May 28, 2017

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Joel 2:28-29

Epistle Lesson; Acts 2:1-21

Sermon Text; 1 Peter 4:12-16

                       1 Peter 5:6-11

Well, Conner, and Brian and Emily and Luke, we are really happy to be here with you. Chloe unfortunately is not able to be with us, today. The four of you are confirming your faith, today. I have been asking people the past couple of days, “Do you remember what year you were confirmed?” Most people have to kind of wrack their brains to remember. I have a little cheat sheet, here. It is right on my Bible. It says,

Mark Frederick Bartels,


That is a long time ago that I got confirmed.

You guys have the distinct honor of being confirmed in a year that nobody else in this room will ever be able to say. That is, you are getting confirmed in The Lutheran Faith, in the year 2017, when we are celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. That is pretty cool.

So, you are going to be 'confirming' today, that means you are going to be saying, “Yes, I promise, with the help of God, to hold onto my faith in The Triune God for the rest of my life. And, I promise, with the help of God, to hold onto the faith, that is the teachings, and the doctrines I have learned from Luther's Small Catechism, for the rest of my life.”

How do you keep a promise like that? It is good for all of us to evaluate ourselves and our promise to be faithful for the rest of our lives, faithful to our faith in the Triune God, and our faithfulness to its teaching.

I want to read a very appropriate Bible verse taken from 1 Peter, chapter four and 1 Peter, chapter five. It Jesus' name:

Dear friends, do not be surprised by the fiery trial that is happening among you to test you, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead rejoice whenever you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.

If you are insulted in connection with the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or as a meddler. But if you suffer for being a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God in connection with this name...

Then these next verses are the ones we are really going to focus on.

Therefore, humble yourselves under God's powerful hand so that He may lift you up at the appointed time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world.

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen

These are your words Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Recently, someone gave me a book to read, by an author by the name David Plath. It is a book called Radical. In this book, he kind of takes us to a very unique situation that very few people who you and I know, have ever experienced. He says he had the privilege of going to a country in Asia. (He doesn't say what country it was, because it would probably be dangerous, if he said what country it was.) Anyway, he went to a country in Asia, and had the privilege to go to a secret, underground, church service. He said he went into this room, and it was kind of dark, because all of the blinds were shut. There were about 20 people sitting around in a circle. Every one of them had a Bible. Some of them were covered with sweat, because they had walked a long ways. They had all arrived during the afternoon, at various times, because if everybody showed up at the same time, somebody might be suspicious there was something going on in there. It was very dangerous for anybody to be in that church service, and they knew, if they got caught in that room, studying the Bible, they knew they literally they could lose their families. They could lose their jobs. They could possibly even lose their lives. But, here they were, risking everything, to be gathered around The Word.

So this pastor, who was sitting in this room, started to talk to them about God's Word. They drank it all in. They asked him, “Can you come back tomorrow?”

He said, “Yeah, what time do you want me to come back?”

They said, “Come back as early as possible.”

So, he said, “Okay, and how long do you want me to teach you?” They answered, All day!”
So, he showed up the next day, and they were all there in this dangerous setting. He taught them all day, and when the day was over, they asked him again, “Can you come back tomorrow, and teach us all day?”

And he did.

Here is the deal. Think about what those people were willing to risk, just so they could hear The Word. The were so hungry, so thirsty for The Word, they were willing to risk everything, even their lives, just to be able to hear The Word, and be by The Word.

This pastor came back home to his church, which is what we call a 'Mega Church'. He realized, when he got back home to his church, that things were so different. Think about this. Here, in the United States, there is nobody keeping you from hearing The Word. You can hear it at any time. You are not going to get into trouble. You are not going to get arrested. You could hear it, everyday. You could hear it all day long. It is just like a banquet, sitting out there for you.

But, here is what he said the interesting thing is. There are people here in the United States who are willing to risk even more, even more than our brothers and sisters in Asia, when it comes to The Word. They are willing to risk staying away from The Word.

They are willing to risk staying away from The Word.

Here is the risk. While those brothers and sisters in Christ risk their lives to hear The Word, staying away from The Word is risking something even greater.

Staying away from The Word is risking your spiritual welfare,

and even your eternity.

As our passage says today,

“Your adversary, the Devil,

prowls around like a roaring lion,

looking for someone to devour.”

His goal is to keep you away from The Word. If you live in a country where it is dangerous to hear The Word, he is going to try to scare you away from it, so you don't hear it. If you live in a country where it is easy to hear The Word, he is going to try to lure you away from it, so you don't hear The Word.

“Your enemy, the Devil,

prowls around like a roaring lion,

seeking someone to devour.”

