A CONFESSING CHURCH
The long history of the Church shows that she is a confessing Church, a witnessing Church. From the days when her children were attacked by mobs, or thrown to wild beasts before crowds of cheering Pagans, to the troubles of the Reformation Era, there were many who refused to deny the Lord, and died because of it. While such a direct way to take up the Lord's cross and follow Him might not be an immediate possibility for us, we can be sure that our society will make it continuously harder to do God's will.
For the ancient Martyrs, acknowledging the Son of Man, that is, making the public claim that Jesus was the Messiah, meant facing the sword. The authorities would give you various ways to prove your "innocence," as by cursing Jesus' holy name, or burning incense before a statue of the emperor. Refusing those were ways of confessing Jesus. You can make such a confession today when somebody you know well says all religions lead to one God. It is intolerant to disagree, but it is right. You may have to stand some verbal abuse, some disapproval. Among the less bright people you might even be ridiculed. Remember, the truth is the truth. It definitely does make a difference what a person believes. Those who do not believe in Jesus face eternal punishment for all the sins of their ancestors, as well as their own since conception. To go along with any other view denies the Lord, but equally bad is the idea that you can choose to believe in Jesus. Such faith must be a gift. You do not really "go to God" through Jesus. God comes to you. Satan will try to trip you up. He will use people with economic influence, or he might keep you from marrying the person you want to, or he might tempt you to let your own offspring marry the wrong person instead of using your influence to stop it. Of course those are hard things, but eternal life is no trifling matter. If it's any comfort, the people who say all religions lead to God don't really mean that. It's meant to be empty, banal, small-talk, but words do have meanings. Better to risk being pedantic than let horrible lies go unchallenged.
One temptation we have that the apostles did not was to be a Christian on Sunday but to wink at the world's golden calves the rest of the week. Jesus doesn't want half of your allegiance. If you really believe that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that He is the Savior, the one and only Redeemer, then say so, publicly, not so as to be obnoxious, but to avoid confusion. There may be times when you have to be sensitive so as not to do worse harm. Very well. You are the steward of your words, but Jesus never said anything like Blessed are the sensitive. Tactics might require a backward step so that two forward steps might follow. The important thing is to call the erring from their vanity.
What makes us so sure we're right? That's a very good question, one we should always welcome. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so that changes who we believe we are. We are the little flock who will receive the kingdom. We are the children of God, whose every hair He numbers. The all-wise God has given us His Word, which will never mislead us. The truth of our religion is revealed through the Word made flesh. I didn't make this up, neither did the Church. What's right is what God reveals as right. It's as simple as that.
Now, can you be right without being nasty? Do you have to look like a bigot? We are not really bigots. We look like bigots because of the illusion that sin casts on everyone. We preach the Law which tells the natural man what a scoundrel he is. He doesn't want to believe that, so he rationalizes his sin instead. So God's people in the Old Testament persecuted the Prophets He sent to them. So, as Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, tried to preach Law and Gospel in Jerusalem, the most religious people of the day stoned him. St. Paul was chased out of one town after another because he refused to leave well-enough alone. He spoke of human sin and divine grace, the message Satan hates above all. In the Reformation Era, many faithful witnesses were burned for calling the Church to account for its neglect of the Gospel. Satan threatened, deceived, and bribed them, but they did not let the fear of men keep the Holy Spirit from speaking through them. The truth was politically incorrect, and it still is.
You have the righteousness of Jesus who atoned for your sins. You have the Word made flesh to comfort you in every affliction. You need never fear hell. The Lamb was slain for your offenses and raised for your justification. You have even now a living Savior who is leading you to eternal life. It is to Him that you are a witness. He is the Good Shepherd of the little flock. We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus, the Lord. It is sad that those most in bondage are also most offended by the Word that could liberate them. The Old Evil Foe has a claim on them, but none whatever on us.
Look at the One we are following. Did Jesus ever say that all religions are equally good? Hardly! He knew He was the one and only Messiah, and He said so. He died but now lives, and He alone has the keys of death and hell. As a Prophet He condemned all the hypocrisy and false religion He saw about Him, for it abounded then as much as it does now. That did not make him any friends. When the Roman governor asked him whether He was a king, He accepted that title knowing what it meant. That was a good confession.
We are the confessing Church. That is not something to boast about. We boast, but about our Lord. We boast about the cross and resurrection. We boast that Jesus will be with us forever. We do not shrink from His exclusive claims. We do not let banality or small-talk stand. Hard as it may be, we must think of the day when He will confess us before the angels. When you sort it all out, what else can we do? He was made flesh for us. He is giving us the kingdom. He wants us to say so. AMEN.
~Rev. Lloyd E. Gross