Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Sole Path to Spiritual Baptism: Confession, Trust and Obedience’
©February 16, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #669
(The Lord’s Servant – 2 Timothy 2 and 3); Prayer
Opening Hymn #255: Would You Be Free from the Burden; Choruses
Scripture Verses: Scriptures: Deuteronomy 4:19 and Acts 8:4-25
Let us pray …
Within this vale,
Of toil and sin,
Your head grows bald,
But not your chin.
This little gem of philosophy in rhyme comes courtesy of a men’s shaving cream manufacturer, though unique in style, was widely found along the highways in Texas around the time of my youth. Typically written with a white font on a red background, each line of the Burma Shave jingle was displayed on its own individual sign and was spaced so that those travelling in the car at the posted speed limit, had enough time to process what they had viewed, before the sign displaying the next stanza came into view.
Rather than trying to place their message on a large, expensive billboard that might pass from view before being completely read or understood, the Burma Shave Company placed smaller sized signs, which could be mounted on fence posts along the roadside, requiring less time to be scanned by the driver. In a sense, they were less of a distraction than the large billboards that were typically erected at a significantly greater distance from the highway, and at a greater cost.
Each message contained an element of humor and truth as a subtle way to sell a product. By buying in to the message, the reader is one step from buying the product.
Two Sunday’s ago, I discussed how some self-proclaimed prophets, have promoted the occurrence of a solar eclipse, along with what is described as four blood red moons over the next year or so as a portent from God to all people of the imminent return of Christ, to judge the world
Like the Burma Shave signs, these celestial signs come in sequence, but instead of closing with the words “Burma-Shave”, the final sign in the series might read “Armageddon” or “Final Judgment” and “buy my book”.
You may recall, from my last message, that God did place lights in the heavens to help illuminate the earth, mark the passage of time, days and years, so as to give signs of the seasons, as we read in Genesis 1:14-15 (ESV):
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[a] and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.
Footnotes: a, Genesis 1:14 Or appointed times
But the time of Jesus’ return is not described in the Scriptures as a season or cycle of the earth. As his disciples, we have a commission to share the gospel of Jesus, not collect a commission. Most certainly we are instructed not to dwell upon the time the Lord returns, as there is a danger that by dwelling upon events in the celestial realm, could be viewed as a form of idol worship, as we see in Deuteronomy 4:19 (ESV):
19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
Remember that Jesus stated no one knows the time of his return, Matthew 24:36:
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but the Father only.
Footnotes: a. Matthew 24:36 Some manuscripts omit nor the Son
The Apostle Paul, reiterated the warning from Christ that no one knows the hour or day of our Saviour’s return and the danger listening to false prophecy,
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 (ESV):
The Man of Lawlessness
2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,[a] 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness[b] is revealed, the son of destruction,[c] 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
The so called signs from God, of the four blood red moons and a solar eclipse, do not hold up well to scrutiny. While astronomers have provided NASA with observational DATA, which when processed through computers, allow a prediction of the date and time of every blood red moon and disappearance of the sun event over the last ten thousand years as well as the next ten millennia, NASA is quick to point out that that “blood red moon” is not a scientific term, preferring ,instead, to use the terms “partial lunar eclipse” for “blood red moon” and “solar eclipse” for the “disappearance of the sun”.
But these eclipses come and go in cycles, like the rising and setting of the sun and the passing of the seasons. The return of Christ is a singular event, not a cyclical or seasonal occurrence. The signs that God provides for the Day of Judgment, will most likely be miraculous and supernatural, like those witnessed by the people of Israel as they were led by Moses: the parting of the sea, a pillar of fire and manna from heaven. NASA has no such charts for such events.
Now the Lord did say there will be signs associated with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, as they preach his gospel, which was his final instructions before he ascended to heaven, as we read in Mark 16:14-20 (ESV):
The Great Commission
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Another way of reading Mark 16:17-18 would be:
17 And these signs will accompany:
Those who believe in my name they will cast out demons.
Those who believe in my name will speak in new tongues.
Those who believe in my name will pick up serpents with their hands.
Those who believe in my name, if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them.
