“New Every Day” – Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6;1-11; Luke 3:15-22
Introduction – What did you look like?
What did you look like when you got up this morning? Did you have sleep in your eyes? Crud around your lips? Did you have a serious case of bed head? Pillow hair? Did a new zit or two magically appear on your face over night? Were your pajamas disheveled? Were you smelly? Did you have morning breath? Did your face somehow spell G-R-U-M-P-Y?
Our physical self is like that, but so is our spiritual self. At the very core of our being, are we really good people? NO! We have this sinful nature that the Bible calls our “Old Adam,” our “Old Eve.”
So, if that’s what you looked like on the outside, what did you look like on the inside when you got up this morning? Was there leftover bitterness and resentment from something that happened yesterday? Were there evil desires simmering below the surface, naughty words about to escape from your lips? Were your robes of righteousness disheveled? Did your face somehow spell G-R-U-D-G-E?
Our trio of Bible readings today (Isaiah 43:1-7,18-19 and Romans 6:1-11 and Luke 3:15-22) remind us not of what we look like but of who we are. They remind us that each day is a new day, a gift from God. They tell us that we are new every day, because of our Baptisms.
So, if and when you look like that little guy when you wake up, what do you do? You comb or brush your hair. You wash your face or maybe have a shower. Men, you probably deal with those facial whiskers. Women, you might choose to put on a little make-up. You brush your teeth. You put on some deodorant. You put on clean clothes, and hopefully a happier face. And then… you’re ready for the day.
If you consider what you look like on the inside, what do you do? You can’t do any of those outward appearance make-overs. You can’t keep a self-scrubbing brush in your mouth to sterilize your words before they are spoken. You can’t send that brush up a vein in order to rub your heart clean of any sinful attitudes, or intended actions. You can’t utter some abracadabra magic incantation that will change how you are for the better.
What you can do is be reminded of who God says you are and what God says you are, and then live that out every day. That’s what today’s Bible readings are about. Listen…
1. Isaiah 43 – Who God says you are!
The words in Isaiah 43 were spoken not to one person but to the people of Israel as a whole, and they were spoken during a time of international turmoil and threat. The oppression of the Assyrian world power on the northern Kingdom of Israel was either on the horizon or perhaps just in the rear-view mirror. The threat of the future world power of Babylon over the southern Kingdom of Judah was in the not too distant future. And Egypt was a constant, nagging thorn in the flesh of God’s people.
But what did God say to them, what did God remind them of when they were passing through turbulent waters and walking through fire? He said, “Fear not!!” That was the same consoling message that the angel Gabriel said to Mary before announcing that she would give birth to the Saviour. “Fear not!!” That was the same encouraging message that an angel in a dream gave to Joseph when he had determined not to marry his young ‘not-by-him’ pregnant fiancée. “Fear not!!” That was the same enlightening message that an angel shared with scared-out-of-their-wits shepherds in a Bethlehem field, adding that the Saviour had just been born for them. “Fear not!!”
God said to his threatened Old Testament people, “Fear not!!” They had passed through waters before in their history. They had crossed the Red Sea to escape Egyptian slavery. They had crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. They hadn’t literally walked through fire, but they were accompanied by the pillar of fire on their journey, and they may have seen the disgusting practice of other nations burning their first-born child, and three young men would literally be thrown into the fires of a burning furnace in Babylon 100 years later. So, “Fear not!!” was an appropriate message for God’s threatened people.
But why were they to “Fear not!!”? God says, “I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. You are precious in my eyes. I love you. I am with you.” It was not that nothing bad would ever happen to them. It was because God had everything under control, and they had a precious and redeemed relationship with Him, and He would never let any of those inevitable bad things irreversibly tarnish and destroy that relationship.
I think we can relate to some of those words from Isaiah 43. During 2021, some of us here in B.C. have had close calls with respect to passing through the waters associated with atmospheric rivers of the fall, while others have quite literally walked or driven through the ravaging forest fires of the heat dome of the summer. Those kinds of circumstances, along with a pesky, ‘never-give-up’ virus, can lead us to fear, and can further stain our already old and tarnished Adam or Eve.
But God’s words are as true and as applicable to life in the 21st century A.D. as they were in the 7th century B.C. And so we realize and appreciate the reality of our relationship with God – we have been redeemed by Him; we have been called by name; we belong to Him; we are precious to and loved by Him; He is with us through thick and thin, through wet and hot. On the outside, we may appear disheveled. On the inside we are whole, and holy. We are new every day.
2. Luke 3 – Who God says you are!
Now, let’s consider the Gospel reading from Luke 3. Luke 1 is one of those “Fear not!!” announcements – the one announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary. Luke 2 is the account of Jesus’ birth, the “Fear not!” to the shepherds, and Jesus’ visit to the Jerusalem temple at Passover when He was 12. In Luke 3, John the Baptist arrives on the public scene, encouraging people to prepare their hearts and lives for the coming Saviour. John introduces Baptism to those people, but also points to Jesus as the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So, water and fire show up again!
We hear a very brief account of Jesus’ own Baptism, with very little fanfare – just the dove-like descent of the Holy Spirit, and the affirming words of God the Father: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” Those words are powerful and significant. They indicate something about relationship, and something about role and action.
Relationship – “You are my beloved Son.” This confirms to the adult Jesus what had been spoken to His mother Mary at the time of His conception – “He will be called the Son of the Most High [God].” This is what we confessed today in the Nicene Creed: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father…” Jesus has that I-trust-in-you-and-can-count-on-you-for-everything relationship with the creator of the universe, the most high God. The heavenly Father has that you-are-loved-and-precious-in-my-eyes relationship with the one whom He sent to be the Saviour of the world.
