Tag Archives: Nicodemus

Baptism, Death, Eternal life all in Jesus First Saint Johns, January 11, 2015 Luke 2:21

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have died to the world in baptism and have been reborn in Jesus Christ said … AMEN

I want to start by remembering our brother Sam Null who went to be in the presence of the Lord. Sam’s funeral will be this Friday here at First St Johns. We pray for Norma and their son Sam and we praise God that Sam is free from suffering and in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you see in today’s introduction to worship, I will be saying the words that I say in a funeral. We Christians do not live In fear of death. We died that day we were baptized. We are still in the world when we are baptized, but now we are no longer of the world we are reborn in Christ. This is another area where we are at odds with other Christian belief systems. Other Christians see baptism as sort of an initiation into the faith, a public act, on their part, in accepting Christ. For Lutherans, we see baptism as our new birth, where, when I baptize someone the Holy Spirit is using the words I say and the act of pouring the water as a way to, as Dr Luther would say, to drown the old person and from that the new person in Christ is reborn.

It’s been a really rough week, heck for me as a pastor, throw a bout of flu into the mix of Advent, two Christmas Eve worships, Holly Tea, German Christmas worship, a wedding, a few deaths, it’s been a tough last few weeks. Death has been a very real presence just in the past few days. My Aunt died up in Maine, the Rev Dr Mike Ramey’s mother died in Texas, a fellow pastor and classmate’s mother died, we said farewell to our bother Rev Don Biggs a few weeks ago, we had other funerals this past year of brothers and sisters in Jesus. But here is the upshot, here is the Gospel, the Good News. All of them “died” in Jesus. Yes, they aren’t here with us in the body, but we know for sure, because we have the promise of Jesus Christ, that all of these brothers and sisters are now in the perfect bliss and comfort of heaven, the very real presence of our Lord.

How can we be so sure of this? Was it because of something they said or did? No! We have many Christians who believe that it’s all about them, it’s all about what they do or don’t do. One of the main reasons we baptize babies is to emphasize our understanding of what baptism is. Baptism is when we are called by the Holy Spirit to come into the new life of Christ. It is not a decision we make to “accept Jesus”. Doesn’t it really seem presumptuous to think that it’s our decision to be saved? “Oh, okay, I’ll accept Jesus as Lord, well because I can and I’m going to. I will walk down the aisle and make a declaration for God.” I’ve had more than one person tell me that after making some sort of public declaration of accepting Jesus, they did not feel as if they really knew salvation. I often hear that there is this doubt, that they might have done something wrong, that somehow it wasn’t enough, wrong time, wrong way, etc. In our baptism into Jesus it is not about what we do, it’s not about how we do it, when we do it, why we do it, yada, yada, yada. It’s about the fact that we have the knowledge and assurance that we were called to be baptized, we were called to be saved, we were baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and by that, the Holy Spirit brought you to salvation in Jesus. The Holy Spirit took you up out of the depths of your baptism and gave you the new life, made you the new person in Jesus. It’s not up to you, it’s not your call and that is why, for Lutherans, it is about baptizing babies. I am certainly not saying you have to be baptized as a baby. Certainly God decides when we come to know Christ and that is not always as an infant. I wasn’t baptized until I was in my mid-twenties, I’m sure there are others here who weren’t baptized as babies and others who haven’t been baptized at all. I pray that those who are adults and haven’t been baptized, that God is leading them through the words that He has given me for you to come to new life in Jesus. But I want to make this very clear, it’s not about your decision, it’s not about you making the call. You may have some idea that you don’t need to be baptized, or that you are somehow unworthy. Heck I’d like to know who here, me included, could ever be worthy enough for new life in Jesus. I’ll tell you who, no one, not you, not me, not anyone who hears this is worthy. We are not saved on the basis of whether we are worthy. Sola gratia by grace alone are we baptized. The grace of God, His forgiveness of us, His desire, not yours, not mine, to save you in Jesus. There are no mistakes in God, if you have not been saved in the waters of baptism whether you are 8 months or 80 years you are saved only by God’s grace and united with Jesus in His death through baptism. His death, His sacrifice, His atonement on the Cross that saved us. So no, you are not worthy enough for baptism and neither am I, no one is.

