June 22, 2017 [Presentation of Augsburg Confession] Romans 10:5-17 J.D.Roekle

 

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

 

We Believe—Therefore We Confess

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          I recently had a conversation with a couple people and for some reason we began talking about House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  They had been there, but I hadn’t.  And it kind of struck me.  I have seen the sun rise on the east coast and set on the west coast.  I’ve seen the Grand Canyon and toured the Alamo.  I’ve been to at least 15 professional baseball parks scattered across our country.  But I haven’t been to this unique attraction that is less than 3 hours away.  Of course, I wouldn’t have to even go that far.  There are certainly attractions much closer to Racine or even in Racine that I haven’t been to.  What I’m driving at is that it is easy to take things for granted when they are close to us. 

          How true is that of God’s Word?!  It is at our fingertips.  Even if for some reason you don’t own a Bible at home, the Bible is accessible through the internet.  And because it is so accessible, how often do you find yourself taking it for granted?  When that happens, you and I need to remind ourselves of its importance.  Of its vital importance.  God’s Word reveals to us the saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What could possibly be more important than that?  When we read the Word, we give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work on our hearts.  It is the Spirit working through the Word that led us to faith in Jesus to begin with.  We believe!  But it doesn’t stop there.  It isn’t that we believe and then nothing else happens.  What naturally flows from faith is the desire to confess that faith.  We Believe – Therefore We Confess.  When God’s Word is near, it controls us in that way.  And that’s a good thing!  When that Word is in your heart, it will direct your thoughts, words, and actions. 

 

          You confess it when you speak the Apostles’ Creed:  “I believe.”  You confess it when you say the Nicene Creed: “We believe.”  I believe.  We believe.  But we don’t end it there.  We believe in the Father who created us.  We believe in the Son, Jesus, who became flesh and lived among us for a time in order to suffer, die, rise, and ascend into heaven.  We believe in the Holy Spirit who brings people into the church through faith and into the communion or fellowship of saints.  We confess that these three persons of the Triune God work in concert with each other in order to provide us with salvation.  We confess what the Apostle Paul says here: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

          The only way we can call on the Lord’s name is through God-given faith.  Last week, we stressed the fact that we are saved by grace through faith.  Our salvation is completely a gift.  Our faith is completely a gift.  This is what we believe. 

          And so, it is natural to confess our faith.  Our hearts spill over with joy at knowing what our Savior Jesus has done to save us.  In fact, Martin Luther even contends that faith and confession of that faith are inseparably linked: “Faith which leads to righteousness does not arrive at it goal of righteousness, that is, salvation, if it does not arrive at confession.  For confession is the principal work of faith by which a man denies himself and confesses God.” 

For us, confessing our faith using the Apostles and Nicene creeds in church comes naturally.  We might even say that it comes easily.  We are confessing our faith to each other.  To like-minded people. 

But what happens when your confession is challenged?  Today we are marking the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.  On this date the confession of the Lutheran princes, theologians and government officials was being challenged.  Emperor Charles V was facing a challenge.  The Turks were at the border of the kingdom in 1530 and ready to challenge him.  Charles V wanted a united front in all his kingdom to fight the enemy.  Because of Martin Luther and his followers in Germany, there were problems in the church within the kingdom.  He wanted them all to disappear by making demands on the Lutheran contingent to disavow their teachings. 

What did the Lutheran confessors do?  They didn’t back down.  Instead they presented the document known as the Augsburg Confession before the emperor, clearly confessing what they believed.  They did this even under the threat of the highest authority in the empire. 

What would you do if you have to stand before the emperor and defend what you believe?  Would you stand up and freely confess what you believe or would you wilt under the pressure?  Since that isn’t a very likely scenario for you to have to face, consider that a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon is at your door.  Do you answer it or do you ignore it?  After all, you know what’s coming.  They are going to challenge your faith.  If you answer the door and talk to them, what do you do?  Do you simply listen to what they have to say and then take their brochure? 

Keep in mind that silence isn’t really a defense.  When someone attacks your faith and you remain silent, could someone read your silence as a denial of what you believe?  Then again, haven’t we all done that at times?  We have failed to stand up for Jesus.  To stand up for the simple truths of God.  To stand up for a difficult teaching of his Word. 

          But what is the central part that we confess?  That we have forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.  Thank God for that forgiveness!  Thank God for this time of grace he gives us to live on this earth in his kingdom. 

          Now is the time to confess what we believe.  That means taking advantage of the opportunities we have.  Think about that Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness at your door again.  If you don’t answer the door when they arrive, or if you remain silent about your faith, aren’t you really missing an opportunity?  Paul reminds us here that there is only one way to salvation: through faith in Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  They need to know that too!  Of course, they need the Law first.  They need to know they are sinners who need the Savior Jesus. 

          There are so many other souls out there dying too.  So many other people who don’t need silence from you or me.  They need our confession. After all, Paul reminds us: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” 

 

          Don’t take that Word of Christ for granted.  Believe it.  Confess it!  Be prepared to speak up on behalf of it.  Others are watching and listening.  Confessing the truth is not always easy work.  It can get messy.  It can be difficult.  It can cause problems between people.  But it is the right thing to do.  God said so.  Remember his promise to you: “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Amen.