Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sermon -- Reformation Sunday; End Times 1 (November 4, 2012)

MARK 13:5-11
SAY WHATEVER IS GIVEN TO YOU.

In the name + of Jesus.

     As you know, there is a tremendous reward for being a Christian.  Jesus Christ has cleansed you and claimed you through your baptism.  Through baptism, Jesus has bestowed upon you blessings that are beyond measure and cost.  He forgives you of all your sins.  In fact, if you ever wonder if you are truly forgiven, you can confess, “I am baptized.  God’s promises are mine, and God does not lie to me.  Therefore, my sins are forgiven.”  You are Christ’s.  His blessings are yours.  There is nothing greater on earth.
     Nevertheless, Jesus told the apostles that there would be a tremendous cost for being a Christian.  Be on your guard.  For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.” (Mark 13:9)  The apostles were reviled, ridiculed, arrested, flogged, and martyred.  They were considered enemies of both the church and the state.  What heinous crime was worthy of such treatment?  Jesus said, “The gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)  The apostles were commissioned to do this preaching.  For preaching the gospel, they were charged with treason, blasphemy, and other crimes.  For proclaiming God’s love, they were hated.  For preaching the forgiveness of sins, they were condemned.  For opening up the gates of heaven, many people wanted them to go to hell.  For showing people the resurrection to eternal life, they were put to death. 
     Jesus had warned them: See that no one leads you astray.  But be on your guard.” (Mark 13:5,9)  Life as a Christian means life under the cross.  That means both blessings and cost.  The apostles were arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin, before governors, and even before Caesar.  It was not a time to be cowardly or to concede, but to confess.  The apostles were to do nothing other than to witness what they had seen and heard from Jesus.  A Savior has lived in righteousness for sinful mankind.  A Savior has died under God’s curse to atone for sins.  A Savior has risen from the grave to declare peace between God and men, to deliver from hell into heaven, and to assure you that the grave does not reign – Jesus does.  They were simply to say whatever had been given them.  It was not their opinion.  It was not their propaganda.  It was the good news promised by God and fulfilled by Jesus. 
     It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  When you have an opportunity to confess your faith, you simply confess the faith.  It is not your opinion.  It is not propaganda.  It is the good news promised by God and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  It is God’s word which you believe and confess. 
     Nothing has changed.  You will likely never have to face the fury the apostles endured, but confessing the gospel still evokes bitter opposition.  People hate this gracious Savior because they don’t believe they need grace and they don’t believe they need to be saved.  Even if a person gives himself to drunkenness, to speculating about his neighbors and assuming the worst about them, to coveting another man’s wife, to belittling his children, and to gratifying whatever carnal desires he has, he still believes he is a good person.  He despises God’s word.  He rejects God’s judgment.  
     But God’s word is not open for debate.  People may reject it and despise it, but God’s word cannot be changed any more than God himself can be changed.  People may despise you for confessing God’s word.  But when that happens, see that no one leads you astray.  But be on your guard. (Mark 13:5,9)  Do not find ways to make God’s word more compatible with wickedness or tolerable to the ungodly or permissive to your own sinful weaknesses.  Say whatever is given to you, and what is given to you is God’s word.  God has spoken, plainly and clearly, for himself.  What God condemns, let him condemn.  What God blesses, let him bless.  If you change God’s word to suit your audience, you lose who God is.  You forfeit your Savior. 
     You will likely never be called upon to speak before a president, a governor, or even your mayor.  You do get to speak to co-workers, friends, and relatives.  It should not matter how great or small they seem to you.  Say whatever is given to you.  Confess the faith.  Let God speak for himself, and let your voice be the one which proclaims that word – just as St. John and St. Peter did before the Sanhedrin, just as St. Paul did before Nero, and just as Luther did before Emperor Charles V.
     Say whatever is given to you.  Confess the faith boldly and freely.  But be on your guard. (Mark 13:9)  Do not fear when you are called on to confess.  Fear will tempt you to go silent or even to deny the faith.  But this is what the Lord says: “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5)  Though you testify before men about the hope that is in you, you are not accountable to men.  Though men may judge you for your confession, men are not the judge.  Friends may forsake you.  Activists may attack you.  Religious leaders may banish you.  Caesar may execute you.  They do not have the final verdict upon you.  Say and cling to what has been given to you – God’s word.  For the Lord is the judge.  He has the only word with authority.  He holds the final verdict.
     You have a Savior who has taken all the slander away from you.  He was condemned for every time you have failed to live up to the word of the Lord or confess the word of the Lord.  He died under your verdict of condemnation and has risen to render you a new verdict.  You have been given a word that overrules every other word, no matter how vicious, vindictive, or final it sounds.  You have been given a salvation which cannot be lost no matter how brutally you are treated.  No matter how badly they slander you, you have been given an eternal verdict by the Risen Lord.  No matter what they take away from you, you have been given a place in the kingdom of God for now and eternity. 
     Therefore, say whatever has been given to you.  You have been given a Savior who lives and reigns no matter how violently the world rejects him or vehemently the world hates you.  The Lord has given you a word that cannot be overruled and a kingdom that will never be overthrown.  He has given you an eternal life which can never be taken from you and a resurrection that can never perish. 
     Say whatever has been given to you.  For what has been given to you shall save you.  When they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11)  The Holy Spirit has given you words to confess.  The Holy Spirit who dwells in you will proclaim his word through you.  That word will sustain you in the face of every temptation, in the face of every enemy, and even in the face of death. 
     So say whatever has been given to you and do not fear anyone who would raise his hand or his voice against God and his people.  The Lord still reigns – just as he reigned in Jerusalem even when the apostles were arrested and flogged, just as he reigned in Alexandria when Athanasius was exiled five times, just as he reigned in Wittenberg when Luther was excommunicated, just as he does in Novi no matter what anyone says about you or against you.  Whether God’s people confess the faith with their mouths or with their blood, the Lord Jesus lives and reigns.  So say this word which has been given to you.  His word stands forever, and the kingdom ours remaineth.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

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