Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: January 12, 2014

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From: Lutheran Hour Ministries <lh_min@lhm.org>
Date: 01/11/2014 9:18 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: January 12, 2014

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Sermon Text for January 12, 2014

"Keeping Score When it Counts" #81-19
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 12, 2014
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Why Was Jesus Baptized?)
Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Romans 6:1-11

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed and because of Him, we can live life boldly when it really matters most! Amen.

Have you been keeping up with the New Year's sports frenzy in the United States? We just completed a college football national championship game. At the same time, the NFL playoffs are in full swing. Of course, professional basketball games are filling the airwaves along with National Hockey League games. Even the pro golfers are playing in January! 2014 is filled with sports here and around the world.

And one of the things you'll hear over and over again this time of year, ready? It's "Hey, do you know the score of the big game?" I was just recently on a flight where there was a big football game being played while we were in the air. How do I know it was important? Well, the pilot came on the intercom about halfway through the flight and announced the score. And, as the plane landed, phones came out and were quickly turned on; not to call family or set up a ride; no, first they all had to know the score.

Knowing the score, counting the points, keeping track of the goals and the baskets; this matters to many because even with mere games winning and losing are very important to people.

But here's a sobering thought for us all, especially those of us who take these games very seriously. When all is said and done, all the scores I mentioned just logged in, the games that we're playing, the victories, the losses; in the end, they don't matter, do they? If you don't believe me, ask yourself the question, who won the big game that you are following today; who won it 25 years ago? See, it's all just temporary entertainment and yet millions of people study hard, watch game after game, year after year just to know the score.

If that's how seriously we take the games we play, the games that quickly fade into history, what happens when the score really does count, when your life depends not only on knowing the score but scoring enough to win? And what happens if God keeps score of what really matters? Do you ever wonder how He does that or where you stand in the contest that is your life now and forever?

Throughout the ages, people have thought about how God keeps score. The psalmist said, "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalms 130:3 NIV)

It's true, isn't it? When the score really counts in life, who can stand before a perfect and holy God if God possessed a scorecard of every sin you ever committed? We might try to look good, but we're guilty. Our best efforts more often fall incomplete, or are fumbled, or are penalty laden even in the games of this world. If God keeps score of our sins, we lose big time.

We're the kind of people that not only mess up the big things in life; even our failure to follow our own rules exposes us for who we are. I just saw a Federal Highway Administration study that kept track of how many drivers actually obeyed the posted speed limits on streets and highways. Do you want me to read the results? Are you starting to feel a little bit guilty? The study reported that "driver compliance with speed limits is poor. On average, 7 out of 10 motorists exceed the posted speed." 7 out of 10. Wow! Or how would feel if your city did like Washington D.C. and posted traffic camera's at every stop sign with infractions and penalties sent to you automatically in the mail. Kind of makes going to the mailbox every day a little bit more terrifying, doesn't it?

When the score is kept about our lives, truth is revealed. In the highway study or seeing the data on the D.C. cameras, we already get a glimpse of our brokenness and rebellion. But the laws of God expose us even deeper as sinners to the very core of our being. God's Holy Word testifies to us that our lives aren't what they're supposed to be.

In fact, truth be told, if God doesn't do something about the human situation, about your life, about my life, we're counted out and there's no arguing with the score. It's just, it's fair, it matters. It sure sounds like we lose if God keeps score.

But did you hear what Romans 6:11 said, my friend? It said this "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

What if God made possible another way to make your life count? Have you heard about the way He keeps score because of the work of Jesus Christ? It's remarkable, it's surprising, it's not what you would expect. Instead of being a grouchy, stingy, finicky, and critical God, One who can't wait to expose sinners as the failures they are, He instead looks at you and your sin, you and your imperfection, you and your failures, your bad decisions, your speeding, you and your disobedience, and says, "because of Jesus your Savior, you're dead to that. It doesn't count against you anymore." Why? Because Jesus Christ stepped onto the playing field of your life and mine when the score really mattered, when all your deeds and misdeeds were counted; Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh, was counted out in your place, faced the judgment of your earned failure, and makes His victorious life available to you as a gift, one He earned for us all.

Because of Jesus, our heavenly Father invites us to count ourselves dead to the things that are so real and count so much against us because they have no hold over us any longer. But even more, count yourself eternally alive to God, our heavenly Father because of Christ's work on our behalf.
2 Corinthians 5 puts it this way: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself....in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

When the score of your life really counts, count on Christ for your victory. When the score of your life matters, God wants the word about the way He keeps score in His Son Jesus to get out. His scoring system is something we never would have imagined! If you're struggling today with guilt, with your sin, with your failures, listen up my friend; because of Jesus Christ's death on the cross, your sin doesn't count against you anymore! Let me say that again: by faith in Jesus your sin doesn't count. The past year your bad decisions, your lost temper, your foul-ups in relationships, your poor judgment; it doesn't count. It's not on the scoreboard or on the scorecard any longer?

