Confirmed by Christ
Confirmation day is a scary day for me. Because I know what I was like at 14. God made me book smart, but I knew so little about so little. I memorized passages about forgiveness, but I had no clue how hard forgiveness would be until he said those words I can still quote five years after he spoke them. I knew God wanted me to be selfless, but I had no idea how selfish I was until I had kids who want all my energy even after the longest day of work. I understood college would bring new temptations, but then I went to college and the future Mrs. Novotny wouldn’t keep her hands off me! (Just kidding…) At 14, what did I know about suffering or waiting on God for years to answer prayer? I’m 33 ½ now and I can’t imagine believe how little I knew 19 years ago. And some of you think the same thing about being 33! What did you know at my age? What hadn’t you experienced yet? And I’m afraid because I think about these (show old confirmation pics). I think about the young men and women I see each week at church and the ones I haven’t seen in months or years. I think about those who made it through the transition and those who didn’t. And it scares me. Confirmation comes from the Latin word, which means “to make strong”, but I’m not sure how strong I was at 14. I’m not sure how strong I am now… That’s why today, God wants to confirm us. He wants to make us strong, whether you’re a 14 year old in a gown with a cake with your name on it…or just someone who stopped by church on an average Sunday. God wants to make us strong because we have no clue what’s coming tomorrow. Are we strong enough for the accident? The promotion? The betrayal? The birth? The death? The despair? Are we strong enough for the moments we didn’t ask for or expect? God wants to confirm our faith for that future and he’s going to do it with a famous story from that first Easter afternoon. Look at Luke 24. “Now that same day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.” Remember the story? A week before, Jesus was gathering crowds and dominating the religious phonies with his wisdom, but Thursday they arrested him. Friday they murdered him. Saturday he sat in the tomb. And Sunday wild rumors of a missing body swirled around Jerusalem. “15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.” Luke lets us in on the secret, but the disciples don’t know it’s Jesus. Why? Did God prevent them? Did their grief blind them? I’m convinced Jesus just showed up in those prop glasses with the big nose and the bushy moustache. “17He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ 19 ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’” “We had hoped he was going to redeem Israel. He raised the dead, fed thousands from a sack lunch, captivated the masses. If someone could have freed us from this oppression under the Romans, it was Jesus. If someone could have saved us from this slavery, it was Jesus. But, in the end, there were no swords. Just words. He didn’t kill our enemies. He was killed by our enemies. Now, it’s over. No redemption. We lost. “25He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus could be blunt! “You dudes are dumb! It’s all right there in the Book. You only have half of it and you still missed it!” So, Jesus played the professor and lectured his Old Testament 101 course. The theme? “39 Books About Me!” We can only imagine what Jesus taught in that class. Did he quote Genesis 3:15? “Guys, remember how Moses said the Savior would crush Satan’s head? But what would Satan do? Strike his heel! Make him suffer!” Did he remind them of the Passover? “Guys, remember how God redeemed Israel from its slavery? Through the blood and the death of an innocent lamb!” Did he quote Isaiah 44? “Guys, you want redemption? God said, “I have swept away your sins like the morning mist. I have redeemed you!” Redemption isn’t just from Romans, but from wretchedness and sin! Did Jesus walk them through all the pictures of his passion—The burnt offering, the Day of Atonement—the entire Old Testament said the Savior would suffer first and then enter his glory to redeem his people? The words captivated the men. Their faith firmed up. Their souls got strong. They didn’t want Jesus to leave! “28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” Stop right there! Close your Bibles and bulletins now! No peeking! What do you think the shocked disciples said next? Jesus had just revealed his resurrected existence, just pulled a Houdini (without the magic) and disappeared before their eyes. So, what was the first thing they said? “He’s alive!”