Week 4: Confess your faith in Jesus Christ your Savior
Dear Friends in Christ,
For the past four weeks we’ve been following the series: Cultivate your Faith in the Lord. In our first week we learned a lesson about faith from the faith of the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed by merely speaking the words. In our second week we planted our faith in Jesus as the one who holds power and authority over death, as we witnessed him raise that young man of Nain from the dead. Last week, we grew in the forgiveness that Jesus bestows as we heard about the woman who came and anointed Jesus feet first with her tears and then with perfume. Today, as we come to the conclusion of series of cultivating our faith in the Lord, we have essentially come to the point of the harvest. We have come to the point where we have been well fed for the last few weeks, and now we are being given the opportunity to go out and exercise our faith, if you will, by confessing our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.
Now, if you think about it, confessing our faith is something that each and every one of us does on a daily basis. We constantly confess our faith in some product or service to just about anyone who will listen. Whenever we get a good deal on clothes, cleaning supplies, vegetables, newspapers, magazines, or anything else we purchase, we are very quick to tell anyone about the great deal we got and encourage them to go to the same store so that they can get the same great deal. Whenever we go to see a great movie, the first thing we want to do is talk to all our friends about it, compare notes with them, confess to them our most favorite parts and encourage those who haven’t seen it to see it so that they can share in the experience with us. In fact, just think about what you’ve talked about in the last 7 days, and I’d be willing to bet you talked to someone about the BP oil spill and confessed your frustration and your annoyance about the situation and your desire that someone should do something about it. For the truth is, we are very social people at heart. We are constantly communicating and confessing our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about anything and everything, and now that the world has changed, we are doing all this and more in the comfort and style of modern technology. We are accessible to our friends and family 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We blog and facebook, we tweet and twitter, we myspace, youtube, text, email, and socially network with each other in ways that I simply cannot keep up with. We are constantly talking on our phones, even while we are out walking, biking, rollerblading, and yes, of course driving. We even take the time to text when we’re doing those very same activities. In fact, on Friday while I was checking my facebook page, I saw a picture of a church sign that said, “Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet him.”
These, are but a few of the examples of ways that we are constantly communicating with each other and constantly confessing our thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, moods, emotions, and beliefs with friends, family, classmates, relatives, and even with people on the other side of the world 24 hours a day. But even though we are constantly confessing things like these, how often are we taking time to confess our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior? How often, other than the hour we spend in worship, are we opening our mouths to confess our faith in Jesus as our Savior to a friend, a family member, a relative, a stranger, or even a person on the other side of the world? I’m not talking about those “religious” emails that travel around cyberspace on a daily basis. I’m not talking about those spiritual things that we post on our facebook walls. I’m not even talking about those religious pictures and ornaments that we have adorning the walls and the shelves or our homes. What I’m talking about is simply, “When was the last time that you openly confessed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” When was the last time you stood up for your beliefs when you found yourself in a religious conversation? When was the last time that you found yourself explaining why you belong to Grace, when you could go to any other church you wanted? When was the last time you explained that you are certain that you will have eternal life in heaven because you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior who freed you from your sins by his death and resurrection from the dead?
If we’re like most people, then the truth is it may have been some time since we have confessed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior in a venue other than worship. Yet, confessing our faith in Jesus our Savior, is the very thing that Jesus wants us to be doing, just as Jesus himself tells us in our text this morning. I invite you to turn with me to our Gospel Lesson, to Luke 9:18-24, and we’ll take a look at what Jesus has to say. Now, as you are looking up Luke 9:18-24, let me give you a little bit of background. The disciples had been with Jesus for nearly 2 ½ years, and life was changing. Jesus was spending more time in the wilderness between towns, spending time with his disciples, taking time to teach them the precious truths of salvation, preparing them for the service to which he would call them after his ascension, and simply cultivating their faith in him so that they would be prepared to confess their faith in him as their Lord and Savior. Luke writes, in chapter 9 beginning with verse 18: “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20, NIV)
Now that the disciples had been with Jesus for nearly 2 ½ years, following him, witnessing his miraculous signs, and growing in their faith as they heard him preach and teach, Jesus sought to evoke a confession from them. He asked them to tell him who the people thought he was, and from the answers the disciples gave, it was clear that the majority of the people thought of Jesus as a mere man, a great prophet, most likely the forerunner to the Messiah, but not the Messiah himself. The disciple, on the other hand, had come to a different understanding of who Jesus was, and through Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, it was clear that they knew he was the divine Son of God whom the Lord had sent to be the Savior of the World. The problem, however, was the misunderstanding that the people had for the titles of “Christ” and “Messiah.” Though both titles were interchangeable because they simply meant “Anointed One” those titles were politically charged. In fact, the truth is that the majority of the Israelites had been taught that when the Messiah came, he would be a political Savior. He would be the one to overthrow the Romans and restore physical peace to Israel by reestablishing their ability to rule themselves. It was because of this, that even though Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ was true, Jesus warned him not to tell people that he was the Christ, but to confess him as Savior with words and actions. This is the very thing that Luke brings out as we continue with verse 21: “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” 23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Luke 9:21–24, NIV)
With this strict warning, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that he wanted them to confess him as their Lord and Savior as they spoke about him. He wanted them to confess their faith in him as the one who would free them from their sins. He did not want them making a confession that would confuse or mislead people into a false understanding of who Jesus was. He wanted them to make a clear confession with their words and actions—a confession through which people would come to know Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.
