Sunday, January 27, 2013

Luke 4:14-21 Third Sunday After Epiphany

President Obama delivered his Inaugural Address this past week.  In it he vowed to uphold the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  He vowed to fight for these self-evident truths, saying that “These truths are self-evident, but not self-executing.  While freedom is a gift from god, it must be secured by his people here on earth.”  In other words, we don’t have freedom unless we fight to keep it and expand our personal freedom to those less fortunate.  But these promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may seem far off to those who are poor, held captive by the circumstances of life, and oppressed by people and society.  When we come face to face with the effects of our slow economy, the joblessness and homelessness that we ourselves or our fellow human beings suffer, President Obama’s vision may seem a bit too much to expect.  The question may come to mind, “Can he make a difference?” 
Many will ask the same question when they hear Jesus—are the blessings he promises too much to expect?  When Jesus preached his first sermon in his hometown, he read from the prophet Isaiah and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  With those words he was promising a solution to every one of life’s problems, and even better—salvation from root of the problem itself.  But to those who are poor, who feel like they are held captive, like they are oppressed, Jesus’ claim may seem like a bit too much to believe.  He isn’t just holding out a better future when he said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  He is telling you that you already have it.  Is it too much to believe?  Judge for yourself.  Here are his own words, from Luke 4:
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19       to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:14-21
Theme:  Today, This Scripture Is Fulfilled In Your Hearing.

1.  On that Sabbath day the faithful Jewish believers of Nazareth gathered in the synagogue as they usually did, but with maybe a bit more anticipation than usual.  Jesus had come back, and he had made quite a name for himself.  Maybe they had heard of his baptism by John.  Maybe they had heard of his miracle, changing water into wine.  The opening verses of our text tell us that he had been preaching in other places, and they all praised him.  Jesus’ reputation had probably preceded him when he came home to Nazareth.  That would explain why Jesus, a man of only 30 years, had been chosen for the honored task of reading from the Prophets and delivering the sermon for the day—some Rabbis said that this task should be reserved for a man at least 50 years old.
The synagogue service opened with the usual Psalms and prayers, a recitation of their Old Testament Creed, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  A series of readers would usually stand up to read selected passages from the Law and the Prophets.  Then Jesus stood up, read these verses from the prophet Isaiah, and sat down to give his sermon.  All eyes were fixed on him.  Whether he said more or not, we don’t know, but what Luke records is short and to the point: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
I wonder if anyone gasped or choked when they heard Jesus say that, because it was a shock to their ears.  A 700-year-old prophecy fulfilled today? How can it be that Jesus has brought good news, freedom, and restoration now, when life is as bad as it has always been? 
Jesus was asking them to look past the physical reality of their lives, and see the eternal spiritual reality of who he was and what he had come to do for them.  Yes, you may be poor, but not necessarily meaning that you don’t have money.  Maybe you have been humbled by the turns that life takes.  Look past that and hear the good news Jesus brings for you, he is the Savior from sin and the rescuer from this world.  You may feel like a prisoner, punished by God and man and unable to escape.   Look past that and hear his declaration of forgiveness and freedom.  You may feel spiritually blind and unable to understand what God wants, you know other people who are spiritually blind, or maybe you actually are physically going blind—it makes no difference—forget about all of that and believe that Jesus will give you the ability to see.  If you are oppressed, like a slave who works for a harsh master and is never able to get anything good for himself from all his hard work—look past that and believe that Jesus has released you from the oppression.  Believe in the forgiveness and freedom that Jesus gives, even though you still feel guilt and oppression.
Is that a tough call to obey?  The people of Nazareth thought so.  They wanted to believe.  They sat there and listened with rapt attention, but they couldn’t get past the obvious fact that Jesus was Mary and Joseph’s boy.  How will you believe, having never heard Jesus in person?  How will you believe that he has brought freedom when you meet poverty, sin, and oppression face to face every day?  That’s too much for ordinary sinful people like us to believe, especially when it isn’t immediately apparent how Jesus can help—but if we don’t believe that Jesus saves, then there is nothing left to help us.  The answer I get from this text is that we shouldn’t worry about how we are going to believe that he can help.  Just listen.  This was Jesus’ plan.  There were no miracles to prove his point.  No clever arguments.  He just announced the good news and trusted the Holy Spirit’s power to convince people to believe.
2.  Jesus pulls back the curtain to reveal himself as the Savior, but this time there is no voice from heaven, and there is no miracle like there was at the wedding of Cana.  He isn’t always going to do miracles.  He wants you to take him at his word, even when there is no evidence.  And he is perfectly confident that his Word alone is enough!
I know that Jesus wanted the people at Nazareth to believe.  The Bible says “God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  Certainly Jesus wanted the people he grew up with to be saved as much as anyone else!  But Jesus knew that his words were powerful words.  The Holy Spirit had given Isaiah the words that he read in the synagogue that day.  It was the Word of God, and the Word of God has the power to create faith—Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing the message.”  Jesus’ own words had that power too, because he is God, and because he has God the Holy Spirit with him as the greatest of the prophets.  When Jesus proclaims freedom, forgiveness, and an end to all of life’s troubles, his words have the power to make you believe it.  God the Holy Spirit works through his words to create faith.
Follow Jesus’ example, and trust the power of his Word.  So when you feel that you want to believe but don’t know how because the problems are so big, just listen to his Word.  If you want to believe that your forgiveness and salvation in him will help you in every problem but can’t believe that it really will, just listen to Jesus’ Word.  When you feel like a captive in life, oppressed by sin and guilt, or oppressed by the situations of this sinful life, and you want to believe that Jesus has given you freedom but you just don’t feel like it’s true—stop worrying about how you are going to believe it.  Just listen to his Word, and let the Holy Spirit make it real for you.
As a church, when we are tempted to resort to gimmicks or cleverly devised proofs to convince people to believe, we need to follow Jesus’ example.  I know we are going to feel embarrassed when we can’t prove what we believe about God.  We can point to the things that the Bible says, but we can’t point to the hard evidence.  We can’t show anyone where the ark came to rest, or hold up Goliath’s spear and sword.  We don’t know exactly where the tomb is, and an empty tomb only proves his resurrection if you believe that it is the tomb he was buried in. God hasn’t been doing the spectacular miracles among us lately—usually just the ordinary ones that can be explained to some extent by science.  That’s ok; there doesn’t need to be any proof that the Bible is true. We are going to keep preaching the Word, and we will trust the Holy Spirit to do the hard work of convincing people to believe it.  There were only a handful of times that God spoke from heaven.  Only a few times has Jesus done miracles to show us his power.  Most of the time there is no proof.  Most of the time, Jesus reveals himself only through the words of the Bible.

