Put Skin in the Game

“Put your little foot in…”

Joshua 3: “14So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,  16the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.”

    After 40 years of wandering and burying well over a million of their people in the wilderness, the Hebrews were ready to obey. God is partnering with these fresh troops that are just for the first time obeying the in the act of circumcision since leaving Egypt and then holding the Passover, now the test of faith. On the east bank of the Jordan River in flood stage the masses gathered on the slopes a half mile behind the ark of God carried by the priests. They all could see the ark and had been told to follow it across the raging river with elderly and children. Now God is demanding they put some skin into the conquest of the land of milk and honey; the priests must lead the way by stepping first into the flood waters. This would be certain death with the heavy ark unless God steps in. Every eye of nearly three million people was on the priests. As soon as the Priest’s 40-year-old sandals touched the water, the river dried up and water piled up 25 miles to the north. The crowd cheered praise to The Lord God; it was the Red Sea all over again.  As Joshua had commanded for God, twelve men, one from each tribe, gathered a large stone from the middle of the river and carried the stone on their shoulder to make a monument across the river to remember this day and this crossing.  The priests and the ark stood in the middle of the dry Jordan until all the people had crossed.

   Once encamped on the West bank, Joshua commanded all males to be circumcised and to prepare for the Passover.   When the men were healed they were ready to conquer the land.

    God could have just dried up the Jordan River while they slept, but God wants to partner with His people; He wants His people to put some skin in the game.

   Fast forward nearly 1500 years and the promised front man for the Messiah is preaching along the same river banks and John is calling all Judea to repent and be baptized (immersed) in the river’s waters.

Mark1: 4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

    Now this whole idea of John calling for repentance and baptizing for the forgiveness of sins had the religious leaders in Jerusalem all bent out of shape. This forgiveness and baptism is found nowhere in the Law of Moses, the law they were living under.  For those claiming this is an Old Testament Baptism, they are missing the whole point of what John and Jesus were doing. Jesus followed with a message of repentance and baptism. 

    John 4: The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John,  2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.  3When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

   The law made no such provision for forgiveness via this act, but with future reference based on the blood and cross of Jesus, as was all of the forgiveness in animal sacrifice in the old law was.  John referenced this in John 1:29, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  30This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’    Here John is referring to Jesus as the suffering Messiah of Isaiah 54. Before the reigning Messiah of Isaiah 9 could take his throne the suffering Messiah must validate all animal sacrifices from Adam on, and all of the baptisms of John and Jesus on the cross and with the open tomb.

   Now if baptism is based on repentance and confession of sins in the ministry of John and Jesus before Calvary, why would it not be after Calvary?  With repentance and immersion in water they responded; John and Jesus are not acting on the old Law but the coming cross.

   The Protestant Reform Theology is based on a few verses alone, not on the whole Bible; a proof text of a few scriptures taken out of context to show that you have to do nothing but believe to be saved.  This is a self-denying theology. Because belief is just as much a work as repentance and baptism are.  The reformers fear of obeying in the slightest thing is based on Ephesians 2:8: “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  9not by works, so that no one can boast.  10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

   The works not involved with salvation were works of the Hebrew law- circumcision, dietary rules, and temple rules.  

    The preaching of John, Jesus, and Peter puts the need of confession of sins, repentance, and immersion for being forgiven of sins as all primary.  God still wants us to put some skin in the game. Yes, we are saved by grace, but not grace alone. We have to put some skin in the game or salvation becomes universal and all are automatically saved. That skin is a work-entitled faith.  Faith is hard work.  “Faith comes by hearing,” and seeing also since we have printed Bibles.  That faith must be an educated faith. The first evangelistic step of the Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is a disciplined learner, one that has fallen in love with Jesus.  This requires work of an evangelist that brings the message and work of the learner that is learning the message.  When one becomes a disciple one realizes they are a lost sinner and confessing of those sins and repenting of them brings us to baptism at the preaching of John, Jesus, or Peter (and of course, later, the preaching of Paul.)  Of course confession and repentance are emotional and mental works of the disciple.  This leads to, in all cases, to the next command to the disciple, to be immersed into water for the remission of sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For those that believe that is O.T., Peter preaches the transitional sermon into the N.T. in Acts 2.

   Here he convicts many in the temple crowd of well over a hundred thousand that they crucified the Messiah and they cried out, “WHAT MUST WE DO?” Peter answers back with a John and Jesus answer in Acts 2:38 and following: 38Peter replied, “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.  39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

   This is John and Jesus’ message; the difference is now the baptized believer receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus is very specific in John 14:23, he says, “that if you love and obey me, the Father will love you, and we will come make our home in you.” In other places, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and Apostle John are generic and use belief or faith to cover all the God requests to receive the indwelling of the triune God. This is the reason you need the whole word of God, not a text taken out of context; my  Evangelical brothers are very good at taking a verse alone and building a denomination around it. 

   Now let’s be clear here: we are talking about confession, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Spirit and leaving that you are saved, going to heaven at any place along this journey up to God as Doctor Luke says in Acts 2:47, “THE LORD ADDS TO THE CHURCH DAILY THOSE BEING SAVED.”

   It is God’s business as to when we are eternally saved.  It is our business to do the works ready to be added by God when and where God so desires.  I FIND IT COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO ARGUE WITH MY SPIRITUAL FIRST COUSINS IN THE Bible-believing world if you are saved walking down into the baptistery or walking up out of the baptistery.  God knows the answer to that; I sure don’t.

    We also need to leave room for God to respond to actual death bed conversions where baptism is impossible and no Christian life is lived; I for sure do not recommend waiting until the last minute, but it does happen, and then it is God’s business.

     We also need to address the difference between Matthew 28:20 and Acts 2:38.  When you say Jesus you are including the Father and the Holy Spirit.

    Verse ten of Ephesians 2 is where we get all our skin in the game of Christian life.  When we are saved and given the Holy Spirit we are adopted by the Father and given assignments that were planned before time. Then we must get both feet into the game. God will give us the Spiritual gifts necessary to accomplish the given tasks.  This is where the vast majority of babies in Christ are messed up today.  They think they are faithful Christians if they are in church three Sunday mornings out of a month. At that point they are still in pampers and on the bottle.

   As Teaching Pastor I am failing my Job if next Sunday you are not a more knowledgeable Christian than you were last Sunday. To accomplish this I preach from the Epistles on every other Sunday morning and the Prophets on Sunday night. I teach Bible Wednesday night, publish reading material in the Sunday Epistle and MG Stories. I have a gospel blog, three Facebook pages. It is the old story that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.  I will be held accountable in the Bema judgments for how well I taught you. It is by my teaching that you respond to your assigned tasks. God’s overall plan is depending on every Christian doing their jobs, just as it is a football coach’s job to get the team to exercise and practice for the big game on Friday night.   Paul the Apostle was the original teaching Pastor.  He wrote good directions on how to prepare to get skin in the game of Christianity in Philippians 2: 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and according to his good purpose. 14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

    Paul uses a sporting term to go to the spiritual gym and work out.  To be in first string spiritual shape we need to work out our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, we need to get familiar with our Bibles to know where each book is; your Bible is a library of 66 books. Sit in your chair and practice finding each book. This is spiritual workout.

   Work out your testimony, how you became a Christian. This you can share with friends in how to become a Christian.

    Memorize some scripture each week. Start with one line at a time and work up to a verse at a time.

    In your car, listen to Christian radio.  You will find locations on our Mission Statement page; these are FM stations.  Listening to Christian music is a good spiritual workout for you.  It will also give you a heads up in singing in our AM worship service since Carol selects old hymns, spiritual choruses, and contemporary Christian music. Lots of the preaching on our local stations is pretty good. KELP AND KMBN are slanted toward Reform theology and slip in faith-only theology now and then, but you can handle it.

   I encourage each of you to get a spiral notebook and keep a prayer diary.  I notice I am more complete in my prayers when I write them out in a prayer journal.  Also I can go back over my prayer journal and highlight answered prayers.  This gives me a heads up for thank you prayers.

   Going to the gym by yourself is no fun; get a prayer partner to share your learning and prayer time with. Read a good Christian book to each other. Discuss with each other what you read. Go as partners to visit the sick or new attendees at church or prospects for church.

  Work at cutting down the complaining and griping about how bad things are and concentrate on how good things are.  Learn in dealing with others to practice improving your ability to use the Fruit of the Spirit.  Being a Christian is a lot more fun when you get skin in the game. The more skin in the game, the more fun you have, and the more God is glorified.  (HDP)