Third in a Series of Sermons – 1) Chosen 2) Sanctified, 3) Unshakeable
Acts 2:22 – 28 – “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken.”
Hebrews 12: 28 – Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Three part sermon series – 1)Chosen to bear fruit that will multiply into eternity, 2)Sanctified and kept and protected and watched over by our Father in heaven, even as we keep our eyes peeled for the enemies of the faith. 3) Unshakeable Christian faith.
CS Lewis talked about three kinds of fear in his book, “The Problem of Pain.” The first kind of fear would be to know you were in danger, if you were told there was a tiger in the next room. The second kind would be if you were told there is a ghost in the next room. Lewis described that fear as “uncanny rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread.” The third kind of fear would be to suppose you were told simply “there is a mighty spirit in the room,” and you believed it. In this case Lewis suggests that “your disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a shrinking away sort of fear and awe in the presence of greatness.
It is this third kind of fear and trembling in the presence of holiness we want to talk about on this Trinity Sunday. The prophet Isaiah seemed to have it in our first lesson appointed for today. Peter talked about King David and Christ Himself having it in his Acts 2 Pentecost sermon. And in our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus engages in a Good News kind of a conversation with Nicodemus so as to work within him a strong and a steady Christian faith.
It’s the kind of unshakeable faith a man by the name of Foster Walker had obtained. He was a man who accidentally strolled into the scene of a holdup at a store in Memphis Tennessee. All of a sudden, he found himself face to face with a gun in his face and the orders to surrender his money “or I’ll shoot you.” To which Walker answered, “You just go ahead and shoot. I just got done reading my bible, and I have already said my prayers.” The robber stood there frozen and dumbfounded, and Walker walked away unharmed.
It’s the kind of strong and steady and unshakeable kind of faith we would want our school children and our Sunday school children and our confirmation classes students and this weekend our high school graduates to have. A faith that shrinks away in unworthiness and draws near with confidence at the same time. A faith formed by the preaching of both Law and Gospel. A faith that will not be shaken even when the mountains are falling into the midst of the sea and the waters are roaring and foaming and the mountains are trembling. A faith that will not be diminished even when parents are divorcing and grandparents are dying and friends are disappointing. A faith that will be tested by not lessened when plans are failing and dreams are fading and life is overwhelming.
Three questions about what it means to have an unshakeable Christian faith. First, why do we need such a faith? Secondly, how and where does one get it? And third, what does it feel and look like?
First, why do we need such an unshakeable faith? It’s tempting to think that we can get by with a faith that is just ok, just an average “get you by” sort of a faith. Some would call it an “emergency faith” – the kind that really doesn’t cry out to God in regular fashion, but only when we find ourselves in serious trouble.
The people of Nepal found themselves in serious trouble about a month ago when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked their land. 8800 plus were killed. Hundreds of thousands homeless. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re not particularly concerned with people getting clobbered in faraway lands. We may be mildly concerned about the crime rate in Baltimore or the Christians getting executed by Isis in Syria or the flooding in Houston Texas, but our faith is rarely shaken by disasters in the distance.
What is more likely to turn our worlds upside down are the troubles experience by those near and dear. Husbands and wives who fight like cats and dogs. Friends and family dying of cancer. Neighbors getting killed in car or farm accidents. Bills that are getting paid, threats of utilities getting shut off, bankruptcy not far away. The problem with having just a “get you by” sort of a faith is that Jesus Christ didn’t do all that He did so that you can barely survive life. He came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly. His desire is that you be afflicted, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not driven to despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed. Tested but not defeated.
The Bible makes it very clear that in the end times the earth and the heavens will be shaken. Isaiah said it this way, “The foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broke, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.”
Revelation 6 warns, “…behold there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood…The sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place…
Life has always been short and full of trouble. And in the end of times, the Bible teaches that the leash of the devil will be lengthened. The fires of persecution will get hotter. Tribulations will multiply. Which is why we need a faith that is strong and steady and unshakeable.
Which leads us to our second question, How and where do we get such a faith? The simple answer is that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Faith came to Isaiah as God shook him down with a display of Trinitarian holiness and then raised him up with the words of his angel, Behold your guilt is taken away.” Faith came to David as God shook him down through the prophet Nathan telling a timely story and then raised him up with assurance that his transgressions were forgiven and his sins were covered. Faith came to Nicodemus as Jesus challenged him with questions and then laid out for him the plan of salvation.
How and where will our high school graduates get the kind of faith they will need to find their way through the ups and the downs, the successes and the failures, and twists and turns of life? The kingdom of God is like a teenager who has already survived significant setbacks in life and has figured out that every time she admits her faults instead of explaining them away is a time of refreshing. That every day she finds time to be still and spend time in Scripture is a day that goes better. That every week she finds time to listen to a sermon and eat and drink at her Lord’s Table is a week that goes better. That every time she started to wonder if anybody really cared about her or not, she would remember that Jesus Christ lived for her the perfect life she could not come close to living, that Christ suffered for her all that she should have suffered, that her Savior died for her the death she needed Him to die, that Christ rose up for her and ascended into heaven for her and is sitting at the Father’s right hand ruling heaven and earth for her.
First question today was why do we need an unshakeable Christian faith? Second question was how do we get it? Third is what does it look and feel like? For Isaiah it looked and felt like a man stepping forward with his sins forgiven and saying it loud and saying it proud, “Here I am. Send me.” For King David, it looked and felt like a man stepping forward with his sins forgiven and saying it with a conviction not to be denied, “I see the Lord always before me. He is at my right hand, and I will not be shaken!” For Nicodemus, it looked and felt like a man stepping forward with his sins forgiven and helping to provide proper burial for His Savior.
What does it look and feel like to have a strong and a steady and unshakeable Christian faith. The kingdom of God is like that high school graduate who doesn’t really understand it, but as her college years come and go, she is finding that the Spirit of God is working inside of her a heart that fears and loves God at the same time. At the same time she trembles and is relaxed in the presence of the Triune God. She has a growing horror in her heart as she realizes how seriously short she falls from the glory of God, and at the same time she is feeling more and more comfortable in laying her burdens and her worries at His feet.
It’s so good to hear your voice again. Just this week, I received a phone call from a young woman who I hadn’t heard from for ten years or so. She told me parts of her story which included all kinds of trouble, all kinds of financial problems, all kinds of relationship failures. As we began to conclude our conversation, she blurted out, “it’s so good to hear your voice again.” As we unpacked that little statement, she explained that her time in this church and over at our school was a time when she and her son felt safe. In this place, they had listened to the Voice of their Good Shepherd. In this place, they had trembled with fear and been calmed down by grace at the same time. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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