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled,” Jesus said.  Freedom and forgiveness, a restored relationship with God, and a rescue from every trouble that sin has brought into the world—he has brought all of this to you. Everything has been made right.  But is that too much to believe, since there may be so many things wrong in your life yet, and you may still feel such great guilt for your sins?  Don’t worry.  If you want to believe that Christ has given you freedom from your sins, your addictions, your poverty, and all your troubles, but you don’t feel it; for now just know that it is yours because God said so, and keep listening.  Don’t push this word out of your heart and walk away.  Don’t forget about Jesus.  Don’t get upset and try to push him out of your life, like the people of Nazareth did when they tried to push him off of a cliff.  Just keep listening, take God at his word for now, and the power of his Word will take away your doubts.  Part of the promise that Jesus quoted is that the “eyes of the blind will be opened.”  A day will come when God will pull back the curtain all the way, and you will see how true it is that Jesus has brought good news and freedom from all your troubles.  You who have listened to his Word will be raised from the dead, and you may be amazed at the change.  You may ask God why you don’t feel any pain.  Why is everyone so nice and loving?  And Heavenly Father, why can I see you, and talk to you like I never have before?  God will say, “My child, because your sins were taken away when Jesus died.  I told you about that in the Bible, and even though you had no idea how much good that was going to do for you, you listened to me.  Now you know.  You don’t need to live on that sinful world anymore.  Welcome to heaven.”  Today, I know all of this is pretty unbelievable, but just keep listening to God’s Word.  You will see how true Jesus’ words were when he proclaimed freedom for the captives.  Even today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.  Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Isaiah 62:2-5 Second Sunday After Epiphany

“Jesus loves me, this I know.”  As a young child I learned to sing this song, and as a child I never doubted it.   But as I grew up I began to realize that the world is more difficult, more dangerous, and more complicated.  My faith that Jesus loves me is still there, but I don’t always feel his love for me.  I think that’s what makes my faith more sure, more solidly grounded than when I was a child.  A mature look at life acknowledges that things aren’t always good.  A mature study of Scripture will show us that God is still with us, and that he delights in those who repent of their sins, even though we may still feel like garbage.  Even in saddest times, there is proof that Jesus does love you.  You are his crown, even when you feel that you are not.  Though you may feel forgotten by God, you are dear to him as a bride.  He calls you his crown, a display of his glory.  He calls you his bride, because of his love for you.  In these words spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah, hear how…

Theme:  God delights in you.

2     The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
3     You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4     No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
5     As a young man marries a maiden,
so will your sons marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.
Isaiah 62:2-5
A. God delights in you, like a crown of splendor, displaying his glory. 
God pictures us like a king’s crown; a beautiful, bejeweled piece of handiwork. 
Sometimes we will talk of some great work as a crowning achievement, as the thing that we are most proud of, the thing that shows how great we are—for instance, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, or Sacramento’s mini golden gate bridge.  You are God’s crown, the display of his glory.  You are his crowning achievement. 
Children are taught to believe this.  In simple, childlike faith, you are asked to accept it and trust that God delights in you.  But as you grow up in the real world, something about the situation seems out of order.  In your real life, you might think that the Almighty God, who does everything well, could have done better for you, if you are his crowning achievement.  You aren’t going to feel like God delights in you if you think it should be shown in your success, the happiness of your marriage, your kids all good and talented, your church bustling full of people and programs.  
In the ups and downs of Christian life, you may be at a low where it seems like God doesn’t take any delight in you at all.
If you have an honest moment with yourself, ask yourself if there may be reasons why God would have a right to give up on you.  If you are God’s crown and his delight, why don’t you act like it?  In your real life as a church person, you may sing “Jesus loves me, this I know,” but you will feel like a failure and a fraud. 
Lance Armstrong isn’t the only one with a past to hide.  I don’t think any of you would be volunteering to let Oprah dredge out your secrets. But the guilt builds, the guilt for not being as holy as church people are supposed to be.  Oprah asked Lance, “why confess now?”  He said, “It is impossible to live up to this perfect picture—the cancer survivor, the 7 time tour winner.”  Will we forgive him or not?  But let’s not be hypocrites, we are all fakes and frauds.  If I held a private confession session, not many of you would be there.  You don’t want me to know.  But God knows, and you may ask, “how can he delight in me?”

