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Speaking Truth

June 15th 2014 by VicarCalvin Kapels

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Holy Trinity a-“Speaking Truth”- Acts 2:14a, 22-36 -June 15, 2014

One of my favorite commercials of all time is a Geico commercial. I know they have some great ones, but this one is a couple years old. It starts with the announcer asking the question, “Can switching to Geico really save you 15% or more on car insurance…was Abe Lincoln honest? And then is goes to a video clip of Abraham Lincoln standing behind his wife as she is looking in the mirror, wearing a new dress and she asks him, “does this dress make my backside look big?” and you see Honest Abe looking around in silence as his hands are fidgeting with his hat, finally his wife turns around looking for an answer, to which he responds, “Maybe a little bit”. She then storms out of the room.

It’s funny, Pastor Schultz and I had a moment like that the first time I preached here. No, he didn’t ask me if his robe made his backside look big. (Holding up bulletin), this bulletin is from that first Sunday that I preached; these notes on the back page are Pastor Schultz’s evaluation of my sermon delivery. Considering that it was the first time I was preaching here, and like the fourth sermon I’ve ever given, you would think that it was all words of encouragement and support. Yes, it does have encouragement and uplifting support, but…..let’s look at some of the hard truths…. and I quote,

“Sermon-memorized-sounded like it-work on being more conversational” “Delivery-sounded the same throughout-no loud/soft or inflection” “Hand gestures- none to speak of”

It would have been pretty tempting for him to just say good job, to try and avoid hurting my feelings or making me upset, but then I wouldn’t have learned about areas that I need to work on and grow in. Truth be told we all have areas that we need to work on and grow in both personally and spiritually, whether it’s; our friendships, our marriage, our attitude, our daily life, our Church life, or our life of as a Witness.

How often do we look the other way or say nothing to avoid offending someone rather than tell them the cold hard truth?

For example, bullying is a big issue in schools today. What happened this past year at school when you saw someone being verbally or physically abused/bullied? Did you find help in a teacher or other classmates to stop it, or did you look the other way and do nothing because you’re just glad it wasn’t you.

What happens when your friend or daughter starts dating and she tells you that they are having sex? Do you call her out on it and tell her she is living against God’s design for marriage and trashing God’s gift of sex, or do you just let it be because you don’t want to ruin the friendship and it seems that “everyone else is doing it”?

What happens when your friend tells you that he is cheating on his wife, do you call him out on his sin, calling him to confess and repent to his wife and to God, or do you say nothing, choose his side, and keep him as your friend?

What happens when your kids or your spouse see church as an option, or doing daily devotions as an option, going to Bible class as an option? Do you tell them the truth that they are actually as Luther writes “Despising God’s Word” or are you happy that they go to church once in a while?

The truth is that we all fail to speak God’s Word of Law at appropriate times and places. We fail our brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t help them recognize their sin so that they can repent. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 to speak the truth in love to each other so that we will grow to become a mature body of Christ.

But how often do we think that speaking the truth in love-even the hard truth of the Law-isn’t my place or that it will cost my friendship, or that it will hurt too much to speak it?

We see in the relationships that we have, with those that come to us and seek our love and counsel, through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, God uses us to bring people closer to Him, God uses us to be a witness. Sometimes being a witness means that we have to tell people the truth, even if the truth hurts, even when it is God’s Law.

In our Epistle reading, Peter preaches some cold hard truth. Last week, we celebrated Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ disciples with the sound of a rushing wind and fire. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter stands and preaches the first sermon of the Church, the first message proclaimed to spread the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

You would think that it would be full of good news and encouragement that the gift of the Holy Spirit has come to us and is for all people, so that all people will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. But before that Gospel message could be preached, those listening needed their hearts to be pierced by the law. They needed their sins to be called out.

