The Heavens Were Opened

Dallas Willard Part 2 of 2

Dallas, in conjunction with baptism services for a few friends, preached two sermons on the topic for his home church, Valley Vista Christian Community. It seems to have been part of a sermon series on Hebrews 6 and the “elementary doctrines of Christ.”

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Dallas: . . . I have the chance to talk to you about some things that seem to me to be very important and Larry has mentioned that he has been concerned about this topic and I think that it is a part of a larger range of problems because to just put it in a simple word, our understanding and practice of the discipleship way to Christ is out of order. It doesn’t have the parts in the right place and some of the parts are missing and that makes it very hard to work, you know?  [00:42]

If you have a lawn mower and some of the parts are missing, it makes it difficult to use it and perhaps, even dangerous. Consequently, one may get hurt or one may not get the grass mowed or one may—depending on which part it is—there will be a deficiency in the operation. I think that when we look at our churches generally and especially if we try to compare it to the times when the power and personality of Christ was so obviously present in groups of people, we can see that there is a need for some additional adjustments, shall we say?

In his letter, Larry mentioned the opening of the 6th chapter of Hebrews. I’m not going to exposit that this morning or talk about it but the idea there in that chapter is precisely one of order and you may recall that it begins with repentance.  That’s the first step—repentance from dead works and actually it would be well if we had time enough to spend a great deal of time just talking about repentance because it is so badly misunderstood. [2:01]

Repentance is—probably the best way to understand repentance is seeing things for what they really are—metanoia—and of course, it means including also seeing “your seeing” for what it really is because metanoia is kind of—I guess the closest English equivalent we have to metanoia is something like “after thought.” We thought it out again and that’s metanoia and to look at dead works and see them for what they are is the foundation stone. [2:41]

Then the next step of course is faith—faith towards God. Now, in our ordinary groups and in our ordinary seminaries, and our teaching generally, that’s as far as we get—repentance and faith. But you will notice in that passage and I hope you will have a chance to look at it—the next step is baptism. Actually, it’s not baptism. If you will notice, it is plural—baptisms.

Now, we can hardly make sense of one today but as we—I will begin to show you this morning in the New Testament; a baptism in the Christian way is always twofold. Baptisms—and then closely attached with that, in this order was the laying on of hands—the laying on of hands. [3:46]

I just wanted to review that with you this morning and ask you to reiterate Larry’s suggestion in the letter that perhaps this week, after you have heard the discussion today, you would look at those first verses of Hebrews 6 and just ask yourself, “How does my experience in the church correspond to this?”

I want to be very upfront today about one thing. I am not here to lay any additional burdens on you today. In fact, I’d like to lift a few. If there is anything we don’t need, it’s more burdens and so often, our religion comes to us as just another burden. I want to just encourage you to believe that I am not going to lay any burdens on you today and when you go to look at this passage in the coming week, I hope you won’t look at it as “am I gonna find out something else I’ve got to do?” (Laughter) One more thing to do! [4:49]

I am hoping that before our time is over today, we will have gotten clear about that and that you feel very easy and very comfortable now about looking into this matter—not just with baptism—and indeed, what I want to say to you this morning is discussions of baptism are only appropriate within the context of a discussion of life. And I think I want to just, with that, give you the two main texts that I want to use. One of them I am not going to develop more than just to use it to set before you this way of life and that’s in Philippians the third chapter, I believe it is. [5:35]

I have a new Bible this morning and so if I do a bit of stumbling around here, I hope you will forgive me. When I get a new Bible, it’s really like getting a new pair of legs that I don’t know how to use or something like that.

This is Philippians, the third chapter, please and the last few verses—17-21—(Living Bible) “Dear brothers, pattern your lives after mine, and notice who else lives up to my example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again now with tears in my eyes, (that) there are many who walk along the Christian road who are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal loss, for their god is their appetite: they are proud of what they should be ashamed of; and all they think about is (this) life here on earth. But our homeland is in heaven where our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is: and we are looking forward to his return from there. When he comes back, he will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer all else everywhere.” (Philippians 3:17-21) See, here is the idea of a different homeland, a different center—a life that has a different source. Our conversation is in Heaven—the old version says—our conversation, our walk is in Heaven. [7:33]

Now then, I’d like you to look at Matthew 3 and if you would please, turn there and hold that for a while because I want to do more than just read this. This will be one of the two main passages we will be meditating on at length today and this has to do with the baptism of Jesus and I’d like to just read first the 16th verse. “After his baptism, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove. And a voice from Heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him.’ “ (Philippians 3:16) (Living Bible) [8:36]

The title I would give my talk today with simply the phrase, “The heavens were opened.” Jesus lived His life before an open Heaven. There is no indication, except possibly for a few moments on the cross that after this time, the Heavens were ever closed to Him. He lived His life before an open Heaven.

