1158) Confessing Christ (a)

The following was adapted from a 2010 sermon by Lutheran seminary professor and pastor Walter Sundberg.

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Romans 10:9 — If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

     Confess with your mouth, it says.  To ‘confess’ means to speak out loud something that is deep within your heart.  That something you confess may be something that you would rather hide; a sin, for example, something you’ve done wrong that makes you ashamed.  It may be something important that you feel in your innermost being; saying words on which much in your life will depend, for example, “I love you.”  It may be something so fundamental that it forms your identity, grounds your hope and meaning, and motivates your life; such as, “I believe in money.”

     Confession is a big deal.  The Holy Bible commands that we make confession unto God.  It tells us to do so because confession is serious business– so serious that it comes with rules.  First of all, we are to confess our sins to God.  I John 1: 8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We also confess in the Lord’s prayer that we are sinners, when we ask that God “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

     Second, God also asks us to confess our love to him.  Jesus asks us as he asked St. Peter, “Do you love me?”  Jesus wants our response, both word and deed.

     Third, the Bible says God wants us to confess our faith in the Risen Lord Jesus, as it says in Romans 10:9:  “If you believe in you heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your mouth that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  And the way we are to confess is to speak the name of Jesus Christ.  Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

     What happens when we confess Jesus Christ not only in our hearts, but with our mouth?  Sundberg had three stories.

     Story #1) When he was a teenager in New Jersey, Walter Sundberg’s pastor was Carl Shea, a man who had a great influence on Sundberg.  Sundberg was a friend of the pastor’s sons, so he knew the family well.  Pastor Shea was a big man, well-built and athletic, and he loved to go golfing with his three sons.  But his sons at first did not always like going golfing with their father.  The boys loved to play golf, but their dad could never just play golf.  Along with the golf, Carl Shea had an annoying habit that drove them all crazy.  Every time another golfer within hearing distance took the Lord’s name in vain, Carl would go over and have a talk with him.  If the golfer missed an easy putt or sliced the ball into the woods, and then exclaimed loudly “Jesus Christ!,” Carl would walk over, set his club down, put out his huge hand for a friendly handshake, and say, “Jesus Christ, you say; he is a good friend of mine.  Do know him too?”

     Sundberg said that at first, the sons were mortified by this.  You know how it is, parents are always embarrassing their teenage kids.  But the old man didn’t care.  He kept it up.  After a while, the boys had to admire him for it.  They came to enjoy seeing the dumbfounded looks on the guys’ faces as this big, crazy man would come up to them, shake their hand, and kindly start telling them about Jesus, whose name the angry golfer had just used in vain.

      Word of this soon spread to the grounds crew and the clubhouse, and everyone there enjoyed it.  It became a part of the folklore of the course, and anyone who ever met Carl Shea on the green or in the clubhouse never forgot him.

    Were there any conversions out there on the course?  Perhaps not.  But the sacred name of Jesus was spoken on the lips of one who loved him and confessed to being his friend, and seeds were planted.  (continued…)

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Philippians 1:18  —  What does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.

Romans 10:9  —  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I John 1: 8-9  —  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 4:12  —   Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

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Use me, my Savior, for whatever purpose, and in whatever way, you may require.  Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with your grace.  Here is my sinful and troubled soul; quicken it and refresh it with your love.  Take my heart for your abode; my mouth to spread abroad the glory of your name; my love and all my powers, for the advancement of your believing people.  Never allow the steadfastness and confidence of my faith to abate; so that at all times I may be enabled from the heart to say, “Jesus needs me, I am his.”  Amen.

–Dwight L. Moody  (1837-1899)

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