Today's scripture text talks about, How can we endure? How can we stand firm in the faith? How can we stay close, and be hungry for The Word, for the rest of our lives?

Now, I am going to get back to David Plath. He started to evaluate his own church. He asked, “Why do I feel like people in my church aren't hungry for The Word?” His thoughts were that in his particular church body, “Our tendency is really not to show people why they so desperately, desperately need The Word.” He said their tendency was to say, “God is a loving God. He is a great God. If you follow Him, He will bless you, and you can do a lot of things with your life.” He said, “That doesn't really, really create in your heart this desperate need, and hunger for The Word.” Then he said, “In our church we would try to do things. Maybe if we have enough really super, cool music, and we have a really dynamic pastor, and if we have really great programs, maybe that will attract people.” He said, “We did that, but it didn't attract them to The Word. It attracted them to the other things.” His question was, “How do you make somebody hungry for The Word?”

Here is his answer. “You show them from scripture how desperately, desperately we need The Word. You show them things in scripture that are very unpleasant.”

You know, we have to know what the Bible says about who I am, and we need to know what the Bible says about who God is. The Bible tells me some things about myself that are very, very unpleasant. But, you have to lay that out. Like the Bible says,

“I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

That is not pleasant. But, I need to know that about myself. The Bible says about you and me that we, on our own, without God in our lives, are not capable, not at all capable of pleasing God in any way, whatsoever. And, that is what the Bible says. That is unpleasant, and we don't like to hear it.

I am going to be very blunt, here, and David Plath says, “The Bible says because of what I have done, and who I am, I deserve the absolute wrath of God, and I deserve to be damned.”

That is very unpleasant. But the point is, until I know that about myself, I am not going to have a hunger, and thirst for the answer, “What can I do to be saved?”

This is the Book, the Bible where God gives us the profound answer, the most powerful answer in the world. What is the answer? The answer is what Jesus has done for us, and we can only find that here in the Bible. We can't find it anywhere else.

When you look at what Jesus did for you, and you think about the fact that Jesus had nails driven through His hands, and His feet, He was mocked and beaten, He was scourged, and had a crown of thorns on His head, and He really suffered, that is nothing compared to what He ultimately suffered. The Bible says,

 He suffered the wrath of God against our sin.

Imagine if that wall back there is a dam, and it is holding back tons, and tons, and tons of water. All of a sudden, that dam burst, and all of the water comes flying at me. I am a dead man, and I am about to be destroyed.

But, all of a sudden, imagine a hole opens up in the ground, and all of that water rushes down into that hole, and I am saved. That is what Jesus did. The wrath of God should have been poured out on us, and we should be annihilated. But, Jesus took the full wrath of God, and it is gone. Our sins are forgiven. That is the message you find, here in scripture.

And so, until we understand how deeply we need this Book(once again, we could write: the Bible), there won't be a hunger, and thirst for it. In fact, David Plath goes on, and says this. He knew a seminary professor who used to take students who were learning to be pastors, and he would take them to a cemetery. He would have them stand in the cemetery, and he would have them say to the cemetery stones, “Tell the people to get up”.

The sem. students would look at him, and say, “That is not going to work.”

But, he would say, “Tell them to get up”.

So they would say, “Get up!”

He said they couldn't do it. They can't do it, because they are dead.

The point this professor was making was you, and I need to come to spiritual life, but we can't do it. The Bible says

“We are dead in our trespasses and sin”.

The Bible says,

“No one,

no one can say Jesus is Lord,

except by the Holy Spirit.”

His point was you need the Holy Spirit to bring you to spiritual life, so you believe what is here in scripture. That is the only place He works. So, we need the Bible so desperately. That is why our text has this little phrase, when it talks about enduring in the faith.

“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”

Until we get to this humble position, where we realize, “I am a lost, and condemned sinner, without Jesus. I need Him desperately. And, I need the Holy Spirit, desperately in my life”, there won't be a hunger, and thirst for the Word. And so, all of your life, humble yourself, all of us, under the mighty hand of God.

Number two it says,

“Cast all your cares on Him,

because He cares for you.”

I love something called 'Etymology'. Etymology is the study of word origins. There is a word: “Cast all of your 'anxiety', or 'worries', on Him, because He cares for you”. If you were to study the etymology, the word origin of 'anxiety' and 'worry', you would discover both of them are traced back to this root meaning of 'being chocked or strangled'.

It is interesting, when Jesus was once telling the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed is the Word of God falling on people's hearts. He said some seed fell on good soil, and it sprang up. Soon the thorns, and thistles grew up with it, and they 'chocked' it out. Then it died. Jesus explained, “These are they who for a little while believe. But then, the concerns, the 'worries', and the cares of this life came, and 'chocked' out their faith.”

