Merry Christmas

Well, I’m back.  I took the last several months off because the time to devote to blogging simply was not available.  There’s no guarantee, of course, that I truly have the time to do it now.  Nevertheless, in the past three or four months I have been able to reintegrate some of the activities into my life that fell by the wayside after the birth of my girls.

On that subject, the girls turned 10 months old today and are healthy and growing.  The Christmas season has directed our thoughts to exactly how we want to handle this season in the years to come.  We’ve never been really wild about Santa Claus and the extravaganza of materialistic excess that he represents.  While I understand, coming from the background that I do, that Jesus was not born on 25 December, it seems to me that a “religious” observance of Christmas is the only weapon left against the commercial juggernaut that the holiday has become in America.  A more developed post on this will come later.

For now, though, a quote from some recent reading.  I’ve been reading William Wallace’s edition of the autobiography of Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) and came across this remark on “living disciples.”

But I have been trying to tell people that living disciples are the evidences of how much the doctrine we preach is worth.  And if we do not manifest a godly life, the people with whom we associate will not think much of the baptism we preach.  “Your doctrine may be all right, but strange it doesn’t have a better effect on you.”  Such was the thrust offered to a loud-talking disciple in eastern Pennsylvania many years ago.  And that is what the apostle to the Gentiles meant when he wrote in his second letter and third chapter to the saints at Corinth, and specially when he declared, “Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”  This meant that worldlings will read us by our conversation and conduct, our speech and our behavior.  And what we say to them about baptism — or any other subject which applies to them — they will measure it all by our words and works in general, and thus by the results or fruits of our profession.  That is the reason false doctrines are often accepted.  The good life of certain ones professing them causes associates to think “it must be all right.”

Pioneer preachers quite generally failed to consider that water baptism would be estimated by the amount of godliness shown in the daily walk and conversation of those who had been baptized.  If they would honor their baptism by showing they were raised to walk in newness of life, then they would thereby commend and recommend their baptism to others.  I still say that if all immersed believers would honor their baptism by keeping themselves “unspotted from the world,” they would soon work a reformation — and even a revolution — among mankind!  But their preachers and other teachers have not informed them what their baptism should mean to them, because those preachers and other teachers never learned for themselves.  As a result, they never tried to practice anything more than a decent moral life, if even that much had been impressed on their minds.  A CHEAP WAY TO SALVATION — this is the common desire and common determination, regardless of what the Apostles declared.  Beholding this desire and determination has imposed on me anxiety and grief that I cannot express.  Will the Judge of all the earth say, “Well done,” to religious triflers when they will appear before Him in the last great day?  Not if I have read the Bible aright.  And here is my anxiety, heaviness of heart, grief unutterable!

It seems to me that Sommer exposes a serious, and continuing, problem in conservative Churches of Christ: an inadequate understanding of baptism as the beginning point of a life of discipleship.  Too often, once a new believer is baptized, they are left to their own devices with only minimal catechesis (usually in the form of a “new convert’s class” that might be run for a few weeks and then dropped).  This can be an outgrowth of a lack of spiritual leadership in a congregation; the congregation might be without elders or the elders that are in place are businessmen, not shepherds.  It can also be attributed to an approach to evangelism that is more concerned with the number of baptisms (read: notches in one’s belt) than with the perseverance and spiritual growth of the convert.

These are a few thoughts on this topic for now.  I’m off to bed.

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3 responses to “Merry Christmas

  1. Very good read here.

    I have heard Christians rail against the evangelical world with its “easy believism.” But, then turn around and practice an “easy baptismism.” I have most often seen it from parents when a child is baptized. I have heard things after a child was baptized like, “Well, two down, one more to go.” Sadly, I hear these kind of things when the two that have been baptized aren’t growing spiritually and aren’t demonstrating changed lives at all. It is as if we have preached so hard on baptism that folks believe baptism is all that is necessary. Not so. Baptism is merely the entrance into a godly life.

    I think part of the problem is we (as has most of the modern evangelical world) have missed the message of Matthew 5:6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (ESV). It doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for mercy and forgiveness.” It says righteousness. Granted, the only path to righteousness is through God’s mercy and forgiveness. However, it is as if we want the mercy, but we don’t want to pursue the righteousness. God’s mercy and forgiveness is not an end to itself. He bestows His mercy not so we can be forgiven, but so we can be set free to pursue His good works (cf. Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14).

    Thanks for this reminder.

  2. One idea that has been helpful to me lately and I seem to keep being reminded of is that our salvation, while a gift, is also a STRUGGLE.

    Maybe that’s why the Pilgrim’s Progress seemed so strange to me growing up.

  3. Pingback: on baptism « Anastasis

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