Role and Action – “With You I am well pleased.” Jesus hadn’t really done much yet. He had attended Passover with His parents, but He hadn’t endured the temptations of the devil, He hadn’t healed, and taught, and done miracles, and cast demons out of people. He hadn’t gone to the cross to pay the price for your sins… but He would. The Father knew that, and was pleased at Jesus’ willing submission to the redemption plan. So, as Jesus began His ministry and His mission of saving the world, the Father was already indicating a deep satisfaction with Jesus’ role and His pending actions.
Those words of both relationship and role relate specifically to Jesus. Can we apply them to ourselves? Yes, and no.
No… because we are not God’s only beloved Son. That relationship is reserved for Jesus alone. No… because we do not with our lives fully please God, we do not perfectly offer our bodies and lives as a living, holy, acceptable sacrifice to God.
Yes… because, through Jesus’ Baptism and through our faith connection to Jesus in our own Baptisms, God considers us His own redeemed and precious daughters and sons, adopted and made heirs of all that God wants to give us.
Yes… because, when God looks at us and our lives through the lens of Jesus, He sees not the stained and tarnished old Adam and old Eve with our disheveled spiritual hair and repulsive spiritual morning breath, but the new and cleansed and righteous persons that we are when Jesus’ own righteousness covers us perfectly.
We can hear those words first spoken to Jesus and apply them to our lives every day: “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.” We are new every day.
3. Romans 6 – Who God says you are!
Finally, we get to the Bible reading that talks the most and the most directly to Baptism and to our spiritual make-over, being new every day.
Without using those terms, Paul unpacks the idea of the “Old Adam” and “Old Eve.” He asks the rhetorical question, “Should we who follow Jesus continue in sin? Should we deliberately sin knowing that God’s grace is bigger than our sin, and He’ll forgive us?”
Paul’s answer to his own question is forceful – By no means! Other Bible translations say: Certainly not! No! No! God forbid!
Then Paul says that by our Baptisms, by our faith connection to Jesus’ death, our old sinful self has also been put to death and buried. Bye, bye, Old Adam! Bye, bye, Old Eve! That’s not who we are anymore. Just as Jesus was raised from death, so we are raised to walk in new life – a New Adam, a New Eve! And that is NEW EVERY DAY!! The last sentence in that Epistle reading said, “You must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Dead to sin, alive to God. Old is gone, new has come.
We read how Luther understood this passage and this concept: “The Old Adam/Eve in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man/woman should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Daily contrition and repentance – that’s a true and genuine sorrow over how you have failed to love God and how you have failed to love others. The new self starts by drowning the old self.
When it does, we can recall and rejoice every day that we are redeemed, renewed, reborn children of God. And what does that look like? (Oh, remember we’re not talking about what it looks like on the outside, but what it looks like on the inside, and how that impacts the outside.)
We can contrast what Paul calls the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. Impurity, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, division – that’s the works of the flesh. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – that is the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives. That’s from the book of Galatians.
The book of Ephesians has a similar contrast – the old self of falsehood, bitterness, wrath, slander, corrupting talk… contrasted with the new self of kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, encouragement and love.
In Philippians, Paul urges us to think about things that are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent.
Colossians picks up the same old self / new self contrast – immorality, impurity, covetousness, idolatry, obscene talk compared to the new self characterized by compassion, meekness, humility, patience, and love that binds everything together.
Further on in Romans Paul paints what a new-every-day Christian life looks like: genuine love, honouring others, showing hospitality, contributing to the needy, living peaceably with all.
Now please hear, please know that the new-every-day Christian life does not lead to us being saved, being precious in God’s eyes. It’s the other way around – being saved, being precious in God’s eyes – thanks to Jesus – leads us to live the new-every-day Christian life.
4. New Every Day application
So, how do we apply that new-every-day to our lives? It has everything to do with who you are and with what’s on the inside. When you wake up every day, don’t just look in the mirror to see your bed head, the sleep in your eyes, and to smell your morning breath. Look deeper… deeper… on the inside… and see WHO you are – that redeemed child of God, called by name, precious, righteous, loved by God, with an innate newness of life that arose from the waters of your Baptism. That’s who you are, and that can never change because it has been determined by the magnanimous grace of God. Yes, you get to start every day NEW – yesterday’s sins and failures drowned by repentance, God’s grace and mercy refreshing your very being. When you know what’s on the inside, who is on the inside, then you apply who you are to everything you do.
You can consider any of those things that Paul wrote about in any of his letters:
patience – with your kids… new-every-day
tenderheartedness – with your wife… new-every-day
encouragement – toward your husband… new-every-day
self-control – at the shortcomings of others… new-every-day
demonstrating hospitality – toward a stranger… new-every-day
compassion and generosity – for the needy… new-every-day
honouring… others… new-every-day.
Finally, let’s consider the practical application of these questions:
How can you remember your baptism daily?
What will you do to ensure that this happens?
How can it fit into your daily routine?
There are some simple things you can do – like:
– make the sign of the cross and say the words that were spoken at your Baptism – “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That can remind you that you are a new-every-day Baptized child of God.
– use the water in the sink or shower to recall the Baptismal waters that were connected with God’s powerful word and promises on the day that you were baptized.
– use a devotional resource to enliven your spiritual being and to remember to whom you belong.
– pray the Lord’s prayer to continue that daily relationship with “Our Father” / YOUR Father.
– spend a few minutes in the Bible to learn even more about who you are in Christ.
In all these ways, be assured that God has you safely in His grip, and that you are a forgiven, redeemed, beloved, new-every-day child of a gracious God. Amen.