A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 10, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Our Baptism Gives Us Power Luke 3:21-22 One of the things people like best about New Years is getting a fresh start. And so, we may resolve that from now on we are going to be more content, or we’re going to be more regular in reading our Bible or spend more quality time with our family. Unfortunately, we don’t have to get too far into the New Year, before we find ourselves making the same mistakes. The calendar may have changed, but we haven’t; and realizing this is maybe where some of our January blas come from. God’s Word today is about this very problem. However, instead of trying to make ourselves walk on water in being perfect Christians, we need simply to remember what happened to us in the water of our baptism. We were joined to Christ. And because we are joined to Christ, we have power for each new day! I. We have power to focus on what is good. 2. We have power to do what is good.Last week’s message emphasized that God the Son became a man, so that as a man He could be perfect in our place. And so, from infancy Jesus kept the Old Testament ceremonial laws, which taught people that in order to be in God’s presence, one must be absolutely free of sin. We aren’t, but Jesus was. For example the First Commandment says that we are to fear, love and trust God above all things. Jesus did that for us. Or, the Third Commandment says that we are to love worship and hearing His Word. Jesus did that for us. And just one more, the fourth Commandment says we are to obey everyone who represents God, whether in the home, the government, or the church. From little Jesus did that for us also. Our text reads, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.” A question one might ask is “Why?” We were always taught that Baptism is washing away of sin, which of course it is. Peter said in his Pentecost sermon, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38.” However, Jesus didn’t have any sins to be washed away, so again, why was He baptized? Paul sheds light on that in II Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – II Corinthians 5:21.” When Jesus joined us in the water of baptism, all the disgusting scum of sin that had been stuck on us was absorbed into Jesus’ body. As a result, we come out of the water of baptism clean, and Jesus came out of the water of baptism full of our sins. We read on in our text, “And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased – Luke 3:22.” The Father being “well-pleased” with Jesus wasn’t only because He had lived a perfect life up to that point, though that was certainly part of it. The bigger cause of the Father’s delight was Jesus’ willingness to begin His earthly ministry of teaching and preaching and especially later on to be the sacrifice that pays for all sin. In Isaiah 42 it says, "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations – Isaiah 42:1.” Do you see the similarities between these two passages? Anyway, Jesus’ baptism makes our baptism the washing away of our sins and brings His justice, His righteousness, to us. However, many of us were baptized years and years ago. So, does our baptism help us today and throughout the New Year? It gives us power to focus on what is good. What’s good is Jesus and all that He did and suffered for our salvation. Also what’s good is that now the Father is well-pleased with us as He was with Jesus! These are the things we need to focus on every day, because if we don’t, here’s what can happen. With so much sin and evil all around us, we can easily become cynical. On the one hand it’s good to stay informed – that’s part of being a good citizen – yet we can’t let everything we’re seeing cause us to lose sight of the fact that through our Baptism God is still our Heavenly Father. Or, here’s another example. When we focus on the wind and waves of impossible challenges, we lose confidence; we start to sink. Rather, let’s focus on the fact that since we are joined to God’s Son through our baptism, He is with us wherever we must go! Here’s one more example. When we focus on the duration and strength of a temptation, we won’t make it. We hold out as long as we can, and then end up giving in. But as we watch Jesus win the victory, which is ours through our baptism, we know we have a fresh start for keeping our resolutions and living a new life. But now with so much good that comes from focusing on what is good, how do we keep our focus? How do we not let the pressures and the business of everyday life cloud our focus or get us focused on ourselves again? Here’s what I would suggest. Start each day by reminding yourself that you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Also, remind yourself that through your baptism God is now well-pleased with you and all His promises are for YOU. On the other hand, should we forget these things and just charge into whatever it is we have to do, how far do we get before you mess up? Usually not too far. Yet this just all the more proves what we heard in our second lesson, “God saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – Titus 3:5.” So far we’ve been hearing how baptism is a blessing for us. Now we’re going to hear how baptism was a blessing for Jesus. Again we read in our text, “As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.” Jesus needed to pray, because when He took on our human nature, He had let go of all His divine powers. As a result, Jesus was facing everything He would have to do for the next three years, realizing that He didn’t have it in Him. He was in over His head. Yes, He had righteousness. Yes, He had willingness. But to preach and teach as He was supposed to, requires more than knowing what to say. He would be constantly under attack and so he would always have to have just the right balance of firmness and patience to speak the truth in love. Only the Holy Spirit can give that kind of wisdom. This is why Jesus was praying at His baptism, and through His baptism the Father gave Him the Spirit. Now, all this was prophesied in Isaiah 11. “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD – Isaiah 11:2.” Just as the Father gave Jesus the gifts He would need through His baptism, God also gives us the gifts we need through ours. So, do you feel overwhelmed by your calling to raise up children and grandchildren to be servants of God? You should, but remember you have been baptized, and so pray for the Spirit’s gifts as Jesus did. Or, is your job overwhelming or maybe it’s just plain boring and dragging you down. That’s to be expected in this sinful world, but you have been baptized, and so keep praying for the Spirit’s gifts! Or maybe there’s someone, who needs comfort and encouragement, but you don’t know what to say. Fine, pray for the Spirit’s gifts!But will God really give us the gifts we need? What if we feel like we’re not and we’re just kind of floundering, should we then resolve to being more committed than we had been and will that cause God to give us the gifts we need? Don’t go down that road, because if we do, we could end up relying upon ourselves again. Rather, let’s rely on God. Let’s keep remembering that through our Baptism all the riches of Christ are already ours, and then let’s keep on praying and trusting that God will give us what we need, as we need it. However, sometimes that’s not satisfied with that. With good intentions we may want to do great things for the good of others, but we want to be in control to do things our way or in our time. God has a better plan. Rather than that we be in control, God wants us to be like pipe lines of blessings – that as His blessings flow to us, they should also flow through us to others; but His hand is on the faucet. Do you see how looking at the challenges of life in this way takes the pressure off? Well, actually there still is pressure. Jesus is coming again and all who have rejected His mercy will end up with only His justice on that day. Therefore, in response to His mercy, how can we not resolve to be better Christians in 2010 than we were in 2009? Or, how can we not resolve to do all we can that others may know His mercy? Yet don’t rest on your resolve! Rest in the power of your baptism, pray, and then, forgetting what’s behind, strain toward the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. With this prize as our focus, which is ours through our Baptism, 2010 is going to be great year! Amen.

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