40 Days to Jerusalem
The New Exodus Begins ‚Äì Day 17
Weekly Theme: The Exodus ‚Äì From Death to Life
Today‚Äôs Meditation: Old Life ‚Äì Baptism ‚Äì New Life
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don‚Äôt you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin‚Äî 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11)
What is Christian spirituality? This is a very important question. A growing trend in the world is to claim that everyone is a spiritual being and that they have equally valid claims to the divine realm and the eternal. In fact, those who claim to be ‚Äúspiritual‚Äù represent a majority of humanity. An increasing number, however, divorce spirituality from any foundational ‚Äúreligious‚Äù belief. On this view, spirituality is realized as one becomes ‚Äúin tune‚Äù with the great life force of the cosmos, or, by looking inward to discover and nurture the spirit within. On the Christian worldview, these concepts do not have merit. Christian spirituality is not derived from a non-descript power source in the universe. Nor is it getting in touch with an internal life force. Christian spirituality is defined by the truths of Scripture, and embodied in the life, death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As we will see, our spirituality is based solely on being ‚Äúunited to Christ.‚Äù How is it possible for us to be united to the Lord? We must look to the Scriptures for the answer.
From beginning to end, the Scriptures point to Jesus. This truth is established by Jesus, Himself, as he taught Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:27 tells us that, ‚Äú‚Ä¶beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.‚Äù In our meditation for today, we will see that the pattern for Christian Spirituality is clearly spelled out across the pages of the Old Testament, and coming into crystal clear focus in the New Testament. This blueprint for our spirituality may be summarized four ways. First as: creation, fall and recreation, second: life, death, and new life, third, buried with Christ and raised with Christ, and one more: birth, death and rebirth.
Our faith is based on a narrative ‚Äì a story. It begins with the eternally existent Triune God. ‚ÄúIn the beginning,‚Äù God creates ‚Äúthe heavens and the earth,‚Äù a ‚Äústage‚Äù on which this narrative will unfold. The ‚Äúset‚Äù is first established with ‚Äúthe deep‚Äù.It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God was ‚Äúhovering over the waters.‚Äù God created the earth with plants, placed the sun and moon in their place, then adding fish, birds and animals. Ultimately a man and woman are placed front and center in the Garden of Eden. As we have noted, from the start, Adam, the first human, was in complete spiritual harmony with God. In fact, he was referred to as ‚ÄúGod‚Äôs son‚Äù(Luke 3:38). But when Adam and Eve did that which God commanded them not to do, God‚Äôs warning came to pass. He instructed them, the day they sinned they would ‚Äúsurely die‚Äù (Genesis 2:17). Their death was not physical. It was spiritual. In a few short words, 1 Corinthians 15:22 reveals the pervasive devastation of their rebellion. ‚ÄúFor as in Adam, all die.‚Äù All of us are initially ‚Äúin Adam.‚Äù Romans 5:12 and 18 state, ‚ÄúTherefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned‚Ä¶one trespass led to condemnation for all men‚Ä¶‚Äù Human ‚Äúspirituality‚Äù is perversely defined by Adam. Thanks be to God, the story does not end there. As we will see, human spirituality is redefined by Jesus.
Fast forward a few generations. In a day of unabashed sinfulness and rampant rebellion (Genesis 6:5), God found favor with one man (Genesis 6:8). So, God brings Noah front and center. In his story we see a first glimpse of restored human spirituality. Creation had fallen into complete and utter depravity and needed to be recreated. God would start over with humanity by having Noah build an Ark, ‚Äúin which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water‚Ä¶‚Äù (1 Peter 3:20). After the flood, Noah sent out a dove to determine when it was appropriate to leave the ark. When the dove returned with an olive leaf, Noah knew the time was approaching to disembark. ‚ÄúGod said to Noah, 16 ‚ÄúGo out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh‚Äîbirds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth‚Äîthat they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.‚Äù These were the same instructions given to Adam in the garden. God had, in effect, recreated. This is the pattern: creation, fall and recreation. We see in Noah that the old world has passed away. Noah and his family came through the water on the Ark. And on the other side lay a new creation and new life.
Let‚Äôs fast forward to the days when Israel was enslaved in Egypt. For 400 years they were imprisoned as servants to Pharaoh. As we know, Moses was dispatched by God to bring His people out of the old way of life in Egypt and into a new life in the Promised Land. After ten plagues, culminating in the death of the first born sons of Egypt, the Children of Israel were free. But, as they approached the Red Sea, Pharaoh changed his mind. His army pursued. God‚Äôs Spirit in the form of a pillar of fire, moved to the rear of the Israelites to stop the soldiers. Then, God parted the waters of the sea, allowing His people to go through the waters and on to the other shore. When the Israelites were safely through the water, God allowed the army to pursue. God‚Äôs hand was withdrawn and the waters collapsed over the soldiers, drowning them in the torrent. As Israel emerged through the sea, she began a 40 year pilgrimage through the wilderness. The old life had died with the soldiers in the sea. A new life lay before them as they emerged from the waters and began their journey to the Promised Land. Again, we see the pattern: life, death, and new life.
