WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Christians are to encourage one another and build up one another (I Thessalonians 5:11, NASB). This week’s edition of “News & Views” is intended to give encouragement in two important areas.
First, to my friends, neighbors, and loved ones who have only had water sprinkled or poured on them (whether as an infant, in childhood, or as an adult) and such action called baptism, let me urge you to pick up your Bible, turn to the first book in the New Testament, the Gospel according to Matthew, and read chapter 3, verses 13-17. After reading that account of Christ’s baptism ask yourself, “Is that how I was baptized?” Then check out Mark’s account of the matter. Mark is the second book of the New Testament. Read Mark 1:9-11 and ask yourself, “Was I baptized the way Christ my Savior was baptized?”
Now look at an example of how people were baptized in New Testament times. Read Acts 8:26-40. Were you baptized the same way that man was baptized? Then read some passages from the pen of the apostle Paul: Romans 6:3-6 and Colossians 2:12. Once more, ask yourself, “Is that how I was baptized?”
Look at passages telling the purpose of baptism: Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; I Peter 3:21; et. al. and ask yourself, “Is that why I was baptized?”
Eternity is too long for anyone to take a chance on such a simple but important act of submissive obedience to the Lord as immersion in the name of Christ for the remission of sins. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and are willing to turn from your sins in genuine repentance, then please reach out to a faithful member of the church of Christ or to a faithful minister of the gospel of Christ at a nearby church of Christ and ask to discuss this important matter with him. Your obedience to the gospel will result in your being a Christian only, a member of the one undenominational body (church) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You can then meet and worship with these people, knowing that your worship is according to the will of God and pleasing to Him.
My second word of encouragement has to do with the importance of reading the Bible. In order to understand the Bible, one must read the Bible. (That sounds like a “given,” doesn’t it?) A person who never reads God’s message to man will never know God’s will for his or her life. Let me encourage you to pick up your Bible, turn to the New Testament, and come over to the gospel of Luke to begin your reading. It is the third of four accounts of the life of Christ and comes after Matthew and Mark. I would suggest beginning with Matthew, the first gospel account, but Matthew chapter one could be intimidating to the new reader with all of its many difficult and hard to pronounce names found in the Jewish ancestry of Jesus. Therefore, I suggest starting with Luke, and coming back to Matthew, Mark, and John later. They each provide marvelous insights into the life of our Lord. In Luke chapter 3 you also will encounter the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, but by then you already will have been introduced to Him and several interesting events in His early life, and may not be so intimidated by the names of His human ancestors.
After you finish reading Luke, turn to the fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts. It also was written by Luke and continues the story of Christianity after the ascension of Christ back to heaven. Check out how the ending of the book of Luke (Luke 24:44-53) dovetails with the beginning of the book of Acts (Acts 1:1-11) to show the continuity and connectedness of Luke’s two-volume work. The book of Acts tells of the beginning of the church, how people were saved and added to the church, the spread of the gospel, persecutions and problems that the early church faced, when the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and many other exciting events. One will read many interesting stories of people being converted to Christ, including Saul who started out as a rabid enemy of Christ but who went on to become the great apostle Paul and accomplish so much for the cause of Christ.
After reading Luke and Acts, you will have a good foundation of biblical Christianity. You can then turn your attention to the other gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and John), the letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude, and the book of Revelation. As long as you have life, it is never too late to start this exciting journey of reading and comprehending God’s saving message to humanity, but someday it will be too late. Do not die having had a Bible in your home but having never read it to find out what God would have you do to be saved forever in heaven.
A closing thought: Our emotions, feelings, and “think-so’s” do not determine how one is saved, who is a Christian, how we are to worship, or how we are to live. Our parents and grandparents do not set the standard for these matters. Many courageous people have left their parents’ religion in order to be right with God. Modern religious sociology does not determine the nature of the undenominational church of which we read in the Bible or who comprises that church. The word of God alone determines these matters. The Bible is to be our sole standard for determining the answer to religious questions and our only standard of religious authority.