The Baptism Of Our Lord
January 13, 2019
“I Am Baptized”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I am baptized!! Do you want a word to bring peace to your soul? Do you want a word to battle the accusations of the devil? Do you want that word that states the security you have as God’s own child? Here it is – “I am baptized”.
But baptism can be a darn difficult thing. It demands so much of us. Paul in the opening verses of Romans 6 asks the question, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase? By no means! We died to sin how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)
Darn baptism – it changes our life. We can’t do the things that we want to do. We can’t live like we want to live. Pastor Bob Zehnder, Mike’s dad, was pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood for decades. I was at a conference with him and Bob was telling a story. (Bob always had the best stories!!) He was going to bury some guy and the family requested that Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did It My Way” be played. Bob told them that it wasn’t a Christian song and that it wasn’t appropriate for a funeral. But as strong as Bob said “no”, they insisted. So Bob finally said yes with one condition that he could preach against what the song was saying. (Must have been a memorable funeral sermon!!)
I am baptized but that means someone else is in control, someone else directs my steps, someone else has the final word. “I did it my way?” No, Baptism doesn’t allow that. In Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
Darn baptism – God takes over. We don’t get to run the show. We find out that life isn’t all about us and what we want, and demand, and have-to-have. Paul in this same chapter of Romans 6 says, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:13-14)
Do you know what happened in your baptism? You died. Your sinful, selfish self died. God killed it. In baptism we died to everything that wants to take over our life, control us, have its way with us, abuse us, destroy us. So when you’re battling the darkest things in life you have a word to say, “I am baptized!!” Paul again in this chapter, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.” (Romans 6:3-4a)
The Stephen Ministers at Ascension have been studying Max Lucado’s book, “Facing Your Giants.” It is a book about David. David had a lot of giants to face – not just Goliath. He had to face his lust and rebellion and his deceitfulness but he didn’t want to. You may remember that he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and tried to conceal it by killing her husband, Uriah, and then attempted to live his life as though nothing happened. It didn’t work. Of David’s misery one translation gives these words of Psalm 32, “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.” (Psalm 32:3-4 MSG)
Lucado makes the point that God afflicted David. He wouldn’t let him sleep. He took away his peace. He writes, “God takes your sleep, your peace. He takes your rest. Want to know why? Because he wants to take away your sin.” (Pg. 135) Elsewhere he asked, “Can God sit idly by as sin poisons his children?”
Baptism is death to sin. It is death to our self-righteousness. And God is the one who is crucifying us for our good, because we are His and He loves us. God didn’t sit idly by and let sin destroy David. He afflicted David so that David could truly live. Sin would be dealt with and a new life would be given. When Jesus died on Good Friday we also died. All of our ugly was drowned at that very moment. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“I am baptized”. In baptism you died and then you rose. Good Friday was His and yours. Easter was His and yours. In baptism you are a new creation, you are born again, born from above. After speaking about death the verses speak of resurrection, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.” (Romans 6:4) A few verses later he would say, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
“I am baptized”. What importance is that to your life now? God saved you. He washed away all your sins. There is not one sin that wasn’t handled at the cross and through the resurrection. God’s baptism brings that to you. Baptism is pure grace. You didn’t do a single thing – God did it all. Titus 3 – if you don’t know this verse you’d better learn it – “But when the kindness and love of God appeared, he 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, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
Do you know why we baptize babies? One of the reasons is that the baby does nothing and God does everything. The baby is passive, only a receiver. God is active, the doer. Like Romans 9:16 says, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
I am baptized, God is making me new. I’m dying to sin. I have risen to a new life. There were two brothers in Australia who weren’t very good people. They stole sheep. And eventually they got caught. Because this was a continued offense of these two, they both were branded on their forehead with the letters ST – Sheep Thief.
This was just too much for one of the brothers. He couldn’t stand the ridicule of all the folks in their town. Everyone knew him. He was ashamed and embarrassed. He left. But everywhere he went people knew what ST meant. His life was miserable. He had a hard time holding a job. He wandered from place to place. He developed more vices than he had ever had. He was all alone in life and died an early death.
The other brother stayed in the town. It wasn’t easy. Everyone knew him and they knew what he had done. He too was embarrassed and with the mark, the brand, that was so apparent, he couldn’t hide what he had done. But he wanted to be a new person, and he was. He became gracious and kind. We went out of his way to be helpful. Integrity became his way. He even helped little old ladies. He spent his entire life in that little town and grew to be an old man there.
One day a stranger came to that town and noticed this old man with a brand on his forehead and so he asked the clerk at the store, “Tell me, what about that guy? Why does he have a brand on him? What does ST mean?
The clerk was quite puzzled. He said, “I’m sure that I knew once what that was all about and why he has that, but now I really can’t say. I think it means Saint.”
You’ve been branded. You’ve been marked. Last week it came to Esme Joyce Lee and a few weeks before that to Emery Grace Kirschner, the sign of the cross was placed on their forehead and upon their heart with the words, “You have been marked with the cross of Christ forever.” ST – Saint.
When Jesus was baptized, He came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended and the voice of God the Father said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22b) When you consider who you are and what God has done for you can you hear the same words, “This is My son, this is My daughter, with them I am well pleased”? It is like the words of God that we heard, “Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b)
Do you want a word that defines you, that tells the whole world who you are? Do you want the assurance that the old man has died and a new person has come to life? Then say with me these words, “I AM BAPTIZED!” Those are the best words to say!! Amen!!