Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join our voices in thanking You for making us Your beloved children! Thank You for the comfort and joy that comes with being a Christian and knowing it deep within our hearts. Thank You for giving us the quiet confidence of knowing that heaven is our home. Yes, thank You for all our blessings. May we all confess them daily without ceasing. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!
TEXT: Matthew 16: 13-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Pastor Fox has told the story of how few days before he moved to New England he visited Hetta and Alfred in the hospital in Iowa. Alfred had terminal cancer and they talked that day not only about his eternal future in heaven, but also said their final good-byes. It was an emotional time for everyone. Our Pastor will never forget when Hetta turned to him and said: “What do people do during these times when they’re not Christian?” To which he responded: “They don’t very well.” She and her beloved husband nodded in agreement because both knew that through Christ heaven was their home and even death could not separate them.
The lesson before us is a rather famous one. Anyone who has been a Lutheran for very long knows it quite well. That’s because it knocks on the head the Pre-Reformation idea that the pope of Rome is the foundation of the Church. He’s not. Christ is. Recall in Ephesians when we’re told that the Church is built on the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the chief cornerstone. By way of background, you should remember that “Peter” literally meant: rock. And after Jesus asks him and the others a leading question: “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” They list various forerunners of the Messiah which popular folklore had associated with Jesus. But, then He asks them the clincher question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” And Peter answers for them all: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What a glorious confession of faith! And then in response, Christ plays a word game with Peter’s name. In the original language He tells him: “You are Peter the man, and upon the rock of your faithful confession of Me I will build the Church and the gates of hell with not overcome it.” So again, God’s kingdom is built on an allegiance to and a confession of Jesus as the eternal Son of God—not on any human in any office.
Well, that’s the import of today’s lesson. And no doubt you’ve heard many sermons about it in the past. Today we’re not really going to focus on those facts, however. No, we need to focus our attention on the singular truth of Peter’s confession of Jesus and apply it to our lives. So, I ask each of you to ponder this question:
WHY AM I A CHRISTIAN?
Many of us have never known life without also knowing that we’re a child of God. That’s because we were baptized as infants and had the Holy Ghost work that quiet confidence of faith within us at that time. The same was true of Hetta and Alfred, who I referred to earlier. But, some of you came to know Christ later in life. Remember your outlook on life before Christ came calling? It wasn’t a comforting time, was it?
Christians are different than non-Christians. O, on the surface we often act the same. We all have our ups and downs. We all have times of stress, uncertainty, worry, doubt, and even fear. Nonetheless, Christians are different in that Christ enables them to handle those problems and not to get overwhelmed by them. Let me give you some examples.
When 9-11 occurred, all of us were upset and confused. We were hurting inside because our world had been turned upside down. But, as a believer you knew that God was still in control. You knew that no matter what, the worst that could happen was that you’d get to go to heaven sooner rather than later. You knew that God promises not to test us beyond what we can bear was fact not fiction, so unlike others, you didn’t fall apart.
The other night in adult class the Pastor was discussing the Christian world-view with some folks. He told them: “Generally speaking, Christians don’t amass huge fortunes (apart from certain folks like Abraham) and don’t succumb to the dog-eat-dog mentality of the business world because they know that this life is transitory, it’s a blink of the eye; whereas the real action is yet to come.” Think about the stress that takes off us? We work not just for ourselves or our families; we labor for Christ, knowing that He’ll take care of all our needs, in order that we don’t have to shoulder those burdens all alone. What a blessing!
Then, too, Pastor Fox spoke at that class of his own premonition of death about 20 years ago. He told them how for the first time in his life he really thought he might die that night, and how he wasn’t petrified by that thought. Then he added these words: “See, faith works! Knowing Christ means knowing what awaits and that confidence takes away fear.”
I’m not a perfect Christian. I’m not overly special either. Like you, I fret about little things and often lose sight of my blessings. And yet, the Son of the living God gives me living answers, not dead ones, when it comes to all of my struggles.
As a Christian I work hard to honor Christ first, not just myself. And I know that He’ll always give me exactly what I need at exactly the right time. That truth gives me a quiet joy over life. A joy that flesh and blood has not revealed to me, but God has through His gift of faith! So, I know that when I follow His commandments in dealing with people I’ll possess a clean conscience at day’s end. And when I fail, He’ll still forgive me and cover me with His grace.—The grace He won on the cross when He died for me. I find it amazing, amusing, and even sad at how the unbelieving world reacts to the latest dire prediction—plug in hurricanes, meteors from space, the current flu virus, or anything else you can name. I don’t worry about those things, but will take them if and when they come knowing that this life is transitory anyway and heaven awaits.
O, I also know that most non-Christians blissfully go along through life seemingly untouched by any concern for this life or the one to come. As Christ says about end times: “They marry and are given in marriage” they eat, drink, and play hard. But, we’ve also seen firsthand how such folks react when cancer, a heart attack, the death of a spouse, bankruptcy, or terrorism touches them personally. They literally go to pieces because they don’t have Christ in their lives.
But, you do! You have answers that really work because they come from God, our Creator. Like Hetta and Alfred you cope with death because you know heaven is real. You know it because Jesus is the living Savior. He arose from the dead to save you!
All people confront their own, personal hells during their lives. Without Christ, without believing in Him, all we have left is to believe in is ourselves. And as the old sailor said: “The ocean is so big and my boat is so small.” But with Christ in our hearts, with Christ getting personally involved in every aspect of your life, His ark lifts us high above any and all floodwaters. So, Why Am I A Christian?—Because by His grace He has shown me that truly He is the Son of the living God—and there’s no better place to be than resting in, with, and under His eternal love. Amen