6th Sunday of Easter – Confirmation
To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father, to Him be glory forever and ever, Amen. In the name of Jesus
Do you know what a cliff-hanger is? It’s a plot device found in books or movies or shows where the main character is involved in a very precarious or difficult situation or dilemma right at the very end of the story. Now, I’m not entirely sure of the history of the term, but I would suppose that it refers to both the show and the viewer in a way. To the viewer, you feel like you’re on the edge of the cliff wondering what’s going to happen next and you’re going to have to “hold on” until the next installment. But to the character in the show, I’m going to guess it comes from the scenario where the character is actually or figuratively on the edge of a cliff, holding on to the edge and it their holding on is literally the difference between life and death. A cliff hanger – holding on.
Your life is somewhat like a “cliff hanger.” No, probably not as dramatic and no one is probably going to want to make a film or a book about it. But the stakes are much higher than life and death, the stakes are eternal life and eternal death. Jesus told His disciples the day before he was crucified, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” What’s interesting is what this literally says in the Greek. First, the word translated “teaching” is literally “Word”- “If anyone loves me, he will obey my Word.” Also, in Greek the word translated “obey” is the word tereo. Tereo literally means to “hold on tightly to something.” The image that comes to my mind is someone dangling off a cliff and their entire life depends on whether or not they are going to “hold on tightly” or not.
Jesus is here intimately connecting your love for Him as your Savior with your “holding on tightly” to His Word. I would guess that if I asked each of you here personally if you love Jesus, the answer would be, “Yes, I love Jesus.” The next question would then be, “Do you hold on tightly to His Word?” And, again, I would guess everyone here would nod and say, “Yes.” So, the follow up question would then be: If someone had watched your life during this past week- what you do and what you say, would they have come to the conclusion that the Word of God is not just some facet of your life, but IS your life? Would an unbiased observer have concluded – based on the way that you lived this past week, based on the amount of time you spent in the Word this past week – that you are “holding on tightly to the Word of God” and that the Word of God is the love and center of your life?
We have been blessed to live at a time and in a place where we have amazing opportunities to be into the Word. We have several excellent translations of the Bible from which we can choose. We have all sorts of Bibles available to us – study Bibles and One-year Bibles and children’s Bibles and illustrated Bibles, etc. We can get the Bible on our computer and on our Nooks and Kindles and even on our smart phones. And all that is amazing!
But does it perhaps lead us to forget just what it is which we have? Remember, when we read the Word, that’s GOD speaking to us! It’s the Almighty God having a conversation with us, telling us what’s on His mind and on His heart. Wouldn’t it make sense that we would just absolutely treasure that? That we would absolutely crave it? That we could hardly wait to hear more from it? After all, these words are our life, for they come from the God who gives life!
If someone watched your life this past week, would it be clear to them that you hold on tightly to God’s Word? It’s a cliff hanger. Are you holding on or are you letting go?
You know, someone did watch your life this past week. God watched. The same God who gave us His Word also paid attention to how we held on to His Word. He paid attention to how much time we spent in it, how much we treasured it, how much we put it into practice in our lives. To what conclusion did God come when He did that? Remember Jesus’ words? “If anyone loves me, he will hold on to my Word…He who does not love me will not hold on to my Word.” The way we treat God’s Word is intimately connected to our heart’s truest desires. Yes, we need to work and have a job, but did my desire for more money, more stuff, more advancement lead me to let God of time spent with God in His Word? Yes rest and relaxation are important, but did I let rest, relaxation, entertainment cause me to let go of time spent with God and His Word?
And remember, when we fail to hold on to God’s Word, who gets hurt? God doesn’t get hurt. We get hurt! For in the Word, God wants to give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. All the things we need for a good life, he wants to give us. When we fail to be into the Word, we lose those things, and thereby we get hurt. As Ray, an inmate in our county jail told me this past week, “If I had more self-control, I wouldn’t be in here.” We get hurt personally, and because we have less love, joy, peace, patience, our marriages get hurt, our relationship with other people gets hurt, our relationship with our children, with our parents, with our siblings gets hurt. Jesus said, “if you love me, you will hold on to my Word, if you don’t love me you won’t.” It’s a cliff hanger- the effects are eternal – are you going to hold on or let go?
For people who have over and over again let go, for people who have loved this or that more than Jesus and His Word, for people like you and me, what hasn’t God done? He hasn’t taken His Word away! Amazingly, graciously, lovingly God continues to bring His Word to us, continues to give us opportunities to hear, to read, to study, to learn His Word. That’s what we did in confirmation. Over the past 3 years Katelynn’s had a chance to study God’s Word regularly. And it’s just a starting point, a starting point of an entire lifetime of growing closer to Jesus through His Word. And every time we hear God’s Word God gives us life. Through the Word Jesus sends the Holy Spirit who reminds us that we’ve been redeemed, washed, forgiven, cleansed fully and completely from our sins by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” He reminds us in His Word that He is a God who loves to save. He’s eternal, He’s all powerful, He’s always been and will always be. He rules all things for the good of His people. He wants all to be saved and to come to know the truth. He reminds us that he will strengthen us, help us, uphold us with his righteous right hand.
And what’s the result? As we hold on to His Word Jesus tells us that He actually makes his home inside of us. He lives in us, takes up residence inside of us. And He gives us peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He calms our hearts, settles our fears, gives us peace. That’s something you’ll never get in the world. Sins are forgiven, life eternal is ours.
So hold on. Hold on to Jesus and His Word. Amen.