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Courageous Confession of Christ

A sermon preached on the anniversary of the reading of Augsburg Confession

By Pastor John A. Krueger

Psalm 119:46. I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

When Pastor Anderson invited me to preach at these services, he suggested that we might take note of the anniversary of the reading of the Augsburg Confession on June 25, 1530. I believe the suggestion is so appropriate that I have departed from the normal church-year themes for these services in order to recall this event and its significance for us. Because of his teaching of salvation by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, Martin Luther had been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, and he and his adherents placed under the ban of the Holy Roman Empire. This meant the threat of death. The Emperor wanted to force the Lutherans back into the Roman Catholic fold. He summoned their rulers to a Diet or lawmaking assembly, at Augsburg, Germany. There they were to present the chief Articles of their faith, on which they would be judged by the Emperor and the Roman church. They presented to that assembly at Augsburg the Confession of faith to which all Lutheran churches still claim to adhere. That event is worth noting, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, (as I've often observed through the years) many Lutherans simply don't have any idea what the Augsburg Confession is. And most if not all of us learned Christian teaching, not by way of this Confession, but through Luther's much shorter and simpler Small Catechism. Above all, the reading of this Confession at Augsburg is worth remembering, not just as a bit of Lutheran history, but as an encouragement to us to follow its example of stalwart, steadfast testimony for Christ. This statement of Christian faith is an important enough part of our Lutheran heritage that it is printed at the very beginning of our Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (pages 7 and following).

The watchword at the head of the Augsburg Confession is the verse of Scripture that is our text for today, Psalm 119:46, "I WILL SPEAK OF YOUR TESTIMONIES ALSO BEFORE KINGS, AND WILL NOT BE ASHAMED." This highlighted the Confession as the response of Christian faith to a real and ugly threat by the civil authorities and the Church of that day. We face threats just as real, if not so dramatic, now. And the same


is called for from us. We need to overcome some obstacles to such a confession of faith; trust God's Word of salvation in Christ; gladly obey God's commands; and speak clearly and boldly for Christ wherever and whenever we are called on to do so.

To confess Christ clearly and consistently, we need to overcome some obstacles. The portion of Psalm119 from which our text is taken begins this way: "Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD -- Your salvation according to Your Word. So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your Word." Now, who reproaches or rebukes us, and how? First, we should be aware that God Himself would have to reproach us and punish us -- for all our sins against Him and against other people. We are not too pure and holy in heart, words, or in action, to deserve His rebuke -- or His punishment!

To this we can add the reproaches we hear from people who don't know God, who don't want to know Him, and who want us to shut up about Him, who feel our God is too strict and our Savior too "exclusive" for them to be bothered with. Which of us has not felt some fear or hesitation to testify for our Lord and Savior in the face of such attitudes? We need to overcome that hesitation in order to confess our Savior with courage and boldness.

Behind such fear is a sad truth about ourselves -- our frequent failure to read, hear and study His Word, or to understand it rightly even when we do hear or read it. One prayer of God's child in this section of Psalm 119 is this: "And take not the Word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I have hoped in Your ordinances." We need to stay close to His Word -- hear it, read it, and study it, so that we can understand what God tells us in it, and thus be prepared to testify clearly for our God and Savior at every opportunity.

Second, courageous confession of Christ means trusting God's Word of salvation in Christ. This is why this section of the 119th Psalm stresses that first -- "Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD -- Your salvation according to Your Word." God's Word declares His mercies to us -- His helping, saving love, which He has given us so fully and clearly in Jesus Christ, His Son. God sent Him into this world to save us from our sins. For this He lived, suffered, died and rose again. This is the heart of our faith, and this must be the heart of our testimony for Christ -- as it is the heart of this Augsburg Confession which Lutherans hold so dear.

Third, courageous confession of Christ means gladly obeying God's commands in response to His saving love. Of His commands the one that stands out in this text is our Lord's command to testify for Him. "I WILL SPEAK OF YOUR TESTIMONIES," this is our response to His call to testify for Him. Mind you, this doesn't mean what we hear too often and maybe even too often do ourselves -- say more about ourselves and our faith than about the Savior we say we believe in. We need to be sure, when we speak for Christ, that we are testifying for Him -- speaking of His testimonies. Our aim and object is to introduce Him to those who need to know Him. So we must point, not to us, but to Him and to what He has done to save us all from sin and hell for everlasting life in heaven.

With this testimony in words must also go the active testimony of lives devoted to His service. This section of the Psalm also says this: "So shall I keep Your Law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts…And I will delight myself in Your Commandments, which I love. My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes." A mouth that speaks effectively for Christ has to be supported by actions that show the honesty of that speech. Our lives and actions need to show that we truly do trust in our God and Savior, and love Him and serve Him.

And, of course, courageous confession of Christ means speaking out openly to make Him known in all His grace and power, wherever and whenever we have an opening to do so. It means taking seriously and following actively His counsel through His Apostle, "Be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you, a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect."

We need to be doing that day after day in our normal human relationships. It is not always easy to see or to use the openings we have to speak for our Lord to family, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers. But we need to look for such openings and to use them rightly with the faith, the knowledge and the nerve that God gives us through His Word of grace in Christ.

If we can learn this, then what this text says will follow when it is called for: "I WILL SPEAK OF YOUR TESTIMONIES ALSO BEFORE KINGS, AND WILL NOT BE ASHAMED." We probably all sometimes wonder whether, if we ever meet threats and dangers from earthly authorities, we will have the courage to testify clearly for Christ. The answer is: Keep listening to His Word, learning from it, growing in the faith in Christ that it fosters. Then, when we are called to confess Him before men in the face of danger or even death, we will also believe and by His grace and power act on His promise: "When they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." We don't need to hesitate to speak for Christ even before the high and mighty and the hostile. God will give us the confidence, the wisdom and the words to say in courageous confession of His name.

And that will surely lead to the end that Jesus promises: "Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father Who is in heaven." When we testify for our God and Savior, whether before king or commoner, friend or foe, family member or stranger, we can be sure that Jesus stands with us, and that in the Day of His Judgment He will acknowledge us to be His own people and welcome us into His kingdom of glory, where we will serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He has risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.