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You Make God Happy

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Making God Happy

All of us like to be told that we are doing a good job. I get discouraged if I feel that my work is going unnoticed or unappreciated, and I would be a better boss if I would remember to tell my employees that they are doing well more often. So why don’t I? Because I am too stingy with my “good jobs.” My standards and expectations are too high. People have to work too hard to impress me. This is my problem, not theirs.
However, that is not the case with my sons. I must admit that I am one of those dads who thinks his sons are the best at everything. I constantly tell them how proud I am of them. Why do I do this? Because my love for them is not dependent on their success. My love for them is unconditional.
Today we are going to look at one of the few stories that appear in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In this story, God the Father tells Jesus, His Son, that He is proud of Him. The Holy Spirit makes an appearance in this story too, which is not something that happens often in the Bible.
In Matthew 3:11-14, John the Baptist explains that while he baptizes with water for repentance, someone greater than him is approaching. This exceptional figure, far superior to John, will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will have the capacity to separate the righteous from the unrighteous, likened to separating wheat from chaff with a winnowing fork. Jesus then arrives at the Jordan River to be baptized by John, who, recognizing Jesus’ superiority, initially objects, feeling unworthy to baptize the Messiah.
John had just told the people that Jesus was going to be the ultimate baptizer. I imagine John was thinking, “Jesus, you’re embarrassing me! I just told them you’re the Messiah, now you want to be baptized with all of us sinners?”
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”
There were three reasons Jesus needed to be baptized by John:
  1. Prophecy
When we discussed the birth of Jesus, we talked about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem as fulfillment of a prophecy from the prophet Micah. These two stories include two of the more than 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life. It appears that Jesus often knew what He should do because God’s prophets said the Messiah would do them.
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”
  1. Obedience
Many times, Jesus did what He did because His heavenly Dad told Him to do those things, and Jesus intentionally obeyed His Father’s instructions.
When my sons ask me why I have given them an instruction, I generally try to give them a logical explanation. I want to help them learn to make good decisions, but I also want them to learn to obey even when they don’t understand why I have told them to do something.
  1. Inauguration
Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His public, human ministry. It would culminate with Holy Week, when Jesus would go to the cross and rise from the tomb, but it started here.
If Jesus wanted to, He could have chosen a drastically different way to inaugurate His ministry. He could have used an army of angels to take the king’s throne. He could have preached a fiery sermon. He could have caused a tornado to destroy the temple, or he could have ridden a unicorn into Rome. But Jesus chose baptism.
In going into the water for baptism, Jesus identified with people in their need for a savior. When we are baptized, we metaphorically place our life in the hands of the baptizer. We need the pastor to lift us out of the watery grave. As we are pulled from the water, we are resurrected to life.
Jesus was and is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, but how does He act as that King and Lord? What is the right thing for Him to do? He lowers Himself, lifts others up, and loves them. He is humble. Baptism is the perfect start for this kind of King. So, John wisely chose to go along with God’s plan.
So John agreed to baptize him. 16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.
Since our second son was born, Darci and I often divide and conquer. For example, at bedtime she puts one son to bed, and I put the other son to bed. However, every once in a while, we team up. On those days we put each son to bed together, and it is amazing to me how much they love that. The bond that they feel when our family comes together in that moment overwhelms them with emotion. It is not difficult for me to see this intimacy at Jesus’ baptism.
The three persons of God are united in this moment in perfect love. The Father smiles as the Spirit puts His hands on the shoulders of the Son.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
No matter if it’s a mom affirming her child, a respected manager sharing a good word with an employee, or a husband sharing his heart with his wife, we all long for the affirming moments when we are told we are loved and appreciated.
Who in your life needs some affirmation and encouragement?
We need to learn from God in this moment. What is the Godly thing to do? Let people know that you value them; that you care about them; that they matter.
When we participate in baptism, either our baptism or the baptism of other Christians, we too are united with God. The apostle John (not the same guy as John the Baptist) calls us sons of God when he describes God’s unconditional love for us.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
Christians, the same voice that expressed unearned love for Jesus is proclaiming His love for you today because you are His child.
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