Mid-Week Lenten 4
March 28, 2001
"Don't Be Afraid To Speak Up"
Seminarian Jon W. Smithley
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dear friends in Christ, our sermon text for tonight is from the Gospel of Matthew, the tenth chapter, verses 32-33.
and Jesus said, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But, whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Thus far our text, let us pray. Merciful Father, we implore you on Christ's behalf, to strengthen our faith this night through your Word and through your Holy Spirit. Forgive us we pray for not speaking up for you and your Gospel when you have provided us opportunities to do so. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.
Picture yourself on a camping trip with some of your friends. One evening around the camp fire, while you are roasting marshmallows, the conversation turns to 'religion' and someone says, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere." Others voice their agreement. What will you say?
Maybe you are a housewife getting acquainted with your next door neighbor, a woman about your age with three small children. In the course of the conversation she says to you, "We don't send our children to Sunday School or Church. We don't think its right to force religion on them. They can choose whatever religion they like when they're old enough to make their own decisions." What will you say?
Or perhaps, you are a young person and your friends say to you, "anybody who wants to get ahead in this world has got to look out for himself first, you know take care and do what’s best for Old Number One." What would you say?
One of the biggest fears that we have is the fear of what others may think about us. Do they think we're different, or odd, or weird. We fear that we might lose out on certain advantages if we speak up regarding our Christian faith and our commitment to Jesus Christ. Even Peter was so afraid at times of what others might do to him that he denied Christ three times, just as Christ had predicted.
Further more, In Exodus chapter 4, God sent Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. God promised to be with Moses in all that Moses would do. God even gave Moses signs that Moses would not be alone, but that God would indeed be with him and even bless him as he confronted Pharaoh.
However, Moses responded to God by saying, "O LORD, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. Please send someone else to do it." And the LORD said to Moses, " I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." But Moses did not speak to Pharaoh, instead his brother Aaron did. Aaron acted as the mouth of Moses because Moses feared Pharaoh. Moses was afraid to speak up.
Yes there have been times even in our own lives when we have been afraid to speak up for the Gospel of Christ and our own Christian faith. We were afraid that our words would come out all jumbled up and that we would come off as being silly. But you know what, we are not silly, we are God's children, wholly and dearly loved. God too will help us to communicate the Gospel truth and message when opportunities afford themselves. God will and has indeed equipped us with all that we need to speak up for the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who dwells in and with us, and He will certainly teach us what to say.
In our text for tonight, we learn that whoever acknowledges Christ before men, Christ will acknowledge them before His Father in heaven. We don't have to be afraid to speak up!
Now there is more than one way to speak up for Christ and His Word and even for the faith that God has given to us.
1. We speak up for Christ when we make it clear that our relationship with Him is of utmost importance in our everyday life.
I believe that faithful worship is an expression of our trust in Jesus Christ, our faithful Lord and Savior. No, we should not go to church for show and tell, but to be fed by the Lamb of God and His Word and Supper. There is no merit in our attending Church, it's more about God blessing us, giving us His Forgiveness, and strengthening us in our Christian faith. It's more about looking at God and seeing His power and glory in our lives. It's about worshipping Christ with all the other saints here on earth and those already in glory! It's about putting Christ first though it costs everything!
2. We speak up for Christ when we respond to statements like those of the campers, the woman next door, or the young people. We speak up for Christ by sharing our faith with others. Listen to these precious words given to us in 1 Peter 3:15:
'But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.'
Our hope is in Jesus. He indeed is our Hope. Christ is the everlasting hope that has brought you and I complete forgiveness of all our sins. We are indeed redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb.
3. We speak up for Christ by talking about our Lord's faithfulness, his death on a cross, his resurrection three days later. We speak up for Christ when we share this wonderful message of hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. This is a message for all: our children our relatives, our neighbors, even for our enemies.
4. We speak up for Christ when we confess our faith in the liturgy, in the Creeds, the Lord's Prayer, and even when we partake of the Lord's Supper. Loyalty to Christ cannot be separate from loyalty to His Word. They go hand in hand. I might mention here, that we citizens here in the U.S. seldom have any fears about being able to worship Christ in our churches on Sunday mornings, but that is not true for many people in our world. In some countries, Christianity is against the law, punishable by death.
5. Finally, we speak up for Christ by living in ways that honor him. We life our lives differently from what the world says. We live in ways that put Christ first. We live in ways that put other people and their needs first. We live as servants of the cross, humble and Christlike. We submit to Christ and His will as a result of our God-given faith. We live in and by God's grace, and thus true life is found only here.
In conclusion, dear friends of the cross, let us look to the cross for our strength. Christ is our defender, He is the
One who strengthens us and our faith. It is here that we make our confession, that Jesus is Lord of all! It is here that we acknowledge Christ before all others, and thus He will acknowledge us before his Father who is in heaven. It is here that if we find ourselves not acknowledging Christ before men, that we repent, confess our sin, and then receive the gracious forgiveness of Christ. In the end, it does matter, how we live our lives. In the end, it does matter what we teach our children. And besides, is there anything more important to parenting than raising our children in the training and instruction of the Lord? God's Word is the final authority on that. God gave these words to Moses and thus to us for our benefit:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deut. 6:6-7). In the end, let us live for Christ and not be afraid to speak up. Let us leave this night knowing that we are loved indeed by Christ, forgiven in Him of all sins, and strengthened to do His will. In Jesus name, Amen.
Now may the peace of Christ keep and guard your hearts and your minds this night and forevermore. Amen.