Blinded by the Light

It did not take too long in our recorded history to get to the issue of light.  Genesis 1:3–4 (ESV) And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God saw that the light was good just as God would see that all of the things that he created were good including man.  As the history of the world continued the light continued to shine on God’s creation yet that light would soon reveal not the goodness of man but rather it would reveal the sin that plagues humanity and all of creation still to this day.

The light that shined on the trees and fields of God’s creation would also shine on Abel’s blood that was spilled on the ground by his brother Cain.  The late afternoon light revealed to king David not simply the beauty of the kingdom that God had given to him but the beauty of one who was in his kingdom whom God had not given to him.  The light had revealed someone who was pleasing to David’s eye which led David down not a path of light but a path of darkness and destruction for him and all others who were in his way.  Yet light would eventually shine on the darkness by the prophet Nathan.  On the dark night of Jesus’ interrogation Peter stood in the court yard hoping not to be seen but the light of the camp fire flickered on his face and he was identified with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The light of the camp fire did not reveal a bold confession of faith but rather a denial of having any connection with Jesus and as the night went on so did Peter’s dark denial only to be met with the crow of a rooster that would welcome in a new day of light that would reveal what had happened that night.

Humanity tends to have two different views towards the proverbial light. We along with the world think that we are often able to see things for what they are because we have the light.  We believe we know how things should work and what we should do in order to make the right things happen.  This can be in the general realm of vocational life or in the realm of faith and salvation.  We also along with the rest of humanity tend to want to hide from the light hide from being known because it is scary as light tends not to hide flaws.  Light will expose the truth of all sorts of different areas of life the biggest being the sin in our own lives.

In Acts chapter 9 which many heard this past Sunday in church, Saul was confronted with light, but not simply light from a lamp, or campfire not even light from the sun (S-U-N) he was confronted by the light of the Son (S-O-N). Saul a man who no doubt thought he could see clearly because of the light that he had.  He had studied the Torah and the teachings of the Old Testament.  He could see clearly that he needed to snuff out any opposition because in his mind he had the light of God. Saul had heard the claims of what the people of the Way were making. He knew what they were saying, the man knowing as Jesus was the anointed one of God.  That people needed to have faith in Jesus that their sins may be blotted out.  Yet Saul thinking he had the light and could see just fine fell victim of his own sinful condition and could see nothing. He could not see the light that had come into the world.  He did not see the light until the light confronted him directly.  He could not see until he was blind.  He could not see the light until it was completely dark.  He could not understand the light until he walked by faith and not by sight. He had been blinded by Christ confronted with his sin.  He had been blinded by the gospel forgiven because of Jesus.

You have also been confronted by Christ and blinded by the gospel and it is in that blindness that you can then truly see the one true light, Jesus Christ.  It is that light that came into the world and the dark world did not snuff it out.  It is that light that shined brightly snuffing out the wisdom of men.  It is that light that came into the world to expose sin for what it is nothing but darkness, and not only to expose but also to remove and fill with the light.  The light of the world, Jesus Christ shines brightly in the darkness.  It was on the hill of Calvary when darkness fell over the land that the light of the world shinned so brightly with His arms spread wide and said it is finished.  The light has come for you, for me, and for all people that we might be blinded so that we might see.  The light fills us that we might bring the blinding gospel to the world around us.

Matthew 5:14–16 (ESV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Christ will shine in you and through you because He has filled you with his light that others might see him!

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It is not just about today!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Amen.

The year was 1998 and it was spring time which where I was from also meant confirmation time.  I can remember parts of those days vaguely.  I remember having to memorize the catechism and tell it back to the pastor when he asked the questions.  I remember making a confirmation banner that hung on the wall during confirmation time. I remember taking communion for the first time. It was a nice time but in all reality I don’t have vivid memories from when I was confirmed in the faith.  This is a wonderful day for our confirmands, their families, and also for the congregation as a whole, but is today the day that you will remember for the rest of your life, Maybe/maybe not.  Confirmation is not the end but rather much closer to the beginning of one’s life with Christ.  Just like baptism is not the end but rather the beginning of one’s life in Christ.  That is why the task of the church is to do just as Matthew 28:19–20 states. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The scriptures are clear we don’t simply baptize and then that is the end.  We don’t simply teach one until 8th grade and then that is the end.  The end goal is much greater than learning the catechism.  The end goal is much greater than a momentary connection with Jesus.  All of these things have eternity in mind.  The goal is making disciples who will spend eternity with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The end goal is seen more clearly in Revelation 5:8-14.  What we have in our reading this morning in Revelation is a vision of the coronation of Jesus Christ in heaven in which there are disciples around his thrown worshiping Jesus. Revelation 5:9–10 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Baptism and the renewal of the baptismal vow which we do in confirmation is not something that we do and then are done having little or no function moving forward.  These things, baptism and a continued confession of faith in Jesus Christ have eternal significance so that you will be part of the scene that is described in the book of Revelation.

The things that are done have an eternal significance and we even try to communicate that through some of the traditions that we have.  Traditions are not requirements but they can be helpful in communicating what is going on. Have you ever wondered why often times confirmation students will wear white robes for the rite of confirmation?  It is not because confirmation is like graduation when they were gowns.  Confirmation is not graduation. They wear robes in an attempt to communicate through action of the eternal significance of what is going on. Revelation 7:9–10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Today the voices of our confirmation students and all who gather together in this place cry out together and say, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” The white robes that are worn symbolize the white robe that all of us have been given in our baptism when we were washed clean of our sin.  Today is a special day for many but it is not only about today it is about eternity.

I don’t remember a lot about that day when I was confirmed.  I don’t remember anything from the day that I was baptized.  I know that they both took place and I know the eternal significance of what it means to be baptized and what it means to have a continued confession of faith in Jesus Christ which my confirmation was a part of.  What will you remember about this day? What will you take away from this event?  Will you remember this sermon? I doubt it.  Will you remember what you specifically said during confirmation? Maybe. It wouldn’t hurt all of us to review every once and a while what we said in our confirmation vows.  Will you remember the eternal significance of the confession that you are making? I sure hope so and it is and will be my prayer that you do remember the significance of who you confess as Lord again this day.

The Lord you confess the one who sits on the throne.  He is the one who has been given all authority.  He is the one who was slain and by his blood he ransomed you from sin and death.  He is the one who has made you his own through the waters of holy baptism.  He is the one who strengthens you to continue to confess him as Lord.  He is the one who is worthy of praise, honor and glory.  He is the only hope that any one of us has.  He is the one who chases each one of us down when we go astray.  He is the one who desires to spend eternity with you and we know that because he was willing to give up everything for you.  Jesus had eternity on his mind when he paid the price of your sin, my hope and pray is that by his grace we may also keep eternity at the forefront of our minds.

When we keep the reality of eternity at the forefront of our minds we can then see days like today much differently.  We don’t see this as an end of something but rather a continuation of what has been done and will be done in the future.  We don’t see this as a hoop to jump through but rather a step in being a disciple and being made a disciple to go out into the world as a follower of Jesus Christ.  When we keep eternity in the forefront of our minds, we can understand that what happens today is not only important for tomorrow but for all of eternity.  It is and will be truly a wonderful thing to be a part of the scene that we see play out in the book of Revelation.  We will be one person from one tribe who spoke one of the languages. We will have a white robe which was made white by the blood of the lamb. That day will not be forgotten by anyone of us.  We will not need pictures to remember it.  We will not need someone to remind us what happened on that day. We will be there because we remembered and trusted in one event and that was the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  No matter what today brings you remember and trust in the person and work of Christ.  If today is your confirmation remember Christ.  If today is your baptism, trust Christ.  If today is a big event for your child, remember Christ.  If today is simply another Sunday, trust Christ.

Because of Christ you have been given faith in Christ and have become and are becoming a disciple to spend eternity with Him.  Today with eternity in mind our cry is “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” Amen!

What will it cost?

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

What does it mean for something to cost you?  Have you have heard the phrase that is going to cost you?  Maybe you have heard that phrase in a movie when the good guy does a heroic act and then the bad guy yells out that is going to cost you.  Perhaps a parent has said to a child after that child disobeyed.  Perhaps you have said it to yourself after you broke something.  When we think of the idea of something costing something in our world we often think of punishment or a consequence because of something that we ourselves did.  If a child throws a ball through a window it might cost them a few months of allowance to help pay for a new one.  If a person commits a crime it may cost them a fine or even an amount of time of their freedom.  What is a time in your life that something has cost you?  Was it small or big?  Did the action cost you money, time, broken relationship, or something else?

This morning I want to take a look at this from a slightly different angle.  In our reading from Revelation take a look at what John says in Revelation 1:9 (ESV) I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. We have John the author of Revelation who identifies himself as “your brother” and “partner in the tribulation and the kingdom.”  Both of these titles are in reference to the connecting point of all people in the church and that is Jesus.  John is the brother of the people he is writing to directly as well as us whom he is also writing to.  John is your brother and your partner in the tribulation (or a clearer word for us suffering) and the kingdom.  John finds himself banished to the island of Patmos on account of the Word of God and the witness of Jesus. John’s faithfulness to the Word of God and the witness of Jesus cost him his worldly freedom.

