Archive for January, 2016

Getting our own way

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

1 Corinthians 13

 

StMarksThe most amazing thing about God’s love is how vast it is. The arms of the cross of Jesus reach out to enfold every person who has ever lived (no matter how bad they were), and all those still to come. We sinful humans could never love like that! We can even have problems showing loving concern for those closest to us in our own homes.

In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians reading today, we heard a familiar text often read at weddings. It is a beautiful expression of God’s love, but the reality for us human beings is that it is difficult to build the other person up when we don’t get our own way. It is easier to work at nagging the other person in subtle attacks that lower their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, when we don’t get our own way it is hard enough to show the unselfish and loving concern to the people we are closest to in life, let alone showing loving concern to strangers. Jesus, on the other hand, gives an example of a person showing loving concern for a stranger in desperate need of help. We would all be familiar with the parable about the person who was robbed, then bashed up and left dying on the roadside of life. Three different people came past. Each one could have stopped and given the man some help. But it isn’t the pastor, or the church committee member who takes the risk to stop and reach out to give a helping hand. It is an indigenous person, a half-caste, like the Samaritans were. The Samaritan didn’t just give him a few dollars and wish him all the best, and go away feeling good about himself. He goes to all the trouble of loading the stranger onto his donkey, like a four legged ambulance, and takes him to the Inn. He pays for all the expenses in advance.

How unlike people in our modern society! Some would say it is stupid or even crazy to bother to do something like that. But that is the loving concern of Jesus for you and me and every person in the world! If in doubt, look again at the cross and the arms pointing out in every direction to go right round the world. The type of religion Jesus puts forward is a love that costs him everything. Jesus is the one who fulfils this beautiful chapter on love.

Jesus didn’t come into our world with fanfare, like a noisy gong or clanging cymbals. He came quietly in the still of night with a few animals and shepherds for company. Jesus doesn’t leave this world with a big send off or any national awards or medals. He exits via a public execution, a shameful way to go, and out in public for everyone to see. It is the cost of this love that reaches out to you and me.

Jesus doesn’t win people by using prophetic powers to impress them, or by having a smart answer to every question people might have. Jesus wins their love by changing places with people on the cross.  Jesus has prophetic powers, and he understands all mysteries and all knowledge, but he wins people by his self-giving love that costs him everything.

The key point today is that we don’t fulfil this law of unselfish love, described so beautifully in this chapter. We really struggle to show loving concern to others. It is Jesus who fulfils this law of love for us.

If one wants to know what God is like, don’t look for the answer on Google or in the stars. Don’t look for the answer in nature even though it is God’s genius and his creative mind at work out there too. No, if one wants to know what God is really like, then look at the arms of Jesus stretched out on the cross. “God’s love never ends”.

In conclusion, listen to verses 4 to 7 from chapter 13, with the word ‘love’, replaced by ‘Jesus’.

“Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and he keeps no record of when he has been wronged. He is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

 

 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

His task is completed

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Luke 4:14-21

 

 

StMarksToday’s Gospel text tells us, that after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. He went to many synagogues and taught there. Wherever he went, people glorified him.

Perhaps news had spread of how well he spoke by the time he returned to the place where he had been brought up, his home town of Nazareth. As was his usual custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he unrolls it and reads Isaiah 61:1. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. He rolls the scroll back up and hands it back to the assistant and sits down, and while all eyes were fixed on Him, He says: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’.

Jesus is declaring that this scripture is about him. Jesus is the anointed one, anointed not by oil as in the Old Testament, but by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Jesus begins, but begins what? The sermon? No, his sermon was short. He begins his appointed task of declaring salvation and freedom. He doesn’t just say that it is coming, but that it is actually here and has been fully completed.

Jesus begins his ministry of preaching good news to the poor. We poor ones, who have nothing to offer God, who don’t think that we have any talents to offer God, who struggle in our obedience, who lack spiritual discipline – we hear the good news that it is Christ who is obedient to death and who has accepted us as his own through baptism, despite how poor in Spirit, wealth or self-worth we are. It is us who have nothing to offer who hear his words as good news. For because we are in Christ, we are rich. Today we have salvation through Christ. We have more than we think because we are able to offer the very things he wants us to give him – prayer and praise. Ironically, quite often a response to those who have much to offer as they are reluctant to offer these because they are too busy selling themselves and their talents.

