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“Fear Not,” Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

 

Audio

 

5These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . . 21“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

cross      24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

      26“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In Psalm 91, the Psalmist writes,

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; ” (Ps. 91:1-10 NKJ).

Such confidence radiates from the Psalmist, not because of real or perceived worldly circumstance, but because of God’s promises having taken root—believed—with the result that certainty of God’s promises—His Word—is and exists against the antagonists and enemies of God whose words and deeds cannot undo what God declares, whose words and deeds are not at all above God and His ways, and who do not know the extent of God’s revelation in Christ and cannot therefore account for the things of God.

Such confidence in the Lord proceeding from the lips of the Psalmist are quite a contrast to how things are this side of heaven.

Take for example the last verse from Psalm 91 read, verse 10, where the Psalmist records, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

Such promises appear null and void with reference to reality.

Abraham, King David, the prophets, the apostles, God’s people of all times and ages have suffered and have struggled with all that is at enmity with God.

What we see today, what Christians worldwide experience, what God’s people encounter—the challenges to the true faith that we ourselves struggle with, lament, and long to end continue to go on and seem to be on the increase.

Calls to repent for sins of those before us; growing unrest and rebelliousness against God and His order; redefining gender; broadening the definition of sex beyond biology and contrary to God’s order of creation to whatever one wants to define it as, according to one’s own self-identification and perception and not according to the truth; calling male female and female male; legitimizing homosexuality and all kinds of sexual deviancies…These are just a few of the struggles we face as God’s people in our increasingly godless society, where not truth and reason guide and rule, but emotion and felt-need reign supreme.

Such things, and the positions promoted by the world, as disturbing and troubling as they are—these are only expressive of the greater contrast between the godless and the godly; between the wicked and the righteous; between the unholy and the holy—that greater distinction between that of unbelief and belief; of the impenitent heart from the repentant one.

The myriad of issues finding greater and more open expression today in the church and in the world have as their solution, not changes in policy, political affiliation, greater rules and regulations, giving into the demands of the masses or bowing down to ideologies.

The only true and lasting solution for these things, that which the world rejects, is something more profound, something only God, not we, can produce—sustain—keep.

That “some-thing” is repentance and faith, repentance unto God—faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Christ—that which is produced by God by means of His Holy Word, effected and continued by God and what He Himself says, apart from any human endeavor.

What God says, this is what God’s people cling to, hope in, adhere to, and live by.

We do so because God so commands, and because God so promises, according to His Word, that forgiveness, life, and salvation are ours through His Son.

The Christian believes this, not because of life’s circumstances or the place(s) we find ourselves in.

Christians believe in God.

Christians believe in God’s grace and forgiveness, His compassion and mercy, indeed, His unconditional love—because of Jesus.

They do not believe in God as dependent on changes in the world, that things will get better, that a greater number than less will convert to His Name.

Christians are realists, realists in the sense that they acknowledge life not to be what we determine it to be, but what God so determines according to His will, whether that will of God be pleasing to us or not.

Christians also acknowledge God’s love in Christ in all of this.

As it was the Father’s will that His Son suffer and die, so it is God’s will that we continually look to Him for refuge and strength, in trying times and always.

The truth that things may not get better in life until the Lord’s return does not at all change what Christians do as God’s people as they live by faith unto Him who is their salvation.

Their call is neither to change people or to be the change in society so that others follow.

Theirs is the call far weightier and far more eternal than the call of the world to make this place better.

The Christian is called to believe and to so live by that faith that no trust, no confidence, no hope be in self or in the world, but in the crucified Christ alone.

The salvation of God is not isolated, nor focused, on cleansing the world of its ills or undoing the evils in the world so that we have a peaceful kind of life.

Such a dream for the utopian society is the hope of some, but it is not the teaching of Christianity.

As Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35 NKJ).

God’s aim is not the purging of society’s uncleanness, making more humane laws, creating equality among peoples, or eradicating societal divisions for a worldly kind of peace.

Jesus, of course, did preach peace.

