The Bad Dad
For the past few weeks we‘ve been talking about how to have a G-rated (God-rated) home in an R-rated world. Last Sunday was Father’s Day and we examined at how a Godly father, who had an R-rated prodigal son, dealt with the situation. By standing on his faith, being a Godly example, and setting parameters, it led to the humble return of a son that left with a rebellious attitude. His methods worked but what about those parents who don’t always use good parenting methods?
Well, I read about one such situation. Little Johnny walked into his Sunday School class late and his teacher asked if there was anything wrong? Johnny replied, “No, ma’am. I was going to go fishing, but my daddy told me that I had to go to church.” The teacher was impressed and asked if his father had told him why it was more important to go to church than to go fishing. Johnny nodded his head, “Yes ma’am, he did. He said he didn’t have enough bait for both of us.”
Well, this morning we’re going to look at a man of God who was a “Bad Dad”. A priest named Eli, that allowed an R-rated world to influence him and his family. Would you stand as we read from God’s Word in 1 Samuel 2:18-26?
Eli didn’t show good parenting skills. God was so displeased with his son’s behavior that He sent a Prophet to tell Eli to take action. But he didn’t, all he did was talk. Could Eli really have done anything to change his sons? I don’t know. But I think he should’ve made a stronger impression upon them.
I was impressed with the story of the Amish man who caught his sons drinking at a local tavern. The disappointed father promptly disciplined them. He said, “Boys, I’m taking the horse home… you two bring the buggy.” This father did something about their bad behavior. But Eli didn’t. He just gave them a “good talking to” and ultimately his inaction proved fatal.
If we want what’s best for our children, then God says when they’re rebellious and disobedient we’ve got to do more than just talk. The Bible says to “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Prov. 19:18). Now, I don’t believe the sons died because of a lack of discipline. But I do believe Eli’s bad example led them to their destruction. Story: The famous evangelist’s two sons (Jon and Marc) at FMHS.
God warned Eli about his family but he failed to act. So, when a messenger told him that his sons had died in battle and the ark of God had been captured, “Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy.” (1 Samuel 4:18)
Now, it’s not by accident that the Bible says he was a ‘heavy’ man. There’s a reason for telling us about his waistline. You see, Eli was fat because he ate too much but where would he get all that food? It was stolen from the temple sacrifices to God and Eli knew it!
His sons were robbing the sacrifices and Eli grew fat because he ate the stolen food. He knew of his son’s bad behavior and he participated in it.
- It’s hard to confront bad behavior in your kid’s if you won’t confront your own.
- It’s hard to control a child’s attitude when you keep losing your temper.
- It’s hard to warn kids about drugs when they see your addiction to alcohol or tobacco.
Now, we need to be honest with ourselves. There isn’t a person here that is without sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thus, we’re all going to mess up as parents or grandparents at some point.
But the problem isn’t with our sins and falling short. The problem is when we don’t own up to our faults…our mistakes. When we don’t ask for forgiveness. The Bible says: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) But Eli didn’t do that. He didn’t admit his mistakes.
He probably just made excuses for why ‘he was like he was’. And so his sons followed in his footsteps and they all ended up facing the wrath of God. So as a father, Eli failed in 3 ways: 1) he refused to discipline, 2) he set a bad example, and 3) he lost his focus. Eli was a bad dad.
God’s prophet hit the nail on the head when he asked Eli, “why he honored his sons more than God?” (v 29) Anytime we take our eyes off the cross…off of Jesus…off of God, we will fall from our G-rated life and slip into Satan’s R-rated world! Our families are not more important than God. When He has top priority in our lives, then we can be that Godly example for our kids. Without Him front and center in our lives everyday…there can not be a God-rated home.
Now this R-rated world will tell you that you shouldn’t “force” your faith upon your children. Well, that’s a lie! God demands that we guide our children towards Him and He expects us to push our faith in our families. A man once wrote: “When I was a boy, I had a “Drug” problem.
- I was “drug” to Church on Sunday morning
- I was “drug” to Church on Sunday evening.
- I was “drug” to Church on Wednesday night.
- I was “drug” to Sunday School every week.
- I was “drug” to Vacation Bible School.
- I was “drug” to the family altar to read the Bible and pray.
- I was also “drug” to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, did not speak with respect, or spoke ill to another.”
He went on to say, “Those “drugs” are still in me and they affect my behavior in everything I do and say and think. They’re stronger than cocaine or heroin and if our children had this “drug” problem today, America would certainly be a better place.”
The 2nd chapter of Samuel is really about 2 families. We read about Eli and his failure to raise his sons right and Hannah, who was barren. She was so desperate for a child that she vowed to give her only son back to God, so that he would only serve Him. What a contrast. Eli attempts to protective his sons from God, while Hannah gives her son to God. His sons died but her son, Samuel, became one of the greatest prophets ever. Eli’s sons lost everything to God’s wrath while Hannah’s boy received God’s blessings.
About 50 years ago, a church in Kansas poured a sidewalk in front of their building. As it was being done, a mother got permission to make a special impression. She set the feet of her baby son in the soft concrete, with his toes pointing toward the church. That way, every time they went to the church, the mother could point to his footprints and reminded him that her greatest desire is that he keep God first in his life. Where is God in your life?
The Faithful Father
For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about how to create a G-rated (a God-rated) home in this R-rated world. And a key part of that G-rated home…is the father. Now many believe that dads have all the answers, but that isn’t true, especially regarding our children. I heard about a little boy named Billy who accidently swallowed a quarter. His dad tried to get it out but couldn’t so he rushed him to the ER. The doctor said to remove the quarter…Billy would need surgery. But a man standing nearby said he could get the money out with no problem. So the dad agreed and the man turned little Billy upside down and patted him on the back of neck and, sure enough, the quarter popped out. The dad said, “Wow, you must be an expert!” But the man replied, “No, I’m a tax collector.”
Today is Father’s Day, a day to honor the dads. Now it’s true that not every father lives up to the praise of Father’s Day, but most dads try hard to be the kind of men their children can be proud of. In Luke, we see an example of a dad who has a rebellious son and how he deals with him. Let’s stand as we read from Luke 15:11-32.
Fathers ARE important to a family…but does that mean that fathers will ALWAYS do what’s right? As a father myself, I would hope so…but I know that isn’t true. Fathers will fail. Fathers will make mistakes. Fathers will fall short. And we worry just how much our failures have hurt our families. But this story is about a father of faith not of failure. You see, this dad was actually God Himself, the ultimate forgiving Father. The rebellious son represents the lost and the older brother symbolizes the self-righteous. It seems for whatever reason; the son still couldn’t stand to be in the same house with his father. He’s so rude and self-centered that he couldn’t wait for his daddy to die so that he could get his inheritance and go off to play with his worldly friends.
Now many believe this story is about ‘a son who returns to his father’. But I believe it’s more about a faithful father and the methods he used to deal with a prodigal child. You see, this isn’t the story of a failed father, but a story of a dad who did what needed to be done to keep his home from becoming R-rated due to the warped personality of his child. In today’s world, R-rated homes are dominated by Resentment, Rebellion, Rudeness, and Rejection.
The Prodigal Son had all of these R-rated emotions and that’s why he left home! Yet the father’s parenting methods got him back. Now there are many methods a father may use with their children. I read about a young boy that got his drivers permit. So he asked his dad, who was a Pastor, about using the car. His father said, “If you bring your grades up, do your daily devotions, and get your hair cut, then we’ll talk about it.” A month later, the boy asked again to use the car. And his father said, “Son, I’m very proud of you. Your grades are up, you’ve been studying the Bible, but you didn’t get your hair cut.” The boy replied, “You know, Dad, since I’ve been reading my Bible, I noticed that Samson, Moses, Noah, and even Jesus had long hair.” His dad smiled, “Yes, they did. But did you also notice that everywhere they went, they walked.”
Well, the parenting methods of the prodigal’s father was different. First, he was a righteous man which created a G-rated home. He set a good example for his children. In v 17, his son says, “But when he (the Prodigal Son) came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” The father’s servants had food left over. He didn’t force them to live on starvation wages. He was a decent man who looked out for others and treated them fairly. Reality was setting in! As the son sat in the pigpen, he realized that because his father was a decent man, he could go home and ask for help. Now, he realizes that his dad won’t turn him away because he is a kind man. His R-rated rebellious attitude had blinded him to whom his father really was. In a child’s mind, the type of man they see their father as…can shape the adult…they grow into.
