First, water baptism identifies our desire to obey Christ (Matthew 28:19,20). If you know that Christ wants you to be baptized and you refuse, you are being disobedient to your Master, the One who died for you.
Second, water baptism identifies our desire to be joined to Christ (Romans 6:1-4). We have no way to show to others how we are placed into the body of Christ when we are saved, except through the symbolism of water baptism. Being baptized shows that when Christ died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. And when He rose from the dead, we rose from the dead-to walk in newness of life. Third, water baptism indicates our desire to follow Christ (Romans 6:4). It symbolizes our final break with our old life, with the past and its sin. And although we will sin even after we are saved, being baptized tells the world we are headed in a new direction; we are on a new road, and we are taking the first steps on that road. Look at it this way. Following the Lord in baptism means doing what He did (Matthew 3:16,17). Following the Lord in baptism means telling the world you're under new management (I Corinthians 6:19,20). Following the Lord in baptism means following Jesus and forsaking the way you used to live before you were saved (II Corinthians 5:17). It is a way of telling everyone, "I'm a new person, a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away; all things in my life have become new. I'm off to a brand new start."
Baptism is going public for God. It is saying to the world, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back."

Why, God?

I kow some of you don't want to read this but I'll leave that up to You.
   Our hearts are broken when we see atrocities inflicted on innocent people. Wars force thousands of refugees--old men, children and families--out of their homes. Teenagers coldly murder their classmates. Toddlers disappear, never to be seen again.
   In the midst of the world's carnage it is only natural to wonder, Where is GOD in all this? Why doesn't He do something? Why does He allow this to happen?
   As difficult as it may be to understand, God already has done something. He sent His Son to save us. But Jesus Christ did not enter this world to thwart criminals or overthrow governments...He came to change our hearts.
         Even the people of Jesus' day thought their Savior came to liberate them from oppression. But He did not. He told them, "My kingdom is not of this world...."
   This world--with all its' godless wars, murders and inhumanity--exists under the dominion of Satan. Though the Bible clearly states the absolute authority of God, Satan has been given much power, and with the permission of God the evil in this world is under Satan's control. That's why the apostle Paul asserted "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
   Satan was the first one in history to openly defy God. He also started a philosophy of life that was self-centered and rejected God's authority. That was the birth of sin.
   Sin assumes a self-designed life plan rather than one purposed by the Creator. Today sin affects the entire human race. We are all guilty of it, and therefore all deserve sin's penalty. "For the wages of sin is death...."
   According to the Bible, peace on earth will not come until after God's final judgments and Christ's Second Coming. But peace with God is available now for all who faithfully accept Jesus' death as payment for their sin. "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
   Yes, God permitted evil to be present in this world. He gave all of us, including Satan, free will. He allows us to choose whether or not we will follow Him. If God forced us to love and worship Him...that wouldn't be love. He lets us make up our own minds.
   Satan and death were defeated when Jesus Christ rose again after dying on the cross. Satan has no reprieve. But you still have a chance. You can come to know "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" by acknowledging the sin in your life and believing that Christ's death on the cross paid sin's penalty for you and that His resurrection offers you new life.
   We will never know all the answers to the question Why, God? But when you open your life to Jesus Christ, He promises to walk with you through this world's troubles. You will begin to see the world through His eyes. And He will birth new feelings inside you that you may not have felt for a long time, if love, joy, hope...and peace.
   Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus is the Christ

     One of the errors of Christian Science is the belief that the Christ is the "divine-idea man."  It is a principle that dwells within each and everyone of us.
       Christian Science denies that Jesus was the Christ, (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 333:3-15; 334:3.)
     The Bible declares in 1 John 2:22, "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?"  It is apparent from the following verses, that Christian Science is not telling the truth about Jesus.

