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
A sermon on Mark 13:5-11 for Reformation, October 25/28, 2018.
Warnings go out constantly for people to beware of certain scams. I think we have all received a suspicious email. It claims that money is waiting for us from the IRS, lottery, and inheritance, or whatever else it might be. Just click on the link then the money will be sent. Right away we click, not on the link, but on the delete button. All they want is our information. Grandparents get a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in jail. They need bail money. Send some via wire transfer, so that their beloved grandchild will be let out of jail. Sometimes people fall for these deceptions. A person sends money, personal information, credit card number, or other things only to lose it all. Authorities warn everyone not to be fooled! These are scams.
God warns us today. Many lies and deceptions will come our way. We can very easily fall victim to these scams, which look to rob us not from our money but our eternal welfare. We do well to listen to our Lord and Savior today.
Don’t be Fooled!
Jesus and his disciples walked out of the temple. As they exited, the disciples took a moment to admire the beauty and majesty of the temple. This magnificent structure stood at the highest point of the city. Every visitor who came to Jerusalem marveled at the temple. For the Jews the temple stood as a symbol of national pride that God chose them to be his own people. These disciples pointed Jesus’ attention to the massive and marvelous stones.
Jesus looked at the temple. He then burst the bubble of joy the disciples wanted to live in. Jesus prophesied that these stones, which they claim to be so massive and magnificent, would one day be destroyed. This place of national pride would come crumbling down in humiliating defeat never to be rebuilt again. Those disciples must have had their dreams crushed. They wondered how and when all these things would happen.
A little bit later Peter, James, John, and Andrew approached Jesus. They wanted to know when all this would be fulfilled. Would there be a sign to accompany all of this? Jesus responded, “Be careful that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many” (Mark 13:5-6). Don’t be fooled! The destruction of the temple would signify the end would come. Not only would the temple be destroyed, but many frauds would come to deceive people. People would come purposefully trying to mislead others. They did not mislead them for money, but they led them away from their Savior.
They would claim to be the Savior. They would say that they have the words of eternal life. They would tell people that they are the promised Messiah. Don’t be fooled by those lies. Jesus did not want the disciples to be surprised that these things would happen. These disciples had their faith in Jesus, who sat right before them. When other would come with their words of deceit, the disciples did not have to fall victim to their lies.
Many people come to deceive the masses today. We easily spot the frauds. Leaders of cults call themselves the savior of the world. They crowd around a group of followers who will believe whatever the leader says. Those leaders purposefully deceive their followers by their lies. We need to stay away from them. They come to trick us. They want to harm us. They are deceivers.
The devil also uses more sneaky ways for people to deceive us from the truth of the gospel. Many religions spring up claiming that they have the truth in them. They spout out that Jesus is only one of the many people to follow. Follow Jesus as a good role model, but he definitely is not the Savior. Greater prophets exist. Don’t be fooled by these lies.
Just like Satan did in the Garden of Eden, they attach the very Word of God. Religious fanatics say they have some new insight into the interpretation of scripture. Religions bring forth new books that need to be put on the same level as Scripture. People would rather follow traditions rather than the truths of God’s Word. Don’t be fooled. The devil will use all these things only to deceive many people.
We do not need to look anywhere else. The suspense of waiting for the Savior came to an end. Jesus came and proclaimed, “I am the Son of God.” He came to fulfill the law for us. He came to give up his life so that we might have freedom from all our sins. All others are only impostors. We follow the true God. We have his words of eternal life. We do not need to be fooled by all those lies.
Even in the midst of all the earthly calamities going on all around us we do not need to be fooled. “Whenever you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but the end is not yet. In fact, nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places. There will be famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:7-8). We look around in the recent past to see so many of these disasters taking place. Natural disasters wreak havoc all across the globe. Nations walk cautiously with one another lest a war break out. Don’t be fooled when all these things happen.
We do not need to fear. We do not need to think that God somehow has lost all control over the world. God still is in control of all things. We should not be deceived into trying to follow after the lies of others. We need only to look to God for help in all things.
Not only will natural disasters come upon the earth, but we will also face personal troubles. Jesus warns of these as well, “But be on your guard! People will hand you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues. You will stand in the presence of rulers and kings for my sake as a witness to them” (Mark 13:9). The disciples would have a reality check in their life. They would face persecution and trouble in front of the highest people of government on account of Christ. Jesus tells them still not to be fooled. These hardships will happen.
So many times we think that if everyone would have faith, this world will be a better place to live. If everyone would read the Bible, all the evil would be done away with in this world. Whenever the gospel is proclaimed, hardships will follow. The devil works very hard to dismantle the work of the gospel.
We should not be surprised when these hardships come, which we must suffer. We will battle here on this earth. Our fears are not that we might be thrown into the fiery furnace, but we face different forms of hardships in life. Family relationships unravel because of the gospel message. Friendships will be lost on account of the gospel message. Critics will criticize our faith.
We need to be on our guard against all of these things. Will we be ready to give a defense of our faith? Will we be ready, as we promised in our confirmation vows, to die rather than renounce our faith? Will we confidently stand up for our faith and for God even though it will not be a popular choice?
Our hardships do not make this an easy choice. The devil wants us to throw it all away. With all the natural disasters and hardships we face, we might wonder if God even is still there. Don’t be fooled with all these things happening around us. We must hold to the gospel all our days.
The gospel remains the one constant in our life. Jesus promises, “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10). The followers of Jesus did not have to despair as everything crumbled around them. The gospel would continue to be proclaimed. It did not matter if the temple stood or was torn down. It does not matter whether persecutions arise or natural disasters ravage the countryside. The gospel message will go on.
This gospel message points everyone right to where they need to be. The gospel message opens up the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel proclaims forgiveness of sins. The gospel brings peace through faith in Jesus. Time will never change this message. The Bible breaks down cultural borders by showing sin and grace to all.
In the midst of all the unknowns in this world, the gospel remains our one constant. When all the natural disasters bring news of suffering, the gospel message heals the wounds by showing God is in control. As we face persecutions and hardships, the gospel reminds us that the world will always fight against God’s message. Don’t be fooled by it all. Hold to the gospel message which will continue to be proclaimed in its truth and purity until Jesus comes again.
I saw one of the news stations doing an investigative story on someone who stole a person’s identity and then used that information to cheat a woman out of money. She thought this person was a soldier she had been chatting with on a dating site. These scams are real. People will lie to get anything they want.
People will lie to deceive us from the truth of God’s Word. They will try to sweep us away from God by any means possible. We constantly need to be on our guard. We cannot fall for those lies. We need to hold to the gospel message. This is the only truth in a constantly changing world. When those deceptions come, don’t be fooled. Hold onto truth of the gospel. Amen.
Reformation, October 25/28, 2018.