Based on: Acts 4:22-32
Good morning Stanley, Dustin, Carlie, Andrew, Daniel, Mackenzie, and Mikyla! You have finished two years of catechism instruction, two years learning about what Scripture says about God and how he has rescued us. I must say that of all the classes that I have taken through two years of catechism instruction, yours is by far the best! Let’s just not tell anyone that so far yours is the only class that I have taken through two years of catechism.
Joking aside, let me say something honestly and sincerely. I am proud of you – every one of you. Over the past two years I have seen each one of you grow in your understanding of Holy Scripture and grow in faith. It has been my privilege to watch as the Holy Spirit worked through me to draw you closer to your Savior.
Now you are being confirmed. You have been instructed in the fundamental truths of God’s Word. In the Ten Commandments you realized how you have sinned against the Holy God. In the Apostle’s Creed you see God’s grace in all he has done to rescue you from your sin. Today you will confess that you believe that the teachings of this church are faithful and true to the Word of God. You will be ready to join us at the Lord’s Table and share in the meal that not only gives us forgiveness of sins, but also expresses the unity we have with one another in the faith we confess.
As we celebrate this wonderful event I want to look into the future and tell you what will happen to you in the years to come as you live your lives as Christians who confess their faith. And right now you are thinking, “But pastor, I didn’t know you could tell the future!” I can’t. But right here in God’s Word we see your future. As we look at what happened in the early church we know that as Christians the same things will happen to us. You know there will be persecution. You know where to find strength.
When we read from the book of Acts a few minutes ago, we heard a prayer spoken by some of the very first Christians in Jerusalem. We want to take a look at that prayer, but first let’s look at the events leading up to that prayer. Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray. At the gate of the temple they saw a man who was unable to walk since birth. They healed him. People saw what they did and crowded around them. Peter and John saw the opportunity to share the Gospel and told them about Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and about the resurrection. Because of that confession two things happened. First, many people heard and believed. Their souls are now in heaven. Second, the Jewish leaders did not like what Peter and John were saying. They put Peter and John in prison for a time and told them not to talk about Jesus.
I told you we would look into your future. When we look at what happened to those first Christians we see what happens to all Christians. You can be sure that if you continue to confess your faith as you did last Friday night, you will be persecuted. You will be put down, told you are wrong, perhaps even physically hurt. And the bolder you are in your confession, the greater the persecution.
I heard recently about a young lady who was a freshman at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. In one of her classes at the beginning of the semester the professor started the class by asking every student if they thought abortion was OK. One-by-one every student in the room said there was nothing wrong with abortion except for this one lady who said that the unborn baby is a living human being. The professor then went on to tell the class how everyone else in the class was right and this one lady was wrong.
Dear confirmands, you know the truth. You know what God’s Word says about abortion. It is easy to talk about it in the catechism classroom with others who believe the same way you do, but you will not always be in the safety of the catechism classroom. Sometimes you will be out there in the world, where people will ridicule and mistreat you for believing what God’s Word says. It will not be easy to boldly confess your faith. Just ask the people here, I think every one of us would admit that we have missed opportunities to confess our faith. We have not treated God as he deserves. Those are the times we have disowned God, but he does not disown us. In fact, he forgives us because Jesus lived and died for us, and that emboldens us to confess him to others.
I pray for you. Your life as a Christian will have good times and bad, so I pray for you. But I do not pray that God keep you from being mistreated by the world. Instead I pray that God make you bold to confess the Gospel in spite of the world.
Why? Because I know what else is in your future. Yes, ultimately, as a believer heaven is in your future, but even while you live on earth there are blessings God gives. Let’s look at what happened to Peter and John after they were persecuted because the blessing they had are yours as well.
After the Jewish leaders were finished with them, Peter and John found their brothers and sisters in Christ and prayed with them. It is printed in the bulletin if you would like to read it in full, but for now let me summarize. “Sovereign Lord, you created everything.” That means he also owns everything and controls everything. “1000 years ago, Lord, you said the people of this world would fight against you. They did fight against you by crucifying Jesus, but you used their evil acts to accomplish your plan. Now look at what they are trying to do and make us bold to proclaim Christ in spite of their threats. And again, use their evil acts to accomplish your plan.”
Notice that the believers in Jerusalem did not ask God to take the persecution away from them. They asked God to make them bold to preach God’s Word even though preaching God’s Word was the very thing that would bring greater persecution. Remember Psalm 23? We sang it earlier. Notice that we didn’t sing, “Lord, you lead me around the valley of the shadow of death.” No, we sang, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and we sang, “you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Our Good Shepherd does not promise to keep the bad times away from us. He promises to protect and comfort us through the bad times.
Look at where the disciples turned in their time of hardship. You can do the same. They turned to God’s Word. They reminded themselves of God’s promise that unbelievers will act out and even rage against God, but all of their vile attempts will come to nothing. When tough times come, you do the same. Go to God’s Word and remind yourself of the truth. Remind yourself of those things we learned in catechism – God is still in control and he loves you.
The disciples also found that Word of God among their fellow Christians. You have a whole church full of fellow believers to turn to when you need comfort and assurance from God’s Word. You also have the members of your Catechism class. I encourage each of you to build each other up. As you grow, treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters in Christ. And if one of you falls, restore him or her.
In addition to all of this, pray. As you hear God’s Word, then take your requests to God just as those early Christians did. That is exactly why God gives us this powerful tool.
Remember the young lady at the University of Minnesota that I mentioned? She sought strength in God’s Word. She found like-minded Christians who shared God’s Word with her and brought comfort. I’m sure she also prayed for help. God has made her bold.
I know what your future holds, and I pray for you. I pray that God make you bold to confess him as your Savior. I pray that God make you bold to confess his Word as truth. And when that confession brings this world’s wrath, I pray that you turn to God’s Word for strength, that you turn to your Christian brothers and sisters for comfort, and that you pray even more earnestly for boldness because you know the truth – you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and as the one who will use the evil of this world to accomplish his plan of bringing you to heaven.