B. God delights in you, as the object of his affection. 
The words God spoke in our text are certainly for us, but they were for Old Testament Israel first, spoken at a time when their homes were about to be destroyed, their husbands and sons about to be killed in battle, and they would soon be taken out of the land God gave them, where promised to bless them.  His words assured them that he had not taken his love away, that he would not stay angry forever, and they would have joyful days again.  He would think of them like a young man thinks of the woman he is going to marry.  He would give their land back to them as a great blessing, just like he gives a young woman to a young man in marriage.  Notice this—He spoke these words before any of the terrible things happened.  God was always planning to do this.  He wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t give up on him and get angry when they felt his anger.
We learn that God doesn’t take away his love when he makes us feel his anger.  He still delights in us.  He still loves us, in his words “like a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.  If we are feeling his anger now, we should be sorrowful for angering him with our sins, but don’t give up on him.  You will enjoy his blessings again, because he delights in you, as his bride.
There really was no reason given to Israel why God would continue to love them like his bride, except for his love itself.  This is what he is known for.  When Moses asked God what his name was, God replied, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.”  There were no conditions attached; no improvement that he would have to see first.  God promised his love before he even began to punish.
When you feel his anger, trust that this is not the end for you.  In his love for us, he lets us feel his anger from time to time, so that we will take our sins seriously again, be sorrowful, sincerely desire to listen to him and obey.  Take the opportunity that your troubles provide to repent, be sorrowful for your sins, but don’t give up hope.  Know that God forgives, and that you will feel his love again.  He will bless you again.  In fact, you will enjoy all his blessings in heaven with him, like a bride brought home to live in the mansion of her new husband.
We heard about God loving his people like this in the Gospel.  Into this sinful world Jesus came, and he loved us so much that he cared about every little problem we have, like a man cares about every little problem that his new bride may have.  They ran out of wine for the wedding.  Jesus wanted to help the hosts save face, and he wanted the guests to enjoy the wedding, so he changed the water into wine—and not just any wine, but the best, most enjoyable wine.  Our God delights in us.  He cares about every little problem.
God told us more about his love through the Apostle Paul—like a husband bestowing gifts on his bride, he gives us his gifts, like the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit, and messages of wisdom and knowledge through the Spirit.  To all of you, God has given the gift of faith, and the opportunity to read his Word and hear messages of wisdom from the Bible from godly parents and from godly pastors.  Don’t overlook this gift of God—he has not taken his Word away from you.  He is still reaching out to you to forgive, to protect you from the devil, and bring you to heaven.  Remember this one thing, even if you feel utterly deserted by God—you still have his Word, and the sole purpose of his Word is to bring you to heaven to be with him.  You are his bride, and he delights in you.
A1. God delights in you as the display of his glory.
Now we return to the original thought, and see how it is true that we display God’s glory, like his crown, his crowing work.  No, we are not as rich, successful, and happy as we could be if God wanted to make that happen.  When we are unhappy, disappointed, and poor, it is because of our sinfulness and God’s anger against sin.  But in spite of that, he calls us his bride.  He calls us to repent of our sins so that he can bring us close and shower us with more blessings.  He has promised to bring us into his home, to the glorious mansion in heaven.
Now, if you were to tell someone about the greatest things about your God, you would probably talk about these things…his love and faithfulness to you, his patience, mercy, and the fact that he always forgives and still wants you to be with him in heaven.  We see the greatness of God in the love that he shows for us. 
Nowhere do we see his love more clearly than in Christ our Savior.  He has been revealed as the Son of God, who cares deeply about all our needs, (even changing water into wine!) and who even would give up his life for us on the cross, so that we would not die because of our sins.  In Jesus, we see God revealed to us as the Husband of his people, willing even to die for his bride.   How greatly God loves you!
Now just think, how clearly we will see all this love of God, when he welcomes sinners like us to heaven.  Saints and angels alike will be amazed at what God has done for us, and praise him for his great love.  Bringing us to heaven is his crowning work.  We are his bride.  He delights in us, because he displays his glorious love in us.
St. Paul wrote about God displaying this great love in him.  He called himself the worst sinner—the chief of sinners, because even though he knew the Word of God well, he still acted contrary to God’s will on a daily basis, at one time even putting Christians to death.  But God made him hate his sins, and poured out his love and forgiveness on Paul.  Now, in Paul, we all see how deeply God loves and how completely he forgives—a murderer of Christians can be forgiven so completely that God would make him an apostle.
You may feel God’s anger now, but you will not forever.  He has not deserted you.  If there is any way that it will be good for you, he will give you joy again.  I know this, because he hasn’t taken his love away.  He still shows that he delights in you as his crown and his bride.  He shows it by continuing to give his gifts to you—He still blesses you in many ways that you may take for granted, giving you clothing and shoes, house and home, perhaps a wife and children.  He still calls you to repent every day, because he hasn’t gone back on the word that he spoke at your baptism.  You are still his own dear child.  He reaches out to you with his Word to show his love in what Jesus has done for you.  He still brings you his sacrifice, all wrapped up in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper—his true body and true blood, given for you and to you for the forgiveness of your sins.