Jesus was baptized and He was baptized as an adult. Why? He was baptized by John the Baptist, John was designated by God to baptize Jesus in the way and at the time that He was baptized. No, Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but as Jesus lived the life that we live, that He came down from heaven, born as a baby, He identified with us in every way and part of that is to be baptized. We are baptized because He was baptized, we are saved because He sacrificed His perfect life, the life that He lived as a man in complete perfection, a life that we could not live, He lived in order to be that perfect sacrifice, that perfect price to be paid for the payment of all our sins. More and more in the world, you will meet people who feel that baptism is unnecessary or that they are not worthy. You have to know that God is going to speak through you to them for them to hear that they need to be baptized, they need to be saved in the baptism that Jesus had in order to be saved. Paul tells us in today’s reading: “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” OK, sure, after you die you can’t sin anymore. How does that help us during our earthly life? Because Paul gives us God’s promise: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?” We are free from sin because we have been baptized, we have been brought into new life by the Holy Spirit by the act of baptism. Do we still sin in our life? Yes! But those sins are forgiven, we are freed from those sins. Paul says: “We were buried therefore with Him [baptism as being buried in the waters of baptism] 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.” (Rom 6: 4) We have newness of life in Jesus through our baptism in Him. It’s not about us, we will continue to live and sin, but we turn it over to God, we repent and ask for His forgiveness. We should also ask for His power to overcome our sin, but we are saved in what He has done for us. We may have been a baby when we were baptized, but as that baby, we are brought by faithful parents, who have heard God’s Word, have known the urging of the Holy Spirit and faithfully bring their child to the saving waters of faith and new life in Jesus. Paul gives us these great promises: “Now if we have died with Christ [that is the death and rebirth of baptism] we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” What an incredible promise, what an incredible assurance. All those that we have lost, we know that they are very much alive, saved completely by what Jesus did for them in His life, death and resurrection and our baptism in Him. We too have that promise and that is a promise that we need to share with anyone we know who still does not know Jesus as Lord. It’s not what they’ve done, do or will do, it’s entirely what Jesus has done for us. He was baptized to identify with us and He gives us the promise of forgiveness and eternal life in Him in the baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

Giving Life

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Giving Life
First St Johns May 11, 2014

