January 13, 2002: Has God Earned Your Respect?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, remind us today that You are God Almighty; that You put Your life on the line and died to save our souls; that You care for our every need and daily provide countless blessings; and that You provide us with both joy and peace in our lives. Lord, it’s so easy for us to either take all that for granted or to forget it altogether. Today we ask You to drive all those truths home so that we may prove worthy of Your love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE LORD WHO PUT HIS SEAL OF APPROVAL UPON YOU IN BAPTISM!
TEXT: Acts 10: 34-38

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Aretha Franklin sings about it in her famous song. Respect, we all desire it. Respect, we all have to earn it. But, just what is respect? Isn’t it having others look up to you and recognize your ability? Isn’t it the honoring of great achievement borne of hard work and effort? The first step towards respect is self-sacrifice. It is humbling yourself, admitting your short-comings, and then seeking ways to overcome those character flaws. If you take the word apart, respect literally means “to take a second look” as in “re” meaning “again” and “spect” meaning to “see.” Respect means to look with new eyes at another, to see where they have come from and what they have done, and then to give them honor.

Throughout the Bible we’re told that humans should “fear and love God.” We know what love means, but what about that word “fear?” Does it mean we should cringe in terror before the King of kings? Does it mean we should view God only as a stern Judge Who doles out punishment for our mistakes? No, “fear” in those passages means respect. That is, we should give Him a second look and honor Him for what He has done in remaking our lives for the better. In speaking to the Roman centurion and his large household, St. Peter touches on this when he says: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Yes, respect for God and His eternal truths goes hand in hand with saving faith.

Your presence here today shows that you desire such saving faith, too. For if you didn’t want it, you wouldn’t have come. So, my question for each of you is this:

HAS GOD EARNED YOUR RESPECT?
I

I’ve known a lot of people over the years. And the ones I respect were the ones who earned it. I can think of various wealthy people who simply live off what mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa worked for. I can think of others whose worldly position was achieved, not through sacrifice or hard work, but because they knew the right people to stroke, or were born into the right family. Basically, I don’t respect such folks. Why? Because they have not earned it.

No, the people I respect are my father, who quietly labored for 35 years teaching high school kids to think and train their brains via mathematics. I respect Dr. B.W. Teigen, the president emeritus of our Bethany Lutheran College, who by God’s grace and hard work rose from obscurity to become one of the leading theologians of the last century. I respect my wife, who personifies the Christian ideal of self-sacrifice and honesty. In every instance, the people who I respect are or were Christians who all knew that “the fear (respect) for the Lord was the beginning of all wisdom” and then who used their Godly gifts to the utmost to make a difference in other people’s lives.

II

St. Peter was given the same vision from God three times. In that vision he saw a large sheet coming down from heaven containing all sorts of animals, birds, and reptiles. A voice then told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” But Peter replied, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Peter was still living in the past. He was still trying to keep the Old Testament dietary laws about clean and unclean foods. He was still of the mindset that Christ came to save only Jewish background people, that’s the “clean” of our lesson and that all others were “unclean” or worthless to God. In short, this vision was about getting Peter to take off his blinders and to see the big picture-That Jesus Christ came to save all people regardless of there ethnic backgrounds.

Well, Peter finally got some of this through his thick head. So, under the Spirit’s power he went downstairs and three men met him there. He said to those men, “I’m the one you are looking for. Why have you come?” Their response was, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion (a prominent Roman soldier). He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Peter went with these men, entered Cornelius’ house and began to talk to all in attendance about his vision. And one of the things he said was: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached-how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

III

In saying this, Peter was reminding everyone there that God Has Earned Their Respect. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, humbled Himself in being born in a manger. God, in the person of Christ, led a self-sacrificial life in that He always helped the poor, sick, needy, and downtrodden. God, in the person of Christ, came to save us from our lack of respect by dying for our sins on the cross. Yes, Christ’s public ministry, God’s service to us, began with Christ’s baptism and culminated with the cross and the empty tomb. God suffered for you, He died for you, He rose from the dead for you. Has God earned your respect? Has He earned a second look from you? Has He earned your honor, love, and trust? The answer can only be a resounding: YES!

What are the marks of a great person? Aren’t they the ability to put others before self? Aren’t they the humbleness to admit their own sins? Aren’t they the willingness to learn? In short, isn’t the mark of greatness a repentant heart? If you truly want to be great and memorable, if you truly want to be accepted by God Almighty, then you need to give your Lord a second look, a third look, a fourth look. You need to keep your eyes fixed on our God Who gave His life to save yours. Yes, we have a great God Who is willing to share the respect He earned with each of you. Rejoice over that fact for it is the one thing that truly makes you respectable. Amen