Here we are at the beginning, not only of another year but of new decade. You have decided things in your life are going to be different. Things like your health. You are going to change your diet and eat nutritiously. You are going to exercise, lose weight, and get more sleep. Things like spending your money are going to be different. You are going to save money for the kids’ college expenses, save to beef up the retirement fund, or save for that anniversary trip you have been planning.
You have been thinking about these things for months, just waiting for the right time to get started. So, what better time than the beginning of a new year?
Will This Year Be Different?
Yet, there is a problem. Your health will not improve, and you will not save money just by saying you want to be healthy or you need to save money. If your life is going to be different, you will have to be different.
At the beginning of this new year and decade, you can develop new ways of living by changing your habits and behaviors. The word for such a change of living is “repentance.”
Now, before you say, “Tim Bias has lost his mind” and stop reading, trust me enough to take the next step. Over my 65 years, I’ve stood at this juncture a few times. The only way I am able to make a difference in my life is to change my living.
An “Aha” Moment
As you enter this new year, you also enter a time of new discoveries. It is time for an “aha” moment in your life.
It will be your “aha” that will bring you to the point of changing your living. I believe the story of Jesus’ baptism gives us clues to such an “aha” moment.
So, together, let’s start a new habit. Let’s read scripture, reflect upon it, respond to it and return to it before we put our head on the pillow each night. This pattern of reading, reflecting, responding, and returning is key to developing new habits and changes of behavior.
So, let’s get started.
Read the Scripture
Let’s start with Luke 3:21-22.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
2. Reflect on the Scripture.
Now, the question is, “What does God have for me in this scripture?” or “What is the ‘Aha’ for me in this scripture?” Let’s look at the context for a clue. You may not take it as far as I have below. But, give yourself an opportunity to explore what is happening in the scripture.
There is a lot in the background of this story, but for our purpose of reflection, we know that John the Baptist was the one preparing the way for the Christ, the Messiah. When people wondered if John was the Christ, he said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
The people knew enough about what he was saying to be afraid. The Holy Spirit of God was one thing, sweeping across their souls like a wind from heaven, but fire was something else altogether. Fire was a purifier. You might be a better person for having gone through the fire, but it was going to hurt, and the scars would be ugly.
The Presence of Jesus
Can you imagine people’s surprise when Jesus shows up?
He is not at all who they expected. He was not an ax carrying arsonist. He was a gentle carpenter in whom the Holy Spirit chose to take up residence and who God claimed as his own beloved son. At that point, people were so taken back, they did not believe that Jesus could be the Christ. They were a lot like some people today. It is easier to believe in an angry God than in a loving one.
So, Jesus did not take over John the Baptist’s ministry. Instead, he got in line with a whole crowd of sorry-looking people and took his turn in the water like everyone else. Nothing unusual there.
It is only after his baptism, as he is praying, that the remarkable thing happened. Heaven opened, the clouds parted, and a figure that looked like a dove, straight from God, settled on Jesus as a voice from somewhere other than earth told him what it meant, “You are my beloved son, and I am proud of you.” What words! What acceptance!
A Defining Moment
Now, what did Jesus do that was so pleasing?
He was at the beginning of his ministry. All he had done so far is to say, “yes” to ministry. And what was that? He came to be with us in human flesh and blood. When he joined us, a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved son and I am pleased with you.” At that moment, you have a God-given description of who Jesus is and what he has come to do. You have a public declaration of what his ministry is about.
So, what is the “Aha” moment?
Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan a carpenter and comes out a Messiah. He is the same person, but with a new direction. His “being” is the same, but his “doing” takes a radical turn.
That is the definition of repentance: to turn, to go another way, to go God’s way. So, in that sense, it is true that Jesus repented; if not of sin, then of going his own quiet way in peace. He enters the water his own person, a private man. He comes out as God’s person, a public figure at the center of controversy for the rest of his life.
But why baptism? Why not an eloquent speech or a simple ordination to mark his passage in life? Why not make a piece of furniture? After all, he is a carpenter.
- Why did he become human when he could have stayed God?
- Why was he baptized when he could have stayed on the banks of the Jordan and supervised?
- Why does he come to you where you are, over and over again, when he could have saved himself the grief, the pain, the death, by insisting that we come to him where he is?