Now, we have to set just a little background here. Human life, as we now know it, is lived before a closed Heaven. In part, that is essential to our very nature that God has given us. We live blind to the realities of God and of the Spirit world. That is because God has appointed that we should live our lives in a kind of independence that allows us to make a choice and to decide what kind of persons we are going to be. [9:51]

Think of a little child that could never get away from the parents “eye.” Well, if you’ll ask the little child, you will figure out that they don’t like that and there is a reason why they don’t like that. It isn’t just that they want to do bad things and get away with them. It’s much deeper than that and it goes right to the very depth of our personality. That little child—very small—they begin to understand that their individuality is tied to being alone and on their own and every human being, as they come to the realization of their powers, their conscious powers, their capacity to act and to choose, every human being wants to be on their own.

Being on their own is so absolutely essential to all of our mental health, our ability, everything that we have. I mean it’s true of doing Algebra. What you want to do is get on your own with it. Most of it perhaps want to get as far away from it as possible but the fact is that in any field of knowledge, it’s getting on your own, isn’t it that counts? What about driving? Right? You want to get on your own. Walking—a little kid learns to walk or crawl—when they begin to do that, try to pick them up and hold them. What they want is on their own, thank you, just the same and as quickly as possible.

You see, that’s part of what it means for us to be individuals, and God has arranged that there is this veil between us, and all of the absolutely resplendent and overpowering realities of Himself and His world.

 

Have you ever asked yourself the question? What does it mean when it says, “No man has seen God and lived?” What does that mean? Let’s take a few moments and think about it. You know, there are some things that are so overwhelming, even in the natural course of things, usually quite awful things that our lives are never the same once we see them. But God is so absolutely overwhelming that your consciousness of Him would kill you. [12:45]

It would be like flying directly into the sun but the sun doesn’t begin to match the power and majesty of God. And God has ministers, which are as the scripture tells us, “flames of fire, flames of fire,” and our scripture tells us that our God is a “consuming fire.” See, the energy and the reality, the glory that is in God is so great that we can’t stand to look at it.

That’s what we must remember when we think about a “closed” Heaven. Heaven is closed. You can’t see Heaven. It has to be mediated to us and it is mediated to us precisely in Jesus Christ. I don’t know whether or not we want to live before an open Heaven because you see, that calls us deeply into question and this is the other side of that individuality which I was talking about a while ago, because while individuality is absolutely indispensible to us, it tends to go haywire and we tend to want to exalt ourselves in our own lives and be God unto ourselves. And when the Heavens open, there is no longer a possibility at that—no longer a possibility. [14:22]

People can set up idols whether they are stones or snakes or themselves. They could do that only so long as they don’t really see God. But when they see Him, He destroys those idols and if they are not able to make the contact through Christ, it destroys them. They are destroyed.

Now, with that as a kind of background, I want to now read the two main passages with comments that deal with the baptism of Jesus and if you will just follow along with me here in the 3rd chapter of Matthew and then we will turn to the Gospel of John. [15:06]

The 3rd chapter opens with a reference to the time when Jesus and His parents were living in Nazareth and we read, “While they were living in Nazareth, John the Baptist began preaching out in the Judean wilderness. His constant theme was ‘Turn from your sins . . . turn to God . . . for the Kingdom of Heaven is (available) coming soon.’  Isaiah the prophet had told about John’s ministry centuries before! He had written, ‘I hear a shout (in) from the wilderness, ‘Prepare a road for the Lord—straighten out the path where he will walk.’  John’s clothing was woven from camel’s hair and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and all over the Jordan Valley, and, in fact, from every section of Judea went out to the wilderness to hear him preach, and when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he denounced them. (He said) ‘You sons of snakes!’ he warned. ‘Who said that you could escape the coming wrath of God? Before being baptized, prove that you have turned from sin by doing worthy deeds. Don’t try to get by as you are, thinking, ‘We are safe for (because) we are Jews—(we are) descendants of Abraham.’ That proves nothing. God can change these stones (here) into Jews!’ And even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised to chop down every unproductive tree.” (Matthew 3:1-10-Living Bible) [16:38]

