The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

Pentecost Sunday                                                                                                        June 4, 2017

 

Acts 2:1-21                              The Right Question Regarding Your Salvation

 

Dear fellow redeemed,                       

Some questions, you might say, cannot be answered with a yes or a no.

Are you still doing drugs?  Are you still gambling away your life's savings?

*          If you answer, "yes", you acknowledge something you thought was private; it's not this other

            person's business what addiction you've been struggling with. 

            Or maybe it's a lie and always has been.

*          But if you answer, "no", you're acknowledging that this was an addiction of yours.  And maybe

            you'd rather not concede anything to this person who's nosing around in your affairs.

*          Well, if you're irritated by the wrong question regarding your life, you may just as irritated by

            the wrong question regarding your salvation. 

*          Here's another question you might not answer "yes" or "no."  "Have you been saved?"

            If you answer, "no", you acknowledge something that's not true; that you're an unbeliever,

            having no faith in Christ and no future with your Savior in heaven.

*          But if you answer "yes" you give that friend the impression that being saved depends not just

            on the work of the Holy Spirit, but on your personal decision.

*          That's not to say, certainly, that this other Christian's concern is not appropriate.

            He's simply interested in your future.  He wants to know he'll see you in heaven.

 

It's the assurance we personally receive this Pentecost.

*          Our Savior desires all nations to be saved, regardless of our origin or what language we speak.

            "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

*          A more appropriate question, therefore, may be the question any one of us may ask of ourselves. 

            What does it mean calling on the name of the Lord? What does it mean being saved?

 

At first, we may question whether Pentecost assures us of such a thing. Pentecost may simply confuse us.

*          Our reading relates when the day arrived that "divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested

            on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues

            as the Spirit gave them utterance."

*          What kind of sense did this make?  After they spoke in tongues, we're told that those who came together

            "were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language."

*          It didn't matter where they from; whether they resided in Judea, Egypt of Libya, whether they were

            Jews or Arabians.  They could understand the Gospel in their native tongue.

*          But there really was no reason for confusion.

            The question regarding their salvation had been answered once and for all.

            Yes.  Jesus is your Savior!  In your very own language, you may call on his name and be saved!

 

Unfortunately, there are some today who would rather add to the confusion by changing the question.

*          The question isn't whether Jesus may assure you that you're saved.

            The question, apparently, is whether you may assure yourself that you're saved.

*          We've heard the argument that "speaking in tongues" still happens today. 

            It happens after you've coaxed the Holy Spirit into your heart.

            Presumably, the Spirit produces these sounds in you, which only God can comprehend.

            And yet it serves as proof that you're saved.  Spiritually speaking, you have arrived!

*          It's very interesting.  To be sure you're saved, you must speak this spiritual language,

            where it's very unsure what you are saying.

 

But they're not answering the right question.  They're simply raising another question for us.

How can what's extremely uncertain and subjective offer one confidence about one's future?

*          Then again, we may play the same game.  When it comes to our faith and our salvation,

            often times we'd rather not deal with clear-cut specifics.

1  Someone asks us why we're a Lutheran, and rather than articulating our love for the

            Gospel and its doctrines, we tell him, "Well, I was raised Lutheran", or "I married a Lutheran",

            or "I'm simply comfortable remaining at the same church where I've belonged most of my life."

2  Or it's time to confess our sins during Sunday's service and what do we call to mind?

            Rather than focusing on the particular ways we've disgraced our loving God and harmed our neighbor,

            we simply acknowledge, "yes, I'm one of those poor miserable sinners too."

3  Or rather than taking time for devotion or Bible study, so that we may review the wonderful and

            comforting truths of Scripture, we settle for knowing "I'm a Bible-believing conservative."

           

Now, one might argue, certainly, that one's faith is subjective and we're comforted knowing we have faith.

But, truthfully, it's not our faith that comforts us but what our faith believes that comforts us.

*          Think back to the so-called tongues of today.

            They really ought to produce a lot more fear in a person than comfort or peace.

*          Remember that night mirror you once had?

            You were screaming for help.  You had fallen getting out of a certain vehicle.

            You couldn't get up and that truck was speeding toward you.  But no matter how loudly you cried out,

            nobody could hear you. Not one person was paying attention.

*          Well, how's this for an equally frightening night mirror?  People can hear you speak. 

            But no matter what words you say, all that comes out is gibberish. 

*          You try to console yourself, saying, "But God can make out what I'm saying! 

            He's paying attention.

            But the more you talk, the more obvious it is that not a single person is benefitting from what

            you're saying.  Even you don't know what you're saying.

 

Well, we can be sure the tongues witnessed by the Christians in Jerusalem were no night mirror.

*          Each and every one of them could understand each other.

            Every last person who had gathered could understand the Gospel. 

*          And there was no question what the message was.

            The world's Savior had come to redeem an entire race of fallen sinners.  Having taken upon

            himself everyone's sins, they were now privileged to turn to Christ for help.

*          It' didn't matter who they were, the sermon Peter would preach was for them. 

            Calling upon the name of the Lord, calling attention to their need for forgiveness, they may

            know they were saved. 

*          And it wasn't because they coaxed the Spirit into forgiving them. It was because the Holy

            Spirit enabled them to believe they were already forgiven by the blood Christ shed for them.

 

The right question regarding your salvation is not based on something subjective, what's going on in you,

but something very objective, the fact that you have a Savior who died for you. 

*          So, you're telling me, Pastor, that I don't have to speak in tongues to know I'm saved.

            I don't have to point to myself to be sure. 

