O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Born to be bad
"Born to be bad"
March 20, 2011
Fellow baptized saints, have you ever gone to wipe your kitchen counters down to find that your cloth is far too dirty? Perhaps it is red with spaghetti sauce, or it is full of bread crumbs. But if you were to use it on the counters, you may actually make them dirtier than they already are. Would you ever wipe dirt off the kitchen floor where your feet walk and then with the same rag wipe the place where you prepare food? No, you need a clean cloth. You can never make something clean with something that is already dirty. Now you may be thinking wow pastor, how did you think of that - well, you'd be surprised what crazy things a man is forced to think about when his wife goes to visit her family for a week. Kitchen counters and cloths never seemed so important. But the principle applies to washing the hood of your car too. Can a dirty rag wash away the streaks? Of course not, it makes the streaks. What you need is a clean sham wow or something like that. Then you can get that car hood shining without streaks or watermarks - looking the way it should.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus teaches something that does not sit well with our modern day sensitivities. He truthfully tells us something that is very hard to hear, and yet something that we must hear. He teaches that this principle we have applied to kitchen cloths and car rags, also applies to mankind. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." In other words, sinful mothers give birth to sinful children. A dirty rag cannot make something clean. Our human flesh has been so corrupted by the fall of Adam and Eve - that we require a second birth to be saved! Our first birth, when we are born into the flesh - is a birth into death only. We are born to die as God warned Adam and Eve in the beginning.
When Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders, heard this, he was perplexed. Repeatedly he questioned Jesus. "How can these things be?" We too, may be perplexed by this teaching and ask the same questions as Nicodemus. "How can this be?"
Jesus responds to Nicodemus and so also to us, "Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." Jesus is saying, do not be surprised by this teaching, for I am not the first one to declare it.
In the Psalms we hear, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." And also, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies."
The ancient character Job wrestled with this teaching. He asks, "What is man, that he can be pure?? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?" And also, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean??There is not one." Later Job conceded, "Man is born to trouble." And also, "Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble."
Before the flood account we hear, "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." And yet after the flood account we still hear, "the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth."
Thousands of years after the flood, the prophet Isaiah said of God's people, "You have never heard, you have never known,?from of old your ear has not been opened.? For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel."
When you hear these passages from the Scriptures, you may be reminded of rock and roll hits like born to be wild, or bad to the bone. But in these songs, this truth is glorified as though it is somehow good, but the songwriters never address the death and eternal punishment that accompanies their bad nature. They conveniently ignore the wrath they know awaits their self-declared 'badness'.
Listen carefully to the way St. Paul describes it. He says, "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
Does anyone else get squeamish when they hear these words? St. Paul says, we once lived in the passions of our flesh? How are we living now? Are we living by the Spirit pursuing spiritual things, or have we returned to the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind like the rest of mankind? Are we taking this as seriously as God, or are we wiping our counters with the dirty floor rag?
We are as apathetic as the rock stars. We give little energy to our spiritual lives, and nearly all of our energy to the passions of our flesh and the earthly desires of body and mind. We are just like the rest of mankind, and it should not be. You and I deserve wrath just as much as anyone.
Take heart - for your God is taking this seriously. Though we are children of wrath God so loved us that He gave His only Son. As the popular Christmas hymn 'Joy to the World' goes, Christ is born to give us second birth. A birth as He says, is by water and the Spirit. Christ came to establish the second birth of Holy Baptism. He came to wash the dirty rag clean in the pure waters of His Holy Word. He came to bleach it with the power of His pure blood.
Christ has given us Baptism. In it our fleshly existence died, it was drowned. And what emerged was born of the Spirit. But this does not mean that life will be easy. What does it mean? I invite you to open your service book to page 325. Page 325. Let us read together the fourth part of Holy Baptism.
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
"It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."
Where is this written?
St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: "We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Christ wants us to have new life. Instead of letting His beloved children take the wrath they deserve, He willingly suffered it for us when He was crucified. Then through Baptism, we joined Him in the death of our flesh, and are given new life by the Spirit. When death comes again for us, we know we will rise again.
Much like Noah, we will be carried through the wrath of judgment, safe in the ark of our baptism. And where Noah was shown a rainbow as a promise against wrath, you and I are shown a double rainbow. The first rainbow the promise that the guilt of our flesh has been washed away, and the second rainbow the promise of eternal life and the seal of the Holy Spirit - a bright new spiritual walk with God through the dark days of Lent.
And if one is to look closely they may say to themselves, 'that's starting to look like a triple rainbow' for in Baptism the entire Trinity comes to dwell in you. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit make your heart their home. God forgives you for all of your sins, and He wants to be the truth that you live your life for. He has given us second birth, let us live by His Spirit. In Jesus' name, Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr