Worship

Confirmation Sunday

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Reading: Acts 7:1-2a, 51-60 (NIV)
Second Reading: 1 John 5:1-6 (NIV)
Gospel: John 17:11b-19 (NIV)

Music:

  • Hymn: CW 681 “Christ Is With Me”
  • Hymn: CW 446 “Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense”
  • Hymn: CW 518 “Christ Be My Leader”
  • Hymn: CW 930 “God, My Children, with My Blessing”

Youth Confirmation Sunday      May 5th, 2024
John 17:11b-19                             Pastor Ryan Wolfe

“The WORD is greater than the WORLD

Our Easter season ends this Thursday, when we celebrate Jesus’ ascension 40 days after his resurrection. Our sermon text, though, takes us backward in time. It’s Maundy Thursday and Jesus is praying shortly before he and his disciples will head to the Garden where he will be betrayed and arrested. In this prayer he asks his Father for a personal blessing: for strength to endure the suffering and crucifixion about to come. But he also prays for his disciples, and those who would come to faith through the his disciples’ preaching. He prays that God would protect them as they carry on without him visibly there.

You heard the text earlier but let me reread the first verse and a half. Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” While Jesus walked among them, he could protect them from those who oppose God, those who hate the Church. He could defend them against those who would twist and distort the truth for their own purposes. But after his ascension, Jesus won’t be standing there to help them continue in the truth. So he prays that God would protect them by the power of his name. And what is that name? It’s everything we know about God. It’s God’s Word that reveals who God is and what he does. As Jesus prays for people that live by faith in him without sight of him, we find a perfect reminder for confirmation weekend. We live in the world, but the WORD is greater than the WORLD. It’s through the word that God protects us and in the word that we find our purpose, our hope, and our future.

God’s Word protects us from the world in the same way a moat of water protects a castle. It protects us by separating us from it. Through the Word, God gives us an accurate perspective of sin and its consequences. For example the world wants us to believe that as long as you’re not hurting anyone, sin isn’t so bad. Sleeping around before marriage? As long as both people consent, the world says, “fine.” Cheat a little on your homework, take some shortcuts at work, gossip just a little bit. As long as no one’s hurt, or as long a you get away with it, the world says, “let’s go!”

But God protects us from the damage those things do, not just spiritually but in our lives here too. The one who sleeps around without a bond of commitment is emptier for it. Those who cheat and gossip find themselves eventually caught and punished, alone. The devil is a liar, and the world that follows him lies just as much.

It’s only through God’s Word that we see sin and temptation for what it really is – nothing more than an enticing picture. I like a description a pastor friend used once. There was a picture in his office that he had taken while hiking in the mountains. He said he would often find himself looking at the picture thinking how great it would be to be back there again. But what would happen if he tried to jump into that picture thinking it was real? He’d find only a bruised head or shoulder. The picture was just a picture, not reality. Jumping in would only lead to misery. Temptations to sin entice us the same way. They promise wonderful things but when we fall for it we find out that even if there’s a moment of pleasure, it’s followed by pain and guilt.

As long as we’re thinking back to Jesus’ betrayal and death, consider the difference between Judas and Peter. Both of them sinned the night Jesus was betrayed. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Peter even swore by God’s name he didn’t know him. Both realized their sin and felt the weight of guilt over it. But Judas listened to the world. He felt so guilty for what he did that he hung himself. He saw no way out. But Peter? Peter listened to his Lord, and in spite of his guilt and fear, realized that Jesus held no grudge. That God our Father forgives the sin of the penitent.

This is how the Word overcomes the World. In his Word God not only tells us the truth about sin; it tells us the truth about salvation. That in faith God sets us apart, adopts us as his own, and considers our sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, don’t believe what the world has to say about what is fun and what isn’t. What does the world know? Look at the mess it is. Let God protect you by separating you from the world’s way of thinking. Be sanctified, be set apart, by the truth as Jesus says in verse 17. In the truth of God’s Word we find the power of God. The grace and love of God. In that Word we find our Easter hope renewed and restored, no matter how many years pass from this confirmation day and no matter how many miles separate you from this home here at Salem.

Don’t be surprised if your faith, and the life you live by it, makes you stand out from the crowd. I know that’s the last thing most teens want, but embrace your difference from the world. The more we study God’s Word and apply it to our life the less we will have in common with the world. We won’t share the same priorities or get so excited about the same things. That’s okay. That’s good. But notice also here that in verse 15 Jesus specifically says that he isn’t praying to take us out of the world. He wants us here, even if it’s not our home. Not our place. Why? While God separates us from the world by his Word, he also sends us out into it with that same Word. In verse 18 Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

All Easter season we’ve been celebrating this hope for heaven we have because of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. But that’s a truth to share, not a treasure to hide. Just think for a moment what would happen if researchers somewhere discovered that eating vegetables caused cancer, but then they kept that news to themselves. What would people think of them when the truth came out? All that kale and spinach and brussels sprouts…it was actually bad for us! (We wish, right?) Well, we know that people’s sins are leading them on the path to hell. What would an honest observer say about us if we remained silent when we have the cure for sin right in our own hearts? Right in our own homes. We must speak! We will speak.

My young friends in Christ, all of you really – your family and your friends, your coworkers and your neighbors need you to speak to them. To share with those who are lost the Way to heaven that you have been blessed to find. To go out into this broken world of broken people and trust that God’s Word will overcome it. Yes, some will reject the truth we share, and maybe even hate us for it as some hated Jesus himself – but others…others will see the Gospel and know Christ for themselves. There was a time in Jesus’ life when he sent out 72 disciples to preach in his name. In Luke 10:17 they come back with joy at everything they had seen. Do you know how Jesus described it? He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

We forget how powerful the Word of God is. We forget the world’s inability to stand when God tells it to sit. We forget that this little Word is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. God didn’t bring us into a church of timidity, but a church of boldness. Jesus could have prayed for us to be taken out of this world, but he didn’t. He wants us here for this very reason. From our schools to our job sites to our nursing homes, we preach the Gospel. And we see God work in powerful ways, in our hearts and in the hearts of others. Some of you could do this full-time as pastors or teachers. Others will do it as regular members of regular churches. But no matter how “regular” you might feel in the church, never give up on the power of the Word.

Let me end with a story. A true one from my own life. I’ve told many of you that my favorite thing to do as a pastor is to teach the Bible basics class. I get to dig into the Bible with everyone from mature members in faith to people who don’t know Jesus from Jonah. And we look together into this Word of God and find answers to our questions. To learn just who Jesus is and how he saved us with a perfect life and an innocent death. Well, the first night of each session I begin by asking each person if they believe they’d go to heaven if they died that day, and why. It’s amazing how many people don’t have the hope we have.

In one session, after the first night, (the first night!) looking at God’s Word and seeing what Jesus has done, a visitor stayed after and told me they saw things differently now. I’m convinced before that class began this person was lost, in life and for eternity. After just one night in the Word, God saved that soul for eternity. And let me tell you, being the one to share faith with them renewed every hope I had, removed every pastoral frustration, at least for a little while. I still count that man as a friend. And no matter how many years or miles separate us the memory of him will always restore my hope and purpose. Because that’s why we’re here. That’s why you’re here.

That experience of being God’s instrument to share faith and bring hope isn’t intended to be just for pastors. It’s meant for every believer. Jesus leaves you in this world with his Word for your blessing. And he leaves you in this world with his Word for a blessing to others. As you now go out into this world as not children, but children of God, know that the Lord goes with you. Know that He protects us from the world even as we work in it. And I promise you, as we work for the Lord, in all the ways we do, God will overcome. May God pour out his blessings to us, and through us to others as well. To God be the glory. Amen.

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