LOOK FOR GUIDANCE IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES
Dear Christian friends and especially you Johnny C and Dougie V,
A number of visitors are here today to worship and praise God on this day of Confirmation for Jonathon C. Baehman and Douglass V. Vaquero. Confirmation is not commanded by our God, but it is certainly not forbidden either. The LutheranChurch has always looked at Confirmation as a matter of Christian freedom.
In First Corinthians 11, the Lord tells us that it is possible to take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. After Paul was converted on the way to Damascus, he learned about the Lord’s Supper from the Lord himself. He was to pass it along to others. He did to the church in Corinth and everywhere he went. In other words he instructed the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper before he gave them the Lord’s Supper. Everyone who wants to come to the Lord’s Supper needs to be instructed.
That is a very important part of catechism or confirmation instruction. We also want to do the same for adults. That’s why we have our God 101 classes. I Corinthians instructs us to learn to examine ourselves before we eat and drink. We need to understand that what we receive – the bread and wine and the body and blood of Jesus in a miraculous way. We need to understand why we come – to receive the pledge of forgiveness of our sins.
For two years our catechumens have had a pretty rigorous study. Just ask them. We studied the six chief parts of Christian doctrine as found in the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the Ministry of the Keys and Confession.
Today Jonathon and Doug are standing before you to give witness that they have been instructed and are ready to take the Lord’s Supper. This is a red letter day for Johnny C. and Dougie V and their families. On this day let’s receive encouragement from these words from II Chronicles: “Get Guidance in All the Right Places.” The holy writer who was used by God instructs us to 1) Beware and 2) Be aware.
Let’s put these words from II Chronicles in context. President Obama said in his first inaugural speech to the enemies of our country, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."I liked that phrase he used, but many said he was being naïve. We live in a world that doesn’t respond to an extended hand. There are nations that simply hate us. That’s their religion. If we are not one of them, we are infidels. Their Koran commands that infidels need to die. Hard to build a relationship on that, isn’t it?
As Bible believing Christians we also know why peace treaties and hand shakes don’t work, or having a beer together in the Rose Garden doesn’t work. There was another garden, the Garden of Eden. From that time on relationships were ruined. You know the story. The great instigator, Satan, showed up and had his way with our first parents. Satan got everything he wanted - Rebellion against God and ruin of the Garden and all of humanity. We learn that there is never a time when anyone can obey God and Satan at the same time. The Bible explains the nature of man. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.”
Politicians don’t consider the sinful nature of man. There is only one way that can change – the Holy Spirit needs to change the heart of man to love God and love each other. These politicians are often the same ones who don’t want us to mention the Lord, the very one who is capable of changing hearts.
I view what happened eight centuries before Christ exactly the same. An alliance was made between Ahab (King of Israel) and Jehoshaphat (king of Judah, the people of God. But it could and should be said, “Jehoshaphat, what were you thinking?”
When I was a kid and watched Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys and the Lone Ranger, anyone could differentiate the good guys from the bad guys by the color of their hats. Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger always wore a white hat. The bad guys wore the black hats. Ahab would have worn the black hat, Jehoshaphat the white hat, but they made an alliance.
The Bible says about Jehoshaphat, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baalsbut sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control…His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.” Yet he allied himself to Ahab by arranging the marriage of his son with the daughter of Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel. The Bible says about Ahab and his wicked queen wife, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him…Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.” Their marriage was NOT made in heaven, nor was the alliance between Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Kind of like a man from Gainesville, Georgia marrying a bride from Gainesville, Florida. What were they thinking?
Why? Political expediency! There was a looming threat to the north – the Aramaens, the Syrians. They were strong. They were bold. They were coming. Jehoshaphat and Ahab thought two against one would guarantee victory. Yet, it doesn’t make any difference if it is two or three or four or five thousand band together, if the Lord is not part of their number.
After the alliance had been made, Ahab invited Jehoshaphat to a dinner party. “Some years later he went down to see Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered many sheep and cattle for him and the people with him and urged him to attack Ramoth Gilead.Ahab king of Israel asked Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?” Ramoth Gilead was a city that rightfully belonged to Israel and Ahab wanted it back from the Arameans. Jehoshaphat replied, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.”