? Nope. “Where did he go?” No. Look at verse 32. Read it with me. “32They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” Weren’t our hearts burning while he talked? While he opened the Scriptures? Wasn’t that amazing when we finally understood the Word? Those two disciples were confirmed that day, made strong, because of…the Word. “33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Surprising, isn’t it? Why do you think those two reacted the way they did? Why did they seem more shocked by the Word than the breathing Jesus? Before I give you the theological answer, a quick story: A few months ago, I stopped at Mac and Don’s Supper Club (you less classy folks might call it McDonald’s) and ordered a Grilled Onion Cheddar burger off the dollar menu because the Bible teaches good stewardship. I unwrapped it and was about to take my first bite when I thought, “This looks really thin!” You don’t exactly get a thick patty for 100 pennies, but I’ve eaten enough grilled onion cheddar burgers to know that something wasn’t right. So, I peeled back the bun and found a slice of cheddar, a smattering of grilled onions, and no burger! My McFriends forgot the main ingredient. The Emmaus disciples had a faith like that. They missed the main ingredient, the forgiveness they had right now! But once Jesus gave them the meat of the message, it burned in their hearts and made their souls strong. That’s what the Word of God does. “The Word of God is living and active,” the Bible says about itself, “sharper than any double-edged sword.” “Is not my word like fire,” God once declared, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” St. Paul wrote, “because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.” “Faith comes from hearing this message.” “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Word! Christ confirms us, makes us strong, at every age with the Word! Do you see why we give away hundreds of Bibles every year and beg you after every service, “If you don’t read the Bible during the week, let us help!”? Do you see why we spent two years promoting this vision to bring God’s Word into every home, every day? Because the Word works! It burns within us the fire of faith. Christ confirms us with his Word. Confirmation Weekend is the perfect time to remember that because it is a time of transition. Because most of us first connected to God’s Word through someone else. Like this phone and laptop. Maybe your mom or dad were plugged into a church that taught the Word of God. And since you were plugged into your parents, you were plugged into the Word. Or maybe you started dating a girl who was plugged into the Word and since you loved her, you started to love the things she loved. Or maybe you were connected to a pastor or a school like ours where you heard the Word. But eventually, we lose the laptop. Kids grow up and move out. A relationship ends. A pastor is called to a new church. You graduate. We transition. We lose the “middle man” for the Word. But here is where the Devil is patiently waiting. He’s been practicing for this very moment, the transition. Rehearsing his lines and his lies. He’s had billions of tries and he knows exactly what to say. He knows how to disconnect us so we are too weak for the temptation that tomorrow brings. No time in the Word and lots of time in the world un-confirms us. Like the two disciples, we start to believe things that simply aren’t true. “God wants you to be happy and you’re not happy in this marriage.” (But didn’t God say we’d have to bear a cross?) “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” (But didn’t God command us to meet together?) “God wouldn’t have made you that way if it were sin.” (But didn’t the sinful nature mess up his creation?) “Those idiots in the government.” (But David didn’t speak that way even about the king who was trying to kill him?) “God helps those who helps themselves.” (Wait, what?) Friends, God wants us in his Word so we’re not weak. He wants us connected so he can confirm us. In this text, Jesus teaches the weakest! Jesus is still our Redeemer and our Redeemer lives. Psalm 130 says, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…With the Lord is unfailing love…With him is full redemption.” There is no record of sins, of straying, of teenage years wasted, of decades dedicated to something other than the glory of God. No, with God there is forgiveness. With him there is unfailing love. Not love that fails when we do. Not love that loves when we’re lovable. No, love that never fails. With him there is full redemption. The price is paid to make you one of God’s own. The full price. God didn’t make the down payment and demand our obedience on the 1st of each month. Jesus cried, “It is finished.” This book tells us God is not waiting to love a future version of us. He loves us now, likes us now, adores us now. Our picture is in God’s wallet and our smile on his screensaver. And there’s only one place you will hear anything like the gospel: Here. This book. It’s how Christ confirms us. But I have great hope for you. When I started to study for this text, I was afraid. I thought of the young men and women last May and wondered what had happened to them. Curious and terrified, I found the church records book and opened to the right page. But as I scrolled through the names, my fear disappeared. Davis. Connected. Gawel. Connected. Meyer, Newton, Wagner, Wood, Zeimet. Connected. Connected. Connected. Connected. Connected. Nearly every name confirmed. Not just last May, but today, even today, confirmed by Christ through his Word. Today, I pray not just for the thirteen that will be confirmed, but for us all. Jesus, may your love burn in us, surprise us, amaze us, strengthen and confirm us every time we find you in your Word. Amen.