Matthew 10:32-33 (Confirmation Service)
“Confess Jesus Boldly”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
May 24, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text on this day of Confirmation is Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:32-33:
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
To our guests and visitors on this special day, to the members of Our Redeemer, and especially to you three young ladies sitting in the front row—Anna, Alex, & Sydney: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Psalmist sings, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24 ESV) To which we can all add our “Amen!” Confirmation Day is always special, but this year gives me some added joys. Among these three being confirmed in their Christian faith in which they were baptized sits the very first child and second child who I baptized as a pastor. What great joy to witness this special day! This is also the first Confirmation Class that I have known all of them since they were infants. That means as their pastor, I have had the joy of watching them grow up in the church. I’ve seen them toddle up to the altar for children’s sermons. I’ve seen their squirms in the pews. I’ve watched them stand here and sing in the Sunday School choir. Somehow, they have grown as tall as me and now they talk about boyfriends! Have I gotten that old??
What I, your families and friends, and your brothers and sisters here at LCOR really celebrate today is your faith in Jesus Christ. Today, you confess your faith, your trust in the only true God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You let everyone know that this is the God who put His name on you when you were baptized at this font. The God you confess today as your God is the same God who created saving faith in your heart as an infant so that you did believe in Jesus Christ alone as your Savior, even when your brain didn’t understand that. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit—faith in Jesus by grace alone, as a free gift to you—faith that receives Jesus’ forgiveness and eternal life, faith that rescues you from death and the devil. So I, along with all those gathered here this morning, and those who love you and couldn’t be here today, rejoice in the saving faith in Jesus that the Holy Spirit has given to you, which you now confess before your God and His Church gathered here.
But this really isn’t the first time that you have confessed your Christian faith, nor will it be the last. Each and every day the Christian is a living confession of God. In all that we say and do as Christians, we are confessing Jesus to be our Savior. Confessing the faith in which we were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is done not only with our words, but also with our actions. When we joyfully follow the Ten Commandments, that’s a confession of faith. It shows others that we fear, love, and trust in God alone and strive to live according to His Word with the help of the Holy Spirit. When you pause before eating and say a prayer of thanks, or the Lord’s Prayer, that’s a confession of your faith. When you don’t go along with the crowd because the crowd isn’t acting and speaking like a Christian, that’s a confession of faith. It shows that your Lord and Savior is more important than doing what your friends are doing.
But aren’t their times that all of us fail to make the good confession of faith with our words and actions? Aren’t their times when we walk with the crowd and walk away from what we know the Lord has asked us to do? Peer pressure is a powerful thing. And no one really wants to risk losing approval from others if we don’t “play along.” Besides, who wants to have to face being made fun of or worse if they know I’m a Christian? Do you three remember the conversation we had about prayer at lunch in school last year? I asked how many of the students said a prayer before they ate their lunches. The overwhelming response was that they couldn’t do that, because just folding their hands and saying a silent prayer would cause someone to pick on them or even beat them up. That’s just one example of how fear of what other people will do or say to us keeps Christians from confessing their faith in Jesus with their words and actions.
It is indeed a challenge to confess the Christian faith in Jesus as Lord in our hostile world. Nevertheless, that is what we are called upon to do as believers in Jesus. We do not want to be hypocrites, people who say in the safety of the church “I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” but live Monday through Saturday like we don’t because we are afraid of what other people might think of us or say to us or do to us. So Jesus Himself puts before us a choice, as it were. We can choose between the short-term advantage of preserving people’s approval of us by not confessing Jesus as Lord with our lives and words, or we can take the humanly risky option but ultimately sound course of maintaining our loyalty to Jesus Christ publically, even in the face of human opposition: being made fun of or even getting beaten up. Thus Jesus says to all of the baptized, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
If we repeatedly and habitually deny Christ, we run the risk of having saving faith destroyed. To deny Jesus is to reject the One who brings us to the Father. Denying Jesus can ultimately lead to our leaving faith totally behind, leaving Jesus by the wayside, and becoming unbelievers who, on the Last Day, will have Jesus say to God the Father, “I don’t know this person.” How awful that would be—to be denied by Jesus before the Father because we denied Him so many times that our faith was lost.
For every Christian who has ever (or will ever) let the fear of people silence his/her confession of Jesus, our text brings us to our knees. It makes us realize that we have sinned and we have denied our faith, our Lord, our God. Jesus’ words drive us to repentance as we trust in His Word of grace and mercy, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Yahweh! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Yahweh, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:1-4 ESV) And Christ forgives our sins. He suffered and died on the cross even for the sins of our denial of Him. Jesus’ blood covers over the times we are hypocrites, when we fear other people more than God and so go along with the crowd. Jesus’ forgiveness removes from us the guilt of not standing up for the Lord when we had the opportunity to proclaim the truth of His Word.
St. Peter knows this first hand. He denied Jesus before people. He didn’t stand up for the Lord when He had the opportunity. And the guilt of Peter’s sin was heavy upon him. But the very Christ whom Peter denied went to the cross to take away Peter’s sin. The bounty of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is so great that our Lord pardoned Peter. And Jesus pardons and forgives you and me for our denials, for our failing to confess Jesus boldly in our time and place.
But Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t mean that we can just go out into our community and deny Jesus on purpose, knowing that He’ll just forgive anyway. It doesn’t work like that. Denying Jesus on purpose to get forgiveness will get you nothing but denial from Jesus on the Last Day. Rather, Jesus’ forgiveness means that we receive from Him a right standing with God and the power of the Holy Spirit to go and to proclaim the Christian faith no matter what. For the most part, Jesus’ disciples had been in hiding since His crucifixion and resurrection. They were afraid of arrest and punishment at the hands of the religious leaders. But on the Day of Pentecost, that all changed. The disciples, forgiven in Christ, were filled with the Holy Spirit and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, in spite of what might happen to them! It was the Holy Spirit who enabled the apostles to share the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection with the people gathered in Jerusalem. And it is that same Spirit who empowers each one of you to confess your Christian faith in Jesus with your words and actions today.
Is it easy? No, it’s not. But as Christians we’re not called to easy, we’re called to trust in the Lord. We’re called to believe more firmly that the Holy Spirit is with us to empower us to make the good confession of Christ in our daily lives. Sydney, Anna, and Alex—I know middle school hasn’t been a picnic for you. Your faith has been challenged, your Christian beliefs have been tested. It’s not going to get any easier in high school or college. But you have been baptized. You have received the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven—all of them, including the times you have failed to confess Jesus boldly. You have eternal life. That is guaranteed by Christ who is your Lord and Savior. Today it’s going to be easy to say “I believe in God.” Tomorrow, maybe not so easy. Yet the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper is with you. He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said to you in His Word. (John 14:26) He will guard and keep you in your baptismal faith as He strengthens you through the Word and the Holy Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood that you receive for the first time today—the first time of many times as you receive this gift often, weekly!, for the forgiveness of sins, for life, salvation, and the strengthening of your most holy faith so that you can boldly confess Jesus Christ as Lord out there in the world.
Confessing the Christian faith with our mouths and actions is the evidence of what is in our hearts. Because you have faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior from sin, death, and the devil, you cannot help but speak of the Savior who died and rose for you and for all people. By God’s grace alone, on the Last Day, Jesus will confess you who confessed Him before others—“This one is mine!” Yes, Jesus will say to you sisters in Christ, “Anna, you are mine.” “Alexandra, you are mine.” “Sydney, you are mine.” Amen.