On Sunday, Feb 24, 2008 I was honored and privileged to baptize 11 children. This was the message I gave at that service.
God loves. God gave. We believe. We live. God secures our future.
Our future before we are saved was that we were dead. Literally. I know it isn’t popular to say that. But we were all conceived and born sinful – dead, apart from God, enemies of God. But God didn’t hate us. On the contrary, God loved us. How much? That He sent His one and only Son.
God gave Jesus to us. Jesus took all our sins, everything that separated us from God, and died the death we deserved.
St. Paul makes the connection to that event 2000 years ago with us today – through baptism. The Good News of Jesus death for us is ours through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
Baptism is often misunderstood as merely a church ritual that symbolizes that a person has made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. But it is so much more than that. It is a gift of grace to us from Christ Himself!
Jesus Christ died for our sins. Peter answered our question of what to do when we hear that Jesus Christ loves us so much – “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).
You see, baptism is the special gift of assurance and power that God has, indeed, called us to be His own. It works in us the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal life to all who believe.
We believe. And because we believe, we will live.
This is a summary of John 3:16 – those in 3:16 – the Church Experience small groups have heard this several times now.
John 3:16 is about God’s love for us that gives us the very things that baptism gives us.
But one of the things that really got my attention in the second session of our 3:16 small group was “we can refuse God’s love.” We cannot do anything to make God love us more; we cannot do anything to make God love us less. God chooses to love us. We call this agape love.
That choosing is made known to us in the Gospel. In a way, the sacraments are the Gospel we can see, we can touch, we can smell and taste.
God reaches out to us through this water and tells us that He loves us.
But we can refuse His love. Some people refuse God’s love because they think that since it sounds too good to be true, it must be too good to be true.
They refuse God’s love because love brings pain.
They refuse God’s love because love requires commitment.
They refuse God’s love because they love another – themselves, things, or the world.
Why would God allow this? If He loves us in spite of ourselves, why would He let us refuse His love?
Because love cannot be forced.
God’s love secures our future. A favorite Bible verse of many Christians in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But experience tells us that love eventually leads to disappointment and pain. Not much of a future, pain and disappointment. But God has never disappointed. People have. Churches have. But God? No, He’s never disappointed. He fulfills every promise He’s ever made.
He’s reaching out in love to you right now. Don’t refuse Him! You won’t be disappointed in God’s future for you!
Lord Jesus, Lover of my soul, I tend to compare Your love to the love of people, and I forget that Your love is broader, deeper, stronger, and greater than anything I will ever experience. Indeed I have been loved-but not like this. I want to learn how to love people the way You so love me. Let this resounding love shake the foundation of my world. May Your love devastate the walls I’ve built to keep me safe. I surrender to love. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.