Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baptism Preparation Worksheet

Both of my kids (praise God!) have expressed a desire to be baptized.  So, I wanted to work with them individually through what Scripture teaches about baptism, explore their current understanding of what baptism means and determine if they are indeed ready to be baptized.

I went out on the web to see what I could find regarding baptism preparation.  I was surprised how little material there was available (I mean, entering any three random words into Google will usually drown you in more information than you could ever desired).  And most of what was posted was not particularly useful, and some of it absolutely bizarre.

So, I did what I should have done in the first place, and opened my Bible to search out the information on my own.  And I've assembled a basic baptism preparation worksheet, which anyone is welcome to use in part or in whole in any manner you desire.

The worksheet is divided into four sections:

  1. "What Scripture says..." which is an overview of all the major elements of baptism from the Bible.
  2. An extract from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, which I thought gave some nice balance.
  3. "Putting it together..." where I'm looking for the student's understanding of the results of baptism.
  4. "Where I'm at..." which seeks to understand the purpose and spiritual state of the student.
I'm happy to receive any feedback or suggestions to improve this worksheet, since surely there is much that could be done!  And if it's of any use to anyone else, soli Deo gloria.

(Oh, and it may be worth noting, that my understanding of Scripture is thoroughly Reformed and baptistic.  So question (4) is a bit of a trick question, but gives an opportunity to speak about tongues and their historical role.)


Baptism Preparation Worksheet
What the Scriptures Say...
  1. John, Jesus' first cousin, was known as John the Baptist. What was the significance of his baptizing? (Matthew 3:1-12)
  2. Is this the same baptism that we do now in the Christian church? What are the differences? (Acts 18:24-27; 19:3-5)
  3. What do you think it means to be baptized in the name of Jesus? (Acts 10:48; 19:5)
  4. Should you expect to speak in tongues at or after your baptism? (Acts 8:36-40; 10:44-48; 19:6)
  5. What does baptism tell you about being part of the Church? (Rom 12:1-13; Eph 4:1-6)
  6. What does baptism tell you about your relationship with Jesus and your position before God? (Rom 6:3-8; Col 2:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22)
  7. What does baptism announce to the world regarding your intentions for your life? (Rom 6:1-14)

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith

Section 28: Baptism and the Lord's Supper

Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in His Church to the end of the world.
These holy appointments are to be administered only by those who are qualified and called to administer them, according to the commission of Christ.

Section 29. Baptism

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be to the person who is baptised - a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Christ; of remission of sins; and of that person's giving up of himself to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.`

Those who actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects for this ordinance.

The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, in which the person is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Immersion - the dipping of the person in water - is necessary for the due administration of this ordinance.

Putting It Together...
  1. How does baptism affect your relationship with God?
  2. How does baptism affect your relationship with other believers?
  3. How does baptism affect your relationship with non-believers?
Where I'm At.....
  1. How did you become a Christian?
  2. What has God done in your life to bring you to this point?
  3. Why do you want to be baptized?
  4. What do you want to announce by your baptism?
  5. What do you hope will be the results of being baptized?
  6. Any other questions or concerns?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sin and Busyness

Oh oh, major conviction time for me. I'm continuing to read through John Owen's excellent book The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin as I wrote about in my previous post.

This morning, Dr. Owen had a significant warning for me. If I have a dangerous addiction (besides coffee and chocolate), it is addiction to busyness. I love to be busy. Often too busy.

But busyness, and the weariness that can come with it, all too often provides an opening for temptation in my heart. Exactly as the good Doctor says:

The deceitfulness of sin makes use of corrupt reasonings, taken from the pressing and urging occasions of life. ... Men have not leisure to glorify God and save their own souls. It is certain that God gives us time enough for all that he requires of us in any kind in this world. No duties need to jostle one another, I mean constantly. Special occasions must be determined according to special circumstances.

So, the good Doctor argues, that if in general we don't have time for all of our duties then we are in the wrong. My wife and I have frequently expressed our surprise that God put only 24 hours in a day. "What was he thinking?" has been my frequent refrain. And only 7 days in the week?!

