Friday, 28 February 2014

Why is Baptism important?

Well, I believe in Jesus.  Why would I need to be baptized?

There are many people nowadays that may have this sort of attitude when it comes to the gift of Holy Baptism.  What does Baptism give me that I really need?

God has made promises.  But how do you know they apply to you?  Who are you that the Holy Promises of God should also include you?  Here is the eternal refuge of Holy Baptism.  All the promises of God are poured upon you in the water and Word of Baptism.  When that water touches your body, immediately you are certain - God has promised these things to me.  Personally.  This IS faith.  The devil might attack my faith and make me doubt whether I believe.  My sin might rise up and make me feel dirty and unworthy.  Death may stare me in the face and cause me to fear.  And in all those moments, the Evil One will press hard to take Jesus away from me.  But the One thing he can never change is that God has washed me in water and the Word.  God's promise that I am His child, forgiven, justified, sanctified in the Name of Christ and by His Spirit, will always apply to me - because I got wet.

So God has given you baptism as the place you can forever return to Him.  He has put Jesus in the water.  He has given you a place to drown your sin, to cast off old Adam's works, and emerge new in Jesus.  No matter what the devil may throw at you, or whisper to you, or remind you of - you may always say in return, "I am baptized!"

But I believe in Jesus.  Why would I need to be baptized?  How about another look?

Jesus said, "Unless you are born of water and the Spirit you will never enter the kingdom of God."(John 3:5)  Jesus tells us baptism is necessary.  Yes, God can save those who have not been baptized, those who have not had the opportunity to be baptized (like the thief on the cross), but that is not what He wants.  God commands us to be baptized.  He has given us baptism for this reason.  To save us (1 Peter 3:21)  Faith responds to that command in faith - it gets baptized. 

He also said, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."  The certainty of this Word is for those who believe and are baptized.  They will be saved.  There is also certainty for those who do not believe.  They will be condemned.  But where is the certainty for those who believe, but are not baptized?  What!?  They won't be condemned?  That is the best we can contrive from these words.  And here is the kicker - how do you know that you believe?  This is what the devil will immediately throw at you in any moment of weakness.  Well, I believe that I believe.  But how do you know you believe that you believe?  Faith becomes faith in faith - not in Jesus.

But God has given us baptism.  New birth.  His Spirit.  And He wants us to run to it.  The Devil cannot go there - all he can do is tell people that they don't need it.

In closing hear the words of St. Paul to Pastor Titus, "[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)

Grace is free, offered to you in the Holy washing of Baptism.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

How old is the earth?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  When was that?  How long ago was it?

There is a lot of confusion these days about Science and Religion.  Can they exist together?  Do they complement each other?  There are those who see there is no problem between the scientific observations made in the last fifty years and the truth of the Bible.  Then, there are those who want Science to be the end of Religion, their sword for being rid of God's judgment.

On account of this, the question of the Earth's age is often used to "debunk" the Bible, because man's observation makes it very clear that "billions and billions" of years can be seen in the universe.

But there is something that few people are willing to observe in the Biblical account.  When God created Adam, how old was he?  Did God make a zygote, or a fertilized egg?  No.  Adam was created as a full grown adult.  If a group of scientists had come at that moment to test Adam's age, though he was only one day old, they would have observed that Adam was 25 or something.  He was created with age.  The same is true for the whole creation.  How old do stars need to look in order to be full grown?  What about trees?  Rocks?  God made everything with man in mind.  He wanted the light of the stars to reach Adam's eyes.  He wanted the trees to bear fruit and feed Adam and the animals.  The reason things look old, is not because they are old, it is because they were made with age (precisely so they WOULD look old) - just like Adam.

There is nothing to fear in Science, because it belongs to God.  It is the observation of God's things, and it brings Him glory.  However, the truth of God's Word must remain first, because no matter what things look like to man at a given moment in history, the truth of His Scriptures will be shown in their entirety to all on the Last Day.  Thanks be to God for revealing Himself to us in His Holy Word, and may He give us faith to rest in His unchanging truth.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Why did God give me a conscience?

