Saving Faith is a Work of God by Baptism into Christ (Lent 2 March 8, 2020)
Genesis 12:1-9; Romans 4:1-8, 13-17; John 3:1-17
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. Let us pray…
Speak, O Lord, your servant listens. Sanctify us in your truth; your word is truth. Amen.
The name of this church is Faith Lutheran in case you didn’t know. We aren’t named that because we want people to just “believe.” Faith always has something to grasp. We believe “in” an idea. We trust a person or a fact which affects what we do. The faith that saves from sin, death, and the devil trusts in Christ alone. Saving faith “is to want and to receive the offered promise of forgiveness of sins and of justification.” (Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, paragraph 48) The promise is forgiveness of sins. The fulfillment is Jesus’ death on the cross. Faith is created in your heart by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Word and Sacraments. This day we hear our Lord Jesus teach us how Baptism creates saving faith.
We must be born again, born from above and not from man. For each of us were born of a man and a woman. A different birth is needed. A new birth not of man but worked by God is necessary. Without it, we’re dead in our trespasses and sins. We’re stillborn; dead before we taste heaven. But, a new birth is given. A birth worked by water and the Holy Spirit. Like our natural birth, we don’t really have a say in the matter. It’s God’s work alone, the work of the Lord and giver of life. Holy Baptism is God’s way of giving you new life lasting into eternity. In fact, Baptism is the only reference for the means of spiritual birth in Holy Scripture. It’s how God creates Christians.
This may seem obvious but be baptized! There’s no good reason not to. Most of you were baptized as infants. Some as youth or as adults. To wait until you’re convinced you’re a Christian is to drag this Sacrament and so God’s name through the mud. He sets no age restriction on who is to be baptized. The only invalid baptism is to use other words than Christ commands, not use water, or force it upon others. What an extraordinarily fantastic gift!
Remember it. It only happens once but it has eternal consequences for you. Everyone can remember their baptism. Even those baptized as an infant. Make the sign of the cross when the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is said. You were marked with the cross at your baptism. Remember it. Have your baptismal certificate hanging where you can see it. That’s a constant reminder of who you are apart from sin, death, and Satan. Do you know the date of your Baptism? Celebrate it! Maybe have some pie from the Rustic Inn or take a dip in the Lake.
Most importantly, remember your baptism by drowning the old self and raising the new man each day. Examine your life each day according to the Commandments. Recognize your sins, repent, and receive the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. It is this daily dying and rising which is the best way to honor your Baptism. This death and resurrection is the work of the Holy Spirit through that same Baptism. The Holy Spirit “works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.” (Augsburg Confession, Article V) You can’t see this work in others or feel it in yourself. But, the Spirit is always working. Don’t resist it by indulging in your favorite sins. Instead, come to the spring of Baptism. It never dries up. A waterfall which never ceases to crush the old Adam into the depths.
The power of Holy Baptism is found in the word of promise from Jesus. This promise of new life is pictured in the account of the bronze serpent.
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:1-9
There was the symbol of death turned to a sign of a promise. This serpent being lifted up points us to the death of the Son of God on a cross. The cross is a symbol of death, but the promise says through it comes eternal life. It doesn’t make sense. It takes faith worked by the Spirit to grasp that hope. The cross is the power of Baptism. The event upon which all life in the world depends.
For, by his death, Jesus shows his love for you. By sending His only-begotten Son, we learn the love of our Father. The power of Holy Baptism is the love of the Father through the Son given by the Spirit. Jesus rose from the dead keeping his promise. He paid the price and took punishment for sin. Death has no power over him. If Christ has been raised from the dead, the promise of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Baptism is true. His word of promise is true. He’s not dead but alive! So are you.
Let us pray…
Let me not doubt, but truly see
Your Word cannot be broken:
Your call rings out, "Come unto Me!"
No falsehood have You spoken.
Baptized into Your precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish. (Salvation Unto Us Has Come, #555.7 in Lutheran Service Book)
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.