Over the last few weeks, we’ve travelled back in time and retold the Christmas story. If you’ve been to a Carol Service over Christmas, the probability is that you have listened to at least one reading from the beginning of the Bible, Genesis, and finished off with that very famous reading from John’s Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word”, referring to Jesus, of course.
Well Christmas is now over, and this morning we are hearing about Jesus being baptised! In just over a few weeks, we’ve spanned the beginning of the world, all the prophecies about Jesus, his birth, and now, aged 30, here he is standing in a river about to be dunked by John.
John was used to dunking people in water. He was a prophet – a messenger of God – who came to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus. One of the ways he did this was to get people to turn to God, to say sorry for their sins and to be baptised. This baptism was symbolic of people dying to their old life, and rising to new life in Jesus. John also said that whilst the baptisms he performed were symbolic of something that had changed within, Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, we read that when Jesus is baptised, the Holy Spirit descends on him, affirming John’s prophecy. And the best news is that Jesus gifts us his Spirit if we are followers of him. We not only receive a symbolic baptism, but Jesus baptises us with His Holy Spirit too!
Jesus didn’t need to be baptised, because Jesus never sinned. But Jesus chose to be baptised because he wanted to identify with us. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. This is Jesus showing us the Christmas message! God becomes a human to show us his love. As we know, Jesus’ mission was ultimately to bear the sins of the world on the cross for us. If we accept that and believe it, one of the results is that we are able to experience the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As we go into a new year, I’d like us all to commit ourselves to walking in step with the Holy Spirit. What do I mean?
Well firstly, we must be refined in the fire. In order to make gold pure, it must be heated up so all the impurities are separated from the true gold. If you are a follower of Jesus this morning, you are like precious gold to Jesus. But, you need to be refined. We all make mistakes, we all sin, and part of following Jesus means to be subject to refinement. One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to refine people. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, to convict you of sin and transform you so that you are more like Jesus this year.
Secondly, be filled with peace. We know from the Gospel reading that when Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit came down and rested on him “like a dove.” Often, doves are used as symbols of peace. When we follow Jesus closely, we will know his presence with us. The Holy Spirit gives us that inner peace that we can’t completely understand or explain. And of course, “peace” is one of the fruits of the Spirit – or in other words, if you are a Christian, one of the ways in which people will know that you are a follower of Jesus is if you evidence inner peace. So this year, follow Jesus closely and let the peace of the Holy Spirit wash over you.
Third, be assured of your adoption. Matthew 3 verse 17 says “A voice from heaven said ‘This is my Son’”. Jesus is the Son of God in a unique way. But if we are followers of Jesus, we are called Sons and Daughters of God because he has adopted us as children through what he did on the cross for us. Therefore, make sure to remind yourself that God has made you his own if you love him – he is your good, good Father. This should transform your outlook on life and it should encourage you to talk to him a bit more!
Next, know that you are loved. Sometimes the simplest of truths are the hardest to grasp. Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that he lived for you, he died for you, and he came back from the dead for you. Jesus was told by the Father “This is my son, whom I love”. If we are adopted children of God then we can be sure that Jesus loves us so, so much. No matter what life throws at you this year, always hold on to this hopeful promise: you are loved by God.
And finally, feel God’s pleasure in you this year. God the Father said to God the Son “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased”. Just as Jesus was affirmed by the Father, so too are we affirmed by the Father if we believe and trust in God the Son. As you draw close to Jesus this year, you will feel, perhaps in unexpected ways, the way in which God delights in you.
So, what are you going to do with 2017? I hope at the top of all our lists this year is to follow Jesus more nearly and to love him more dearly (especially if we are people who make New Years Resolutions!) I promise that if you take up the challenge, you won’t be disappointed. You will transform as a person, you will know the love and presence of God in new ways, and your life will be changed.
Be brave – commit your life to Jesus this morning. He’s waiting for you.
With all my love and prayers,