May 2, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading from Proverbs chapter 3.
Albert Einstein said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Even if he wasn’t a genius, he was right: we learn our entire lives. Some things you learn, you’ll remember. Some you’ll forget. There are topics you need to remember; others might be okay to forget. Some things aren’t important, but you’ll remember them anyway, and some things you’ll forget even though you shouldn’t.
Those who teach want their students to remember what they’ve taught; it’s why they teach, and I’m the same way because I teach the most important topics you’ll ever learn. It’s true! There’s nothing more important than knowing God, His grace, how He saved you, and what this means for your lives. I’m under no illusions though, I know you don’t remember everything. However, it’s not the end of the world because you don’t just learn God’s Word for a few years of confirmation class and then stop. It’s a lifelong practice Christians are to make a part of their lives. And this isn’t just me telling you, more importantly, it’s God.
The book of Proverbs was written primarily by King Solomon, but as with the rest of the Bible, it’s God speaking to us. He starts by saying, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” It’s important to remember, that God isn’t talking about remembering; this is about making His teachings part of you. What’s found in the pages of the Bible isn’t worthless trivia, it’s God’s Word! We memorize the Bible and cling to it dearly so we can draw on it when we need it and because it shapes who we are. Are you, my confirmation kids, and the rest of you for that matter, going to leave here, forgetting all that I taught you? Or are you going to remember it in times of joy, hardship, and every feeling in between? God’s Word, His teachings, bring us blessings and peace. We may live long lives, we may not, but when we remember what God has taught us, when we make it part of ourselves, we know two things. First, we have peace with God, and second that peace leads to eternal life, and eternal life will last far longer than the 80 or 100 years we will live in this life.
As we’ve heard before, God’s Word is divided into Law and Gospel. The Law is what God tells us to do or not do, while the Gospel tells us what God has done for us through Jesus, and Solomon gives us both: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So, you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” In other words, don’t let go of your faith and slide into unbelief. Don’t forsake your faith and plan on returning to God when it’s more convenient, or you feel like it, or when you need Him. Make faith a part of your daily life, have it always right in front of you. In the Gospel Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The faith given you in your baptism, the faith that is nourished when you stay connected to Jesus the Vine, assures you that God has forgiven all your sins. Don’t doubt that! Say your prayers, read your Bible, look at your Catechism. And worship! Yes, worship! Where else are you going to find the strength to remain in Christ? Where else is your faith going to be nourished in the greatest possible way? Nowhere! It’s only by immersing yourself in Jesus that you’ll remain connected to Him through faith. To be cut off from Him means death and eternal suffering, but to remain connected to Him means eternal, blooming joy.
A great challenge to your faith is the reality that things aren’t always going to make sense, so you’ll try to explainable the unexplainable. You’ll think about God, you’ll question Him, and then you’ll come up with your own answers. Others will teach ideas that contradict what God teaches, and some of this will sound good. But when you substitute your opinions and reasoning for God’s, you’ll always be led astray. Instead, listen to what Solomon says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” In the Epistle, Paul tells us to “test the spirits”. In other words, compare what you think and hear to God’s Word, and if what you hear or think doesn’t match God’s Word, you’re wrong. My theory is simple: if something doesn’t make sense in the Bible, it certainly isn’t because God’s confused, I am. Trusting the Lord isn’t always easy, it can be a struggle. Remember though that when you lean on the Lord and look to Him alone (instead of your own opinions and insights), He’ll lead you. His teachings will guide you in this life. His Word is the map by which you live. Every other earthly map will lead you astray. They’ll lead you off the safe and narrow road for a wide and dangerous one. Only God’s guidance will lead you safely where you need to go, His way.
In the unit on the Ten Commandments, we discuss what it means to “fear and love God.” Love is simple enough to describe, fear is not. What does it mean to fear God? We learn that fear is to stand in awe and reverence before God as our Creator and Redeemer. Can it mean that we should live in terror of His wrath? Well, no; not unless you’re willingly embracing sin. If you’re enjoying your sin and not repentant, then you should fear God’s anger. It’s real and that’s why God tells us, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” Don’t look around and think you don’t need God. Don’t think that He doesn’t care what you do. He does. Sin is an injury you do to yourself or inflict on others. To follow sinful impulses leads to broken families, broken lives, broken relationships. Turn to the Lord, repent of your sins, and you’ll find healing. The Great Physician Jesus Christ will bind up your broken hearts, lives, and relationships. He gives you healing by taking away your sin. As Solomon promises, “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
One topic we all struggle with, me included, is why bad things happen. Why does God test our faith? We say that God uses these events for our benefit, but let’s be honest, we don’t usually view these events as positives. Still, what does Solomon say? “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof.” Now, I’ll admit that doesn’t sound good. Remember, Solomon isn’t saying we’re being punished. Jesus was punished for us. Instead, God uses these events for our good and for the good of our relationship with Him, because as Solomon says, “For the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Discipline doesn’t reveal God’s anger, it shows His love. He does it because He is your Father and you are His child. He doesn’t hate you; He wants you to come even closer to Him. He wants you to call to Him as children call on their moms and dads for help. He wants to increase your faith or maybe turn you from your sin. Regardless, the Lord who disciplines you is the one who calls you to Himself for comfort, peace, help, and forgiveness.
Do you confirmands, or anyone of you who went through confirmation with me, remember what I told you to remember no matter what? It’s what I want everyone to remember. Remember? It’s the promise of God! It’s the promise that God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you so that you would have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. That’s it! The greatest promise ever made! Yes, I know you’ve heard this from me time and time again. Guess what? You’re going to keep hearing it because you need to keep hearing it, so you always remember it.
The musician B.B. King said, “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” He’s right, and when it comes to God’s teachings and promises, he’s absolutely right. No matter how much of God’s Word you know, nobody can take it away from you. Sin can’t take God’s promises from you. Satan can’t make God break His promises either. The hardships of this life don’t make God a liar. Take to heart what God says to you; remember His teachings and His promises and He will lead you in the way you’re supposed to go. Obey His teachings, for they come with promises He wants you to never, ever, ever forget.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen