Monday, January 10, 2011

Sermon on Romans 6:1-11, for The Baptism of Our Lord, "Rescue At Sea"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. A person is lost deep at sea, and drowns in the ocean. A ship comes near to rescue. The captain dives in the water, rescues the victim, and resuscitates him on-board the ship. The victim coughs and spits up water, then breathes in the life-giving air. “Welcome aboard the Ship Salvation,” says the captain, “We’ll safely bring you home to Heavenly Harbor. There you can thank my Father who sent me on this rescue mission to find you. Here’s a set of clean clothes to wear. Put these on and we’ll throw away those old dirty rags you’re wearing. It’s quite a long trip back to Harbor, so please join our other rescued guests onboard in the ship’s chapel.”

“There are other guests?” Asks Peter, the newly rescued victim.

“Of course! This ship sails for one purpose, to rescue lost souls drowned in the sea of sin.” He continued, “I’m the Captain of the ship. I cross the sea and pull in many a drowned sinner who has been overcome by the storms of life. This is my life’s work—I pull men and women out of the water like fish, there’s so many.”

“But sir, I have no money to pay for a fare. How can I ever repay you? I don’t deserve this.”

“There’s nothing you can do to repay me, and there is no fare. I’ve paid for the ship and every passenger. It’s my joy and reward to rescue people like yourself. I count it all joy to risk my life to rescue sinners.”

Sometime later Peter is observing events on the ship. He notices another victim in the ocean, and again the Captain dives in and rescues them. Brought to life again through CPR, they wake up coughing. The Captain explains to them where they are and where the Ship Salvation is headed. That its free and there’s nothing they can repay. This rescued victim then scoffs, “But you mean I have to stay onboard this ship with all the rest? Forget that! I’d rather stay in the ocean! I’ll get to land just fine on my own, thank you very much! Don’t need anyone’s help at all!” Peter watches in amazement as the person rejects the rescue and jumps back into the sea, quickly to disappear in the tossing waves.

In further amazement, Peter, the rescued victim, watches as a couple of other rescued guests look sheepishly around, and then jump back in the ocean too. What is going on? Then he watches another person digging through the garbage bin, pulling out their old rags, and putting them on instead of their fresh, clean clothes! “Always liked these clothes better” he overheard the person say. “Who’s the captain to prefer that I wear His new clothes anyway?” Peter is caught in total disbelief. What could this mean? Why would those victims jump back in the ocean? Why would the other man pick out those old filthy rags to wear, instead of his new clothes? Aren’t they thankful for what the Captain did?

As Peter was troubling over this, the Captain came up from behind and gently laid His hand on his shoulder. “Friend, what has you so worried?”

“Captain, I can’t believe what I just saw! That person you just rescued just scoffed at you and jumped back in the ocean! What were they thinking?”

“Dear Peter, there are many who feel that if they can’t save themselves, then they won’t let anyone do it. Their pride is so great that they are blind to how helpless they are in the great sea of sin. They think that they can stay afloat by their own efforts. I’ve rescued many like this, who are too proud to give their allegiance to me.”

“But what about those others, who were already rescued? They were clothed and safely aboard! They knew that this ship was a safe place, and they enjoyed your hospitality and food, and wore your new clothes. Then they just jumped back in the ocean, as if no one would notice!”

“Dear friend, the ocean of sin is a powerful magnet for all people. All of our deepest cravings seem to be held in its depths. Many cannot resist the temptation to return to it, foolishly thinking that life was better there. Some crave money, and because money becomes their love, they plunge headfirst into its depths and drown themselves with many sorrows. They might have the illusion that it is theirs for awhile, but that love of money is like a sinking treasure chest. They cannot stay afloat. Others look in that ocean and see the temptation of pleasure. They crave what is not rightfully given to them, or they make pleasure their idol. What they don’t realize is that the pleasures they enjoy in the ocean of sin will gradually diminish more and more until their craving is only filled with more emptiness. Onboard this ship, however, they can find true pleasure as I bless it, and they can learn godly contentment, which brings great gain. There are many other temptations that people find in that ocean, but all of them prove to be empty and fleeting. Sadly, its the fastest path back to drowning. Reaching for all the things they want, they lack the solid ground to stand on, to receive them as I have intended.”

“Ok, Captain, I guess that makes some sense, but it still seems crazy to me! Why would they do that?! What about that man who took out his old rags from the trash bin and won’t wear your new clothes?”

“Sadly, Peter, such a man cannot remain onboard this ship. One cannot despise my rescue and hospitality, and take back their rags. If so, they will not be permitted to enter the heavenly harbor. If they wish to stay aboard the Ship Salvation, they must take off those old rags again and throw them away, and be clothed in my new clothes. I offer them free of charge, but without them one cannot enter the heavenly harbor. But if they wear my new clothes again, my Father and I will gladly welcome them back.”

“Sir, that is truly kind of you. I don’t think I’d be so patient.”