Now, we move to the New Testament. Jesus came to John at the Jordan River to be baptized by him. Why did Jesus do that? His was baptized as an example of the Way. In Jesus‚Äô baptism we observe the pattern for our spirituality. You see, just like in creation, when the Spirit hovered over the deep, and with Noah, when the dove revealed that it was time to begin a new life, and with Israel at the Red Sea, when the Spirit was present to guard and guide, so too, the Spirit was present in the water with Jesus. Matthew records, ‚ÄúAnd when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‚ÄòThis is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased‚Äô‚Äù (Matthew 3:16-17). Two things happen here. First, the relationship with the Father is declared. God says, ‚ÄúThis is my Son!‚Äù Second, the Spirit rests on Jesus revealing that He is the Promised One. Isaiah prophesied that this would happen to the Messiah ‚Äì and so it did (Isaiah 11:2)! Acts 10:38 tells us that when Jesus was baptized, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit with power for His ministry. How is this the ‚ÄúWay‚Äù for us? Peter said in Acts 2:38, ‚ÄúRepent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.‚Äù When we are baptized, it is in the name of the Trinity ‚Äì Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). Through baptism, we are identified with God‚Äôs family. Baptism is the initiation sign of the New Covenant (Colossians 2:11-12). It is through the covenant that we are restored as members of God‚Äôs family. 1 John 3:1 states, ‚ÄúSee what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.‚Äù What about the gift of the Holy Spirit? 1 Peter 4:14 says, ‚Äú‚Ä¶you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.‚Äù What a blessing it is ‚Äì to be restored as children of God ‚Äì and to have the anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower us for ministry. Jesus demonstrates the pattern through His baptism. He was buried under the water, and was raised to a life of ministry as God‚Äôs son in the power of the Spirit! This is true for us as well as we are buried with Christ, and raised with Christ to walk in a newness of life.
Finally, let‚Äôs examine John 3:1-15 and the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who comes at night to see Jesus. He says to Jesus, ‚ÄúRabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.‚Äù Jesus answered him, ‚ÄúTruly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (or from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.‚Äù Nicodemus said to him, ‚ÄúHow can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?‚Äù Jesus answered, ‚ÄúTruly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.‚Äù The Old Testament passages we have considered so far, and Jesus‚Äô baptism help us to understand what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus, who is ‚Äúin the dark‚Äù. Because of his lack of understanding, Jesus chides him. ‚ÄúAre you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?‚Äù Nicodemus, one who teaches the Old Testament, should have known the story of Noah and the Exodus. Yet, he did not make the connections. Jesus goes on to say that, just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, ‚Äú‚Ä¶so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.‚Äù Jesus was subtly revealing His sacrificial death in this statement.
What was Jesus saying to Nicodemus and to us? Just like in the days of Noah, we need to be recreated. The old world and its evil must pass away and the new creation must emerge. Just like the days of Moses and the Israelites, the old way of life must die, and the new life must begin. And, as Jesus taught Nicodemus, we are born physically, which will result invariably in death. What we need is to be reborn spiritually(from above). By pointing to the cross, Jesus gives us a crystal clear picture of our spirituality. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must take up our cross every day and deny ourselves (Luke 9:23). Galatians 2:20 states, ‚ÄúI have been crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live, it is Christ who lives in me.‚ÄùOur spirituality is derived from being united to Christ, in His death and resurrection. This is pictured for us throughout the Scriptures as ‚Äúcoming through water.‚Äù It is no mistake that Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-5, ‚ÄúOr don‚Äôt you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.‚Äù There is a reason we are called Baptists! It is through the waters that we see and experience being ‚Äúburied with Christ‚Äù and ‚Äúbeing raised with Christ.‚Äù
This is our spirituality. It is not connecting with the cosmos or some internal power. No, we need to be recreated in the image of Christ. We need a new life in Christ. We need to be buried with Him and raised with Him. And we need to be born again, into Christ. As a Baptist, I am glad to say that our spirituality is ‚Äúbaptismal.‚Äù What if we lived out the reality of our baptisms every day? Start every day with this commitment. I willingly die to myself, and I commit myself to walk in newness of life in Christ. ‚ÄúTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come‚Äù (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now that is true and transformational spirituality!
Prayer for Today
Praise God for His plan to recreate us through His Son Jesus
Praise God for His pan to give us a new life through Christ
Praise God for His plan for us to be reborn spiritually
Praise God for the Scriptures which show us this pattern so clearly
Give thanks to Jesus who demonstrated by His life the pattern for our spirituality ‚Äì death to self (crucifixion) and life in Him (resurrection).
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin
Repent, confess and ask for God‚Äôs forgiveness
Receive His forgiveness
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you ‚Äúlive out your baptism‚Äù every day as you deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow the Lord Jesus.
‚ÄúIf anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me‚Äù (Luke 9:23).