Our God Saves
Baptism of Our Lord Sunday
Our God Saves
1. By his mercy
2. By his means
3. By his grace
Text: Titus 3:4-7
What is your God like? Is your God like Buddha? If they try hard enough and renounce enough things of this world and live with enough kindness and love (and maybe after reincarnating a few times), Buddhists might possibly become one with their god and maybe reach nirvana—enlightenment.
Is your God like one of the Hindu gods? “Which one?” you ask? Good question. There are millions of Hindu gods. The ultimate high god is named Brahma and is much like Buddha in the sense that maybe if you are worthy enough (and lucky enough) you might become one with him or even become a god yourself.
Is your God like the god of Taoism in Japan? A force that pervades the universe like the movie Star Wars? Hopefully, if you are good enough, you can tap into the good side of the Yin and Yang and harness its power.
Is your God like Allah? Many Muslims portray Allah as a loving, kind God. Yet Allah demands obedience, and Allah abhors defiance. Americans know well how many Muslims take seriously Allah’s demands for jihad against infidels. If you are an extremist Wahabi Sunni Muslim you might need to sacrifice your life to gain eternity.
Is your God like the Jewish version of Yahweh? If you practice circumcision, if you eat kosher, if you obey the Sabbath, and if you follow the rest of the laws of Moses, then maybe you might find rest with God.
What is our God like? Our God is certainly almighty, all-powerful, perfect, and righteous. He tells us in the Bible, “I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One.” God’s people cry out in the Bible, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.” In regards to holiness, might, power, and perfection our God is just like other alleged gods of the world.
What about our God’s demands? God’s demands are very clear in Scripture. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Or simply put God says, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” In regards to demanding holiness and perfection and love our God is just like other alleged gods of the world.
But what if you can’t meet the demands of your God? Well in Buddhism and Hinduism if you don’t live a “right” life you are doomed to reincarnate over and over again, maybe even turning into a cow, or if you’re really bad a pig or snake, until you reach enlightenment. If you aren’t a faithful Muslim (or aren’t Muslim at all) you won’t reach heaven and you might even be killed by a fellow Muslim here on earth.
What does our God say? Something similar. God says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” He declares, “The wages of sin is death.” He foretells Judgment Day where he will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.” In regards to punishment for sin our God is just like other alleged gods of the world.
So how do you match up with our God’s demands? “Be holy like I am holy.” How holy are you? Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Do you love your neighbor as yourself—not just the people you like but even the people you don’t like or that don’t like you?
What kind of righteous deeds have you done? Have you earned God’s favor by loving him more than anything else in your life? Have you satisfied his demands by having a pure heart and a pure mind every moment of every day? Have you shown him true love by never doubting and never failing to trust him?
Does your anger ever get the best of you? Is your faith ever hidden and kept secret? Are you ever judgmental and opinionated? Do you ever assume and speak before you listen and learn? Do you ever gossip and spread rumors? Are you devoted to prayer and to worship? Is your life humble, pious, and dedicated to the Lord above all else?
Enough is enough, right? I better stop before we all get sick to the stomach. We aren’t doing so well. In fact, it’s downright shameful.
So our God is holy, perfect, and righteous. Our God demands that we be the same. Our God declares that if you cannot meet his demands you die and go to hell—you have no place in heaven. That leaves us sinners with a huge problem. We’re in trouble, eternal trouble.
So if you’re Buddhist or Hindu you better keep trying. If you’re Muslim you better find a jihad fast. It might be you’re only chance. If you’re Jewish you better follow not only the laws of Moses but also the 300+ extra laws and rules the Pharisees of old created. Hopefully that might be enough.
Or . . . Or, you could believe in our God, the one true God. You could believe in our God who is different than any other god claims to be. Oh, yes our God also claims to be holy. Yes, our God demands holiness. Yes, our God declares punishment for the sinner. But here’s where our God, the one true God, is different than every other god of all these false religions. Our God Saves.
