Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baptism Part 1: New Exodus

Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.".
Mark 1:10&11 
Baptism has been an important tradition in Christianity since the very beginning. There are many ways to practice this tradition, sprinkling, immersion, in a church or at the beach, some baptize infants whereas others believe baptism to be for consenting adults. Though there exist a wide variety of opinions, baptism is a very treasured sacrament by all who believe in Jesus as Messiah. Lets briefly look at baptism as it connects with Exodus.

Baptism is connected to the Exodus story of Israel. When Israel found themselves enslaved to a cruel Pharaoh in Egypt they cried out to the God of their ancestor, Abraham and He heard them. Sending Moses as his representative he ordered that Israel be set free. Pharaoh refused resulting in a showdown between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. The God of Israel wins this bout and delivers Israel from Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea and leading the Israelites safely through to the other side and then having the waters swallow up the Egyptian army. This deliverance is the climax of the Exodus story, God delivered Israel through the water to safety, Exodus 1-15.

When John the Baptist begins his movement it has this story of Exodus as his platform. He sets up his prophetic ministry in the wilderness, dressing and eating like a wandering prophet of old, preaching a similar message of repentance and renewal. He offers a baptism in the Jordan, Mark 1:1-8. His baptism is an opportunity for people to reenact the story of their faith by coming through the waters like their forefathers and thereby renewing their faith and covenantal commitment to the same God who delivered from Egypt. They are saying through John's baptism that they believe the God of Abraham is not done with his people and that he is bringing salvation as he has promised.

Jesus begins his movement with this baptism by John in the Jordan, Mark 1:9-13. This is important to keep in mind as we read and study the Gospels. Jesus has a message, "The Kingdom of God is here", Mark 1:15. His message of Kingdom is accompanied by actions, all of which in some way or another point back to Exodus. His baptism is the beginning of a movement of deliverance and restoration, his is a new Exodus movement.

Jesus goes through the water by way of his baptism and like Israel before him goes from the sea to the wilderness. Israel was in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus for forty days, Matthew 4:1-11. God feeds Israel manna from heaven, Exodus 16. Jesus feeds the four and five thousand the fish and the loaves, John 6. God parts the Red Sea, Jesus walks upon the stormy sea, John 6. Israel builds a temple in which God dwells, Jesus condemns the Temple and claims to be the new Temple, John 2. Looking back at Jesus' wilderness experience after his baptism by John, he is faithful and defeats the Satan, whereas Israel is in the wilderness because of their disobedience and unbelief, Numbers 14. Where Israel failed, Jesus has succeeded. His Exodus is a better one. As the author of Hebrews says, he is a better Moses, Hebrews 3:3.

So the New Testament conveys Baptism as an action that connects the believer with the Exodus, with the entire story and people of God. Through baptism we are taking part in the grand and cosmic mission of God to "put the world back to rights" (N.T. Wright). In baptism we are joining the Jesus movement and we are casting off our old identities for a new one, the true humanity, the people of Exodus. We, in baptism, affirm that God is faithful and has become King of the nations through the victory of Jesus. A great place to see this is in Romans 6, where Paul is retelling the Exodus story in light of the Jesus movement. In Jesus both Jew and Gentile have experienced Exodus, being delivered from the Law and from idolatry. The result is a new humanity made of people placed into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says that in baptism we have "been united with him (Jesus)" Romans 6:5. Baptism is a very real and powerful action of imputation (being placed into Jesus, meaning we have his status as sons and daughters) and of enlistment, baptism is the believer joining the Jesus movement and therefore the Missio Dei ('mission of God' that of restoring creation from evil).

If you haven't been baptized and you believe that Jesus is the true Messiah who died and rose from the grave in victory over evil and death, I encourage you to do so! In baptism you join hearts and faith with all who have come before you, all you stand with you and all who will come after you. In baptism you will join the new Exodus movement of God and take part in his mission to deliver and restore. If you have been baptized, I encourage you to always remember your baptism as that moment you passed through the waters to the promised inheritance of God. Think back with joy knowing that what is true of Jesus is also true of his people, in you God is "well pleased".

We have briefly looked at how baptism connects us to Exodus and places us in a role in the New Exodus accomplished in Jesus. Next blog we will look at how baptism connects us to Resurrection and the restoration of all things. Grace and Peace.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Financial Peace University

FPU w/Dave Ramsey – September 10th

We all need a plan for our money. Financial Peace University (FPU) is that plan! It teaches God's ways of handling money. Through video teaching, class discussions and interactive small group activities, FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you've dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more!

This group will be meeting on Tuesday nights, for 9 weeks, beginning on September 10th and all of the meetings will be held at the Dunedin House of Beer.

The cost is $93 for all the materials.  (Also, it's free for people who have already gone through FPU and want a refresher.  If these people want the updated material it's $49.) 

Lastly, there is no childcare provided for this. 

