Call it a case study if you will... He grew up attending Sunday School and Sunday worship. In later grade school, he studied the teachings of the Bible in catechism class. He continued increasing his understanding in Bible Class. This Christian man even served as an elder in the congregation, giving special attention to the spiritual life of his fellow believers. He made it his regular habit to take in God’s teachings and to live God’s teachings.
Now, this Christian leader had three children: one daughter and two sons— and he cared for their spiritual life. He carried each child up to the baptismal font. He made Sunday School their regular spiritual diet, while he learned in adult Bible class. He faithfully drove each child to catechism class, where they studied the teachings of the Bible. Eventually, each child was confirmed.
Now, after confirmation day, this Christian father let his first two children— a daughter and son— decide if they wanted to worship on Sundays. If they wanted to wake up Sunday at 8:00am and join him for worship, they could. Can you guess the decision those teenagers made? They stayed home in bed, sleeping every single Sunday. Can you guess how that affected them spiritually? The daughter grew up, moved out, and stopped attending worship. God was no longer important to her. He did not occupy a place in her life; she could not even give him one measly hour of her week. She created her own teachings for living. The son also stopped worshipping. He married a lady who [honestly!] created her own strange religion. Unfortunately, he floundered in his marriage because he had no firm footing on God’s truth.
One final son. The father woke him up every Sunday at 8:00am. Bible Class remained their spiritual diet. He encouraged his son to sing in the church choir and help maintain the church property. Can you guess how that affected this son spiritually? He started studying for the pastoral ministry. Even though he did not become a Pastor, he still assists his congregation every Sunday as a musician.
Do you comprehend the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! Confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you! Parents, your child is not graduating (or completing) church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. You must Continue Your Training! Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
The words for our hearing this morning come from Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Do you know why you must train a child? Confirmands, you know the answer to this question; in just a few minutes you will describe the natural condition of the human heart. Everyone else, you have witnessed baptisms; in fact, every Sunday you admit: God, I am by nature sinful. The human heart is not naturally good; the human heart is naturally hostile to God. That means, the very moment you (and I) are conceived, we are God’s enemies. You do not submit to God’s law, nor can you do so (Romans 8:7). You do not want to obey God; you fight God. You see, every single child born has a “way.” His “way” leads to death in hell.
So God commands: Train a child in the way he should go. A child needs someone to start him on a different “way,” a “way” that leads to life in heaven; a child needs someone to teach him Jesus. Who is that person? You.
[Grand]Parents (and Christian examples), you have done that as you carried your child to be baptized into the family of God. You have done that as you brought your child to catechism class. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Parents, the devil is still out to destroy the faith of your children. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will stoke your own sinful nature to adopt the oft-repeated beliefs of this world. The excuses are many: “I’ll let my child decide what to believe…” “I brought my child to church; I’ve done my part. Now my child will decide what to believe….” “My child is too old to be encouraged to worship…” “Oh, she will come back later…” Do you know what those are? Lies. God explicitly says: Train a child! The devil says: “Why bother?” The devil knows if he can make you— spiritual leaders(!)— indifferent to the spiritual life of your child, he will have removed one more obstacle keeping your child in faith and on the way to life with God. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Confirmands and students, you are walking on this path that leads to life. What you learned in catechism class provides a firm foundation on which to build your life. You will find peace and comfort and strength from God. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
The devil’s working hard to destroy your faith. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will dangle alluring temptations to snag you away from the teachings you have learned. The temptations are many. Your world will entice you into following its manmade gods of money, pride, and arrogance. Your sinful nature will create fantastic excuses as to why you may ignore what God so clearly teaches. The devil will push you to self-worship: you are the reason for success, you hold all-wisdom, you control life! You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Dear friends, Continue Your Training. The sinful nature continues fighting God, but the sinful nature has been conquered. Jesus has opened the way to life. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Parents, do you see where you have ushered your child? Confirmands and children, do you see where you stand? You are walking on the way that has led to the cross of Jesus. This visible reminder preaches God’s love for you. Jesus marched to fight your sinful nature— and did that by resisting every temptation. He makes worship his regular routine. He urges his disciples to follow the words of Moses and the prophets. He puts God in the number-one spot of his heart— and did all this for you.