Those who believe in my name will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Remember, as Jesus was tempted by Satan from a high place in the desert, after he was baptised by John-the-Baptist, we are not to put God to the test by deliberately performing any of the acts described in Mark 16, as a public demonstration of faith. Miracles that come by the power of God are not intended to be part of a magician’s sideshow, or to sell books, Matthew 4:7 (ESV):
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
The only signs we are to concern ourselves with, are those that come by way of our preaching of the gospel in the name of the Lord. Those signs not being celestial, but associated with true believers in verses 17 and 18 of Mark 16: 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
In spite of the signs provided by God’s Holy Spirit for His disciples, as they shared the gospel, both in the time of Jesus and today, there are self-proclaimed prophets who present themselves as God’s messenger, using signs of magic to fool the people. The Scriptures provide an account of one self-proclaimed prophet and false disciple of the Lord, named Simon, (Simon Magus) who preached his false gospel in Samaria, in Acts 8:4-25 (ESV):
Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
Simon the Magician Believes
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles[b] performed, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall[c] of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Wiki Notes on Simon Magus
Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, in Latin Simon Magus, (Greek Σίμων ὁ μάγος) was a Samaritan magus or religious figure and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip the Evangelist, whose later confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9–24. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuses him of lawlessness. According to Recognitions, Simon’s parents were named Antonius and Rachel.
Surviving traditions about Simon appear in orthodox texts, such as those of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresies. Justin wrote that nearly all the Samaritans in his time were adherents of a certain Simon of Gitta, a village not far from Flavia Neapolis. Irenaeus held him as being one of the founders of Gnosticism and the sect of the Simonians. Hippolytus quotes from a work he attributes to Simon or his followers the Simonians, Apophasis Megale, or Great Declaration. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter.
Upon reading the Scriptural account in Acts 8, carefully you will see that the people of Samaria, including the false prophet Simon, were convicted by the miracles performed by the disciple Philip, as they were true signs from God. In verses 12 and 13, we read that the Samaritans, including Simon, were baptised in water, 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles[b] performed, he was amazed. Now the tough part for some Baptists who hold the false belief that water baptism either follows or ensures baptism of the Spirit. We see that in verses 14 to 17: 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Only by a profession of faith, may one receive His Holy Spirit, see Acts 8:17, 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
However, the acts of observing God’s miracles, being baptised in water, and even after having received the touch by the hands of a disciple of the Lord does not guarantee one may receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will not enter a heart that is not prepared. Let us continue reading Acts 8, from verse 17: 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall[c] of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Peter observed that Simon, was still a slave to sin, and therefore subject to the judgment of death, Acts 8, verse 20: 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”
Simon acknowledges that his heart is, as Peter had observed, “not right before God”, as he is in the “bond of iniquity”, that he was still a slave to sin. Unfortunately, Simon’s reply, is to ask Peter to “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me”, indicating a reluctance by Simon to surrender completely to God, preventing the magician from receiving the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by the mistaken belief on the part of Simon, when he attempts to purchase, with money, God’s free gift that was already purchased by Christ on Calvary’s cross. And one can only receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of God through genuine faith in the gift of Jesus; by the confession of, as well as the turning away from a life of sin; and by following the Lord, Jesus Christ.
It seems interesting to note that whenever money enters the picture, as with the offer to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit by Simon, or the sales of books claiming to reveal God’s purpose by way of observing celestial events, we see that God’s Holy Spirit is absent. Offering money in exchange for gifts of the Spirit, as Peter observed, indicates a heart that is not right with God and unworthy of the blessings of God’s Holy Spirit. There is no treasure on earth that can purchase a plan only to be revealed by God, in His chosen time.
I want to close today’s message by posing a question to you, framed in the form of a metaphor, about your own spiritual journey, as the answer has life or death consequences for your soul’s salvation:
“Are you racing alongside a speeding celestial train, as it travels on a magical media tour, hoping to buy salvation in a can, or have you placed your trust in the assurance of salvation by following Jesus’ Way to heaven, being the only true way to avoid the judgement of death?” After all, the choice is yours.
He tried To cross
As fast train neared
Death didn’t draft him
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord
Benediction – (Romans 15:13):
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.