The moral compass.  Heaven's courtroom.  There are many names for our conscience.  But what is it for, and how does it work now that everything in this world has been broken by sin?

Your conscience is sort of like an umpire in baseball.  It is observing all that is happening in your life, and it calls what it sees.  Ball!  Strike!  When you think sinful thoughts, or speak sinful words, or behave in an ungodly manner, your conscience calls it for what it is.  Similarly, when someone else does something to you, your conscience makes sure you know - Strike! 

But sometimes the umpire is wrong.  Baseball fans loath when this happens, but it happens all too often.  The pitch comes in and the umpire says "Strike", but it was WAY outside.  The same is true for your conscience.  Your conscience can get broken and it can be wrong.  This happens when the Evil One and sin have their way with you. 

Think of the first time you did something wrong, and how badly you felt about it.  Your conscience was working.  But the second time, the third, eventually, after repeating the same wrong, you don't feel as bad, and before you know it, you don't feel a thing where you used to feel guilty.  Your conscience is broken. 

But this is where God wants to interject.  He wants to pinch hit.  He wants to set Himself up at home plate, and hit every pitch that comes flying in.  Whether its your failings - forgiven, guilt removed.  Or its the offensive behaviour of your neighbour done against you - forgiven, offense removed.  Christ has made things new.  He has been "hit by the pitch" so that you don't get struck out.  He has been "hit by the pitch" so you don't hold your neighbour's wrong against him.  And He has knocked the ball out of the park so that you win, even when you should lose.

Christ has established His Church.  He has sent out preachers to speak to your conscience as often as possible.  To speak into place this pinch hitter, this Christ, who protects you from guilt and shame.  And not just your own guilt and shame, but the wrongdoing of your neighbour.  You no longer have to see how your neighbour is wrong - now you can see that Christ has forgiven them too, and He calls you to do the same - to forgive them and to help them.  This is why we keep hearing His Word preached, so that our conscience doesn't overwhelm us.  So that our overwhelmed conscience doesn't hold anything against our neighbour. 

Let's face it, the pitch is too fast for us.  We don't know if its a ball or strike, and there is no way we can hit it.  But Christ has already accomplished His victory on the cross.  The game is already over - and though it is still being played in our conscience - He comes to us in His Word and Sacrament over and over again to show us how it ends.  You are forgiven.  Freed from guilt and shame and fear.  See your pinch hitter.  Watch Him crank it, and pray that He is all you see.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, 10 February 2014

What does "You shall not murder" really mean?

I've never murdered anyone.  I've never even been in a fist fight.  Am I in the clear?

There is this incredible truth about humanity.  We are really good at minimizing the Ten Commandments when they are speaking about us.  But when someone else has done something to us, oooooooh boy, we open that Law up on them and call for God's justice and wrath to come flaming down. 

The irony is that this actually breaks the Fifth Commandment.  Luther writes, "The meaning of this commandment, then, is that no one should harm another person for any evil deed, no matter how much that person deserves it."  What!  Really?  So when someone does something to me, you know, something really bad, and I get angry - I am breaking the fifth commandment?!?  Yes.  But who can control their anger like that?  Who can keep themselves from reacting to something so offensive done against them?

Only Christ. 

Jesus, the one who said, "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also," He is the only One who can keep this Law.  And the best part is that He has already fulfilled it for you.  The Son of God was born as a man and put Himself under the Law for you.  He was treated terribly - mocked, tortured, crucified - but did MORE than turn the other cheek.  He forgave you.  He let His beatings, His weak, pathetic death become Your eternal salvation - salvation from your anger and the way you don't think about the needs of your neighbour.  Jesus let our human anger pound Him into a pulp so that the blood which seeped out from Him might cover us with His love. 

So No - you are not in the clear.  No, you shouldn't minimize your wrongdoings.  No, you shouldn't get angry.  But Christ came for you.  He died for you.  He rose for you.  And on the day of His trial, when He was wrongfully found worthy of death, a murderer was released in His place.  That murderer was you.  Free.  Forgiven.  Restored.