You see, John preached the baptism of repentance, and in the next verse, “With water! I baptize those who repent of their sins; but someone else is coming . . . “ Now we get the transition. John baptized with water unto repentance. That’s the only baptism he understood and by the way, the word there in your versions possibly, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance” is the same word—the little Greek term—aeth—as you find in the Great Commission. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and it refers to placing them into repentance and that is why John said to those who he knew did not intend to repent, “Bring forth fruit. Show that this is what you really want put into” because he was not going to put them into something that their heart was not into. It can’t be done.

Baptize unto repentance—it doesn’t mean to make them repent. Baptize them. Someone suggested—get them there and hold them under until they repent. [Laughter] It doesn’t mean that. It means that he is going to place them, if you wish, into the mode of repentance—a kind of life, and that was John’s baptism. [18:08]

Now then, what he says is, “I’ve been given a vision of another baptizing and another Baptizer.” “Someone (else) is coming, far greater than I (am), so great that I am not worthy to carry his shoes! He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost (Spirit) and with fire. He will separate the chaff from the grain, burning the chaff with never-ending fire and storing away the grain.” (Matthew 3:11-Living Bible)

The twofold baptism of Jesus is the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the baptism of judgment. One comes now in the fellowship of the church and the other comes at the end of time when the Son of Man shall separate out those who have not been able—for whatever reason or explanation—they have not received and been baptized in the Holy Ghost. [19:06]

The baptism of spirit and of fire—isn’t it wonderful that John was not given the baptism of fire? No person is given the baptism of fire but Jesus. He’s the only one who has that and you remember that one day, His disciples said, “Lord, shall we call down fire from Heaven to consume?” He said, “You don’t know what spirit you are.” And you know the church, through its history have perhaps been lustful after the baptism with fire and very lax with the baptism of the spirit but the gentle Spirit of God are the one which we’ve been given as our part in baptism now. [19:47]

“Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized there by John. John didn’t want to do it. ‘This isn’t proper,’ he said, ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Please do it, for I must do all that is right.’ So then John baptized him.” (Matthew 3:13-15-Living Bible)

And then we see the text, which we’ve read, “After his baptism, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him.’ “ (Matthew 3:16-Living Bible) [20:33]

Now, I want you to notice one thing in particular here and then we are going to turn over to John, the first chapter. It explicitly comments here that at his baptism, Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove and I want to say something about this which you will perhaps need a little while to digest and that is, we think of the spirit as invisible but the spirit is not invisible. The spirit is visible. Just because I can’t see it at a given time doesn’t show that it isn’t visible—just because mankind generally does not see it does not show that it is not visible. If we turn the lights out entirely and make it completely dark in here, you will not become invisible though I will not see you. Isn’t that right? Your visibility is not a matter of whether or not I am actually seeing, you see.

Now, the testimony of the New Testament is that the whole world lies in darkness. What does that mean? It means that we can’t see. The problem is not that the spirit is invisible but either the lights are off or our glasses aren’t on or our eyes are not working. The spirit is visible. [22:15]

You remember, the story of Elisha and his young servant—how Elisha had been picking up communications of the King of Syria about the battle plan and the King wondered how this was happening and they told him that, “Elisha hears every word you say in your bed chamber” and so of course they went to get Elisha and this young man who was his servant stepped out in the morning to, I guess, pick up the newspaper or something and as he rose up, He saw this army standing there—horses and chariots and fire breathing soldiers and all of that sort and he hastened back in and slammed the door and said, “Now , what are we going to do?” (2 Kings 6:15) [23:03]

You remember the words of Elisha to this young man were, “They that be for us are more than them that be against us” and then he prayed. (2 Kings 6:16) You remember what that prayer was? That prayer was that the Lord would open the eyes of the young man so that he could see those that were for them. And you will remember that when his eyes were open, he saw that the whole mountainside was full of chariots of fire. Hmmm? Now, you see, Elisha lived before an open Heaven. He lived before an open Heaven. (2 Kings 6:17)

Jesus at this point in His ministry had the Heavens open to Him as He had not before. Apparently, John the Baptist never had that experience even though as the scripture tells us he was filled with the spirit from his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15) Jesus was conceived of the spirit that overshadowed Mary and brought Him into human existence and yet He had not seen this. [24:23]