- Do you know what I think?
It is because he loves you.
Because he is unbelievably pleased with you. He has come to lead you through the waters of life and death. He has come to make you who God created you to be. It has never been his style to shout directions from some safe place of his own. He has always led by joining you and me in the situations and circumstances of our lives.
The Path of Jesus
Here is the “aha” moment.
If he had not been baptized, that would have been sin for him. He could have chosen to separate himself from us. He had every right to do so. But he didn’t. He took the plunge right along with the rest of us and so it came to pass that he who was without sin was baptized in the River Jordan to avoid the sin of standing apart from us.
Jesus is “God with us.” He never asks you to go anywhere he has not been first. From birth to death, from cradle to grave, through the waters of baptism, he knows what you are up against and has shown you how to live so that you might have a life full of peace and joy.
He has chosen God’s way. He has chosen what will bring us closer together. Above all, he has chosen the things of earth to carry out the purposes of heaven.
3. Respond to the Scripture.
This is where you incorporate what God has revealed in your daily life. If Jesus is God with us, what would happen if today you started paying attention to where you noticed Jesus is with you. Yes, Jesus is always with you. The question is, when did you notice Jesus’ presence?
Here are a few other questions to consider:
- Where will you see God in your everyday living?
- With whom will you join their struggles, pain, celebrations, or joy?
- Where will you enter as your person but leave as God’s person?
Let’s return to where many of us start the year. If you are going to be healthy, you’ll need to exercise and eat nutritiously. That takes more than wishful thinking. It takes intentionally reading your environment, reflecting on what needs to change and responding in intentional ways that lead to a new habit and behavior. And daily, you’ll need to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
The same is true in our life with Christ.
If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus, here is what you need to do:
- Read the scripture each day.
- Reflect upon the scripture asking yourself, “What does God have for me in what I am reading?”
- Respond by incorporating what God has for you in your everyday living.
- Return each night and reflect on how you incorporated your “aha” into your daily life.
This habit will change your life. You will begin to have “aha” moments that will bring depth and meaning to every situation and circumstance.
No, I didn’t forget step 4.
My reflections often come in the form of a story. So I’ll leave you with this story to model how an “aha” with Jesus can lead to transformation in daily life.
Fred Craddock tells of a conversation he had with a man in a restaurant in the Great Smoky Mountains. It a witness to one man’s “aha” moment.
The man said, “I grew up in these mountains. My mother was not married, and the whole community knew it. I was called an “illegitimate” child. In those days that was a shame, and I was ashamed. The reproach that fell on her, fell on me. When I went into town with her, I could see people staring at me, making guesses as to who my father was. At school the children said ugly things to me. So, I stayed to myself during recess and I ate my lunch alone.”
He said, “In my early teens I began to attend a little church back in the mountains. It had a minister who was both attractive and frightening. He had a chiseled face, a heavy beard, and a deep voice. I went to hear him preach. I don’t know exactly why, but it did something for me. But when I would go, I was afraid I would not be welcome. So, I would go just in time for the sermon, and when it was over, I would leave because I was afraid that someone would say, ‘What’s a boy like you doing in church’.”
“One Sunday some people moved into the aisle before I could get out, and I was trapped. Before I could make my way through the group, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. It was that minister. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I caught a glimpse of his beard and his chin. I trembled in fear.”
“He turned his face around so he could see mine. I knew what he was doing. He was going to make a guess as to who my father was. A moment later he said, “Well, son, you are a child of…” and he paused there. And I knew what was coming. I knew I would have my feelings hurt. I knew I would not go back again.
He said, ‘Son, you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance.’ Then he said, ‘Now you go claim your inheritance.’”
The man said, “I left that church building a different person. In fact, that was really the beginning of my life.”
What will be your “aha” in 2020?
Listen closely. I just heard a voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved child. I am proud of you. Now, go claim your inheritance!”
Your Next Step
If you’d like to get into this “habit” of reading, reflecting, responding and returning, join the Facebook group, “Following Jesus Every Day” Every Sunday evening, we post a series of scriptures for the week that follow this pattern.
Uncertain what your next step is to grow as a follower of Jesus? Take this quick, five-question quiz. You’ll identify a “season” of following Jesus and what to do next.