Well, the same thing is true for each and every one of us here today. Jesus wants us to be ready to make a clear confession of our faith in him as our Lord and Savior. He wants us to use our words and our actions in such a way that every aspect of our lives reveals our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Though there have been many times when we have failed to do this, it is Jesus who forgives us. Though there have been opportunities that slipped past us because we were either too afraid to say anything or too worried that we might say the wrong thing, it is Jesus who has washed those sins away. Though there have been times when we cowered in a corner rather than standing up for our religious beliefs, or times when we have simply run away from a religious conversation in which we knew we would be called on to confess our faith and the reason why we have the hope of eternal life, even these episodes have been expunged from our record.
Now, armed with the knowledge that our Savior has taken our hearts and submerged them in the river of his blood, allowing his forgiving blood to permeate every crack and crevice and dissolve away every spot and stain of our sins; armed with the knowledge that through his death and resurrection we have been forgiven not merely for our failure to confess him but also for every single sin with which we have ever offended him, we begin to feel the fire of faith in our hearts yearning to be let out. When we realize that Jesus, our Savior loved us so much that he willingly went to the cross in our place, our hearts begin to burn with the need to tell others about their Savior from sin and death. When we begin to realize that we may be a person’s only chance to hear the gospel of salvation we cannot help but be moved to confess our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
So now as you leave this place today, make a clear confession of your faith in Jesus through your words and actions. Set aside 15 minutes for yourself each day and sit down to read the Bible so that your faith will grow, and you will be all the more ready to confess your faith. Pay attention to the words that are coming out of your mouth and judge them according to their effect on your ability to confess your Savior. Take note of your actions. Are you one person at church and a different person during the rest of the week, or do your words, actions, and faith go hand in hand. Take a look at your budget and ask yourself, “Am I giving my first and my best to the Lord? Or am I simply giving him what’s left over after I pay my bills?” Take a look at your relationships. Do people know you are a Christian by the confession of your life? Or do they only have a vague idea that you might be? Reflect on your own life. Does your life clearly confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Or does your life offer an unclear or confusing confession of your faith?
Though each and every one of us has work to do in different areas of our lives so that we might continually offer a clear confession of faith in Jesus our Savior, each and every one of us has been given the tools we need to change. The greatest tool we have is the manual of faith recorded for us in the Scriptures that will lead us to catch hold of our Savior and go out and confess his name to everyone we meet. And just think about what our church would look like if each and every one of us caught hold of this message today! Just think about what this congregation would look like if we all began clearly confessing our faith in Jesus in every aspect of our lives. Just think how each of you would be encouraged in your faith not merely by what you hear on Sunday morning, but in what you hear from your fellow members who are regularly confessing their faith. Just think about how worship attendance would change as more and more of our members gathered here in worship because they were encouraged by your life’s confession of faith. Just think about how many people of our community would be affected by our confession. How many people in our community would be strengthened in their faith, built up in their faith, and even called to faith because of our confession of Christ Jesus our Savior. Just think about how your own life would be affected! You would find more time to grow in your faith, to trust in the Lord, and to look forward to the kingdom of heaven. In short, you would be on fire and excited by the work that the Lord was doing through your confession of faith and you would be ready to continue on confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior before anyone who would listen.
So take to heart the lessons we’ve learned over the past four weeks and continue to cultivate your faith in the Lord. Take time to learn from him, plant your faith in him, grow in him and of course, confess him as your Lord and Savior who has freed you from your sins by his death and resurrection from the dead.
Pastor David M. Shilling