John the Baptist was given however, a vision also. You will note that in this description here, it doesn’t say anything about what John the Baptist saw so now would you turn with me to the Gospel of John, the first chapter? We see again in the 23rd verse John replying to the—this is of course John the Baptist, not John, the disciple now—but John the Baptist replying to those who came to say, “Who re you?” And verse 23, “I am the (a) voice in (from) the barren wilderness, shouting as Isaiah prophesied (promised), ‘Get ready for the coming of the Lord!’ “ And verse 26, John said, “I merely baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you have never met, who will soon begin his ministry among you, and I am not even fit to be his slave.” (John 1:26-27-Living Bible)  See, John had been told that he was going to see something. He was going to identify one who would be the Messiah. [25:42]

“The next day,” verse 29, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Soon a man far greater than I am is coming who existed long before me!’ I didn’t know he was the one, but I am here baptizing with water in order to point him out to the nation of Israel.”  (John 1:29)

Now, this is an interesting statement because you will recall that this is not the first meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist. Do you remember the first meeting?—a rather unusual kind. I don’t know quite know how to describe it—inter-womb—or something of that sort because you will remember after Jesus was conceived, she went to visit Elizabeth, her kinswoman and as she greeted Elizabeth, John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb. Not your ordinary moment of recognition. [Laughter] But still, and there’s no doubt but that they knew one another. You can’t believe that Elizabeth and Mary didn’t get those two boys together quite regularly. You know about Jewish mothers; they are just mothers generally and they are going to manage this. [27:08]

Of course, they didn’t understand. John didn’t understand either, you remember.  John’s mind was held back all the way along to His death and at the moment of His death he was still saying, “Now, are you really; are you really the one?” Even after this. You see, we mustn’t believe that this is just something if he had been smart enough, he would have figured it out. It is by revelation of God and when Peter announced, “Thou art the Christ,” you remember, Jesus said, “You didn’t figure this out yourself, Peter. You didn’t learn this lesson in Sunday school. It was revealed to you by God.” And John—it’s easy to be very sympathetic with John if you understand because you see, John stood right on the threshold of something that was so great and he didn’t understand it but what else could he have because you will remember, when they later came to John and they said, “Now, John this fellow Jesus whom you’ve baptized is baptizing more people than you’re baptizing.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? [Laughter] It’s somehow reassuring to understand that some things don’t change. [Laughter] Boy, they got right down to what mattered, didn’t they? [Laughter] And, John, bless his heart said, “Well, you know, I’m not the Bridegroom.” And those wonderful words, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30) and John knew that somehow what he was doing was not the real show. [28:54]

Do you know, John was given this one word from God which I think must have helped him a lot, at least for awhile and we are about to read it here. “The next day John said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God—He’s the one I was talking about. I didn’t know He was the one but I am here baptizing with water in order to point Him out to the nation of Israel. “ (John 1:35)

You see, your old versions perhaps will say, “I didn’t know Him. I just knew He was going to show up. Therefore I can baptize Him with water.” That’s why John was out there. [Laughter] I am thinking watching all these people come down, “Is this going to be it?” You know? So, he “socks” them under or pours it on them or whatever he was doing and he watched Him. You see, is this it? “No, not that one.” He was out there baptizing for this one purpose—one purpose—to identify the Son of God when He came.  [30:00]

Then John told about seeing the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descend from Heaven and resting upon Jesus. “I didn’t know He was the one,” John said again, “But at the time God sent me to baptize, He told me, ‘when you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, He’s the one you are looking for. He is the one that baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I saw it happen to this man and I therefore testify that He is the Son of God.” You see, the life before an open Heaven is mediated by one upon whom Heaven has come to rest; and that is a general law, which we must all understand. [30:53]

We see something interesting here also. John did not have the Spirit of God on him to give to others. God gave it directly to His Son on the occasion of baptism at the hand of John. A heavenly life was breaking “in,” in a way which it had never been before and we look back at the Old Testament, all kinds of things about being filled with the Spirit, anointed with the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, all of that but you know, there is not a thing about being baptized by the Spirit. That’s because of the nature of baptism. Baptism is a matter of being engulfed by something. It is a matter of being engulfed by something.