God delights in you.  If you have children, you might compare it to the way that you love and care for your children.  If you don’t have children, you may have a pet that you love and care for.  But in neither case does it really compare to the way that God loves and cares for us.  He delights in his creatures, the work of his hands—more than you delight in pets, more than your children.  He created you.  Psalm 139 says that he knit us together in our mother’s womb.  He will never take that love away, and will pay any price to have us with him.  All of this we see in Jesus—God’s great love and concern for all our needs, even the little ones.  Like a husband who wants to make his wife happy, Jesus changed water into wine.  Like a husband who would die to save his wife, Jesus died to save us from God’s eternal punishment in hell.  God has shown his glory by making us sinful people his crown and his bride.  How wonderful, that God delights in us!  Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Luke 3:21-22 The Baptism of our Lord

Baptism is a powerful act of God.  But parents may sometimes decide to wait to have their children baptized until they are old enough to make that decision for themselves—even though this was not Christ’s command, and it was not the practice of the apostles or the early church after them.  Paul baptized whole households.  As the children of those households grew up and began having babies of their own, we read that they were bringing their infants to be baptized.  It seems that today, there is a lot of misunderstanding about baptism.  What is it—your commitment to join a particular church?  Your commitment to God?  Or is it God’s commitment to you?  The early church viewed it as God’s commitment to them, to be their God and wash their sins away.  Today, more tend to view it as our commitment to God, or to a particular church.
It seems there was a lot of misunderstanding as John the Baptist was baptizing along the Jordan River, too.  Some were coming to him, quite certain that they already belonged in God’s kingdom because of the good things that they did.  John chased them away, “You brood of vipers,” he called them.  Others who came to him were not sure whose kingdom they were really entering when they were baptized.  They thought maybe John himself was the Christ, and that the kingdom belonged to him. 
If Baptism is such an important thing that God would command it, send a prophet in John the Baptist to teach us to do it, and then have Jesus, the Son of God himself, come to be baptized—then it must be pretty powerful.  In fact, understanding your baptism better will strengthen your faith.  It will make you certain, beyond any shadow of doubt, that you will be in heaven.  It will help you overcome temptation.  But how can the water of Baptism do all that?  Jesus’ baptism is the key. 
In these verses we may picture baptism like water washing off a rock.  If you find a rock you want to keep, you may wash it to get all the dirt and filth off of it.  But the water also lets you see the deeper colors of the rock more clearly.  It lets you see what kind of a rock you really have.  Baptism washes off the filth, but it also lets you see the deeper truth about your place in God’s kingdom.
Theme: Jesus’ Baptism Reveals Much About Our Baptism.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”
Luke 3:21-22
1.  Baptism Washes Away Sin.
The people came down to the Jordan River to be baptized because John the Baptist was preaching that the kingdom of God was near.  God was coming to rule his people, and all who wanted to be part of that kingdom had to repent and be baptized—be sorry for their sins, be washed up by the baptismal water, and decide to do differently.
Now just consider how that clashes with popular opinion.  Those who believe in God, those who have a good heart, who do good things, who are sincere and not hypocritical—they were coming out to John, and he was telling them that they were too filthy stand in the presence of God’s king.  They needed a spiritual bath.   
Baptism teaches that all the good pious people, even believers in God, are dirty and filthy, and unfit for God’s presence.  If you have been baptized you have been washed by God, with a water that is powerful because it is used by God’s command.  Like Naaman of old, who washed away his Leprosy when he obeyed God’s command to wash in the Jordan River, if you have obeyed God’s command to be baptized, your sins have been washed away.
What God does in Baptism is like what you may do if you find a rock that looks cool and you want to use it as a paperweight or a decoration in your home or garden, but it’s too dirty.  It’s covered in mud and slime.  It’s too dirty to bring into your home.  You wash off the mud and slime.  This is what God was doing when the people were coming out to be baptized by John.  This is what God did when you were baptized.
Every analogy limps, though—baptism cleans much deeper than just the surface.  It cleans the whole man.  The guilt, the sins of thought, word and deed, the sins of who we are (because not all of the sins we commit are not accidents or temptations that we fell into being caught up in the moment, but sins that we wanted to do—sin is a part of who we are, and baptism washes that away too)  It cleans up the whole person, and makes us fit to come into God’s kingdom.  To get into heaven, you need what God has done for you in baptism, and you need the simple faith that he has told you the truth—that he has washed you up.
