New Year – New You?

Start Anew

2 Cor 5:17-21 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself throught Christ and gave us the miistry of reconciliation:  that Gpd was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins agains them.  Ane he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become righteousness of God.”

Here we are at the start of a new year. New is the optimal word. People crave for new things these days, especially as the holidays wind down and we begin a whole new year.
• New phones, new cars, clothes, hairstyles, and even a new face.
• Go for plastic surgery to get a new nose, new ear, new look, new body…

Especially during New Year, we want to set new goals, new resolutions, make more money…….Anything that is external, we are ready to change to new. . That’s what we can change. And it’s simple or is it?

• But we cannot CHANGE us – the real me! I can change my clothes but it’s still me.
• I can get a new hairdo, but it would still be me.
• I carry with me the same old handicaps, worries, fears… same sadness and miseries.
• No amount of new gadgets, clothes, things can really give me what my heart longs for.

WHY?   Because what we need are not new things, but a new life.   We can have many new things but we cannot have a new life, unless we come to or come back to or focus our lives more on Christ.

The Bible says only in Jesus Christ can we have a NEW LIFE – a new creation.   It’s not an EXTERNAL change – I still look the same. It is internal.   I experience God’s love, joy, peace, and hope. These inspire me.   People may not be able to see all these things. The person who looks gorgeous on the outside may be a miserable soul. The one who looks shabby may be one of the happiest people around.

So before we are too drawn away by the sights and sounds of this world, ask yourself – .” Do I want to be really happy in life?”  Well,  try getting to know Jesus more.    Hang on to Jesus.

John 10:10  says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus refers to an abundant life, a full life. In John 17:3 He says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Man has made great improvements over the Centuries. The speed at which we are gaining knowledge is amazing. Half of all that we learn in the history of mankind was acquired in the last 10 years! We have made great strides in education, science, technology – the new gadgets we have.   Yet life has not been better. Life is made easy but not better.  We live with the same worries and fears, probably MORE.   We worry about not having enough; we fear being diagnosed with cancer of some kind; we have relationship problems – at school, at home, at work, even among courting friends.   We have more broken families today, a growing number of suicides and divorces today than ever.   And we see more violence. In many communities, there are actually anti-terrorism drills.   Life has not improved.   Why?

Because man has fallen away from God.

So if you really want a good life – get back to Jesus. Talk to Him, and keep talking to Him. Jesus will make you NEW.

It’s like an old house – He did not renovate it, He rebuilt it. Jesus describes in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” He was talking about himself but also talking TO us.   The life we have in Christ is an entirely NEW creation.

Here is a lovely story of a simple, illiterate man who was converted through the work of the Salvation Army. (Bat will love this story.)   He went regularly to the Salvation Army citadel. One day he came home rather disconsolate.   His wife said, “What’s the matter?”  He said, “I’ve just noticed that all the people in the Salvation Army wear red sweaters, and I don’t have a red sweater.”   She said, “I’ll knit one.” So she knitted him a red sweater.  The next Sunday after he went to the citadel, he still wasn’t happy.
His wife said, “What’s wrong this time?”   He said, “I just noticed all their red sweaters have yellow writing.”   They were both illiterate, but she said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll embroider some writing on it for you.” She had no idea what the yellow writing on the red sweater of a Salvation Army man said.  The man’s wife had no idea what the letters said, and she couldn’t read anyway. So copying a sign from a store window opposite their home, she embroidered the words of that store sign onto his red sweater.
When he came back the next Sunday, she said, “Did they like your sweater?”
“They loved my sweater. Some of them smiled at me when they saw my sweater.”
What neither of them knew was that the sign on the store window she had copied read,  UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT.
                           from…Stuart Briscoe, “Christmas 365 Days a Year,” Preaching Today

We don’t really need better gadgets, better things, or better programs.   We need JESUS.  Make this one of your resolutions this year – get to know Him better. Spend time with Him . We want to remind ourselves to stay close to God, and encourage one another to do so.

Heb 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Now, we need to do this for our sake. We need to stay close to God. We need to nurture our life in Christ.– and only in church and/or Christian Fellowships can we find this.  Outside, we can only nurture our OLD LIFE – which is to eat, sleep and be merry. (And then you die.)