But Jehoshaphat threw a curve ball at Ahab. “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” That was a problem for Ahab. He had no use for the Lord, the God of Jehoshaphat. Ahab did an end around to try to appease Jehoshaphat. “So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Go,” they answered, “for God will give it into the king’s hand.”
Ahab chose prophets all right. I don’t know where they got their degree from – maybe from the Seminary of popular opinion because they weren’t from the Lord’ School. They said exactly what Ahab wanted to hear. Unanimously four hundred prophets said, “Go for it.” Unanimously four hundred prophets were wrong.
Here is where “the beware lesson” comes into the picture. There are false prophets and false teachings in this world. Don’t be naïve; just because someone has Reverend in front of their name and an alphabet soup of letters at the end of their name with all the degrees they have, doesn’t make them always right. Jesus warned, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.See, I have told you ahead of time.” The apostle Paul warned of the same thing happening. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” The same apostle warned, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
On your confirmation that is “a beware” you need to hear. It is sad and amazing what people believe as long as it is not the Lord's teaching. Plenty of people who want to fill you with all kinds of garbage. No one is happier with that than the devil himself.
People want the applause of others. For teens we call that peer pressure. A man worked in the circus and was the one who was blasted out of a cannon. He did the act 1,200 times. When asked why he did this, he replied, "Do you know what it's like to feel the applause of 60,000 people? That's why I did it!" That’s the way it works with peer pressure. You get into the wrong group of friends and you will want their approval and applause. But you need to stand up for what the Lord would have you do even when it is not popular.
You know what else you need to beware of? Your own sinful flesh. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” People often say, ‘Trust your instincts.’ I don’t think Jeremiah would agree with that. Our natural instincts because we are sinful are inclined toward selfishness and laziness. We want to find the easy way out. Our natural inclination is to be very me centered. Charles Colson wrote a book called Against the Night. In it he said a poll was done that “shows 81 percent of the American people say an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue." Colson went on to say, “Those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands on behavior.” He interviewed a woman by the name of Sheila who said, "I believe in God but I can't remember the last time I went to church. But my faith has carried me a long way.” She admitted that her religion is 'Sheila-ism.' That was Ahab’s thinking too. I say to you Johnny C and Dougie V – there are to be no Johnnyism or Dougieism. Beware of that.
But be aware of the Lord and his Word all the time. While Jehoshaphat made a mistake to align himself with a Lordless man, to his credit he didn’t take in Ahab hook line and sinker or what the 400 prophets were trying to feed him. Something apparently didn’t seem right about it all. Let’s see what the Lord says.
You have gone to Sunday School; you have come to Catechism instruction. You have listened to your parent’s instruction. I pray what you have learned helps you discern between what comes from the Lord and what doesn’t; what might not sound right needs more investigation and comparison with the Word of God.
Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” Ahab answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
Ahab informed him that there was a prophet who claimed to the Lord’s. His name was Micaiah. Ahab whined. He never says anything good about him.
Some accuse Christianity of that. We talk about sin. We talk about the need for forgiveness. We talk about not being able to save ourselves but need to rely on someone outside of ourselves to save. That doesn’t sit right with people. It requires humility and God’s mercy.
After I told a woman that salvation is something no one can earn, the woman, who grew up in a wealthy home, said she couldn’t believe that. "My father built up his business from scratch and earned everything that he has. And I believe that about heaven too.”
She heard something she didn’t want to hear….just like Ahab. But the truth is no one is good enough to get to heaven. Everyone, there are no exceptions except Jesus Christ, has lived life and deserves to be punished with everlasting life in hell. When we come to know that we will also know why it was so important that the Son of God come to this earth to lie in a manger and die on a cross. That I pray has been engrained by the Spirit into your hearts. Only through Christ and Christ alone is heaven guaranteed. That’s the promise of God word where those promises endure forever. That’s where we go for guidance.