The Lord Keeps Us Confessing
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks to You, that through Your Holy Spirit You have appointed us to bear witness of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: We beseech You, inasmuch as the world cannot endure such testimony and persecutes us in every way, grant us courage and comfort, that we may not be offended because of the cross, but continue steadfastly in Your testimony, and be always found among those who know You and Your Son, until we obtain eternal salvation through the same, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
Bear witness (confess) or stumble. These are the two ways to go—two options. Of what do we bear witness? We bear witness of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Notice the clear teaching of the Trinity in our text. Jesus is the Son of God. He will send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, from the Father. The Holy Spirit has testified to us about Jesus, through whom we also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and trusting what God has done for us, we bear witness about Him. This knowledge about Him, and His saving work is not just some good useful information to have at hidden in your hearts. Rather the doctrines of Scripture that proclaims the Triune God and His work of salvation affects everything that we think, say, and do.
We think a certain way. Our minds are shaped by Scripture. Scripture is judge, and we don’t accept every sentimental platitude that the society proclaims, but we judge every thought, every philosophy, every fad of thought to the timeless and universal truths to Scripture.
We speak a certain way as Christians. Our speech is not governed by political correctness, but it is governed by truth and love. We confess Christ to a world in need of Him. We proclaim the Triune God and His marvelous works. We say sin is a sin. We proclaim salvation in Christ crucified alone.
Our works also bear witness about God, His salvation, and the life to which He has called us. Our morality is different than the morality of the world. We go to church regularly. We live chaste lives and don’t live with a significant other until we’re married. We conduct our business according to our biblically shaped consciences. We submit ourselves to God and His will. We seek to live in truth and goodness, and holiness.
By what we think, say, and do we bear witness to the truth of God, and His working for us and in us.
And the world opposes us. The world has always hated the testimony of God’s Word.
Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” Stephen, who spoke with wisdom and the Spirit, preaching Christ, was falsely accused, and was stoned to death. Tradition has it that all the disciples died a martyr’s death except for John whom we know was exiled onto the island of Patmos. Early Christians were killed for their faith, whether by lions, fire, or beheadings. There is an entire book, “Foxes’ Book of Martyrs” that recounts their stories. Today in parts of the world Christians are still being killed for their faith. This past Easter, bombings backed by ISIS killed hundreds of Christians as they were worshiping. Parts of the Middle East and Africa is seeing Christianity disappearing. In China, pastors are being imprisoned and churches are being destroyed. Anti-Christian persecution and its severity is increasing around the world.
Though, the persecution in America is very tame compared to other places around the world, we do encounter increasing hostility. Amy Coney Barrett, a Christian and a judge on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, during the confirmation process when she was nominated to the court a couple years ago, was questioned about her Christian faith as though that would disqualify her from her appointment. Other Christian politicians have been questioned along the same lines.
Christian business owners have been sued and received much hostility for running their business according to their consciences, like Colorado baker, Jack Phillips.
Christian adoption agencies are forced to close down because they will not send children to gay couples.
States are boycotted because of pro-life legislation, and businesses are banned because of their association with good moral causes.
At the Great Plains Pastor’s Conference a couple weeks ago, the president of Bethany Lutheran College, Gene Pfeifer spoke about one scholarship organization that provides $50,000 yearly to Bethany Lutheran College to assist students attending the college, but this group only distributes money to colleges that are in favor of the LGBT cause. A representative of this group called Bethany about the issue. Bethany expressed its unwillingness to budge on the issue willing to lose that yearly scholarship money, and the college now no longer receives that money.
Though, violence hasn’t broken out against Christians on a wide scale in our country, there is still much contempt, mockery, and hostility toward Christians in our culture.
Christians are made to be the bad guys, and the persecutors are thinking their hostility is backed by a worthy cause, pleasing their god. Early Christians were blamed for the fire of Rome. They were falsely accused of being baby eaters, for being atheists and committing perverse sexual deeds. People blame Christianity as much of the cause for wars. They say that Christianity gets in the way of progress, and that it oppresses people.
Why this hostility toward Christians? Jesus says, that they do not know the Father, nor Him. They have other gods, and the Christian doctrine, morals and life, threaten their false worship. The prophets got in the way of the peoples’ worship of pagan gods. The law and gospel crushes the pride of the one who wishes to get to heaven by his works. The exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ and Him crucified is offensive to the pluralism of our country. The Triune God who does not change, is directly inconsistent with the false god of tolerance and progress, and ever changing moral standards.
So, Jesus speaks these words that we do not stumble. What is it to stumble? To silence our confession of Christ, by our thoughts, words and deeds, and to conform to the expectations of the world; it is to doubt the truth we believe, the truth that shapes our thoughts, words and actions; to doubt Christ’s love and care for us in these days, post-ascension. But we hear the words of the Psalm “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” That’s not me. My heart has fear. It is a heavy trouble that we endure.
But Jesus said the Holy Spirit comes so that we may not stumble. The Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ to you. First of all, that you may be forgiven. You may falter and deny your Christ. But He who forgave Peter and showed Him grace, forgives you and loves you. His perfect confession of His Father clothes you, and your stumbling was upon Him on the cross, which He paid for, His shed blood covers it. You are forgiven.
He gives you His Holy Spirit to put the gospel in your hearts, that He may strengthen your faith, and strengthen your confession, so that you may courageously bear witness of God and what He has done for you through your thoughts, words, and deeds.
Part of this testimony of the Holy Spirit to you is that Christ is risen! It is fitting that this is the last reading of the Easter season before we reach Pentecost. The victory is won by Christ’s resurrection! He has overcome the world! And the Holy Spirit bears witness of this fact! Also, the Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ through your fellow Christians. We are brought to love one another as our Epistle speaks today. You encourage one another with the good news of Christ’s forgiveness and His victory over all our enemies. In love, you support one another as you endure the hostility of the world.
Even while you live in this world of hostility, you dwell in the house of the Lord. You inquire in His temple, His Church. And the Lord provides. He keeps you and nourishes you and strengthens you. In His Church, through faith, you rest in Him, who is your refuge and strength. He prepares a table in the midst of your enemies, giving you His true body and blood that gives you eternal life! Through this supper, He has intimate communion with you, that you may know that even as you are surrounded by your enemies, your victorious Christ is with you, and He is in you!
What hostility and persecution take you away from His Church?! They can take your life, but they cannot destroy you forever. You will, as today’s Psalm says, “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” That is how it ends, and we may have confidence in this. Life in the land of the living, forever in the presence of our God, that is where we will be.
May God the Holy Spirit bear witness to our hearts the good news of Christ crucified for us, that we may courageously confess Christ in thought, word, and deed, to His glory and for the world that needs to know Him. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spiirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.