And don’t look for peace in this world – you are looking at the wrong places.   We have joy – because the Lord is with us, not because our circumstances are good.   We have peace – because the Lord lives in our heart, not because there is no trouble around us. We have hope – because the Lord guides us, not because of our wisdom and strength through Him..

As Christians, we have a lifetime goal. This is a resolution for life!   The world must know. And now we must tell them.  C. S. Lewis says, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.”

What are you living for? Every year, during the New Year, we wish that everything will be new and good.  We’ve already passed so many New Years.  Are we better off today? What we need – cannot be found in this world.  We need a new life, because we’re in sin. We need a Savior; and that Savior is Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, the Bible says, you need to be reconciled with God, your Creator.  The man who is in Christ will experience newness of life!   You need to put your trust in Jesus. You need to rely upon Him.

Man has been trying – by their own efforts – to do right and live right.  But the Bible says we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.   By our own efforts, we can never be good enough.   No amount of change can truly improve our lives.  No amount of education can give us a good life. We need a change of heart.

We need the forgiveness of our sins. We need a NEW life. Only Jesus Christ can do that.  Believe Him today.

Happy New Year! Live it ~ with and for Christ .

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The Birth of Jesus

We watch the Nativity Scene in front of our church. We listen to the choir sing, “Alleluia” We hear the stories of the shepherds and the Magi. We can even hear the innkeeper say that there is no room at the inn. We revel in the thought that our Lord was born this night in the town of Bethlehem. But do we every really, really feel what Mary went through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb1AsyltkpA&feature=related

Mary Speaks

Oh, Lord, what has happened to me? I’m just a poor peasant girl, not worthy to touch the earth you created. Why have you sent your angel to give me such news, to say I am to be a virgin mother of the King of Kings, the savior of the world. I can’t even comprehend the magnitude of this. I told the angel that thy will be done and to let it be so. I was too scared to say anything else.

Then Elizabeth was so excited to see me and exalted in the fact I was to be the mother of the savior. I am still trembling at the thought. Poor Joseph. He was in terrible shape, wondering too and sick in his heart that his future wife was with child – from God?? Thank you for sending him the angel also so he could understand our plight, our challenge, our glory. He told me that there was a presence, a really strong presence that came to him and said to not worry and to take me as his wife.

He told me, “Mary, this baby, our baby, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. We are to name him Jesus because he will save the people from their sins. And then it was over; the presence left. It was a miracle, Mary. Please forgive me for my days of doubt and worry. God HAS chosen you, and I’m proud to be here next to you and share this with you. It won’t be easy but we will be here together with the little one.” Oh, thank you, Lord, I do so love Joseph.

Now we’re heading in to Bethlehem. How strange a town is this. Bethlehem means “bread of life” and I am about to present this town, this world with life, a life that is to be the salvation of all. The King of Kings.

Oh, Oh , my,  I’m not too comfortable right now. Seem to have a lot of pressure in my stomach area. It must be this donkey I’m riding. He is so sweet though. I love rubbing his neck as we travel across the land – so soft. I hope we arrive soon so I can lie down, stretch, and take this pressure off of me.

I wonder as we travel what kind of child, what kind of man this child will be. Will he be like us – look like a real person – or will he be more like a spirit. I can’t even imagine. Lord, you said that he will become King. He will rule the world. I imagine him riding a golden chariot, slashing out at evil and destroying the pagan statues. Oh, how I need to get some relief from this discomfort. I can’t really call it pain, but pressure, and my back is really aching from sitting on this dear donkey.

God, help me. You are the Supreme being and I bow at your feet. Forgive me as my tears fall on to my lap. I am so overwhelmed at this stage of life within me and outside of me. Oh God, help me. Can I possibly go on? Joseph, hold me, take me off this donkey.

Oh here is the town of Bethlehem. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength to get this far. I can not wait to get in a room in the nearest inn and relax. Ohhhhhhhhhh

Joseph, what, no rooms in any of the inns. Oh, no, what now? Lord, help us. We are at your mercy.

