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August 2013 - Baptized For This Moment

Baptized For This Moment

  This past week the Missouri Synod met in convention, with the theme of “Baptized for this moment.” Previous to the convention a Bible Study was produced based on that theme, which I found had some interesting thoughts worth sharing.

     The author began with this anecdote: I wouldn’t say my wife and I are experts at parenting, but we made an important decision before our first kid was born. We decided not to charge our children to be part of the family. I did give them a bill one time, just for grins. It said something like, “Just a reminder that the privilege of being our child still costs you only $5 per week. Oh, and you’re approximately 613 weeks behind in payments.”

     If you want to see bewildered looks on the faces of small children, ask them, “How much do you have to pay your parents to be part of the family?” The puzzled expressions are as amusing as they are genuine. Pay to belong to the family? The thought has never occurred to them before. Not once have they received a bill for the privilege of being their parents’ children. It’s inconceivable. Everything they have has been a gift so far. Pay?

      A fun follow-up question is to ask, “Well, if you don’t pay to be your parents’ kids, then what makes you your parents’ kids?” They probably haven’t thought about that one either, but give them enough time and coaxing, and one of them will finally say, “Because . . . we were born?” Yes! Kids belong to a family because they were born into the family. At least, that’s generally true. But whether they’re born or adopted, membership in the family isn’t earned. It’s given.

     So it is for you. How much did you pay to be part of the family of God? If you didn’t pay, how did you get to be part of God’s family? How do you know you’re part of the family of God? You didn’t pay anything to be part of God’s family, but you were born into it by means of Holy Baptism. How do you know? Because the Lord says so in His Word. It is vital to remember always that although you didn’t pay to become a child of God, there was a great cost: the death of Jesus on the cross in your place, for your sin.

     When Martin Luther extols the priceless worth of Holy Baptism, he writes, “This is our consolation, that the believer in Christ has been assured and guaranteed that he is an heir of God, not a servant or a maid but a son, who is an heir to all the possessions. To acquire this privilege we should be ready to crawl to the ends of the world on our knees, yes, on our bare feet” (Luther’s Works, vol. 22). Were that required, it would be worth it. But instead, the Lord made the trek to Calvary, weighed down with your cross, to make you an heir of the kingdom of God.  You are His Child, reborn into the family of God.

     How sad it is that many seem to think of their relationship with God as more of an employee/boss sort of setup: God has hired you for His company — the one holy Christian and apostolic Church — and if you perform consistently well, He’ll keep you on for an everlasting management position. Thus many believe that you’re saved by grace alone, but remaining a Christian is solely up to you and your job performance. If that were true, then your life as a Christian would be regulated by the fear of disappointing God, not the joy and security of being His child. You’d be looking to hide your sins from God, not confess them so that you might be absolved. What joy and security you have because the Lord has said, “I baptize you.” You are my beloved child, forgiven in My Son’s Blood, period!

     Baptized child of God, your baptism wasn’t just a historical moment in the past. Christians live in their Baptism daily. We are baptized in this moment, for this moment too. To borrow from Dr. Luther, what does this mean? It means that you live as one who is certain of God’s favor for Jesus’ sake. You’ve been joined to His death and resurrection, raised up a new creation. You’re not a servant who hopes to do well enough so that the Lord permits you to stick around for another day. You’re a child of God. His kingdom is yours forever. You know this because you’re baptized – baptized for this moment.

     It means that you live as one set free to serve. You do not pay to be in the family, but you do have loving “chores” to do so to speak. Christians have God-given tasks to do, like speaking the Gospel, caring for those in need and maintaining unity in faith and life together. These aren’t chores that you have to slog through so that God will love you more. (He’s already given His Son to die for you; how could He love you more?) It means that God gives you the privilege of being His mouth and hands to those around you and that you’re set free to do these things. Why?  Because you’re baptized.

     Baptized means that you live as one with hope. In a world of strife, persecution, terminal diagnoses and death lurking every day, you live with the joy of knowing that Christ has conquered sin, death and the devil. Because you are baptized, you know that He has conquered these enemies for you. They’ll still harass you in this world, but even on the worst of days you can remind yourself, “I am baptized.” As one baptized, you know the end of the story: It begins with the resurrection of the dead and continues with the life of the world to come.  As Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, “So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, ‘Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body’ ” (Large Catechism IV 44). You were baptized? And so you are baptized . . . for this moment and forever.   Pastor

 

 

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