Owen's next statement brought the surgeon's scalpel deep:

But if in anything we take more upon us than we have time well to perform it in, without robbing God of that which is due to him and our own souls, this God calls us not unto, this he blesses us not in. It is more tolerable that our duties of holiness and regard to God should entrench upon the duties of our callings and employments in this world than on the contrary; and yet neither does God require this at our hands, in an ordinary manner or course. (Overcoming Sin and Temptation, p 312)

Ouch. A good pain, a healing pain.

And so sin tempts us away from the "duties of holiness" --- daily reading of Scripture, prayer, meditation, memorization, etc. --- which are so effective at combating sin, and weakens us for further temptation.

May God grant us the courage and humility (and time!) to review our schedules with these points firmly in mind.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Dealing with sin...

If you have never read any of John Owen's classic works on dealing with sin and temptation, stop reading this very minute and order your copy right away!

I've read many books on dealing with sin, and nothing outside of Scripture holds a candle to this one. Forget all those modern light and fluffy treatments; this book is the meat that you need.

John Owen is a good doctor. He knows where sin hides. He knows the dark parts of your heart. And like a good doctor, he is going to pursue those festering bits, expose them to the light, and show you how to fight them! Glorious!

You can read the original Owen to great advantage. All Puritan writers are challenging in their complexity, and Owen particularly so, but if you read slowly and out loud, you will have few difficulties. And the gold is worth mining!

However, the modern, lightly re-rendered version "Overcoming Sin and Temptation," as edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, makes him more accessible without losing anything vital. I'm thoroughly enjoying this book, and profiting greatly!

Here's a taste: Owen discussing how indwelling sin starts small, but if it is fed, it grows until it conquers. Instead, we need to fight it with all we have the moment it begins to rear its ugly head (Overcoming Sin and Temptation, p. 289):

Sin grows not to this height at its first assault. Had it not been suffered to make its entrance, had there not been some yielding in the soul, this had not come about. The great wisdom and security of the soul in dealing with indwelling sin is to put a violent stop unto its beginnings, its first motions and actings. Venture all on the first attempt. Die rather than yield one step until it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What happened to 2008?

It was not the best of times, nor the worst of times, but it was the most silent of times. Not one blog post in 2008.

So, in 2009, I will turn over a new leaf. Except that is a rather anachronistic expression, especially for a blog. Instead, I will make a clean <br>. I will go <b>ly into the future, not knowing where I will <head>.

I have two series planned ... we'll see how things go. Thanks for waiting, and welcome to the Year of our Lord, 2009!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greek is Only for Scholars

"Greek is only for scholars, and university folks. I'm a busy pastor!"

If you feel this way, you're not alone. Judging by the degree requirements of most modern seminaries, there is a wholesale abandonment of the original languages. It seems many schools don't see such study as necessary or as relevant as, say, additional courses in business management and team vision building.

But if indeed all Scripture is breathed out by God, and sufficient to make us competent, equipped for every good work, then our ability to understand Scripture is the most necessary and relevant training we can have!

John Newton, who entered into his ministry after being an illiterate slave trader, promises:

The original Scriptures well deserve your pains, and will richly repay them.

And George Mueller, who cared for over 100,000 orphans over his lifetime (can any of us claim to be busier than he?), and who was not primarily a pastor but an evangelist and organizer, talked about the importance of the original languages to his own life:

I studied much, about 12 hours a day, chiefly Hebrew ... [and] committed portions of the Hebrew Old Testament to memory; and this I did in prayer, often falling on my knees. ... I looked up to the Lord even whilst turning over the leaves of my Hebrew dictionary.

Not convinced yet? How about the testimony of George Whitfield? He made 7 trips between the US and Europe (by ship, not plane!), preached over 16,000 sermons over his lifetime, speaking to up to 30,000 people at a time, with neither microphone nor PowerPoint. In his last days, he was quite ill, and would eventually die from overwork and asthma. But in his final years, what was one of his great comforts? You guessed it: Greek!

Though weak, I often spent two hours in my evening retirements and prayed over my Greek Testament, and Bishop Hall's most excellent Contemplations, every hour that my health would permit.

Dear reader, listen to the urging of John Newton, George Mueller and George Whitefield. And as a final word of encouragement, Martin Luther challenges us:

As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us contend with its language.

