Dear Baptized of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He has once again gathered us together by Grace, around His means of Grace, that we might be strenghthened, that our faith might be nourished. That we might again find hope in the midst of a world where there seems to be very little of that.
Seems like there’s so much bad news in our world today. Another school shooting, another child who believes the answer to his problems is to take the lives of others. Another terrorist attack on American soil (and we do thank God we haven’t had another one as big as Sept. 11, yet, they continue to have small victories here and there). Another American citizen joins the terrorist group called ISIS.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that if we listen to the news, on any given day, most of it is going to be bad.
But there always remains good news and hope in Jesus Christ. He died that we might live. He suffered for the sins of the whole world, even for the sins of the very worst of the worst – so that we all might be assured. He died for all, and that must mean that He did that for you and me - that we might be spared from the true punishment that our sins deserve.
Whoever repents of his sin, and believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sin, will be saved.
He can and has changed some of the most hardened hearts by His Word. Our Epistle lesson for today is a perfect example. Paul was no ordinary evil-doer. He was intent and very deliberate in his actions to not just persecute but eliminate the Christian Church, and wasn’t the least bit bashful about it. He was a murderer.
Yet, the resurrected Christ changed him. His Word and Spirit changed him. His forgiving heart changed him.
Why didn’t Paul just say, “Forget you Christ”? “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing”. Evidently it wasn’t as satisfying as he thougth it would be. He wasn’t finding true rest and peace in taking out anger on others.
Jesus offers a life so much better, so much more fulfilling than living to please ourselves. He offers us a life of service, not service to sin, not sevice to self, but service to God, the only one who can provide true rest and peace for our eternal soul. Jesus was very clear regarding how we are to serve. He describes our mission (the true mission of every Christian) in detail. He used three very specific verbs. (Verbs explain an action): Jesus says, 1. Go, 2. Teach, and 3. Baptize.
Go means go. Go does not mean we should remain a couch potato for the rest of our lives, and use all our free time to serve ourselves.
Go where or to whom? Since Jesus died for all people, the Gospel is meant for all. On the bulletin cover we see Jesus receiving children from all nations. God’s will is that all come to repentance and faith.
So, go and do what? Teach the Gospel Christ says.
This is where many modern thinkers allow their reason to get in the way. Today it seems to be everything but the Gospel.
For example, many say we have to give a man a meal and fill his empty stomach before he’s going to listen to a sermon.
But Jesus simply never taught that. In fact, before He fed the five thousand, He preached His Word to them for days. For days He provided bread for their eternal souls, He nourished faith first, and then He provided earthly bread. He wasn’t going to let them starve, but He also said, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
A big part of teaching the Gospel is Baptism. God gracioulsy chooses to receive even the smallest child, and He exalts even the smallest child into His Kingdom of Grace, through Baptism.
And the wisdom of the world says, "please, what can a little water do for us?" Yet, God graciously chose to join His life-giving Word to water, and He says it is “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
We also baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We teach, because Scripture teaches, the Truine God is the only true God, the only God who saves. All other religions teach that we must do something for salvation. But if that were true, how could we ever be certain we had done enough? “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”
Christ says to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, because Only the Father sent the Son to be our Savior. Only the Son laid down His life for us, took it up again, and promises that we too will rise. Only the Holy Spirit keeps us in the true saving faith through God’s Word.
Jesus also says, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
It’s easy to teach what we know people want to hear. It’s not so easy when we know we might get persecuted for teaching those things that aren’t so popular.
Yet, our hope, our strength – is that God’s promise cannot be broken. And He promises to be with us as we teach His Word. He promises to make all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
He promises, “It shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”
It’s not our reason or strength that changes hearts. It’s God’s Word. All we must do is proclaim it, and God’s Spirit does the rest – He gives the increase.
Christ also assures us that His power is with us. What kind of power? He says, “ All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”
So why be afraid, why worry, why doubt? He who has all power will always be in control. He promises to use that power in our best interest.
By Grace, by His power, may we continue then to faithfully teach God’s Word, and Baptize in the name of the Triune God. May we continue to find the strength to do so, not by our own power, but in the Good News of the Gospel. By remembering our Baptism, by contining in God’s Word. By continuing to find hope and assurance in God’s promises.
He says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”