Next, this faithful father had rules that he expected his sons to keep. When his son tried ‘emotional blackmail’ by demanding his inheritance and moving out, the father didn’t say, “Oh son, I’m sorry I offended you with my rules. If you’ll stay, I’ll let you do as you want!”
Now, why didn’t he say that? Because by relenting, it would tell his son that he was accepting of his R-rated behavior. He didn’t want his boy to grow up to be Rebellious and Resentful. So he Refused to give in. Now, I’m not sure what set the boy off about living at home but I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that he couldn’t live any way he wanted. And the father could have made peace by giving in but it would have been a temporary solution. We do our children no favors by allowing them to be rebellious…just to make them happy.
The Father had set the rules in his home because he loved his sons and he knew the judgement that awaits rebellious children. So, his parenting method was to set a good example and stand on his beliefs. But watching your child leave home, even with an R-rated attitude, can be devastating. So why not try to stop them from going?
Because he was a father whose faith was in God. Remember, he was a man of means so he probably knew where his son was but he doesn’t go get him because his son was still rebellious. And he doesn’t send him money, because it would have allowed his son to continue to live in sin and avoid the consequences of his rebelliousness. The Faithful Father refused to become an enabler for his son’s sinfulness.
So, what does this father do? He waits and he waits and he waits and he watches. He’s always looking in hopes of his son’s return. The scripture says, “But when he (the Prodigal son) was still a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.”
Now many may ask, “How could this father allow his son to destroy himself? Why didn’t he beg him to stay? Why didn’t he send money?” Because he trusted in God. When we don’t place our trust in God, we can end up doing all kinds of things…that we’ll later regret. But Paul wrote: “For I know whom I have believed, and I’m persuaded that He is able to keep that what I have committed to Him until that day.” (2 Tim 1:12)
In other words, Paul was saying that he had learned by experience that he could trust God. And he believed that God would keep, would guard, and would protect everything and everyone that Paul put’s in God’s care. That’s another way of saying “Let go and let God.” A good parent learns that this is the best policy, even though it’s hard…it’s still the best way.
Being a good father isn’t easy. None of us dads are without fault. But the father in Jesus’ story of the “Prodigal Son” gives us an example of the kind of dad…we should be. And it’s the same Father that Jesus patterned His life after. And if it’s good enough for the Man from Galilee… then our heavenly Father is a good enough example for all of us men.
An older couple noticed that they were getting very forgetful, so they went to see their doctor. He told them to start writing things down to help them remember. That evening, the wife asked her husband to get her a bowl of ice cream. “You might want to write it down,” she said but the he replied, “No, I can remember a bowl of ice cream.” Then she said she wanted whipped cream on top. “Now, write it down.” But again he said, “No, I can remember a bowl of ice cream with whipped cream on top.” Then as he headed to the kitchen, she asked for a cherry on top of the whipped cream. And again, she told him to write it down, but he said, “No, I got it. A bowl of ice cream, with whipped cream on top and a cherry.” Then after about 30 minutes, he returns with plate of eggs and bacon. His wife stares at it for a moment and says, “Where’s the toast?”
In the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy, God is telling us that if we want a G-rated (God-rated) home …then we must remember certain things and we need “teachable moments” to help our families remember them as well. Let’s stand as we read from God’s Word in Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
A Sunday school teacher asked if any of her preschoolers could quote the 23rd Psalm and quickly a little girl raised her hand. The teacher was skeptical but the little girl smiled and said, “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want.” Now there are those in this R-rated world that wants to remove God from everything and replace Him with their own agenda. So, it’s urgent that our children hear that the Lord can be their shepherd and that He can be all they’ll ever need.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses tells the children of Israel that they must put God first in every part of their lives. He says if they are committed to God it would give their families an advantage over other nations. And that promise is still true for our families today. But by contrast, if we don’t make God our top priority, you might be setting your family up for failure.
When I was a boy, all I ever heard about were the evils of communist Russia. Remember, instead of fire drills, we did “duck and cover” drills in case of a nuclear attack from Russia. Communism was the opposite of everything that America stood for. We were ‘one nation under God’ and they were a nation without God. I always wondered where this “communist” belief came from. Well, in the early 1800’s, a Jewish boy in Germany grew up admiring his father. Their family revolved around their religion and for over 100 years there had been Jewish Rabbi’s on both sides of their families. Then during his teenage years, they moved to a town with no synagogue, only a Lutheran church. And all the important people went there.