   Jesus is the Christ
Matt. 16:16, "And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Acts 5:42, "And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."  See also, Matt. 16:20; Luke 9:20; John 20:31; Acts 3:20; 9:22; 18:5; 18:28
  Jesus called Himself the Christ
John 4:25-26, " The woman *said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." 26 Jesus *said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
  The Christ was born
Matt. 1:16, and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." See also Matt. 2:4; Luke 2:11
  Christ did works
Matt. 11:2, "Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples."
  Christ is the Son of David.
Mark 12:35, "And Jesus answering began to say, as He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?"
  Christ suffered
Luke 24:26, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" See also Luke 24:46; Acts 26:23
  Christ rose from the dead
Acts 17:3, "explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."
  Christ was resurrected
Acts 2:31, "he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay."
  Christ is a Son
Hebrews 3:6, "but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end."
  Christ has a body
Romans 7:4, "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God."
  Christ has a body and blood
1 Cor. 10:16, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?"
  Christ became a curse for us
Gal. 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"
  Christ died
Gal. 2:21, "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." See also, 1 Cor. 8:12.
  Christ can be sinned against
1 Cor. 8:12, "And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ."
  Christ bore the sins of many
Heb. 9:28, "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." See also 1 Cor. 15:23-24

  The Incredible Value of Sexual Purity
 Sex dominates our popular culture to a degree we've never seen before.  Prime-time television and the movie industry would be lost if they couldn't exploit sex.  Talk shows wouldn't have anything to talk about without sex.
 Unrestricted sex is being touted as a shortcut to personal fulfillment and satisfaction.  People have given up their virtue for sex, traded their families for it.  And now they're getting sick and dying because of it.
 But in case you don't know, let me state right up front that sex is a wonderful and beautiful gift of God designed for human fulfillment.  Sex is God's idea.
 But Satan has taken this God-ordained activity and has done with it what he does best.  He has counterfeited it and sold his cheap imitation as the real thing. The price tag for this purchase is high indeed, so let's talk about God's view of sexuality.
The Purpose of Sex
 First of all, why did God create sex?  Well, the most obvious reason is for procreation, the expansion God's image in history.  A deeper purpose for sex, however, is to inaugurate the covenant of marriage.  God considers marriage to be a covenant every bit as serious as any other covenant He has made.  Whenever God makes a covenant, He inaugurates it in blood.  For example, God made a covenant with Abraham, the sign of which was circumcision (Gen. 17:10-12).  All of the males born in Israel were to come as young boys and have the foreskin of their sexual organs removed to signify that they were part of God's covenant people.  The rite of circumcision involved blood, which was part of the covenant.  So it is in marriage.  According to Deuteronomy 22:13-15, if there was any question about a woman's virginity before marriage, she was to provide proof by presenting the blood-stained sheet or whatever garment from the bed on which the couple consummated their marriage.  Sexual immorality in Israel could be punishable by death, as the rest of Deuteronomy 22 reveals.  This shows us how God feels about sexual purity.
The Value of Sexual Purity
 God puts a very high value on sexual purity.  The reason people give sex away so easily is that they don't know how valuable sexual purity is in God's eyes.
 In Scripture, it was a proud thing for a woman to be able to say to her parents and to all Israel, "I kept myself a virgin for my husband."  Today, in popular society virginity is a joke.  Not so in God's economy.  In His view, a commitment to chastity before marriage is an act of consecration to Him.  Then, the act of marriage is another form of consecration.  Every time a husband and wife engage in sexual intercourse, they are saying afresh to each other, "All of me belongs to all of you."
God's Standard for Sex
 When God created Adam and Eve, Adam's statements about Eve in Genesis 2:23 show that he understood they were created for each other.  And when God joined that first pair in marriage, there was no hesitation or shame in their union.  Theirs was the first and only perfect marriage because sin had not yet polluted everything.  When God creates something, it produces ecstasy and not guilt.  Whenever God does something, people are going to feel good about it.  They don't have to hide.
 Obviously, Adam and Eve were virgins before their marriage, so they had no reason to feel shame.  It's true they were also sinless at this point, but the entrance of sin did not change God's sexual standards.  Men and women were still expected to be virgins before marriage.  There were no double standards like we have today, where men in particular make excuse for their sin by saying, "Well, I'm a man, and you know how men are about sex."  No, you don't set the standard, God does.
 God's sexual standard outside of marriage is virginity, an extremely valuable gift from Him that you can only give away once and never get back again.  Yes, there is forgiveness for sin, and a person who has fallen sexually can rededicate himself or herself to Christ.  But immorality in any form does tremendous damage.  We must fight for God's standard.
A Biblical View of Sex
 The church at Corinth had sexual problems.  They lived in a sexed-crazed city, a port city where ships from all over docked.  Corinth was a New York, a Los Angeles of its day.  It was a happening place, built to service all of this activity and all of the merchants and sailors who came around.
 In fact, on a hill in Corinth sat the Ico-Corinthus, the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  This temple was divided into two halves.  On one side was a restaurant where a person could go in an and have dinner.
