2nd Sunday of Easter
Trust Christ and His Word
Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
“Did God really say?” Those are the first words spoken by Satan in Scripture. That once perfect angel who rebelled against God and then was cast into hell was determined from the very beginning to bring down all creation with him. The most prized prey for his vicious attacks though would be the crowning jewel of creation, the ones made in the very likeness of God—human beings. Though they bore the righteous image of God, it would take one phrase to beguile humans and set off their race in a tailspin of sin: “Did God really say?”
That was enough. That was enough to get Eve to question God’s command and then alter God’s command and finally to disobey God’s command. “Did God really say?” was enough for Adam to stand there idly by, quietly conceding and consenting with his wife’s first sin.
That question is so powerfully evil that the devil figured he would just keep on using it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So he whispered, “Did God really say he would make you into a great nation?” into the ears of Abraham and led him to take matters into his own hands and lie about his wife Sarah, calling her his sister to protect her. And he coaxed into complaining some two million Israelites by causing them to ponder in the desert, “Did God really say he would lead you to the Promised Land?” That one worked so well he used it for over 40 years on the same people! Read the rest of this entry
Walk with Jesus: Convicted for the Truth
Text: Luke 22:66-71
The rooster had just crowed. Peter’s cheeks were newly soaked from his sobbing over sin. As the sun slowly rose over the horizon, the new Friday morning light revealed a face that was left puffy and purple from punches. The guards had their fun humiliating and hurting Jesus, but that was only the beginning of a treacherous day of torture.
But for now, the pain was paused. “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.” This rude rabble gathered was the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin had 71 members consisting of elders, priests, and teachers (Pharisees). The high priest was president and leader of the group. This Sanhedrin had absolute power and authority when it came to religious matters in Israel. Now, Jesus stood before them—he the accused, they the jurors.
These Jews had been patiently waiting for the Meshiach, the Messiah, for ages. The Lord promised to send his chosen and anointed one, and that was whom they still waited for. At the same time, they knew the claims that this Jesus had been making. They knew the miraculous signs and wonders Jesus had performed. They knew that John the Baptist had proclaimed him to be the One. They knew that most people seemed to think he was the One. Thus, it became question number one at the trial: “If you are the Christ, tell us.” Read the rest of this entry
The doorbell rang. Of course! Right when I’m in the middle of something!
I went to the door, looked through the stained glass, and knew immediately who it was. I could tell by the mid-length floral dresses. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses–again.
I opened the door and they began their regular and rehearsed routine. But I cut right to the chase. “Thank you very much, but I don’t need information from anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is truly God.” They had the look in their eyes like they knew they were in for an up-hill battle.
The two ladies at the door couldn’t answer many of my points from Scripture about Jesus being true God and our true Savior who gives eternal life in heaven to all who believe (not just 144,000). They needed to bring in the cavalry for reinforcements.
I shared more truths from Scripture, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Finally, I made one last-ditch effort to wake them from spiritual slumber. They needed a huge wakeup call from the full force of God’s Law.
I smiled and calmly stated, “My name is Phil. I want you to remember that. I want you to remember so that on the Last Day when Jesus comes and you find out you were wrong, you will know that at least one person tried to tell you and warn you.”
Recently I have been writing about a particular topic–homosexuality. In a broader spectrum I have actually been writing about unrepentant sin of every kind–sinning against God without care, sorrow, or regret. The last two days these posts have been a hotbed of discussion and opinions. One of the more common things I have heard from people is this:
“It’s none of your business.”
“It’s none of your business what other people do. It’s none of your business what people do in the privacy of their own homes. It’s none of your business because it doesn’t affect you.”
But don’t get me wrong, I haven’t only heard this from people living the homosexual lifestyle or in favor of homosexuality. I hear this from the church prospect whose living situation isn’t pleasing to the Lord. I hear this from prescription pill addict who won’t admit he has a problem and is in danger of going to prison. I hear this all the time from many, many people. They all say the same thing:
“It’s none of your business.”
But listen to what the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel 33:7-11:
7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
It was Ezekiel’s job, his commission, his mission, and his ministry to be a watchman for the people of Israel. Just as a city watchman would stand on the city walls and warn of impending danger, so Ezekiel’s job was to warn the people of Israel about the danger of their sins.
Amazingly, the Lord even told Ezekiel that if Israel did not repent of their sins and Ezekiel had not warned them, then he would share in the guilt and responsibility of their sins!
Ezekiel was to be a mouthpiece for the Lord. Why? Because the Lord does not desire that people go to hell. The Lord wants people to turn from their sin and evil ways, to repent, to be forgiven, and to be in heaven. That’s what the Lord wants, and that’s what the Lord wants us to tell others.
