Jason Free

It’s a Gift

by Jason Free on February 28th, 2024
Titus 3:4-7

I’ve often heard that words have power. That the tongue, a person’s tongue, is powerful. That what you say can build up, or it can tear down. And, I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself at times. A person compliments you or encourages you and it makes you feel good, but a person speaks ill of you or mocks you and you’re hurt. At one time, the words of a person meant everything. To make an agreement, you gave someone your “word” and that word, that promise that you spoke meant something. An honest person would often refuse to go back on their word. Words have power. 

As a parent I’m learning that in a very real way; I say something to my children, I tell them to do something, and they do it. They listen. They obey, but I would guess if you tell my children to do something, they might not listen to you. Not out of disrespect (I hope) but because they don’t know you. So, yes, words have power, but the extent of that power often depends on the one speaking the words. 

That brings us to this place. This baptismal font as it is often called. Pastor Casmer last week talked about how what happens here – when someone is baptized with water and the Word – how something amazing happens. That person is saved. It might be a child standing here, it might be an adult, often it’s an infant half-asleep – or perhaps screaming – resting in someone’s arms. In the end, it doesn’t matter who it is. The Words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are spoken, water is sprinkled, and salvation happens. Now, that salvation doesn’t happen because I said it does, or because another pastor said it does, or someone else doing the baptism said it does. No, that power comes from God. He gives his Word, and it’s his Word that saves us. But all this leads to a much bigger question, an important question: Why do I need to be saved? Why do you need to be saved?

There is a story (it’s a chapter really from a book titled Being and Nothingness), and in that story there is a person in a room all alone, and that person is looking through a keyhole at somebody else. As that person looks through that keyhole he is able to see what that someone else is doing – everything they’re doing – but they don’t know they’re being observed. They have no clue. Kinda creepy, right? Yet, as this person is doing this unobserved observing, he hears a noise coming from a door on the other side of the room, and he realizes somebody is looking at him through that door’s keyhole. He’s traumatized by this, he cannot bear it. Why? Because he loved being the unviewed viewer but can’t bear the thought of knowing that now he is the object of an unviewed viewer – he’s being watched. And, you see he realizes that now he can’t hide who he is, what he’s done, or what he will do.

Look, I don’t believe that anyone in this room would be okay with someone getting an unfiltered, out of-our control look at who they really are, and there is a reason for that. We all have something to hide – some sin, some guilt, some shame – a not so pleasant view of what we can really be like when we think no one is watching. Now, some here might say, “I have nothing to hide, my life’s an open book. I know my sins I admit them.” That’s good. But here’s the thing, whether you want to admit your faults, your sins, openly or not, this is why we all need to be saved because we are sinners, and we are not perfect, and anyone who has gotten a good look at us, knows it. You know it too. 

Now, does someone need to save you? Do you need saving? Some might say, “No.” Some, “Yes.” Some aren’t sure. But, you know what God said? You know what God did? He didn’t wait for us to figure it out. He saved us. And don’t miss this point, God saved us despite our sin. God saved you even as he observed your shameful works and heard your selfish thoughts. He saved you even if you don’t think you need him to, or you didn’t ask him too, maybe even didn’t want him to. He saved you because he knew that’s what we all needed. He saved you because he gave you his Word, not because you admit your sin, not because you feel bad about what you’ve done, not because you’ve tried really hard to make up for your wrongs. He saved you because he said would, he promised. And his Word, more than any other word, is powerful; what he says happens. 

Here we see it. Look what Paul writes, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us.” Go back to our passion reading for tonight from Mark. There is the kindness and love of God. There is Jesus. He is in a garden and he’s weeping as he’s praying. Why is he crying, why is Jesus (God?) crying? Because he knew what our sins deserve, and he knew that only he could endure the punishment for my sins, and your sins, and everyone else’s, and he gave his Word that he would do it, but that didn’t stop him from asking if there might be another way – there wasn’t – and God gave his Word. So, Jesus suffered. Jesus died, and he saved us. 

Listen to how Paul describes it, that saving, “He saved us not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” It’s here at this place, at this font, that God by the great power of his Word, gives us an even greater gift. He gives us, undeserved and unearned, a new life. And it truly is a gift, one we only can receive by faith.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the greatest gift giver. I don’t think my wife has been surprised by a single gift I’ve given her, mainly because I often have to ask her what I should give her. And what she tells me to get her, that’s the gift I get for her. When it comes to the gift of salvation, we often are tempted to think that God gives it to us because we want it, or we’ve asked for it, or we deserve it; we’ve worked hard for it. But Paul is clear, this gift of salvation isn’t our doing. We don’t deserve it. You didn’t earn it. It came by God’s mercy, and it was offered to you simply because God wanted to save you. He wanted to give you this gift. 

Receive it. Here through his Word, but also there through water and Word, receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ, Jesus.. Marvel at that gift. Open it. Understand what it means. “A rebirth…a renewal…the hope of eternal life.” That’s what Paul writes. Just break those three things down really quickly. Rebirth. What does that mean? It means you’ve been born into God’s family now. That means sin is not your master. You have this new life. God is your Father, Jesus your brother, and the Spirit you’re guide and comfort as he dwells not just with you, but in you. That means you are renewed – that’s the second thing Paul mentions. This gift from God renews you. You can say “no” to sin. You can go to your Father’s throne and repent when you do sin and you will find forgiveness in Christ, and through Jesus you can offer others that same forgiveness. You now carry the power of God’s Word. Then there is that last thing, “The hope of eternal life.” 

That’s often our favorite. It’s our inheritance – what a gift! This is what you get here at this font. You get God’s Word, his promise, that you will be with him in heaven. That this life, when it ends, will be a mere drop in the bucket, a distant memory, as you come into glory for all eternity. One of my favorite hymns that I enjoy singing with my children at bedtime is “Amazing Grace.” The last stanza in particular is one my four-year-old daughter and I like to belt out. 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, 

Bright shining as the sun, 

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

I love this stanza because it reminds me of the eternity that I will one day be enjoying, and I’m confident that future is mine because I know my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Notice, however, that in this stanza the subject is plural. “We” will be there ten thousand years. “We” will have plenty of days to “sing God’s praise.” 

And do you know why we can sing that song without hesitation, with joy and certainty? Because God’s Word is powerful. It creates and strengthens faith, and here at this font we get to see that miracle happen. Here, through water and the Word God chooses to give each of us the greatest gift, one we simply receive; he saves us. He saved you. He kept his Word, and you’re the proof, for you are the heirs of God, and heaven is and will be your home. This is most certainly true. Amen.

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