— By Barrett Vanlandingham
Happy New Year, everyone! I pray that we all do our best to make 2013 truly a new year, not only in name, but also a year of spiritual revival. The Lord’s church plays an important role in making our community a great place to live. But it is important for us to remember that the church is not brick and mortar. The church is the body of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus and Christians (the body) in this way, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church (Colossians 1:17).”
Scripture also says that Christ feeds and cares for his body of which we are members (ref: Ephesians 5:30). But how do we become members of Christ’s body? In writing to the church in Corinth (several years after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension), Paul says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).”
Peter, James, and Paul were among those apostles who knew very well what it meant to make a fresh start. During a Jewish Feast known as Pentecost (that for Christians also marks the beginning of the church), Peter told a crowd of thousands, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).” This echoes the words of Jesus from the book of John 3:3-5.
In the book of Acts, Luke wrote that a disciple named Ananias had a vision in which the Lord told him to tell Paul to “be baptized and wash your sins away (Acts 9:18, 22:14-16)”. In Acts 9:15 and 22:15, the Lord reveals that Paul was to preach to all people, Gentiles, their kings, the people of Israel (Jews).
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done wrong in the past, God’s grace is extended to everyone. Prison ministry volunteers at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ take this seriously. In 2012, they baptized 162 inmates who were willing to obey God’s plan of salvation!
Good New Year’s resolutions are nothing but unreachable goals if they are not based on a credible plan and followed through. This is also true for spiritual matters. In 2 Kings 5 we are told of a leper named Naaman. The prophet Elisha told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times to cure his leprosy. Naaman thought this was a bad idea and figured there must be a better way to be cured. But in the end, Naaman obeyed the Lord’s prophet, and guess what? It worked! You see, even if Naaman had believed the prophet’s words, but did not follow through in obedience, then his cure would certainly have been in jeopardy.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 1:22 and 2:26).”
So yes, God’s amazing grace is our lifeline to salvation (not our works), but scripture makes it clear that we must reach out in obedience and take hold of it. God bless you in 2013 as you strive to spread his light and love to a lost world (ref: Matthew 28:19-20).
Reach Barrett Vanlandingham at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ at (918) 478-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.