I’m standing here now, and will be baptised later as a testimony that I belong, in every part, to the only true and living God, both now and forever, having been bought by the only Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Jesus is Lord whether or not any of us recognise him as such, for many years I didn’t truly know this. Mercifully, I was taught from a young age about the many stories of the bible, and about the life and death of Jesus, but though I knew something about the ‘praiseworthy deeds of the Lord’ they seemed to having nothing much to do with me; Jesus was either dead or irrelevant.
Through my teenage years God taught me that I was a rebel against him, walking according to the ways of the world in disobedience to its creator - though I tried to do various good things, my motives were at best mixed, and when I sought to turn from what I knew to be evil, I found I was unable, especially for very long at a time. I recognise now, though I didn’t at the time, that I was living to please myself. I might perhaps have been better than some at hiding my sinfulness, but of course I couldn’t hide from God.
But when I was seventeen, God graciously showed me that Jesus was neither dead nor irrelevant. He had raised his Son, Jesus Christ, from death. Nor were the things the Bible spoke of unrelated to the problem of my rebellion. Even if you have only the smallest measure of understanding of God’s perfect holiness, you will marvel at how he could ever forgive you - and as I’ve understood more of who God is over these past four and half years I’ve seen my complete dependence on him, though I know I am still slow to remember. Before being raised from the dead, Jesus had been lifted up on the cross, to die bearing God’s punishment in the place of sinful people, even in my place.
So I can’t and don’t stand before you this morning on the basis of how good a person I’m not, and don’t really try to be, and how much less can I stand before God on the day he judges the world in righteousness on that basis, but only on the basis of the perfect righteousness of God, that is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and his active obedience to his Father, reckoned as a free gift to everyone who believes in him. When I first believed I didn’t know what this truth that God justifies the ungodly meant, and doubtless there remain things I don’t understand, but this good news concerning Jesus' death and resurrection is something the brings a joy that I can scarcely describe, and a hope that nothing can extinguish.
I can only thank God for his free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ and declare my desire to serve him in faith, in the Church which is his body, even as he conforms me to the likeness of his Son and as I abide in him. I’m sorry for my pride and know I face continuing temptation toward self-reliance, so I plead and cling to the finished work of Jesus, the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, and claim the promises of God as one who is his. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”