Epiphany 2 – Baptism brings blessings

Sunday, January 17, 2020

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Baptism Is A Promise

And now you know the rest of the story. When I was a child Paul Harvey was on the radio. And he had a very unique sort of radio show. He would tell you a story about someone you knew. Usually it was someone famous. But he didn’t tell you the story of what you already knew. He told you an engaging story about that person’s life that you did not know. And, as you listened, you were wondering who it was he was talking about. Then, at the end, he would tell you the name. And he would close with those word, “and now you know the rest of the story.” This morning we have a similar thought. Today we have the privilege of speaking about Baptism. And there are parts of baptism that are well known. Last year I preached on 1 Peter 3 and how baptism saves us from our sin. But, my dear friends, there’s more to the story. There is more to what baptism is and brings. And the words we look at this morning usher us into that truth. In Mark 1, we read: 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”” (Mark 1:9–11 NIV11-GKE)

In these words we see how Jesus’ baptism is similar to our own. In Jesus’ baptism he received the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit was with him powerfully to help him get his work done. Here, we have an overlap, a similarity between Jesus’ baptism and our own. For there are ways that Jesus’ baptism is not like ours. Our baptism delivers salvation to us and forgiveness. Jesus’ baptism didn’t forgive him because he was sinless. But, at his baptism Jesus received the Holy Spirit. And in our baptisms God gives to us the promise of the Holy Spirit. And with that there is so much to say. There are so many promises that God gives to us here in baptism. But this morning we’ll settle in on two.

First, baptism gives to us a stable status. The word, status, is an old word. And it simply means something that stands on its own and doesn’t fall. And as a result, it doesn’t change. When Jesus was baptized, his Father said, “You are my Son, whom I love.” (Mark 1:11 NIV11-GKE) In our baptisms, because of Jesus has done, God says to us, “You too are my child.” And my dear friends, that is a stable status.

This becomes important and meaningful to us when we realize how easy it is for us to change. Each of us wants to be ready when it comes time for us to meet our Maker. And, as we think that through, there’s this lurking temptation to conclude that we will be able to prepare ourselves in such a way on our death bed that we will be at absolute peace and perfect trust in God. And then we’ll be ready.

My dear friends in Christ, that’s not how it works. All throughout your lives and many times within even one day you sin. And you may not even reach out and act on these thoughts and desires. But they are there. We doubt when we should trust. We are apathetic when we should care and maybe even be a little angry. We are angry when we should be at peace. We lie to ourselves and others. If you think that when you meet your Maker you are going to somehow put all of these to rest, let me tell you that it doesn’t work that way. Your sinful nature will die when finally you die, not before that.

And that’s why this promise of the Holy Spirit in baptism means so much to us. I might wrestle with these sins of anger, doubt, despair, lying, lusting, and so many more to the very day and moment I die. But in baptism God’s holy name is placed on my sinful soul. In baptism I have a stable status. In baptism God sees Jesus’ faithful life and perfect sacrifice instead of the sea of sins flooding through my soul.

So, in baptism you have a promise of the Holy Spirit. You have a promise of a stable status. But you also have the promise of a powerful presence. In these words in Mark 1, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus. He helped Jesus. He gave him strength. He gave him courage and confidence. And Jesus needed that. Because in the words that follow he is thrown into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days.

My dear friends in Christ, in baptism we have the same promise. We have the promise of a powerful presence. And this too is so important to think about. There can be those times in our lives when we want to give up the fight—when the daily wrestling against our own sins gets to be too much because our old sinful nature wins so very much. And when this happens we can give in to some very real and specific temptations. First, we can conclude that we will never be able to do what is right. And from that, we can quickly arrive at the second conclusion: Why bother wrestling against sin?

In baptism the Holy Spirit is given to us—each of us. And what that means is that we have a partner to fight with us against the addictiveness of sin. Now, notice what I said. You have a partner and a powerful presence. The Holy Spirit partners together with you in baptism. But I did not say that either the temptation or the sin magically goes away when you are baptized. And that’s why this promise means so much to us. The Holy Spirit partners together with us, just as he partnered together with Jesus. There is so much that is addictive out there in the world and in our hearts. We can be caught up into smoking too much, drinking too much, gossip, filthy language, stubborn pride, self-hating despair. And when we are caught up in it, it is so easy to settle for an abusive, dysfunctional relationship in our own souls. For example, I might say in my own heart that I lie all the time. But that’s ok because I cannot change and you should not expect me to. No, my dear friends in Christ, the opposite is true. If we love sin we will separate ourselves from Christ. But even more, if we love sin, we deny this amazing promise of the Holy Spirit: In these waters of baptism the Holy Spirit teams up with you. He gives you his powerful presence to say, “no” to your destructive yearnings and “yes” to what you know is good and right and will go well for you.

All of that, yes, indeed, all of that is given to us in baptism. In baptism the Holy Spirit makes us a promise. He gives us the promise of a stable status. How wonderful it is to know that what God thinks of me doesn’t change even though I change so much. In baptism the Holy Spirit gives me his powerful presence. I don’t need to throw in the towel or give up. For the Holy Spirit will be with me to say, “no” to sin’s addiction and “yes” to God’s healing.

I’d like to say, my dear friends, that now you know the rest of the story. But you don’t. There is more—so very much more to say about baptism. But today, in these words, we have the time to say and remember that in baptism the Holy Spirit gives you a promise. You have the promise of a stable status. You have the promise of a powerful presence. Amen.

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

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