Starting with the Law, in verse 23, Peter speaks some harsh truth to this Pentecost crowd, basically telling them that they crucified and killed Jesus. And if that wasn’t enough, he told them again in verse 36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

This is the beginning of the Church and Peter leads with the harsh truth of the Law, “you crucified Christ”. I imagine that some people who heard that were offended. Quite possibly, most of those listening weren’t even at Jesus’ crucifixion.

So how could Peter call them out as taking part in the crucifixion of Christ? It’s the same way that his words call us out today, that you and me played a part in Jesus going to the cross to be crucified.

10 years ago Mel Gibson came out with the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. Gibson only appeared in one scene throughout the whole movie, and it was just his hand. It was Gibson’s hand that held the hammer that nailed the hands of Jesus to the cross. As he played that part, he understood, “I have some responsibility in this.”

If you remember Good Friday service, that night we came up here to a cross that was lying in front of the altar. Each one of us grabbed a nail, took the hammer, and nailed our sin to the cross. Jesus went to the cross because of our sins.

After we hear the law piercing our hearts, that we are the reason that Jesus was crucified, in the same verse, we then hear the Gospel, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” Hearts crushed and accused and condemned by the Law are now ready to hear the good news that Jesus has always been the plan for salvation.

Even before God created all things and said “it is very good” Jesus was the plan. Our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit already knew that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, would take on human flesh. Jesus willingly went to the cross to take our place as the one perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Verse 24 continues with the good news, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” So first Jesus takes our place on the cross, then through His resurrection, He gives all those who follow Him the victory over death, the gift of eternal life.

The truth of God’s Word, delivered by using Law and Gospel, changes lives. In order to see how those hearing Peter’s sermon responded, we have to continue reading chapter 2 picking up at verse 37 “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Chapter 2 goes on to tell us that about 3,000 souls were added that day and all the believers joined together in fellowship and devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to prayer.

God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, changed the lives of those who heard Peter’s sermon that day. For us here today, who have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who have forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Christ; how is God changing our lives? How is He growing us? How is He going to use us to witness to others? How are we going to use the same words He gave Peter to speak-words of Law and Gospel?

A great example of witness is the Mission Trip that the youth group just went on. When talking about speaking the truth; using both Law and Gospel, the Apache youth that we worked with needed to know both. Many of them grow up in poverty, in a society where alcoholism, rape, abuse, and suicide are prevalent. Those kids are already beaten down, feeling crushed and hopeless; living in a sinful world.

That is why it was so amazing to see our youth build relationships with those kids, to become their friend, to share the Gospel with them. To pray with them and to pray for them that God is working in their hearts. To show them the hope, joy, and love that is in Christ; to witness the love that is in Christ and the hope of new and eternal life that is theirs for faithfully following Him. But then also speaking the Law, the truth that alcohol abuse and physical abuse are sins that lead us away from growing more in our hope and joy that we have in Christ.

For us here, our Mission trip is every day of our lives as we witness to those we know. We share Law and Gospel with them in a loving and caring way to help show them their sin, to walk with them, to pray with them so that they will grow into a deeper relationship with Christ and the forgiveness and new life that only He can give.

To those who are comfortable in their sin – those who think sin is no big deal – the Law of God needs to be spoken. So we tell our friend who drinks too much and is getting drunk that he is caught up in a sin. We tell our friend that is caught up in pre-marital sex that she is misusing and trivializing a gift God meant for marriage – actions that do not bring blessings

To those who are already crushed by the weight of their sin – to those who are sorry and can’t believe God’s forgiveness – the sweetness of the Gospel must be proclaimed. So, to our child who breaks a lamp and comes crying in confession to a dad, he doesn’t yell and berate and make the child feel worse, rather he forgives the sin and assures the child of his love and forgiveness. We let the friend who feels crushed by the weight of an past abortion know about a Savior who is able to forgive any and every sin.

Our witness may not be as impressive as the Apostle Peter’s proclamation in front of thousands of people, but our witness will be like his; focused on Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and the truth being told with God’s Law and Gospel; being confident that God will use you to bring people to Him.

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