Imagine you are at the Grand Canyon. What a beautiful sight! But suddenly, to your horror, you see a blind person walking around the rim of the canyon. The person is using a cane, so he has some awareness of the danger. But he chooses to walk in danger anyways.
It gets worse! Terribly worse!
You see that blind person walking toward the edge. Slowly but surely he nears that edge. Then, sadly, he even walks off and falls to his peril.
You stood by and watched the whole thing take place. But you didn’t say anything. Why? Because it was “none of your business.”
Was it really loving of you to “mind your own business”? Would you not say that though that blind person brought on his own death, you also shared in culpability because you said nothing?
That’s exactly what God told Ezekiel, and that’s exactly what God tells his people today. We are his watchmen. It is absolutely, completely, definitely our business what other people do because it our job, our commission, our mission, and our ministry to speak the Word of God to others.
No, we are not to stand in judgment of others. That’s for God to do. No, we are not to look down our noses at others as if we have never sinned and we are so much better. That’s neither realistic nor loving.
But rather we are supposed to be God’s watchmen carefully, clearly, and lovingly proclaiming the truth. Listen to the apostle Peter:
15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
God wants us to be prepared to speak his truth, to be his mouthpiece, to be his watchmen. Yet–so importantly–he tells us to do so with gentleness and respect. It is in love for the eternal salvation of those living in sin that we proclaim God’s message: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (After we preach the message to ourselves first!)
Many have told me before, “It’s none of your business.” Well actually, yes it is. God has charged me as both Christian and pastor to be a watchman and to proclaim his truth with gentleness, respect, and love.
And besides, I care! I do not want to see people walk off the edge of the cliff!
So, fellow Christians, stand your watch. Care. Love. Proclaim God’s truth.
It is your business.
Devotion Text: Revelation 14:6-7
A lot of people make a lot of money on trying to interpret the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Actually, a lot of those people make a lot of money convincing people they have some sort of secret to interpreting the book. In reality, while there are many crazy images and tons of vivid language in the Bible’s last book, the story is the same as the 65 previous–Christ is victorious and we will be victorious with him.
This is also the message of the Lutheran reformation. At that time, the Roman Catholic church had shuttered the Word of God from the people of God. By not allowing the Bible to be written in the native language of the people (all Bibles were in Latin the official language of the church), by not teaching what worship is (services were in, you guessed it, Latin), and by withholding forgiveness as something only a priest could do, the people were lost.
The message of the Reformation was that the Word of God and the forgiveness of God were for all people. The knowledge between the covers of the Bible should not be foreign and the blessings of God are not for sale–they are freely given to every “nation, tribe, language and people.”
So we, children of God and heirs of the Reformation, proclaim that message today. The end is near, brothers and sisters, and the time to work is short. So, with the angel depicted in Revelation and with the earnestness of Luther we “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come…who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” We spread that message of glory to others and we boldly confess the good news of the Gospel.
Prayer: You came to us in darkest night to make us children of the light; to make us in the realms divine, like your own angels, who around around you shine. Hallelujah! All this for us your love hath done; by this to you our love is won. For this our joyful songs we raise and shout our thanks in ceaseless praise. Hallelujah! –Martin Luther
Text: Mark 13:5-11
It’s one of the signs of the End Times that Jesus gave. People will be persecuted because of their faith. The walls will continue to feel like they are closing in on Christians. It won’t be easy.
Lest we fear or fret about our current situations in this country, we first must remember and give thanks for those who have endured such persecutions in the past. On this day, October 31st or Reformation Day, we take time to remember Martin Luther and the others who pioneered the Reformation of the Church.
We cannot fathom how difficult it was to face all the power and pressure of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor. Jesus surely fulfilled his words with them:
Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
So on this day we can give thanks for those who boldly stood for the truth of God’s Word. Even facing death and disaster, Martin Luther and others proclaimed: Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
As much as we might face persecution and pressure these days, it certainly is not as bad as it was in days past. However, it still is difficult and challenging today. Though the persecution is slightly more subtle, it is every bit as public with media and social media today. It can quickly feel like we are surrounded with nowhere to turn.
So our prayer on this day and every day is that God continues to send us his Holy Spirit to give us strength to speak and words to share that his good news and his truth might be clearly proclaimed to all!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide, continue to fill us with strength and courage to boldly proclaim the truth of your word. Give us the words to speak when we are sharing our faith. Help us to preserve the truth of your word for ages to come. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.