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June 28, 2020 The Sword of Honor
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ
Gospel lessons like this one today are not pleasant to hear; it reminds us of certain REALITIES: One reality is of our terrible broken relationship with the One who created us & gave us life; & it shows us the seriousness of what Jesus came to do. Another reality is that a person’s life & eternity stands or falls on their relationship with Jesus Christ. In particular, we are reminded of this hard truth: Jesus divides people. By His nature & purpose; that’s just the reality.
Jesus IS the Son of God = God in the flesh; you either believe that, or you don’t. Jesus is the lone Savior of souls = if you are baptized & believe in Him you are saved; if you do not believe in Him, you remain condemned before God. The teachings of Jesus, -all of the Old&New Testament- are Truth for this life; His is the only true religion in the world.
To agree with that is salvation, but to reject that is damnation; with Jesus means heaven, without Him means hell. In Matthew 10 (and in many other places) that reality is made clear; either you are with Him or against Him… and there is no salvation apart from Him.
This is why God-the-Father sent God-the-Son into the flesh: to confront mankind with this clear dividing line between life and death. By the grace & working of God’s Spirit, you&I have come to see & trust Jesus. In believing, His line is drawn in our lives over against everyone who does not believe in Him as God, the only Savior, & the only Teacher of The Truth for this life. And it doesn’t matter WHO those unbelievers are =whether we know them or not; whether we are related to them or not= a line of distinction is drawn. People will be divided from each other because of Jesus & His Word.
This becomes our reality, because Jesus has changed our lives = He’s changed /the way we live, /the purpose of our being, /the things we say & do, /and why we say & do them.
This makes God’s people different than those who are not God’s people. People either trust & obey God, or not; with a living spirit or a dead spirit; moving toward heaven or moving toward hell. This reality can be hard to face.
At times that makes the members of our own household, or circle of friends, feel like enemies; because they refuse to honor & obey the Lord of Life, and we must obey Him.
The true followers of Jesus have no choice but to honor & obey Him & His Word. Being a true & faithful Christian is not easy; facing spiritual reality -& holding to it- is the hardest part of this life.
*Why is this? Because when confronted with God-in-the-flesh, ALL of the basic issues of life are at stake. We were once dead in our sins & condemned, but now we are alive in Christ Jesus by His grace, & we are changed = we cannot BE the same worldly person we were before. The sacrificial love of Jesus compels us to respond = to obey His command to take up our cross, and to follow Him & His ways above all other ways. Jesus reminds us that we must die to live; we must lose our old self to be found in Him. Our old selfish desires, our anger, greed, & immoralities do not fit with His ways, because He is pure & holy & right.
That’s why it’s not enough for a person to just be religious, we must belong to Christ. It’s not enough to be /kind, /& tolerant, /& peace-loving. There are a thousand ways to be spiritually-minded, but there is only ONE God, & only One Savior, & only One written Holy Scriptures as the Word of Life. Jesus alone was sent to reveal God to man, and to deliver to us forgiveness & truth, thru His life, death, & resurrection. There is no other way, truth, or life.
So, it’s a sad reality when our /parents, /or children, /or grandchildren, /or friends reject God’s gift of Jesus. And when they reject The Savior, they also reject those who belong to Him; and that would be US.
The dividing line is Jesus and His Word =the Bible. Jesus divides all other world religions from the one right relationship with God-our-Creator. Jesus himself is the divide between heaven & hell. Kind & gracious Jesus IS the Prince of Peace with God; yet because of who His is, The Son of God is also the Spiritual Sword which divides people. We may not like that, but let’s acknowledge & accept that REALITY; and let’s ask our Lord for help to deal properly with it. So, *what does it mean that Jesus -our Peace with God- identifies himself with a Sword?
One of the reasons why a military dress uniform & parade equipment includes a sword, is that a sword is a weapon of honor. A cruise missile is very effective, but it does not have the realism & valor that a sword does. With a cruise missile, you push a button over here, & hundreds of miles away over there, you blow up whatever you’ve targeted. You don’t see your victims, you don’t hear or feel their pain; you are separate from a real personal involvement & responsibility.
But a sword is different. There is a certain honor & responsibility to a sword, because you stand face-to-face with your enemy, but a fellow living being. You look into each other’s eyes; you sense they’re fear, as well as your own; & you’re both vulnerable.
You hear & feel the clash of the steel as he defends himself, and then attacks & you must defend yourself. And if you strike a wound, you experience their pain & blood & hurt, because you’re right there with them. It’s real.
Jesus has given this kind of reality to His disciples & followers as He commissions us to spread His word & make Him known to other humans = other sinners & opponents of Jesus. We might naturally prefer the ‘cruise missile’ approach. We will send some money to a mission field, & let someone else bear His sword; and then read a newsletter to hear how the work is going. His Kingdom’s work does get done that way, but it’s a ‘hands-off’ way.
Many believers will also take a ‘hands-off’ approach when their family members & friends need to be confronted with the truths of Jesus. It’s easier to expect a church-worker talk about sin & repentance & Biblical truth. It’s more comfortable to be non-confrontational, & let someone else fight the fight of faith =let them be the cruise missile. But then, we are not being honorable disciples for our Lord Jesus, who clearly states the difficult truth that -sometimes- the enemies of the Gospel will be members of our own household.
This reality makes the Christian Faith a very personal part of our daily life, *doesn’t it? Jesus is saying that the reality of God & sin & forgiveness & one Savior, compels you -at times- to draw His sword, and do spiritual battle within your own family, for the sake of His Kingdom. ‘…A man against his father, a daughter against her mother.’ At times we must prove that our love for Him comes first, even before father/mother/son/daughter.