            I simply point to what the Holy Spirit would point to; the cross of Christ.

*          Still, at some stage I must be looking at myself, for I still see in myself this sinner whose

            pile of sin grows higher and higher by the day.  

*          Are you saying the Holy Spirit simply does his number on us and that's it, end of story? 

            There's got to be more to it.  What does it mean to be saved? 

*          Sometimes we Lutherans are accused of not knowing what it's really about. 

            We have this idea that the Holy Spirit makes us Christians without any obligation on our part. 

            All we have to do is sit around and the Holy Spirit will do his thing for us. 

 

So, is that what they were doing that first Pentecost?

*          Consider the questions those early Christians were asking who had all gathered together in one place.

            They heard the disciples speak in their own language, and they asked, "Are not all these who are

            speaking Galileans?"  "How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?"

*          Try to imagine witnessing the amazing series of events produce this day by the Holy Spirit.

            You're in a foreign country with a great number of other immigrants. 

            You suddenly hear this mighty rushing wind.

            Next, you see what appears to be tongues of fire above each other's heads.

*          Finally, to top things off, you're able to understand this person with his important message, who

            hasn't spent one day studying English.          I'm sure the event raised a lot of questions, not the

            least of which was, "What does this mean?"

*          It's the right question concerning the work of the Holy Spirit; not "Are you saved?"

             "Am I saved?"  But "what does it mean to be saved?"

 

We think back to the days of our Catechism instruction.

*          If we didn't understand at the time why we were there, we do today.

            It was to get the right question answered again and again.

            So, we believe!  We're saved!  "What does this mean?"      What now? 

*          The answer wasn't, "Once I get confirmed, I graduate from church!"  Like the Christians

            that first Pentecost, it was time to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit.

*          Those first believers, having heard and understood the Gospel, knew their life would undergo change. 

            Yes. They were Christians, and their objective was to love the Lord their God with all their heart,

            soul, and mind, and to love their neighbor as themselves.

*          But the primary change in their lives was the chance to gather together on a regular basis to hear

            God's Word and receive their Savior's forgiveness.

*          We read later in Acts 2 that they "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship,

            to the breaking of bread and the prayers."  

*          In short, they were committed absolutely to meeting regularly for the divine service, hearing and

            learning the apostle's doctrine, fellowshipping with other Christians, receiving the Sacrament,

            and reciting the prayers.

 

How things have changed!

*          Recent surveys show that there are three reasons for the decline in worship today. 

1          There are those who believe the church is full of hypocrites.

2          There are those who believe they can have faith without the church.

3          And there are those who simply don't have the time. 

*          But maybe we can add another reason people aren't going to worship. 

            It has to do with people's perception about the divine service.

*          The church service is simply regarded as offering our praises to God.

            Or it's the most talented Christians with their modern bands or solos praising God. 

*          In either case, the divine service is thought to be divine entertainment. 

            It's what happens when believers get together to do something "exciting" for the Lord. 

*          And what if it's suddenly not so exciting? 

            It just might be the main reason we're seeing a drop in worship these days.

*          There are too many things in life that are more entertaining than worship.

 

Meanwhile, ask yourself this: "Has our nation seen the same decline in people visiting their doctor?"   

*          I don't think so, because seeing the doctor is a definite need.

            We visit the clinic not to have fun.  Our visit isn't primarily what we might do for the doctor. 

            It's what the doctor does for us. 

*          The reason for declining attendance is very simple. 

            People don't need church.  They don't see worship as primarily what God does for us.

*          But the church service is not some spiritual experience where we get ourselves ‘high on the Lord.'  

            It's God giving us mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.[i]   Through his Word and Sacraments, he breathes

            into our heart forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

*          That's what it means to be saved.  The Holy Spirit is working in you around the clock, keeping you

            breathing as a Christian, keeping you trusting in Christ your Savior.

 

It's why we keep coming back.

*          One more time we seek that assurance that "everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall

            be saved"; everyone who calls upon the name Jesus, shall receive the forgiveness of sins.

*          We call on the Jesus' name, that is, not so that he might note our commitment or pledge, but that

            we might note our sin and Christ's remedy for sin, his blood that he poured out on the cross for us. 

*          Many in our lives ask the wrong question regarding our salvation.

            We may ask the question this way:  Are we here that we might work something for God, or that

            God might work something for us?

*          You might say it's the difference between being a believer and a showoff.

            Being a show off is what people often do when they've had too much to drink. 

            The person who's drunk often can't get enough attention.

*          We think of what was said in today's reading by those who had the wrong impression about tongue

            speaking.  They mocked the foreign believers saying "They are filled with new wine."

*          But they weren't drawing attention to themselves.  They were drawing attention to the grace of God

            who'd save every nation from the damning consequences of their sins.

             "We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God!" they exclaimed.

*          And that would settle it.  God, the Son, came to save every sinner. 

            And God, the Holy Spirit, came to make it official.  

 

Many "yes" or "no" questions are simply the wrong question.

And most of us will recall being asked one such wrong question.  "Are you saved?"

*          Well, next time don't be stumped.  Remember that you may answer the wrong question with the right

            answer.  And you may do so with confidence and pride in your Savior.

*          "Yes. I'm saved, for Christ has covered up my sin by suffering on the cross for me!"

            "Yes. I'm saved, for the Holy Spirit has brought me to faith through Holy Baptism and the Gospel." 

            Yes. I'm saved.  And I am telling you in a tongue you can understand that "everyone who calls upon

            the name of the Lord shall be saved."            Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


 



[i] "Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation"; a Lutheran Hour reference made by a Lutheran Hour preacher.