(All quotations are taken from John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Biblical Counseling: Truth and Lies

Counseling. I had come to hate that term. My previous school taught courses in counseling, in fact you could do an entire M.Div. in it. And even though there is always a lack of good pastors, the counseling major was always full.

Why did I hate the term? Because, in my experience, it was through "counseling" that so much corrupt teaching, deception and outright heresy was sneaking into the church. I was absolutely aghast at some of what went under the umbrella of counseling, both in seminary and in previous churches.

I listened to people teaching that making casual inward promises to ourselves can bind us in crippling "inner vows", that experiences in the womb can become spiritual strongholds enabling demons to control us, that other people's sinful attitudes toward us can be "bitter roots" that twist our own lives in mystical ways, and that the path to freedom is through instantaneous divine revelation and the binding of demonic powers.

Garbage, swill, tripe and foolishness!! What irreverent babble! Warmed-over pseudo-Jungian fantasies lightly baptized with irrelevant Bible verses.

So, I was pretty soured on "counseling". Until I had a chance to sign up for such a course in my new seminary. I haven't even started the course yet, but I'm reading the texts in advance.

And I am thrilled, delighted and profoundly encouraged to see what truly biblical counseling looks like. Jay Adams, David Powlinson, Ed Welch, John MacArthur ... how sweet to see men who take Scripture seriously and trust God when he says that he has provided in his Book all that we need to counsel (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Here are seven core elements that Powlinson and Adams lay out as central to truly Biblical counseling (from Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, John MacArthur et al):
  1. God is at the center of counseling. God is sovereign, active, speaking, merciful, commanding and powerful. ... The Bible is authoritative, relevant, and comprehensively sufficient for counseling. God has spoken truly to every basic issue of humn nature and to the problems in living.
  2. Commitment to God has epistemological consequences. First, other sources of knowledge must be submitted to the authority of Scripture. The sciences, personal experience, literature, and so forth may be useful, but may not play a constitutive role in counseling. ... false counsel must be noted and opposed ... The false claimants to authority must be exposed and opposed.
  3. Sin, in all its dimensions is the primary problem counselors must deal with. Sin includes wrong behavior, distorted thinking, an orientation to follow personal desires, and bad attitudes. Sin is habitual and deceptive, and much of the difficult in counseling consists in bringing specific sin to awareness and breaking its hold.
  4. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.
  5. The biblical change process which counseling must aim at is progressive sanctification.
  6. The situational difficulties people face are not the random cause of problems in living. These difficulties operate within the sovereign design of God.
  7. Counseling is fundamentally a pastoral activity and must be church-based. It must be regulated under the authority of God's appointed undershepherds.
Amen and amen. May this truly Scriptural counseling increase, and may the deceptive lies currently plaguing much of the Church be finally repented of and forsaken!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Downs Syndrome and Modern Hypocrisy

I listened to a charming interview on CBC Radio 1 this morning. The host was interviewing two sisters who have embarked on a speaking tour, the exact focus of which was never clear to me. relationship between these girls was charming and encouraging, particularly since the younger girl (who was 30, I think), had Downs Syndrome. She was reasonably clear, articulate, thoughtful, charming. Her sister's devotion to her was profound and laudable.

They talked about their close relationship. They talked about goals, joys, life. They talked about how good life was even with a disability, and the unique insights and gifts that came along with those challenges.

At no point in the conversation was there the slightest reference toward the thought that was continuously echoing in my head during the entire interview. This thought was: if she had been conceived more recently, her Downs Syndrome would have been detected and she would almost certainly have been killed!

It was surreal, listening to this woman describe her goals, joys, frustrations, and experiences, and thinking "Yes, but modern society says you should be dead. You should not have been born."
A 2002 literature review of elective abortion rates found that 91–93% of pregnancies with a diagnosis of Down syndrome were terminated. (Source: Wikipedia)
I remember sitting in church a few years ago, right behind a couple who had a beautiful little girl with them. This girl, less than a year old, clearly had Downs. Her daddy held her on his shoulder, and I could look her straight in the face, and I wept!

"We kill people like you, little one," I was thinking. "You will have almost no peers with similar struggles, because the others were detected and their parents had them eliminated."

May God grant our nation repentance and revival!