As the people came to John to be baptized, they had that simple faith, but they were still a bit confused.  There was still a lot of mystery about the kingdom of God and baptism.  Who were they following?  They didn’t really know who the king of this kingdom was.  Perhaps John the Baptist himself?  Then too, I suppose just as many do today, they would have wondered how this simple washing of Baptism could actually bring them into God’s kingdom of heaven.  Among those masses of people being washed from their sins, Jesus came also to be baptized.  Just like washing a rock can clear up the surface of the rock to bring out the true colors of the rock…
2.  Jesus’ Baptism reveals the deeper power of our baptism.
It was strange that Jesus would come to the river to be baptized—John knew who Jesus was and said, “I should be baptized by you!”  And then the heavens opened, and God said, “This is my Son, whom I love.”  The Spirit landed on him in the form of a dove.  Now we know why he needed to be baptized…it wasn’t just water, and it wasn’t just to wash away sins.  God wanted to use Jesus’ baptism to anoint him, marking him as the one he had chosen to lead his people, just like Samuel anointing David in the Old Testament.  This was God’s declaration that Jesus was his Son and the Savior, and the King of his Kingdom.  In Jesus’ baptism, the water washed away appearance that he was just another man and revealed the deeper truth that he is the Son of God.
Now here’s the part that makes your spine tingle—the anointed King had lined himself up with all the people who had to have their sins washed away by baptism.  Though he had no sin, he chose to be part of this group.  He was baptized to be the king of all who are baptized.  By committing himself to us like this, he is able to share all the blessings of his kingdom with us, and the blessings of his baptism.  Jesus’ baptism not only reveals him as the Son of God, it also reveals this deeper truth of how our baptism saves.  It joins us to Jesus. 
In life, you line up behind your favorite team, and you share in the joy and glory of their victories.  In the Old Testament, this is how God treated the people of Israel.  If their king was a good, Godly king, God blessed the whole nation.  If the king was not, God disciplined the whole nation.  Now here is Jesus the perfect King, who has connected himself to us as “King of the Baptized” by being baptized with us.  We share in all his victories.  We share in his glory.  We share his close relationship to God the Father.  God the Father sees his Son as our King, and he blesses all of us.
The New Testament draws specific parallels between what God the Father said to Jesus in his baptism and what he says to us in ours. Galatians 3:26,27 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Not just Jesus, but all who are baptized along with him share in God’s proclamation, “This is my Son, whom I love.”  You are not the Son of God, but you have a close relationship with him as his children whom he loves, so close and so honored that he would call you heirs of his kingdom.  That’s what it means when he says that you are his “sons” in his kingdom—because in those days the sons were the heirs of the throne.
Titus 3:5,6 says that the Holy Spirit who came down and remained on Jesus has been given to us also. It says, “He saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”   God showed it visibly at Pentecost, and other times in the history of the early Christian church, when the Holy Spirit was visibly given to people by enabling those men to speak in tongues, giving them gifts of prophecy, and putting little flames of fire over their heads.  It was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to all of us, to be the person of God who dwells within us to teach us and encourage us.  These days, we may not ever see evidence of that happening, but in Titus we have his promise that God the Father will give us the Holy Spirit in our baptism.

One more thing is revealed by Jesus’ baptism.  Your King has lined himself up with you to share his heavenly kingdom with you before you have done anything for him.  Remember that John the Baptist brought baptism to wash up people who were too spiritually dirty for God’s kingdom.  Usually for us, baptism comes very early in life, before we know what sin is or know what it means to repent of it.  Even infants are baptized, because Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  He wants infants to be baptized so that he can share his kingdom with them too. 
So now, if Jesus has already made you a child of God and an heir of his kingdom when you were baptized, there is nothing left for you to earn with your good works.  You already have it all.  Baptism reveals the real reason why we live to please God.
If you are already in his kingdom, the only thing left is to continue to live in his kingdom.  You have a reputation to live up to now, as a member of Christ’s kingdom, a child of God and heir of heaven.  You have been baptized with powerful water, which washed away the filth of that old sinful way of life—so live a Godly life, and don’t bring that old sinful way of life back again.  It’s not who you are anymore.  You are a child of God and heir of heaven, because of your connection to Jesus.  He was baptized, so that as King of the Baptized, he might share everything with those who are baptized.  Amen.