Baptism of Our Lord – A LSB #’s 594, 601, 685
Text – Romans 6:3
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
BAPTIZED INTO DEATH
It’s that time again for New Year’s resolutions. It seems that people just want to believe they can change their lives with a simple resolution & the commitment to keep it. History shows that the majority of those people are delusional.
Over & over again we make resolutions & almost immediately fail to keep them, no matter how earnestly we commit to them. News Year’s resolutions have become the butt of many a joke. Yet, somehow, when it comes to the spiritual realm, people just cannot seem to get past the idea that drawing closer to Jesus requires concentrated effort on our part.
Sinful creatures cannot accomplish spiritual renewal through resolutions, nor can they do so through effort. Drawing closer to God is accomplished as His Spirit works in us & through us when we surrender to our Lord & Savior. That’s how we draw closer, through allowing the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to Himself. Yet, what do we usually do instead? We run away.
People describe it so nicely, saying, “I don’t have to be in church to be close to Jesus. I feel closer to Him in the forest, among the trees.” Except that Jesus did not come to earth to be the head of the forest, but of the church, which is called the body of Christ. We draw nearer to Jesus by surrendering & allowing Him to draw us here, to God’s house – the church.
Then here, the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the death of Christ Jesus. What kind of crazy religion is that? For starters it is not a religion of human design. No sinful human being would draw that up because it doesn’t attention to what we do. And of what use is a religion that does not instantly make you feel good? New Year’s resolutions fail because there’s no instant success & we’re just not very successful at long term commitments that require significant changes in our lifestyle. And truly following Jesus requires a huge change in lifestyle. It’s such a monumental change that St. Paul describes it as death, & our Creator is the One who does it to us. That’s the only way it can possibly work, even though you & I can still totally walk away.
If that sounds like a struggle, you’re right on! The entire 6th chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the congregation at Rome is about struggle. Verse 6 highlights that: “We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (ESV)
You’ve heard the saying, “What you see is what you get!” When it comes to the old self that was crucified – this is it! It’s what you see, & for some of us that old self is older than for others. And the older it gets, the worse things get. Arthritis, loss of hearing, loss of eyesight, there is no doctor & there are no drugs that can cure the old self.
Many people have tried & everyone has failed. It’s why we bury people in cemeteries. It’s why we cremate them too. Once they are dead, there’s nothing more we can do with them. We have no way to fix them. In spite of what the song lyrics say, it just is not practical to, “Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die.” (Writers: Kerry Kurt Phillips, Howard Perdew, Rick Blaylock)
Nevertheless, that’s what all manmade religions end up doing – propping you up beside the jukebox when you die. Those religions all leave you hanging & wondering if you really did enough to get to the other side. On the other hand, Jesus Christ takes care of everything for us. He does it all for you no matter what sin has done to your old self.
When God created Adam, Adam had nothing to do with it, no choice to be made. In salvation, the situation is the same. We have nothing to do with being saved. Jesus never demands that our old self make a choice to ask Him into our heart. Instead, Jesus lets Himself in. He is family after all. Where & when I grew up, out in the farm country, if you were family or friend, you did not have to ring the doorbell or knock. If you went to the back door you just let yourself in. Of course, it was polite to announce yourself when you arrived. For Christian families, Jesus announces Himself with these words:
“I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” That’s how our Lord & Savior lets Himself in. The choice Jesus does allow us to make is that of throwing Him out, & many people do. I was counseling someone at their request, yet during the conversation they made it very clear, “I want nothing to do with your Jesus.”
Their Lord & Savior had let Himself in through Baptism & they tossed Him out. Life on this earth is a constant struggle. Every single one of us has experienced its pain & heartache. All of us have searched for a solution. Absolutely no one faces the struggles of life & just says, “Whatever!” Whether it’s religion, drugs, sex or rock n roll, each of us has tried something.
In all of human history, only one person has ever risen from the dead to stay alive forever. His name is Jesus, & some people who tried to prove it wasn’t true, have ended up following Him. The evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is that strong. However, when Jesus lets Himself into your heart, that’s when a cosmic struggle begins.
“The rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, & the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Romans 6:12 ESV) do not & will not let go easily. We wish for this life to be easy. We work hard at trying to make this life easy, but as those who follow Jesus, we have too much working against us, our own sinful nature included.
Case in point, Covid 19. Our national economy was humming along at a beautiful clip. Employment was growing by leaps & bounds across all classes of people. Then the virus arrived, but even they are not immune to problems. If a virus is too deadly, & kills its host then the virus can no longer thrive. Once the host dies, the virus cannot reproduce, until it finds another host. It cannot use a dead body to reproduce, & sin is like a virus. The wages of sin is death, but once we are dead, sin can no longer reproduce in us. Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of that, but 1st we have to die before we can be raised from the dead.
In God’s plan for saving us from sin, first He baptizes us into the death of Jesus Christ. After that death sin still infects us, but it no longer has control over us. Faith in Jesus as Savior from sin is sort of like an antivirus. Sin still infects us, but its eternal results are in quarantine. Sin no longer defines who we are. Jesus does.
Then, at our physical death, the virus no longer infects us, even though its effects – our dead body – are still obvious & painful to those who miss us. Finally, at the resurrection from the dead, all the effects of sin will be gone, forever! Until our physical death, however, though sin no longer controls our destiny, it still very much brings anguish, frustration & sorrow.
That’s where you & I are right now. Some people deal with it by willingly continuing to sin. They deny that their sins are sin. Or, they say that God just forgives everything, & in a sense, He does. His grace does abound. That’s the dilemma posed to Paul at verse one: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1 ESV)
Paul’s answer to them, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.” (Romans 6:3-4 ESV)
Jesus didn’t die on the cross for our sins so that we could remain on the path to hell. He wants us to live by faith already now, even though we don’t normally see all the miracles He is accomplishing in us & through us. As children of God, His followers already walk in newness of life, not in the oldness of death. Yes, we still sin, daily & much, but sin no longer controls our destiny, nor does it define who we are. In Christianity, there is always a struggle between the fact that our sins are completely forgiven & the fact that we are not free to sin. Once forgiven, a problem arises in that our sinful nature still wants to sin.
Watered down Christianity wants to ease our struggle by telling us it is okay to sin again & again & again. Watered down Christianity seeks no change of heart, no desire to drown the old sinful nature. Watered down Christianity seeks to ease our conscience regarding sin by downplaying its significance & its offence to God.
Watered down Christianity doesn’t really seek forgiveness at all. In fact, it lives in sin rather than in Christ.
In Paul’s way of thinking, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, Baptism is not merely a sign pointing back to something that happened to us, once upon a time. Baptism is the present-day point of contact between you & the Word of God that justifies you & recreates you every moment of every day of your life in Christ.
When God baptized you, He brought you into life, into His kingdom, now & forever. God does not change His mind about you. He doesn’t see your sin. It is all covered in the blood of Christ. Your saintly nature, created in you by God, never wants to leave that place. Amen.
All who believe & are baptized shall see the Lord’s salvation; baptized into the death of Christ, they are a new creation. Through Christ’s redemption they shall stand among the glorious, heavenly band of every tribe & nation. With one accord, O God, we pray: Grant us Your Holy Spirit. Help us in our infirmity through Jesus’ blood & merit. Grant us to grow in grace each day that by the sacrament we may eternal life inherit. Amen. LSB 601.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet