Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“Devoting Ourselves” (Acts 1:14)

S-1318 7SAE/3B 5/20/12 Hymns: (O) #333; (S) #332; (C) #338

Text: Acts 1:12-26; 1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11-19

Theme: “Devoting Ourselves” (Acts 1:14)

Question: “What are you devoted about?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Acts: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Saints in Christ, the evangelist Luke by the power of the Holy Spirit, tells us in this portion of the Word of God, one of the strangest stories in the Bible. In a collection of gospels and letters where little girls and grown men are raised from the dead, where lepers are made suddenly clean, where blind people are able to see, where a stormy sea is made still with the utterance of a few words, where demons are driven out of people and into herds of wild pigs… we are told the story of Jesus riding on the cloud. On the fortieth day after the resurrection, Luke tells us, Jesus and His disciples are standing on the side of a mountain together, and He makes them this promise: “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Having witnessed first the Resurrection of Christ from the grave and now His ascension to the right hand of the Father, they return back to Jerusalem and with one accord they devote themselves to prayers and the ministry which Christ has entrusted to them in making disciples of all nations.

The word “devote” in the Greek has this meaning: “I attach myself to, devote myself to, continue in, am ready.” What this means is there is an intentional activity going on. You are setting yourself to be focused, fastened and fixed on the goal that is before you.

“Devotion” is a good word. When you hear the word devoted, we usually think of something good—a devoted mother who is willing to sacrifice for her children, who puts the needs of the children and her family ahead of her own needs; someone who knows how to endure, and in love do practical things that helps her family. We think of a devoted father and we think not only of someone who is reliable and tries to provide for his family, but we also think of someone who is willing to take a day off a little early to try to make it to a soccer game or attend a piano recital. Devotion is a good word. And it is not just a good word for parents. If I am sick and need a doctor, I want a devoted doctor, particularly if it is surgery, I want it to be a devoted surgeon, not somebody devoted to their boat or their investments, but someone who is devoted to their craft, someone who tries to keep up with the latest developments, who really wants to do the best possible for their patients. Devotion is a good thing.

This is precisely what the disciples did. In this passage in the Book of Acts, we see the early church, and it talks about them being devoted to certain things. They devoted themselves to prayers and in one accord they have before them the goal to get the message of Christ to the ends of the world. In the next chapter we see them again devoting themselves to worship and breaking bread together. They were dedicated, determined and devoted for that which is God-pleasing.

On this day of Confirmation, it is a good thing for us as a body of believers to be devoted in our walk of faith. It is of the utmost importance for us as God’s beloved children, to be focused on God in our lives. Because God is not just an add-on to life, but God is the central focus of who we are and whose we are. This is our privilege and honor to be devoted to the cause of why we exist as a church and the way we are blessed share the good news with all people.

Being devoted is a good thing because it keeps us focused on what is our role in the family of God. Being devoted causes us to do the godly thing in sharing with one and all that we need the grace of God in our lives to be His faithful and obedient servants.

Ryan today is a very special day for you and your family. For the last two years you have studied, took quizzes and tests, and attended confirmation classes so that you might be thoroughly equipped in defending the faith, and confessing the faith. You have devoted yourself to the study of the Word even though at times you didn’t like doing the work, yet you did.

I encourage you therefore; to continue to be devoted to what the Holy Spirit has given you through His Word. Continue to be devoted to come to the Lord’s house. Continue to be devoted to be in the Word. Continue to dine at His table. Continue to live your life as a child of the heavenly Father. PAUSE.

I share with you a modern story of someone who was devoted of living his life as a Christian. In his book, “In My Seat” Steve Scheibener tells the distinct privilege to live for Christ. Steve Scheibener an American Airline pilot was scheduled to fly flight 11 from Boston to LA on 9-11 but at the last moment he was bumped by a another pilot Tom McGuinnes. 20 years earlier, Steve had written his life’s objective which is: “To seek, trust and glorify God through humble service and continual prayer. To raise up qualified disciples as quickly as possible, so that one day I might hear God say: “Well done thou Good and faithful servant.”

Steve goes on to say that two people have died in my place. Literally he took my seat. Tom took my seat in flight 11 and Jesus took my place on the cross; Tom and Jesus. Tom can’t take away my sins, but Someday I want to stand in the presence of God and hear Him say, “Well done thou Good and faithful servant.” That is what is on my plate. That is what is driving me these days. Why does God take one and leave another. It is not because I am a better person, or God wanted to do more with me, than He wants to do with Tom. I think in God’s providence that is obviously His choice.

What has stuck with me all these year is the fact He did leave me behind. I need to act that I am living on borrowed time; because I am. I can look and see my smoking hole on national TV. I saw where I should have died but I didn’t. Now there is an obligation that comes with that. I need to live my days with the sense of urgency. Trying to make sure I can get the most out of them. Not the most for me. We live in a world where everybody is trying to get the most for them. It is not about me. This is about the distinct privilege I have been given to know that somebody died in my place. What I know is that somebody died in my place not once, but twice. That is where God comes in for me. Tom sat in my place and by all rights; I should have sat in that seat that day. But I didn’t. But Tom literally sat in my seat. Tom didn’t die for my sins.

God sent His own Son to die for my sins. Jesus Christ is the other one who died in my place. He hung, and He bled, and He suffered on the cross to pay a price for me, that I wasn’t qualified to pay. I couldn’t have hung on the cross. I didn’t have the same qualifications. So one guy sat on the seat that I should have sat in, and the other hung and bled on the cross. One is far more significant than the other. This is not to trivialize what happened to Tom, but to elevate and glorify what God did for me and mankind on the cross. PAUSE.

What an honor that the Lord of the Church bestows upon us to be His servants, being devoted in sharing the greatest story ever told. This is the privilege you and I as forgiven children of the heavenly Father get to do—proclaim to the world that Christ is our SOLE Savior from sin death and the devil. This is an awesome blessing the Lord of the Church calls us to be His devoted servants. Consider the honor, the privilege and glorious opportunity the Holy Spirit grants us to share a story like none other to make more disciples to be His followers.

On this Confirmation Day remember, I want to share with you the wisdom from a retired Pastor. He said: Confirmation Sunday was the saddest day of the year for him as a pastor. He explained that the sadness came from the fact that within a couple of years so many of the faces that sat before him in their robes and flowers would so soon forget the practice of the faith. It grieved the shepherd that so many of his young sheep would chase off for the greener pastures of High School and college. Some would return when they married and had kids, but many would never return.

I will tell you from personal experience. I have witnessed this first hand. In the last 18 years many young people stood here and made the same public confession, but sadly they soon forgot their devotion to God and His Word.

Therefore, Ryan on this Confirmation Day, I challenge to remain devoted. Be faithful in attending the Lord’s house often and kneel at His table to receive His grace in Word and Sacrament for the building up of your faith and growth.

I remind you that the thing that keeps us devoted to the cause is none-other-than Jesus Christ Himself. He was devoted to saving us. He was devoted to come to earth to fulfill the will of the Father in our place. He was devoted to teaching the truth. He was devoted to call sinners to repentance. He was devoted to suffer in our place. He was devoted to take His cross and dying for us. He was devoted to rise from the grave and assured our own resurrection. He was devoted to bless us so that we may be with Him in heaven.

Oh, the blessings of knowing the disciples devoted themselves to prayer. Oh, the blessings we have in being devoted to God and His message. But oh, the joy of knowing our loving and faithful Savior, was, is and will be devoted to us always. Amen.

Now the peace… SOLI DEO GLORIA

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