Now, next time I am going to talk to you some about the baptism into Moses because there was a baptism into Moses and that was a matter of being engulfed by something. But Christian baptism is a matter of being engulfed by the Spirit of God, which is chiefly identified through the presence of God’s people and the presence of God’s people carries with it the Spirit of God into which we are to be baptized. [32:29]

But now, when Jesus came, that was not there. The people of God were the nation of Israel.  They were called and they were appointed to accomplish really the same thing that the church is called to accomplish. Nevertheless, they had not accomplished it.  What they had done was to prepare the way for a people which would not be defined in terms of any kind of special or geographical or temporal or racial or any other kinds of boundaries and this people which would come out of Israel under the Spirit of God would do the work to which Israel itself was called. And of course, Israel would be a part of that calling.

The Spirit is seen upon Israel in numerous occasions and it is also to be seen in the church and John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God rest upon Jesus as the identifying mark of the One who was to be the Messiah. That connecting link was maintained. [33:46]

Let’s talk just a little bit about that. John certainly saw it. That was the way in which it was marked. It had been seen in the Old Testament on numerous occasions. I’ll just give you one for your study and that’s Isaiah 6. Your remember that in Isaiah 6, there was a marvelous event in which Isaiah walked in to the temple one day and saw—I love the old version the way it puts it—“I saw also the Lord.” (Isaiah 6:1) I like the “also.” He had been there a lot of times. He’d seen the show. He’d heard the songs. This time, when he walked in, he saw also the Lord.

What was being cried out there in Isaiah 6 is a theme that is repeated in many places in the Old and in the New Testament because here we have an enunciation of the Glory of God hovering about the Lord where “angels of fire with two wings they covered their face, with two others they covered their, with two wings they flew” and in a great antiphonal chorus they sang “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is filled with His Glory. Such singing it was that they shook the temple to its foundation and suddenly the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:2- 6) And that manifestation as smoke or cloud is a common manifestation of the presence of God’s Spirit in the Old Testament. [35:44]

When you come to the New Testament, you see this same kind of manifestation on the Mount of transfiguration. If you look at Mark, the 9th chapter, you will see that Jesus, as He prayed was transformed and “His face and His raiment shown” (Mark 9:3) and then as things move along in that passage of Mark 9:7-8, you will see “a cloud overshadowed them and they were not able to see anything” and then when the cloud left, they saw Jesus only.

On the day of Pentecost, what happened? Well, the description there is—you can almost tell the description of someone who didn’t know quite how to describe what was happening but you will remember it is said that it was as if “tongues of fire were playing across the people.” (Acts 2:3) What is it they say? “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Smoke ad fire go together and probably it was something that they simply did not know how to describe but this kind of fire was made a permanent part of the manifestation of the Christian as they lived and walked in the Spirit. [37:07]

I don’t have time this morning to go into detail but I wish you would look at 1 Corinthians 3:18 for example, and as it talks about the glory that rests upon those who minister in the spirit. This is a great passage that is contrasting how the law, though it kills has a great glory and yet how much greater the spirit which gives life and how much greater its glory.

I like to refer to this passage as about the “fellowship of the shining face—the fellowship of the shining face.” When Moses came back down from his communion with God, his face was shown so brightly that people asked him to hide it, you remember? It was like looking straight into a 200-watt light bulb and they said, “Would you please put something over your face so we can be comfortable with you?” Right? [38:05]

Now, you see, the problem is, I’m afraid you think this is just moonshine, hmmm?  It isn’t. This is a reality. The spirit is to be visible and is visible in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t something you work up or you turn on and you get a switch, and we don’t have contests to see whose face is shining brightest. But I am telling you that when the ministry of the Spirit goes forward in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, faces shine and they shine with the light of Heaven. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to have a shining face?

Perhaps I will just read that one verse from 2 Corinthians 3:18 because, sorry; 1 Corinthians 3:18—I think I’ve got my reference wrong on that. Yes, it is 2 Corinthians, verses 16-18—“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord from his sins, then the veil is taken away. The Lord is the spirit who gives them life, and where he is there is freedom from trying to be saved by keeping God’s laws. But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like hIm.” This is the kind of life that we must have in mind when we speak of baptism. [39:50]

And I want to just conclude this morning by characterizing it a little more deeply now. The community of Heaven is a community of acceptance and forgiveness—acceptance and forgiveness. You will remember that Jesus, when he read His commission out of the book of Isaiah, the concluding line is in the old version. “ . . . to announce the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Isaiah 61:2) What that means is—He announces that the Lord is now accepting people, right? Now, He is accepting people.

