19th Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2018
2 Corinthians 4:13-14
Worship Supplement 2000: 772 [TLH alt. 505], 506, WS 770 [TLH alt. 496], 507
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Prayer of the Day (Collect): Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation. We pray this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
Imagine this: After you get home from church this morning you get a knock at your door. To your surprise, it’s the Publisher’s Clearing House folks announcing that you’re their next big $10 million dollar winner. Now imagine taking your giant check into the house, sitting back on your couch and acting like nothing really happened. You don’t call any friends or family members to tell them the incredible news. When your neighbor comes over to ask what all the commotion was about at your door just a few minutes ago, you are hesitant to tell him and only after getting into a long, deep conversation about what’s going on in your life do you happen to mention casually, “Oh, by the way I just won $10 million dollars.”
That situation sounds completely absurd, you might say. Well, in reality you and I have been given more than Publisher’s Clearing House ever gave away! Think about this: Today you are going to hear once again not only about the meaning of life, but the incredible news that you are going to live forever!
NASA has spent billions of dollars exploring space, the moon, and Mars searching for the origin and meaning of life. The medical community for centuries has searched for the secret to living forever and eliminating death. If NASA or the medical community ever discovered these things do you think they’d keep it to themselves? Do you think that would be pretty big news? Of course it would! How could you keep that sort of discovery to yourself?
Well, we haven’t discovered the meaning of life in a moon rock or some mineral samples from Mars. It hasn’t cost us billions of dollars in research and hospital bills to discover the “secret” to defeating death and living forever. It was absolutely free and it was simply given to us—without any effort, payment or work on our part! How could we possibly keep that sort of discovery to ourselves? Do you think that these “discoveries” of God’s love and forgiveness and the gift of eternal life that He gives us through His Son Jesus that we are reminded of every Sunday make for pretty big news? Of course they should! The question we should ask ourselves is, “Why do we so often keep this incredible news to ourselves?”
Personal evangelism, telling the “Good News” about Jesus to others should be as natural for us believers as it is for a bird to sing or for the sun to shine. In our text, the Apostle Paul reminds us just how “simple” mission work is for each of us as believers, We Believe; Therefore We Speak!
But it isn’t always that “simple” for us, is it? Why? Far too often our sinful flesh gets in the way, doesn’t it? Our sin-tainted hearts and minds can come up with any number of reasons NOT to simply open our mouths and share our faith in our Savior Jesus. Now, perhaps not all of us struggle with this, but I know many of us do. We can put our finger on a few major problems we run into when it comes to sharing Christ with others. For each one of these problems we can find the solution to overcome them in God’s Word.
One major obstacle for many of us is doubt. Doubt in our own abilities to say the right thing when we are witnessing to someone else; even, perhaps, doubt in the message we are sharing. “What if I say the wrong thing? I’m really not a gifted speaker and I’m not good at religious arguments.” Have you had these thoughts before? Remember that Jesus promised to give His disciples the words to speak through the Holy Spirit when they would witness Him before their enemies (cf. Luke 12:11-12). He will do the same for us through that same Spirit when we open our mouths to confess Him before others as well.
As for being a great speaker or good religious “debater,” that is simply not necessary. The simplest, short and clear confessions of faith are often the best. Think of the clearest simplest Gospel passages you know. (If you don’t know one perhaps it’s time to memorized a few!) Take John 3:16 for example, probably the most well known Gospel passage in all of Scripture, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” No debating is necessary or needed! Just a clear expression of God’s saving love for all people in Christ Jesus. Besides that, God worked great things through men who claimed to be poor speakers like Moses and the prophet Jeremiah. We need to be reminded of what Paul says in Philippians: “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
If our doubts are in the truth of the message we are sharing, then we again need to turn to God’s Word, the Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to convince our hearts, just like He did the Apostle Paul. God’s Word reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t just a message we believe, it is the message we know to be true! Paul expressed His confidence in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection as well as his own eventual resurrection in the last verse of our text, “knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you” (v. 14).
Closely related to the problem of doubt is the problem of fear. “What will my neighbor, my co-worker, or my classmate think of me if I start telling them about Jesus and ‘get all religious’ on them? What if they make fun of me? What if I lose my friends because of it? What if I lose my job?” When our flesh causes us to fear, we again need to turn to the One who is greater than our fears. We need to remember the confident words of Psalm 118, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). We need to remember Jesus’ words to His disciples (and us!) when He gave the Great Commission “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18, 20). Jesus spoke those words to give them, and you, the confident assurance that He Himself, the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, the creator and sustainer of all things is on your side! Therefore, what do we have to fear? He has also promised that when His Word is preached it will accomplish what He desires (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). We have nothing to fear!
We could probably come up with a whole page worth of weaknesses and excuses that our sinful flesh makes for not witnessing to others. However, we may not like to hear it or admit to it but our weakness in the area of witnessing can most often be summarized as a weakness in our faith. Is our relationship with our Savior as strong as is could be; as strong it should be? Do we always realize just how much He has done for us and still does for us every day? Have we taken the time each day to spend some time with Jesus in His Word and get to know Him better and renew our relationship with Him? Have we taken the time each day to meditate and really let it sink into our hearts and minds what it means for us that He has died for all my sins— from my ‘little white lies’ to the ‘horrible’ sins that I want no one to know about? Have we really taken the time to think about what it means when we hear words like the words of v. 14 of our text, “knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you”? God Himself is telling you and me that one day we too will rise from our graves and live forever! That is the best news we will ever hear! You and I will live forever in heaven with Jesus! It really doesn’t matter, then, what happens to us in this life; whether we are persecuted or not when we spread the Gospel of Christ to others. What matters is that our eternal destiny has been sealed by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. His blood paid the price for our entry fee into heaven! Not because of anything we’ve done. Not because of our hard work or research, but by grace. When that undeserved love of Jesus fills our hearts it will overflow into our lives and what we believe; we will speak! Then our attitude will be like that of Peter and John when they stood before the Jewish Council, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 NIV-84).
We have seen, heard, and experienced this grace of Jesus. He has given us the meaning of life and everlasting life through His sacrifice and resurrection. He also calls you and me to share this grace with others. Let’s pray that that Lord will cause us who believe to speak His saving name.
I hear the Savior calling! His call has urgency!
Each moment souls are dying; Soon comes eternity.
And so, my precious Savior, This is my humble plea:
Prepare me for my mission For you are calling me! Amen!
(Hymn 770 v. 5, Worship Supplement 2000)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked “NIV-84” are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.