 On the other side of the temple were rooms that housed one thousand "sacred" prostitutes, who engaged in sex with worshipers as part of their pagan rites.  So after you ate dinner on one side, you could have dessert on the other.  These Christians were living in this sex-crazed world, and it had rubbed off on them.  In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul reminds the Corinthians that some of them came out of really messed up sexual backgrounds.  But they had been "washed" and "sanctified" (v. 11).
 But someone might say, "Everybody else is doing it."  God's answer is, "Since when are you everybody else?  Since when does the crowd dictate what you are supposed to do?"
 Paul says in verse 12, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."  What he is saying is that God has rules that govern how we use what we have been given.  Sex is a legitimate passion, given to us by God.  So if you are struggling sexually you don't pray that God will take away your sexual urges.  You are then asking not to be human.  What you pray is that you not be mastered by your legitimate and lawful sexual urges so that the expression of them becomes your obsession no matter what God's rules say.  The idea of complete sexual freedom is a myth.  Freedom is never doing what you want to do.  Freedom is doing what you ought to do.
 Sex is like a fire.  Contained in the fireplace, a fire keeps everybody warm.  Set the fire free, though, and the whole house burns.  You don't want fire in your house to be free.  You want it contained so it can generate warmth and not destruction.   Those folk in Corinth were misguided about sex because their attitude was that sex was like food.  When you get hungry, you eat.  When your body craves sex, you do the same thing with your sex drive that you do with your hunger.  You satisfy it.
 But sex cannot be equated with food because there is much more at stake.  God did not put us on earth so we could indulge our sexual urges.  We are to use our bodies to glorify Him.  So the question is not whether we have a sexual appetite.  The question is, what vehicle has God given us through which to satisfy that appetite?  God's only legitimate vehicle for sexual expression is marriage.  Unless you start with this mentality, then you are going to believe and act on the lie that you can't help yourself.  God says no to that view.  The body and the spirit are closely linked.  For the Christian, sex is a spiritual issue.  You cannot worship God on Sunday and enter into sexual immorality on Monday and keep those separate because your body, and not just your spirit, is for the Lord.
 In verse 14, Paul refers to God's resurrection power.  What part of us will be raised from the dead someday?  Not our spirits, which never die, but our bodies.  What Paul is showing is that our bodies have significance beyond the grave, so what we do with our bodies has significance beyond the grave.
 I think there's also a question implied here.  "Do you mean to tell me that God can raise your bodies from the dead, but can't help you control your bodies here on earth?"  The resurrection of Christ is proof that we have power to control the passions of our bodies until such time as God provides an outlet for them in marriage.  In verse 15 Paul asks, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!"
 Because our bodies are members of Christ, when we join our bodies sexually to a harlot (for the Corinthians, the prostitutes in the temple of Aphrodite), we are taking Christ with us.
 Someone might say, "I did not invite Christ."  Yes you did, if you belong to Him.  You said to Jesus Christ, "Let's You and me go have some fun."  It is understanding the theology of this issue that helps you see that sex is a special area.
 Verses 15-17 tell us there is no biblical view of sex without commitment.  The only lawful use of sex is within marriage, where two become one.  You don't have sex in order to have commitment.  You make a commitment first, and then celebrate it with sex.  Paul is not saying that sex outside of marriage is wrong simply because two warm bodies come together.  Something much more significant is happening.  Sex outside of marriage is the ultimate lie because two people are performing the act of marriage without commitment.  No such thing was ever intended in God's economy.  Many people, even believers, who have been married for a long time are still suffering from the scars of things that took place perhaps in their teenage years.  The reason is that there is no other sin quite like sexual sin, because every other sin is external in its effect.  But immorality does damage to the spirit.  Why?  Because when two people engage in physical intimacy, that engagement produces a new thing.  The two become one.  Something brand new is created.
 Now if the pair decide they don't want the new thing they have created, they pull away.  But in the pulling away, they tear away apart of themselves.  Obviously, the more times a person engages in this destructive process, the more of that person is left behind and the greater the damage.
Guarding Your Sexual Purity
 You say, "Tony, this is tough.  I want to maintain my purity, but sex is all around me.  What do I do?"
 Paul has a two-word answer for you in verse 18:  "Flee immorality."  In other words, run!  Get out of there.  Move your feet.  As someone has said, where temptation is present, don't you be present.
 You can't emotionalize, theorize, or play with sexual temptation. You have to hit the track and get out of there.  You cannot keep placing yourself in environments that are sexually tempting to you and expect to stay clean.  That may mean changing your viewing and reading habits, your dating habits, even your friends.
 If you decide to guard your sexual purity at all costs, you are going to pay a cost.  If you are a man, when some folk find out you are taking your stand, they are going to put you down.  They are going to call you a sissy, question your manhood.  If you are a woman, some people will think you're an uptight prude.  Your friends may accuse you of being too scared to have fun.  Some men may try to test your commitment.
 If you commit yourself to sexual purity, you may feel like you're all alone in a mental prison.  There is a cost to pay, but with God there is also a payday!  Read on in Genesis and you'll see how God honored and blessed Joseph.  God gave him a wife and two sons -- and even brought his brothers back and changed them so that they got right.  It may cost you to be faithful to God, but when God rewards you, it will be worth the cost.  So I say again, "Flee immorality."  Guard your sexual purity.  