That perfect life trickled out on the cross for you. Jesus paid off the debt of your sin for you. Jesus rises to announce forgiveness to you. Jesus rises up into heaven to make it a home for you. Your faith in Jesus as Savior has placed you on the way of life.
So, Continue Your Training. Do not forfeit what you have begun.
Parents and Christian friends, Continue Your act of Training. God has set you in charge over the spiritual health of your child (and other Christian friends). You are the people God uses to bring others to him. It is not always the guy next to you. It is not always the Pastor. It is not always a stranger. It is you. That’s why, parents, you Continue Your Training, your act of training up a child. Statistically speaking, these children have about another 70-years to their life. They have much life left and much ahead of them. They have college, marriage, children, parenting, work, retirement, older age, and the thought of approaching death. Those are some serious life hurdles, but hurdles they overcome with God. So, bring them to worship; do not even offer skipping as an option. Encourage them to read their own devotions. Speak your faith to them. Continue Your Training.
Children and confirmands, Continue Your Training. God has begun a good work in you; he has brought you to faith. You have a foundation on which to build. So, build on it. Grab God’s promises and find peace in trouble. Run to God in prayer on the day of trouble. Lay anxiety and worry to rest because God is in control. Stand confident of eternal life in heaven because Jesus has won it for you.
When you do step off the way, God will use his Word to draw you back. He will expose the error of your walking and the foolishness of you heart. He will walk you up to the foot of the cross and reveal Jesus who died for you. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Our case study demonstrates that truth. One Christian leader. One daughter and two sons. Two spiritually neglected neglect their faith. One spiritually strengthened strengthens his faith.
Do you understand the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! It never was; it was the devil who leads us to believe it is. That means, confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you. Parents, your child is not graduating church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. So, Continue Your Training! Continue Your Training in the Word of God because Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
Imposing stone columns surround you, soaring to incredible heights before interlocking together high above. Thick brick walls press in on your right and left, each one also towering well over a hundred feet above you. The polished granite floor under your feet glistens. Pieces of clear glass pack massive window openings, letting bright white unfiltered light to pour into this temple. A hundred feet ahead lies four steps rising up to an intricately carved altar. On this platform is planted a dominant royal throne. Music fills the air all around you, angelic voices blending together singing praises. Can you picture the scene?
If you can’t, just Google: “British royal wedding ceremony pictures” and drink in those exquisite details. White poufy flowers drape walls and dress the front. Children’s choirs stand to your right and left. Delicate hats rest on the heads of every royal lady. Shiny medals hang from finely pressed military coats and gowns flow from each guest. This is the sight of power and dominance and respect.
You get to stand in that grand temple. No, this is no royal wedding. You stand in far more powerful, far more dominant, far more glorious setting. You stand before the King of the Universe! …in his presence! …in a sight of brilliance and dominance! The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty! But how? He stands apart from sin.
Do you see that?
Look through the eyes of Isaiah the prophet. [T]he Lord [sits] seated on a throne… The Lord. Do know what that [name] means? Lord is not God’s first name like: Bob or George or Dick. [The name] Lord has a meaning; Lord credits God as One with authority, all-power, superiority; the One holding control over every single thing in the world with unsurpassed might. This is the God who rules the entire universe! This is the God before whom each individual must give account (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12)! This is the God who holds final judgment over your eternal future! And your feet remain planted just a few feet away.
Staring straight ahead, you only see the legs of his throne. Your eyes trace those legs up higher and higher; your head tilts back more and more, reminding you of just insignificant you are compared to him. [T]he train of his robe fill[s] the temple. Exquisite white linen sprawls across the polished floor, touching each wall, covering every square inch that you dare not step on these unsoiled garments.
Above him were seraphs… such unique angels that we know nothing more about them other than what Scripture says here. These angelic beings flash like flames of fire, showcasing the power and the purity found in this temple. Look up; see seraph after seraph after seraph fill the space above your head. [Each one has] six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” You sing the same song in the Common Service. Ho-ly, ho-ly, ho-ly Lord God of heav-en-ly hosts: heav’n and earth are full of your glory Yet, they do not prepare for Holy Communion. These seraphs trumpet a very truthful reality: God is holy. That means two things: (1) Holy: the Lord has no moral fault; he is perfect. (2) Holy: the Lord stands opposed to everything and everyone that is imperfect. Holy: because he is set apart from our sins.
