Let us pray: Dear Savior, standing up for the way of the cross has never been easy—it wasn’t easy for You and it will never be easy for us. All this is because the cross, Your grace, Your free gift of forgiveness for our sins—all of that is an affront to human pride. All of it boldly proclaims that we’re not powerful, but powerless, when it comes to life. Today instill in us confidence to continue to confess You as the way, the truth, and the life. Give us the ability to speak Your truth, the truth, in love. And shield us with Your mighty power when we do so. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUT GLORIOUS LORD, JESUS CHRIST!
Text: Mark 13: 9-11
Fellow Redeemed Children of God’s Reformation:
I use that greeting: “God’s Reformation” because that’s exactly what reformation was and still is today. It is God’s power at work in and through His saints to keep and even restore the purity of His grace, showered upon this unbelieving world. Most people would trace the beginning of the reformation to October 31, 1517 when Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses for public debate to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. But, that’s only a partial answer to: when did the reformation begin? In reality, it began when Christ walked this earth. In reality, it began when God gave the first gospel promise in Genesis—for the purpose of reforming Adam and Eve’s sin-stricken conscience. And in reality, the work of reforming lost souls, jaded souls, clueless souls still continues to this very day. Yes, in reality, reformation has always been with us and always will be with us until judgment day arrives.
And so, as we celebrate Reformation today, I want each of you to focus on the fact that:
REFORMATION CONTINUES TODAY!
During Holy Week, Jesus took time to give final instructions to His disciples about what they should expect as they confessed Christ to the world. Jesus had already engaged in reforming the Old Testament church of His day by denouncing the human add-ons and the human corruptions of God’s grace. Now, the disciples—including you, me, and all New Testament saints—would have to continue that work. And so, He tells them: “You must be on your guard.”
Reformation continues today with vigilance. We must be vigilant against complacency. Just because a religious organization, or its members, call themselves followers of Christ doesn’t mean they really are. No, the litmus test for discipleship is in clinging to Christ’s Word, all the truths of the Bible. Or as Jesus says: “If you continue in My Word then are you my disciples, and then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Obviously we cannot read another’s heart. That’s God’s job. But today when Lutheran synods promote gay and lesbian clergy and say it’s the Christian thing to do; when political correctness takes the place of God’s clear words about what is immoral; you have to stand up and speak out for Christ.
Likewise when other Christian groups deny or downplay the necessity of the sacraments; or when they question the truthfulness of Christ’s miracles or His physical resurrection; you have to be on guard. That’s because in reality they are really trying to steal your Savior and His gift of grace, undeserved forgiveness, from you.
Standing up for God’s truth is never easy. True reforming of human hearts away from sin and toward grace will occur amidst pain and great personal sacrifice. Listen again to our text: “You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.”
Obviously, we know that occurred to the disciples in the early times of the church. But later, when Dr. Luther stood up for grace alone, it also happened to him. Emperor Charles V pronounced him a public enemy to be killed on sight. Likewise, other early reformers were burned alive, or driven from their towns and pulpits.
Today, the question is: what’s the most important thing in your life? If you answer: “God’s truth, His loving forgiveness and my church which teaches it” well and good. In fact, great! But with that confession comes opposition. We see examples of that opposition in the explosion of youth sports on Sunday morning which forces kids and parents to choose between Godly worship and recreation. And woe to your child if you choose church! We see such opposition in the workplace when anything religious is mocked, or forbidden in conversation or even from appearing on your desk. The secular world hates Christianity! Peer pressure is the tool usually used today to ostracize believers. The ACLU brings lawsuits against having a cross displayed with private funds on public land in some obscure Arizona countryside, while standing silent as public funds are used to build footwashing bathrooms at airports in the Midwest for Muslims. And we Christians are forced to swallow hard and take it!
Does the Reformation continue today? It better, or the world is sunk! “On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
The reformation of human souls can only occur with bold confession. St. Paul stood before the Roman governor, Felix, and wasn’t cowed in the least, because he had God on his side. Dr. Luther stood before the powerful of his day at Worms, as the picture in the back of the church depicts, and refused, under pain of death, to recant or take back his writings. Recall his famous answer to them: “Unless you convince me from clear Scripture and sound reason that I’m wrong, I will not recant. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen!”
Confessing Christ as the real answer to human evil must always continue! Think about the fact that if our society actually tried to follow the 10 commandments—how much pain and suffering would be avoided? Think about the fact that if people actually lived repentance how much more civil our society would be. Think how much depression and inner angst would be avoided if people embraced the total forgiveness for their sins won by Christ on the cross. Think about how well-adjusted people would be if they knew with Christian certainty that death really was the entrance into glory! Yes, bold confession is still needed today.
And that brings us to our final point. Reformation can continue today only with the comfort of the Truth! “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
Before Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit upon them, the disciples were apprehensive and afraid. They even locked themselves in that upper room. But afterwards, we never really find them worried and fearful again. Why? Because they received the Comforter from on high! So, they boldly announced the truth of the cross to the world, even as they were martyred. Dr. Luther also was given the Spirit through faith alone in Christ’s cross. He, too, was unabashed even when superpower leaders hated him and sought his life. You and I have also been given the Spirit’s power through our baptism, through our continuous communion, and through the saving message of the cross. That’s because the Gospel in all these avenues of grace is, and I quote Paul: “The power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” My friends, use that gospel power! Never be afraid to confess your Lord! For the boundless, unimaginable power of the Spirit has your back! And it is all because of Him along with the Father and the Son that Reformation continues today. Amen