Jesus begins his ministry of proclaiming freedom for the prisoners. Who are the prisoners? We who are bound by the chains of the past, who are bound by feelings of guilt or shame for the things that we have done or not done in the past; we who wonder ‘did God really forgive me for that thing in the past because it was surely too big to forgive’. Receive the good news that we are forgiven and no longer bound by our past sins. We who are bound up trying to be a good person, chained to the thought of trying to be acceptable to God, receive the good news that we are free to be children of God. For all of us whose conscience is being held captive by the devil, we have been freed by Christ. For in Christ we are free indeed, free to be children of God, free to come to him and ask for forgiveness, free to be bound to Christ.

Jesus begins his ministry of giving back sight to the blind. Who are the blind? We who are living in the darkness of deception and temptation, we who are keeping our past sins in the dark where they can destroy our soul. We, who continue to live in the dark, are to receive sight and light. Jesus Christ is the true light who gives us a guiding light to live by. He opens our eyes to see the truth – the truth about our sinful state and the truth about his gracious words. He shines his light into our darkest past, not to destroy us, but to heal us through the precious words of forgiveness, those healing words that wash away our darkness so that we may live as people of the light.

Jesus begins his ministry of releasing those who are oppressed. Who are the oppressed? We who are burdened, shattered or weakened by life’s struggles with sin. We who have broken relationships because of the consequences of sin, who are broken in spirit, broken in body or soul – we are released. We are released from our sins because Christ offers us forgiveness. We are released from the binding power of Satan. We are released from our debts of the past, because now is the time of the Lord’s favour.

In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. In Judaism the Jubilee Year is currently not observed in modern times because it only applies when representatives of all twelve tribes have returned to Israel and a majority of the world’s Jews live in the Land.

In Christianity, the tradition dates to 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII convoked a holy year, following which ordinary jubilees have generally been celebrated every 25 or 50 years; with extraordinary jubilees in addition (depending on need). The last Holy Year was celebrated in 2000, and Pope Francis declared recently that an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ will be held in 2016.

But what does that mean: I’m not really sure-maybe it’s as the conspiracy people are suggesting that with nearly all countries being in debt to each other, and that then combined a Global Financial Crisis Mark II, that somehow they’ll wipe the slate clean through some sought of “One world controlling bank.”

I’m not really sure: or maybe it’s like the guy dying of a terminal illness in a remote town who cashed out his credit card to the max. and used the money to make himself a burial casket out of galvanised iron, filled it with ice and alcohol drinks and invited his mates around knowing that upon his death the bank would simply write the debt off-“”That’ll shown them.”

However a Jubilee year looks in earthly terms I’m not sure, but in Christ Christians could argue that every year is a year of Jubilee because of Jesus reinterpreted of Leviticus that shows now, today we are able to live in freedom, knowing that the price of all our debts have been fully paid in the death of Jesus. This is the time when we can rest from our heavy labours and be served by God.

But how does Jesus release us and heal us? How does he give us rest? Jesus releases our sins through the words of absolution. The words the pastor speaks that are not his own,

but are words that Jesus himself speaks to us. We receive forgiveness of sins at our baptism. We return to our baptism with a contrite heart to be sorry for our sins so that daily we may be a new and fully restored person who can live before God in righteousness and purity. We receive forgiveness of sins at the Lord’s Supper where Jesus gives us his holy body, his holy blood for us to eat and drink so that we too become holy.

Today his task is completed for you today for you have been freed because for Luke, ‘today’ is a word linked with news of salvation. We recently heard those words ‘today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you’ (Lk 2:11). Later in Luke’s gospel account, Jesus says to Zaccheus: ‘Come down. I must stay at your house today’ (19:5) and when he gets there he says ‘today salvation has come to this house’ (19:9). And when Jesus was on the cross, during the last hours of a criminal’s life, he says to him: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’. But this is a special ‘today’ because it remains fulfilled even today, the 24th of January, 2016.

His task is fully completed for you, but yet it is not fully completed until he comes again because there is still need for his word, which he has given to his body – the church – to preach to the poor, the bound, the blind, the oppressed. We live in this in-between time where even though it is fully fulfilled, we still look forward to its fulfilment.

It is true that only Jesus could read this text, for it is only completed in Christ, but we too can say ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor’. We too have been baptised, been joined to Christ, been anointed as his priests to go out into the world and preach the gospel, the good news to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. He has empowered us to tell others that even in our ‘free’ country; we are still bound by our sinful nature and are prisoners of Satan. But even more importantly, we can now point to Christ and tell people that there is no freedom from our chains except through Christ. For even though forgiveness comes from God, it is through Jesus Christ and his precious gifts of absolution, baptism and the Lord’s Supper that we receive his forgiveness.