God's Nickel

Back in the days when you could still buy an ice cream cone for a nickel, there was a little boy who lived in a small town with his grandmother. Every Sunday the grandmother took the boy to church and after they would go downtown for a special treat--an ice cream cone. One Sunday grandmother was not feeling well, and she told the boy that he would have to go to church by himself. Before he left she gave him two nickels--one for the offering plate and one for an ice cream after church.
     Now it happened that the boy needed to cross an old wooden bridge in order to get to church. As he was crossing the old bridge, he began jumping up and down, as boys will do, making the bridge shake and sway. His sharp ears picked up a small thunk, and he looked down just in time to see one of the nickels his grandmother had given him roll into a small crack on the bridge. The little boy fell down on all fours and put his eye to the crack. He watched helplessly as the nickel fell into the river below.
     Standing up and dusting off his knees, he said to no one in particular, "Oh well. There goes God's nickel." Where to take it from here...
Often when we're low on money, it's God who doesn't get his share. If we run out of time, then God waits in vain for us to be with him. If we run out of energy, then God's work suffers.
     Jesus turned those kinds of priorities upside down when he said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you" (Matthew 6:33). If you will give God the first and best of all that you have, then God will bless you with all that you need and more!

New Things

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
Our past can be a hindrance or a help in our moving toward the purposes God has for each of us. For some, the past has meant pain and heartache which requires grace to not let our past dictate our responses to the future. If we let our past make us a victim, then we have not entered into the grace that God has for each of us. If we live on memories of past successes and fail to raise our vision for new things we again become victims of our past.
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:19). Our past should only be viewed for what we can learn from it. We must move forward and avoid viewing the negative or the positive for any more than what we can learn. Many a person has allowed their past to dictate their future. God is always about doing new things in our lives. He gives fresh revelation of His purposes in our lives. Do not live in the past. Do not hold onto bitternesses that may hinder God doing new and exciting things in your life. He turns our wastelands into streams of water to give life, not death.
How have you viewed your past? Has it hindered you in some areas of your life? Have you relied on past successes to dictate what you will do in the future? Put aside such thoughts and allow God to do a new thing in your life. Ask Him to help you see the new things He wants to do in and through you today.
"When your memories are bigger than your dreams, you're headed for the grave."
-author unknown

Heaven Is A Free Gift

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23
We can't earn our way to heaven and none of us really deserves to go. It is a gift.
We Are All Sinners
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 Every person who has ever lived has missed God's standard of perfection.
He Loves Us
"God is love." John 4:8
While God loves us and doesn't want to punish us, we should also know that, as a just God, He must punish sin.
"The soul who sins shall die." Ezekiel 18:4 God Balanced Justice And Love Through His Son Jesus "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
Jesus is the infinite God-man, God in the flesh. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and to purchase a place for us in heaven, which He offers as a free gift.
The Gift Of Eternal Life Is Received By Faith Saving faith is not merely intellectual assent. It is trusting in Jesus Christ alone and what He has done rather than what we can do to get us to heaven.   "What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." Acts 16:30b, 31 The Bible says,   "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." You can do that now by simply praying,
      Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and do not deserve eternal life. But I believe You died and rose from the grave to purchase a place in heaven for me. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins, and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation, and I accept your free gift of eternal life. If this prayer is the sincere desire of your heart, look at the promise of Jesus,   "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life." John 6:47