Sermons > 2014 -Aug 24, 2014, Where's my story?
You've probably had this experience before. You're talking to another Christian friend of yours and they start to tell you about how they became a Christian. And they just have this story. When they were younger, they were into this bad thing and that bad thing. They used this language and had this lifestyle and this run in with the law and this brush with death. And then one day, they went to the revival or a religious rally, and their lives completely changed. It was dramatic; it was monumental; it was epic.
And when they finish telling you all this, then they ask you, what's your story? How did you become a Christian? And you look at your shoes and sheepishly reply, "Well, I just grew up in the church; my parents took me, I've always been a Christian." And you're almost embarrassed when you say it, like the degree of the transformation that happened to them was just so monumental and yours was just so seemingly uneventful. And maybe you left that conversation wondering just a bit, "Where is my story?"
I had this experience a time or two before I went to seminary and I have to admit, I walked away a little jealous, maybe even a little disappointed in myself. Was I supposed to be this really horrible person once upon a time? Was I supposed to have this tidal wave of a conversion or a conversion experience to make my life in the faith more official or impressive? It's like my friend got an Extreme makeover and all I got was a new shower curtain for the guest bath.
And I wrestled with that for a long time and it really wasn't until I understood the Bible better and theology better that I understood my own faith better. But more importantly, I understood the work of God in Christ Jesus and the role of the Holy Spirit better.
Many Christians are raised in the church today and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's everything right about that. It means that somewhere in your past, there was someone who converted later in life. Maybe it was even several hundred years ago…or more. And all the generations of your forefathers since did what God called them to do. They raised their children in the faith. They got them baptized. They saw to it that they were confirmed. They were raised in the church and they, in turn, did the same for their children. There is everything right with that. But that doesn't mean you didn't have a big transformation when you became a Christian.
Paul's letter to the Romans today is a perfect picture of what I'm talking about. You can see here in verse 2 of Romans 12 the word transformed. The actual Greek word there is "metamorpfousthai." It's where we get the word metamorphosis from. In the original language, this word is in the passive as it is also shown here. So literally it's translated as "be transformed." The passive voice means that it's not something you do yourself. It's something that happens to you. It reminds me of how the scriptures also speak of baptism. "Repent and be baptized" Peter tells the crowd in Acts 2:38. "Rise and be baptized" Paul tells his listeners in Acts 22:16.
And baptism and transformation are related. You know, in baptism, God doesn't remold you, He remakes you. In baptism, you become a new creation, which is the name of our preschool by the way. But Baptism is not a melting and reforming like changing a gold bar into a gold necklace. It's a metamorphosis. It's making a gold necklace from lead or tin.
And notice the comparison that's made here. Do not be conformed to this world, it says, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Conformed means that you adjust your disposition and choices to the patterns of this world. It means you go along with what everyone else is doing. It means you give in to what is in you. But transformed means you have been remade. It means you've been changed. You're different now.
Sometimes, when this happens as an adult, the before and after do look like an Extreme Makeover. And you know what? Glory be to God when that happens. When we get jealous of someone else for their dramatic change, we're making the change about them. It's not. It's about God. It's about His work. Remember, this is the passive voice we're talking about here. Be baptized; be transformed. This is not something you do yourself. This is all God's doing. No one should ever take credit for their own conversion. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." Coming to faith is the Holy Spirit doing His job. It's not your doing and the emphasis shouldn't be on you. It should be on the Spirit's work in bringing you to Christ.
And being raised in the church and baptized as an infant is no less important or dramatic or epic. The same Spirit that converted your friend converted you. The same means of grace that brought your friend to faith brought you to faith. Oh, but it seems so much bigger when he talks about it. Yes, well, guess what, once upon a time, Lutheran parents used to frame their children's baptismal certificates and put them up on the bedroom wall. Once upon a time, all the children grew up singing in the children's choir, could recite hymns and the catechism from memory. Once upon a time, you knew your confirmation verse by heart for the rest of your life. Once upon a time, our milestones in the faith were a big deal. I mean, if your friend tells you about his conversion experience, and you tell him about everything I just mentioned, he's going to be the one who's impressed.
But nowadays, what do we do? We rush through these milestones. We throw our baptism certificates in a box along with the social security card and don't touch it for twenty years. We see confirmation as a task or an inconvenience that interferes with other activities. After we're confirmed, we feel like we've graduated or finished with church requirements and now we can go back to other activities. There is no mystery here as to why some people's stories sound so epic and ours do not because we have not treasured our faith and our heritage. We have not been like that Canaanite woman we heard about last week who pestered Jesus into dispensing His mercy because her faith in Him was so great.
And last week when Paul said that He magnified his ministry to make his fellow Jews jealous, well, may the speech of others about God do the same for us. Only, let us not forsake or be disappointed with our own faith or conversion, but through the Spirit's power, let us hold fast to it and rediscover its treasures once again.
The blood of Christ has been shed for us. The death of Christ has been applied to us. The power of the Resurrection has been promised to us. All believers have this and thanks be to God for it. Through the means of grace, God transforms our identities from corrupted sinners to redeemed children in Christ. Our heritage is Christ's legacy. If you want to know where your story is, then that's it. Your story is His story or to use the more common but now unknown pronunciation, History. History is His story. It is the story of Christ's redemption of the world and His transformation of sinners to saints.
There is nothing about baptism that's not epic. Baptism is a transformation. It is the bestowal of a new nature. In baptism, you have become a new creation. Maybe you were too young to process it, but if you dig out that baptismal certificate, you know the date it happened and the place and the congregation. It's the day when other Christian members of your family and a whole congregation were gathered around you. It's the day the Holy Spirit was there focusing specifically on you in that moment; transforming you into God's new creation.
Baptism is where the Christian gets His confidence because baptism is the place where God does His work and you are not active, but passive in that event. Baptism is the place where God promises you and delivers you eternity. It's the place where you come to know Jesus Christ for the very first time. Psalm 22:9 says, "Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast." Infants can be and are transformed by the Holy Spirit. And it's no less a miracle at 30 days old than it is at 30 years old because regardless of when it happens, it's always the work of God and may He be the one who receives all the glory for it. We have been transformed. We have been changed. We are different now. That is our story. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Pastor Chris Bramich