Soon, his father, who was a lawyer, said they would no longer practice their Jewish faith but they would now join the Lutheran church. Why? Because he said, “it would be good for his business.” He even made his children get baptized as Lutheran to help his job. His son’s disappointment in his father grew to anger and then a bitterness towards religion. Soon, he left for college and over time he wrote a book that created a movement that changed the world. He demanded those who followed him to live their lives without God. His name…was Karl Marx, the founder of the communist movement. His atheism was because his father sold out his faith. You see, if God wasn’t a priority to his father, why should it be a priority to him?
So, how do we make God a priority? The Bible says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes, You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” In other words, don’t make your faith part time! Your children must see that God is a priority in your life. This church, this pastor, the Deacons, and the teachers are all here to help you and encourage you. But we can’t do your faith for you. If the only time your children see your faith and see your God is on Sunday morning, then in their eyes, God is not a priority in your life.
You can’t expect your family to catch your faith by osmosis. Our children can’t absorb our Godly thoughts because it’s true…‘seeing is believing.’ So, do your children see your commitment to God every day?
Did you notice the “teachable moments” for sharing our faith with our family? We read to TEACH your faith to your children (teach by showing), TALK about your faith at home and away, at bedtime and in the morning (all time), TIE it to your hands (in all that you do), BIND it on your forehead (in your thoughts), and WRITE it on your doorframe (God-rated home for all to see and know). Use these “teachable moments” to impress our faith to our children/grandchildren. It’s simple:
- You can start by telling them how much God has blessed you because of them.
- You can read them stories or share favorite scriptures from the Bible.
- You can share your “God Stories” with them. What is a “God Story?”
My sermon focus is this: We must share our faith with our kids/grandkids. We must be determined to bring them to salvation. What we tell our children can change their lives. Our children remember what’s important to us and that can point them towards salvation.
I want to close with a true story. One day in 1988, Samuel and Danielle were sending their son, Armand, to school. As usual, Samuel looked his son in the eyes and said, “Have a good day at school, and remember, no matter what, I’ll always be there for you.” Hours later, a powerful earthquake devastated this area of the small country of Armenia. Amidst the chaos, Samuel and Danielle couldn’t find out if their son was safe. The radio only said that 1000’s were dead.
So Samuel headed for the school. When he arrived, it was destroyed and parents stood crying. But Samuel began searching where Armand’s classroom used to be. He began pulling debris off the pile of rubble. He threw off a beam, then a piece of concrete, and then another. One of the parents asked, “What are you doing?” And without looking up, Samuel replied, “Digging for my son.” The man said, “You’re just going to make things worse! The building is unstable,” but Samuel kept digging. Firemen even tried to remove him but he refused. All night and into the next day, Samuel continued digging. The next morning, parents began placing flowers and pictures of their children on the ruins but Samuel just kept digging.
Finally, as he pushed a beam out of the way and heard a faint cry for help. He stopped and listened. Suddenly, he heard a muffled voice, “Papa?” Samuel began to dig even harder and finally he could see his son. In relief, Samuel called out, “Come out, son!” But Armand said, “Papa, let the other kids come out first because I know you’ll get me.” Child after child climbed out until finally, little Armand appeared. Samuel took him in his arms and Armand said, “I told the other kids not to worry because you told me that you’d always be there for me!” That day, 14 children were saved…because one father was faithful.
Will those in your household be saved because of your faith?
Raising A G-Rated Family In An R-Rated World
A census taker was assigned to the hills of Tennessee and on his first day, he came to a run-down cabin where he was greeted by a little girl. He asked, “Is your mom at home?” The girl replied, “Nah, she ran off with a moonshiner.” So he said, “Is your father home?” “Nah, he pokes his head in once a month to take a bath.” Frustrated he said, “Do you have an older sister?” “Yep.” “Well, is she home?” “Nope, she’s in jail for shooting the sheriff.” “Do you have an older brother?” “Yep” “Well, is he at home?” “Nah, he’s at Harvard.” He was speechless. “Harvard? What’s he studying?” The girl shook her head, “Nothing. They’re studyin’ him!”
I could understand a university study him because these aren’t normal people. And one thing all of us want, is to be normal with normal families. But in this world, trying to raise a “Normal” family is getting harder and harder. It’s more difficult because we’re trying to raise G-rated family in an increasingly “R-rated” world. And at times, it borders on X-rated.