We pray to our Father, because our Lord Jesus told us to start our prayer “Our Father…” mothers give us life, but to all of us who are in Christ, we have life and have it more abundantly. You are everywhere Father, yes you gave us mothers to give us life, to be there for us, to encourage, to comfort, to belong. We thank you for our mothers who gave us life, but true life is only in Jesus, eternal/abundant life is only in Him, Your Son, our Lord. Man, woman, mother, father, child, we are all sheep to Him who is the Good, the Great Shepherd. He is the Door to eternal life, He protects us from the stranger, the accuser, the liar. Satan knows he does not have eternal life, he knows that he is doomed to damnation and because of that He sees us, Your children, and hates us because we are secure in Jesus. But he continues to try to move us away from life, if he has to suffer, he wants all of us to suffer. Misery does love company and he is a miserable, bitter being. Thank you Father for our mothers, for those who sacrifice so much of their life for us, but more importantly thank You for the Good Shepherd who sacrificed for us eternally and sacrificed all for us. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who thank God for life in a faithful mother and for an eternal Savior said… AMEN!
Happy Mother’s Day, we have some small gifts for you and we hope that you enjoy your day. A woman recounts: “she had just returned from renewing my license at the County Clerk’s office. When asked to state an occupation she hesitated. The clerk explained, ‘Do you have a job, or are you just a …?” “Of course I have a job the woman snapped, I’m a mother.” “We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation … ‘housewife’ covers it’, said the clerk emphatically.
“I’m a research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, looked up as if she didn’t understand. I repeated the title slowly as the clerk wrote my pompous pronouncement on the questionnaire.
“Might I ask, just what you do in your field?’
She heard herself reply, ‘I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for a Masters (the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters).
I often work 14 hours a day. But the job is more challenging than most run of the mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.”
She writes: “As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants ages 13, 7, and 3, upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child development program…
I felt triumphant. I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘”just another …. Home what a glorious career. Especially when there’s a title on the door.”
Moms are definitely a vital part of God’s plan for the world, God’s plan of life, of the ultimate perfect world. I was just reading some research, that found that the person who has the most influence on a man to become part of a church family, is his wife, usually when she becomes the mother of his children. Wives give life to the children and also, in many cases, open the door to spiritual life.1
It’s one of those tough ministry calls, it’s Mother’s Day and it’s also “Good Shepherd Day”, might seem to be a conflict, but actually they complement each other. We take time to remember mom, but we are together here in the Body of Christ and so we remember He who is the ultimate life giver. In our reading today in John 10 we read my favorite line in Scripture, Jesus telling us “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” To be sure mom gives us life in the flesh but remember Nicodemus’ confusion when Jesus tells him he must be born again: “Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4) Jesus replies: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5) God gives us physical life through our mothers, and we have life for a few decades, but through Jesus we are born again, born in God the Holy Spirit and we have life eternal.
Having life and life more abundant, does start in this life. Our life in Christ, Jesus who is the Lord of our life, who saves us in life from the slavery of sin that we see all around us. The deceiver tries to convince us that the so-called pleasures of life in the world are what is important. But in Christ we have no doubt that these pleasures result in sin, sin is pain, it is slavery, it is death. It looks good on the surface, but the result is always misery and loss. It is eternal loss, versus eternal life. The Greek word zwh, yes, you might have heard that as a girl’s name, is a word that Jesus uses so emphatically. It has such an emphatic meaning throughout the New Testament, it is used to mean “…eternal life, i.e. that life of bliss and glory in the kingdom of God which awaits the true disciples of Christ after the resurrection.”2 The promise of life should give us a great assurance, we trust that Jesus secures eternal life for us, that we will live forever, that we won’t just all of a sudden simply disappear. Our soul rebels at the idea that we will be here one moment and then gone the next. But our soul can’t reconcile that conflict, the worldly person can’t see any way to escape this. They don’t know Jesus’ promises of eternal life, there just has to be another way they rationalize, a way that will be on their terms and in their plan, but they will never be able to do that, they live with this constant struggle in their soul. We as Christians are called to show them the promises of Christ, to turn to Him for the peace that they see in us. Let us have Christian compassion and help them in their rebirth into the peace, mercy and eternal life in Christ. We take time in daily prayer to come before Him who gives us life more abundantly and we come to be a part of the Body of Christ every Sunday to worship Him, to give Him thanks for our eternal life. But it’s not some eternal life that is some kind of grayish/ghostly existence that pagans believe in. He promises abundant life. The Greek word perisso,j which means extraordinary, remarkable, profuse, beyond measure.”3 I’m sure you wonder why I refer to the Greek so often, but when Jesus is talking to us, He is using words that we hear in a mundane sense, but that He intends for us to understand in a sense that is extraordinary, His words are intended to be wondrous and assuring.
He gives us moms to give us love, assurance, that warmth that is only an inkling of His abundant love and promise. Dr Luther makes this observation of the devil and the world: “…who takes pleasure in shaming us most miserably and embittering us among ourselves, causing nothing but murder and misery and tolerating no peace or concord between brothers, between neighbors or between husband and wife.”4 That is what the world knows. It knows the love of mother, but in too many cases even that “love” is misery, it does not bring peace, but continued conflict and difficulty. We are thankful Lord for those who know what it is to be a mother in Jesus, we pray Lord that more mothers will come to know the peace, love and life that is in Jesus and bring their children to know life and life more abundant in Him. Eve has taken a lot of hits throughout history, but we need to remember her and all mothers in Todd Wilken’s words: “Eve’s creation is unique in all creation. Eve is the only creature made from another creature. She is made from Adam.
Adam calls her what she is, Eve: “Life, the Mother of all the Living.”
An afterthought? Far from it! Eve is the genesis in Genesis. Without her there is only Adam. With her, there is humanity.
Moreover, without this woman, there is no “woman’s seed;” there is no Jesus. With her, there is Jesus, the new Adam, the New Creation.
Eve, you’re not an afterthought. You’re the Mother of the Promise.
Jesus is the Promise, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Good Shepherd who guides us, protects us from the “stranger”, inspires us, gives us eternal, abundant life.
We are thankful to you Father for mothers who are used by You as you give us physical life, who sacrifice so much of their life to make us men and women in Jesus. We are thankful to You Father for a great Savior who gives us life eternal, abundant, beyond measure. After the stroll through the street fair over on Market St and the gifts and the dinner, this evening when you are home, take some time to remember the giver of life, how He has chosen you, man or woman, to give physical life and how you can be not just a good father and mother to the children you have given birth to, but how you can be a good “spiritual” mother or father to help in the birth of children in Christ, true life in Him, who do you know that the Spirit is leading you to, to be used by God to give birth in eternal life. What does abundant life mean to you and how do you live abundantly today and through all eternity?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.