The Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019
Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,
I would be willing to guess that at one time most of us here today stood before the altar of the living God and we made a promise to Him. After two to three years of studying the truths of God’s holy inspired Word in Children’s Confirmation Class or after months of attending an Adult Bible Information Class we stood before the altar of God and we spoke our Confirmation Vows. The day of our Confirmation was indeed a very special day in our lives. It was a day that we had been anxiously waiting for. It was a day on which we felt especially close to the Lord as we received His holy Supper for perhaps the very first time in our lives. It was a day that for many of us was decades ago and yet it was and still is a very important and a very special day for us to remember.
Now why are we talking about the day of our Confirmation today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter? The reason my friends, is rather simple. For the past five weeks we have been following a sermon series based on various portions of the book of Revelation. Our sermon series started by focusing our attention on what the risen Christ says to us as well as the fact that the Lamb is worthy of our honor and worship and praise. Then we focused on some of the amazing blessings the risen Christ has secured for us— such as a permanent Home in heaven and a glorious membership in the Holy Christian Church the Communion of Saints. As we come to the end of this sermon series I thought that in light of everything we studied it is only proper to share with you the very same encouragement that you received on the day of your Confirmation. That encouragement is summed up in the words we heard all those years ago: Be Faithful! As we focus on that that encouragement we are going to look at two very familiar questions this morning. The first question is Martin Luther’s favorite question. When it comes to the encouragement to “Be Faithful!” Martin Luther taught us to ask: What does this mean? The second question we will look at this morning is my favorite question. When it comes to the encouragement to “Be Faithful!” I teach people to ask the question: Why?
Our sermon text for today is the very familiar words of Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” What does this mean? What does Jesus Himself have in mind when He says to us today, “Be faithful”? As I was studying this text I found it interesting that the Greek word that is translated here as “faithful” very literally means, “trustworthy, dependable, faithful.” Since the words “trustworthy, dependable and faithful” can be difficult to define and since the words “trustworthy, dependable and faithful” could be understood differently by different people my encouragement to you as you strive to be “faithful” is to look at and remember the perfect example of Someone who is always “trustworthy,” always “dependable,” always “faithful” — your Savior God!
The exact same Greek word that is used here in our text is also used in other passages of Scripture to emphasize that our God is indeed a “faithful” God. (See for example I Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:18) While there are many passages we could look at to see that our God is a “faithful” God some of the most powerful passages are found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. The apostle Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy (the same Greek word that is used here in our text for today) saying: If we died with him (Jesus), we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful (same Greek word!), for he cannot disown himself.”
As we read and study our Bible— both here at church and at home— it is very easy for us to see that from Genesis to Revelation the Bible is focused on God’s promises to us — especially His promise to send His own dear Son into this world to save us from our own sins. Can we be confident that God has fulfilled that promise? Yes! Why? Because our God is “trustworthy, dependable and faithful”! (See I Timothy 1:15) The Bible tells us that our God will always be there to “strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Can we be confident that God will most certainly fulfill that promise? Yes! Why? Because our God is “trustworthy, dependable and faithful”! The Bible tells us that through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism the God of heaven Himself drew a “sacred circle” of grace around us and adopted you to be His own dearly beloved, saved, forgiven and justified child. Will we always be able to count on the promise that the God of heaven made to us when we were baptized into His Name? Yes! Why? Because our God is “trustworthy, dependable and faithful”! Jesus promises us that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion He gives to us His true body and His true blood as visible tangible assurance that all of our sins are completely forgiven. Can we be confident that Jesus will keep that promise every time we receive His holy Supper? Yes! Why? Because our God is “trustworthy, dependable and faithful”! The Bible assures us that the instant our physical body dies our soul is welcomed home to heaven. Can we be confident that the Lord our God will keep that promise to us? Yes! Why? Because our God is “trustworthy, dependable and true”!
This is the kind of “faithfulness” that the Lord Jesus has in mind when He says to us, “Be faithful.” But what does this mean for you on a practical level? How do you apply that encouragement to your own heart and to your own life? To me it is very simple. First and foremost it means: “Be faithful” to God’s holy Word. Don’t let anyone ever convince you that there are parts of the Bible that are not the holy inspired Word of God. Don’t let anyone ever convince you that the Bible needs to be “changed” and “updated” so that it fits with what our “modern” society believes, teaches and tolerates today. “Be faithful” to your conviction that the Bible is the holy, inspired, inerrant Word of God from Genesis to Revelation!
Faithfulness to Scripture will then lead you to be faithful in the other aspects of your walk with your Lord. “Be faithful” in your attendance here in God’s house so that you can bring Him your praise and worship, your love and thankfulness on a regular basis. “Be faithful” in receiving your Lord’s true body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion so that you can receive both the forgiveness that you need as well as the strength that you need as you journey through this world. “Be faithful” in the way that you live your life as a saved and forgiven child of your heavenly Father. “Be faithful” to the “sacred circle” that the God of heaven drew around you when He created the gift of saving faith in your heart and made you His own. And if— God forbid— if you ever find yourself wandering outside of that “sacred circle,” if — God forbid— you ever allow any other “god” or any “other” teaching into that “sacred circle” I encourage you to remember that your God is “trustworthy, dependable and faithful.” Remember the truth that is recorded for you I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful (same Greek word!) and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” “Be faithful” to your “faithful” God!
Why? Why is that my encouragement to you? Why does Jesus Himself say to you, “Be faithful”? Look at the rest of our text. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The children of God in the days of the apostle John were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. John himself had been exiled to the island of Patmos for faithfully proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is this world’s only Savior from sin. We also face persecution as we strive to walk with our Lord in this sin-darkened world. While we may not be exiled to some island we may be ridiculed for our faith. We may be laughed at by others because of the things we believe and the things we refuse to support. In reality, we are faced with many temptations to be “unfaithful” to our “faithful” God— and those temptations aren’t going away just because we aren’t kids anymore.
That, my friends, is why we need to consciously strive to be “faithful” to our God each and every day of our life. We need to remember that one day our journey here on this earth will come to an end. When by God’s grace and by God’s power we have kept His “sacred circle” intact, when by God’s grace and by God’s power we have remained “faithful” to our “faithful” God then the instant we leave this world our “trustworthy, dependable and faithful” God will fulfill His promise to us and bring us Home to heaven. Picture yourself walking through those Pearly Gates and being surrounded by thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand rejoicing angels. Picture yourself walking down the streets of gold to the “Hellos!” of all the saints and perhaps even the hugs of all your loved ones. Picture yourself standing in the very presence of the Triune God Himself and having Him wrap His loving arms around you and whisper in your ear, “Well done, good and faithful (same Greek word!) servant!” (Matthew 25:21) Picture the Almighty Creator of the universe placing the “crown of life” on your head!
The “crown of life”— that’s what it’s all about, my friends. The “crown of life” that our “trustworthy, dependable and faithful” God has waiting for all of His “trustworthy, dependable and faithful” children is also described in Scripture as a “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8) and a “crown of glory” (I Peter 5:4)— a “crown” that will last for all of eternity (I Corinthians 9:24-25). No one will ever be able to take that “crown of life” away from us. Whatever ridicule, whatever laughter, whatever rejection, whatever hardships, whatever heartaches, whatever crosses we may be called upon to endure as we strive to “Be faithful” to our Savior God here on this earth they will be nothing— absolutely nothing— compared with the joy and the happiness, the glory and the perfection, the victorious “crown of life” that the good Lord Himself will one day lovingly place on our head. Keep “processing” that truth in your heart and in your mind and then you will always know why— why you want to follow the encouragement we are being given here today: “Be faithful” to your “faithful” God!
The day of our Confirmation was indeed a very special day in our life as a child of God. On that day we stood before the altar of the living God— the God who by His power first brought us into His “sacred circle” of grace— and we spoke our Confirmation vow, our promise to “Be faithful” to Him. (Pointing to the cross) My prayer this morning, my friends, is beautifully expressed in the words that the apostle Paul spoke to God’s “faithful” children in Thessalonica so many years ago: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful (same Greek word!) and he will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
To God be the glory!