“Well, people have long described Father and I as ‘slow to anger, but abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ You know my Father appointed me as His agent of justice. But the justice that I bring is not just about punishment and retribution--though those that choose to remain in the ocean of sin, and rejected my rescue, have already chosen their own punishment. But the justice I bring about is where mercy triumphs over judgment. I willingly risk my life to rescue all the drowned, and bring them aboard the Ship Salvation. I take the chance that they will reject my love and rescue. I offer them my best gifts, and even when they are drawn back to the ocean, I forgive and receive back those who turn to me. My justice has much room for forgiveness and mercy to the weak or the discouraged. To the broken and the tempted. They need my help more than anyone. The proud and the arrogant however, I must humble. Then there may be time for their hearts to change.”

“Captain, truly you are Good, like no one else I’ve ever known. I could never be so generous, loving, and forgiving as you, but I would like to. I admit I’ve started to feel the pull back to the ocean too. What do I do? How should I live, so that I don’t end up jumping ship or digging back through the rubbish for my old clothes?”

The Captain answered, “True, you cannot live up to my example, but I know that. Remember I’ve already paid for your place aboard this ship, and I guarantee your safe passage to Heavenly Harbor. But I’m already working on you, changing your heart, even though you might not realize it. You’re already beginning to feel compassion and concern for those other lost souls that you’ve seen. My love will continue to work its way in you.”

“And it’s true that being rescued from the ocean of sin still has its lingering effects as you still cough up that salty water. Remember, you were dead and drowned in the ocean of sin, and you’ve been brought back to life. Have that salty water fill your lungs for long enough, and no surprise that it feels normal. You will still feel the pull back to the ocean, but with my help you can resist it. Life is up here. Breathe the air. Wear the new clothes I’ve given you, and you’ll begin to realize the new identity you’ve been given.”

“Join the other rescued victims in the Ship’s Chapel. There you’ll find my book, the Bible. It tells all about me and my life’s work of saving people. It’ll teach you about my Father and His great love, and this rescue mission He sent me on. In the Ship’s Chapel you’ll find encouragement from others who were rescued, and will help you to live as I’ve called you, till we reach the Heavenly Harbor.”

“Captain, I’m just overwhelmed, I can’t thank you enough. Where would I be without you? Tell me one more thing: how did you say you purchased this Ship Salvation, and our place aboard it?”

The Captain answered, “You’ll hear about that in the Chapel. I think a service is just about to start.”

Peter hurried into the chapel just as things began. In the reading from the Captain’s book he heard learned that Salvation is Jesus’ rescue operation. He learned how Jesus purchased the Ship Salvation. He learned that it cost Jesus His very life. The people He came to rescue misunderstood and rejected Him. They didn’t believe that He truly came from God the Father, to save them from their sins. They put Him to death on a cross for saying He was God’s Son, even though it was true. But even in the awful suffering of His death, Peter heard the same love and amazing forgiveness that he himself experienced when he was rescued. He heard Jesus say to those who mocked Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Peter remembered how Jesus even received back some who had turned away from Him, but were rescued again. Peter began to tremble when he heard that a disciple of Jesus with his same name, had denied Jesus three times, but was later forgiven and restored to Jesus. Peter then felt an overwhelming peace he’d never known, when he saw Jesus’ patience, His love. His persistence to bring back the lost.

Then Peter’s heart leapt with joy as He heard of Jesus’ resurrection and His victory over death. So that was how the Ship Salvation was purchased! That’s why Jesus was patrolling the ocean rescuing victims like me. How could I ever want to continue living in sin? I’ve got a new lease on life, a new set of clean clothes that Jesus has given me, and I’m heading to what sounds like the most wonderful destination! Thanks be to God for delivering me from my sin! Peter’s thankful thoughts turned to songs of praise as he joined in singing with all the rescued worshippers to their Captain and their Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1. My sermon attempts to put the question of “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” into a story about salvation, that can help us to see why it’s completely illogical to dive back into sin—as Paul says: “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

2. How is our salvation and rescue from sin truly like being drowned, rescued, and brought back to life? Ephesians 2:1-10, especially vs. 1 & 5

3. What are the new clothes of salvation that we wear? Gal. 3:27; Romans 6:1-11; 13:14. What are the old rags that Christ takes off of us? Isaiah 64:6; Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:5-11. Why can we not enter the “Heavenly Harbor” wearing our old rags? Matt. 22:1-14

4. What is Jesus’ aim and purpose? Luke 19:10; John 10:11-18; 1 Tim. 2:4

5. Why are some people dissatisfied to remain aboard the “Ship Salvation?” Why would people prefer to live in the old ways of sin? How is this incompatible with “life aboard ship”?

6. How is the “ocean of sin” a powerfully deceptive lure? Matt. 13:22; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; Prov. 11:28; John 8:34.

7. How do God and Jesus show their patience toward us in salvation? 2 Pet. 3:8-10; How is Jesus the agent of God’s justice? Isaiah 42:1-9; James 2:13. What should our response be to such a great salvation?

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