April 11, 2010: The Resurrection Breeds a Fearless Faith!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, just as the disciples were fearless in their faith and in their confession of You after the resurrection, make us that way today. Fill us with zeal to speak Your truths in love to all, even if they don’t want to listen. For we trust You when You promise that Your word “will not return empty.” Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR RESURRECTED SAVIOR!

TEXT: Acts 5: 12, 17-32 excerpts

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Called to Confess Boldly:

Why do we do mission work? Why do spent money on sending missionaries around the world? Why do we tell others about how Christ has changed our lives for the better and how He can help them, too? Isn’t it because we love those hurting souls? Isn’t it because we see ourselves, and our inner pain when we look at them? Isn’t it because Christ’s love for us has transformed us and we want it to transform them? Isn’t it because Jesus invested His blood in them and in us, and thus they are infinitely valuable to God—just as we are?

Many years ago a middle-aged man moved to New England with his wife. He was a banking executive and his wife held a major position in a major corporation. Both of these faithful Christians had been actively involved in mission work around America. In fact, they had been instrumental in planting a few churches. He told me about an incident that occurred one day in the bank coffee room. As he had many times before across America, he started discussing church and Christianity. He was met with a frosty reception. One person turned and bluntly said: “We don’t talk about religion around here!” Well, that was his first taste of what many of us have faced for many years in New England, and which has now become the politically entrenched view across our nation.

In my 23 years as your Pastor, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I’ve seen a lot of students come and go. Some were quiet. Some were cautious in their faith. Some were filled with zeal and probably harbored inward thoughts about being the next Dr. Luther and leading a spiritual revival in old puritan country. But, I’ve also seen how New England ground their zeal into dust, and how they met with opposition from the modern religion of secular political correctness. Sometimes I told them: “Carefully pick your target audience, wait till an opportune moment and then just tell them how Jesus has changed your life and helped you when you were needy.” Some heeded that advice. Others rolled their eyes. But eventually, all of them learned just how hard it is to suffer ostracism and rejection when it comes to doing mission work. Yes, it’s hard to offer love to another and have it hurled back into your face with a little spit mixed in. And with time, you find yourself just giving up and going with the flow of saying nothing….

The temptation to “keep your faith to yourself” is a great one. And it’s getting bigger and stronger as the years pass by. Our flesh naturally recoils at putting ourselves out for another when nothing seems to come of it but rejection. And I suppose that’s why today’s lesson is so important. For if it hadn’t been for those fearless disciples during that time after Easter, none of us would be here or heaven-bound today. And so I want to remind all of you of the singular truth of this lesson which is:

THE RESURRECTION BREEDS A FEARLESS FAITH

I

Easter has happened. Christ has broken death’s hold over human beings. Godly forgiveness is a reality, ready to be handed out freely to all. Christ has already appeared to the disciples in the upper room and restored St. Peter to faith. Also, Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit’s power has happened. Peter has already preached his great sermon on that day after which over 5000 people came to faith and became eternal heirs of Godly peace. Peter and John have already gotten into hot water with the secular/pseudo-religious powers-that-be. They have already been thrown into prison at least once, and browbeaten over their confession of Christ’s resurrection and the internal peace that it brings. And now they are all at it again! Note well, when you read the book of Acts, that they don’t cower in fear over their safety, get worn out by verbal abuse, or become disheartened over those who reject their message. No, they confess, confess, and confess some more because they know that God’s truth of forgiveness of sins in Christ can and will set hurting hearts free! Yes, for them: the resurrection bred a fearless faith! So they just keep on scattering His seed….

Here we meet them outside the temple preaching and doing miracles. Hurting souls listened and both physical and spiritual healing occurred. But jealousy on the part of the unbelieving secular/religious leaders reared its ugly head and once again they were thrown into prison. Yet, that very night one of God’s angels came and opened the jail door, freed them, and gave them this command: “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.” When daylight comes, they obey.

What changed these men? Just a few months before they had all run away from the soldiers in Gethsemane. They had hidden in the upper room out of fear. Thomas had despaired over Christ’s death, even to the point of divorcing himself from the others for a while. So, what changed their attitude? It was the reality of the resurrection. It was the reality of the outpouring of the Spirit upon them. God’s truth literally set their hearts free!

My friends, in the intervening 2000 years nothing has changed! The resurrection is still a reality. The Spirit has been poured out upon us via our baptism, through God’s Supper, and each week via His Word of grace and truth. Like them, we have absolutely no reason to be afraid of rejection or opposition. In fact, when we receive it, it is proof that Satan and his allies are starting to feel our bite!

II

Well, the next morning the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, meets to call the apostles to account. They send guards to the prison to haul them into court. The guards return saying: “They’re all gone and we don’t know how it happened!” Then someone runs in telling how the disciples are in the temple preaching again. So, guards are dispatched and they are hauled before this kangaroo court. The high priest says exactly what’s bothering him: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name (Jesus). Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” To this, Peter launches into a wonderful, soul-stabbing sermon, with these opening words: “We must obey God rather than men!”

Folks, that’s exactly the point. WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN! We must take the Spirit-wrought faith of Christ’s resurrection totally to heart and let it alone lead and guide us. We must let it ring out to our targeted audience—co-workers, neighbors, relatives, friends—and do so fearlessly. We must not be afraid to point out sin and reveal the works of darkness. And even more so, we must always apply the good news of forgiveness, of resurrection, of the gift of eternal life and peace that it brings to those who desperately desire something more to life than the secular world can offer. The world tells you that people are expendable. It tells you that your career, your money, your acceptance by others for not invading their “comfort zone” is your reason for living. Well, armed with the resurrection, you know otherwise! Souls are of infinite worth to God Almighty. Your soul, my soul, and the souls of those who don’t yet know Him. In love God saved your soul. Through that same love He wants to liberate those you care about. So, let Him! Let Him use you! Focus on the resurrection, be strong in Christ, and you’ll find your fears over failure will be replaced by fearlessness. For on the eternal battlefield, just one person standing with God will always win! Yes, the resurrection proves it! Amen