Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Confessing, Jesus Is Lord - February 14, 2016 - First Sunday in Lent/Valentine’s Day - Text: Romans 10:8b-13
In our text for this morning Paul reminds us that we cannot confess something with our lips if it is not in our hearts. Paul does not say it, but I think we would all agree that there are times when we may try to confess something that is not in our heart (I believe they call it acting), but our actions give us away, because our actions speak louder than our words. We simply cannot confess with our lips what we do not believe in our hearts. Paul also reminds us that we cannot believe in something or for that matter, in someone, unless that faith comes from somewhere. In other words, our confession must first be put into our hearts before it can be on our lips and before it can be acted out in our lives. Paul tells us that what we confess is put in our mouth and in our hearts and that confession comes from the Word. This morning, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, that is, through the Word of Holy Scripture, we will come to be given that word that is put in our mouth and in our hearts so that we too may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Our text begins by saying that “The word is near you.” The word that is translated “word” in our text is not the same word which is translated “Word” in John’s Gospel. You might remember that when John talks about, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” that the word John is using is the word “logos” which is used in reference to Jesus Christ Himself. The word which is translated “word” in our text for today is the word “rhema” which is used to mean the smallest unit of discourse, either spoken or written. This word is a reference, in particular, to the word of Holy Scripture.
Paul reminds us that the Word is a means through which the Holy Spirit works to give us the gifts God has to give to us. The Word is a means through which the Holy Spirit works to give us faith in our heart. The word of God, the Bible is a book that is different from all other books. The Bible is different from any text book, Math, Science, History, English, Social Studies and the like. The Bible is different from any other book, a novel, a short story, poetry and the like. All these other books may be good books. They may be good for getting an education. They may be good for a bit of escape from the world. They may even have good moral lessons, but they are not the same as the Bible. The Bible is a book with power. Every Bible comes with the extra feature of the Holy Spirit. No other book can do what the Bible can do. Many people have tried to read the Bible to disprove it, only to be given faith through it, this is why we say the Bible is efficacious, that it effects or does what it says. The Bible is the word of God given to us through which the Holy Spirit works to give us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. It is a most precious word.
The word of God is that word which gives faith and that faith is what motives a confession with one’s lips. How can we confess what is not in our heart? The word of God gives faith, thus we are confessing what is in our heart, put their by God Himself through His Word.
There is something even more important about this particular confession than there is with all other confessions. This confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, that Jesus Christ is Yahweh, that Jesus Christ is true God, is a saving confession. Certainly we can make many different confessions. We can confess that we have sinned, which we did at the beginning of this service and after which we hear words of absolution. We can confess that we are Americans. We can confess that we are members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Perhaps we have confessed our undying love for another person, but none of these confessions come close to the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. The confession that Jesus Christ is Lord comes from our lips by way of our heart given to us by the Holy Spirit through God’s word, which highlights that importance of God’s word.
We see that heart and mouth go together. And, in our text, there are two more words that go together, they are the words faith and confession. Where there is no faith, there is no confession. We cannot confess what we do not believe. And conversely, where there is no confession, there is no faith. We cannot believe what we do not confess.
These two things, faith and confession go together and they come through means. They are not something we can get on our own. They are not something that we get immediately. In other words, they are not something that God, usually gives to us directly. I say usually, because God can do whatever He wants and if He wants He can give faith immediately, or directly, He can, after all, we do have the case of Paul being given faith immediately. Personally I do not know of any other instances in the Bible of anyone being given faith immediately. God’s usual way of working with us is mediately. In other words, God’s usual way of working with us is through a mediator of sorts, through means, namely the means of grace, His word, the Bible about which we have just been speaking and the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And we might rightly add the Lord also comes to us through the means of our confession and absolution. The Lord works through these means to give us faith and to strengthen and keep us in faith. The Lord works through these means to give us forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness, we know we have life and salvation. The Lord works through these means so that we might confess with our lips what is in our hearts, that is that we might confess that we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.
About faith, Paul tells us that faith is for all. There is no distinction of people. Jesus died for all people of all place of all times, this is called the order of redemption. Because Jesus died for all people, we are all equal in God’s eyes, equal as redeemed sinners, or as we have heard it says, we are equal as sinner/saints. Which begs the question, if faith is for all, then why are some not saved? Some are not saved because they refuse the faith which God has to give to them. Instead they look for a faith and confession in something or someone other than Jesus.
Paul’s struggle in his day was the thought that, maybe, the Jews have ownership of God and the Old Testament. Today Paul might just as well write to confront us and to remind us Christians that we do not have ownership of Jesus and the New Testament. Rather, Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Old and New Testament. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. We are not to “keep” the faith, we are to give it away. We are to share the faith with others as we boldly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
This morning we are reminded of the importance of the word, the message of salvation, the message of sins forgiven for Jesus’ sake. As we are reminded of the importance of the word of God, so we are reminded of the importance of getting the message out and the ways we bring people to hear the message. Here at St. Matthew we get the message out through our Sunday school and Bible class, through our divine service, through our Vacation Bible School as well as through our Mother’s Day Out program. We get the message out through our vocations, that is through our living lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers, offering our lives as living sacrifices for the Lord. We get the message out by always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. Through our lives as well as through the means of grace we proclaim the good news of salvation. We can and we do talk about Jesus being the Light of the world. We talk about how Jesus is true God, who gave up all the glory that was His in heaven, took on human flesh and blood and became one of us, one of His creation. We talk about Jesus giving His life for ours on the cross. And we talk about His resurrection. We talk about the forgiveness of sins He pours out on us. We talk about the most important things of life, the things of our real eternal life in heaven. We teach the basics of what we need for our short time in this fast and fleeting world, and we teach the most important lessons of life, the lessons of faith and confession which is for the forever world of heaven.
Paul’s words in our text for this morning remind us of the importance of making using of the means of grace, the instruments or the ways in which Christ has of coming to us to give us all His good gifts and blessings. The means of grace are so important. To understand how important are the means of grace we need to understand that if we stay away from them, then we are refusing them and we are refusing the gifts that God has to give. When we stay away from the gifts God has to give we are in essence telling God, “No thank you, I do not need any more gifts, I have plenty, maybe next week.” “I have enough forgiveness Lord, I don’t need any more this week, maybe next time.” God’s Word is a must for us, not just at church, but at work, at school, in our homes and in all aspects of our lives. It is imperative that we make regular and diligent use of the Word of God in our homes, reading and hearing the Word which tells us of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; reading and hearing the Word though which the Holy Spirit works to point us to the cross; reading and hearing the Word through which the Holy Spirit works to give faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
All of God’s gifts and blessings are important. Unfortunately, when we absent ourselves from where He gives His gifts then we are refusing and rejecting the gifts and if we refuse and reject the gifts enough we will eventually lose them. Paul mentions the importance of the gift of faith. Faith is that gift which the Holy Spirit gives through Holy Baptism as well as through the Word. Faith is that gift which the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts. Faith is that gift which is an instrument which gives us the ability to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
And our confession is important. Our confession tells what is in our hearts, if we have faith or no faith. Our confession is as Paul says, “what saves us.” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So we rightly understand that if a person does not call on the name of the Lord, then they are not confessing His name, rather they are in reality refusing and rejecting His name, they are refusing and rejecting the gifts He has to give. A person will not call on the name of the Lord unless it is to confess His name.
Paul speaks well, and loud and clear to us this morning. “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” The word is here for you to come and hear. It is also in your Bible for you to read and hear. I would urge you to make use of the Word so that the Holy Spirit may give you faith, strengthening your faith, and give you life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.