Keep My Word
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
You would expect the Church to be loving, right? Well, the Church on earth, especially in our day, has done a lot of strange things in the name of “love”. To prove to the world that the Church acts out of love, many within the Church have abandoned the idea that there is a hell, a place where the unrepentant and unfaithful will dwell in torment for all of eternity. To demonstrate the love the Church is capable of, many within the Church say that Jesus acted and taught the way He did because He lived in primitive times. If Jesus was active today, they say, He would have had female disciples and pastors; after all, it was only because he lived in a woman-hating society that Jesus only had male disciples. If Jesus was preaching today, they say, He would have known that homosexuality is a genetic happenstance, not a product of sin; after all, Jesus lived in the midst of a patriarchal society that valued rugged manhood, and the world is different today. If Jesus was teaching today, they say, He would not condemn abortion; after all, Jesus was all about love and happiness, and He wouldn’t want any woman to suffer the emotional distress of an unwanted pregnancy. Some even go so far as to say that the Jesus portrayed in Scripture is really the product of those patriarchal, woman-hating apostles and evangelists and their disgraceful agenda. In the name of love, surely Jesus would be permissive; and the Church must be the same way, striving to include everyone, if we want to prove how loving we are. In reality, this so-called love which many in the Church teach today will actually love people to their death and eternal damnation.
In truth, Jesus is all about love. But Jesus had something else in mind when He taught about love. He said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” And then He said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” Instead of concentrating on the love of the world, Jesus pointed the church to the love, the holy desire for His Word: His teachings and practice, everything He had given them from His Father. Jesus made the connection for the Church between love and doctrine. But this isn’t the only place where He stressed that connection. On the mountain with the apostles, about to ascend, Jesus told them to make disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God and “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.”
The Church does not love the world with Christ’s love by coddling it, by confirming it in sinfulness and error. Instead, the Church demonstrates the love of Christ by speaking the truth of the Word of God lovingly to a world that does not know Christ or His love. The Church loves the world by not turning a blind eye toward premarital relations or abortion or homosexuality or any other sin, but by speaking the truth that these things are sin, and sin has eternal consequences for those who do not repent before God. It is not an easy message to deliver, and it’s certainly not going to be a popular message. But in I Corinthians 13, his famous “love chapter”, the Apostle Paul wrote that love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”
How could the disciples presume to deliver such a message? How could they even begin the task of delivering the counsel of God to the world? What if they were to forget something? This is where the Holy Spirit enters the picture. The Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and the Spirit gives understanding of what Jesus has taught. And more than that, as you heard from the Acts of the Apostles today, the Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak—giving boldness even to Peter, who had denied Jesus less than two months earlier. On that first Pentecost, Peter confessed Christ boldly, saying, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And when his hearers asked him what they should do, Peter replied, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized.” Peter received the teachings and gifts of Jesus; and by the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles were made bold to confess what they had received. The Spirit inspired these men and others to record the teachings they had received from Jesus faithfully and without error. And the Spirit sustained Peter and the Apostles in those teachings and the gifts of Christ, even to martyr’s deaths.
So it is today. In Holy Baptism, where you received the Holy Spirit, you too have given the gift of faith so that you may have understanding concerning the teachings of Jesus, teachings which have been handed down to you by the Apostles through the work of that same Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, you are given the faith which clings to the promises of Jesus that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. By the Spirit you are made bold to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One who was crucified carrying the burden of your sins, the One who rose again, bringing you to life again with Him. By the faith that is yours from the Holy Spirit, you receive this day in your mouth the very body and blood of Jesus Christ—a gift in which you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.
There is a beautiful prayer in your hymnal—page 308 if you want to read it yourself later—which our old hymnal called the Collect for the Word. “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” It is a prayer which pleases God, for in it you ask Him for what He would already so graciously give you. By the Holy Spirit, God has caused all of Holy Scripture to be written. And because He loves you, He wants you to hear that Word, to learn it, and to take it to heart, so that you can embrace and hold fast to the sure and certain hope of everlasting life. He grants you His Holy Spirit, by which you cling to everything you have received from Jesus. By that Holy Spirit, you receive boldness to confess to the world around you concerning all Jesus has said and done for you. And by that Holy Spirit, you receive the gift of the peace of Christ, a peace the world does not have and cannot give, a peace that will sustain you, even should you be called upon to die the death of a martyr for the sake of Christ. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle them in the fire of your love. Alleluia!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.