The Urgent Need for a Baptismal Spirituality

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The theological insights we gain from Jesus’ baptism are not random, entertaining theological facts. Instead our theology of Jesus’ baptism should lead us into the development of a baptismal spirituality. The great Reformer Martin Luther spoke to the spiritual significance of baptism in his Large Catechism. He wrote:

In baptism…every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life.…Thus, we must regard baptism and put it to use in such a way that we may draw strength and comfort from it when our sins or conscience oppress us, and [we can] say: ‘But I am baptized!’[1]

Following Luther’s advice to study and practice our baptism, let me suggest three ways Jesus’ baptism should shape our spiritual life with God.

The pattern of dying and rising in baptism and the spiritual life (Romans 6:1-14)

First, we remember that our spiritual life is shaped around the pattern of dying and rising. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Romans 6:1-14, a Scripture passage that I read every time we celebrate baptisms at Eastbrook. Here are verses 3 and 4:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. (Romans 6:3-4)

Because of Jesus’ baptism, because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from death as the representative Messiah, we are invited into a spiritual life where we die to ourselves and live to God, we die to sin and we live to holiness, we die to what is not life and we rise into what is life.

Each day, we echo our baptism by surrendering ourselves to God in death to self and rising up in obedience to God by the Holy Spirit’s power. We say, echoing Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.”

Sometimes life has to go down before it can go up.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the call to dying and rising seen in baptism.

The call to suffering in baptism and the spiritual life (Luke 12:50; Mark 10:38-40)

Second, Jesus’ baptism reminds us that our spiritual life is a call to suffering. John’s baptism was a call to die to sin, to name it, to turn from it, and to enter into life. It was a call to spiritual renunciation of the self in order to follow God.

Jesus’ baptism was that, but it was also something more. His baptism in history prefigured a baptism of suffering that He would have to endure. Later in the gospel accounts, Jesus said:

I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! (Luke 12:50)

Jesus here refers to His upcoming suffering on the Cross. We do not recreate what Jesus suffered, but our spiritual life is an invitation into a cross-shaped existence. Jesus’ invites human beings trapped in an upside-down world to turn to God through death to self. This involves suffering. If our Christianity does not involve some level of suffering, we are probably not Christians or have misunderstood the calling of Christ. Not only that, but we are also called as believers to enter into the suffering of others. By choosing to enter into the suffering of others—the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the dying, the imprisoned, the spiritually empty—we shine the light of Christ into dark places, bringing hope, joy, and peace where darkness seems to reign.

Sometimes life has to go down before it can go up.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the call to suffering seen in baptism.

The joy of God’s delight in baptism and the spiritual life (Matthew 3:17; Acts 2:38)

Third, lest we think that developing a baptismal spirituality is all pain and suffering, Jesus’ baptism also helps us remember that our spiritual life is centered around the joy of God’s delight in us. Jesus is the unique Son of God who fully reveals the Triune nature of God and manifests God’s kingdom and salvation into our midst. When Jesus rose from baptism, He heard the words of the Father over Him: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus has come to make that a reality for us as well. As the Messiah, Jesus brings good news to us that we are not trapped by the power of sin, but that we can turn from sin’s power through repentance to God for life and new beginnings as His children. Peter preached about this at the very beginning of the church when he said:

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Baptism speaks of forgiveness. It is a sign of the old being washed away and the new coming again. We can begin again.  The Holy Spirit speaks of adoption. We can become God’s children. We begin again in God’s delight and love for us. Even as Jesus heard those words, “This is my Son, whom I love,” so, too, we, in baptism, experience the very great reality that we are children of God whom God loves more than we can comprehend. When we remember our baptism, we likewise remember we are loved by God. That reality should center us in God’s love for us every day and motivate us to live with love for others every day.

Our spiritual life must be shaped by the joy of God’s delight in us as seen in baptism.


[1] Martin Luther, as quoted in Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000); referenced here: https://www.livinglutheran.org/2015/02/mythbusting/.

The Loving Care of God

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

This passage in Luke comes within an extended exhortation by Jesus about acknowledging Him in our lives and living fearlessly in the face of persecution. Yet right here, in the middle of that bracing word, is a profoundly comforting word about the way God relates to us. The way that God knows us, says Jesus, is with loving care and attention. Like a purchaser paying attention to a group of sparrows he buys or a person trying to count the number of hairs on their head, God’s loving care goes all the way down to the details of you and me. God knows us and God also cares for us. What a wonder!

In comparison to God’s ever-aware care for flighty sparrows and innumerable follicles of hair, as humans made in God’s image we are far more valuable and worthy of care. How valuable? As the gospel story continues, we begin to see just how valuable we are to God and just how far His care will go toward us. The Apostle John summarizes it in bold truth:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

Today take time to remember the loving care of God. Whether on the mountain peaks of joy or the shadowed valleys of despair, know that God is tenderly present and lovingly caring for you, whether you see it or not.

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34

Worry and Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series “The Kingdom Life” by exploring the topic of worry and faith. My message centered on Jesus’ words in Luke 12:22-34, giving some attention to John 20:19 and Philippians 4:6-7 as well.  Here’s my contention: if Jesus opens the doorway to God’s presence through the Cross and the Resurrection, then it is possible to move from a place of fear to fearlessness in our lives.

I started off with the results of the 3rd annual Survey of American Fears. I’m not sure what you’re most afraid of, but you might enjoy looking at the last few entries on the list of all fears Americans have.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.

 

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