Consecrate Your Remaining Days to God
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3–4, ESV)
Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet—not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.…
And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.
- A.W. Tozer
The Fear of Baptizing Children
As many of you know, this Sunday I get the privilege to baptize my 7 year old daughter, Samantha. As some of you may also know, this has been a dilemma that Alisha & I have been praying about & discussing for over a year now. A few things to know about our questions to God and her situation:
At 7 years old, Samantha boldly proclaims a love for Jesus Christ, displays & discusses genuine repentance of sins (general & specific), loves to serve her church, reads her Bible, prays often, attends Bible studies & children’s church, evangelizes, & even led a bullying classmate to Christ recently.
She has been asking (pleading) to get baptized for about a year or so now. Even with all of that good fruit that she is bearing, there is a whisper of doubt that I maybe should not baptize her. Yet, if this type of evidence of the Spirit’s work was going on in an adult, this person would be a prime candidate for baptism. I see nothing Scriptural for me to stand in the way of her continued obedience to her God.
This morning, by the grace of God, I read the following blog post that I would encourage you to read as well:
The Fear of Baptizing Children
As a credobaptist (one who believes in baptizing only professing believers), I find paedobaptism (baptizing the covenant children of believers) unpersuasive for numerous reasons:
(1) There is no explicit mention of or instruction for paedobaptism in the NT
(2) Paedobaptists assume without warrant that “household baptisms” mean that that there must have been infants in the households and ignore the fact that Paul “spoke the word to all . . . who were in his house” (Acts 16:32)
(3) The practice of baptism was routinely connected with repentance and faith
(4) The theology of baptism requires repentance and faith—as Paul says, we are “buried with [Christ] in baptism” and “raised through faith” (Col. 2:12), and Peter virtually defines baptism as “as an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21)
(5) Entrance into the covenant people of God is by spiritual birth, not physical birth—the design of which is that all who belong to God’s covenant people truly know him (Heb. 8:11).
But that’s not the point of this post. If we assume that credobaptism is the NT understanding of baptism, then we are faced with the question of the age at which our children should be baptized.
A recent post by Julian Freeman expresses my own position. He argues that in these intra-credobaptist discussions, we are fearing the wrong thing: namely, the fear that we might be wrong. As he expresses the question: “What if we baptize someone who ends up not really being converted? Then what?’
He gives two reasons that this is the wrong question to ask:
First, we should not be afraid of getting it wrong, because even the apostles did. Have you ever noticed how many people apostasize in the New Testament? How many of Paul’s partners in ministry turned away (1 Tim 1.18-20; 2 Tim 4.10, 16)? And what of the disaster that was Simon Magus (Acts 8.9-24)? Certainly all of these had been baptized.
Second, we should not be afraid of getting it wrong because we are not charged with ‘getting it right’ in the first place. We’re never called to be the police of baptism, ensuring that only those who give good enough proof get in the pool. We’re called to baptize and disciple all who give profession of faith in Jesus as the risen Lord and Master of their lives.
Think about it; how much credible evidence could the people in Acts have given who heard one gospel message and were saved? Yet, they were baptized. Then discipled. And those who, in the process of discipleship, proved that their conversion was not genuine were disciplined out of the church. The answer is not to make sure people are converted before baptism, but after, in the context of local church membership, where they can be discipled and taught to obey King Jesus, with a strong dose of accountability, as part of a community.
This is where I think our ecclesiological paradigms can take us down the wrong path. A certain position fits the paradigm, but the exegetical evidence is completely lacking. I would put “do not baptize someone until you have years of observing fruits of repentance” in that category. I’d also put “do not share the Lord’s Table with someone who has not been baptized as a believer” in this category. In the “system,” these make sense. But they cannot be squared, in my opinion, with bigger and clearer principles in the NT (namely, baptize upon a credible profession of faith; share the Table with all who have been baptized in Jesus).
Julian goes on to identify some of the things we should be fearing in our practice of baptizing people:
Rather than a fear of ‘getting it wrong’ with someone (and then introducing somewhat arbitrary qualifications of age and genuine proof of conversion), we should be fearing suffocating baby Christians. And this is a real danger.
Here’s what I mean: The enjoyment of means of grace in the life of a Christian are like breathing and the grace itself is the believer’s oxygen. Without means of grace there will be no intake of oxygen. What we seriously need to ask ourselves is this: Is baptism a means of grace or not? Because if it is, we’re essentially telling the youngest of baby Christians (new converts of whatever age) to continue living without breathing, without taking in grace through God’s appointed means.
And it gets worse. Since proper baptist doctrine withholds participation in the Lord’s Supper, membership, and pastoral oversight to those who have already been baptized as believers, we’re withholding just about every corporate means of grace from this infant believer. And then we tell them to ‘prove’ their life in Christ, all the while denying them the oxygen their growth and life so desperately needs.
That is something we should genuinely fear.
At the end of the day, we have to remember that Jesus told his adult disciples to have faith like a child. Then many of us turn around and tell our children that their faith is not worthy of baptism until they have faith like an adult.
Based on her profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and the Spirit’s work of bearing spiritual fruit in her life, I am very excited to baptize my daughter this Sunday! She has invited all of her teachers & classmates from her public school, Good News Club, etc. She is scared to share in front of the congregation, but excited to obey & follow Jesus in baptism. Praise the Lord!
Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort
Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort
Paul’s instructions to Timothy (in 2 Timothy 4) include these imperatives: “reprove, rebuke . . . exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s three successive words in the Greek text, each with a slightly different nuance.
The first, translated “reprove,” carries the connotation of telling people that they are wrong, or that they have done something wrong. It has the idea of “reproach,” “a rebuke,” or the refutation of falsehood. As such it’s a negative idea—and it’s an idea that is definitely “out of season” in these postmodern times. But it’s one of the key aspects of every elder’s duty. If you try never to tell people they are wrong, you are not fulfilling the responsibility Paul names here.
Then there’s the verb “rebuke.” This is a stronger word yet. It denotes an expression of strong disapproval—a denunciation, or even a formal censure. Paul regards it as Timothy’s bounden duty not only to expose and refute error, sin, and false teaching, but also to denounce each appearance of those things clearly, identifying it as the evil that it truly is.
I am frankly amazed and appalled at how many pastors today deliberately shirk this duty. “It’s not for me to criticize what other people are teaching. I just want to be always positive, and we’ll let truth and error sort themselves out.” But if you try to do that, you are not fulfilling the responsibility Paul positively assigns to every faithful minister, both here, and in Titus 1:9, where he emphatically makes this same duty the responsibility of every elder in the church: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Titus 1:13 says some people need to be rebuked “sharply, [so] that they may be sound in the faith.” In fact, when Paul gives this same charge to Titus, he words it as strongly as possible: “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
That jars every postmodern sensibility, doesn’t it? But it is a crucial aspect of the pastoral calling. No one is a faithful shepherd who refuses to deal decisively with dangers that threaten the flock.
Lest anyone think this is a prescription for angry-sounding hyper-fundamentalists, notice that there’s an important qualification attached to this command: “exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” The verb (exhort) is parakaleo; the same word translated “preaching” in the King James Version of 1 Timothy 4:13. It’s a sweet word, closely related to parakletos, the name Jesus used to speak of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. It’s used 29 times in the New Testament, and the first time it appears is in reference to Jesus, in Luke 2:25, where Christ is referred to as “the consolation[parakaleo], of Israel.”
The expression conveys the ideas of encouragement, comfort, refreshment, solace—all in the form of a gentle entreaty, a verbal summons, a tender exhortation. That’s the heart of biblical preaching.
And the purpose and the aim of all this—the rebukes as well as the encouragements—is for the good of the hearers—never their hurt. Preaching is a guide and a corrective and a feast and a salve—to edify or sometimes to heal the flock.
Preaching is not a cudgel with which to beat the sheep. So it must always be done “with complete patience and teaching.” That echoes what Paul said two chapters earlier, 2 Timothy 2:25: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”
Paul is calling for every possible demonstration of patience, kindness, magnanimity, and longsuffering. People will not be won to the truth by relentless scolding. If your rebukes and corrections are flavored with exasperation rather than true concern for the flock; if you deal out reproach after reproach and upbraiding after upbraiding without a true spirit of gentleness, you’re not being a true shepherd.
However: in these postmodern times, it is commonly thought that “gentleness” excludes every kind of rebuke or correction—especially the sharp rebuke. But it’s clear that Paul saw no necessary contradiction between gentleness and firm rebuke. That has to beour perspective as well, or we will never be up to the simple yet far-reaching task Paul lays on our shoulders here.
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