nullEaster 4 2019 Confirmation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 12, 2019
Acts 20:17-35, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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When I teach students and engaged couples about how men should live out St. Paul’s instructions for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church, I use this example.  A husband and wife are out for a walk around the neighborhood and suddenly an angry, barking dog pushes open a fence gate and runs towards the two of you.  What should the husband do?  A good husband steps between his wife and the angry dog.  A good husband is willing to get bitten to protect his wife.  A good husband is willing to lay down his life for his wife and children.

We know this because husbands get their model of leadership from Jesus who is the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life for the sheep.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, steps between you and the wolf and protects you from the wolf.  The Good Shepherd is willing to get bitten to shield you.  The Good Shepherd is willing to die to defend you.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, so you are safe in his flock.

There are many who are not yet in the flock of the Good Shepherd, but you are in His flock.  Our catechism students this morning will confirm what was spoken for them at their baptisms, that they are indeed followers of Jesus; that they are, indeed, sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus says about His sheep, John 10:27-30 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”[1]

You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Jesus is protecting you, but the devil does not give up easily.  The devil wants to lure you away from being in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  The devil wants to separate you from the flock so you are unprotected, and then he can attack you and devour you and get you to join him in the darkness of evil without you even noticing what he is doing.  The devil is incomprehensibly evil.

I experience evil thoughts and desires, and yet even as someone who is by nature sinful and unclean I am shocked at how evil people can be.  I find it hard to comprehend the level of evil I see in the news; terrorism,  school shootings, human trafficking, adultery, drug dealers, drug dealers who cut their drugs with fentanyl, adults abusing children in unspeakable ways, uncontrolled anger tearing apart relationships, and so much more.  We are truly blessed that we have our military and police and emergency workers to shield us from so much of this evil so we do not have a front row seat.

There is such evil in the world and the devil is the prince of darkness.  You would think it would be easy to ignore the devil and disregard his lies, but he is very clever and can be very appealing in his deceptions.  He will not appear to you in red pajamas and ask you to choose evil over good, instead he will subtly make evil seem so very attractive.  And because of all his clever techniques and lures I think we have a hard time understanding how truly evil the devil is.  You are a sheep in God’s hand.  The devil wants you to be separated from God for eternity.

            You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Stay on guard each day so you do not give the devil a foothold in your life.  Each day struggle against sin, repent of sin, and turn back to God’s will.  Battle sin in your thoughts and desires before sin invades your words and actions and moves to become your master.  As we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[2]  Hate what the devil wants to do to you.

You know what the devil hates.  The devil hates Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”[3]

The devil hates this passage because it is a preview of his defeat and he hears about all the sheep of the Good Shepherd safely gathered around His throne for eternity.  You are part of this great multitude.  You are a follower of Jesus.  Do not let the devil change that.  Do not let the devil take you from the Kingdom of Light back to the Kingdom of Darkness.

The devil hates a baptism or confirmation because it is a deliberate rejection of the him.  Today our young people will stand before the congregation and renounce the devil, and all of the devil’s works, and all of the devil’s ways.  They will reject Satan, and swear faithfulness to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are wearing white robes that foreshadow their coming time in the eternal Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, waving palm branches and praising the Lamb on the throne.  These young people are right now in the hand of God; they are in the flock of the Good Shepherd; they are safe from the devil.  But the devil does not give up easily.

St. Peter warns in 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[4]  Be aware of the devil’s presence and persistence.  Stay on guard.  Stay behind the shepherd.  Stay under the shepherd’s protection.

The devil will try to lure you out from behind the shepherd and get you to voluntarily leave the flock and be your own independent sheep.  He will do this quietly and carefully.  He will get you to give up coming to worship services and hearing the Law of God and the Gospel of God.  He will get you to give up receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  The devil will get you to choose to be so busy that Jesus and the forgiveness of sins moves down your list of priorities in life as you slowly slip away from the flock.  The devil will try to get you to find an excuse to miss church that works for you, so he can separate you from the rest of the sheep, and once you are away from flock the devil will mold and shape your thinking with his lies, and the lies of the world, and the lies of your own sinful flesh, until he has you fully in his grasp.

Beware of the devil’s schemes.  Be careful in the transitional times of life.  Going off to college.  Moving to a new area.  Getting a new job with new hours.  Retirement.  The death of a spouse.  Be aware of the transitional times and stay in the flock of the Good Shepherd.

Be on guard against anger.  As we read in Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)  26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.[5]  The devil will try to get you to hold onto anger against the pastor, or someone in the church, or someone in your family anything in order to get you to stop attending worship.

The devil will try to get you to establish sin as part of your lifestyle so that it becomes your norm and you stop coming to church because you know that how you are living is against God’s will.  The devil has many schemes and methods to lure you away from the protection of the shepherd so he can attack you when you are alone and vulnerable.

And the danger is not just from outside the church.  Be aware and be discerning of where you attend worship.  Be careful of who is preaching and teaching.  Because Jesus warns in Matthew 7:15 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[6]  Paul warns the Ephesian pastors in our lesson from Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.[7]

There are wolves disguised as sheep attacking Jesus’ Church from within.  There are those who teach that God’s promise to you is a life of success and prosperity.  There are those who repeat the devil’s first lie, “Did God really say?” when it comes to intimacy and marriage and abortion and even salvation.  Did God really say that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman?  Did God really say that sexual intimacy is only for within the bond of marriage?  Did God really say that you shouldn’t sacrifice your unborn children?  Did God really say that Jesus is the only way to the Father?  Did God really say you are not saved by being good enough but only by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross?  Did God really say that Hell is real and there are those who choose to be condemned?  Did God really say that?  Yes.  God really did say, and you need to be on guard against the increasing pressure to conform your thinking to the way of the world rather than being transformed by the Word of God.

Today our confirmands, Breanna, Joey and Jack are going to promise to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.  Understanding this commitment, knowing the cost, knowing it is not an easy path, I ask you all to make this pledge together with them.  Renew your promise and work together and pray together and love each other and bear each other’s burdens and bury one another until that great day when we will be together again in white robes before the throne of the Lamb.  You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus stands between you and the wolf.  Stay behind Jesus.  Stay in the flock.  You belong to Jesus.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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