Dear Savior, how comforting it is to know You! For You are the Lord of the universe Who has reached down from heaven and come into our lives to save our souls, to bear our pain, to die our death, and to rise to a new life—for us! All of this was the result of Your boundless love for lost and hurting souls, our souls. Today we give You our thanks while we re-dedicate our lives to Your service. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH!
TEXT: Acts 17: 22-31
Fellow Redeemed Sinners and Especially You: Michael, Sean, and Timothy:
Right now you’re breathing a sigh of relief! That’s because the examination part of your confirmation, the part you’ve prepared for and spent hours on, is over. I know that when I was confirmed 36 years ago, I breathed a sigh of relief, too.
Confirmation is a significant milestone in your life as a Christian. For the past two years we’ve spent time together studying God’s Word of eternal truth and learning more about Him. And as we’ve done so, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned? It is that God loves you more than His own life. And He proved that by sending Christ to suffer and die for all your sins. He sent Christ, God’s Son, to save your soul. He sent Christ to give you a clean heart. You enter a select group today. You enter the group of believers who know the basic truths of God Almighty, truths that most humans simply speculate about. And those truths have set your souls free!
In today’s lesson we find St. Paul in the great city of Athens. It was the intellectual center of that time. It was where all the smart people hung out. And as Paul walked around the city he observed that they had altars and places of worship for every god, actually every false god, known to humans at the time. They even had an altar to “the unknown god” figuring that if they missed one, that altar would hedge their bets. Because of all this he begins by saying to them: “I see that in every way you are very religious.” That sounds like a compliment in English, but it really isn’t. In the original Greek language of the text, what Paul is really saying is: “I see that you are demon-fearing.” That is, these supposedly smart people lived in fear. They feared demons, they feared evil, and they feared that if they didn’t give respect to all those idols—something bad would happen to them. What a sad way to live! If you live your life worried and fearful of “god” it shows that you really don’t know anything about Him. He’s unknown to you—just like the inscription of that altar stated.
You know, there are only two religions in this world. There is works and there is faith. There is the kind where you look at your sins and failings and try to remedy them on your own. And there is the kind where you look to Christ Who fixes them for you. There is the kind where you live motivated always by fear and guilt. And there is the kind where you live motivated by love—love that God has for you in Jesus.
After telling the Greeks in Athens all about the unknown God by telling them about the Triune God, the only God there is; Paul contrasts their silly idolatry with Christian faith. He says: “Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man (Christ) he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Confirmation instruction is putting aside our silly attempts to define God in our own terms. Instead it learning to define Him in His terms. It is learning that God is love. And the forgiveness for sins is love in action. None of the other religions in this world teach that God is pure love. None of them teach that God went to a cross and died for our sins to make us right with Him because we could not do that on our own. None of them preach a forgiving God but a demanding God. And a demanding god is a fearful thing. But, now you know better! Today THE UNKNOWN HAS BECOME KNOWN! Today you know and have confessed that God has saved your soul. That Jesus is your best Friend. And that as Paul says: “In him we live and move and have our being.” All those truths take away fear—including fear over demons. Yes, today you have announced to the world that you’re His beloved child and nothing shall pluck you out of His loving hand! Amen