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We Believe What We Confess and Confess What We Believe

Romans 10:8b-13

Pastor Mark Schlamann

Wednesday of First Sunday in Lent
Our Savior/Redeemer  
Pettibone/Woodworth, ND

Wed, Mar 3, 2004
Wed of First Sunday in Lent
 

IN NOMINE JESU

What do you believe as a Christian? What is your statement of faith? What is your confession? For those who are baptized in and into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the answer should be simple: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord… [and] in the Holy Spirit…." Our personal confession of the faith and our public confession of the faith are to be one and the same. The words of the baptismal Creed, the Apostles' Creed, the creed confessed at our Baptism, is fundamental for forming the foundation of our faith, for in these words is the truth found in Holy Scripture. The Apostles' Creed is so named because it is based on the teachings of the Apostles, including St. Paul, who received their instruction from the Lord Himself.

The confession of the faith has always been a public matter in the life of the people of God, especially in their worship life. As the community of believers has been gathered together, they have in their liturgy made public confession of the faith. They have united themselves in heart and voice in their confession of faith, in whom they have placed their hope. Such public confession dates back at least 3000 years, when the Jews, in their synagogue liturgy, confessed their faith in the words of the great Shema found in Deuteronomy chapter six: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Dt. 6:4). This liturgical tradition continues to this very day as Christians, now the people of God, confess their faith in the words of one of the three great ecumenical Creeds: Apostles', Nicene, or Athanasian. Such a confession of faith is never a private act but a public confession. That is to say, the faith we confess in here we are to publicly acknowledge "out there," in the world in which we live. The Christian faith has never been an exclusively private matter; in other words, it is not merely a "me and Jesus" devotional exercise. Faith is not a matter of "me and Jesus" and everyone else is on his own. Simply "having Jesus in your heart" is not sufficient for your salvation. It is imperative that you also speak what you believe, that you confess with your lips that you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, whom God raised from the dead, for your salvation. As St. Paul says in our text, "…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (vv. 9-10). During this Lenten season, it is crucial, as it is each day of our lives, that we each believe and confess, as we do in the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in…Jesus Christ…who…suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried."

We are to be about confessing the Name of Jesus, but this seems to be the last thing we want to do. We have become products of our society. Our society has become adamant in maintaining total and complete privacy in every aspect of our lives, including our lives as Christians. We do not like discussing our faith with others, even with those whom we know and with whom we have worshiped for years. It is very unfortunate that what we hear here often stays here, that we do not take the Gospel with us from here. We do not share the hope that is within us. We would much rather keep it to ourselves. We have compartmentalized our faith so much that it is often difficult for others to tell if we are indeed Christians.

Our speech does not always indicate to others that we indeed confess Jesus Christ. Often this conclusion is drawn by what we say, perhaps in our cursing or in our participating in spreading rumors and gossip. What is even more telling is what we do not say. Do we confront openly unrepentant sinners as God has commanded us? Do we point out to such sinners that what they are doing is a sin against God? Do we admonish them and tell them that, as long as they continue to live in this state of unrepentance, they live outside God's grace and place themselves in danger of being forever condemned in their sins? Or do we show our approval of their openly unrepentant, sinful lifestyles by saying nothing at all, giving in to the God-less ways of our society and our world?

On the other hand, what comfort do we bring to those who are hurting and are in great need of the sweet words of the Gospel? Do we comfort those who have lost loved ones with the promise that those who died in the faith are with the Lord, where they are made perfect, into all eternity, and that by faith we will see them again even as we will also see our Lord face to face in heaven? Or do we simply say that the deceased is "in a better place," never actually specifying what this "better place" is? Or, when we are with someone who is going through a rough time, do we comfort him or her with the scriptural truth that God will not give this person more than he or she can bear and that God will at the right time give him or her a way out from underneath the burdens? Do we assure this burdened person that he or she is not alone, that God is always with him or her, or do we merely give a pat on the hand and say condescendingly, "There, there. Everything will be just fine"? Why do we want to risk lying through our teeth and not acknowledge the Lord when we can present the clear and comforting Gospel? Rather, we are bent on keeping our faith to ourselves. We have adopted for ourselves a "me and Jesus and no one else" mentality. A faith that is not publicly confessed—a faith that is not shared—is a faith that does not grow but shrivels and dies. Where there is no sharing, there is no growth. Where there is no learning, there is also no growth. All of this can be traced back to our receiving poor catechesis in years past, or our unwillingness to be catechized now, or even both.

But this does not negate our need to hear His Word and gladly hear and learn it and to confess the Name of Jesus. We still have time to repent and believe the Gospel and to confess His sacred Name, but the time is quickly drawing to a close. Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. Now is our opportunity to confess the Name of Jesus here and in our vocations. Now is the time to tell others what we believe, teach, and confess. We believe, teach, and confess, on the basis of Holy Scripture, that Jesus Christ, true God, took upon Himself our human nature, assumed our sinfulness, and died to make satisfaction for our sins. The Name of Jesus means, "The LORD saves." Jesus has lived up to His Name, for He has saved us from our sins, from eternal death, and the fires of hell, and God has raised Him from the dead. This we proclaim. This we believe. This we teach. This we confess, for God has given us this historical reality and the hope that we have in His inspired, inerrant, and unchanging Word. The hope that we have and the power that God's Word has lies in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit, we believe God raised His Son, Jesus, from the dead, and we confess this same Christ.

The first Christians had this joy of the Gospel so much that they could hardly contain themselves. Even when Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire, these first Christians continued to worship the Lord as they met in fellow believers' homes. Soon after the emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the year 313, church buildings were being built and flourished. These early Christians believed in Jesus Christ and confessed His Name in their worship of Him. They knew which homes were those of fellow believers and were able to worship there before the legalization of Christianity. They were eager to make this confession of Christ, even in the midst of persecution. We get to have this same zeal, too, with the Holy Spirit's enabling us.

Saint Paul writes earlier in Romans, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (1:16-17). Through this faith we have access to our heavenly Father, making our requests known to Him in Jesus' Name, "for whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 13). When we call upon the Name of the Lord, we are confessing our faith in Him, as we unite our heart and voice in our confession of and prayer to Him.

God loves us. God sent His Son to die for us. God raised Him from the dead to give us life. God sends His Holy Spirit that we would believe in Him and receive the gift of salvation. By this same Spirit we unite our hears and voices with each others' and with the faithful who have gone before us and confess, "I believe in God the Father Almighty…in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, … [and] in the Holy Spirit." Amen.

SOLI DEO GLORIA





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