+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Our men's group, which meets on Wednesday mornings, has been studying of late a little book called "Luther for armchair theologians." It's about a 200 page summary of Luther's life and doctrine. In the reading for last week, the author, Steven Paulson, gave us a pretty concise formula for the birth of sin as it relates to how we are inclined to react toward the threats and promises of God's Word.
He says, "First, we receive a word from God: 'Eat from all the trees except one (God says).' Having heard His word we then act mystified, or, perhaps offended by it: 'Why did God say…?'"
"Second, we imagine that God is hiding the best from us, and we try finding better words; 'God can't really mean you'll die….'"
"Third, we accomplish the great feat of believing in our own power to believe, as if that power were more trustworthy than the Holy Spirit's words given by the preacher."
"Fourth, behold! We have become our own God, determining for ourselves what is 'good and evil.'"
Obviously, Paulson's little scenario dealt specifically with Adam's first sin, the one that caused the fall of all mankind. His formula though can be applied to virtually any portion of God's Word. For instance, some 2,000 years after Jesus celebrated that solemn meal with His disciples the night before His crucifixion, Christendom remains divided over whether or not He is truly present in the elements of the Lord's Supper, even though He said, "take, eat, this is My body." His words were clear, but, in the end much of Christendom ends up telling God what the Lord's Supper is, instead of Him telling them what it is. To believe and teach that Jesus' body is truly present in the Lord's Supper is looked upon as evil by some because such a possibility is considered repugnant and, if not repugnant, then beyond possibility. And yet, God's word is clear. "Take, drink (Jesus says), this is My blood of the New Testament shed for you for the forgiveness of sins."
Every time we read God's Word, or, have it preached to us, we are tempted, whether by our flesh, the devil or the world, to add to it, to take away from it, or, to understand it in a way that God never intended it to be understood. Our reason and logic, as well as our desire for self-determination tempt us to set ourselves up over and above God's Word, and thus, over and above God Himself. After-all, "did God really say…?"
Another case in point involves God's gift of baptism. The gifts and blessings that He bestowed on us in our baptisms are really above and beyond our ability to comprehend, and yet, God clearly proclaims them to us in His Word. In Matthew's gospel, for instance, we are told that we were made His disciples through baptism. "Go, (Jesus said) and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
In Peter's first letter, he compares the flood in Noah's day to baptism, concluding, "baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you."
In Paul's letter to Titus, we are told that, in baptism, our sins are washed away and we are regenerated and born anew. "When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior."
Finally, in Paul's letter to the church at Rome, we are told that, in our baptisms, we died with Christ and we were raised again with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
God clears tells us these things, however, since according to our reason and logic, all of these things simply can't be true, much of Christendom denies the regenerative power of baptism, and sadly, they deny such regeneration even to little children. Many a parent, who would never think of withholding water from their child, withholds water for their soul because they deny their child the water of baptism. The child, you see, will not drink of the water of life until such time as they, of their own will and volition, can say, "I'm thirsty…please give me a drink!"
When Jesus came to John at the Jordan River, to be baptized by Him, we are told that John resisted. He didn't see why he should be baptizing Jesus in the first place. By John's way of thinking, and ours, no doubt, as well, it should have been the other way around. Again, John fit well into Steve Paulson's little formula. God spoke, but, John couldn't conceive of how Jesus' request could even be necessary. And yet, Jesus insisted. He insisted because, in HIS baptism, He would "fulfill all righteousness," which means, He would take our sins from us and give us His holiness and perfection. In that sense, Jesus' baptism was a reverse baptism. Whereas we are baptized because our sin demands it, Jesus was baptized because His righteousness demanded it.
From Jesus' baptism emerges a real test of our grasp of the Gospel. I ask you, AS A BAPTIZED CHILD OF GOD, WHAT DOES GOD THINK OF YOU? How does see you? Is He angry with you, or, is He pleased with you? Does He see you as good, or, does He see you as essentially evil? Does He smile when He sees you, or, does He frown? Does He take pleasure in being your God, or, does He loathe the struggle the relationship entails? Are you a burden that His love compels Him to carry, or, does He carry you because He delights in you?
As much as we are inclined to answer those questions based on how we see ourselves and how we think God must see us, they really must be answered based on how God sees us, IN CHRIST! Remember, I asked you, AS A BAPTIZED CHILD OF GOD, how does He see you?
The overwhelming testimony of God's Word tells you that your relationship with Him isn't the same as it was before you were cleansed at the baptismal font. The reality is, whether here at this font, or, at another font like it, you put on Christ, which means, you put on His life, His death and His resurrection. Paul would go on to describe his new relationship to Christ this way…"I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." The point is, having put on Christ in your baptism, what God says of His Son He also says of you.
We scamper about looking for value in ourselves. We strive to please God by offering Him a supposed life of purity and goodness. Psychologists tell us that if we don't learn to love ourselves we'll never be able to love anyone else. Authors tell us that "I'm O.K. and you're O.K." We struggle to believe it.
What does God think of you? Well, as His baptized child, He tells you what He thinks of you. The heaven's parted, the dove descended on Jesus, and the voice was heard from heaven. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." You are the one in whom God delights. He blesses you and keeps you. His face shines upon you and He gives you peace in His Son "in whom He is well pleased." In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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