Now this word that is translated as witness is an interesting word.  Now I don’t typically get into word studies in my sermons, but today I think that it is very relevant for us today so I want to look at this word “witness.” Μαρτυρία is the word in the Greek and I will get to why that is important in a moment.  What is a witness?  A very basic meaning is of course one who observes an event.  The Apostle John would have been one who would have observed the events, miracles, and ministry of Jesus and the only disciple to have observed the entire passion of Jesus.[1] Here in this context a witness is not simply one who observed, but also then one who proclaimed what they saw.  We have here a very court room understanding of this word witness.  The one who observed the events then testified to the events. The understanding of a witness in this time is that they could be called to back up what they saw and heard.  The witness would be required back up the testimony with his good name and reputation and there were even times when the witness would have to back up the testimony with property and wealth.  The good name and reputation still plays into our own legal system today as a jury tends to believe some testimony more than others depending on the individual’s history.

The word translated as witness deals with observing and testifying about the observations but not only with your words but also with your life.  The word that is translated as witness is the Greek word Μαρτυρία.  If you listen closely to that pronunciation you can perhaps hear where the word martyr comes from.  The word martyr comes from the Greek word Μαρτυρία which is translated here as witness because it is talking about much more than simply dying for your faith but it may in fact include dying for your faith.

What this means for us today then is that to witness or to give testimony to Jesus involves more than just words and just like John it will often cost us something to be a witness to Christ.  To witness to Christ one needs to have a basic understanding of who Jesus is and this may in fact cost you some time and some effort to engage with God’s word and search the scriptures to get a better understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done.  To witness to Christ it might involve speaking about who Jesus is and what he has done in places that may not be real receptive of that message.  It may cost you relationships in your life. It may cost you social embarrassment. To witness to Christ it may require you to give up things in your life.  It may cost you all sorts of different things.  It may cost you not being able to do all of the things that the world says you should be doing.  It may mean that you have less and give more.  It may mean that your child does not get to be on the traveling team because there are other things more important in life than sports.  It may mean that you don’t get to fish as much as you would like.  It may mean that you don’t watch the same things that world watches.  It may mean that you are different all because you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life and in doing that it will cost you something.

Don’t get me wrong what it will cost you will not earn your salvation.  What it will cost you will not make you more forgiven.  Your forgiveness, life and salvation are given to you by Christ and have cost you nothing because they cost Christ everything.  Yet my question for us this morning is why doesn’t our faith in Christ cost us a little bit more? Not a cost to earn salvation but rather a cost because of the salvation that has been freely given to you by Jesus Christ.  We (myself included) need to stop with the grand allusion that we can have all of Jesus and all or at least most of the world.  Those two things are not consistent.  We need to stop and repent when we attempt to play the fence.  What I mean by that is that what I observe on a regular basis is when we try to keep Jesus close enough to make sure that we get into heaven but not so close that we might actually be confronted by our sin and have the gospel applied to us because we are sinners and in turn having the Holy Spirit lead us in our sanctification. To be a witness to Christ is to be a martyr and a martyr has to do with who you confess in words, actions, and in death.

What is it going to cost you? Not one of us here has confessed Jesus Christ well enough.  Not one of us here has been faithful enough in our witness. Not one of has given all that we have. Not one of us is worthy to be in the presence of Christ our Lord just as John the author of the book of revelation was not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus either. Revelation 1:17–18 (ESV) 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. John fell at the feet of Christ as though John was dead.  John the man who was exiled for his faith in Jesus Christ and for the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus fell down before Jesus which is a sign of unworthiness.  He did not see his actions as making him worthy.  He did not go up to Jesus and give him a high five.  John fell at the feet of Jesus who is described as his face shining like the sun and his voice sounding like the roar of many waters.  What then does Jesus do?  “He says fear not. I am the first and the last, the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Look how the risen Lord is depicted in this reading.  He is given the same title as God the Father.  He is depicted as one who has complete power of all things including the keys to death and hades. He points John back to his death and resurrection and that is why he can say fear not. This reality once John hears the words of grace from Jesus is a comfort to John.  Jesus is in control.  Remember John is in prison and he is writing to churches who are and will continue to face persecution as they witness to who Jesus is and what he had done.  There witness would cost them a great deal but Jesus would be more than enough for them as they faced the persecution.

In Revelation we have John imprisoned on the island of Patmos. In the gospel reading we have the disciple hiding in fear of the Jews.  In our Acts reading we have the apostles arrested. Their faith cost them all in these readings.  Their witness of Christ cost them dearly but what do we see in each of the readings.  In revelation Jesus shows up in power and might and says fear not.  In Acts they are freed from prison.  In the gospel they hear the words from Jesus “Peace be with you.”

Does our faith cost us? When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the reality of the gospel in our lives it will cost us.  It will cost us but what we are promised and see throughout the scriptures is that Christ will be with all of those who have faith in Him each step of the way even if they face death.  We don’t need to run from suffering.  We don’t need to run from pain. We don’t need to avoid the gospel because that is not who Christ has made us to be 2 Timothy 1:7–9 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

May our witness of words, actions, and death witness to Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Brighton, L. A. (1999). Revelation. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (20-21)