So now we can go out as true free people, freed from sin, death and the power of the devil and serve Him in that truth that all praise be to God through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Is your Marriage broken

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Isaiah 62:4-6

 

StMarksMarriage is a special and unique relationship so in our readings today God uses this close and unique relationship to describe his relationship with his people.

As we know, marriage can turn into a disaster, and hence in the land of the rich and famous the prenuptial agreement is almost a given. I wonder what the lawyers would make of one of the worst non pre-nup. Marriages as described in Hosea.

A marriage that saw Hosea’s wife turned to prostitution and sold her body for money. Their relationship was broken. In Hosea 2 we read:

“But now, call Israel to account, for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to take off her garish make-up and suggestive clothing and to stop playing the prostitute.”

Hosea’s marriage was a reflection of God’s relationship with his people. The unique relationship of God with his people had completely broken down. The people had left him and were chasing after other gods. What particularly hurt God was that everything his bride (the Israelites) had accumulated had come from God’s loving and caring hands: both her daily needs and her special treasures.

“She doesn’t realise that it was I who gave her everything she has – the grain, the wine, the olive oil. Even the gold and silver she used in worshiping the god Baal were gifts from me.” [Hosea 2:8]

 

It is amazing that God creates people to populate this flourishing earth, gives them everything they need and more, and yet these ungrateful people turn their backs on him and chase after the treasures, which become their gods. Everything they receive is from the generous hands of God – even their very bodies. Everything they might crave and lust after is his generous work. The creative genius of God is seen in every plant, and animal; every drop of life giving rain; each newborn baby, and the daily food we enjoy. But people prefer the gifts to the giver.

The bridegroom wants what is best for his wife and children. He wants his bride to be faithful to him and showers her with gifts but she prostitutes herself and chases after other men. Even the children are not his own.

“And I will not love her children as I would my own because they are not my children. They were conceived in adultery.” [Hosea 2:4].

There are many people today who live as if they have no husband – or God – even though everything comes from his love and care.

But God doesn’t give up on his bride – his people. He wins her back with a love so costly that people might say, “What a waste of a great love!” God’s love never gives up reaching out to people. That is the key message of Epiphany.

Even though only a few people visited the child Jesus, and they were foreigners from far away, God’s love doesn’t give up in reaching out to people. He doesn’t look at the few who turn up, and give up in disgust. He continues to reach out like the arms of the cross reach out in love to encircle the earth and everyone who lives on it.

There’s a saying of cheap grace by some towards others they see as accepting it a little too unrespectfully. God’s love isn’t cheap! The bridegroom is tortured to death, and blamed for the bride’s unfaithfulness. He gives up everything he has for his bride. This is the love that won you and me. In Isaiah 62:4,5 the Scripture announces:
“Never again will you be called the Godforsaken City, or the Desolate Land. No longer will you be called ‘Forsaken’, or your land be called ‘The Deserted Wife’. Your new name will be ‘the city of God’s delight’ and ‘the Bride of God’, for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his own. …Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

God spoils us! We receive everything from God’s caring and generous hands: just like a devoted bridegroom loves to spoil his bride with expensive gifts and provide for her. Like a bride, we can be proud of our God, and count on him for our future together. We are the bride he loves to spoil.

What an important day a wedding is! It can be one of the most important turning points in one’s life. It’s a time for celebration, and feasting and gathering together with friends and relatives. As we heard in our gospel today, the first miracle Jesus performs is to make the new start to a marriage a social success. He provides hundreds of litres of the best wine. He comes up with the goods where the bridegroom and his family had failed (explain). God cares about us and our relationships!

We belong in a special relationship with God. His loving care and concern for us never end. Any weakness in the marriage relationship is on our side. It can hurt him in many different ways, but he never gives up. In the wine at the Lord’s table we receive the best he has. The cup of wine offered to us isn’t just to forget our troubles: it is given so we can remain united with him forever.

Our earthly marriages are limited. We are reminded of this in the words of the marriage vow, “Till death us do part”. In the unique relationship we enjoy with God, death can not separate us. In fact the opposite happens. Death brings us closer together. It unites us with Jesus in perfect love.