And we’ve got to face the truth, this world does influence our families…whether we like it or not. I believe our text this morning, I Peter 1:17-19, will give us some principles that will help us in creating a “G-rated” home in an “R-rated” world. Will you stand as we read from God’s Word?
In this morning’s passage it seems that to have a G-rated home, it must to be based on our relationship with Jesus. We have all heard it said, “Do others see Jesus in you?”
That’s important because the scripture say that as Christians we are to become like Jesus. When people look at us…they should see a ‘family’ resemblance.
If you want a G-rated home for your children or grandchildren? Then it begins with you. In you do they see the resemblance to God. Do they see evidence of God? Do they see you pray, read from His word and do they feel the love of God?
In our passage, Peter stressed ‘you.’ He wrote, “Since YOU call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out YOUR time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For YOU know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that YOU were redeemed…” (NIV)
Peter doesn’t say “WE” must live OUR lives this way, he says YOU. I believe he did that because your spirituality got started with YOU and the spirituality in your home has got to start with YOU. And according to v 19, our spirituality and that of our home, should to be built on the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Some years ago, data from a survey of families said that the strongest homes were religiously conservative and had an “authoritarian” structure. They said that religious parents were “characterized by strict discipline and an unusually warm and expressive style of parent-child interaction.” It said religious fathers were more involved with their kids than liberal fathers. Now rules and regulations are important but these aren’t the foundation for a “G-rated” home.
Long ago, some people wanted security against their enemies, so they built the “Great Wall of China”. They believed it was so high that no one could climb over it and so thick that nothing could break it down. But during the first 100 years of the wall, China was invaded 3 times. Not once did the enemy break down the wall or climb over it. Instead, they simply bribed the gatekeeper and then marched through the gates. One historian said, “The Chinese were so busy relying on walls of stone…that they forgot to teach integrity to their children.”
Rules and regulations can be like walls but without Jesus, those walls won’t keep the world away. We’ve got to show our children that Jesus’ blood has changed our lives every day. If we live and model the love and grace of God, then we’ll contradict the lies of this world and our children will see the truth. And God’s truth will influence and change their lives. Trust me, our children know hypocrites, so we must live it especially in our homes.
But Peter says this world is not my home. I may live here, own a home here, raise my kids here, pay taxes here, but it’s not my home. The Bible says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.” (2 Peter 3:10-11)
Knowing this, why would I want to build my family home on the things of this world? Nan and I have two children and 5 grandchildren and like you, we want the best for our family. We want the best education for our grandchildren. We want them to grow up and have productive careers. We want them to love a good person, get married, and raise an upstanding family. Wouldn’t you want that for your kids? Now they could have all of this but without Jesus in their lives, it’s all for nothing.
Jesus plainly said: “For what shall it profit a man (or his children, or his grandchildren), if he (they) gains the whole world, and lose his (their) own soul?” (Mark 8:36) We’ve got to teach our kids that this world is not our home. And not to put your hope in this world, but to put your hope in Jesus Christ. If we’ll do that, then we’ll have a G-rated home…a God-rated home.
I want to close with an example of a Godly woman named Naomi, who moved to a foreign country because of a famine. And while they were there, her 2 sons married. But in time, her husband and sons died. So, she decided to return to home to Bethlehem. Now Naomi was so dedicated to God that her daughter-in-law, Ruth, decided stay with her. Ruth told Naomi: “Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.” Ruth turned her back on her old life and because of Naomi’s influence, she married and built a God-rated home. Her love for God was so strong that her great grandson would become “a man after God’s own heart.” Ruth was one of the 5 women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. And this happened because one woman, Naomi, built her life around her dedication to God.
Too often we’re focused on influencing our children right now. But if we will dedicate ourselves to God and live and model that dedication, like Naomi did, then our influence can last for generations.
This morning, is Jesus calling you to dedicate your life to Him?
Building a Winning Team
In 1962, Major League Baseball allowed their first expansion team, The New York Mets, and they were awful. Their first year they won 40 games and lost 120. They lost because they had a roster full of has-beens and rejects. But they never gave up and 7 years later, these ‘lovable losers’ had become the ‘Miracle Mets’ by winning the 1969 World Series. A team of losers…
were now a team of winners. And that brings us to the theme of our message, “Building a Winning Team”. In our scriptures this morning, Titus 3:3-7, we’ll read how the church has always had its share of losers. So, let’s stand as we read from God’s Word.