Jesus did preach the true unity of all people—as sinners before God, equal in their individual and collective enmity to Him.

Jesus did not come to establish new laws or to do away with old ones.

Jesus did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

By using the term “Law,” Jesus is not speaking about man-made-laws, but that which God revealed in the Old Testament, specifically, His Word given in the first five books of that Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, including the 10 Commandments.

Jesus did not come, nor does He preach, how to live a better life now or how to get through the upheavals of the day, with the result of peace of mind or peace in our day as the world understands peace.

Jesus does not promise the peace that the world seeks to give.

What Jesus does promise is far greater and without comparison.

To His followers, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 NKJ).

Our fears and concerns, our doubts and uncertainties—these give way to Christ and His Word.

Jesus has conquered death by means of His own death.

Jesus has overcome the world.

It’s ruler, Satan, the devil, Jesus has defeated.

To Jesus is the title, “Victor.”

The resurrection of our Lord testifies to this.

Jesus continues to reign on His heavenly throne, the throne of Him Who is also our Father, our true Father, “so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism, Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer).

It is true that we do not perceive these truths with our eyes, but by faith in the Word of the Lord given.

Nonetheless, hidden does not mean absent.

Nor does hidden mean non-existent.

Our confidence is the Word!

Our hope is Christ!

Our certainty is in that which God has revealed, that which He makes known.

So, it was for the 12.

So, it is also for us.

The disciples, the 12—these Jesus sent out as apostles, “sent ones.”

To them Jesus spoke the words of today’s Gospel.

Jesus commissioned them to go out.

He sent them to do certain things, to speak certain words, to declare the nearness of God’s kingdom.

Their reception by all, then, as well as today, is not all welcome, but even that of spite, ridicule, persecution, and even death.

The refusal of others to hear and believe, the preponderance to deny the truth, the resulting opposition to the Gospel—these would be reason for many to not do what the Lord gives to be done.

Not all will believe, so why put in all the work?

It seems a waste of time to put in the effort without the return.

Add to that the apparent foolishness of saying and doing what God gives to say and do, with the result of rejection and martyrdom.

Jesus is not painting a pretty picture of what His followers will encounter.

To remember is that the disciples, the apostles, God’s people, are not so because of what may be in this world as a result of believing in God through His Son.

Jesus’ disciples, apostles, God’s people are so because of God and His Word, because of God’s Son and His promise of eternal life, because of God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy—not because of what they now see and experience in the world, but because of the sure hope in that which they do not now see but have the certainty of because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

What Jesus gives His apostles to do and say, Jesus gave them to do and say.

What Jesus gives His church to do and say is what He gives His church to do and say.

Independent of the consequences, the Word of the Lord stands—because it is the Word of the Lord.

To not do it, to not keep it, to not say it—this is unbelief—not of God.

As the world rejected Christ, so also will that same world reject those who belong to Christ.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24 NKJ).

As it was for Jesus, so will it be for they who follow Him according to His Word, some more, some less.

The outcome of such following, of such doing and saying as Jesus gives the church to do and say is not ours to determine, manipulate, or control.

As it is Christ’s Word—His Word and not our own—the result also belongs to Him alone.

It has always been the way of the Lord to do what He does apart from the dictates and demands of His creation.

Simply said, “God is God.”

There is only one God.

This means that the consequences of preaching are not our own.

The growth of the church is not our responsibility.

The changed heart of the hearer is not our burden to bear.

What is our burden is to hear and believe what the Lord says to us—that which is according to His Word alone.

Our responsibility, our call, is to continue in the true faith—to trust, not what we see or experience, but the Lord Jesus Christ.

As this has to do with the very nature of faith itself, so also does it have to do with speaking and living.

This is what God’s people do, as God gives them to do.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, the surety of God’s people everywhere, and the motivation to keep going and to press on amid adversity of all kinds, within and without—is not to be found within or dependent on visible outcome or expectation.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, His body, is founded on the promises of God in Christ Jesus, on what He reveals in Jesus the Savior—Jesus our Savior—Jesus your Savior.

Because of Him, you need not fear God’s wrath and against your sin, nor His displeasure of your doubt and uncertainty in His faithful promises.

These are far weightier than the earthly concerns of this life.

But for Jesus, God’s judgement would be upon you for eternity.

Now—in Jesus—you have God’s favor—indeed, His everlasting love.

Jesus says that, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30 NKJ).

“Do not fear,” Jesus says, “…you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31 NKJ).

It is not by circumstance or feeling that you know of God’s love for you, His kindness toward you, or His mercy to you.

It is in Christ Jesus that you know, are certain, and believe God’s good will toward you.

Such confidence moved the disciples to preach and to write, that you, too, also have such confidence before the world, both in believing and in living.

Such confidence in the Lord Jesus also moves you to confess His Name, sure of His mercies, certain of His promises. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure and content in Your eternal love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

Observations/Reflections on a recent pastor’s conference, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Apologetics”

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Apologetics”

Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense

 

swd-logoA recent pastor’s conference (Oct 2016) of the South Wisconsin District (a district of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, LCMS) offered participants the opportunity to hear from Dr. Horvath (of Athanatos Christian Ministries) and Dr. Peter Scaer (an Exegetical Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, IN).  Both presenters, in my opinion, offered insightful reflection on numerous challenges currently faced within in our society and by the church.

Dr. Horvath founded Athanatos Christian Ministries (AMC, Inc.) a group “to equip Christians to defend the Christian faith through the arts and literature, in addition to using evidence and argument.”  Much of his presentation consisted of “connecting the dots” for what is currently going in Christendom, with reflection on the rise of the “religiously unaffiliated.”

For example, Dr. Horvath noted that in the early 1990s, the religiously unaffiliated (i.e. those having left the church and not returning) were in the 5% range of the U.S. Population.  Yet, in 2016, that percentage jumped to 25%.  In the span of around 20 years, the number of religiously unaffiliated jumped 20%.  Commenting on a reason for the rise in the number, Dr. Horvath observed a connection between the effects of the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s and the growing divorce rate that followed.  The increasing number of religiously unaffiliated from the early 1990s to 2016 reflect the consequences of acm_1120x198parental divorce and the effects of such divorce on the children, including growing disbelief and disconnection (even atheism) in relation to the Christian faith.

Divorce has consequences.  Sin has consequences.  Horvath suggests that challenges the society and church are now facing have been influenced by actions of the past.

Another insightful connection concerning the direction of our culture is that of information gathered about communications related to the need for population control (i.e. in affiliation with the Center for Family Planning Program Development, 1969 [The Technical Assistance Division of Planned Parenthood-World Population, Frederick S. Jaffe]; Too Many Americans, L. & A. Day; and Public Health & Population Change, Sheps & Ridley, 1967).

Though “dated,” the following (partial list of) “proposed measures to reduce fertility, by universality or selectivity of impact in the U.S.” are eerily being fulfilled, with many, also within the church, oblivious to such an agenda, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood:

Restructuring of family: a) Postpone or avoid marriage b) alter image of ideal family size (i.e. from greater to lesser)

Compulsory education of children

Encourage increased homosexuality

Encourage women to work

Payments to encourage contraception

Abortion and sterilization on demand

Allow harmless contraceptives to be distributed nonmedically

Make contraceptives truly available and accessible

Improve maternal health care, with family planning a core element

Though many migsin12ht view such occurrences, not as fulfilling an agenda, but simply as our “progression” as a society, recognizing the influences of the past upon our own day can help us in the church to better understand and respond to our current, and continual, challenges, moving us to repentance, also for our silence, and to steadfast faith in our Lord, who is the Head of His Church and faithful, even though we be faithless (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:13).

God calls His people to wariness and to preparedness (Luke 21:36; 1 Timothy 6:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), as well as to boldly confess His Name.