Does that sound quite right? The puffed up, proud society in which you live boom: “Hey! Wait just a minute! Who is God that he should call my hate wrong? Who is God that he commands me how to treat my body? Who is God that he condemns my unbelief?” That proud human heart tears down Isaiah’s sight and replaces it with one where the human sits in the throne next to God— or, worse yet, in the throne over the Almighty.
Have you wandered into that arrogance? It comes out when you intentionally skip worship for the boat or for yard-work, but you cover over it with your self-understood excuse: “Well, God understands. I’m busy.” Never mind God commands your whole heart (Matthew 22:37); you can determine to give God part of your love. That proud heart smirks oh-so-smugly at harsh words meant to destroy. “Well, she made me angry.” “Dad needs to get with reality.” “I must exert power over my neighbor.” Never mind God expects words to build up (Matthew 5:22); you must have the authority to overthrow God’s command. That arrogant heart wraps an arm around God, calling him your buddy who understands why you can lose self-control, why it’s acceptable for you to neglect your parenting discipline, why it’s alright for you to create your own beliefs. Inside each of us is this heart which believes it sits on the throne of God. That it sits in authority over God. That you are free to live according to your rules. That God is honored by your presence.
Do you see who sits on the throne? Not you. Not me. Not the seraphim either. In fact, even the seraphim tremble at the sight. The ones already in heaven cannot even look at the face of God! So how can you (and I), mere mortals living in an unclean world approach God and live? The best we can is join with Isaiah, trembling, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
The LORD God Almighty is Holy, Holy, Holy. He stands apart from our sins. Yet, your
Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty cleanses you with his life.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar… The altar. The place of sacrifice. The place where blameless animal after blameless animal sacrificed its life to remove sin.
Flying from the altar of forgiveness, the seraph touches [Isaiah’s] mouth [with that coal] and says, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” A holy God does not sweep Isaiah away into the very depths of hell. The God of patience and mercy cleanses him with his life.
Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty deals with you in the same patience and mercy. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16), the disciple John writes. God the Father sends his only Son into a life soiled with sin’s awful grime. The devil pushed pride before him. Jesus faces the pull to run away from the cross and live a cushy earthly life. Yet, he never does. He treasures the Word of the Holy God above all things— remaining the Holy One of God.
This Holy One, the One seated on this magnificent, towering throne steps down and humbles himself. Leaving heaven, he takes the form of a servant, allowing corrupt men to spit on him, punch his face, crush a mockery into his head, and nail him to a cross. God so loved you that he laid his one and only Son on the altar of the cross in order to cleanse you.
Jesus leaves his tomb and says: See… your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. Jesus bridges the gap between you and God; that’s what is meant by the word “atone:” Jesus makes you “at-one” with God. At your baptism the Triune God announces, “Look, this water and my Word has touched you: your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” At the altar, Jesus touches you with his body and blood, together with the bread and wine, and says: See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Jesus has removed the stained garments of arrogance and dressed you in splendid white robes. He has washed grimy pride away. He has cleansed an arrogant ego. He makes you (and me) acceptable to approach the Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty because his holy life has been used to cleanse you.
Now cleansed, your Triune God calls you to a holy life. Just look at Isaiah. Just moments earlier trembles at the sight of approaching a holy God, fearing his life would roar to a violent close. Yet, a merciful God sets him free from bondage to hell. Set free from threats of death, he is free to serve God with a willing heart and life. He heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah] said, “Here am I. Send me!” Touched by that forgiving love, he is transformed to share it with many others.
God may not have called you to be a minister or missionary. Yet, he has called you into a new way of living. Forgiven, restored, brought into his family, you can approach God with confidence.
Your singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy!” comes not from fear, but from hearts thriving on the forgiveness through a Triune God. You shout: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the LORD Almighty!” giving God credit for his perfection and him giving you that perfection for eternal life in heaven. You praise God as you read your Meditations devotions. You praise God as you study God’s Word in Bible class. You praise God as you take his Word into your hearts. You demonstrate proper love for God as you place him in the first-place spot of your hearts. His Word drowns out your words… and thoughts… and opinions. You are following the One who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
You bring your offerings to God. Gifts of money, of your time, and of your talents. You support a minister bringing God’s Word to your ears and heart— and to your friends and community. You offer God a beautiful space where he might reign and dwell. You serve him from a heart motivated by love. The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has called you to a holy life.
