1st January 2014
On every continent, in every nation, on the stroke of midnight fireworks filled the skies accompanied with shouts of “Happy New Year”. History records the centuries as “B.C” (Before Christ) and “A.D” (Anno Domini–the year of the Lord). Even in countries do not profess Christianity as their religion. From atheist Communist countries such as China, to Muslim countries, Hindu countries all these celebrate the “Christian” year.
At this time we look back at the events of the previous year. We celebrate great achievements and mourn the passing of those we hold dear and, with these things in mind, we look to the coming year with expectation. Often people make resolutions; they resolve to give up smoking, drinking, to lose weight etc. Quite often these resolutions remain unfulfilled as is so often the case because the desires of the flesh are too strong to overcome.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 7, speaks of the battle between the flesh and the spirit. This is a battle which continually rages, and the believer realises it even more for it rages in the life of the individual believer. Quite often believers feel guilt ridden because they face the temptations of the flesh. They believe, now that they are believers, they should never feel the temptations of the flesh and, if they do, it somehow shows that they may not be truly saved.
Whatever our flesh lusted after before we were born again it will still lust after even after we are born again! Paul makes the statement that so many guilt-ridden Christians feel in their hearts:
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)
After He shares the blessed hope as the answer to his (and our) cry:
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:25)
But he doesn’t leave it there, he continues with one glorious truth:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The past year
The past year we have continued to preach the Gospel. We have faced the usual opposition, we have been praised by some, mocked by some even persecuted.
A security guard attempts to silence the preaching of the Gospel and get us to move.
We have had highs and lows. Recently we had the blessing of baptising two people; Miguel’s daughter and, more recently, a convert from Islam.
Whilst distributing leaflets a young man came to Amélia. He had converted to Christ from Shia Islam and he had heard Miguel preaching. He asked her about our helping him to know Christ so Amélia brought him to John. After speaking some time a meeting was arranged so that they could share with him more of the message of the Bible. He then brought up the possiblity of his being baptised. John shared about the facilities that we have for baptism, that it would be in the open air but that we were not sure that winter was a good time for an outdoor baptism. He stated that he didn’t mind. So we arranged for him to be baptised.
Some may question our agreement to baptise him simply because he requested it. Ou response to this is the same as the response of Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch:
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)
Baptism is carried out upon the confession of a person’s faith so who are we to refuse, or deny, anyone who requests to be baptised? Of course we question the person with regards to their manner of living, baptism is linked to repentance throughout the scriptures. In the Law people would have to go through purification rituals. It was after she had undergone her purification that Jesus’s mother brought Him to Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord:
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (Luke 2:22)
The Law of Moses states:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. (Leviticus 12:1-5)
So we see that Mary came to offer Her son in dedication 40 days after His birth. Part of the purification would include what is called a Mikvah. A Mikvah is a pool where people would be immersed in the water in order to be ritually cleansed. This is nothing other than a baptism because the Greek word ( βάπτισμα baptisma) translated “Baptism” simply means to “Immerse” or to “Submerge”. This is what John was calling the people to do when he immersed them in the Jordan River. The river was his “Mikvah“ and he was calling people to repent and be cleansed by being immersed in the water:
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; (Luke 3:3)
For the new believer Baptism is a sign of their belief in Christ. They are turning from their old life, literally symbolising that they are now dead to the former life and are identifying themselves with Christ. Thus Baptism is showing that they have died with Christ and are buried with Him in the water and that they rise up out of the water a new man, just as Christ rose back to life at His resurrection:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:3-6)
The coming year
As always the coming year will present us with new challenges. There are also a few things that we need to submit to the Lord. in March John and Amélia will be visiting Salvador and Dianne in South Africa, so we ask everyone for their support during this time by upholding us all in your prayers during the time while they are away.
We have been asked about how people can make donations to the work. As we point out, we do not solicit funds which is why there are no details of how to make donations on the websites and this newsletter. We will never refuse financial support when it is offered but it is certainly not our custom to request funds. As a church we have not registered as a charitable organisation which would entitle us to tax relief and various grants. We have no salaried employees, we are all volunteers and self funding.
Many churches and Ministries come to depend upon grants from the Inland Revenue and/or Local Government, as well as sponsorship from local and/or national businesses. We believe this to be unwarranted and places both churches and ministries at the risk of serious problems should things change and access to such funding withdrawn. In order to obtain local government funding churches and ministries often compromise for the sake of receiving grants in order to fund programmes amongst the local community. This may include adhering to the local government’s policies on “Diversity and Equality”. No truly Bible believing church and/or minister can, in all conscience, agree to everything that is included in such policies. We cannot turn a blind eye to those things that society legitimises, yet which God abhors.
So please keep us in your prayers.
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