Epiphany Sunday, January 8, 2017
Matthew 3: 13 – 17
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” – Matthew 3:13
Today is formally recognized throughout the Christian Church as Baptism of the Lord Sunday, where-in we celebrate and remember the Baptism of Jesus and its significance for the living of our days. The Baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan was actually when we think about it, a consecration service, a service where Jesus presented himself in dedication to the ministry that was now before Him.
Matthew’s version of Jesus Baptism records; “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a Dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Though being greater than John, Jesus humbled himself and presented himself to John to be baptized, in an act of consecration and dedication.
According to the New Webster Dictionary of the Bible, consecration is the act whereby a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God. Thus consecration might include ordination to a sacred office, as when Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the Priesthood, or it may be ordination to sacred service, as when David called all the leaders of Israel together in 1 Chronicles 29:5 and challenged them to consecrate themselves to work with Solomon His successor in the building of God’s Holy Temple.
David posed the question to Israel’s leaders, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord? Then the leaders of the father’s houses, leaders of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the officers over the king’s work offered willingly.” They dedicated themselves to this monumental and meaningful work of building God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Within every Church Communion, be it Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran or Catholic, just to name a few, we have services of ordination and installation in which Pastors, Ruling Elders, Trustees and Deacons are consecrated, set apart, to the ministry the Lord and congregation has called them to. And we do this of our own free will in service to God, and His people for the work of the church and the growth of the Kingdom here on earth. We recently held such a service in December when we ordained and installed our new class of Ruling Elders and Deacons. Amen.
Any service of consecration reminds us that the office does not belong to us, especially in the church, but it belongs to God. We are merely God’s servants, the Lord’s stewards who have been commissioned to carry out God’s will and His work. A high and holy calling which no one dare enter into or take lightly, or causally, or just because others are doing it. It is our sincere service to God. To whom every one shall someday give account.
And every now and then it’s good to remember and reflect upon the vows we have taken, be it an ordination, or marriage, or baptism, in order to remind us of the commitments we have made. And by God’s grace, with all that is within us strive to uphold them. Jesus had no need to be baptized by John because He was sinless. John baptized with water for the remission of sins, but Jesus would baptize all believers with the Holy Spirit.
John’s message “Prepare Ye the way” was designed to prepare the people’s hearts to receive Jesus as the Savior. John was a fire and brimstone kind of a preacher. And when a generation’s hearts have become stony and cold to the Lord, God will send those like a John the Baptist to wake His people up. To break up the stony ground of the heart. To til the soil of the soul. To prepare hearts that will be ready to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. If God ever gives us a stern word let’s not get angry, it just may be God breaking up the stony ground that He knows is in our hearts, that keeps us from receiving the word and the blessings God has for us.
I would imagine that none of us would ever want to get so hard hearted, or complacent in our relationship with the Lord, where we might be in danger of drifting away from the Lord, or could no longer be moved by the gentle urgings of God’s Holy Spirit. And because we live in this materialistic and prosperity driven culture, it can become easy to slip into a mindset of feeling we can make it without the Lord. So God sent John to break up the stony ground of their hearts.
Jesus had no need to be baptized by John, but He did so in order to consecrate Himself to the work before Him. He went down into the Waters indicating that He would die on an Old Rugged Cross for our sins and as the Lord came up out of the waters that signified His resurrection on the Lord’s Day. His baptism reminds us, that we too have died to sin, to our old self-life, to the old sin nature and fallen nature, we’ve died to carnality that is always trying to pull us back, into our former ways of living.
His baptism reminds us we have been raised in newness of life, through the glorious power of His resurrection. “If anyone be in Christ they are a new creation, the old has passed away and the new has come!” We may still wrestle with some baggage, bondages and hang-ups, but in Jesus, they no longer have dominion over us. As we live in the power of His resurrection. Amen.
Spiritually speaking in our baptism Christ has set us free. But our fallen sin nature will still try to hold on to us until we get our minds renewed. In baptism the chains of the old sin-nature have been broken, and what the Spirit is seeking to do now in our lives, is to help us remove the mental chains of our psychological spiritual slavery. Because whoever or whatever has our minds has us. I wish I knew how to make it plain.
He came up out of the waters, consecrated in service of God. Then the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a Dove. Symbolizing the anointing was now upon Him. Empowering Jesus to complete God’s assignment for His earthly mission. The anointing of Jesus at His baptism by the Holy Spirit was to remind Him that God was the Source of His strength. Amen. And because we have been baptized in Him, God through the Spirit is the source of our strength. Our schooling is not our source it may have helped train us, prepare us, but it is not our source. God is our source. Our trades and occupations are not our source, they may have equipped us to earn an income, but they are not our source, God is our source.
Our denominations, buildings, budgets and programs are not our source, they may be a means through which we do the Lord’s work but they are not our source, God is our source. Consecration reminds us that God is our source. We consecrate ourselves not to a religion, not to a tradition, not to rituals, not to customs, not to church fades, not just because every other church is doing it, but we consecrate ourselves to the Lord because He alone is the source and strength of our lives. “Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me, Break me, mold me, fill me, Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.”
Finally, the Father declared of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Baptized, consecrated, set apart. Because of what Jesus has done for us at Calvary, and our having been baptized in Him, we now belong of God. Kids of the kingdom. God’s children. When we realize and impart in our daily life circumstances the biblical truth of whose we are and who we are in Him, it changes our whole perspective on the lives that we live. “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” “We are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.” We are somebody! The sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Baptism of the Lord Sunday is a great time for we who belong to the Body of Christ to rededicate ourselves in the ministry of our Lord. Amen. We rededicate ourselves to His worship. We rededicate ourselves even more sincerely in the study of His Word and to Prayer. We rededicate our tithes and offerings and talents to the Lord for the growth and expansion of His church.
Call us back, dear Lord to loving you with all our hearts, our souls and our minds, just for the sake of loving you, and not because we want a blessing. Call us back dear Lord, to giving you, the best of our service, the best of our praise and the best of our commitments, in season and out of season. Services of consecration are a time for recall. Call us back O Lord from showing up late and can’t wait until the benediction is given, so that we can leave early.
Who among us this day will consecrate ourselves to the Lord? Who among us this day will rededicate our lives to Jesus? Who among us this day will serve the Lord with gladness?
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