour was not intimidated by the prospect of temptation but fully conscious of His divine mission and strengthened in His humanity by the abiding presence and power of God. That is what satan sought to forever undermine and destroy.
What specific temptations often awaken in your own heart following times of encouragement or accomplishment? How do you deal with them and defeat them? May God be seen as your continual supply, even at times when you’re tempted to think you can manage on your own.
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what His Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15).
What is the blessing of obedience? Intimacy with God. You will come to know things that you could never know any other way when you become intimate with God. And yet people are still asking, “How do I understand the Bible?” Friend, you will have knowledge that surpasses anything you could gain from a school of learning when you serve the Lord in obedience. Jesus said we become His friends when we become His servants. And a friend knows all things.
Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Have you stopped growing? Perhaps it is because you have stopped obeying. The way to have insight into the heart of God is through obedience.
Talk to God about your relationship with Him. Do you feel like His servant? Do you feel like His child? Do you feel like His friend? All of these things are facets of a relationship with God. Ask God to teach you how to strengthen your relationship with Him today.
~Adrian Rogers~ – “Daybreak”
“Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going You cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward'” (John 13:36).
“And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me'” (John 21:19). Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” was nothing mysterious; it was an external following. Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (21:18).
Between these two times Peter denied Jesus with oaths and curses (Matthew 26;69-75). But then he came completely to the end of himself and all of his self-sufficiency. There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. In his state of destitution, he was finally ready to receive all that the risen Lord had for him. ” … He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22). No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.
All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. When we come to the end of ourselves, not just mentally but completely, we are able to “receive the Holy Spirit.” “Receive the Holy Spirit” – the idea is that of invasion. There is now only One who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“When he came down from the mount … Moses was not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him” (Exodus 34:29).
Such worship as Faber knew (and he is but one of a great company which no man can number) can never come from a mere doctrinal knowledge of God. Hearts that are “fit to break” with love for the Godhead are those who have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye upon the majesty of Deity. Men and women of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to nor understood by common man. They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They had been in the presence of God and they reported what they saw there.
They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tell us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen. The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are overrun today with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.
Take me into the Presence, Lord, that I might tell others what I have seen and be a prophet for today, not merely another scribe. Amen
~A. W. Tozer~