August 29, 2010

OK …now what? – Steven Cuffle

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

I have never won the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl or the World Series, but I imagine that the feelings of joy and accomplishment are second to none so far as athletics is concerned. It would be great to be called the world champion of something, but I’ve always wondered what goes through an athlete’s mind a few weeks after they’ve won the championship and they get over the initial jubilation of success. After you’ve proven that you’re the best, what is there left to do? Where do you go from there? I have a pretty good idea of what I would be thinking: “Okay…now what?” The only answer that I can think of, from an athletic perspective, is to get better. I would want to become so great that every year afterward I was the champion again. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing?

From a spiritual perspective, a Christian is someone who has won the greatest victory in the world. When someone chooses to be baptized into Jesus Christ, they have overcome sin and death by being connected with Jesus’ resurrection. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely he is powerful enough to change my body to be like his body, to clothe what is mortal with immortality and to swallow up my death with an everlasting life.

When I arose from the waters of baptism, I knew that my sins had been washed away, I knew that I had been made a new creature through the powerful working of God, that I had been added to the body of Christ and I knew that I would be saved on the last day by the grace of God which I accessed through my faith. I had won the victory and Satan had been defeated. Okay…now what?

After I was baptized, I had loving Christians who were ready and willing to help me realize there is more to Christianity than getting dunked in a baptistery. As great and as wonderful as that decision was, that wasn’t the last decision I needed to make—it was the first decision. Baptism is not the ending point of a journey, it is the very beginning. Just like a world champion athlete looks forward to becoming  even better, so too must a Christian set their sight on a goal greater than what they have already achieved; we cannot be satisfied with past decisions of faith, but we must press on toward the goal, toward the upward call of Christ Jesus.

We have a great reason to rejoice before God with the baptism of three people into Christ! They are our new brothers and sisters, and angels in heaven are rejoicing with us because of their decision! They have a new Lord and Savior, and have been remade in the image of Christ in order to glorify God through good works. They have made the first step in transforming their lives, renewing their minds and making their lives living sacrifices to our God and Father. Our obligation to them as their new family is to help them grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which, by the way, is the same thing that we owe, and have owed, to each other all along.

What exactly does it mean to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? What is it that we must learn about and do once we’ve been baptized? Those questions are answered the same way questions about baptism are answered, by looking through the New Testament and finding out what the apostles taught all Christians to do. Acts 2, a very helpful reference when studying baptism, is a great place to go for information about these questions.

In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter teaches a group of Jews that they had to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of (by the power or authority of) Jesus Christ. When they did these things, they would receive the remissions of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. On that day, those people who heard and believed Peter were baptized. What did they do after they were baptized? That’s what the rest of the  chapter tells us, and, in doing so, it shows us exactly what we should be doing after we are baptized.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers … all that believed were together, and had all things common; And they were selling their possessions and belongings, and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. And, day by day, attending the temple together, and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

The first item we come across is devotion to “the Apostles’ teaching.” While there are no apostles around today, the things that they taught are recorded for us in the letters they wrote, which in turn make up the New Testament. Paul instructed early Christians to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions” that were taught “either by [his] spoken word or by [his] letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) As noted, we no longer have Paul’s spoken words, but we certainly have his letters. If we are to be devoted to the apostles’ teaching like all the new Christians in Acts 2 were, then, clearly, studying the New Testament is important to do.

When we are told to be “devoted” to these teachings, it does not mean to worship them or those who wrote them. Worship and adoration are reserved for God alone. Instead, this word means “to focus on” or “to be in continually.” Early Christians were people who looked for directions from God in every decision they made. We, likewise, should look for God’s guidance and direction in our every actions.

Adapted from the Stonegate Standard, November 2008

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