“Keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this Holy Tuesday is the Epistle lesson read a few moments ago from the sixth chapter of Paul’s first letter to Saint Timothy. Dear friends in Christ, the saints in Christ were gathered together, many witnesses assembled, waiting, preparing, listening, anticipating the good confession. The pastor’s voice boomed out: “Do you renounce the devil?” Yes, I renounce him. “Do you renounce all his works?” Yes, I renounce them. “Do you renounce all his ways?” Yes, I renounce them. “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” Yes, I believe. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord?” Yes, I believe. “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” Yes, I believe. The good confession, boldly spoken, spoken before the Church and the world; spoken to the Church and against the world. Witnessed by many on behalf of all; a single congregation in a moment of time standing in for the Church of all ages, of every time and place. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” I do, by the grace of God.
A very different crowd was gathered together, at the point of a riot, crying out for the blood of one man. He stood before the governor, who stood in for the power of Rome; one powerful man representing an empire, an empire that had its bullseye on the chest of Jesus. The governor’s voice boomed forth: “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say this about me?” “What have you done?” “My kingdom is not of this world.” “So you are a king?” “You say that I am a king… Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The good confession, boldly spoken before kings and rulers, spoken against kings and rulers. Witnessed by one man on behalf of all, the one who represented the powers of this world, Rome reduced to one. “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above.”
He refused to compromise, He refused to say what would deny the truth and save His life. He confessed unto death. He confessed even though He knew exactly what it would mean; He confessed even though He had counted its cost. He confessed as God called on Him to confess. He kept that commandment pure and undefiled; He refused to profane it by denying His Father at the moment when death was to be His share. He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Before the powers and principalities of this world, with a governor looking for an excuse to set Him free, Jesus refused to deny His Father’s will and the path that was set before Him. Why? Because Jesus knew that it was not Pilate who had life to give, but His Father. “I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” Death would be the price of His confession, and He would willingly pay it.
You are surrounded by many witnesses, some violent, some not, some looking for an excuse to set you free, some looking for an excuse to condemn you. You are on the stage, you bear the name ‘Christian;’ will you confess, or will you deny? This world will not let you be a comfortable believer; it will attack you, it will try to seize your faith from you. Your sinful flesh will not go quietly, it will not submit to God’s Word without a struggle. No, to be a Christian means to battle. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” You confessed that you would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from this faith. Easy words to say, when you are standing in a Church, surrounded by your fellow believers, confessing along with them. Now, you are called upon to fight. Fight the good fight; struggle against this world, fight its temptations, refuse to let it put you back into bondage! Fight the good fight; struggle against you flesh, put it to death! Drown it and its desires each and every day.
The world promises you death: death of relationships, death of influence, death of popularity, and one day it may, as Pilate did, promise you physical death. Will you confess, or will you deny? Will you fight, or will you surrender? Will you hold on to the faith, or will you let it go, loving the glory that comes from men more than the glory that comes from God? You know how often You have surrendered, you know how often you have failed to confess, you know how often you have loved the glory that comes from men more than the glory that comes from God. Repent. Repent and confess your sins, your failures. Repent and believe, for you have a Savior who made the good confession for you.
Jesus refused to compromise, Jesus refused to say what would deny the truth and save His life. He confessed unto death for you. He confessed for the times you failed to confess, He confessed to give His life into death for that sin and all others. He confessed even though He knew exactly what it would mean, His death in your place; He confessed even though He had counted its cost, the very punishment that your sin deserved. Death would be the price of His confession, and He would willingly pay it, because He loves you. He confessed as God called on Him to confess because He loves His Father and He loves you. He refused to leave you in your sin, He refused to deny His Father’s will and the path that was set before Him. He knew that the Father would give Him life, and that the Father would give you life through Him. And He will; you confess the God who gives life to all things; He gave life to Jesus, and He will give life to you, for as Christ was surely raised, so you will be raised with Him at His glorious appearing. For you confess the one who made the good confession on your behalf, even unto death, and he still makes the good confession for you as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.