May 1, 2022
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 from Romans 12:1-2 where Saint Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Confirmands, let me ask you a question: Why are you here? Why is your family here? What’s so special about today? It’s kind of a stupid question, right? It’s Confirmation Day, the final act of three years of weekly confirmation class. But do you know what the Rite of Confirmation is? You have spent that last two years with me to learn the Christian faith, what it means to be a Christian, and to be prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper. Not only that, but in a few minutes, you’ll stand up here in front of God’s altar and you’ll make the same the promises your parents and sponsors made when you were baptized. You’ll promise to be faithful to God, to receive the Lord’s Supper frequently, and to remain active in your Christian faith and worship life. That’s what confirmation is.
Do you know what Confirmation Day isn’t? It’s not Graduation Day. It’s not the day you walk away from this church, and like other students before you, never return. If I had my way, we’d ditch the white robes to make a clear statement that you’re not done. Graduation Day means you’re done with high school or college. You’re not done on Confirmation Day because you’re not done learning the Christian faith, you’re not done growing spiritually. And that’s why I urge you, on the day of your Confirmation, not to be conformed but to be transformed.
It’s only been a week, so I hope you haven’t forgotten, why do we do good works? Why do we obey the Ten Commandments and the other verses that teach God’s Law? Do we do good works to be saved? No, right? Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We’re not saved by works, rather we do good works and we obey God’s Law because we are saved. That’s a huge difference! By taking the focus off what we do, it puts the spotlight on the one who deserves it: God! He is the one who sent His Son. He is the One who died on the cross for your sins. He is the one who has saved you. In response to the blood that flowed from our Savior, we strive to live holy lives. In confirmation I’ve tried to teach you what it means to be a Christian and how to be a Christian. I’ve taught you facts and faith; I pray you hold onto both.
In the Old Testament times, and into the time of Jesus, sacrifices were a fundamental part of Jewish worship. There were sacrifices of thanksgiving and for sins. With the sacrifice of Jesus on the altar of the cross, those sacrifices were no longer needed. However, there is another type of sacrifice that is necessary. Paul urges us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is our response to Jesus sacrificing Himself for us. We sacrifice our sinful and selfish wants and desires for the wants and desires of God. The Old Testament sacrifices belonged to God; you belong to God. The sacrifices were dedicated to God; you’re dedicated to God. The sacrifices were made daily; you sacrifice yourself to God daily. And as those who belong to God, everything about you is different.
As we’ve talked before, in class and in worship, it’s not easy being a Christian. When you’re baptized a bullseye is placed right over your heart, and Satan is constantly flinging fiery darts that target. He will use temptations and emotions. He’ll use hurts and heartbreaks. He’ll also use this sinful world. He dangles the world out in front of you to get you to take your eyes of Jesus and to look longingly at the world. Look at all the fun stuff, look at the great things you can do, if you just forget about Jesus, for just a little while: “Be like us and everything will be great!”
Paul says differently: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” You’re baptized, so don’t adopt the sinful ways of the world. Don’t change to make the world happy. Don’t conform to the world to make yourself happy. To look to the world is to turn your back on God, and to side with the world is to turn against God. To embrace the world is to reject the forgiveness of your sins, so embrace the Lord and reject the world. To conform to the world means that everything else takes priority over God. But are any of these things going to last? Be honest with yourself. When you’re about to die, what will be more important: your faith and your relationship with God or the world that you copied and embraced? Nothing is more important than Jesus. As Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Nothing shall detract from Jesus!” With the power of the Holy Spirit, you can make that your motto!
This is what it means when Paul says that you’re to be transformed. You’re different. You’re no longer a lost and condemned creature, you’re a holy possession of God. You’re now set apart from the world to serve God. The word for transform in Greek is metamorphosis. When an ugly caterpillar spins a cocoon and later emerges as a beautiful butterfly, that’s metamorphosis. Like the butterfly is completely different from the caterpillar, you are completely different from what you were. You look, sound, and act differently from what you did before. I know you hated memory work and homework, so why did I tell you to do it? So that you would have a toolbox of Bible verses to draw on when the world comes calling! This is why all God’s people need to be in the Bible. You need to hear it, know it, and be encouraged by it for the daily battles with the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature. You need His help to be transformed instead of conformed.
When you were students, when all of us were kids, we needed to be commanded not to do something. Don’t go in the street. Do your homework. Stop talking. These were orders. As Christians, I don’t need to order you to do anything. Instead, I’m going to follow Paul’s example where he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” You’re Christians, you’re saved by Christ, so rather than command you, I’m going to urge you. I urge you to obey God. I implore you not to conform with the world but be transformed by God. All of you, not just our confirmands, I beg you to live as Jesus’ disciples and not turn your back on everything I have taught you. Every year, there are confirmands who disappear the afternoon of the first Sunday in May. Don’t be them. Parents, don’t let them. The Holy Spirit has given you faith, so now take that faith and use it. Don’t neglect it and don’t let it die alone. Read the Bible and your catechism. Worship and come to Bible class and Sunday school. These are the tools that God uses to transform you, don’t go back to being an ugly caterpillar, rather be the butterfly that God created you to be.
In a few minutes, you five kids will stand up here and promise God that you’ll be faithful unto death, that you’d die before you renounced your faith. Those are pretty heavy-duty vows, and that’s why you don’t make them alone. The Holy Spirit who made His home in you when you were baptized, will help you daily sacrifice yourself to God. Confirmation has given you the first of the tools you need to walk the difficult road of being a Christian. The world is going to pull at you and tempt you, but the Holy Spirit will help you discern, find out, what God’s will for you is and how He wants you to serve Him. And whether you’re a confirmand or a confirmand’s parents, whether you were confirmed eighty years ago or if you’ll be confirmed ten years from now, I urge you, I appeal to you brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t be conformed to this world, be transformed by Christ.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen