Sermon Options: January 9, 2022

September 2nd, 2021

ISAIAH 43:1-7

Why do we wear a wedding ring? The old joke is that it is like a tourniquet in that it cuts off your circulation. A wedding ring is both sign and symbol. The ring points beyond itself to the covenant we have entered with our beloved.

God had entered a covenant with his people Israel. Though they frequently failed to live up to their end of the bargain, God promised that he would ultimately be vindicated. His grace would assure their completion in his purpose.

I. God's Covenant Offers a Sure Word (v. 1)

"This is what the Lord says. . . ." The covenant making and keeping God reminds his people that he has both created and developed them for a specific purpose. That purpose is that they might be his people.

The doctrine of "election" is frequently a word of assurance for an oppressed minority. In spite of any external and circumstantial evidence to the contrary, such as persecution and suffering, it is a reminder that the believer is the object of God's love and favor. God takes the initiative in our salvation. Further, we are saved for a purpose, that we might be the people of God. From a New Testament perspective God has chosen the means to accomplish this through the word of the gospel energized by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.

II. God's Covenant Offers a Sound Mind (v. 2)

"Fear not. . . ." The opposite of fear is faith. Because we can have confidence in the God who has called and claimed us, we need not be overcome by fear.

Walking in faith is always a delicate balancing act. We walk between the precipice of doubt and presumption. In biblical times a person's name was the key to their character. God knows us most intimately yet his love and gracious purpose are not deterred. Therefore, we have no reason to fear. If God is for us, who can be against us?

III. God's Covenant Offers a Secure Journey (v. 3)

"Waters . . . fire." When I found myself going through a difficult time in my Christian life, a friend quipped, "No battle, no victory." Believers are not immune to difficulty. Christians get sick, have family problems, lose their jobs, and face the same adversities as everyone else. Instead of overwhelming us, the flood will lift us up, the fire will purify our hearts. Therefore, we can face anything, secure in the knowledge that our God is in control.

IV. God's Covenant Offers a Certain Future (vv. 4-7)

I once heard someone say, "Even if there were no life after death, if this life were all there was, it would be worth it to know Jesus now." I couldn't disagree more. The Christian message makes no sense apart from the Resurrection and the hope it gives. Paul emphasized, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Cor. 15:14 NIV).

Israel looked forward to restoration. We have confidence for the future because we are loved by the God who is willing to give all in our behalf.

His faithfulness and our faith in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life are a constant reminder of the gracious covenant we have entered through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can rest on a sure word, the promise of a secure journey, and the hope of a certain future in this new year. (L. Joseph Rosas, III)

LUKE 3:15-17, 21-22

Historical accounts indicate that some of the early Christians practiced a Trinitarian form of baptism. The new convert was immersed three times, once each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The text for this morning describes three baptisms that affect our relationship with God.

I. Jesus' Baptism Is Our Example

I'm sometimes asked, "Why should I be baptized?" As a Christian I want to walk in Jesus' steps. His example is enough for me. When John balked at baptizing Jesus, the Lord insisted, "Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15 NIV).

Jesus declares baptism is the right thing to do. As the sinless Son of God, he didn't need to give evidence of repentance, but he gave us an example to follow. If you won't follow this first example, will you follow Christ any further?

II. Water Baptism Is Our Witness

Jesus desired public baptism to identify himself with those he came to save. His baptism was an outward witness of his inner commitment. Baptism testifies of our personal faith in the crucified and risen Lord. In baptism we declare his Lordship over our life. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Rom. 6:4 NIV).

Baptism, like my wedding band, declares that I belong to the One who holds first place in my heart and life.

III. Spirit Baptism Is Our Power

Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (v. 16 NIV). The baptism with the Spirit occurs at conversion (1 Cor. 6:11) . "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5 NIV). But we must continually allow ourselves to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) .

The Holy Spirit washes and refreshes. He works like fire to judge, refine, and purify. Powerless religion results when individuals have water baptism without Spirit baptism. Where the Spirit actively works, a ready and willing heart will eagerly seek water baptism as a witness for Christ.

In the Tournament of Roses parade one year a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The float represented the Standard Oil Company! With its vast resources, its truck was out of gas.

Buildings, programs, and ministerial staff cannot guarantee the power of God. What good is a magnificent piece of machinery if there is no power to run it? We are assured power to do all Christ asks—the same power that brought Christ from the grave! (Eph. 1:15-23).

What will you say to Christ if you ignore his example and refuse to declare your faith through baptism? Are you experiencing his power since your baptism? (Bill D. Whittaker)

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