Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: January 11, 2015

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Sermon Text for January 11, 2015 

"Are You Qualified?" #82-19

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 11, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(How Can I Connect With My Baptism Daily?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Romans 6:1-11

The Apostle Paul writes.... "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, and believers live in the power of His grace now and forever. Amen.

Unqualified: that's a word that people never want to hear, do they, especially when they're seeking a job. The New Year is a time to tweak the resume, isn't it? My daughter has a new position at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and one of her jobs is to help people prepare their resumes, to prepare for that job interview, to get them ready. She knows that she is helping people reach for their dreams, their goals, and she knows what her students are up against.

She told me that, according to the research, a potential employer looks at the resume for an average of only six seconds. That's right, in the time that it takes you to pour a cup of coffee, an employer will evaluate your entire life! In just six fleeting seconds, he or she will determine if you make the cut--if you're qualified for a position or not. I pray for her work, I know she wants her students to be ready, to be prepared.

But vying for a job even has more challenges doesn't it? Even if you are prepared, even if you get past the first cut, eventually it comes down to this; do you have what it takes to qualify for the job? Do you measure up? Are you qualified?

On some days you may answer with a confident "Yes!" But there are those other days when you don't feel so self-assured, when your weaknesses seem to stand out, and when rejection gets you down.

Do you measure up? We live in a world that's constantly evaluating us whether we like it or not.

Some people think that God is like that. That He is always evaluating us. That He is like a disinterested boss who barely gives us a nod, One that we have to conjole, to even harass to get His attention towards us. And if we get His attention, well, He's always judging, He's always trying to trip us up.

But that is the exact opposite of the spirit of the God of the Bible. He's not the One seeking to cramp your style or to trip you up; you and I do that on our own. Sin destroys and we are sinful people. That's why the Apostle Paul proclaims a whole new way of life, a life with God that is exciting; it is powerful in grace, one that through the power of baptism in His Name breaks us from the power of sin and guilt, to live abundant lives in Christ for others!

After rejoicing in God's grace for six chapters in the book of Romans; Paul, after being immersed in the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ for all people, he asks this question: "What shall we say then?" 

This sounds a little bit like a New Year's life-evaluation question, doesn't it? It is asking how a person can move forward from the old life to the new, from a life of sin to a life of grace, from a life of hopelessness and hopeless frustration to a life of encouragement and hope. Some thought, God's good news meant that they could now sin even more, sin all they wanted; but they missed the point; God had a whole, new way of life for them.

That question also sounds like a resume question, too, doesn't it? What are we qualified to do? With all the old, broken, rebellious failures in our lives; with our poor track record and needy natures, what are we supposed to do in order to live in God's forgiving and renewing grace? How can we measure up? Do we stay in our old sinful lives so that God's grace might abound? Do we hang on to our flawed resumes so God might somehow show mercy, even more mercy to us?

That was the common idea in the culture in Paul's day. The Apostle Paul lived during the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. Roman spiritual practices at that time were immoral and self-indulgent. Living in impurity and pleasing yourself was said to be a way of connecting with the gods and unleashing gusto and power for life. But the more people became steeped in practices that served themselves, the more society became fragmented and corrupt. Their own relationships deteriorated. Life was empty, bleak, and filled with regret. 

This trend still happens today, doesn't it? It may not be driven by a group of Roman gods, but holding on to our flawed resumes with the hope that more self-indulgence will fulfill us, it runs rampant today. A few years ago, the word "YOLO" became popular. It means, "You only live once." A rap song popularized the expression to the point that YOLO became an excuse for people to do dangerous and unwise things. But for a while it captivated people. Living for the moment was a way to escape the burdens of life. YOLO became the slogan of people looking for freedom and zest in life. News reports of senior citizens gambling away their savings with big smiles and declaring "YOLO," it showed up on television. Video coverage of young people forsaking jobs so they could dance the night away that filled the airwaves. But it only led to temporary pleasure. Ultimately it resulted in emptiness and regret.

How are you living for the moment? You may not be taking daring risks or dancing the night away, but perhaps you're seeking short-term satisfaction alone. Your gossip or vengeful conversation makes you feel better about yourself while you put somebody else down. Carelessness toward your family is causing long-term wounds while you seek immediate accolades or gain. Thoughtless stewardship of your resources lets you enjoy life now, but it puts the future in jeopardy for others. Selfishness makes you feel better, but it hurts the people around you. A YOLO life ultimately interferes with the purpose for life that God intended for you.

Let me say it straight from God's Word, you don't only live once. You have an eternity before you. It is either an eternal life with the Savior God or an eternal death in painful separation from Him. And if our eternity is determined by our own resumes, by our own accomplishments and level of our personal purity, we're all in serious trouble.

Be honest, what's on that resume? You see, no matter what we've accomplished or how great we appear to be on the outside, there are plenty of failures, fumblings, short circuits, and shortsighted actions that are a part of our lives. It's true for me and it's true for you. Before the Holy God our resumes don't look so hot.

Even the writer of Psalm 130 said it this way, "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?"(Psalms 130:3 NIV)

He's right. We are all unqualified for God's gracious favor. We don't measure up to what God requires of us. The sad truth is that our flawed resume means life is lost. Later in Romans, chapter six, Paul said it boldly: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). 

But before you give up hope, let me offer a word of encouragement. Your flawed and incomplete resume does not have the last word! The Apostle Paul did say the wages of sin is death, but he also added: "But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"K/i> (Romans 6:23). There is another item on your resume that changes everything. In fact, by faith in Jesus, God provides a whole new resume for your life now and forever.

Did you hear the Apostle Paul say it again and again in Romans, chapter six? Listen to what he says is on your resume and how it got there. He says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus 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 might walk in newness of life." And he goes on to say, "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him" (Romans 6:3-8).

What does the Word of God include, then, on your resume? Death, yes, and resurrection, yes! That's right, you died and you have been raised to life. The wages of your sin is death and that price has been paid. 

Paul says it clearly: "All of us who have been baptized into Christ we were baptized into his death...We were buried therefore with him by baptism." 

You see, baptism puts your sinful self to death. The miraculous gift of being baptized connects you in a gracious and supernatural way with Jesus' death. When you are baptized, your old self is crucified with Him. You die with Him. Death is on your resume. Sin's rebellious price has been paid. The Bible is emphatic on this. Paul says it five times in Romans, chapter six! Your old self has died. It was buried. It was crucified with Christ and in Christ that death means new life.

All this happened to you through the power of being washed in God's Name in baptism. It's a miracle, but it's a reality through this gift from God to you. Think about it. Every failure and foul-up, every reason for guilt, every flaw and cause for pain, every misdeed, and every intentionally rebellious act, all have been put to death through the gift of your baptism as God Himself connects you to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

When the devil shouts that you deserve eternal death for your sin, you can reply, "Been there, done that through Jesus Christ." When your conscience assails you because of your sin, you can say, "But that was punished by death in my baptism. It's over." When your sinful flesh pulls you toward an old life of corruption, impurity, or meanness, you can declare, "My old self was crucified with Jesus! I am no longer a slave to that sin! I have been set free through baptism and I walk in the newness of life in Christ!"

When God looks at your resume and sees the record of sins, He also sees that those sins have been paid for because in your baptism you have been crucified with His only Son Jesus. You died. The price has been paid. But, there are a lot of people who think that this is only what God is about. Like a judge in court, yes, He gets real with us; He shows us our sins, what we really are, declares us done, declares us dead, that's it. 

Well if that's it, what a sorry life that would be. Reminds me of a man named Donald E. Miller, Jr. Twenty years ago, Mr. Miller was declared dead after he disappeared. It turns out that Mr. Miller wanted to avoid child support responsibilities for his two daughters. After his disappearance, his wife asked a judge for the declaration of death so her daughters could receive Social Security benefits. Twenty years later, Donald E. Miller, Jr. showed up again. He had drifted in hiding for two decades, but now wanted a driver's license and a new Social Security number. So, he asked a judge to be declared alive again. The judge turned him down. Mr. Miller was stuck as a legally dead person in the state of Ohio. 

Now, he's not the only one left for dead. Laura Todd, according to government records, she was also dead, declared dead. But Laura, who is very much alive, she protested the status. Ms. Todd was inadvertently declared dead when her Social Security number was typed into the death record of another person. When she wasn't able to collect her tax rebate, she discovered the error and fought to be declared alive. The battle lasted for eight years. 

Some people think that God is like these judges. Once He declares you dead, that's it. But that misses the whole point of the Bible. Yes, we are dead in our trespasses and sins; yes we were buried with Christ in baptism, but all that was all for the purpose of God giving us eternal, abundant life in Christ forever. When life and salvation depend on God's work on your behalf, there is hope to live now; there is power to overcome struggles and temptation; there is joy in the midst of all circumstances.

God didn't stop with a reality check about your life; He went on to earn an eternal life for you on the cross, through the resurrection, and through His baptizing you, He not only connected you to His death, He connected you to His resurrection life too. You don't have to petition Him for life; He's here right now to gift you with it and He's in His church where He'd like to pour it all over you in baptism.

By the grace of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus your Savior, in your baptism you have died and been raised to life. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Today you have a new beginning. Because of Jesus' work on your behalf, your life resume does not just consist in a broken record of sin. Your resume has both death and resurrection on it. By God's grace, as a free gift, you have been qualified for eternal life with your Savior. You have also been freed from the guilt, and shame, and slavery that comes with sin. Romans 6 says: "We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:9-11).

Today, dear listener, you can be alive to God in Christ by faith. Through His gift of baptism to you, you can have new hope, a new purpose, and a new lease on your life. 

Just think about it, think about how amazing life can be when you live in the reality that death is defeated and the fear of death is vanquished.

Do you know who David Menasche is? David was an English teacher at a high school in Miami. For fifteen years he taught student after student. He impacted 3000 young people during the course of his career. Then, at age forty, David was diagnosed with brain cancer. As he received treatment, he kept teaching. But after the cancer took away his ability to be in the classroom, David decided to visit his students to see if he made a difference in their lives. 

His students welcomed him with open arms. One student commented: "You may not remember anything about his class, but you remember him. You remember his enthusiasm; you remember his intelligence. You remember the fact that he just sort of created an environment where you wanted to learn."

Another said of Menasche, he was "one of the few teachers I felt who were really present. I've had great teachers in my life, but he was really present in the moment."

David realized that death was not the greatest factor in his life anymore, and it allowed him to share his life in a new and special way. That view of things; that makes all the difference.

But it's also true for your life. When death is no longer the greatest factor in your life, when sin and failure, hurt and brokenness are not what predominate, when the difference Jesus made on the cross and in your baptism, when that predominates in your life, that's when you really begin to live. 

That's what God wants for you today, to walk in the newness of life that He provides, to make Jesus' difference possible in the lives of people all around you. That's the hallmark of God's people. It is the distinctive feature of your resume for a New Year. You have died and have been raised to life. You now have a new life to be lived for others! 

As I was thinking about this message, I thought maybe you want to be baptized. If you do, please call Lutheran Hour Ministries so we can refer you to a church nearby where you can hear more about it and receive that gift for yourself. It's a blessing from God that brings new life.

But know this today, my friend, by God's grace through faith; you have death and resurrection on your resume by faith. Life is brand new in Him. Remember that in this New Year. In Christ, the old is gone. Death no longer rules. You've got death and resurrection on your resume through Jesus Christ, through your baptism. It's time to live your new life today and forever!


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 11, 2015
Topic: How Can I Connect With My Baptism Daily?

ANNOUNCER: How does one's baptism connect with everyday life? That will be our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, how can our listener connect with their baptism on a daily basis? And why is that a good thing?" 

SELTZ: Wow, Mark, it sounds like our listener has been reading Martin Luther! In fact, he encouraged every Christian to get up each morning, make the sign of the cross, and then remember the gift of new life that we received in baptism. 

ANNOUNCER: So baptism is not just an event that took place somewhere in our past. 

SELTZ: No way, while it is meant to be a one-time event from Christ through His Church to you; the impact of baptism lasts a lifetime. Let me make sure our listeners understand the blessing of baptism, being washed in the Name of God with water, before we talk about remembering it each day. Jesus gave the gift of Baptism as a conduit of His grace and as a tangible connection point with Him in our lives of faith. 

ANNOUNCER: We call this a "means of grace." 

SELTZ: Yes, a gift that Christ chooses to convey His cross-earned grace to you personally. Like Peter says in 1 Peter 3, "baptism saves us (vs.21)." In other words, the benefits of Christ's resurrection are put into our lives when we are baptized. We receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. That's what Peter declared to the crowds in Acts 2:38. Baptism would bring the gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to the people. Baptism is a tool or a means by which God chooses to make His salvation personal to us. 

ANNOUNCER: You also said that it is a tangible connection point in our life of faith. Could you explain that?

SELTZ: Definitely. Baptism serves as a real, physical, and outward connection point with God. God doesn't just come to us simply with ideas; He comes to us with tangible blessings. Baptism is one of those. 

ANNOUNCER: Right. You can feel and hear the water. 

SELTZ: You can hear and see the promise of God connected to it. The act of baptism is one we can recall and rejoice in. If you ever doubt God's presence or grace in your life, you can say, "Wait a minute, I've been baptized! I am a precious child of God." Your new life in Christ is not simply an idea. It is an action that God took for you, witnessed by others and celebrated by His people.

ANNOUNCER: And how can our listener connect with that precious gift every day?

SELTZ: A good start is by taking Martin Luther's advice. Every morning and evening, a person can make the sign of the cross, the same sign placed over you in your baptism, and remember that God made you His own, forgave your sins, gave you the gift of His Holy Spirit in Baptism. In fact, every time water washes you throughout the day, you are reminded of how the Name of God was washed into your life for your forgiveness and salvation.

ANNOUNCER: But, it's not the water alone, it's God's Word connected to that water that gives baptism the power to forgive and save. 

SELTZ: That's right, but God chose the water, too, to deliver His Name to you in a unique, personal way. So, yes, remember your baptism, remember the power of God's Name, and remember the verses that tell you of this blessing.....like Romans chapter six, where it says, "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 might too walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4 ESV).

ANNOUNCER: Certainly, those are encouraging words to start the day. What other verses might you recall?

SELTZ: I like the simplicity and confidence of Mark 16:16 when Jesus said: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." 

ANNOUNCER: And how about Galatians 3:27: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." 

SELTZ: Another great one. In fact, all these verses make the gift of baptism come alive each day. They allow you to start and end the day with confidence in your Savior Jesus and with certainty about God's faithful work in your life.

ANNOUNCER: Any other advice about remembering and connecting to our baptism?

SELTZ: If any listener is struggling and has not been baptized, I would hope and pray they would get in touch with us or a Lutheran church nearby for baptism. 

ANNOUNCER: Because it's a gift too wonderful to miss. 

SELTZ: Absolutely, and for those who are baptized listeners, I would encourage them to remember who you are. You are not meaningless specks in a chaotic universe; you're not fending for yourselves out there. You are the precious, baptized people of God, redeemed, and restored, and empowered for life in Him.

ANNOUNCER: 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.

"Baptized Into Your Name Most Holy" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.

"To Jordan's River Came Our Lord" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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