Let us pray: Dear Savior, we live in a world where everything, including the Christian faith, has been politicized, stigmatized, and usually falsified. People everywhere have exchanged Godly truth for the lie of: political correctness, feel-good emotionalism, or intellectual laziness. Today we ask You to give us backbone and resolve to: “speak Your truth in love” to this lost world. Reform our hearts so that we can reform lost souls who are currently content to sit in their moral squalor. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST WHO HAS ETERNALLY FREED US FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN AND ETERNAL SHAME!
TEXT: Matthew 10: 16-23
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Today we’re celebrating the 497th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther’s reformation of the organized church of his day. Why is this a big deal, considering that it happened so long ago? The answer is simple. Do you want a clear conscience, knowing that you’re completely forgiven of all sins and saved eternally by Christ’s blood, alone, or not? Do you want to delude yourself into attending a church that puts a lot of qualifiers on your eternal status, leaving it in your sin-tainted hands, or not? Do you want to live under the guilt of trying to appease God by your misguided actions, or not? Are you content to stand before the Almighty on judgment day and say: “I tried to be perfect, but failed, nonetheless, God, you should honor my good intentions.” Or, do you wish to stand before Him and say: “Christ won my freedom from all guilt and shame on the cross, gave it to me as a free gift, and I lay His holiness before You today as the only reason I should enter glory.” Grace is God’s undeserved love in Christ. The Lutheran Reformation restored grace to its rightful place—as the only vehicle of salvation. Thus, giving God all the glory.
In our lesson Jesus is sending out the 12 disciples to do mission work on their own. He’s sending them out to preach one of those 3 pillars of the Reformation, grace alone; the two others being: Scripture alone and faith alone. Since the organized church of their day was totally corrupted and man-centered instead of being God-centered (much like today), Jesus says: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
All true Christians have no hidden agenda. We’re not in it for the money, or fame, or power, or human glory. We’re not trying to create followers of us, a cult of personality, which feeds our egos. We’re like innocent doves in that regard. But, considering what we face, we also need to be wise and cunning in how we approach people, how we confess Christ alone, and how we craft our message so that people will listen and take it to heart.
Sometimes people today bristle when they hear Christians called: Lutherans. “Why do you identify with a mere human, instead of Christ? Why not just call yourselves: Christians?” Dr. Luther didn’t want people to be called Lutherans. He wasn’t about ego, at all. But considering the tenor of the time, it was a handy identifier as to a person’s confession, so it stuck. And after 497 years of amazingly Christ-centered theology, the Lutheran Church should not shy away from that label. It actually is a badge of honor.
After Dr. Luther posted those 95 theses for debate, which outlined abuses within the organized church of his day, all Europe was in an uproar. At that time the Roman church owned about 1/3 or all European land. They controlled the continent with Emperor Charles 5th, the Holy Roman Emperor, as their political leader. One pundit once wrote that Luther’s “mistake” or the reason these forces hated him so much is that: “He touched the Pope in his crown and the monk in his belly.” In other words, when Luther preached that one man, armed with God’s clear word, could be correct and therefore free to speak out against the religious mafia that controlled their world, he upset the money flow of these people misusing God and His Word to keep people under their political thumb. For Luther and Scripture, your faith is about you and God, without having to go through the intermediaries of the organized church putting their additions into the equation.
A couple of years after the Reformation began, Dr. Luther found himself standing before the papal legate and the Emperor himself, at a meeting in Wurms, Germany. He was told to recant, or take back, everything he had written about how we’re saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ and how God’s grace is a gift that is freely given us and not earned by us through Rome’s system of penance. His books were all in a heap at his feet. The moment is captured in time by a famous painting, a copy of which hangs on the back wall of our church. There, Luther uttered those famous words: “Unless you can convince me that I am wrong through the Scriptures and clear reason, I cannot recant. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.” After that he was considered an outlaw, hunted under pain of death on the spot, and his followers, people like you, banished, beaten, and ridiculed. The words of Christ to his disciples were played out: “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Christianity is under attack in the world today. Much of the organized denominational groups around the globe have become like Rome during Luther’s time. They have become nothing more than social clubs with human rules set up to gain money and power. If the Genesis account of creation doesn’t fit with their concept that people evolved from apes, and worms, throw God’s Word aside! If we cannot recreate Christ’s miracles, call them fables. Since we have never seen anyone rise from the dead, call the resurrection a made-up fairy tale. And since historic Christianity doesn’t stroke our egos and tell us that because we think our good intentions in life should make us right with God since that’s how we operate, throw away the whole concept of: grace.
In the last section of our text, Jesus outlines the kind of opposition we will face in life and the sources of it. Holding onto God’s truth will divide families, cause ruptures in relationships, and tempt us to water down our confession of Him in order to get along and survive. But, the Reformation is about being strong and courageous in the Lord. It’s about knowing God’s truth which sets you free. It’s about being able to honestly live with yourself because Jesus’ blood and righteousness have cleansed your soul. To be sure, REFORMATION BEGINS WITH YOU, individually. And it is summed up by Dr. Luther’s 1st of those 95 theses which states: “The life of a Christian is to be a life of daily repentance.” Make it so by being: “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” and pleading the mercy of Christ, and not your own, when you fail. Amen