Listen to the beautiful words of the apostle Paul in the second lesson this morning, from his letter to Pastor Titus: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
This is how our God is different than any other god of the world. In Buddhism and Hinduism if you are good enough and deny yourself enough, you might maybe reach enlightenment. In Islam and Judaism if you are devout and committed enough, then you could earn eternal life. Even in Catholicism, if you say enough Hail Marys or Our Fathers or do enough confession and penance, then maybe you might work your way out of hell into purgatory and possibly even into heaven. But here is how our God is different: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
There is no way we could ever possibly do enough to earn eternal life in heaven. We are far too sinful for that. We could never do enough righteous things to please God. But this is the good news. Our salvation doesn’t depend on what we do.
God’s kindness and love appeared, in the person of Jesus Christ. And in God’s great mercy on pitiful sinners, Jesus gave up his righteous life to pay for our unrighteous lives. God saves us, not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus has done. Here’s how our God is different: Our God Saves by his mercy.
In other religions there are means to achieving salvation. Meditate. Pray. Renounce all worldly possessions. Eat kosher. Give to the poor. Kill infidels. Every religion has some kind of means to salvation and those means always depend on what you do.
This is how our God is again different than any other god of the world. Our God Saves by his means. Here’s what the apostle says: “He saved us through the washing that works rebirth and through the Holy Spirit who works renewal, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Our God, the one true God, has a different means for saving. He saves us through the washing that works rebirth. That’s talking about Baptism. In Baptism God gives us a rebirth. Our sins are washed away and we are reborn into the family of God. God works powerfully in baptism to save.
God also saves us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and works in our hearts through the Word of God. He works renewal in us as he creates faith in our hearts, strengthens that faith, and encourages that faith. God the Holy Spirit works powerfully through his Word to save. Through these means of Baptism and the Word of God, we are connected to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Other gods force you to find the means to salvation. Here’s how our God is different. He uses his Word and Baptism and his Spirit to save us. Our God Saves us by his means.
Also in other religions you truly get what you deserve. In Eastern religions, if you aren’t a good person you reincarnate into something worse, maybe even an animal. They call that bad karma for what you’ve done. In Islam, if you aren’t a practicing Muslim and devoted to following Mohammed’s Five Pillars of faith, you won’t get eternal life. In Judaism, if you don’t follow the laws of Moses you are cut off from the people and from God. In Catholicism, if you aren’t good enough or don’t do enough penance then you will have to spend a while in purgatory trying to make up for it. In all other religions you get what you deserve.
This is once more how our God is different than any other god of the world. Our God, the one true God, gives us what we don’t deserve. Verse 7: “So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Sinners don’t deserve forgiveness. Sinners don’t deserve heaven. We, sinners, don’t deserve anything. But that’s why it is called grace. Grace is undeserved love. And we have bee justified—declared innocent—by God’s grace so that now we are heirs soon to inherit eternal life.
Other gods in other religions give you what you deserve. Here’s how our God is different. Our God gives us what we don’t deserve. Our God Saves by his grace.
There are thousands of different religions in the world that believe in millions of different gods. But some have noted that there are really only two kinds of religions in the world—those that teach you have to earn your own way to heaven and those that teach that God gives you heaven for free.
Give thanks to God that he has given you rebirth and renewal so that you know the truth. The one, true God—our God—is different than every other god of every other religion. The true God—our God—forgives. Our God is loving and kind. Our God is merciful. Our God is gracious. Our God Saves.
So with hearts bursting in joy we join to sing today, Come, oh come, let us sing to the Lord and In the morning I will sing, I will sing glad songs to you and now we are about to sing You are God; we praise you.
Lift up your hearts and join in praise. Our God Saves.
Posted on January 13, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Baptism, Buddhism, Buddhist, Catholic, Catholocism, Church, God, Hinduism, Infant Baptism, Islam, Jewish, Judaism, Mohammed, Muslim, Salvation, Sermons, Star Wars, Taoism, Titus, Titus 3. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.