All right, Pastor, I really want to believe that but what about my past? I mean, there's some really bad things there. Can you relate to that? Can God really love me if there's divorce, addiction, times of meanness or hatefulness in my life? Can He still love me if I did something really bad in my past like walking away from my wife, or husband, or kids, if I aborted my child or still struggle with secrets sins and temptations? Can God really love somebody as broken as me? If these are your struggles, my friend, it is even more important that you hear the Bible clearly. Because of Christ, in Christ, trusting in Christ, none of those things count against you. Because of Jesus Christ alone, it's not on the scorecard of your life anymore.

How can that be? How can that be? Are we talking about cheap and careless grace here? Are we making light of the people I've hurt in my life? Aren't we just changing the rules when it suits us, Pastor? No, not at all; you see, today, as you trust in Jesus Christ, you can know that all of those sins, all of that pain and hurt were counted, but not against you. There was a price to be paid, those things count! But, they were heaped on the shoulders of the Son of God in your place. Isaiah 53 says that Jesus, "poured out his soul unto death and was numbered and counted with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and He makes intercession for the transgressors."

Your sin was on Jesus' scorecard, by God's grace. And, today, your life in Him, by Him, with Him is brand new.

This New Year resolve to know and believe this; that the negative labels that seem to have stuck to you before, they're not accurate, you are alive in Christ.

The belief that you had that you are a lost cause and that your life was washed up; it's not true. You are alive because of Christ!

The guilt you carry because of your past, the haunting feelings of deep regret? God doesn't remember those misdeeds. They're gone, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I hope you're hearing me clearly today. I hope every burdened and hopeless soul is listening carefully today. I hope everyone who feels that God could never love them is attentive to this message today.

Listen again to what Romans 6 says about God and His scorecard: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 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 may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-7).

Did you hear what happened? When you were baptized, washed with water in the Name of God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, your scorecard filled with sin, chaos, disobedience, and brokenness was nailed to the cross with Jesus; killed and paid for with the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God. Your sin was brought to nothing! And then, set free from sin, you were raised with Jesus Christ, given the gift of new life; a clean slate, new life scorecard based on His work for you!

All that weight that you feel you have to carry, that heavy weight of your past or the burdensome worries about your future, God has taken that on for you. It's not your burden anymore.

Back in the spring of 2013, devastating and record-setting floods hit parts of the United States. Fargo, North Dakota braced for catastrophic floods due to late winter snows. The city received a load of 15 million pounds of sand. Their job was to convert that sand into 30-pound sandbags to keep the flood waters at bay. But how do you handle 15 million pounds of sand? How can you handle that kind of load? How about with a bunch of middle-schoolers? That's right. Hundreds of sixth through eighth graders, along with other Fargo volunteers, helped fill the bags. The 15 million pounds of sand was divided into little bits by many hands. Within ten days, 1 million sandbags were keeping the floodwaters away from the city.

But God didn't need the thousands of hands of middle-schoolers or volunteers. No, even those precious hands couldn't face down humanity's real problems. What our heavenly Father needed were the two nail-marked hands of His Son to overcome the flood of guilt, and shame, and death that promises to overwhelm anyone who refuses His grace. In Christ, God made the sandbags of His grace a wall of blessing to all who believe, holding back the floodwaters of eternal death in your life. Instead of drowning us in our sins, He drowns our sins instead! He buries them with Christ, deep down and dead in the waters of Baptism so that we might rise up from those waters to walk in newness of life! Destruction averted, protection provided, and now believers in Jesus can live abundant, eternal lives of grace. The Bible says, "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him" (Romans 6:8).

When the score really matters, God points you to His Son at work for you in Him; your sin doesn't count. God keeps score and in Him He scores you innocent, holy, righteous. God marks you down as someone with a new beginning. God puts you in the category of someone with hope and promise for life because you live now and walk with the risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know an older man who was tormented about the sins in his life as he lay on his deathbed. He was a Christian man. He lived a life of faith. But the devil was piling up guilt and regret at the end of this man's life. I know He is not alone. I know there's a lot of people out there thinking the same way. People often get very melancholy when facing death. Why? Because that's when we know the score of our lives really counts. This poor man lay awake in the early hours of the morning weeping and groaning about his flawed life. He knew he was on the losing end of the score of his life if it was based on his best alone.

But, in the middle of those final sleepless nights and mornings, there was one word that would console him amidst the tears. It was the gracious way God kept score in view of His promise to save. He loved this verse from Psalm 32: "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalms 32:1-2).

Even in his struggles with the past, sinful memories, he knew that he was not abandoned or forsaken, because he knew there was a Lord in his life who overcame all that and did not count that against him. Baptized into Christ, he could count on Christ to have the last word in his life, a word of grace and blessing that really counts when the score really matters.

Friend, you are not abandoned or cursed. You are blessed, for the Lord does not count your sin against you because of Jesus. You have been buried with Christ; baptized into His death. You have been raised to new life with Him by faith.

Sometimes such things they seem too good to be true, don't they? Maybe you're thinking it would take a miracle for this to be true for you.

