Sermon Date: May 21, 2017
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: John 14:15-21
A Grateful Response for Our Confirmation!
Our text this morning was Jesus’ confirmation message to His disciples. Based on what He tells them, it’s safe to say that they would also check all three statements. Judas, by the way, had already left to do what he had decided to do. So, what do you think Jesus was feeling that night? He felt compassion for His disciples. Soon they would be going out into the world without His visible presence, and He knew the kind of troubles and temptations they would face. But Jesus also felt confident for them. In three days He would win their victory for them over sin and death; and 50 days after that He would give them the Holy Spirit in full measure. Still, Jesus was deeply concerned for His disciples, because they wouldn’t be safe in heaven, until they were safe in heaven.
That’s the way it is for the confirmation class! Today they are making a good confession of their faith. Still, as long as any of us are on this earth, we’re at risk of falling from faith, like Judas did. On the other hand, the Spirit’s tool for keeping us in faith is His Word. And the Spirit’s methodology for keeping us in the Word, is He calls each of us to: A Grateful Response for Our Confirmation. First we’ll look at why we’re grateful, and second, how Jesus wants us to respond.
Our text reads: If you love me, hold on to my commands. – John 14:15 It seems Jesus is stating the obvious. Of course the disciples loved Jesus, and we love Him too. So, why does Jesus begin His Confirmation message by saying, “If you love me…”?
Jesus wants us to keep reviewing every morning, and every evening, and every worship service why we love Him. Jesus wants us to do this because we easily forget. And then we end up focusing on the things we have to do, or on the cares and riches of this life.
Did you ever notice how some people have lots of cares and others have lots of riches? But both groups can easily fall into either worry or greed or both. When a believer does that, he ends up being less bothered by his sins, and then he’ll be less trusting in everything Jesus did for him, and more trusting in him self, and ultimately this can lead him to living for himself.
Now all this is why Jesus wants us to examine our love for Him from time to time, by comparing it with His love for us. Paul writes: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. – II Corinthians 8:9 God’s grace is that He loved us even though we didn’t love Him as we should. Rather, we were poor in righteousness, and we were doomed to an eternity in hell, because of all we owed God. But Christ gave us the riches of His righteousness, and He took our sins on Himself to suffer for us what we deserved. We sometimes call this God’s Great Exchange. Now, we need to keep reminding ourselves of God’s great exchange, so that our faith may be renewed. Then as our faith is renewed daily through His Word, and weekly through our worship, we will love Jesus more, and our desire to live according to His will, and to serve Him will keep increasing. Jesus put it this way: The one who has my commands and holds on to them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and show myself to him. – John 14:21
But now how do we get to this point? Here’s what can help. Whenever you read a devotion or a chapter in the Bible, ask yourself. How this applies to what’s going on in my life? How is God’s grace at work so that I may better see what He did for me, and how much He loves each new day? Ask yourself these things, but don’t answer just yet. In stead let God’s Word percolate in your heart throughout the day, and then answer those questions before you go to bed or even talk it over with your family. Every time we see a connection between God’s grace and what’s happening in our life, our joy in Jesus starts taking off like a Falcon rocket or an Atlas 5. And then as it does, we’re ready to think about how Jesus wants us to respond.
Again we read in our text: If you love me, hold on to my commands. – John 14:15 The response Jesus wants to see in us is that we hold on to His commands by doing them, and not changing or neglecting any of them. But now the word “command” isn’t just referring to the Ten Commandments. They’re included, because they show us what love for God and love for our neighbor looks like. But there’s also much more in that word, “command.”
For example Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing and by teaching everything He has taught us. If we love Jesus, if our joy in Him is taking off, we will want to be doing that, and we won’t let anything hold us back, any more than you can hold back a rocket, once its main engines are ignited.
But now in a practical way, how do we go about making disciples of all nations? We need to consciously make that a priority of our life. In our first lesson this morning we heard: The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made with hands. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17:24, 28 This is a Grace Truth. God owns everything! Why? He made everything. He sustains everything. And each new day we have on this earth is a gift of His grace. So, since everything is from God, and through God, and to His glory – where does that leave us? And, why are we here? We are managers of God’s riches, and I would add from our lesson, in the times and places He determines for us, and I would also add from last week’s message, to accomplish the saving of souls that He’s determined for us to save.
Now, does managing everything we are and have for the sake of God’s glory – does that sound like a burden to you? According to my sinful nature it does, which I why I have to keep going back again and again to: why am I grateful? But then as the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me, being a manager or a steward for God, feels more and more like a honor. And it is! When I think about all the different ways God lets me to serve Him, I have to ask myself the same question King David asked after they gathered everything they needed for the Temple in Jerusalem. He said: But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. – I Chronicles 29:14
Confirmands, brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray that you may also experience what I am experiencing. I have joy in seeing God working on me and through me, and I feel honored in the things He lets me do. Two weeks ago Mary and I went up north for our granddaughter’s confirmation. When I described to several pastors the ministry that’s happening here, they got really excited. I never thought of myself or expected that other pastors would get excited over what I get to do. After all, who am I? Well, the confirmation class answered that for me. __A. It bothers me that I sin against the Lord I love. __B. I trust that Christ’s death and resurrection has paid for my sins. __C. Because I love the Lord, I have the desire to live according to His will and to serve Him with good works. If this is you too, please follow my example, in seeing yourself as a manager for God of everything that He gives to you to manage!
Now, if God’s grace powers the first stage or our grateful response, if a sense of honor powers the second stage of our grateful response, wait till you hear what powers the third stage. We read again in our text: And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. – John 14:21b Of course, God loves all people the same. But He especially loves watching us imitate His love. Paul put it this way: God loves a cheerful giver. – II Corinthians 9:7 Cheerful in Greek means literally hilarious. God loves it when we have a hilariously good time using every means possible, so that even the people, we think are least likely to ever believe, are brought to Jesus.
Members of the confirmation class, please don’t think that what I just said, doesn’t apply to you yet, because you’re just teenagers and you don’t have anything. Rather, because you’re teenagers, you get to set the priorities of your life. You get to plan how you’re going to work toward achieving your priorities and how to make God’s Word a daily part of your life. What’s more, don’t tell yourself you don’t have anything to manage, because you don’t have a job and you’re poor. Rich or poor, we all have time, talents and treasure to manage in God’s behalf. In fact sometimes the less we think we have, the better, more joyful managers we become, because then we can focus more on God’s grace. And God’s grace allows us to see what an honor it is to serve Him, so that more and more we’ll want to imitate His love.
But why? Why in His closing message to His disciples did He urge them to hold on to His commands, especially His command to go and make disciples of all nations? Jesus did that for their sakes and or ours. If we’re busy imitating God’s grace, we won’t have time for imitating the world. Or, if our sense of being honored comes from serving God, we won’t be looking for honor by showing off with worldliness. And finally if we begin and end each day by looking to God’s grace, we will have joy and strength to get through anything, God gives us to get through to His glory. May this ever be our grateful response for our confirmation! Amen.
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