Where are we going? I don’t want to leave town. I want to rest. I want to stretch out. Lord, give me the strength to get through this. I feel like I am going to collapse up here. Help me.

Oh, Joseph, we are going inside a stable? My tears are falling for the birth of this child, will it be safe to do in a stable full of animals and dirt.

Is this what You want, Lord, to give birth to the King inside this stable, this place where the cows and goats and sheep stand. Is that what You want?

I can not explain this pain to anyone so will just try to be as comfortable as I can. I hope Joseph takes a walk and lets me lie here alone in all this agony I am feeling. Ohhhhhhhh, it hurts so. Help me, Lord; Help me, Lord.

I must keep my focus on this little baby and let it be born without me letting it overwhelm me.

I wish my mother were here to help me. I feel so helpless. What do I do next. I am trying to remember. Mom did tell me the steps to take. Why aren’t you here with me, Mom. I want you to be here. Oh Mom………how I miss you.

I am only thirteen years old; why is this happening to me? I don’t know what to do. I am all alone and scared.

I am shaking so much. But, I am one of God’s people and His nation. Even though we are scattered and confused, we still are His people and we all love You so. I must be strong; I must be brave; I must trust; and open my eyes and ears to the truths of Your will, Lord. We know You will set us all free as this child of Yours comes forth.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh

~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

As I groan, and grown, He comes. Here He is. His is beautiful. Now I set to work. I will work and live in quiet and humbling servitude to You, Lord. Thank You for being by my side during this time. I know You will always be here.

I will be brave and strong for You, Lord. Look at Your Son as Joseph cuts the cord and I wrap him in these cloths. Such a quiet and holy night. Our little one is crying just a bit as I wrap him up. What an angelic face he has. God, give me strength to get through this as we raise this Holy Child born this Holy Night.

“Joseph, look at that star shining right in here. It is so warm and bright!”

What a wonderful light from God, Joseph. WE have been blessed. I think the world has been blessed.” I can almost hear the angels singing. I wonder if anyone else can hear them.

Is it finished? Or has it just begun?

I wonder.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPvAQxZsgpQ

 

 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT

December 18, 2011-

Jesus Came To US,  For Us
A little boy and girl were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.” “No,” his sister corrected, “not beans, peas.” Just as the little children in this story misunderstood the words to the song they were singing, sometimes people misunderstand the reason behind the season we are now celebrating.

In 353 A.D. Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today

Today, in a world choked with commercialization we often overlook the true reason behind our celebration, so this morning we are going to take a look at the true reason for the season. This morning as we focus on the “real” reason for the season we are going to look at three reasons why Jesus came to live among us. The first of these is that…

I. JESUS CAME TO BRING PEACE
The concept of peace by itself is a grand idea, but certainly not a new one All one had to do is look at the world around us to see the lack of peace We see it every time we turn on the T.V. Even when it looks as if peace has been reached in one part of the world something comes along to disrupt it.

I think one of the main reasons for this is because they were looking for peace in the wrong place. They look to man as the guide for the road to peace instead of looking to God. For God can bring peace to any situation, even those that seem hopeless .

Jesus came to bring peace to earth . Jesus was the true “peace child” Just look at the angel’s message: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14). This was not a political peace, but a true peace with God . It was the greeting “Shalom” and chief desire of the Jewish people. Peace cannot be merited or achieved by man, it is a gift of God At this time, as strange as it may sound – Rome was at peace (The Gates Of Janus) The peace that is spoken of here comes from the forgiveness of sins. Foe He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier dividing the wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) Peace with God – then peace with man.

On that night in the stable the Prince of Peace was born, but bringing peace to earth was not the only reason Jesus came, for in His life and ministry we see that Jesus came…

ALSO TO SERVE OTHERS

Service to others was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry.- One only has to scan the pages of scripture to see this. His life and ministry was service to others. We see him turning the water into wine at the wedding in Canna of Galilee, healing of the Gadaren Demoniacs and the raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. This idea of service culminates with an object lesson at the last supper when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples

Jesus was constantly giving of Himself.- This can be clearly seen through Jesus’ own words. …”Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man.” (Matthew 20:28). Here Jesus the Son of man, presents Himself and the supreme example of service to others. The very essence of Jesus’ task is illustrated by the higher priority of seeking the welfare of others over Himself. He impressed upon His disciples the importance of service to others. He came not to be served but to serve others, and to fulfill the role of God’s faithful servant .