In a marriage partnership it is probably true to say one can never fully understand one’s partner. In some aspects the partner can still be a bit of a stranger. So it is in our relationship with the God who loves us.

On our journey together we don’t always know what he is thinking or planning. We live in a relationship of trust. Part of this trust is that God knows better than we do about important things like love and forgiveness, and our future.

A future that sometimes is not as planned like that of this groom who after 11 years of being gainfully employed and approaching married did a tally of his possessions and most surely saw that I did not need a prenuptial clause in the wedding papers as a fading old falcon as some second hand furniture did not amount to a great deal of material value. A collective total of asset worth that amounted to less than I had been given playing country football. 11 years of wiping out brain cells even though I didn’t have a whole lot to spare, and 11 years times and situations that maybe I had to travel, yet was changed when my bride to be “re-introduced” me to our Lord Saviour.

Now 21 years later I can clearly see God at work before I properly knew Him, just as I can since.

Times even when He let me be boxed in with my own shortfalls and mistakes that I had no option than to go a certain way. To travel a road I’d prefer travel not, but a road that always seemingly against the odds ended in a positive way that I would not have guessed nor planned for.

Road’s where we all travel with God where not He, but we if anyone put in a prenuptial agreement to our Father to act and provide as we think He should.

The wisdom of the Lord like that spoken to Gideon who though having 32,000 men at his disposal, was told by the Lord to attack the enemy the Midianites with no more than 300 hundred of them.

Three hundred against the opposition camp in what the bible describes as “people laying along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels without number as the sand that is on the seashore.” Odds said to be off 450 to 1 yet with some crafty bluff tactics had the Midianites shaking in their boots as they ran for their lives.

The wisdom of the Lord and the road before us that sometimes we all travel like that of Jacob who though only needed to cross the road to become Israel, decided to take the long route with God constantly steering him back to the relationship that God had planned. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

A future here and a picture given to the end of our time on earth as pictured in the New Testament like a bridal party waiting for the groom to arrive.

Until then, we live in hope and trust in our Lord through faith. Faith that He is with us when decisions and situations are against the type. But faith that see us when he arrives knowing of and living in His perfect love. Our God is love. Now we know him a little – from a distance as it were. But through Jesus’ death, he has claimed us as his promised bride. Then our own death will mark the beginning of the closest and greatest relationship possible with the God of love. Our old self will have disappeared completely. We will be the perfect bride for the perfect bridegroom. We shall be united forever in perfect love with God and live with him in his home. It is the best union one can ever enjoy-today though it may seem overcast, and in that tomorrow when the clouds give way that we clearly see to the unencumbered rays of sunshine radiating from our Saviour Jesus Christ-and know not only through faith, but through touch, feel, sound and smell see that yes, when there was only one set of footprints on that sandy beach-they surely were not ours, but that of the Lord carrying His most precious cargo. His cargo not of gold, jewels or diamond that was in honour His to have, but that to what He had to have that could only be bought with the cost of His own life. That which is you. That not only you who He knows by name, but you who He knows as His brother or sister in both this life and in the one to come. Praise be to the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen.

Often tempted

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Isaiah 43:1-7

  • StMarksThere are times in our lives when we are tempted to turn from the person we most love.
  • There are times in our lives when we are tempted to leave what we most treasure.
  • There are times in our lives when we are tempted to deny what we most believe in.

I’ve heard of a supposedly happily married man who went on a business trip and ended up in bed with another woman – why would he do that?

I’ve heard of a highly respected businessman who gambled away all his investors’ money – why would he do that?

I’ve heard of totally committed Christians who have totally renounced their faith – why would they do that?

People will give different answers for such erratic behaviour, but this much I know:

  • we need to be absolutely sure that we are totally loved by God, or we might fall,
  • we need to thank God and celebrate his love daily, or we might be led astray,
  • we need to pray for God’s help and commit to follow God daily, or we may sink.

Israel knew that it was created by God, and rescued and redeemed by God, and brought through the Red Sea into the Promised Land. Israel knew that God was faithful, and loving and that their future depended on God’s promises in his covenant with them, and their trust and obedience to live faithfully as God’s covenant people. But Israel constantly:

  • hankered after the fertility gods of the nations around them,
  • ignored the Sabbath in pursuit of materialism,
  • turned from the righteousness of God to treat the weak and poor & alien unjustly.

Despite all the warnings and calls to repentance from the prophets, God finally stepped in through invading armies and Israel was led into captivity. Here God lovingly wooed back the people he created and loved and had committed himself to.

