ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
I John 3:18-24
5th Sunday of Easter
4/29/21; 4/30/21; 5/2/21
St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church—Beaver Dam, WI
May 5, 1996. I will always remember this date. My confirmation day. I am sure I could go around the church and many people would know the date, or at least the year, of their confirmation. It is a big day. We remember the many passages of memory work. The lessons on all the chief parts of Luther’s catechism still hopefully ring with some familiarity in our minds. Who can forget about examination? Those questions, and they even expect us to say the answers in front of others in church. All the hard work builds up to that big day.
Maybe many thoughts of that day center around the family and friends that come to our confirmation. Our face hurts from all the pictures being taken. We remember the food and cake. We receive gifts that remind us of this day, which might end up lost all to soon. However, is that it? All the hard work culminates in one day that goes by all too quickly. This cannot be it, can it?
Those thoughts sell confirmation far too short. God does not want it to be a one and done day. The most important part of the day is the vows. We confess our faith in the Triune God. We promise to remain faithful and true to God’s Word. God also promises something to us. God will always encourage us, those being confirmed today, those who have been confirmed in the past, those looking ahead to confirmation in the future. He does so with a simple plea.
Dear Members, Keep The Faith To Which You Were Called
Love is a key word not only in John’s gospel but in his three letters. John speaks about a Christian’s love towards others. This love cannot simply be spoken, but it has to be shown in actions. The Christian’s love also shows off their new life of faith. This love can only come from the greatest example of love, our heavenly Father’s love. With that example and motivation, we go out to follow the command of Jesus: love God and love our neighbor.
Love also drives us to know our Lord more intimately. A special union exists between God and his children. “The one who keeps his commands remains in God and God in him” (I John 3:24a). Did the comfort of this verse come through? We remain in God. We establish ourselves on his wonderful promises found in his Word. Not only do we remain in him, but he remains in us. God has established himself in our heart and life. God lives in us.
How do we know that is the case? “This is how we know that he remains in us: We know it from the Spirit, whom he has given to us” (I John 3:24b). God gives proof of this special union with his people. His Spirit has been given to us. In baptism God adopted us as his own. Through this special washing of water and the Word our sins have been completely washed away and eternal life became ours. God lives in us.
So often we forget about how God remains in our hearts. Life gets busy. Work interferes with our time to gather around God’s Word with our fellow believers on a weekly basis. We leave off personal devotion time for the very last thing at night, but then sleep so easily overcomes us. Our eyes close before we can even offer a tiny little prayer to God. All too often people grow cold to the teachings they learned. They become apathetic. They no longer care about God’s Word, as they chase after the ways of the world.
Listen once more to Jesus’ encouragement, Dear Members Keep the Faith to Which You Were Called! The life of faith is never complete until Jesus calls you home. The Spirit implanted in baptism constantly needs nourishment. You need to know your Lord. He is the one that saved you. He is the one that has called you. Continue in your life of faith! Never take it for granted. Know the Lord and his wonderful love in your life.
Knowing Jesus is the simple command God gives to each of us. “This then is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and that we love one another just as he commanded us” (I John 3:23). God wants us to know Jesus as our personal Savior from sin. God desires for all people not only to know this but to live it as well.
It sounds so simple. Believe in Jesus! The world suffers around us. Natural disasters rage all across the globe. Violence and hatred spew from the mouths of so many people. Belief in Jesus becomes so hard. Believe in Jesus! Our own problems pile up. Worry about a parent suffering from a terrible disease occupies our mind. We face our own mortality struggling with health issues. Our heart knows only fear and worry. Jesus seems so far away. Believe in Jesus! Peer pressure mounts and others make fun of us for our faith. Friends will not always be encouraging but turn to questioning our faith. We might be in the minority for our stance on the Bible and its teachings. Faith slowly falls to the background.
Know the Lord. Keep the faith to which all of us were called. God gives us his Means of Grace, the gospel in Word and sacrament, to nourish our faith. The world might quake and fill with hatred, but our God has overcome the world. Temptations and trials will happen in our life, but God promises to give us the strength to overcome. Friends might not always encourage, but we have a Savior that will never leave our side.
Know the Lord! Keep the faith to which you were called. You will not be able to overcome all these things alone. You will need the one who has been battle tested and proven to come out on top. The Lord will be with you. He will guide you. He will shield you. Know him. Stick close to him. Never forget his teachings and promises meant specifically for you.
The Lord will always have us in his arms. We turn back to him all the time when Satan’s accusations become too much. “If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (I John 3:20). There will be times in our life when our hearts feel overwhelmed with the guilt of our sins. The terrible things we have done in the past. The addictions we battle in the present. Our thoughts that lead us down the wrong path. We can easily become entangled in a web of those sins.
We need to know our standing before God. When our hearts condemn us, God is so much greater than our hearts. Despite all our sins, God has washed us clean. Our standing before him is one of innocence. He pronounced this verdict upon us at his death upon the cross. There we find our peace. We find our true standing before God.
This comforts us our entire life. Our confidence rests upon God. Our life of faith is not just our own walk or battle. We walk with Jesus. We walk connected with him and his Word. We walk in his forgiveness making us free from all of our guilt. We walk with full confidence knowing that he will always be there to answer us with all of our prayers.
The devil has no power over us. His accusations hold not weight in our life. We constantly keep the cross of Christ in focus. Christ gives us peace. Christ brings calm. When we feel weary and weak in the journey of faith, which we will, we pray for strength. We go back and look at the cross seeing Jesus’ payment for sin. We look at the empty grave hearing Jesus’ words of victory. God reminds us of our standing. We are not guilty. We are his children. We are forgiven.
Know the Lord. Continue to build up your life in Jesus with his Word and sacraments. Stay close to him. Know your standing. You are forgiven children of God. You do not need to let your hearts be troubled before God. On this day everyone can be reminded. Dear Members, Keep The Faith To Which You Were Called. Amen.