A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on October 30, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether “Here I Stand!”       Matthew 10:16-23For those of you who dislike snakes, what about them bothers you?  Maybe it’s the way they move, or you hate it when they startled you.  Snakes are probably as afraid of us as any of us are of them.  And so, if we do come upon them by accident, they’ll wiggle away from us as fast as they can, and it’s only if they feel cornered that they might try to bite.  So, what do you think Jesus sent His disciples to do evangelism work and told them to be as shrewd as snakes?  It doesn’t mean we should try to trick people into coming Christians.  Paul writes in II Corinthians: We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (II Corinthians 4:2)  So, what was Jesus’ point in saying we should be as shrewd as snakes?   Well, just as a snake will do everything it can to not get caught, the disciples were to take the Gospel into this sinful world, and when people attacked them for that, they were to do everything they could to get away.  For example when Paul was preaching in Damascus, the Jews had put assassins at each of the city gates to murder Paul as he was leaving.  Paul found out about the plot, so he had friends lower him down the city wall in a basket, and then, you might say, he slithered away.  However, if ever the disciples were captured, they weren’t to strike out at their captors like a rattle snake.  Instead they were to be as harmless as a dove and take whatever.  Paul did that.  As a result from city to city he was beaten, whipped, stoned, falsely imprisoned, and finally in Rome he beheaded.  In everything Paul suffered, he never asked God to take revenge for him.  Instead he kept asking fellow believers to pray for him, so that whenever he was on trial for his life, he would be able to speak God’s work clearly.   And now let’s jump ahead 1500 years.  In 1521 Martin Luther was hauled before the emperor of all of Europe, King Charles V.  He was given a choice.  Deny everything he had been teaching from the Bible, or be burned to death tied to a stake.  Following in the footsteps of Daniel and of Paul, here’s what Luther did.  He prayed and then he stood up and boldly said: “Unless I am convinced by the Scriptures and clear reasoning  - I do not trust in popes and councils since they have often been wrong – my conscience is bound to the Word of God.  I neither can nor will recant anything, for to act against conscience is wrong and dangerous.  Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise.  God help me.”  God protected Luther; he was not burned at the stake, he died of old age.  But today we are blessed because he stood firm.  Through Luther God proclaimed again that salvation is by His grace, through trusting in Him, and based on everything that’s in Bible.  And now it’s our turn.  We live in a sinful world.  But for the sake of God’s glory, for the sake of everyone who needs the Gospel, and even for our own sake, may we say with  Luther: “Here I stand!”  1.  On Christ alone.  2.  By the power of the Spirit alone.                                                                                                                                         500 years ago there weren’t all the different denominations like there are now.  There was only one organized church, which called itself the universal church or in Latin, the catholic church.  Unfortunately from the days of the Apostles to the time of Luther, many changes had crept in.  For example Luther was taught that Christ had only paid for the sins you commit up to the point you’re baptized.  After your baptism, you’re on your own to pay for your sins by obedience to the church and by doing special good deeds which they called penance.  Also, if there any sins you didn’t pay for before you died, your soul would have to go to a hell-like place called purgatory and you’d have to stay there a certain number of years for each unpaid sin, which the church, then, said could be millions of years.  However, you could get out early if your relatives paid the church money in your behalf, or if you paid money yourself before you died; and these payments were called indulgences.   Luther believed all these things for the first 30 years of his life, but it gave him no peace with God.  The Bible says: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything that is written in the book of the Law.  (Galatians 3:10)  Well, when Luther looked at his heart and life, he realized from this passage that he was cursed, because he had not done everything God commanded.  And so, Luther tried to get out from under God’s curse by doing everything the church had taught him.  He gave up his studies to become a lawyer and entered a monastery. Here’s a picture.   There they gave him a rough robe to wear and shaved the top of his head.  His room was unheated even in winter, and all it had in it was a small table, a chair and a straw bed.  7 times a day, 7 days a week Luther attended worship services.  In between each service he prayed or scrubbed the floors of the monastery.  Also the monks were not allowed to talk so they could direct all their thoughts to God.  However even with doing all these things, Luther still felt like God was angry with him.  And so Luther tried punishing himself for his sins by whipping himself unconscious.   Was Luther crazy?  Not a bit.  A lot of people deal with sin by just not worrying about it, and that’s crazy, if they hope to go to heaven.  Luther on the other hand wasn’t guilty of any of the so-called big sins.  But he realized he was constantly breaking the First Commandment.  The First Commandment tells us to respect, love and trust in God above all things.  Luther said, “I can’t do that!  How can I love a God who’s angry with me and condemns me?”  And so, Luther kept trying harder.  Yet the more he worked at loving God the way he should, the more he realized his efforts weren’t out of love for God, and so even his efforts needed punishing.     Anyway Luther’s pastor worried about him.  To get Luther’s mind off his guilt, he gave Luther a job that would keep him so busy he wouldn’t have to think.  Have you ever tried that way of dealing with guilt?  Anyway Luther was to give lectures at the university on the Book of Romans.  While getting ready for his lectures, He found the peace with God he had been looking for.  In Romans it says: But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)  We are not saved by our own righteousness.  We are saved by the righteousness of Christ for us.  Likewise our sins are not paid for by the things we suffer.  Rather our sins are paid for by what Christ suffered on the cross/ for us!  And so, as Luther realized these things, he began teaching that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone.   Many in the church were not happy with that.  But how could they not be happy with what the Bible clearly teaches?  The devil is always trying to stir up trouble against the Gospel.  We read in our text: Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  (Matthew 10:17-18)  Today none of us are being arrested.  But what happens if we tell people clearly that a good Muslims or a good Jews or a good Hindu are NOT on the road to heaven, because only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?  We might be laughed at?  We might be accused of being unloving.  In the future we might just be avoided.  So, how do we take a stand on Christ alone?  By the power of the Spirit alone.       We read in our text: When they arrest you (or today, when they make fun of you), do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)  Here Jesus is not saying that we don’t need to study His Word, and then when the time comes we can just blurt out whatever we think is in our heart.  Paul told Timothy, a young pastor: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who correctly handles the word of truth.  The Holy Spirit works in our hearts too through the Word.  Through the Word, He keeps us in repentance.  Through the Word He keeps us trusting in Christ alone.  And through the Word, God guides us in the ways that are truly best for us.  Now, as we keep studying the Word, from time to time God will put us into a position where we have to say what we believe.  At such times the Holy Spirit will give us just the right words.  So, let’s be bold and trust in the power of the Spirit and the power of the Word, which worked in Luther’s heart, and is at work in our hearts, and it will work on the hearts of our hearers too.  And even if some resist the Word, God will work that situation too for a blessing.   However, what if we’re just not that confident about our understanding of the Bible?  Our text helps us with that.  We read: When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  (Matthew 10:23)  Do you see something in this verse that could be confusing?  It sounds like Jesus was going to come again in glory during the Apostle’s life time.  He obviously did not. But some take this verse as proof that there are mistakes in the Bible.  That’s what Satan wants us to believe, so that eventually we’ll also think God’s Law and the Gospel are mistakes, and then Satan has us.  But there’s another way of understanding this verse.  Jesus would come to them at the moment of their death; and if we take the verse this way, it means the disciples would never get to the point in this life that their work was done.  They would always be more souls to reach out to, or more people to strengthen and encourage.  So also today, those who stand on Christ alone are never caught up with everything, they’re always moving forward.  But getting back to how this verse helps us understand the Bible.  The way of salvation in the Bible is undisputable and it’s so simple a child can grasp it: God so loved the world…  However when we run into details in the Bible we’re not sure about like the one in this verse, as long as our understanding is in agreement with the whole of the Bible, we’ll be okay.  So, keep reading your Bible!  And if there are a couple of verses you have to put “a hold on” as to what they mean, that’s okay.  Often the Spirit will show us the meaning, as we’re reading in another part of the Bible.  But as a result, the Holy Spirit will make us wiser and wiser in our handling of the Bible.  The day may even come when the “wise” of the world have to back down from us.  Yet the question for us as it was for Luther isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong.  The question is: how does God save us, and how does He, who loves us, want us to live?  Since God has given us the answer, the world may not hear it, but let’s stand on it.  Let’s stand on Christ alone by the power of the Spirit alone, that there may be a continuing reformation in us, in our families, and in our nation!  And now let’s stand and confess what we believe with the words of the Nicene Creed.  Amen. 

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