His greatest act of service to us was not in His birth, His life, or in any of the miracles He preformed. His greatest act of service leads us to our final reason for this season, which is that –

JESUS CAME TO BRING US SALVATION. This is the main reasoning behind the Christmas season. Jesus came to reconcile man with God! He came to save that which was lost. If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12). The is the very heart of Jesus’ ministry. The work of salvation and the quest for the lost, this was the “messianic mission.”
Jesus now speaks of the possibility of salvation for all . There is a great gift in freedom from sin “Eternal Life.” And the Salvation that Christ brings and offers to us will set us free from our lives of sin and truly set us free! “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
So what is the reason for the season? From Jesus’ view point, WE ARE! This serves as a reminder to us of the love of God. He loved us so much he sent His Son for us! “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)

Ask yourself this morning what you have seen and heard this Christmas Season. When you watched the 6:00 news DID YOU SEE chaos and strife, or DID YOU SEE sheep without a shepherd. When you went out to do your shopping DID YOU SEE only hordes of people in the stores, or DID YOU SEE the worried expressions on some of their faces–worried because they are facing this Christmas without employment or enough money and they don’t know how they are going to make ends meet.

DID YOU HEAR only the blast of music and carols, or DID YOU HEAR the silent sighs of the lonely and the bereaved who may be dreading Christmas because it accentuates their loneliness.

And in the midst of the sounds of honking horns and people arguing over parking places, DID YOU HEAR faint sounds of laughter coming from the Salvation Army mission projects because of the food and toys for families and children donated by caring individuals?

Chuck Swindoll once wrote concerning Christmas; some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, and tell someone, “I love you.” Give something away–anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy.

Jesus is the reason we celebrate the season but His reason this season and every season is US!

Third Sunday in Advent

December 11, 2012

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Luke 1:46b-55 (52)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-2

Prayer of the Day
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Song of Mary
Luke 1: 46-56

If we were to compile a list of as many songs of Christmas that we know or have heard, I imagine we would be able to come up with quite an extensive list. I did a search in Google under the keywords songs of Christmas and it pulled up 55 million websites – by refining the search I was able to narrow it down to 137,000. The list included everything from songs like “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”, “Frosty the Snowman” , “Grandma Got run over by a Reindeer” to “Ave Maria”, “O Holy Night”, and “Handel’s Messiah” and everything in between. Some are just frivolous and silly and give us a good laugh; others have the power to transform human hearts from self-centeredness to God-centeredness, to give hope to the discouraged, comfort to the sorrowful, and strength to the weary.

As we prepare to celebrate again the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into our sad and broken world, I want us to look at the songs in Scripture that surround that joyous event. The one we ‘ll look at today is the song of Mary.

So what do we know about Mary who sings this song? She was from a dry, dusty, land. Her daily responsibilities as part of a rural Galileanfamily would have included grinding wheat and barley into flour, preparing dishes of vegetables, nuts and mutton, baking bread, spinning wool and making clothes, and fetching jars of water from the well for cooking and washing. There would also be a few chickens and a donkey to feed. Some of the crops to be sown and harvested in the area would have included wheat, barley, olives for food and oil for their lamps, figs, grapes and pomegranates.

In spite of their land having been conquered and ravaged for centuries by one super power after another – the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the mighty Romans the people of Nazareth, including Mary, would have had a deep and strong faith in God’s promise to one day send His Messiah who would free Israel from its enemies.

The Lord who heard the cry of His people in Egyp,t and mightily came to their rescue through Moses would certainly, one day do so again. The God who had shown Himself over and over throughout their history to be on the side of the poor and oppressed and defenseless would not forever delay in showing His salvation.
In a culture where women were barely noticed, except as a wife and mother, around the age of 15, Mary’s parents took the customary step of arranging her marriage and the man of their choice was Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, to be her husband. Following the engagement ceremony, Mary returned to live at home with her parents for about a year when she would then go to live with her husband.