Contact Jeremy Perrin for more details or just see our FPU page HERE.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Led by the Spirit: Galatians 5

I found Pastor Heaths sermon this morning to be very encouraging. Galatians 5 is not an easy text to unpack because there is so much there. He did a great job in taking us through Paul's argument and bringing the text into our day and lives. May we be led by the Holy Spirit as Gods renewed and redeemed people.

There is another element to this text as well that I would like to bring out which I believe will further encourage and challenge us.

The Shekinah of God led the Israelites through the wilderness in form of cloud and fire (illustrated here). Remember from our series on 'Meeting Jesus at the Feast' that the Shekinah means that God is with us. God actually and really settled, dwelt and inhabited with his people in the tabernacle. Paul is using Exodus language, wanting the reader to remember the stories of how God revealed himself to his people while in the wilderness. Jesus has sent the Spirit to inhabit, settle and dwell with his people. As the cloud and fire demonstrated the active and true presence of God then so now the fruit of the Spirit demonstrates the true and active presence of God in his people today.

This is wonderful news! As Heath made the point to teach us this morning, the fruit of the Spirit is not a list of rules you have to follow to "get in", it is how God reveals to the world and to his people that he is dwelling in and with us. Isaiah hopes for a King who will come and his name will be Emmanuel, which means, "God with us" (see Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Jesus has come and he has brought in himself the God of Israel. The one true God of Israel has become King of all the nations through the work and victory of Jesus. In Jesus, God has again dwelt and settled in and with his people. 

This is who the Holy Spirit is: God empowering, indwelling and leading the people of God. To be led by the Spirit is to be filled and freed by the very Shekinah glory and presence of God. Galatians 5 reminds us that we are the new temple where God has chosen to live. This is also what humans were created to be. Let us who are called and justified by the God of grace, worship him as we live free reflecting him who is beautiful and sovereign. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Eager Wait: Running a Good Race

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5
What does Paul mean when he says that “we eagerly await"? Many have taken this to mean that they are to wait passively for the second coming or some sort of end times event like a rapture or rise of the Anti-Christ. This thinking has led to a theory that Christians are to have nothing to do with culture i.e. arts, politics or social work, but rather we are to await our “real” home, Heaven. Others have thought that waiting for the hope of righteousness is living the “best we can while we are here”. This usually entails a moral code of some sort, with great emphasis given to personal morality and righteousness. The problem with this approach has been discussed and explained by Pastor Heath as we have looked at Galatians on Sunday mornings and have discussed these sermons in our community groups.

So what does it mean when the text says that we eagerly wait? Most commentators I have looked at have explained it as a waiting that is active. In fact Paul seems to convey the same idea in the next verse, “For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 5:6. Another version says it this way, “…but faith working through love.” (NASB). The eager wait of the believer is having our faith work through love. We are saved by grace and kept by grace, this means that we have nothing to do with our being called as God’s people. But there is work going on in this wait, God is at work. Our faith which is a gift from God is expressing itself through love. For Paul, waiting for the hope of righteousness is the action of faith working through love.

The thought continues, “You were running a good race, who cut in on you and hindered you from obeying the truth?”5:7.  This analogy illustrates what waiting really is here in Galatians 5. To eagerly wait is to run a good race.

Every race has a goal, a desired end, a finish line. The race mentioned here has a finish line as well and Paul is passionate in his coaching. He wants to see the Galatians run a good race and finish strong. The finish line, mentioned in verse 5, “the righteousness for which we hope” is the hope of the believer. What awaits the believer at the end of this life? What hope do we have when all seems hopeless and dark? Is death the final experience for us? Are we to suffer forever? Will this world remain evil and broken? Paul is adamant that Jesus was crucified and buried and then he was raised. This is the testimony that serves as the very foundation of the Church. Jesus is resurrected, he is the true Messiah, the King of the nations. He is the one who has made and is making all things new, all things right.

This rightness, or righteousness is the end result of the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit through his people. I believe the righteousness hoped for here is the resurrection of God’s people and the restoration of God’s creation. For what is true of Jesus is true for his people. We eagerly wait for our resurrection, the making right of all things. Our hope is that God will do what he has promised. This is the faith given to Abraham and all who believe. This is a cosmic hope, a cosmic righteousness. It is not about our individual morality or how “holy” we are as measured by a code of conduct. It is all about Jesus and what he has done: He has fulfilled the covenant given to Israel and humanity. He has succeeded where Israel failed. He has purchased a people by suffering and dying as their atonement. He has taken upon himself, in our place, the wrath of God demanded for breaking his Law. He is the means through which God has made the world right and is making the world right. This people he has purchased and redeemed has become the New and True Humanity, finding their identity in what God has done through Jesus and in his mission to restore the world (see Galatians 3:23-4:7).

So we run this race toward the finish line of the eradication of evil and injustice and the redemption of God’s humanity and world. We are eager in our waiting as faith works and expresses itself though our love and compassion for all of God’s image bearers. For we have a hope that is more real and tangible than even our own skin and circumstances. I pray we as a community continue to “eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” 

I look forward to these next talks on Galatians as we look at what it looks like to run a good race, to hope in the righteousness of God.