January 13, 2013: 1st Sunday after Epiphany

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how wonderful to know that we’ve all been adopted as Your legal heirs of heaven through our baptism! How wonderful to know that our adoption isn’t dependent upon anything we do, but upon Your total grace and mercy. Today, instill in us a new spirit of thankfulness and renewal as we continue to walk Your walk and talk Your talk. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LIVING LORD!

TEXT: Titus 3: 4-7

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

This text is usually used on Christmas Day as the epistle for obvious reasons.—“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” That kind of sums up the true meaning of Christmas, doesn’t it? We didn’t ask for Jesus to be born. No hard work or good deeds of human beings made it happen or moved God to act in such a loving manner. He just did it! He came because of grace, saves us because of grace, and continues to pour His undeserved love upon us freely because that’s His very nature.

Isn’t it fascinating that this gem of a lesson has also been picked for the “baptism of our Lord” Sunday? Can you see why? Baptism is also fueled solely and completely by God’s grace. When we were washed with water connected with God’s Word in baptism all the gifts, benefits, and blessings earned by the baby Jesus were transferred to us personally. We were reborn into Him and His life. And mind you, because it was a life of: death to sin and then Easter rebirth that conquered all death—that’s now our situation, our circumstances, our present and eternal future. Again, listen to Paul’s words: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

I especially like that word: generously. A generous nature is one that gives, gives, and gives some more because it is kind and loving. It doesn’t expect repayment. It doesn’t keep a running tally of gifts which someday have to be paid back. Is it any wonder that Christian people who have been generously blessed by God Almighty are also generous with their time, talents, and treasure toward others and especially toward God? It is simply a reflection of how God has re-created us in Christ. It’s simply a reflection of His image that He has engraved upon our hearts in baptism.
Paul wrote this lesson in the Greek language of the day. In Greek the words we translate: “so that” can be either a purpose clause or a result clause. Here they serve as a result clause. In other words, the meaning behind Christ’s birth, His death for all human sin on the cross, His life-giving resurrection and the application of all that to us in baptism—all that serves an end result, a goal. And here the goal is explained: “so that, having been justified (declared totally sin and guilt free) by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Currently I still serve as the executor, or as they say today: “personal representative” of my mother’s estate. I’m legally bound by the court to now disperse assets to her legal heirs according to her last will and testament. I don’t have a choice in this matter. I cannot tell someone, “Well, I don’t think you need this amount,” or “I’ve decided not to pay you because your attitude at the funeral wasn’t to my liking.” No, none of that matters. I must do what mother’s will says and obey the court. It’s the law. Well, God has done exactly that to Himself. He bound Himself to us in Jesus when Christ was born. He made promises to us in the Christ-child that He has to keep. The chief promise was to justify, or forgive the entire human race for all evil ever done or contemplated against God. In baptism we are given the gift of faith which enables us to lay hold, personally, of that promise thus making it our living reality. And the result of now having such Spirit-wrought faith and living it on a daily basis also means that God’s ultimate purpose is carried out!—Taking us into heaven. Yes, you and I are legal heirs of heaven and nothing can detract from that glorious promise! O, to be sure, like any inheritance, you can renounce any claim to it. You can turn your back upon it. You can tell God: “I don’t want it.” Many, many people do exactly that through either willful or ignorant unbelief. However, God will never, ever, forget His original promise to us. He can’t! To do so would be to forget Christ and renounce why Jesus came. To do so, God would have to deny Himself and thus cease being God!

My friends, the legacy of Christmas, the legacy of your baptism into Christ, the legacy of a blessed life on earth and a heavenly home are all intertwined. They all fit together as a unit. At the center is Jesus and you and I are the beneficiaries of this amazing gift! That’s why we continue to bask in the afterglow of Christmas joy the rest of the other 364 days after Jesus’ birth! I’m baptized! I’m saved! Amen