And that’s when it all happened! The visit by the angel Gabriel, the announcement that she had been specially chosen, hand picked by God to bear His Son Jesus – His Messiah – who would establish a Kingdom that would never end. The power of the Holy Spirit would conceive the child within her womb without any human intervention for His arrival would signal the end of the old human race of Adam and be the first of the new race in Christ.
Mary is understandably overwhelmed, troubled, confused and needing another caring, understanding, and wise human to talk to.

Trying to explain a private angelic visit and an immaculate pregnancy even to her parents and Joseph or anyone in the small community of Nazareth would not have been a wise move.

With the amazing news that her cousin Elizabeth, had conceived and was already 6 months pregnant when she was way past child-bearing age, Mary knew instinctively that was where she was to go. Elizabeth’s joyous, affirming, and prophetic greeting as Mary entered the house now released the song from Mary’s heart that has become known as “The Magnificat” from the opening words in Latin, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,”—“My heart magnifies the Lord.”
. Mary’s song is a song of LOVE. It is a song of FAITH. And it is a song of HOPE.

A SONG OF LOVE

As soon as Mary hears the words of Elizabeth – before she has even had an opportunity to explain the purpose of her visit – referring to her as “the mother of my Lord” and pronouncing a blessing on her for believing the word of the Lord spoken to her – the questions quieted, the anxiety abated, the confusion collapsed and the doubts disappeared, and Mary knew in her spirit that what had happened to her was for real.

Praise erupted from her innermost being like an overflowing fountain. The moment that she and her people had waited for so long had finally arrived. God had heard the cries and the longings of His children and the work of salvation had begun. Her song is made up of images and references to Scriptures from Genesis, from Job, from the Psalms, and from Isaiah and highlights how steeped her thinking was in the Word of God.

It reminds us that it is altogether possible to study the scriptures purely as an academic exercise as one might any other book of literature or history and completely miss the heart of the message.
Mary studied the Scriptures as a lover would passionately memorize and consume the letters from her beloved – they not only stimulated her thinking but transformed her heart and mind and soul.

So from the depths of her being she gives expression to her amazement, her adoration, her worship and love of God that He has singled out a nobody from Nazareth to accomplish His mighty purposes. How in keeping with the character of our God: So that no human being might ever boast in him or herself, thinking that their strength, their wisdom, their beauty, their attractiveness, their ingenuity was what brought things about – the glory and honor belongs always and only to God.

• Mary’s song is a song of love.

II. A SONG OF FAITH

Mary’s song is also a song of faith. And faith grows out of true worship and adoration of God. Worship takes the attention off of us and focuses it on God – on His might, on His power, on His mercy and grace. And that environment is perfect for strengthening and deepening faith – because faith keeps its vision focused on the word and promises of God and not on the surrounding or prevailing circumstances.

According to Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” – it is believing that because God has declared something, it is already an accomplished fact even if the tangible and visible evidence is not immediately apparent to our visual, tactile and other senses.

And so here we hear Mary proclaiming that God has already scattered the proud and arrogant; pulled down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the poor; satisfied the hungry with good nourishment, and sent the self-sufficiently wealthy away empty-handed.

But Mary could sing and praise because she already saw a vision of the changed society God was bringing into being where all wrongs will be righted, where every injustice will be corrected, where the oppressed and downtrodden will be lifted up and those who have elevated and exalted themselves will be humbled.

III. A SONG OF HOPE

Mary’s song is also a song of hope that is nurtured and strengthened and encouraged by her faith. It is a hope that is based in the promise God made to her ancestor Abraham and to all his descendants. And that promise found in Genesis chapters 12 and 17 was to establish His everlasting covenant with Abraham and to bless all the nations of the earth through him. And He would be their God and cause them to dwell in their own land in peace.

The believer’s hope is always firmly anchored in the faithful, sure and certain promises of God. Life’s unpredictable circumstances – sometimes favorable and sometimes chaotic – may come and go, but God’s promises will be fulfilled. Jesus affirmed that promise by saying, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. [Matthew 24:35]

• Mary’s hope was firmly anchored in what God had promised.