This passage says that God built the church in Crete from an island full of losers. And I assure you that He’s still building His church today the very same way. I’m proof of that. I was once lost in sin…a loser going to hell but God saved me. That’s why Jesus spent so much time with the tax collectors and the sinners. These people knew they needed God. They struggled every day. They failed so many times …that nothing about them would impress God. And yet from those losers…God builds a winning team. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) So if our hearts are “beyond cure”…then we must ask, “Why does God love us?” We certainly don’t deserve it!
But He does love us and He wants to save us. At Pentecost, the Jews asked Peter, a loser himself that denied Christ 3 times, what they must do to be saved, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38) If you want to swap teams, it’s simple. Just confess your sins and repent. Be a winner, not a loser!
Speaking of losers, why in v 3 would Paul (who certainly has a past) remind us that we were once losers? He says, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Why? It’s because people tend to forget who they once were and that’s dangerous. Because when we forget our past, we forget what God has done for us and we tend to be less forgiving of others. Remembering our past is the first step to humility and a humble heart.
Paul always remembered his past. It served as a reminder that he was no better than anyone else. It keeps him humble…so God can use him. When we forget just how far God has brought us, we tend to think we’re better than some. When that happens, our focus becomes about us and less about God. We tend to put our faith in ourselves…rather than being thankful to Him.
Let’s look in verses 4-5 and see what God did to save us: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” Every Christian has been saved by God’s kindness, God’s love and God’s mercy.
He didn’t save us because we deserved it. He didn’t save us because we earned it. He saved us because He loves us. And because of that love, He offers us a free gift…a gift of mercy and forgiveness…through His son, Jesus Christ.
Now let’s look in verses 5-7 to see how God brought about our change from loser to winner: “…He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Now, what is “the washing of regeneration?” It’s baptism. And what’s the “renewal by the Holy Spirit?” It’s when God sends His Spirit to live within us. It’s like signing a salvation contract. It starts when we go to God as a sinner and ask for His forgiveness. And because He loves us, He shows us mercy. So, God signs the covenant by sending His Spirit of forgiveness into our repentant heart and we sign the contract by accepting His mercy and following in baptism.
That’s what Peter is saying: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” We’re reborn when the Spirit enters our heart and we become a new person. The old person, the loser who lived a life of sin, is washed away in the baptismal waters. That inward conversion between you and God is shown outwardly in the ordinance of baptism.
Now, why would God use baptism and His Spirit to change us from a loser to a winner? It’s because in baptism we identify with Him. When I baptize someone they’re “dying to their sin.” And what do you do with the dead? You bury them. So I lower them under the water. But unlike our physical death, they are lifted up out of the watery grave, symbolizing the resurrection of Christ. A preacher named Greg Nance explains it this way: “Only God can put a sinner under water and bring up a saint.” Hallelujah…a winning team of saints! That’s the team I want to be on!
And then by giving us His Holy Spirit, God is telling us that we belong to Him. The Spirit is the mark of His ownership. In the Bible, to be ‘led’ by the Spirit…to be ‘filled’ with the Spirit… means to be ‘controlled’ by the spirit. You don’t have it…it has you!
I want to tell you a story about Jim and Bill who served together in WW I. Month after month they lived in the trenches, fought in the cold and in the mud and were under constant attack from the German army. These hardships forged a strong friendship between them. They were like brothers. Day after day, night after night, attack after attack, they shared stories about their families and their hopes and dreams. There wasn’t much they didn’t know about each other.
One night, their company charged the German front and Jim was shot and lay wounded on the battlefield. Bill made it back safely to the trenches…but Jim lay dying. Even under gunfire, Bill knew what he had to do. But his commanding officer refused…so when his back was turned, Bill crawled out of the trench and towards Jim. Finally, under heavy gunfire, Bill reached his friend. Then, crawling as low as possible, inch by inch, moment by moment, He managed to drag Jim back to the safety…but it was too late…Jim was dead.
The angry Officer asked if it was worth the risk and without hesitation Bill replied, “Yes, sir, it was. His last words…were worth it. He looked at me and said, ’I knew you’d come.’”
Folks, we have the same assurance from God…that He’ll save us and never leave us no matter what. He can save us from our failures; He can deliver us from our sins; He can give us eternal life.
This morning, are you on the winning team?