| ||Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
Whether you happened to make New Year's resolutions for 2016 or none at all, all of us are in need of resolving to amend our sinful lives.
As we hear at the beginning of settings one and two of the Divine Worship service: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us".
And so we can resonate with the prophet Isaiah when in the presence of God's Holiness, He cried out, "Woe is me, for I am lost!"
As well as relate to the apostle Paul when he described his struggle with his sinful nature in Romans 7: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate".
And perhaps, that's why making New Year's resolutions is so appealing to us imperfect people, for a New Year can represent to us a fresh start as we seek to live out the words of Philippians 3:14, "to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead".
But, realistically, January 1st, 2016, is just another day on the calendar, and offers no special spiritual power or strength for us to amend our sinful ways and habits.
But, there is something that does offer us a fresh start that has the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit along with the guarantee of God's Word and His promises, and that is Holy Baptism.
For just as Jesus began his earthly ministry by identifying himself with sinful man through His baptism, through our own baptism, we have been identified with Christ, and given a new beginning.
Baptism isn't just to be a one-time event in our lives, but is to be celebrated and remembered in our daily walk with the Lord.
As Luther's Small Catechism reminds us, "Baptism indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever".
-Iust as the Holy Spirit hovered over God's creation, similarly the Holy Spirit was present at your baptism when you were re-created in the image of God.
And as a baptized member of God's family, you have all the rights and privileges of being a child of God.
For Just as the heavens were opened at the baptism of Jesus, so the promises of heaven were opened up to you at your baptism. Not only can you be assured of your eternal life and salvation, but all the other promises found in God's Word are yours to claim as your own as ''Yes and Amen in Jesus 'Christ!"
In our baptism we are to be reminded of our identity in Jesus Christ! So that when find ourselves giving into temptations of the world, our sinful flesh and the devil, it causes us to say, "That's not like me as a baptized child of God. For baptized children of God, don't think, speak, or do those sinful things!"
And should the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, accuse us of being unworthy of God's favor and blessing due to our sins.
We can respond by saying, "Yes, you are right. I am a poor miserable sinner.
I have sinned in thought word and deed, and deserve nothing but God's temporal and eternal punishment.
But -- and here's the key -- I have been baptized into Christ! And because of that, I have been assured that if I confess my sins, God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
And that the Holy Spirit will continue to bring me to repentance where it is needed in my life, as He make me willing and gives me the energy to do what He wants (Philippians 2:13).
For "He who started a good work in you will go on to finish it till the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
May the members and friends of Messiah resolve in 2016 to live up their baptismal identity in Christ, as our Heavenly Father speaks over us the same words He spoke over Jesus in his baptism:
"You are my child whom I love. I am delighted with you!" (ref. Mark 1:11).
As 2 Corinthians 5: 17 describes, "So if anyone is in Christ, he is a new being. The old things have passed away. They have become new".
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