Sunday, April 29, 2012

“Are You Serious?” (Acts 4:8-12)

S-1314 4SAE/3B 4/29/12 Hymns: (O) #388; (S) #360; LS. #377; #345; #379 (C) #447

Text: Acts 4:1-12; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Theme: “Are You Serious?” (Acts 4:8-12)

Question: “Have you said, ‘It Can’t Be’?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Acts: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:8-12).

Oh, you who are most cherished, loved and sought after by Him who has defied gravity and physics and burst forth from the grave, Jesus Christ our faithful Good Shepherd. Amen. In relationships, there are times when apology is necessary. In marriages, in neighborhoods and in Christian congregations, there are times when things are done and said where the only godly way to deal with them is sincere apology. This apology is needed because one sinner has said and done things that have hurt another, and in the process sinned against God. In those occasions, repentant confession is KEY. What was wrong is confessed to each other and the Lord and healing ensues!

But there are other times when apology is the WORST possible option. This happens when you and I are placed in a position to speak the clear and direct Word of God. When we preach about forgiveness, the world loves us. But when we preach about sin: like homosexuality, adultery, false religions like Islam and Mormonism, the world doesn’t like us much. They see these as lifestyles that are equal and opposite of Christianity and they should be tolerated and accepted.

However, the problem is that when we do, we begin to apologize for God’s Word. This weakens our testimony, and worse, forsakes our Lord, the very same Lord who laid down His life for us on the cross of Calvary. This is especially true when we are confronted with the temptation to apologize for St. Peter when he tells the Jewish leaders that there is only ONE way into eternal life with our Lord. That way is ONLY through the Name of Jesus!

Often people ask, “Pastor, are you serious that there is only one way to heaven, your way?” Not my way, but His—the Good Shepherd’s who laid down His life for the world. Yes, I am very, very serious that this truth be taught and learned by all people. Though, it may not appear to be a politically correct statement. It is! Even Jesus our Good Shepherd taught the multitudes that followed Him saying: I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John. 14:6). PAUSE

Peter, that man, who on the night when Jesus was dragged to the High Priest courtyard denied Him 3 times; today stands in the light before all those in authority and tells them by what power he had done the miracle of healing. Without batting an eye, he confessed that it was: “by the name of Jesus Christ” and he further declared: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:10, 12).

Indeed, that is the case. Yet, I am amazed at how many people claim that there are many ways to get to heaven or even be saved. I am dumbfounded that even Christians teach that other religions such as Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses etc., can get to heaven without believing in Jesus Christ. I am truly astonished, that we still allow the devil to deceive us in thinking that we can save ourselves and get to heaven by our own works.

Sadly, in our time, people frequently entertain the idea that there are many true churches and religions, each of which has a different form of the truth. Many maintain that the Christian religion is not the only saving faith. In fact, they claim that nothing depends on faith: If a person acts according to his conscience, if he loves his fellow man and treats everyone fairly, he may then believe whatever he wants and ultimately, he will be saved. How tragic that thought is. PAUSE.

Let me say it again, there will be no apologies today or ever from this pulpit. And yes, I am very serious when I say, that not all religions lead to the same place. People want to feel good that all religions lead to heaven. But that is not TRUE. I don’t care who you are or what you are—poor or rich, man or woman, prince or pauper, know this fact—salvation is found only in Jesus Christ ALONE. NO APOLOGIES.

Am I serious? Yes, I am! Let me demonstrate: I have a very good car. My car is dependable, comfortable and takes me all over the USA. But if I think that my car can take me to Israel, I am going to be mistaken when I get to the edge of the body of water.

So it is with all the religions of the world. There will come a day when they have to stand at the edge of that large body of water—called DEATH. Then they will know the truth that their religion is wrong.

By Jesus’ own admission, He taught that salvation and entrance into heaven is only through Him. In John 10 we read these words: I Am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (9-10). Paul also states: For there is One God, and there is One MEDIATOR between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Oh, precious children of God don’t be mistaken, this is the truth that all of Scripture teaches. Peter and the other disciples were willing to die to let the world know that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ alone.

To be sure, there are different religions that teach their way leads to heaven. Follow this path and you will get there. Sadly, many Christian congregations are no longer calling sin for what it is—breaking God’s laws. Sin has been diluted to a minor mistake. Living together outside of the bonds of marriage, practicing lesbians and homosexuality, cheating on your taxes, lying and dishonoring your parents is not sinful. How tragic that is because this is false teaching.

Sin is serious. It has deadly results. The Apostle Paul taught saying, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Notice again, Paul, like Peter, states eternal life is in Christ our Lord. I don’t care what other churches teach and confess; but we confess Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And anyone who believes in Christ will be SAVED. PAUSE.

That cross is the Ark that will carry us across that large body of water—death and takes us to the other shore—heaven. The beating heart of the congregation is the life of Jesus Christ—His life given for us on the cross of Calvary. In, through and by the power of Jesus we stand included as part of the redeemed and forgiven.

For over 70 plus year, this pulpit has been used not to apologies, but to confess the truth that salvation is found only in Jesus alone. For over 70 years we have been teaching the truth and for as long as God gives us breath we are His witnesses to confess this golden fact, that Jesus and ONLY Jesus SAVES.

Like Peter, we are called upon to be faithful witnesses. As a baptized Christians, we are encouraged to love the adulterer, tax cheats, fallen away Christians, and those who think they are doing just good enough for God to love them and let them into eternity. We should ask the Holy Spirit to help us reach out to them and teach them the truth, life without Christ leads to death. This is more than just a different life-style—it is living in sin.

You and I CAN’T accept their teachings or hold to it, but we are called as the redeemed of God to be faithful confessor of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone on account of Christ alone. We are called to be a light to the world and to teach them the truth about Jesus and that He alone SAVES.

Am I serious? Yes and a 1000 times yes. You, yes, YOU, are to be witness in your community. You are the ones to look for the lost. Invite them to come and drink from the water of life freely. You are the ones who are called upon to invite them to be refreshed and renewed as they eat at the table. Therefore, stand in the public square and declare without apologies that there is ONLY one way to heaven—Jesus and ONLY Jesus. PAUSE.

You who are baptized and blood-bought Christians, while I was at the seminary, I was invited to preach in Nebraska. Walking through the small town, I noticed on a bar this sign which read: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!” And just recently I was listening to our Synodical radio station, KFUO and the same sentence was spoken to describe those who are not part of the family of faith.

Let me ask you a question. Are you absolutely certain that one day those who have died in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life in heaven? If you are, then you can be just as sure that unbelievers will be resurrected to eternal torment in hell.

While many jokes have been the subject of hell, it is not a laughing matter. Hell is the absence of God. Hell is the place of “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12); a “fiery furnace” (Matt. 13:42); a “lake of burning sulfur” (Rev. 20:10). Its torment is continuous (2 Thess. 1:9), unquenchable (Matt. 3:12), and eternal (Jude 7).

Therefore, without apologies, the preacher of God’s Word does not lessen the sharpness of the law or subtract from the comforting message of sins forgiven in Christ. And we the redeemed don’t want to have our family and friends spending eternity in hell. We want to introduce them to the faithful Good Shepherd Jesus, the ONE who tends the helpless, the dumb, the blind (us), but who is utterly good.

Know this truth and know it well. Our Faithful and gracious God—the God of love, sent His Son to die for all people and He desires us to be with Him in the paradise of heaven. Certainly God is all inclusive. But He is also exclusive: This is the ONLY way to be with Him. May we NEVER apologize for what we believe, teach and confess that salvation is found ONLY in Jesus alone! And YES, I AM SERIOUS. AMEN.

Now the peace…


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