But now says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you O Israel: Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine … I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom … Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you.

God is always more loving than his people, always more faithful than those he calls to follow him. Just imagine hearing words like that spoken to you after you have turned from the one you love, or cheated dreadfully in your business, or doubted God because you could not understand his ways. God does speak to you like that when times are good, and when you are at your worst. God is always loving and always faithful, regardless of how you feel towards him or treat him. “God is the same, yesterday, today and forever,” even if you bob all over the place on the turbulent waters of this life.

But how can we know God is always loving and faithful even when our love for him and others grows cold? How can we know that God is still faithful to us, even when we become unfaithful to him, or to his call on our life, or to our relationships at home or work? Let’s discover the love and faithfulness of God at Jesus’ baptism.

Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘you are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’

In 30 years all we know of Jesus is the stories of his birth, the visit of the wise men, and his parents taking him to the temple at twelve. After all these silent years, here Jesus stands in the queues waiting to be baptised by John. He looks like everybody else. He acts like everybody else. Nobody recognises him as different. In Luke’s Gospel, not even John is said to recognise him as the Son of God.

But suddenly the heavens are opened, and the Holy Spirit descended, and a voice spoke from heaven. This is no ordinary baptism. Every other baptism was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. This was the Messiah. This was the Son of God. This was God announcing from heaven, that his Son was here and ready to begin his ministry.

Listen to God’s amazing words to his Son: “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Almost a repeat of Isaiah 43 “I have called you by name, you are mine … you are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you.”

And if sinful Israel needed to hear such words from God, so sinless Jesus needed to hear them from his Father. Jesus was being called into a mission where he would be tempted every step of the way, every time he opened his mouth, and every time he acted in God’s name.

He would be questioned and ridiculed by church and state. He would be welcomed by the poor and needy, but rejected by the powerful. He came to bring life, but he was killed. What Israel did to God in the Old Testament, the people did to Jesus when he was on earth. How people rejected Jesus then is how people reject Jesus today. Yet he loves us. Yet he is faithful to us. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful.”

How could Jesus remain loving and faithful to God and us when faced with temptation, suffering and rejection and death? Because he heard God say at his baptism: “you are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In the strength of that assurance he could face all that the devil and rebellious humanity threw at him.

And God spoke the same words to Jesus at his transfiguration. In the strength of that assurance he could face his suffering and death. Every day Jesus met with his Father in prayer. Every Sabbath Jesus met with his Father in the synagogue. Because he knew how loved and precious he was to God, his Father, he was able to be loving and faithful to God, and to love us to the end.

God came to you once, as he did to a baby baptised today, in the water, with the Word: “you are my child … I have called you by name … you are precious in my sight and I love you.” In your Baptism you were baptised into Christ, and the words the Father spoke to his Son at his Baptism, he spoke to you his child, at your baptism. “You are my Son [my child], the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

We need to hear those words ringing in our ears each day as we begin and end the day with Jesus. We need to hear God telling us how much he loves us, each time we face temptation, each time we make decisions, each time we are called to take a stand for God. We need to celebrate God’s love in regular worship, eat and drink his love in Holy Communion, hear his love in regular Bible reading, and be encouraged in his love as we regularly meet with God’s beloved people. Leave today knowing you are God’s beloved child, & never forget it … never, ever forget it.

I am God’s beloved;
I am God’s beloved;
I am God’s beloved.    Amen.

Pastor David Christian

Chosen by God– Yes you!

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Christ esteem…chosen by God before everything – Yes you!

Ephesians 1:3 – 14

 

 

 

StMarksA few days ago we said goodbye to the Old year 2015 and saw the New year 2016 in. Maybe you even decided to make a New Year’s resolution.

New year’s resolutions usually mean, that we hope to change something in our lives, or give up something that is causing us grief.

We hope this will mean a new beginning, or a new start or maybe new things, all this to make us feel good about ourselves – to lift our self-esteem.

New Year resolutions are usually aimed at health, wealth, or a change of a behaviour. The reason we do this, is because we know that we are sick of the way we have become.

Maybe, you are like me who has struggled with my fitness – I have had good intentions to start walking and change my diet, but I can never quite get started.

Now unless we are truly strong willed and are really determined, our attempts to stick to our plan usually ends in disappointment, giving us a sense that we have failed, as we fall back into the same old habits that have been tormenting us.

Our self-esteem ends up in tatters and all seems lost, we feel alone, and helpless – What is the point?