Mary’s song is a song of LOVE, a song of FAITH, and a song of HOPE because in a unique way God had singled her out to carry the eternal Word that Word made flesh in her womb and through her for that life-giving Word to become flesh – become a human being and be Emmanuel – God with us – God among us and one of us.

And here is the additional amazing news – God has also handpicked and personally selected you and me for that very same purpose.

The eternal Word of God seeks to continue becoming flesh – continue being expressed through willing and responsive men and women, boys and girls and dwelling among us full of grace and truth

Your and my body was each specially created to be a dwelling place for God – the sacred vessel through which He will make Himself known in our homes, our families, our schools, our communities, every place where we live and move and have our being.

And so again this Advent season, He comes to us – the least likely individuals in the least likely of places and He says to you and me:
GreetingsSue – Greetings Sallie! – Greetings Nancy! – Greetings Sue, Larry and Hugh.. You who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” and He then goes on to promise the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you so that Christ might be formed within you.

God forces Himself on no one. He takes the initiative and He makes the invitation

Mary responded by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” And you and I are here today and have a living hope, a steadfast faith, and the experience of God’s eternal and life-transforming love because she said “Yes”.

Our hurting and broken world awaits your response. Will you let Mary’s song become your own?

AMEN

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT ~~ Waiting for the perfect NOW

