Baptism of Our Lord

Dear saints dead sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! May it never be!

These can be quite troubling words for us. For we know that we continue in sin. Each and every day. Just getting past the first commandment is impossible each day for us, and the rest of the Law follows with it. Who is thinking about an NFL playoff game, or the finishing of another crazy college bowl season? Who is sitting hear right now thinking about their plans for the day and hoping Pastor Amen continues his usual pattern of shorter sermons to get out of here? What of despising preaching and the Word and holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it? In that regard, what of your attendance in Bible Studies and Sunday school, but the reality is most would you rather sleep in a bit or go out for breakfast or lunch?

Often we do not realize just how much of sinners we truly are, how deep are sinful condition effects us. And we have not even begun about our life together with families and neighbors. Loving them as we love ourselves. Not only not murdering but helping them in every physical need. Not only not stealing but helping them to improve and protect their possessions and income.

We often times think that the grace given to us gives us free reign to live and do what we want. We think we can live our lives as if God doesn’t matter for 6 ½ days a week and come to worship and that’s all there is to it.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! May it never be!

God’s Word is perfect and holy. His Word is the voice of life as He creates the entire cosmos. It’s the same Word that comes and gives the Law. You want to live eternally; God’s Law tells you what you must do. Do this and you shall live.

Yet you don’t. You say you love God, you want to serve Him, and yet you despise preaching and His Word and you do not love your neighbor perfectly. Thus you are dying. You get the flu or the cold, you have aches and pains, your bodies are breaking down, and you are dying, for you are by nature sinful and unclean.

Repent.

You who think your works are enough to please God. Repent. For so too did the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

You who think you have no need for Bible Study, Sunday School, and the preaching of God’s Word. You who think you sufficiently know the Scriptures and can sustain yourselves on your own accord. Repent.

You who think you are able to receive the gifts God freely gives in His Word and Sacrament or think you do not have enough offering or insight to bring. Repent.

Repent means to turn around, to have a change of heart and mind.

It is a continual action. Thus we repent and confess our sins each week in the Preparation of the Divine Service. Thus we confess our sins even daily, to each other and in individual confession at Church.

Many of us are proud Lutherans, we live our faith in tradition set forth from the Reformation. When Reformation Day comes around we champion Luther and the reformers for their faithful confession and we remember the nailing of the 95 theses on the Church door. Yet, how little do we heed the word spoken from the reformer:

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” He called for that the whole life of believers should be of repentance. (Thesis 1)

Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; such repentance is null unless it outwardly produces various mortifications of the flesh. (Thesis 3)

As long as hatred of the self abides – that is, true inward repentance – the penalty of sin abides, namely, until we enter the kingdom of heaven. (Thesis 4)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! May it never be!

Dear Christians, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? If you are not in the death of Jesus, linked to it, covered by it, carried along by it, then you enter into death on your own terms, and there is hell to pay for that! Death is wages of sin. It’s not an accidental part of some imaginary cycle of life, for in the beginning that which was created was called good. Death is the wages of sin.

Death is payment that must be made. This is why Christmas happened, the Word was made flesh and dwells among us so that He can die. The Magi brought gifts for the King and yet they also brought the spices and incense appropriate for a burial in the gift of myrrh. Christ’s death for the sins of the whole world, it is the payment of sin.

It is His death you receive. 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.

You see, the risen Christ never acts to take our attention off His crucifixion. The open tomb that trumpets Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t pull hearts away from His crucifixion. In fact, Jesus’ crucifixion and His resurrection are properly thought of as one event. Easter morning doesn’t put blinders around Good Friday or move it into the shadows. No, no, no – may it never be! Rather, Easter morning floods Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary in the brilliant, beautiful light of God’s Amen. Death has no dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.

We are united into the one event of the death and resurrection of Christ in baptism. By it ours sins are forgiven, our old self crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we are no longer enslaved to sin.

You re baptized into His death – His bloody, beautiful, burden lifting death.

How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without God’s Word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth of the Holy Spirit. (Small Catechism)

Without God’s Word, “let there be…” there is nothing. By God’s pure and gracious gift, you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This new life is completely the creation of God. It is something done to you like God saying at creation, “Let there be light,” and there was light. “Your sins are forgiven,” and they are forgiven. “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3) and in Holy Baptism Jesus joins you to His death and burial and resurrection and saves you.

Humanly speaking it seems too good to be true. Is this cheap grace that means we can live any way we prefer and treat baptism as magic? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? God gives us no grounds to treat baptism as a free ticket to walk our own way. That is cool satanic logic and our sinful flesh agrees tempting us to fall back to unbelief and rebellion against God. It seems workable to pretty much live as we please believing we’re good enough. It seems reasonable to hang on to certain sins which, comparatively speaking, surely aren’t as bad as the sins of others we know.

To all of this the Holy Spirit says, By no means! You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. You and I are given no permission to continue in sin of any kind. All this leads us to ask what it feels like to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ?

Right here we must clearly state that Christians, those who are dead to sin, are nonetheless troubled by their ongoing sinfulness. For, if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

When John applied water to the sinless Son of God, things happened! The heavens were ripped open. The Holy Spirit descends. The Father speaks. The Holy Trinity is thereby revealed. Why does all this happen with a little water in the muddy stream called the Jordan?

It happened for you! The Baptism of our Lord! The Word made flesh stepped into the water where sinners gather to take upon Himself our sin. He was thereby baptized into your death and your damnation and mine. It was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was His first public step toward His baptism of blood on the cross. As He took this step, the Father is well pleased and the Holy Spirit anoints Him for this saving work. See how totally the Holy Trinity loves you!

Your baptism is the most precious gift that keeps on giving! For in it you are given the death and resurrection of Jesus. You sins are forgiven. You are set free, you are buried with Christ and risen from the grave Christ gives you life. Sin and death are not your masters. You are free, a beloved son of God, in whom the Father finds pleasure to redeem, love, and welcome.

O Christian, firmly hold this gift

And give God thanks forever!

It gives the power to uplift

In all that you endeavor.

When nothing else revives your soul,

Your baptism stands and makes you whole

And then in death completes you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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