Summary: “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” Mark 1:10-11.

Theme: God shows approval through baptism

Text: Gen. 1:1-5; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

It is one thing to be accepted by God and quite another thing to be approved by Him. In Rev. 17:14 the Scriptures reveal that Jesus Christ has an army of followers through whom He fights and overcomes His enemies. “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings - and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers”. However¸ He can often only rely on those who are His faithful followers as seen in the example of Gideon. When Gideon gathered an army of 32,000 Israelites to fight the enemy he knew how few they were compared to the number of the enemy. But God also knew that not all of them would serve him wholeheartedly. He therefore first sent the fearful home. After testing the 10,000 remaining men only 300 met God’s approval and it was with these 300 faithful followers that Gideon fought and won the battle. In the same way there are many followers of Christ today who believe in Him and yet do not serve Him faithfully. It is often said that many are called, few are chosen, and fewer still are faithful. The faithful followers are the ones who have been tested through the ordinary circumstances of life and have won Christ’s approval. They are the ones that bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. No employer would be satisfied with workers who do not bear fruit. The reason they were employed was to bear fruit for the company. Those who bear much fruit are entrusted with more responsibility. God shows approval through baptism when He entrusts His faithful Disciples with more responsibility.

Eph. 2:8-9 declares “For by grace we have been saved through faith and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”. After salvation, however, how can we gain God’s approval? We can gain God’s approval by living the life of Christ. This is a life that is freed from selfishness showing love and concern and meeting the needs of the needy. When Jesus Christ became flesh and lived amongst us the vast majority of those who believed in Him did so for selfish reasons. Today the situation is no different and many come to Christ only to meet their personal needs and for their own personal blessings. The only way to live the life of Christ is to set our minds on eternal things because we are where Christ is. We need to renew our minds and can not allow anything of this world to distract us from total devotion to the Lord. The cares of this world only weigh us down and we must be ready to forsake everything the world offers and be willing to endure difficulties if we are to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We must also be diligent to present ourselves approved to God. In the words of Paul to Timothy “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier”.

Seeking the good of others, setting our hearts on things above and being diligent is the way to gain God’s approval. This is clearly illustrated in the life of Abraham. Abraham and Lot were both rich in this world’s goods, but they had completely different attitudes toward their possessions. Abraham was heavenly minded, whereas Lot was earthly minded. Abraham, although the elder and the one who had brought Lot along, gave Lot the first choice when the time came for them to separate. Lot chose all the plain of Jordan because, according to the Scriptures, it was well watered everywhere just like the Garden of Eden. It would seem that Abraham came out second best because of his unselfish spirit in letting Lot have first choice. But God honours those who are unselfish, trust Him and put Him first. Abraham trusted God to give him his portion and he responded to God’s blessing by building an altar and worshipping Him. Lot eventually lost everything he owned which makes us realise that those who seek the things of this world end up empty handed. It is heartbreaking to think of what happened to Lot when members of his family were destroyed in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but it is also heartbreaking to think about many present-day believers who are being destroyed with their families because they are more concerned about the things of time than about the things of eternity. Life is not about possessions and material goods but about our relationship with God and about our commitment and faithfulness to Him. Our heart is where our treasure is so each of us knows where our heart is? Is it set on things above or on things on earth?

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