Here I Stand: On Jesus and With Jesus
Here I Stand: On Jesus and With Jesus
Text: Matthew 10:16-23
Thank the Lord! Thank the Lord this doesn’t happen anymore! Jesus sent out his disciples to preach his Word and said, “They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you . . . On my account you will be brought before governors and kings . . . Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child . . . All men will hate you because of me.” Arrested? Flogged? Betrayed? Hated? Thank the Lord this doesn’t happen anymore, because that sure doesn’t sound like much fun at all!
Jesus’ disciples though found out quickly that a prophecy from the Lord never goes unfulfilled. As the early church was getting organized and spreading, Peter and John were imprisoned and questioned before the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jews. Stephen was arrested by the Sanhedrin and questioned, testified to the truth, and then was stoned to death. The apostle Paul was stoned, beaten, flogged, and imprisoned multiple times. And almost every apostle was martyred. Standing on the truth of God’s Word brought them hatred, persecution, suffering, and death!
The disciples weren’t the only ones to experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ words. In the era immediately after the disciples the Romans enforced a massive persecution against Christians. Countless Christians were thrown into the ring with wild animals or gladiators. They were publicly executed and forced to run for their lives and hide when they worshiped. Standing on the truth of God’s Word brought the early Christians hatred, persecution, suffering, and death!
Soon after the pendulum swung in favor of Christianity. In the 300s it became the dominant religion of the world. But as Christianity took control of the world, the hunger for power and wealth corrupted the teachings of the church. The Word of God was held captive by leaders of the church, and regular Christians didn’t know any better because the printing press wasn’t invented yet and no one had a Bible. The truth was exchanged for many lies. Salvation was literally offered in exchange for money (though of course it was no salvation at all.)
Then came along a man name Martin Luther in the 1500s. Through a number of interesting life events, God led Martin Luther to discover the truth of Scripture. He opened Luther’s eyes to see that salvation comes by God’s grace alone and through faith—not by what we do and certainly not by what we pay.
So Martin Luther stood up for the truth. But when he did, he experienced the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, too. Luther was called to the Diet of Worms in 1521. The Diet of Worms was not a feast on night crawlers. It was a diet, a meeting, in the German city of Worms. There Jesus’ words were fulfilled as he was called before all the leaders of the free world, including Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the most powerful person in the world. Luther was asked to recant and retract everything he wrote and taught.
Martin Luther thought about it and prayed about it overnight. The following day he replied: “I neither can nor will recant anything, for to act against my conscience is wrong and dangerous. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” Luther stood for the truth, but he was branded a heretic, which meant he was kicked out of the church and it was open-game on his life. Standing on the truth of God’s word brought Martin Luther and the reformer-Christians hatred, persecution, suffering, and for some, even death.
Phew! Thank the Lord! Thank the Lord this doesn’t happen anymore, right? Right? Lord, your words don’t apply to us anymore today, right?
Wrong! First, Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples of all nations still applies to us. Jesus still expects us to preach and teach his Word to all people. And, Jesus’ prophecy about people hating us and persecuting us still applies today and is being fulfilled today. In fact, some have noted that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the 1,900 years before that. Standing on the truth of God’s Word still brings Christians hatred, persecution, suffering, and death!
But we’re safe in America, right? Well we may not be called to testify in front of Congress or the president (yet). We may not be arrested for being Christians (yet). But we face challenges and persecution in America just the same.
Jesus sends us out to preach to those around us, and it is not easy—regardless of the setting. It’s not easy to look your son or daughter in the eyes and say that such behavior is sinful and wrong and leads to hell. It’s not easy to tell the football fanatic behind you at the game that God’s name is to be revered and kept holy, and those other curses aren’t God-pleasing either. It’s not easy to tell your neighbors that even though their family is really nice and sweet, Buddha is a false god and hell awaits at death, not incarnation or nirvana.
Each of us knows all the opportunities in our lives. Each of us knows full well all the people who truly don’t worship Jesus or believe in God. It might be a mother or a father, a brother or a sister. It might be a coworker, the guy across the street, or our regular checkout lady at Walmart. Each of us also knows what it would be like to talk to these people people about Jesus or the Bible. Maybe you’ve tried and you’ve had that dismissive laugh in your face. Maybe you’ve experienced that sarcastic roll of the eyes. Maybe you’ve been yelled at or made fun of. Maybe you haven’t even bothered because you know one of those things would definitely happen. So why bother talking to my dentist, or doctor, or cousin, or neighbor? They won’t listen anyways, and I’ll only be made fun of and persecuted!