So, the devil is going to try to use all of the concerns that are going to come your way, (and, there are going to be a lot of them, a lot of them), he is going to try to use them to divert you away from God's Word, and look for other ways to take care of whatever the problems, worries and concerns you might have. Scripture says,

“Cast all of your cares on Him.”

(Cast them on Him,)

“Because He cares for you.”

Think about how much He cares for you.

He died on the cross for you.

You all have lots of hair. Well, He has every hair of your head numbered. That is how much He cares for you.

And, He is almighty. He is all-powerful. He is all-loving.

And so, we endure in the faith, by not letting our cares draw us away from Him, but casting our cares on Him, and trusting He will see us through.

So it says,

“...humble yourselves under God's powerful hand...

Cast all of your anxiety on Him,

because He cares for you.”

Then it says,

“Have sound judgment.

Be alert.

Your adversary, the Devil,

prowls around like a roaring lion,

looking for someone to devour.”

“Be sober and vigil, because your adversary the Devil

prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I am the typical guy, I like to sit, and channel surf, real quick through channels. I don't know, it was about a week ago, I was doing that and all of a sudden, Sherri said, “Stop! Go back!”

I thought, “Oh no. It is the nature channel.”

Sure enough, she wanted to go back to nature channel, and I actually like watching the nature channel. On this particular day it was about lions. It was a brutal, very brutal show. It showed a lion shredding, and I mean brutally shredding this poor, little, powerless, animal. The Bible describes the devil as a lion. And, do you know what the Bible describes us as? Sheep. Sheep aren't very powerful, at all. There is only one thing that keeps the sheep safe, and that is the shepherd. Jesus said,

“My sheep know my voice, and they follow me.”

This is where His voice is. Here in The Word, by The Word, is where we are saved. What the devil is going to try to get you away from the shepherd, by getting you away from His Word, and His voice, then He has you at the edge of the pack, out of the pack, and then look out. This is no game. It is no game! Eternity is at stake. So, he reminds us to be watchful, and vigilante, because the devil is always, always going to try to pull us away from it.

Then, the last thing He says is,

“Resist him

(resist the devil)

by being firm in the faith.”

I am going to go back to 'etymology' again, 'the study of words and word origins'. When it says, “...being firm in the faith”, it actually says, “...stand stere-o” from which we get our word 'stereo'.

“Stand stereo in the faith.”

What in the world does that mean? When you listen to a radio, you are just getting the sound from one direction. When you listen to 'stereo', you are getting it from two, or maybe three, or four directions. But, you are getting a firmer, more full sound.

If I stand on just one foot, that is not very firm at all. But if I stand on two feet, it is much more firm. It says,

“Stand firm in the faith.”

Stand with both feet. When scripture uses the phrase, it doesn't say, “Stand firm in faith” it says,

“Stand firm in

THE faith.”

There, scripture is talking about the doctrines you have learned in the Bible. Stand firm in them, because they will protect you against the devil.

You Confirmands, you here at church, and those of you who are reading this, you have learned the teachings of scripture, the doctrines of scripture. Stand firm, both feet planted in them, as you gather around The Word.

You know the teachings of scripture. You know Law and Gospel.

       -Law shows our sin.

       -Gospel shows us our Savior.

Stand firm in them, and don't be shaken from those.

You know where you find the truth.

       -In scripture alone. We take this scripture at its simplest, plainest, clearest meaning.

Stand firm in that, and don't be shaken from that.

You know the way of salvation. It is the doctrine in scripture that says

       -you are saved by grace alone,

       -through faith alone,

       -in Christ alone.

Stand firm in that, with both feet planted in that.

You know how the Holy Spirit works in your life. He promises to work through

       -The Word and

       -Sacraments, Baptism and The Lord's Supper.

Stand firmly planted in those doctrines, and we resist the devil. Ultimately, scripture says that by doing that, by staying close to the Word, scripture gives us a promise.

“After you have suffered a little while,

the God of all grace,

who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus,

will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you.

To Him be glory, and power forever and ever. Amen”

There is the promise. When we stand firm by His Word, cling to His Word, and we stay close to His Word, He promises He will restore us. That means when we slip and fall,

       -He is there to forgive us, everyday.

       -He will strengthen us.

       -He will establish us.

The bottom line is this. As your pastor, it has been a privilege to take you, Confirmands, through Confirmation Class. Pastor Tweit would say the exact same thing. Our goal for the five of you, for everybody here at church, and everyone reading this sermon, is this: We want you to be in Heaven, with us. So, remember,

“Your adversary, the Devil,

prowls around like a roaring lion,

seeking someone to devour.”

So, let's stay close to The Word, because close to The Word, keeps us close to Jesus, close to the Holy Spirit, and God will keep us safe.