Romans 6:1–4 (NIV) 1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.
My dear friends in Christ,
God’s story is intriguing so far, isn’t it? Three weeks ago we looked at the introduction to the story with the theme verse on the altar, “Acquaint now thyself with him and be at peace” (Job 22:21). We saw that God is the source of peace, and the only way to tap into this peace is to know God better in his Word. Two weeks ago came the beginning of the story. The prickly thistle reminded us how God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. Sin has made life miserable. We desperately need God’s peace! Last week we found that peace in a Seed, a crown of thorns, and a cross. These symbols all pointed to Jesus as the one who paid for our peace.
Today, the story continues with two different symbols—three drops of water on the altar, and a dove carved here on the baptismal font. These symbols represent a huge change in people’s lives. Change is a popular theme in our culture. Just think of all the shows dedicated to change. A few years ago it was Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Then came Fixer Upper and other home rehab shows. The latest twist is Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Every one of these shows focuses on change—something is broken or old. They are changed in order to make them new and functional. Have you noticed what happens to the viewer during the process of planning and renovating? Our expectations get bigger and bigger. My place doesn’t have hardwood floors, and I don’t think I can do without. My countertops aren’t granite, or they’re not the right color granite. I have to get rid of those white appliances—they just won’t do. I could use a man-cave. I could organize all my stuff and that will change my life! It will solve all my problems! Is that true?
I recently saw this commercial from Union Gospel Mission. Let’s take a look: it’s called Real Problems. Homelessness and poverty are devastating problems. If we solved them, would it solve the world’s problems? We haven’t discovered the heart of the issue. That’s exactly where the problem lies—here in our hearts. God said, “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21 NIV). Jesus put an exclamation point on it when he said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19 NIV).
Whether we want to admit it or not, our hearts need a makeover, and it’s not an external change. The flooring is warped and full of dings from everything we have dropped—the excuses for everything we haven’t completed; the decisions we made without considering the needs of others; or the nasty words to seal the deal in an argument. We have plenty of room in our heart for the people around us, and yet we lock them out. They have hurt us before and we won’t let that happen again. We retreat to and hide in our “heart” caves. We bring along all our favorite things, hiding all our sinful desires behind the facade of goodness and niceness. We need a makeover. We need an organizing genius. We need our hearts bulldozed and demolished. A man named Jeremiah felt that way. He wrote, “See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious” (Lamentations 1:20 NIV). Who would be willing to rebuild and rehab this messy heart of mine? Who can tidy up my heart and fill it with peace?
Jesus promises that he can makeover our hearts. It all begins with three drops of water carved on the altar and the dove carved on the baptismal font. Matthew wrote, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16–17 NIV). The three droplets represent the three persons of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three were present at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus, God’s Son, was baptized in the Jordan River. God the Father spoke his approval from heaven. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. Jesus was baptized in order to perfectly carry out God’s plan of salvation. It served as proof that Jesus really is the Son of God. Our need for baptism goes deeper—back to our heart problem. We need that internal makeover.
Baptism hauls everything bad out to the dumpster. Paul described it this way: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3 NIV). When we were baptized everyone who was there witnessed a death and burial. Our sinful nature, the bad that is in our hearts from the moment we were conceived, drowns in the water. Everything we dropped on the floor of our hearts, all the damage we’ve done, all the doors we’ve locked, all the people we’ve hurt and driven away—Jesus bulldozed it all into the dumpster of his tomb and buried it all. It’s gone. Now we have newly-constructed hearts, tidy and neat. Perfect! Jesus guaranteed it by rising from the dead. A little later in this same chapter Paul wrote, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him” (Romans 6:9 NIV). Jesus’ resurrection proves that he can do what he promised. He defeated death. Our sins are gone forever!
Baptism saves us—not because we did the right thing, or dedicated ourselves to a Christian way of life. Baptism has power. Peter said, “Baptism...now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21–22 NIV). By itself, the water in this bowl has zero power. As soon as we use God’s Word— “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus’ resurrection races through the water with more power than an electrical current. We are connected to his life. Baptism washes us with Jesus’ peace and we live!
One of my favorite moments in the show Fixer Upper is the big reveal. Chip and Joanna Gaines have a giant billboard with a picture of the old house. They have the owners cover their eyes until they are standing with the billboard blocking the view. Chip and Joanna ask, “Are you ready?” Then they pull apart the billboards to reveal the “new” home. Everyone is amazed at their fixed up home!
Are you ready for God’s big reveal? “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” (Romans 6:4 NIV). This old, dilapidated heart is brand new. It all has the marks of a master craftsman. The same God who created you has remade you through baptism. We are beautiful as a new house with new flooring and fixtures, shiny appliances, nice furniture with tasteful decorations. What do you think? Are you beautiful? God says, “Yes!”
Is this new heart functional? Yes! So, where do we go from here? It’s time to live the new life that God has so graciously remade. That’s where the Holy Spirit goes to work. He changes how we think about the things we have. Is what we have good whether it is new or needs remodeling? The first time I watched that commercial it struck home. I often turn my wants into needs. The Holy Spirit helps us be content with what we have and moves us to share what we have with others. We, as part of our synod and Christian Aid & Relief, did that this week. We helped a member’s brother with a gift of money. He is homeless because of a house fire Thursday that destroyed everything. Christian Aid & Relief has already sent $500 to help him with his immediate needs. Can we match that gift? Many of you are already helping family members, or supporting a local shelter or food bank. Thank you! Remember why. We share because God has shared his greatest gift—baptism has washed us with his peace, and we want others to have that peace too!
Another way to celebrate this new life is to support God’s gift of life. God is the author of all life, and every life is a gift from his hand. Right here in the Twin Cities we have a powerful way to share that. Christian Life Ministries in Little Canada offers New Day Pregnancy Care Center. Women can receive pregnancy tests. Families receive parenting classes, material assistance, and community referrals. Karen Hennig currently leads a Spanish Bible study for Hispanic women who come to the center for help. All of these are important ways to support God’s gift of life. When it comes to clearing out our clutter, the New Day Thrift Store helps generate income to carry out these programs. Dropping off clothing and other items helps keep this ministry going. Pray that God will continue to bless the work being done with women who come to the care center. If you’d like more information, Laura Gruetzmacher, a Salem member, is the director. She can answer any questions you might have!
The next time you see one of your favorite rehab shows, think about your baptism. Remember the incredible makeover God did for you. Baptism washes us with his peace. We are beautiful. We are brand new. Now let’s live for him! Amen.