Lessons: Psalm 116, Romans 6:1-21, Matthew 16:13-28
Hymns: LSB 685, 596, 436
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you been to Barnes and Noble and looked at Christian and spirituality books? Or have you looked at a Christian bookstore and browsed their selections? I’ll warn you: buyer beware! There’s plenty of bad theology. And yes, there are also good books available.
At these stores, you are able to find many self-help books among the Christian books. How to build the better you. How to gain purpose in this life. How to live your best life now. How to pray better. How to deal with stress. How to be happy. How to lose weight.
Go to these bookstores and you learn how Jesus will help you all along the way!
Because there’s a huge market for all these types of books, it indicates that we still live in a fallen world. People are vexed and troubled on every side. People are looking for help; they’re looking for answers.
But there is a problem all to common with these types of books. They usually ignore the role of Baptism in the Christian life and they often suggest that fixing these problems will result in a problem-free, easy life.
Of course, it is right to lead a good, Christian life. It is good to cope with stress and be happy. It is fine to stay in shape and keep the weight down. But when we put a Christian spin on these things, we often fall into a trap—a snare of the devil—that being a Christian means fixing your life and letting the good times roll. We reduce Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection to simply Him being our emotional cheerleader. We think He’s there simply to cheer us on, watching us with glee as we better ourselves.
Is that what it means to be a Christian? Is that how to seek improvement? Where should we really go to make progress in our lives and to be better Christians?
The first place you should go is to your Baptism. You see, Baptism is not just something that happened to you as a baby. But Baptism has everything to do with your Christian life. It is part and parcel to your life now, to your life as you grow, to your life which ultimately passes through the grave and to the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.
For the Christian life is nothing else than living in Holy Baptism. First of all, living in your Baptism is a daily death. That’s right. Living in your Baptism is a daily death.
What kind of death? A daily dying to sin.
Living in your Baptism is a daily dying to your old sinful self (known as the Old Adam). Throughout each day, there is the ongoing battle with the Old Adam. He hangs around your neck and says he’s too young to die.
Your Old Adam—your sinful flesh—loves to sin. It loves to engage in all sorts of lust and sinful desires. It tells you continually to do that which is evil and refrain from doing that which is good.
As a redeemed child of God, you fight this flesh. But this flesh keeps fighting back. It is a continual battle. Your flesh tells you to place yourself as number one—to hurt others along the way—to wish evil on others—to simply live for yourself. Your flesh says that you deserve it, your hands have earned it, it’s all yours. Your flesh tells you to hold grudges, to be full of pride, to engage all that pleases yourself, to exalt yourself.
Since this is true for all of us, we often feel that the Old Adam is in complete control. But rather than confessing this and repenting, we often just want to resort to self-help books that make us think that we can actually be in control if we simply set our minds to it.
But when we do this, we are just letting that Old Adam in us to remain in control.
But that Old Adam must NOT be in control! For it must die!
What the Lord started in your Baptism continues in your Christian life every day. The Lord drowned the Old Adam in your Baptism. That drowning is to continue daily.
And no, you cannot do the drowning of the Old Adam yourself. Self-help books usually tell you that you can. Just as God drowned the Old Adam in your Baptism, so He continues to do so today.
As we live out our lives, we face temptation, we face the effects of sin, we suffer. And God uses these events to crucify the Old Adam. At home—at work—everywhere—the Lord teaches you to die daily to the sin of living only for yourself.
To live for yourself will ultimately kill you.
But to live for the benefit of your family, your coworkers, your neighbors is to kill your Old Adam.
“Baptizing with water indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires.”
The first part of killing the Old Adam takes place through daily contrition. Contrition is essentially sorrow for sin. This sorrow is not something that we muster up. God works it.
You see, our sins are many and we ought not think of them lightly. When we see the seriousness of our sin, we are agonized by the greatness of our sin. We fear God’s wrath and punishment. In this, God works contrition—the first part of drowning that Old Adam.
This is a return to what God did for us in our Baptism—in Baptism we were buried with Christ through Baptism into death.
The second part of killing the Old Adam is repentance. By pleading guilty of all sin, we then are trusting in Christ that He will forgive us, which is what He has done for us in Baptism.
So the first part of the Christian life is killing the Old Adam. The second part is living a new life. The Old Adam is put to death so that a new man can emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. We begin each day with a clean slate, forgiven in Christ.
That is the Christian life of faith. Just as Christ has been raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we lead a new life. As Christians living the lives of faith, we live the lives of repentance, pleading guilty of sin, dying to sin, turning from sin, and rising to life.
Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. They go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. We plead guilty of all sin in repentance because we believe that the crucified and risen Savior will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We trust and believe in the promises and the mercies of God.
And yes, we engage in good works as God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in them. He commands them.
The life of the Baptized is 1) death to sin (death to the Old Adam) and 2) resurrection of the new man who trusts in Christ’s forgiveness. And the Lord works these in you. He’s always teaching you that you are a sinner—an Old Adam sinner who must be crushed—so that you will not rely own yourself but on Jesus.
Repentance wrought through faith along with bearing fruits of righteousness is the life of the new man that daily emerges and arises from the dead to live before God.
When you are standing before the Lord, the only thing that counts with Him is faith. Faith in Christ Jesus. Faith in the Words of Jesus, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
A promise like this from the Lord frees you to engage in good works—to serve God by serving your neighbor. You are free to live in Christ, doing what God has called you to do. You are set free from your sin and your selfishness.
And when you fail, you go back to dying to that sin and you trust that Jesus has already atoned for it. It is a continual walk in your Baptism. You will find progress and setbacks throughout your life. But Christ will always be there, loving you and shepherding you.
Your Baptism unites you with Christ’s death and resurrection. You die to self. You live in Christ. Someday, you will die a temporal death. But Baptism saves. You pass through death to unending life. Your Baptism leads you to a final rising—the resurrection of your body—the life everlasting. Baptism is a gift of God to you. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen