Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday of Trinity 2

Born again in Christ

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “born-again Christian.” This phrase is not particularly helpful because it is redundant. It’s like saying, “Water is wet.” Of course all water is wet. Likewise, all Christians are born again of God. You cannot be a Christian unless you have been born again of God. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6).

But it is a common misunderstanding that being “born again” involves your own decision to follow Christ. How many of you decided to be born? Did any of you inform your parents about when a good time to conceive would be? Those are ridiculous questions, but they are no more ridiculous than saying, “I decided to be born again on such and such date. I told the Lord that I would be born again.” Jesus devastates any human notion that we contribute anything to becoming Christians; we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless God gives rebirth to us. The Holy Spirit awakens faith in Christ in our hearts and leads us to Holy Baptism, where we are given a new life. In Baptism we know for certain that we are born of water and the Spirit and are born again of God.

When the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are said alongside the application of water, then we can say with certainty that a person dead in sin has been born again as a child of God. In Titus 3, St. Paul points us to our Baptism for certainty of our salvation, when He writes, “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

If anyone ever asks you, “Are you a born-again Christian?”, then say, “If by ‘born-again Christian’ you mean someone who believes in Jesus and has been baptized, then, yes. I know that I have been born again because I have been baptized into Christ, and He promises that this bath ensures that I am born again of water and the Holy Spirit.” Whether you were nine hours old, 9 days old or 90 years old when you received Holy Baptism, you can identify that day as your birthday into eternal life.

In Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit makes you a holy and precious child of God. That, my friends, is the greatest miracle of all. It is like the creation of the world all over again. Your God is the one Abraham believed in, who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). Before coming to faith in Christ and being brought to Baptism, you were spiritually dead, but in Your Baptism the Holy Spirit gives you the life of Christ. Baptism gives the assurance that you are a child of God in His Kingdom through your Brother and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Job said, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not” (Job 14:1-2). And then Job asks the immortal question: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).

Your Savior Jesus and your Baptism into Him say to you, “Yes. You shall live again.” Jesus says in John 3 that if you believe in Him and are born of water and the Holy Spirit, you will see the Kingdom of God. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. And we know that whatever God’s Word and promises declare, He will stand behind: “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Grant this Lord, to us all.

Prayer: Merciful Father, through Holy Baptism You called us to be Your own possession. Grant that our lives may evidence the working of Your Holy Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, according to the image of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

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