When Jesus came, one of the most remarkable things about Him was the way in which He accepted people—just all kinds of people, you know? That caused Him as much trouble as anything else in His ministry. He would just go sit down with any old slob and even eat with them, right? Publicans—“Zacchaeus, come on down!” Ahhhhh! Sitting there letting that prostitute wash His feet. “Oh, if He just knew who that woman was! Ugh! If you were a prophet….uh, uh, uh!” Always accepting people. [41:05]

Let me tell you something about God. He loves to forgive! He loves to forgive! He got in trouble about that too, you know. In the 2nd chapter of Mark—this fellow they let down through the ceiling and He said, “Ok fellow, your sins are forgiven!” “Ahhh, oh, wait a minute, who is this fellow?” “Your sins are forgiven.”

See now, don’t take this too hard but sin and sickness are often associated with one another and it causes us great grief because we don’t have the right teaching about that kind of thing and so then if we get sick, we feel guilty and guilt is one of the most useless emotions that you will ever experience and it’s very destructive—very destructive. Jesus never tried to put guilt on anybody. He tried to take guilt off and said, “Your sins are forgiven. Your sins are forgiven.” We just have such a hard time digesting this. [42:17]

Listen to these words—2 Corinthians 5:18-—“All these new things are from God who brought us back to Himself through what (Christ) Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come in to His favor and be reconciled to Him. But (For) God was in Christ, restoring the world to Himself, no longer counting men’s s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message He has given to us to tell others. We are Christ’s Ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ Himself were here pleading with you, receive the love He offers you and be reconciled (to God).

[Break]

[John 21,] verse 20. Now verse 21-22. He spoke to them and said, ”As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. (And) then he breathed on them and told them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.” Can you forgive other people’s sins? Yes, you can. You can do that because forgiveness is not a one-way transaction. It requires reception and in order for your sins to be forgiven, you must receive forgiveness of sins. And I can come to you and tell you that your sins are forgiven. [43:50]

You know, when people stand up in the judgment before God, those who are lost are going to have a list of their sins read and you know what the next thing that is going to be said to them is? It’s going to be, “Now, they’ve all been paid for.” You don’t go to hell because your sins aren’t forgiven. No! We are lost because we don’t believe in Christ—because we don’t accept Him—because we haven’t become Christ-like loving people even in the inner recesses of our heart. There is not condemnation to those who have believed on Jesus—no condemnation, because to believe on Jesus is to affirm and to accept everything that He said and did, and to place our case entirely in His hands. People are not going to go to hell because of their sins because their sins have all been paid for. They’ve all been paid for. [44:59]

And when we go to the person that we are dealing with in any context, we must bring that acceptance to them and say to them, ”It’s all forgiven. God doesn’t have a thing against you. Now why don’t you walk into His Kingdom? Why don’t you do that?” The worst person you can think of, God has forgiven their sins. Hitler, yes, God’s forgiven his sins. See, we just tied getting to Heaven and having your sins forgiven together and we’ve forgotten the inner link here; mainly, that a lot of folks would be very miserable in Heaven because they’ve chosen to be un-Godlike and they’ve chosen not to trust Jesus.

You see, this life in haven with this glory has its first aspect of acceptance and then it really is a life of love and I hate to talk about love because people think, “Oh my, another trap.” You know?

Two big traps in love—one is the idea of now you are going to have to do it. Right? And when you read that passage in 1 Corinthians 13, oh, does it ever sound like heavy, heavy labor. “Love is very patient and kind.” Well, that’s it! [Laughter] Why read on? “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy . . . ” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

I tell you folks, if you didn’t get any one of these, you’ll have the rest so don’t worry about it. Just get one of them! OK? [Laughter] It’s not irritable or touchy. Oh, you show me a person that is not touchy! “ . . . It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to them (him) no matter what. You will always believe in them (him), always expect the best of them (him) and always stand your ground in defending them (him).” (1 Corinthians 12:5-7)

No wonder those faces shine! [Laughter] No wonder those faces shine! You see because this is something that is so powerful! Love is not weak. You realize that this and this alone—we talk about inter-continental ballistic missiles and star wars and all of this—do you realize these little words right here alone are a formula for disbanding and destroying every army on the face of the earth? Do you realize that? We are talking power, you see. [48:23]

Well, and then there is peace, Jesus said in John 14, “My peace I give unto you. Don’t’ let yourself be troubled. Don’t be frightened. Don’t be upset, see? And John tells us in his first letter that “perfect love casts our fear.” Well, now that one destroys the whole pill industry. My word! The economy is in real trouble here. [Laughter] The pharmacist and the gun makers; they are all troubled. They are all ruined. We have ruined them right here this morning.

See, this is the community of Heaven into which baptism makes sense. Are you sort of getting this message now about what we are about to be baptized into? We are going to talk about it more next week. [49:30]

Let me just tell you something now to conclude with because I don’t want you to go away saying, “Whaaaa, I have to do all this stuff.” Jesus never approached it in that way at all. This is not something you have to do. You don’t have to go out and love like that now. You don’t have to go out and say, “Now, I’m going to be peaceful.” Hmmm? “I’m going to really accept you, you nerd.” [Laughter] “And I’m going to just, you know, I mean—the whole attitude is wrong, isn’t it? “Well, I’m going to go out and accept these people.” Well, you see, the problem is already, you’ve lost that one already by the big deal about who it is you are now going to accept, you see? So you can’t do it and you don’t have to do it. You don’t’ have to do it! [50:21]

The question is not—see, I think it’s so important to say that because a lot of people think they don’t want this because they think they have to do it and if you can just get that idea out of your head—oh, you are going to want it. You are going to want it anyway, you know, because when you hear this described, you say, “Oh, that’s it! That’s it! That’s what we’ve all been talking about. That’s what the politicians and the preachers and the poets and the prophets—that’s it!” But then it says, “Well, do it!” Now, you see, you’ve got to understand that you don’t have to do this. You don’t do it. It is something that is given to you. It is give n to you by those who have it.

Suppose that John the Baptist had been told by God, “Now, when you see Him coming, you baptize Him with the Spirit.” Well John the Baptist would had to say, “I haven’t got any. I don’t have any.” No, it’s not that way. You see the fellowship—the reality of the spiritual Kingdom of God, which is a community of acceptance and love and peace, is built by Christ. The Heavens were opened and it came upon Him. He went back to Heaven where He is—a few people have seen Him there since—for example, when Stephen was being finished off, the Heavens were opened and He got to see Jesus sitting on the right hand of the Father, so he had a little empirical confirmation that He is there, you know? He went back but then on the day of Pentecost, you remember where the Spirit came from? It came from Heaven, didn’t it? It came from Heaven and everyone understood that it was being shed forth by the Father, see? It was given. It was given. [52:26]

Now, the promise is to you and to your children and to as many as are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. So, you don’t have to do it. It will be ministered to you by those who have it if you but want it—if you really want this.

Now, don’t say you want it lightly because if you get it, you won’t be anything like you’ve been. You really won’t. Your world will be transformed.

Now, you may already have it and that’s fine and you are in the business of giving it and that’s wonderful, right? Because when you get it, then you can give it and if you haven’t got it, you can talk your head off but you can’t give it to anybody. It’s just like a person who hasn’t got the measles. They can talk about the measles, they can breathe on them, slobber on them, kiss them and do everything they can and they can’t give them the measles because they don’t have the measles. And when you’ve got love and when you’ve got acceptance and you’ve got peace, then you can give it. You can’t “not” give it. Jesus couldn’t “not” give it. He tried to hide and they would chase Him down, see? [53:43]

So, relax! Peace, relax! If you want this, it will be given to you and it will be given to you by those who stand in the apostolic succession in connection with Christ. Now, the apostolic successors are the ones who have apostolic success. They do the things that Jesus did and I must say there aren’t many of them around today that are up to his temperature but here is a little bit of it here and there and if you really want this for yourself, forget about religion and just say, “Lord, give this to me. Give me this love. Give me this power of acceptance, this peace, this faith, this confidence that comes from the Spirit that descended upon Jesus and opened the Heavens for Him. [54:35]

“Lord Jesus, we are thankful that you are in this world and we are so thankful to be able to proclaim your message and not in the least bit get worried about how it’s going to work because we know it is your work and we know that these dear people here, many have entered in and others perhaps want to enter in to what we’ve talked about this morning, and so we pray that you will bless them and keep them in your presence and bring them along if they desire this kind of life and this kind of community, bring them along to the place to where it will be appropriate and right for the Heavens to open for them and for your Spirit to rest upon them. Use whatever instrumentalities that are correct and right for you in accomplishing this, and we know that it is for your Glory in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Listen to all parts in this Baptism series