Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — It’s all in the Name

St. Matthew 10:21-33
June 22, 2014

 

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN!  Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 10th chapter.

 

Beloved in the Lord,

A.      The Gift of the Name

Steadfast Sermons GraphicAs Christians we bear a holy gift, one which the unbelieving world does not have.  In Holy Baptism, our God had gifted us with His Name; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is perhaps the greatest gift He could give.  For with the giving of His Name He has given us Himself.  He gives us His presence. His Name is His presence.  For where God’s name is there He is delivering eternal blessings into the heart.  As Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered in my Name I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).   But the Name gives more than that.  You see, the Name gives us access to God’s heart.  The Name allows us to worship Him in truth and purity.  “Wherever I cause my name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you,” says the Lord (Exodus 20:24).  Having the Name we Christians then have holy times, places, vocations, and lives. For the Name sanctifies. It makes holy.  It has made you holy through “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on you abundantly through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Titus 3:5).  For in His Baptismal waters, “You were washed, you were justified, you were sanctified in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Therefore with God’s Name marking us as His own special people we have been made heirs of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.  We have been made “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that wemay proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9).  This is all because God has given us His Name.

B.      Men will hate you because of My Name

But such heavenly blessing doesn’t necessarily translate into earthly renown.  Jesus says in our text, “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.”  And, “ you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”  The gift of God’s Name gives heavenly status to God’s children, but persecution from the men of this world.  Yes, beloved, on account of the Name of Jesus, you will be hated, persecuted, mocked, intimidated, humiliated, slandered, misrepresented, fined by the governing authorities for hate speech, censored in the name of tolerance, and possibly imprisoned, or even suffer death.  Men will hate you because of the Name you bear in your baptism.  Men will hate you because you are Christian, because you believe what the bible says about salvation, because you believe what the Bible says about morality; the value of life, the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, respect and dignity of all people, and because “with the heart you believe unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

As Christians clinging to the Name of Jesus we therefore also cling to His Word.  To do otherwise would be to deny His Name & reject His gift.  Sadly, many Christians and Churches are tempted to compromise God’s Word and bow before the altars of tolerance and acceptance.  Rather than boldly proclaiming the clear Word of the Lord in their vocations, too many exchange God’s life-giving proclamation for the praise of men and the fleeting peace they have to offer.

How often do we covet the praise of our friends and so bury God’s Word from plain sight?  How often does the desire of peace between family, friends, and neighbors, silence our confession of Christ?  How often do our lives reflect the times we live in rather than counter them?  It is easier to mention Jesus at home.  It is easier to allow your coworkers to slander your Christian brothers and sisters.  It is easier to skip church for the sake of visiting family or friends.  It is easier to tolerate immorality from family, friends, and neighbors, rather than lovingly admonishing them to repentance.  It is easier if we don’t publicly live out our faith, keep it to ourselves, etc.  After all no one likes conflict. Conflict brings suffering and anguish.  And no one likes suffering and anguish. The truth is we’ll go to great lengths to avoid it!  We’ll even go to the point of imitating the behaviors, echoing the talking points, tolerating the alternatives, and endorsing the theological mindset of this unbelieving world. 

So, I guess everyone must ask themselves this question, “Whom do I fear/respect more, God and His Will for me and all mankind as revealed in His Word, or men; my family, boss, friends, neighbors, and their friendships?”

C.      Do Not Fear Men – Fear God!

Beloved, hear the Savior this morning and take to heart His Word for you when He says, “Do not fear them.” “And do not fear those who can kill body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell!”  Repent of your timidity!  Repent and fear God, not with a cowering fear that drives you away from God, but with a holy fear, the kind of fear that bows head and heart, neck and knee before the Lord your God.  Do not be ashamed to bear the name of Jesus before this dying world.  Do no hide what was spoken in the darkness.  Do not conceal what has been heard in your ears.  Do not bury what has been placed in the heart.  Do not fear men, or governments, friends or family.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:7-8a).  But rejoice to share in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God. (Pause for transition)

C’.      Wurbrand’s Stand for Christ

It was 1945, a year after the Communists had seized power in Romania.  The government had invited all religious leaders to attend a congress at the Parliament building – over 4000 attended.  First, they chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of the congress.  Then the speeches began.  One by one, the priests and pastors of Romania stood and offered words of praise for Communism and declared their loyalty to the new regime.

.   . . . One by one bishops and pastors arose and declared Communism and Christianity were fundamentally the same and could coexist.  Out of fear, these men of God were filling the air with flattery and  . . . lies.  Their refusal to confess Christ before men was a flat out denial of Christ before men.  Every speech was spittle upon the face of Christ.

Sabina Wurmbrand could stand it no longer.   She whispered to her husband, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.”

Richard knew what would happen:  “If I speak, you will lose your husband.”

Sabina replied, “I do not wish to have a coward for a husband.”

Pastor Wurmbrand took the stage.  To everyone’s surprise, he began to preach.  Immediately a great silence fell on the hall.

“Delegates, it is our duty not to praise earthly powers that come and go, but to glorify God the Creator and Christ the Savior, who died for us on the cross!”

A communist official jumped to his feet. “Your right to speak is withdrawn.”   . . . “Cut the microphone!”  But the crowds cheered.  The audience applauded.  Pastor concluded his message and left the stage a marked man.

Three years later, Pastor Wurmbrand was on his way to Church when he was kidnapped by a group of secret police.  He was led to a prison 30 feet beneath the earth where he was kept in solitary confinement for years.

B’.      God’s providential Care

Pastor Wurmbrand could stand before men and confess the Name of Christ because He was confident of God’s care and love for him in the midst of any and all circumstances.  He could suffer torture, brainwashing, isolation, mockery, and a whole host of man’s worst imaginations because He trusted the Savior’s words.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny, yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”  You see, beloved, the God who has given us His Name in our Baptism has given us His Son on the cross.  Through the cross God has provided for more than a few sparrows.  God has shown us the value of humanity to Him.  You are worth more than many sparrows.  You are worth, though not deserving of, the blood of His Son.  Therefore you are no longer your own, for you have been purchased with the blood of Jesus.  He life, death, and resurrection applied to you in your baptism has sealed you for the day of judgment and preserves you from the fires of hell.  His care for you transcends the necessities of the flesh.  He gladly and willingly provides for body and soul as His benevolence is showered upon you through Word and Sacrament.

Not only does the Lord treasure you, but also all those who are lost.  Thus as you live out your lives, lives sanctified by the Name, you bring the presence of God to all those around you.

Through Pastor Wurmbrand’s suffering in that Romanian prison, through His constant prayer, through his faithful confession of Christ, several guards converted to Jesus and were forced to share in the sufferings of the gospel.

A’.      Confessing the Name

Beloved in the Lord, the Name of God hallows His people and gives Himself.  You bear that Name in your baptism.  You trust that Name by faith.  And with joy in your heart you bow at the Name of Jesus, confessing Christ as Lord of heaven and earth.  Let that joy abound outside of yourselves.  Through Word and through deed confess the Name of Christ to those around you.  Do not fear the threats of the world.  Fear God!  Trust God!  Love God!  He will not abandon you.  He will not let one hair on your head be harmed apart from His will.  Therefore, speak of Christ and the forgiveness He has given you, the forgiveness He wishes to give all people!  Confess the cross!  Bring God’s presence to their lives as you bring them the Name that is above every Name that they too may be gifted with God’s salvation.  Let your life be an echo of praise to the Savior who gave all things for you and your salvation.  To that end may God grant us His Spirit.  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!


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