Let us pray: Lord, You have told us: “Whoever confesses Me before men, him will I confess before my Father in heaven.” Today inspire and renew our confession of You and keep our eyes always fixed upon Your wonderful, welcoming, heavenly greeting. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO ALONE IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!
TEXT: Acts 13: 44-52
Fellow Redeemed in Christ, and Especially You, Kelly and Melissa:
Confirmation is your public confession and renewal of your infant baptism. It is your opportunity to speak to the world about the faith the Spirit generated in your heart even before you could formulate understandable words. It is also your entrance into spiritual adulthood—the two years of study mimicking the 3 years spent by the disciples before Jesus’ feet. And like them, now that Christ is physically absent from this earth, you are to spend the rest of your life “speaking the truth in love.” You are to spend your lifetime walking the walk and talking the talk of God’s eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.
I speak from experience when I say: “This won’t be easy.” People will brand you as bigoted if you politely speak of the 10 commandments. When you walk away from temptation, your sinful nature will tell you: “Just go with the flow, everyone else is doing it.” Friends will look at you as a bit weird if you actually go to church on Sunday morning instead of hitting the mall for that early sale. And if you truly remain committed to Christ, as you pledge to be today, you’ll have people who will be verbally and even physically abusive towards you. I’ve had my life threatened twice in my ministry. I’ve had doors shut in my face. I’ve had neighbors and even relatives shun me. Ah, there will be those who view having you revolve around their sphere of influence akin to possessing a rabbit’s foot. Some will view you as their “good luck” charm. But when you actually stand up for right vs. wrong they will tune you out and perhaps even berate you openly.
Why does this happen? After all, all we Christians are trying to do is keep people away from hurtful evil, provide them with a peaceful conscience, and show them the way to heaven. Well, you know why people will brand these attempts as hate-speech. All people are sinners who reject any attempt by God to rein-in their sinful nature. And most of all, down deep they really don’t like Christ. His free gift of forgiveness for sins won on the cross for all is an affront to their ego and their pride. Christianity means they cannot boast about what they’ve achieved on their own. Christ’s sacrifice for them on the cross hurts their sinful self-image and thus they will walk away from Him—keeping their heart for themselves.
St. Paul traveled throughout Asia Minor, today called Turkey, trying to save souls. To do that, He preached both Law and Gospel. He showed them exactly how they could not measure up to God’s standards, but how Christ had lived in their place, died for their failings, and lovingly handed out His forgiveness to all who wanted to embrace Him in faith. Today we find him in the city of Antioch doing exactly that. And unfortunately, many people, Jewish worshippers who wanted to boast before God about their human achievements, rejected Paul’s message. But then, Paul announced to the heathen background Gentiles present the truth about Christ: “He has made him a light for the Gentiles, that he might bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Up til now, these Gentiles, these non-Jewish worshippers, thought they were excluded from God’s grace and blessing. They thought: “It isn’t meant for us, but we can hope.” However, upon hearing Paul’s message: “they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
You and I were born to Gentile families. And by the love of God showered upon us and proclaimed to us, we have had our hearts gladdened. Thus, we, too, honor God’s Word of comfort and peace. We, too, believe and thereby all fears about our eternal future are taken away by our living Lord Who triumphed over our graves.
Thinking back over the years, I recall my own confirmation class. Out of the 13 young folks who confessed their undying faith and allegiance to Christ that day in May 42 years ago, only about half of them still go to church. Two, who left God behind early in life, are dead. Another 5 could care less about Christ as evidenced by their life of rejection of His truths. It’s very sad, but true.
Meanwhile, the others have forged ahead with their lives, been blessed by God every step, been empowered to cope with the tough times that always seem to come our way, and are basically happy and content. What you do with you faith in future years will determine which group you end up in.
Sometimes, like Paul in our lesson, even though you really care about others and try to pull them out of their rebellious lifestyle against God, your attempts will be rejected. Sometimes you, too, will have to walk away in sadness from them, just as Paul and Barnabas did in our lesson. But, but, every time you point out to others how Jesus helps you, how Jesus uplifts you when you’re depressed and lonely, how Jesus shows you the right way to go in His Word and it works, how Jesus fills your soul with love and compassion for others who hurt inside; well, that kind of confession will touch others, uplift others, bring them to faith, and ultimately save their souls! Such times are heady; you’re on top of the world! During such times you realize just how special it is to be able to make an eternal, lasting impact upon another human being.
When I look back over the years I’ve lived, when I overview my own confirmation confession to the world, I see both successes and failures. I recall times when I doubted God’s power and His plan for my life. I remember the inner hurts I’ve felt. But, Jesus keeps working on me and keeps giving me successes which overwhelm the hurts. And so, today I find myself at peace with God living a fulfilled life. I know I’m forgiven in Christ. I know I’m loved in Christ. I know I’m blest in Christ. I know I’m safe with Christ. And I know I’ll always be happy deep down inside because of Christ.
Ignorant people often characterize Christians as sad, brooding, dictatorial, and negative. They often categorize non-Christians as carefree and upbeat because they don’t brood over their sins. In actuality, it is reversed! Non-Christians hide their inner fears behind a veneer of trying to have fun; whereas as believers really can have fun and be filled with ongoing joy because we know that Christ took all our fears and in Him they were nailed to a cross and died then and there. In fact, that’s the reason why upon leaving Antioch, instead of brooding, “the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Today that same Spirit comes to you and fills you with joy, too. Each of you is special to God Almighty. Each of you is His daughter made holy by Christ. Each of you is rich beyond any compare since eternal life has become your baptismal birthright. Knowing those things, how can you not tell others and share with them the blessings God has given to you? How can you not “let your light shine?” And when you do, your inner joy at being one of God’s eternal family, will increase exponentially.—That is His ongoing confirmation gift to you! Ame