Well, it does, and it did. The miracle is that Jesus entered our sinful lives so that we may have His eternal life. On this Sunday, Christian churches around the world are reading about the Baptism of Jesus. His wasn't a "washing because of His sin," no, His was a "washing that identified Him with sinners." When the waters of baptism were poured over Jesus, as God declared, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased," God began keeping score in a very unique way. With every perfect step Jesus took, with every perfect thought and action Jesus lived, God began marking our scorecards with His favor.

When you're baptized into the Name of Christ, you're given His precious gift of eternal hope in the forgiveness of sins and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

As a baptized child of God, the game isn't over for you today, even if you feel like it is. There is still so much more to come. By faith, you move forward in the favor of God in Christ.

This new life that God gives you in Jesus is a game changer! As you put your hope in Him, as you wait upon Him, the Bible says, you will renew your strength, and even if you find yourselves weary today. You will "run and not be weary;" you will "walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31).

God's scorecard in Christ is a game changer. Because, faith in Jesus connects us to His resources, His righteousness, His forgiveness, His grace; and in Him you can "count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God" (Romans 6:11). That's a real new beginning for this New Year and beyond.

So, I suspect that you'll be watching some games this New Year, but, as the clock of those games ticks away and as you see points add up, remember the scorecard in your life, that's the one that really matters. Remember God's gracious scoring system for your life. That's a foundation, a motivation, and eternal power to live life with gratitude toward your Savior for His forgiveness; to show His love to people in your life; and to celebrate in Christ what really counts and what does not, now and forever!


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 12, 2014
Topic: Why Was Jesus Baptized?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River, but why was Jesus baptized?

SELTZ: Now that's interesting, Mark. Not only do our listeners ask the question about Jesus' baptism, but even John the Baptist asked the question! The Gospel of Matthew tells us: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. Now John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and now you come to me?'" (Matthew 3:13-15 ESV).

ANNOUNCER: Right, because baptism is a washing for sin; so John's confused. He thinks it doesn't make sense for me to baptize the Son of God.

SELTZ: That's right. John the Baptist recognized the perfect Son of God in his midst and he knew if anyone should do the baptizing, it was Jesus. But Jesus' reply helps us understand why He was baptized. He said, "Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15 ESV).

ANNOUNCER: And what does that mean?

SELTZ: Jesus' baptism was now part of what we call the "substitutionary atonement" of Christ. When Jesus was baptized, He identified Himself, even though sinless, as the One who came to bear our sin. The Bible says it this way, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

ANNOUNCER: So Jesus graciously enters into our plight and His baptism shows the redemptive road that He would take for us.

SELTZ: That's a good way of putting it, Mark, especially because another key reason Jesus was baptized was to show publicly that He was God's Son, the Messiah, here to save the world. One common element of the four mentions of Jesus' baptism in the Gospels is the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending upon Jesus as He was baptized. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also mention the voice from heaven that said. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." John adds the testimony Jesus is the Son of God.

ANNOUNCER: And so here we are at the beginning of Jesus' Messianic ministry and God wants to make sure everyone knows just who this is.

SELTZ: That's right. Jesus on the scene was approved by the Father for the mission of salvation. Back in the Old Testament, Joshua, you remember Moses' protégé; he was described as a man in whom the Spirit dwelt (Numbers 27:18). It was important for people to know that God's servants were filled with the Holy Spirit. Well, here was Jesus, God the Father's Spirit-filled Agent for our salvation.

ANNOUNCER: And these events in Jesus' life also followed the same pattern as the people of God in the Old Testament.

SELTZ: We see that pattern especially in the Gospel of Matthew. You know what happened to the Israelites when they were freed from slavery in Egypt. They moaned and complained. They worshipped other gods. They were a mess. But in the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus enter and leave Egypt when His life was threatened as a child. Then He goes through the water of baptism in the Jordan just like the people of Israel went through the water of the Red Sea. And then Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted. But unlike the people of Israel in the wilderness, Jesus stayed faithful and obedient to God the Father through it all. He was our perfect Substitute, fulfilling without sin everything we are unable to do.

ANNOUNCER: Here we see God's plan in its beauty, its poetry. But it's also a relief to know that Jesus is that perfect Substitute.

SELTZ: Yeah. It sure is! Jesus also leads the way and sets the pattern for our lives. Romans chapter six, captures this beautiful value of our baptism because of Jesus' work for us. The Apostle Paul says: "Don't you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried 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 may walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4 ESV).

ANNOUNCER: And in that sense the value of baptism is not so much that we are following Jesus' example, but it's through baptism that we receive that new life that He earned for us through His death and resurrection.

SELTZ: And that's why it's called "the great exchange." Jesus identified Himself with our sin, entered our broken lives when He was baptized, and when we are baptized in His Name, our sinful selves are crucified with Him, killed and buried, and then we are raised with Him through baptism to new and forgiven life.

ANNOUNCER: And we praise God for the good news of Jesus' baptism and ours. Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord" From A Mighty Fortress by the Children's Choir of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (Used by permission)

"Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn" by J.S. Bach. From Orgelbüchlein & More Works by J.S. Bach by Robert Clark & John David Peterson (© 1997 Calcante Recordings, Ltd.)

"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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