Ebenezer Presbyterian wishes to express our condolences on the passing of Dr. Troy Morgan to his family and to the congregations of Golden City and Lockwood Presbyterian churches, whom he served as their pastor. I have worked alongside Dr. Troy and have always appreciated his commitment to faith and his sense of humor. He will be missed.
On the Christian calendar, this Sunday celebrated the baptism of Jesus. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, meaning that those who submitted to it were testifying of their desire to repent. They had heard John’s call to put God in first place. However, Jesus had nothing of which to repent, hence, John’s reluctance. At first, John refused, but when Jesus insisted, John relented. However, unlike all the others who had been baptized, something different occurred when Jesus came up out of the water.
I’ve often wondered why it was necessary for Jesus to be baptized. Maybe it was a witness to John, so he would recognize his cousin Jesus as the Messiah for whom he prepared the way. Perhaps it was meant to show those seeking God’s will that Jesus was the “Way.” In any case, there is one part of this experience, as recorded in Luke 3, that struck me today: God’s response.
Reading my e-mail today, I found a story about a math teacher who had her students write one positive comment about every other student in the class. After receiving their classmates’ thoughts, the students carried around those affirmations from their peers for many years. Positive comments can strengthen us, just as negative words tear us down. The end of that e-mail insisted that we not wait to tell others how we feel, that we tell others what we appreciate, what we love, what is special about them.
One of the most essential affirmations a child can receive is from his or her parents, especially the father. The opinion of the father will go a long way toward lifting up or tearing down a child’s, especially a daughter’s, self-esteem. God models this truth for us in Jesus’ baptism when He affirms Jesus, expressing His love for and approval of His only Son, Jesus.
Luke reports that after Jesus was baptized, “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22). In that sentence, we sense the connection between God and Jesus. In front of many, as a testimony to John, God empowers and speaks words that lift up and encourage His Son.
“How does that apply to my life?” you might ask.
First, in God’s affirmation of love for and approval of Jesus, we can recognize God’s love for and approval of us, not because of what we have done right, but because of who Jesus is within us. When we experience salvation, Christ’s righteousness—His lack of sin—is imputed, or given to us. We are no longer seen by our own promises or faults, but by the lack of fault found in Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us, in Roman 8:15-17:
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Today, if you are in Christ, you are God’s child, and because of Christ, God says to you today, “You are my son. You are my daughter. In you I am well pleased.”
Second, God’s response in Jesus baptism is an example for us, how we can show the love of Christ to others. Throughout the Bible God speaks to His people with words of affirmation and love. While it is also true that God speaks words of judgment to them, God’s end purpose is always the lifting up of the people back to a right relationship, not to tear them down.
Matthew records Jesus’ words: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:46-48). How can we be “perfect”? One way is by loving those with whom we come in contact, by loving others even when they are not our friends or the people we would ordinarily choose to love.
We can love our friends and enemies by using our words to build them up and not to tear them down. Like the students in the story mentioned earlier, you have the opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life, not just for today, but for years to come, by the words you use to speak to them.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to tell someone how you feel. Let them know that you love them and God loves them. And if the person doesn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, be sure to tell them just how much Jesus loved them, so much that He gave His life.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church