Last week, we saw the righteousness that Jesus "filled up" for us – and put on our record in our baptism. We saw him doing everything that was "fitting" for that righteousness, living a perfect life, more perfect than even the most polished celebrity at the most posh event could ever be.
Here’s why that matters. That’s the righteousness, that’s the record that God puts on our record. The apostle Paul says in Romans 3: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." He says it again in 2 Corinthians 5: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." What Jesus filled up — that’s what God now sees in us.
And what happened at that Jordan River where John the Baptist was working … proved it. The story is the Baptism of Jesus. It’s recorded in Matthew 3:13-17. Let’s look at what happened as soon as John got done baptizing Jesus because Jesus told him it was "fitting to fulfill all righteousness."
Verse 16): "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17) And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’"
Can you imagine being there and seeing that? I know, we are there, through Matthew’s record, we see it with the eyes of faith. But I’m talking about seeing that scene with our physical eyes. People go gaga over the movie stars on the red carpet. Some of the biggest fans would crumble if they had the chance to actually go talk with that star. They’d be speechless. They’d be shaking and stuttering — with someone just like them who happens to work in the entertainment industry. Imagine what it would be like to come face- to-face with God — like those witnesses in our text did.
Heaven torn open, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, the Father speaking … talk about star struck! But now think about why God did that. Why this physical, visible display of the incomprehensible, invisible, triune God? Why? To show that what Jesus stepped into that water to do was done. The righteousness Jesus was filling up was approved. The righteousness that is on our record is complete. How much more clear could he be?! "This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased."
And that’s the same thing that God said to you — his son or daughter — in your baptism, when he clothed you with the righteous robe Jesus wove by always doing what was fitting and proper for the Christ to do. Through the water made powerful by God’s Word he declares you His child. He declares you "Righteousness" – pleasing to Him.
So now — what does that all matter? Well, as January draws to a close and we look back on all those New Year’s resolutions that have fallen by the wayside, I want to us to make new New Year’s resolutions. As we enter into February — our second-chance month — I want us to think about our commitment to God.
It’s only fitting to make commitments to God because He has first committed to us. Because Jesus committed to do what was fitting to fulfill all righteousness, and because God has given that righteousness to you, commit this year to being what God has already made you, to living that righteousness that is on your record. Because as humans, from time to time we need to hold ourselves accountable, to stop and intentionalize our actions. Let’s make today one of those days. So take some time and consider your commitments. I’m not asking you to tell me or anyone but your God how you will be committing to living the righteousness that is already yours.
And realize, that even as you do this, Jesus’ righteousness will cover any failures; he’s already filled up the righteousness. But today, let’s commit to being more of what God has already made us, to live as is fitting for his righteous children. Take some time today and write down your commitments to be what God has made you – to do the things God says his sons and daughters will do. He’s given you so much freedom in how you do them, but these are things righteous people do. He made us to be with him, so do that as you commit to time in God’s Word and in His house for worship.
He made us to trust and serve him, so do that as you commit to yourself what you’ll give to the work of the church. He made us to be His witnesses, so do that with your commitments to specific ways to reach out to those around us. And let your writing it down help you more and more to live that righteousness.
Our God has made you righteous and declared for all the world to hear that you are His child. Let’s commit to live like it in 2014. And may God bless us as we do that.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.