The Comforter In A World Of Terror, Lies, And Tyranny

Text: John 15:26-16:4

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

America has been partly Christianized for the last two centuries.  In other words, Christianity has been favored in America, which has resulted in Christians being in places of influence and power within society, since the inception of our country.  As a result, the church has been very influential in society and the church has been embraced and supported by culture – generally speaking.  People have typically sought out the pastor for assistance and input into life’s issues and the church has been historically placed at the center of the city with its steeple rising above the trees, so that the cross could cover the roof tops of houses.

All of this has resulted in a society that has known the basics of the Christian story.  Words like ‘grace and atonement’ have been understood in a Biblical way.  That is right; most people have understood the fundamentals of Christianity, even if they have not attended a church.  This has granted common ground for the evangelism of the Gospel and a relatively uniform worldview in America and a fairly consistent Godly ethic.

There is no doubt about it that Christianity has enjoyed a relatively smooth ride these last two centuries here in the good ol’ USA.  Christians and even Pagans have tipped their hats to Pastors, Sundays have been respected with Blue Laws, and tax exemptions have been given to churches. 

Because of this, we Christians have had it easy over the last two centuries.    Otherwise stated, over the last two centuries a person could be a Christian and not really have to suffer any consequences from the state or from pagans in society.  To be a Christian really has not cost anything.  No suffering; no persecution; no mocking; no attacks; and no government fines or law suits.    

In the last several decades this has all changed though.  We have seen dramatic changes as prayer has been removed from school, the Ten Commandments removed from courthouses, and the name of God stricken from the public sphere.  Abortion is now a right, same-sex marriage is now the norm, and gender distinctions are no longer relevant and oppressive.  Instead of being respected, Christians are now labeled bigots and haters, with lawsuits and government mandates stomping on religious freedom.  Right before our eyes, the church and Christianity have been kicked out of the public sphere, shamed, and labeled.  This has resulted in a Christian voice that is often not heard, sought out, nor respected.  Furthermore, the Christian story has been lost in our culture and words like ‘grace and atonement’ conjure up thoughts of ‘perfume’ and a recent ‘Academy Award winning movie,’ rather than Biblical terms.   

We not only see this shift in the church’s place in society, but we also see a shift in the way that people think and process the world and understand truth. We have entered into a new period and a new culture; we are no longer living in a world familiar to the way Christians have known it to be for the last two centuries in America.

While this may be disheartening for us to hear, this is nothing new.  In fact, Jesus in our Gospel reading essentially tells us that whoever is a Christian and whoever confesses Christ freely will not have paradise here in this present life, but persecution and hardship.  That is right, what we have experienced in America for the last two centuries is not the standard, but the exception.  In other words, being a Christian typically does not include roses and quiet walks on the beach, but rather, includes a cross and suffering. 

Consider Jesus for a moment.  After His birth, King Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to slaughter children in order to exterminate the Christ-child.  Years later, as Jesus began His ministry, He told the religious leaders about their sins and as a result they began to hate Him, plot against Him, and eventually killed Him.  With an unjust trial they convicted Him to death.  What harm did Jesus do to the world?  Nothing at all, except point out the reality of sin and then speak truth into ears!  However, the world would not have this and repaid Him with fierce wrath, bitter hatred, and death on a cross.  The world and the devil hated Christ, for the darkness shrieks at the light.

Considering this, if this is true of Jesus, will it not also be true of His Apostles and if it is true of His blessed Apostles, shall it not also be true of His disciples like me and you? 

Dear friends, across the world our brother and sister in Christ are being killed daily for their faith.  We may attempt to keep our television off and the media will also try not to publicize this, but make no mistake, Christians are being slaughtered for their faith.  For example, in the name of Allah, members of ISIS recently crucified a Catholic priest on Good Friday.  This was not an isolated event, for literally thousands upon thousands of Christians in Syria and Iraq have been crucified, tortured and beaten by ISIS members, for bearing the name of Christ. 

The reason these monsters are targeting Christians is that they think dipping their sword in the blood of Christians is a service to their false god named Allah.  They do not know the Lord, for they are blind and ignorant, in regard to the truth of Jesus Christ. 

These attacks are much more than we receive in America, but nonetheless, they all are attacks upon Christians for being disciples of Jesus. 

Again, make no mistake; there are attacks upon Christians on a daily basis simply due to the Christian’s confession of Jesus Christ. 

Dear friends, this should not surprise us when those who walk in darkness condemn, attack, and scorn Jesus’ sheep.  It should not surprise us when we are thrown out of popularity, denied heat, water, air, and earth.  It should not surprise us because they did these things to Jesus.  The kingdom of darkness, the devil’s house of pleasure, is so drowned in darkness and lies that it cannot see the light and it does not understand truth, but only lashes out at Christ and those who faithful believe upon Him. 

With all of this stated, is all hope lost for us Christians then?  Should we just close up shop and go into hiding now, when we still have a chance?  Should we remove our website, stop publishing our sermons online, quit having public Divine Services, put the pastor into a witness protection plan, and dismantle the church building to sell it as spare building parts?  By no means!  Christ Jesus is indeed a stumble block and the world will come against Jesus and His disciples; however, nowhere in scripture do we read that Christ and His followers will be overturned.  Sure the kingdom of darkness and those blinded by darkness will attack and persecute and slander and hiss at Christ and His church, but they will do so in vain!  Do not fear dear flock and do not fret, Jesus has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His mighty fortress – His church.  We are not alone.  We – the church – are the bride of Christ and Christ protects His bride, the church!    

Therefore, let the world anger, the devil spread his fear, and the world burn with fury, for they cannot overcome Christ and His church.  You are safe in the ark of Christ’s church, where we are all sustained by the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, despite the raging floods of chaos around us. 

Furthermore, dear friends we are not alone for the Christ sends us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our Comforter against terror, our Truth against lies, and our Witness against tyranny.  Indeed, the all-powerful Holy Spirit comforts our souls and our minds through the Word and Sacraments, so that no matter how bad it gets, we will know that we are not alone nor abandoned. 

The Holy Spirit through the Word speaks Truth to us as well, in order to give us wisdom, clarity, understanding, and salvation in the midst of the world that believes 2 plus 2 equals 5. 

And thankfully, the Holy Spirit is our Witness, for He reminds you and me of what Jesus has taught and proclaimed.  The Holy Spirit will continually remind us through the Word that the devil has been overcome, that death has been slain, that hell has been shattered, that sin has been blotted out, that God’s wrath has been taken away, that heaven has been opened, and that all who are baptized are heirs of eternal life.[1]  That is for you to hear and know – because it is all true! 

Dear Baptized Saints, you bear the name of the Holy Trinity upon your head and your heart.  The Spirit of Christ is with you; the Lord’s angels protect you, and blessed Christians from around the world stand beside you. 

The devil and the world may attack you, but they will not overcome you as Baptized Saints.  You might die, but you will not fall away.  The Lord keeps His own – that is you.  Jesus did not die in vain and will not give up on you.  He will not let the devil and the world stand between you and Him.  He is with you to the very end of the age, regardless of the season of life we find ourselves in.  Whether the church is favored or scorned, it does not matter, for the Lord does not change and does not bow to the kingdom of darkness.

In this godless world you will experience difficulties.  But take heart blessed Saints!  Jesus has conquered the world and lives and reigns at the right hand of the Father for you today, tomorrow, and into eternity.   

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

[1] Johann Spangenberg, The Christian Year of Grace: The Chief Parts of Scripture Explained in Questions and Answers tr. and ed. Matthew Carver (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 212.

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