From our Lord’s perspective, the only true peace within a family is His peace-of-faith by being baptized in Jesus, confessing Him, & walking by His Word. This is what Jesus means when He says He’s the Prince of our peace with God, but He has brought a sword into our lives.
Because you & I are new creatures in this Christian faith, so in this life we will have to pay the price of conflict with those we are close to who are still ‘old’ creatures, who reject Him, or are resisting Him. This is why it is such a great blessing when there is faith-unity, & we can say with Joshua: “as for me & my household, we will serve the Lord.”
It’s just not easy. And because we so want HARMONY in our home & relationships, so we will settle for just a lack of conflict. Then we are tempted to compromise God’s right ways with man’s wrong ways; & God’s truth goes quiet. Compromise means we feel settled on the outside; but we’ll also feel disloyal to God as our family & friends remain in error, & in sin, and are in real danger of heading to an eternity without God. It’s true that we shouldn’t daily thump others in the head with the Bible; -often- our strong witness is seen by what we DO; but whether we are saying truth or living it, we will not compromise God’s truth.
Jesus tells us in Matt.10 that He came to upset that shallow harmony with others for their eternal sake; and that upsetting will involve US. When we confess Him, and speak & live His Truth, those who are still rebelling against God will be upset by us; but their upset-ness must not scare us, or change us. We know that Jesus is Lord of all; His Word is absolute truth. He has graciously brought us to this faith, and so we bear our Lord’s truths when we’re /at our work, /at school, /at social gatherings, /and in our homes.
At times we need to hear Jesus’ hard question of us: *Who do you love the most?
*Will we forsake all others, take up our cross, and follow Him? The most powerful witness of our life is a faith that does not bend, is not hypocritical, & does not water God’s things down, because we know that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, & the Life; and we believe Him when He says that our loved ones will not go to the Father without Him.
This reality helps us to face our fears of holding this sword-of-Jesus. Being loyal to Christ & His Word above all else comes with a cost, & with some pain. We know His sword can divide; so we fear how others might react, & that some will reject us.
So, when you stand toe-to-toe with people you know, & they ridicule you, it hurts; because while they fight against the Lord Jesus, they are also fighting against you. Others will reject the authority of God’s Word over their life, & treat you like their enemy, as you advance & defend the faith with the Sword-of-the-Spirit. But we must remember that this is ultimately not OUR fight; it is the fight of the Kingdom of God against ALL who oppose Him.
There is no compromise of His Light with darkness. We must remember that the Lord’s goal is not the condemnation of sinners, but for their repentance, forgiveness, & conversion to life. Our goal is to bring to others what has been brought to us: we have lost our old life and have gained the new life.
Our Lord turns us away from disobedience & sin and helps us to walk His narrow, holy road. In this world, that’s what Jesus did; so we take up our cross to follow Him. Gal.2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
There is no other True Life but the one lived in His forgiveness, and guided by His perfect Word, which goes against the flow of this world = and often against the flow of family & friends. We carry & use the Sword-of-the-Spirit; not because it’s fun, but because we have no other choice. Jesus IS that sword = which IS a threat to all who oppose God & His ways.
We have each had to face His Sword for our own sins, and His truth hurts; that will be no different for anyone who would belong to His kingdom. We all have to face our sin & His cross. This is how we honor the Gospel of our Salvation. Our family members & friends must also be confronted by God’s Law against their sin, so that they will see their desperate need for the Savior, who died for them, and gives repentance & new life.
To those who wish to oppose the Lord, to continue to sin against Him & His holy ways, it looks to them like WE want to fight; but it’s not our fight = it is the Lord himself who makes a war against sin & the sinful nature. Taking up His Sword is just part of being in His Kingdom, and it’s part of representing our King in a world that is opposed to Him. And what better place for each of us to represent Him than in our own areas of life: at work, at school, and in our home. So Jesus tells us: ‘you are the light of your world; let your light shine before others.’
In Hebrews 4, thru the writer, Jesus speaks about this Sword. He says, “For the Word of God is living and active. …like a double-edged sword ~ but sharper; ….it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
We will never present ourselves to others as perfect; but we will explain that we are all under the same Sword of the Word, the same dying-to-sin; and we are offered the same mercy, forgiveness, & new life in Christ. That’s why we will not give-in & not give-up on those around us. Jesus is the only Lord & Savior who can operate on a soul, like surgery, to cut out the sin, and heal us, & give us new life.
That’s our approach with others. We do not confront others in order to condemn them, but God has taught us right from wrong. We know that they must face God’s Sword in order that they will see their sin, be turned away from it, and be forgiven & at peace with God thru the one Savior and His cross. In this way, our Lord treats us ALL the same.
When we honor Christ by holding His Sword firm against all opponents, He will share with us the blessing of seeing sins forgiven, and lives changed, with old enemies & opponents becoming fellow disciples of the same Lord of Life. Then in this Christian faith, there is not just harmony with family & friends, there is true peace with God; a peace & unity & eternal hope that the world cannot give; a peace that surpasses human understanding.
A sword is a weapon of death and honor. The Sword of Jesus is the most deadly & honorable of all. We cannot live as God’s people in this world without it; but it’s not easy to bear. This Christian faith is not just the religion we grew up with & like, it’s the only true religion; God’s Son Jesus is the only Savior & Lord given to the whole world to trust.
His Word is the Sword of His Law against our sin; it kills & divides. And His Word also applies the forgiveness of His cross; it heals & unites us in this life, and for the life to come. Thanks be to God.