So many times in life we fail to stand on the truth of God’s Word. We may have been afraid or intimidated or too nervous or just lazy. But so often we fail to be the witnesses God wants us to be. We fail to stand on the truth of God’s word. We fail to confess before men the one who is willing to confess us as his children.
It’s just another example of our imperfection and our sin. It’s just another example of how we fail our God in our daily lives. As if all of the other sins we commit aren’t enough—the language, the lies, the lust, the greed, the hatred, the anger—as if that’s not enough we also have to fail at witnessing too. What miserable sinners we are, and what punishment we deserve!
But that’s part of why Reformation day is so special. If eternal life and heaven depended on what we did in our lives, we would be in big trouble. We could never live up to God’s standard of perfection and earn heaven.
So today we praise God that he used many, like Martin Luther, to stand on and preserve the truth of God’s Word. Luther and many others were heralds of God’s grace. They boldly proclaimed that we have a Savior who died in our place and carried our sin. They boldly proclaimed that we have a Savior who washed away our sin and erased our guilt. They boldly proclaimed that heaven is God’s free gift, given to us by his undeserved love and through our faith.
Today we celebrate our great heritage of God’s Word, passed down from the prophets and apostles, to the early Christians, through the Middle Ages, through Martin Luther and the reformers, and to us today. Today we celebrate that we have the truth about Jesus, our free and full Savior from sin. Today we celebrate that we too can be faithful confessors to the Word of God.
There may have been many times in our lives when we have failed to witness to Jesus. I can’t even count the number of times that I passed up opportunities in my life—when I was too scared at work growing up, when I was too nervous thinking I would receive a bad reaction, or when I just didn’t want to take the time or the effort.
But our failures are forgiven through Jesus—every last one of them. So we move forward. We move forward in forgiveness, in peace, and in joy. We move forward with a clean slate in Jesus, ready to work hard as his bold witnesses in the world.
And as we stand on our foundation, Jesus Christ, he stands with us each and every day. As surely as Jesus promised that we would face persecution and hardship when we witness about him, so he also promised that we would receive strength and help from him. Look at what he says in verse 19, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
So don’t worry about what to say to your neighbor. Don’t worry about what to say to your coworker. Don’t worry about what to say to your sister. Don’t worry about what to say when you go canvassing door to door with our church in this community. Jesus promises that God the Holy Spirit will give you the words to speak. Don’t worry about what to say, just say something. Talk about Jesus. Talk about his life and death. Talk about the forgiveness he gives. Talk about how he changed your life. Or even just talk about your pastor who is glad to answer the real tough questions. Do not worry about what to say, for God will give you the right words to say.
There is no “right” thing to say or magic formula. It doesn’t have to be recited in a special way, or preached with vim and vigor. Whatever words God gives you to speak about Jesus and the Bible are the right words. God promises it. And God promises that he will bless those words. Thus our confidence is not in ourselves, but in his Word and in his blessing. It takes all the fear away!
Today, on Reformation day, we rally to join those who have gone before us. We join Stephen and Peter and Paul and Martin Luther and countless thousands who have taken their stand on Jesus and with Jesus. Today we boldly proclaim: Here I Stand.
Maybe they’ll laugh at me. Here I Stand. Maybe they’ll make fun of me. Here I Stand. Maybe they’ll be mad at me. Here I Stand. Maybe friends or family members will be mad at me. Here I Stand. Maybe some day in America they will arrest me. Here I Stand. Maybe I will have to testify before Congress, the president, or some other king. Here I Stand. Maybe someday I will even face death because of my faith. Here I Stand.
Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” We may lose everything for Jesus. That’s okay, because in the end he gives us everything—salvation and life in heaven.
Today we rally. We rally together as an army bold and strong, ready to serve and ready to witness. We stand together on a sure foundation—our Savior Jesus Christ, and we stand together with his might and strength. Today we rally together to say. “Here I Stand. I cannot do no otherwise. God help me.”
Posted on October 30, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Confession of Faith, Heaven, Justification, Martin Luther, Matthew, Matthew 10, Reformation, Salvation, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.