Confirmation 2014: Abide In Him

"And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
1 John 2:28

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Confirmation Students: Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany, abide in Him. You are with the Lord. He Himself made you His own when He redeemed you, purchased and won you from sin, death and the power of the devil by His holy blood and His innocent suffering and death. He made you His own when you were baptized in His name. Then He planted you in His garden, the holy Christian Church. Then He became your heavenly Father and you were made His children. You are His own because you believe in Him, trust in Him, and put your confidence in Him.  Truly, you are His own.

St. John advises you though: “Now children, abide in Him.” That is, do not leave and abandon Him, but stay with Him, remain here long after this morning to be His children.  Yes, the calling from St. John is that you faithfully protect and keep yourselves for no one else but Him, for He has created you. Belong to Him, for He has given you your body and soul, your eyes and ears, and all your members, your reason and all your senses. He has preserved you and still preserves you, richly and daily provides you with all you need for this body and life. Live in His closeness, for He protects you against all danger and guards and keeps you from all evil.

Confirmation students, you, who have ears, hear; you, who have eyes, see.  Hear and see that the Lord has left all His heavenly glory and came into this world to seek and to save all men.   Yes, that includes you; you who were lost and condemned. He came for you to live a life full of want, and live a life where He was despised for you. His life was a life of trials and pain, to bring you to the happiness and blessed life found only in Him.  He fought a mighty battle for you in the garden of Gethsemane, to free you from the furious anger of God. All of your burdens have been dragged upon the shoulders of Christ, yes Jesus stripped them from you, so that you do not need to carry them and break down under their heaviness. He put His shoulders under your sin so that He might position Himself under condemnation that you should have received, but never will.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, so that you should not suffer eternal judgment. He gave His own life and precious blood to free you from death and the power of Satan. At death, you will not be left or confined to your grave, but you will be placed in Christ’s grave, a grave that is open; a grave that testifies death’s defeat and victory over Satan.  Hear this, Christ arose from the dead, so that you may have everlasting life and be with God forever.  

My dear students, the Lord has made you holy and by Baptism has transferred to you all good and blessings that He works for you. He has made you His own children, whom He loves, to whom He is gracious. 

He is worthy, is He not? 

Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany, abide in Him. 

But, you may ask, “How can I abide in the Lord? What does this mean?”

When you abide in the Lord, you live in God’s Word and Sacrament. In God’s Word preached in the church and written in the Bible, you find God Himself. It is the channel by which He comes to you. It is the way which He gives you wisdom and strength, kindles faith and love in you, instructs, consoles, and warns you. You see, anyone who thinks he or she is a Christian, who does not frequently and regularly hear sermons, read the Bible, receive the Lord’s Supper, cannot stay with Christ, cannot abide in the Lord, because God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper are the ties by which God binds Himself to us, the way He binds Himself to you. They are the only ways in which He gives us His gifts. They are the only place we can find Him on earth. Therefore, my dear students come and collect often from the Lord, the one who serves us in the Sunday Morning Divine Service.  Receive grace upon grace as you attend church and read His Word in the Bible at home.  Cherish the precious gem that you have been given, your Small Catechism. Rest in the stories of the Bible knowing that these stories are the history of your salvation.  Today, come and receive the body of Christ and the blood of Christ that is given and shed for you. 

Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany, you abide in Christ when you receive and continually obtain the Lord’s forgiving and sustaining grace.  You abide when you are like a beggar getting free warm bread in his cold hands.  You abide as the Lord takes care of you through the priceless Word and Sacrament. 

Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany as you abide in Him, do not listen to those who tell you the Bible is only made-up by men, full of fairy tales and errors. As you abide, do not listen to those who tell you the sermon preached in church is just one man’s word and wisdom, nothing more. As you abide, do not mind it when you are told prayer is useless, instead think of those who have experienced what a great help prayer is, for example: Moses, David, St. Paul, Martin Luther, etc.   As you abide, do not be easily impressed by human wisdom and the latest spiritual fads, for so many today are like reeds tossed to and fro, blown about by every wind of doctrine.  As you abide, do not be easily distracted by the glittery messages in churches that promise health, wealth, and prosperity if you only work to advance to another fictional spiritual level, for this spirituality operates with a carrot on a stick.  As you abide, beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one, for Christ only dwells in sinners. 

Confirmation Students, remember what you have learned, the simplistic message of Christ and Him Crucified for the forgiveness of sins.  Remember that your assurance and certainty is not in self, but in Christ; it is not in your life but Jesus’ life.  Remember that your assurance is found in the historic event of Jesus’ cross, not the changing events or fluctuating emotions of your life.  Remember that truth, assurance, certainty, hope, and salvation lie outside of you at the Cross of Calvary, not within you. 

Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany, know today that as you abide in Christ you are abiding in Him with all of us here.  Yes, all of us here at Zion are indeed foolish, but we have been crucified into the wise one Christ.  Yes, we all stumble but have been crucified into the one that stands.  Indeed, we are all weak, yet we have been given one who is strong.  Surely, we are easily given into temptations, yet we have been given one who conquered temptation.  Certainly, we are all failing Christians, sinners who have been shown remarkable mercy and rich forgiveness.  As we all continually abide in Christ, we believe, teach, and confess that we are clothed in the perfect, radiant righteousness of Christ; righteousness that we wear like a robe.  Furthermore, as we all abide we thank, praise, serve and rest in Him. As we all abide we come to Him and ask Him for our needs with all joy and confidence, as dear children ask their dear father. Absolutely, we can pray to Him for He cares for us. 

It is good to stay and abide in Him, and stand with Him, faithful, firm, and unmovable.  It is good to be like a sheep, led and held by a faithful shepherd.  It is good to be like a branch, connected and receiving life from a nourishing vine.  It is good to be a child of the Lord, receiving grace moment by moment, day by day; abiding.

Shelby, Dalton, Michael, Harleigh, Jada, and Brittany, He has brought you up and instructed you now in the way of life, that you understand Him as your Creator, Redeemer, and the One who makes you holy. Abide in Him.  Today confess, “Jesus, to You I live. Jesus to you I die, living or dying, Lord Jesus, I am Yours!”

In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

(This sermon is highly indebted to Pr. Donavon Riley's 2014 Confirmation Sermon at St. John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN.)

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