On this Trinity Sunday, you stand between two halves of our church readings. From Advent (end-November) through Pentecost (mid-May), we study the life of Christ: his faultless birth, innocent living, and perfect life sacrificed, and triumphant resurrection. Now, after today, the focus shifts from the steps taken to save us to the teachings Jesus gives over his three-year ministry.
You are ready for this growth. Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has ushered you into his grand temple. You look up to see the One high and exalted, seated on his magnificent throne. Yet, you do not fear. Through the blood of Jesus, the Father declares you forgiven. The Holy Spirit points at your baptism as evidence that you belong to God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God Almighty! He stands apart from sin. His life cleanses us. He calls us to a holy life.
This is it… This part right here. This 48-inch belt stopped me dead in my tracks just outside Saline, [Michigan]. There I am, coasting at 70-miles-per-hour down Interstate-75. Drove under an overpass, popped out the other side, and started up a slight incline. As I went uphill, my speedometer started slipping down. 70-miles-per-hour. 60. 40. 20. 0 [miles-per-hour]. No matter how hard my foot pressed the gas pedal, the car would not speed up. It sat there dead on the side of the freeway. Do you know what went wrong? Well, do you know what this is? A timing belt. (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/symptoms-of-a-bad-or-failing-timing-belt)
Now, if you don’t know what a timing belt does, that’s alright; I didn’t know about this belt before that day either. The timing belt makes sure the pistons work in sync with the exhaust valves. The exhaust valves must remain shut when the fuel ignites. The explosion then pushes the piston down, ultimately transferring power to the wheels. Now, if the valves are open when the fuel ignites, the explosive power exits through the exhaust; the power is not transferred to the wheels.
Simply put, the timing belt makes sure the individual components of the engine work in sync.(https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070126214836AAiZREP&guccounter=1]) It does not matter if you have a full tank of gas or four brand new, fully inflated tires or the best oiled pistons. No timing belt, no movement. Have a timing belt, have movement.
This morning God highlights all the individual components that make up a Christian family. Then, he draws your attention to the one Person who links Christian relationships together. Lose sight of this Person and relationships strain. Set your focus on him and you gain motivation for many parts to work together. That’s why God says, See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
In Proverbs 31, God lists the many blessings you receive through a wife of noble character (31:10). What makes such a woman “noble” is her faith which clings to Jesus as Savior. God loved her and joined her to the Vine of Jesus Christ. Like a branch connected to a vine produces fruit, so this woman, connected to the Savior, produces fruits of faith.
Verse 26 reveals some of that fruit. It says: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Now, this wisdom is not life-advice she created from her sense of fairness or from how she thinks the world functions. Real wisdom acknowledges the poisonous devastation sin wreaks on the world and how Christ is the antidote. A Christian mother-figure holds the wisdom to know that greed can drag hearts away from love for God (1 Timothy 6:10). So, she gives financial advice, but does so, recognizing that money is a treasure given from God to provide for everyday life. A Christian mother understands that inside a wild, rebellious child beats a heart fighting against God’s commandments. So, she disciplines in love because turning that sinful child from the error of his ways will save him from eternal death in hell (James 5:19-20). A Christian wife is patient with her spouse. No, not because this keeps matters light and the tensions down for one day. Rather, God calls her to love her spouse just as much as believers love Christ (Ephesians 5:22-23). You see, God highlights the fruits of faith bursting forth. Everything this Christian woman has learned about God gushes out in her words and actions.
She is this individual component working in a Christian family or even among the community of believers. Do recognize that this is the work God considers important? To speak wisdom? To give faithful instruction? To watch the affairs of the house? Ladies, when you remember this work is pleasing to God you find satisfaction. Men and children, when you recognize this is how God uses the Christian women in your life, you benefit. As Christian women faithfully carry out their individual callings, you See Christ in Your Christian Home. You see Christ giving instruction and blessing through the Christian women he sends.
So, do you see Christ? Do you see the many blessings God gives you through mothers or through your wife or through the motherly-figures in your life? Do you understand the ways you serve the body of Christ as a mother or wife or mother-figure? Or, have you sunk into the standards of the world?