Matthew 3:13-17/ Preparation

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying,”I need to be batpized by you and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then John consented.  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 lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

~~~~~~ 
Sometimes we aren’t sure if “now” is the right time for things. At the Jordan River, about 30 years after Jesus was born, now was the time. If you could go back and stand on the shoreline of that river in the wilderness, you would be nodding your head in agreement, “Yes, now is the time!” But, Time for what? It is time for Jesus to be baptized. He hadn’t been baptized as an infant as many times we see in our worship services. His baptism was different. He was baptized for a totally different reason than our reason for baptizing.

This morning I want to take a step back and look at baptism. This is how we prepare for Christ’s arrival.  Preparation!! I want you to first imagine you are standing on the banks of Jordan River, and you see Jesus step into the water. He’s saying, “Now is the time!” It’s time for two things: FIRST. For Jesus to step in line with sinners; and SECOND. For the Father to state a line of acceptance.

Let’s look at the first reason for the Baptism of Jesus: For Jesus to step in line with sinners.
John the Baptizer was at the height of his preaching and baptizing ministry. The popularity polls had him ranked extremely high. In Matthew’s gospel account we read right above that John had lashed out at the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jerusalem for being hypocritical. These two groups didn’t really think they needed to be baptized, but were just following the crowd to do the popular thing.

Now picture this in your mind, then along comes Jesus to be baptized. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” You can almost see John putting out his hands to Jesus saying, “Wait, wait! You don’t need me to baptize you. You should baptize me.”

It’s like if the Dallas Symphony Orchestra would say to you, “Would you play us a number so that we might have some soothing music to which we can listen.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You should play for me. You’re the professionals. You don’t want to hear me.”
Or it would be like former and famous quarterback Brett Favre saying to you, “Would you throw me some passes so I can catch some footballs from your golden arm.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You’re the two-time Most Valuable Player. You should throw to me and show me how to throw!”

In the same way, John recognized Jesus as one who didn’t need repentance or forgiveness in baptism. John knew that Jesus was much greater than he was, and that he wasn’t even fit to clean Jesus’s sandals. And now Jesus wants to be baptized by him? John’s thinking, “This is backwards! This shouldn’t be happening this way!”

But listen to Jesus’ response, “‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” Then John consented”. Jesus was saying, “At another time, John, you would be right in what you’re thinking. But NOW is the time for this baptism. Let it be so NOW.” The question most people come up with is, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” It was not that Jesus needed to get his sins washed away. He was sinless. I am always fascinated by this story of the baptism of Jesus. It is one of the few stories that all four gospels contain. I am fascinated by this story because it is so hard to understand. If baptism is about forgiveness and the washing away of sin, then why was a sinless Jesus in need of baptism? The answer lies in the fact that forgiveness of sin is one of many elements that we take on in baptism.

We cannot forget that death is a key component of baptism. When we are baptized we are baptized into Christ’s death. We die to the world that we may be alive to the Kingdom of God. Baptism is as much about the symbol of death as it is forgiveness.

We also cannot forget that adoption is a key component of baptism as well. In baptism, we are claimed by God as God’s own and we are sealed with the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Baptism is as much a symbol of adoption as it is of forgiveness.

And in the baptism of our Lord, all those gathered around that day at the Jordan were hearers of the voice from heaven exclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In baptism, we too are made to be like children of God in that we are sealed for this purpose. Even Jesus was baptized—this should give us an indication of the importance of baptism in the life of a Christian. It is this purpose that caused Jesus to submit to baptism.

Jesus did it because it was what his Father in heaven wanted him to do. It was showing that NOW at the age of 30 he was going to carry out his public ministry. It was NOW that he began the course of work that would take him to the cross. It was NOW that he began the public mission of being the sin-bearer of the entire world. The time was Now for Jesus to step in line with sinners. Just like we hear in 2 Corinthians 5: 21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Now was the time for Jesus to publicly step in line with all sinners and count himself as one of them, though he had done nothing to be in that line.

Take a look at what Jesus did. ALL sinners, that means you and me, are lined up waiting to stand before a holy God. I am going to have to answer to him and await his punishment for every time I was jealous over Christmas presents, every time my thoughts thought of repulsive things, every time I failed to have that holy Creator be the most important person in my life. But then Jesus jumps in line right to the front by HIS death and baptism. He’s going to be first to meet this Judge. He isn’t going to let us bear that burden, because He has already paid that sin debt for us.

Now lets look at the second part: For the Father to state a line of acceptance

When a sport’s star or famous actor/actress makes a deal with a new company, we are not usually told every minute detail of the contract negotiations, only that “an offer has been accepted.”   The same thing happened at the Baptism of Jesus. We do not know the exact negotiations that went on between Jesus and the Heavenly Father, only that Jesus had slid himself into our place and offered himself to our heavenly Father.  At Jesus’ baptism, “NOW is the time, for the Father to state a line of acceptance.” You can see and hear the Father say with, of course, a big smile, “I accept your offer.” He states a line…. 

 

It’s a line of acceptance, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Look at how God further put forth His sign of acceptance. He did this in two ways. First of all, God the Holy Spirit, looking like a dove came down upon Jesus. It reminds us of Isaiah 42:1, “I will put my Spirit on him.” The Father’s line of acceptance included sending the Holy Spirit to bring power to Jesus to carry out his task of standing in the line of perfectness and punishment for sinners. But I want you to notice that Jesus was human too. He needed the Holy Spirit to give him that energy boost to carry out this big task.

God wasn’t ashamed that his Son came down from his heavenly throne for sinners. He was elated that his Son was willing to take their place even to the point of sacrificing his own life. Now was the time for God to say at Jesus’ baptism, “Outstanding, Son!”

Now was the time for God to state his line of acceptance of his own Son. Look at what that means for you. It now means that God accepts you.   Because of what Jesus did with his perfect life, the grueling death, and his victorious rising from the dead, God accepts you. With a big smile God says, “I accept the offer. You can be near me forever.” When we see Jesus’ baptism and remember our own baptism, “Now is the time.” Now is the time to rejoice over the Father stating His line of accepting our substitute.  If you have any doubts about the love, God has for you and how He has accepted you with all your misgivings, sins, faith/lack of faith and trust, STOP!  Remember the scripture, John 3:16.  Say it to yourself and be thankful that God loves you that much.

All these events surrounding Jesus’ baptism were done so that you and I can confidently state, “NOW I KNOW that God accepts me.” Regardless of your past or your present or even you future, if you accept Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior, and you repent of your sins (we must – daily), your future is sealed. Hold this to be true – you are the child of God.  God loves you and welcomes you into the Heavenly Home of His.  There you will share eternity with God the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Know it and live it!  Live it NOW!

Do you know this and feel this in your heart today?