On an information table for Athanatos Christian Ministries at the pastor’s conference was a brief information sheet entitled, “Know thy Enemy,” which consisted of quotes from Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and reference to her book, The Pivot of Civilization and a Plan for Peace (1923). Compare the following quotations:

“The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately.  Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period.  Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives.”

Margaret Sanger, in The Pivot of Civilization, 1923

“…the state must act as the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit.  It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge.  It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on. And put this into actual practice.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925

The above quotes of Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler indicate that both wanted to either segregate or limit certain “types” ofsanger_and_hitler people.  What’s amazing is that Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, included blacks as those who were “feeble-minded” and “of the moron class.”  Where is the outcry today against such racist and prejudicial comments, even by African Americans, who also make use of and advocate for a group such as Planned Parenthood whose founder sought to limit the population of certain people and groups in order to establish a society based upon her own ideology?

The second presenter, Dr. Peter Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary also offered insightful reflection of challenges that we face as Christians and encouragement for the body of Christ.  Similar to Dr. Horvath’s presentation, Dr. Scaer spent some time reminding us of earlier generations and their influences upon us in our day.  He mentioned, for example, Lawrence Lader, who was influenced by Margaret Sanger, who spoke of the need for limiting the size of the family.  Dr. Scaer also mentioned H.G. Wells, whom he referred to as an “eugenicist.”

Additionally, Dr. Scaer also spent time informing us about the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, whose idolatrous agenda was rebellion against men and against God, who divorced her first husband, was involved in numerous affairs, and ironically, said that women don’t need men.  Dr. Scaer had also observed that Sanger had used (coined) the phrase, “Every child a wanted child” (emphasis mine).

Dr. Scaer’s presentation also included a critique of how the LCMS has responded in the past to Planned Parenthood and abortion, noting that Concordia Publishing House had published a book by Rehwinkel entitled, Planned Parenthood, which essentially “sold” Planned Parenthood to Lutherans.  What was quoted of this work, and others, would be disturbing to those concerned about life in general and about the Christian doctrine in particular, since a great emphasis was placed, not on what God says, and what He says about life (i.e. 5th Commandment, “You shall not murder”), but on the individual circumstances (i.e. of the pregnant woman) and the challenges that she would face if the child was born, or the “solutions” offered if the baby was not born.  In other words, Rehwinkel and others offered the counsel that the life of the baby was ultimately the woman’s choice and that she determined the continued existence or death of another human being.

In contrwhobrokethebaby-gartonast to Rehwinkel and others, Jean Garton, author of Who Broke the Baby, was a healthy critique to the genocide of the unborn, offering insight and commentary on the ideology and practice of abortion, which both run contrary to the Word of God and what God reveals about life and its gift.

Dr. Scaer offered more than commentary reflecting end-of-life issues like abortion.  He also asked the question whether we can talk about marriage (i.e. 4th & 6th Commandments) outside the church?  He answered, “We must!”  Same-sex “marriage” is the great challenge for today’s church, Scaer commented.  As this practice is more greatly accepted, society and the church more greatly suffer.  And, as Dr. Horvath had earlier noted, sin has consequences.  The effects of homosexuality (rebellion against God) destroy society.  This is something that “the left” know, but don’t want to admit.  “Where (natural/traditional) marriage works, society works,” said Scaer.

Rather than retreat to the shadows, claiming that little can be done, Dr. Scaer offers encouragement.  Politically, laws can change, and even little laws can help.  In contrast to the thought, “Laws can’t change,” Scaer responds, “Laws can be changed” and that “Man’s law is changeable.”  “They change all the time.”  In other words, in the secular world, there is still something that concerned citizens can do.

james1-12God calls the church to be faithful to the Lord who bought her, the same Lord Who Himself was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4-5, NKJ).  God is God, and Christ is Head of His Church.

This Lord is the same Christ who is the “bridegroom,” (Matthew 9:15; John 3:29) who “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27, NKJ).

Though a “weeding out” take place, the faithful will become more visible.  The Church confesses Christ.  In Him, she lives.

A Survey of Christian Doctrine and Teaching

WhatAboutPamphlets.Barry.pdf

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