Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, December 06, 2013

28 Stories - Study 13: Humble Thyself

Fundamental: Baptism

Bible Story 

When Naaman arrived at the prophet’s door—a moment he had been imagining and anticipating with every step of the journey—he was devastated by the brazen reception he received. The prophet refused to come to the door. He wouldn’t even speak to Naaman through the door. Clearly, Naaman thought, I am too unclean to even be spoken too by this holy man.
His disappointment turned to anger when a servant came out with a message from Elisha: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”  
Naaman’s ultimate moment of testing had arrived. He was a man of protocol and procedure. He was respectable and expected to be treated as such. Naaman was irate. He began to lash out, “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me! I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” 
Naaman took the Prophet’s message and abrupt dismissal as a direct insult. Of all the things he had imagined about meeting a miracle-working prophet, he had never considered he would be refused an audience and told to go take a bath. 
He got on his horse, turned toward home, and whipped his steed into a frenzy, galloping away from the most embarrassing situation he had ever faced. As he furiously rode, he may have escaped the prophet’s land he couldn’t escape the prophet’s words. Do I look like I need a bath? Am I dirty? Naaman fumed to himself. How many rivers do we have at home that put this muddy Jordan to shame?!? If I want to wash, I’ll wash in a clean river!
Finally, as his horse began to tire, Naaman slowed. His men caught up and rode along side him. Hardened men of war, they had fought many battles together. They loved their commander but were uncomfortable with his decision to flee from the prophet’s command. Naaman’s men challenged him to consider the possibility of what the Prophet had said—what if it works? Why not wash and see? “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 
They were right. If Elisha had asked Naaman to bring him the heads of 100 enemies of Israel, he would have willingly done it. Such a task is befitting of a great general. But to wash? It was so menial. It wasn’t as if Naaman hadn’t tried to wash the spots off. He had spent countless hours furiously picking, scraping and washing his sores—hoping. But to no avail. Could the prophet’s promise really be possible? Elisha’s message had been, “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored . . .” 
What if? What if his men were right? What if he was just being proud and obstinate? What if the prophet’s words were true? What if he washed and it worked?
 It sounded so simple—too simple, in fact. The words of his men exposed to him the truth of his feelings. He was offended by the Prophet, not so much by the treatment at the door, but by the treatment of his pride. He was a man of substance. Not a dirty vagabond. He may have leprosy, but he wasn’t about to act dirty. He came to pay for a proper healing, not be told to go have a bath. It was unthinkable. Or, was it?
Naaman, broken by the realisation of his pride, rode off the path to the river’s edge. During his angry tirade, he had been riding along the river, forcing himself to ignore its presence. Only now, in his humbled state, did he consider it for what it really was—a baptismal font able to purify him from his leprosy and perhaps even more. 
At the water’s edge, Naaman slowly removed his armor, his clothes and his pride. His men were shocked to see the extent of his illness—he was covered in the marks of leprosy. Naaman walked into the deepest part of the river and lowered himself completely under. Immediately he stood to his full height, examining the sores on his body. They were still there. Again he lowered himself. Again no change. 
When he came up the seventh time, the glimmer of healthy white skin captured his gaze. He ran his hands over his entire body, searching for any remnant of the hated disease. There was none. He was spotless! Naaman whooped with joy, and shouted to his men, “It worked! I am healed!” 


My Reflection

Put yourself in Naaman’s place. How would you have been feeling when Elisha refused to see you and told you to go wash seven times in the river?

How would you have felt when your men told you they thought it would be easy to do what the prophet said? What was making it difficult? What would make it easy?

How would you have felt when you came up out of the water the first time and nothing had changed?

What about the 5th and 6th time?

How would you have felt when you realised you were actually healed?


My Story

Have you ever been too proud to listen to someone’s advice? How did that story in your life finish? 

Can you think of a time when you gave in, humbled yourself, and saw good things happen because of your decision? How did that experience shape you? 

Is there something in your life that you changed even though it was hard? Describe the struggle. What were the results?


My Assurance

While baptism is a public symbol of the personal commitment we have made to Jesus, it is also much more. Have a look at these verses. What blessings come with baptism? How does baptism change a person’s nature?


Acts 2:38 ~ Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 6:5, 6 ~ Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Acts 22:16 ~ What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.

My Commitment
Baptism is the first public step in God “creating a clean heart” in His people. Read these verses. How do they challenge you to live a different life? What does life “in Christ” look like?

Romans 6:1-4 ~ Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Colossians 2:12-13 ~ For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.


My Outlook

Baptism is only the beginning. The rest of the Christian life is about seeing the world as Christ sees it and ministering to the needs revealed to you. What do these verses say about the lifestyle and activity of a fully committed Christian? 

Acts 16:30-33 ~ Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.

Matthew 29:19-20 ~ Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


My Response

The following statement is the 15th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?


Baptism

By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit. It is by immersion in water and is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence of repentance of sin. It follows instruction in the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings.


Bible Story

The Biblical story of Naaman can be found in 2 Kings 5.