The world tends to praise the spectacular, right? Social media exalts the mother who can balance the three sport schedules, two school-bands schedules, and the jam-packed school schedule. It’s as though somehow this is the “real” mother that every woman must aspire to. Maybe it’s even you that feel deep down inside that you can receive glorious praise through the achievements of your child. Doesn’t that just stroke the ego? You set out to be a mother of this world so that you can receive human praise.
The world tends to compare, right? If you can look more successful than others, then people praise you! Being mother becomes this badge of pride that allows you to feel better about your life. “Oh, did you see the trouble their son ran into? Our child would never do that!” Or, “My grandchildren are better behaved.” Husband-wife relationships become this sort of competition. “Our marriage is better. We don’t fight. You should learn from us.” You puff out your chest, so proud that you are better than everyone else.
The world tends to gorge on the bread of laziness, does it not? Instead of seeing how Christ uses you to serve each other, you instead see how you can serve yourself. So, you manipulate your spouse in order to gain more affection. You demonstrate little care about your child’s spiritual life because you figure “it’s up to them now.” You feel too advanced in life to encourage your Christian family.
Do you see what happens? When your attention drops from Christ, you lose this unity with each other. No longer do you find satisfaction in motherly roles. Rather, you behave in ways so that you can steal praise from God for yourself! Even Christian men and children may believe that only the spectacular and sensational are praiseworthy! When you (and I) set our attentions on achieving worldly goals, you fail to See Christ in Your Christian Home. You fail to see the great spiritual blessings you give and you receive.
Life then begins to feel like all these individual components spinning about at random, spinning for their own self-interest. When you feel out of sync with your Christian family, set your attentions back to Christ. He unites every individual person together.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Serve he did. He served the sick and diseased— even putting aside his time to help them. He exposed the error of his disciples so that they would not drift from faith. He does not boast about how well he knows Scripture. Rather, he teaches so that many may believe. Jesus sets his attention to the life he gives.
Jesus Christ serves you by suffering humiliation on the cross. He suffers as though he is proud. He suffers as though he is spiritually lazy. He suffers as though he selfishly protected his time. Jesus is left out of the home of heaven so that you can call heaven your home.
And you can. Jesus rose to announce his forgiveness. For the times you failed to meet his standard of being a Christian woman. For the times you criticized his gift of a mother or spouse. He forgives you. He rises into heaven, allowing you see where he has gone so that you can remember you are heading to heaven.
Stop and reflect on the many different roles you have within your family setting. Some of you are children; others are adult sons and daughters. Some of you are fathers and mothers; others are grandparents (and great-grandparents). Some of you are empty-nesters with adult children; others have children growing a little less reliant on you. Some of you are husbands and wives; others carry loads of life experience after decades of marriage. Some of you are young and single; others are older and single. No matter where you are in life, See Christ in Your Christian Home. See how God’s Word is shared Through the Christian women he sends. See how Christ’s love for you motivates your appreciation for his blessings. This comes out in the response of praise you give.
Her children arise and call her blessed… Pay attention to the order; praise comes after serving. A negligent mother cannot demand her child respect her. Mother-figures do not manipulate children and friends so that she can receive her selfish craving for praise. When Christian women faithfully serve their Christian family, they naturally reap praise.
Praise from whom? Children, you call your mother “blessed.” That is the highest praise you may give. You are acknowledging that she is God’s representative sent into your life in order to be a blessing to you. Mothers provide food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home for their child. God gives daily bread through the work of this woman. Mother-figures encourage children of a congregation to keep connected to God. They empathize with the struggles children face at school. God uses these Christian women to encourage you in your life of faith. When you thank the Christian women in your life, you are thanking God for blessing you through them. Even when children live ungrateful and do not praise, God sees the faithful work done for his honor.
Husbands, you also praise her. You approach your wife, your mother, the widows of your congregation, or the motherly-figures, and you praise them for their real beauty. As our proverb says: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting… People can cover up their real personalities. Physical attraction does not mean you really know someone. Real beauty is found in a woman who fears the Lord.
Love for God is the most priceless trait found in a Christian spouse. How many of you can thank God because your mother shared Jesus with you? How many of you husbands will sing in heaven because of your spouse? How many of you can point to Christian friends who loved God that they invited you to worship, invited you to Bible class, or encouraged you to remain strong in your Christian faith? God uses individual members of your family setting to bless you. This is how you See Christ in Your Christian Home. As a result, every Christian—child and men and women—give thanks to God for the blessings they receive.
As you look closer into the Christian home, you see all the individual components that make up a Christian family. No role is greater than another. Rather, your individual roles are different. When you examine how Christ uses you in your role, this body of believers work together to bring God’s blessings into their lives and to thank God for these blessings.
Set your focus on Christ. He links your relationships together. Set your attention on him and gain motivation for many parts to work together. See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
Morgan Spurlock had a simple question: What would happen if I eat at McDonald’s three times each day for one month?
So, he put his question to the test. He went to McDonald’s every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He ordered every single item on the menu board at least once over the course of 30-days. He made sure to eat nothing except McDonald’s. So, that means no cookies at home, no chips, no tacos, no apples, nothing except what McDonald’s offered. He would even SuperSize his meal if the order-taker asked him. Now, he made sure to stay somewhat active during this test; he walked about 5,000 steps per day (which is about how much the average American walks). He did this for 30-days.
Can you guess what happened? In one month Morgan Spurlock gained 25-pounds. In fact, he gained ten pounds in just the first five days and gained an additional eight pounds about a week later. Doctors figure his diet averaged 5,000 calories per day. (For comparison, nutritionists recommend a 2,000-3,000 [calorie] daily diet.) Put another way, he ate the equivalent of nine-and-a-half Big Mac [sandwiches] each day. (Can you imagine eating that?) Not only did he gain weight, but he experienced mood swings, depression, and laziness [lethargy]. His heartbeat grew irregular. He had fatty accumulations piling up on his liver. Friends pleaded with him to stop this unhealthy test. His doctor even said, “If you continue this diet, you will die.” Morgan Spurlock went from healthy to near-death all within 30-days (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Size_Me).
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. This morning God is not discussing your diet habits at McDonald’s. Instead, God wants you to examine your spiritual diet. What are you taking in? Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death. So, God cannot make it any clearer: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure to stand on the side of God.
It might be the most popular question asked when stepping into a church: “How do I know what the Pastor says is right?”
That is an excellent question to ask. It demonstrates your concern about on what your faith rests. You want to hear God’s thoughts, not the thoughts of another human being. You want a message that will not harm you spiritually, but will strengthen your faith. You do not want to stand before God only to hear him say, “No. What you believe is wrong. Away from me.” You want a message that puts you on God’s right side for eternity!
So then, how do you know that what the Pastor says is God-pleasing? Well, our reading from 1 John says this: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… John tells you: Test What You Believe. In the old wild west, bankers would bite down on gold coins in order to test if they were real. If their teeth left a mark, then the coin was made of real, soft gold. If there was no mark, then the coin was made of false gold. How do you that what you believe God approves? Take what you hear and compare it to what the Bible teaches. Does what you hear agree with what is written down? Or does it contradict the Bible?
This is something you must always continue. Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Did you catch that? You will encounter many different people who claim to speak with God’s authority. You must Test What You Believe.
Understand, no one will sneak out of the shadows and tell you, “Follow me. I preach my own feelings about heaven and hell.” No one will jump out of a dark alley and say, “Hey! Come to my church. What we teach is wrong!” No false prophet calls himself “false.” What makes a prophet “false” is that his preaching and teaching will contradict what God says in the Bible. You will hear Pastors tell you, “Do not baptize infants,” even though Jesus commands, “Go, baptize all nations”— that is, all the people in the world (Matthew 28:19). You will hear Sunday School teachers say, “Mary is not a virgin.” Yet, God makes it so clear, in the Bible: “Jesus is born of a virgin; he is without sin” (Matthew 1:23; 3:17). A couple weeks ago, a very prominent religious leader (whom millions follow) said, “Even an atheist [one who believes God does not exist] will go to heaven if he is a good man” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-pope-francis-comforted-a-boy-who-wondered-if-his-dad-a-non-believer-was-in-heaven_us_5ad5f549e4b016a07ea0afac). This religious leader contradicted Jesus’ clear teaching: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
False prophets look religious. They preach in churches with crosses in them. False prophets open the Bible and speak random passages to cover up their error. False prophets may be sincere, but still spread lies about what God says. When it comes to your heart consumes, Test What You Believe because Many false messages exist.