At these times we feel utterly worthless, useless. We can’t even do what we want to do, let alone what we ought to do.

It could be that I would like to love others better, or get angry with others less often, or when people ask for help, that I actually do what I say I will do. I ask myself why is this so?

In Pauls letter to the Romans 7:19-20 we read, 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. It is because of sin, this is the reason why we have low self-esteem and no confidence in ourselves.

In all this we ask where is God? We feel distant from Him, maybe we are ashamed and don’t want to be close to God. Anyway, why would God even bother about me? Does God even care about me?

If you still have doubts – In our reading today Paul reassures us in verse 4, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.

God has chosen you, in love. He knows you, because he Himself has created you. He knows that you are weak in sin, but in Jesus Christ he chose you and willed you to be his forever.

Listen carefully to the Words from Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

In this verse we have five references that speak to you! Created you, formed you, redeemed you, called you, and you are mine!

God is speaking to you. Yes, you! He has called you by name, He has chosen you!

But how do we know that God has chosen you and me?

Firstly, something has brought you here to church this morning. Amongst the busy-ness of your lives you have come here to worship, when you could have been doing something else, like sleeping in or visiting friends

Well the reason you are here, is because you are in Christ.  Paul uses these two important words in Christ which appear Three times in our text.

It is here that Paul is focusing our attention on in Christ, as the key to our salvation. Paul wants you to know, that God gave his Son for you;

Just pause for a moment and think about this…

this is how much He thinks that you are important, He want’s you, Yes, you! God raised Jesus again for you, to give you eternal life. God’s great saving plan in Christ is for you, to lift you up, to show you what you are really worth.

You are special. God has chosen you and me. He has predestined us for adoption. Verse 5 says, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

In Baptism we have be adopted, reborn into God’s family through His Son Jesus and his atoning blood, death and resurrection. United together, we have been adopted as Gods true family. It is because of this we know that we inherit what is God’s (1:11; Rom 8:17).

Now here is the thing, it doesn’t matter about our self-esteem. It does and always will be destined to fail and disappoint us.

You start to doubt yourself. When this happens it leads to you no longer valuing yourself – you doubt your self-worth.

The reason that this happens is because of our sinful nature, our self-esteem just doesn’t cut it. But that’s not the end… in Jesus you have Christ esteem.

It is because Jesus has died for you – you have Christ esteem. Jesus values you and loves you more than his own life.

God has sacrificed his Beloved Son, who died for you, and rose for you, for your salvation. Now that is really something. You are special.

It is because of God’ love in Christ that you are special. Do you know why? Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

What is Paul saying to us in this verse? It is because of God’s grace that he has chosen you. Because you have been baptized into Christ and united with Him, you too are beloved of God.

As God said to those who witness Jesus baptism “this is my beloved Son, whom I am well pleased (Matt 3:17). So to when you are sorry and repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as your saviour, you become Gods beloved children. It’s not just Christ but we too who become Gods beloved.

Christ esteem is the there for you, Why, because God has redeemed you through the shedding of His blood. Verse 7 says, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

The prophet Isaiah says in 43:1 I have called you by name, you are mine. In 1 Peter 2:9 you are a chosen race. Yes, you.

Do we have a guarantee? We sure do. In verse 13, Paul speaks about us receiving the Holy Spirits seal, his absolute pledge – he is referring to something quite concrete, and that is our Baptism.

We have the seal of the Spirit, and we remain sealed in God’s love each day, as we hear the word of truth, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and believe in Him, we then receive our salvation in Christ

Nobody can take this gift away from you.

But wait there is more!

With this guarantee, you need to know that your name is written in the book of heaven. Luke says in 10:20, rejoice that your name is written in heaven.

As we come to the threshold of this new year, St Paul gives you something better than new year resolutions.

He gives us a new year’s gospel; he shows us that, despite our sins and failures in life, we are beloved and special to Him, and of great worth.

Remember then, that you have always been God’s precious heavenly people. God has predestined you to be his, by the shedding of Christs blood for you.

You have something better than self-esteem, you have Christ-esteem. He died for you and has given you every gift and blessing. Your baptism is the guarantee that you are truly special. No one can take that away from you.

Yes, you have been chosen by God. Yes, you are Christ-esteem. Yes, you are God’s, sealed by the shedding of Christs blood, and yes you have the guarantee of eternal life.  Rejoice then, because God has chosen you. Yes, you!

Amen.