The trouble is, we are not always so careful about what our hearts consume, are we? The devil does such a tremendous job at convincing us to believe that it doesn’t really matter if you believe the whole Bible. “Just believe the ‘big’ things,” he says.
If you wish to think that your baptism is meaningless, then you are free to disregard God’s teachings on baptism. If you do not think Mary is a virgin, then don’t. If you want to believe that all people go to heaven, then believe it. “Believe whatever you want,” the devil whispers. “It does not matter.”
Yet, it does matter what you believe. No, not because I (as Pastor) say it does. False teaching is dangerous because it puts you against God. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. Did you catch that? If you want to follow teachings not found in Scripture, then you will follow the spirit of the antichrist… which is just as it sounds: a person who “stands against” Christ. You will either stand with God or you will stand against him. If you choose to stand against God, then you will hear the most horrific words ever imagined: “I don’t know you. Away from me” (Matthew 7:21-23). If you fill up on spiritual junk food, you will die.
That is why God stresses: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure you stand on the side of God.
You can because God has given you his Word, the Bible. Do you realize, that God has written down his very thoughts and his very words and his very actions so that you may hear and read and believe? Do you realize that God has made sure that what was first written in the Bible some 3,500 years ago are still same words you have today? God has handed you the Bible so that these words may fill your heart and give you life!
These Words contain the events Jesus endures to bring you to his side. The Son of God is born of a virgin, born sinless— just like God promised. While he lived on earth, Jesus did not chase after teachings that felt good or sounded pleasant. Rather, Jesus keeps repeating the same teachings of God even when Jewish leaders reject it. Jesus will not change his teachings even when he dies on the cross because of it. Jesus never changes God’s Word because it gives life.
You see, Jesus suffers all this to bring you to stand on the side of God. (1) He lets God punish him instead of you (and me) for the times we tolerate false teaching. (2) He rises from the dead to show he never warped the Word of God. (3) Then, he tells you, You, dear children, are from God.
The Word of God gives life. Jesus has grafted you into himself at your baptism. He strengthens that bond in the Lord’s Supper. You, dear children, are from God and you stand on the side of God.
Just think about that! You stand on the side of God. If you stand on the side of God, then it means you have overcome all enemies of God! Yes, false prophets will remain in the world. Christian leaders will pressure you to change your beliefs on sex and marriage. Sunday School teachers may try to tell you that all people will go to heaven regardless of what they believe. Some Pastors will remove parts of the Bible that sound offensive so that churches get bigger, so that they attract more children, so that they can tug on people’s emotions. You may feel as though your congregation is failing! That you must change your beliefs in order to succeed in today’s world. Yet, God still says, [T]he one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
That means you must continue Testing What You Believe. You stand on the side of God. The devil knows this and he will spend night and day to destroy your faith. He will try to convince you that children’s programs and the number of kids in church is more important than what the Pastor teaches. He will try to convince that the more people in church, the better that church is. He will tell you that you can make an oath to join any organization that honors any Supreme Being. That Supreme Being might not be your Triune God, but all members may pool their beliefs together.
Since the devil wages constant war on you, Test What You Believe and stand on the side of God. If a Pastor teaches that every religion teaches the same thing, then leave that Pastor; he is preaching falsely. If a teacher tells you the Bible has some mistakes in it, then stop listening to that teacher; he is preaching falsely. If your heart makes up beliefs that contradict God’s plan for marriage and divorce, then change your heart. If you realize a group you belong to makes you compromise your beliefs by swearing to an unknown God, then leave that group. Pumping your heart full of spiritual junk food is not worth spiritual death. Test What You Believe; feast on God’s unchanging Word and stand on the side of God.
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. That was Morgan Spurlock’s wake up call. If he continued his McDonald’s diet, he would die. Change his diet and live.
So, what makes up your spiritual diet? Are you making sure that God’s pure Word enters your life? Or are you willing to change the Word so that you feel happy for today? Are you willing to pick and choose what to believe? Or do you, out of love for God, fight to keep his Word pure?
Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death, but Jesus brings you spiritual life. The Holy Spirit used God’s Word to bring you to faith. That faith has grafted you to Christ the Vine. Connected to Christ, you are motivated to live for him. How? Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, stand on the side of God.