“Keep My Word” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

The Holy Trinity June 16th, 2019

Sermon Text: John 8:48-59

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                Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

            The sermon text is from John 8:48-59.  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  Yet, I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge.  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.” 

            June was a young bride, not yet 20, when her husband Carl honeymooned with her three days before entering the service.  He left her his most cherished items and the ring he’d worn only days before shipping out, and she left him a simple cross to carry into battle.  After intense training Carl joined 160,000 Allied forces to storm the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago on June 6.  With his earthly gifts, Carl told June to keep him close to her heart, and her little cross would remind him of her prayers and their hopes for the life they would build together when he returned. 

            Late in the day, after the landing zone was secured and the recovery of the dead begun on Omaha Beach, Carl was found lying in the sand, clutching the cross.  He would never know the victory that began there on that day Eisenhower called the beginning of a great crusade, but his broken body lying in the sand knew the greatest victory that day, when He was called to stand before His Savior.

            After a few years of struggle, June resumed her life.  Eventually she did start her family with a man she loved and children to rear.  Until her dying day, the promise she made to her dead GI was kept, the gifts they exchanged were cherished and before June’s casket was finally closed after a full and happy life, the treasures from Carl were placed close to her heart.

            In John’s Gospel important words of Christ are highlighted with, “Amen, Amen” or “Truly, truly.”  In our verses for this morning, Christ the Bridegroom leaves His Bride the Church this solemn charge, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never taste death.

            What does it mean to keep someone’s word?  A grieving widow might keep gifts from her beloved for many years after the earthly ties that bind are broken.  How does God’s Church keep His Word?  Is it a trinket we tuck away or a lucky charm we remember when life gets rough?

            The Greek word for keeping Jesus’ Word means to guard it and protect it, as one might clutch something precious to one’s heart.  The Jews who were hostile to Jesus’ ministry had just accused Christ, not of speaking God’s Word, but the devil’s word.  Jesus said they were speaking from their father the devil who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.  Indeed, Jesus calls the devil the father of lies, all falsehood comes from Satan the first liar.  The devil’s original attack on the First Family in Paradise was, “Did God really say?”  It was an attack on the Word.  Adam and Eve didn’t keep it.

            Our verses show the devil’s shameless ploy, the Deceiver calls good, bad, and bad good, true love makes you a hater in the devil’s sick view.  “Aren’t we right in saying You are demon-possessed?” they say to Jesus.  Satan is the first of many spin-doctors who twist and turn good to bad and bad to good.  And it always remains so.

            “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word.”  This is important.  Truly, truly, it is so.  As the Bride of Christ, how are you guarding and keeping the Word?  It’s not enough to tuck it away in a memory chest.  It’s not enough to have your family Bible gathering dust in your home, unopened and unfamiliar.  Dear Bride of Christ is that how you would treasure heaven’s highest gift from your Bridegroom?

            The ancient Collect of the Word in the Church’s liturgy taught us to pray, “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.  Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

            Your Bible classes, Sunday School, the family altar in the Christian home which for God’s sake must be rebuilt, our Bible school this week and your devotional reading of the Portals of Prayer and the Word, have but one goal, that the Bride should take joy in the voice of Christ her Bridegroom, and follow Him in the way to His Wedding Feast in heaven.

            All lies originate with the devil.  It’s true the world and our sinful flesh present their own opportunities for compromise and surrender to sin.  But Satan is the father of lies.  There aren’t equally valid perspectives on human sexuality.  There’s only God’s view that marriage is between one man and one woman for life; and the devil’s lie that says pornography, shacking up, homosexuality are OK.  Keep God’s Word.  Paul said, “Don’t condemn yourself by what you approve.”

            There aren’t two equal perspectives on money and possessions.  There’s God’s view that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”  That’s the view that says you aren’t owners but managers using God’s gifts for His glory and kingdom for life’s duration.  You steward treasures that aren’t your own, knowing life here is short, but laying “up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.”  And there’s the devil’s view: that it’s all yours and the most important thing is you having your way.  “Keep God’s Word.”

            As in our text, the people called good, bad, and bad, good.  Their father was the devil.  So, life in the Last Days is marked by folks gathering great numbers in churches and legislatures and media and Facebook mobs to say what their itching ears want to hear.  The very public push to normalize every form of abomination is in its own way witness to the truth.  Every public outcry, every march and protest against those who speak with God’s Word bears a louder witness that the Fallen world knows it stands under God’s judgment, and that their only hope of escaping that coming judgment is to gather cheerleaders for their cause.  In truth, there is but one loving, redemptive path – through repentance and the cross of Christ.

            If you are among those who have accepted that the path of love is to excuse sin or rename it or glorify it in the name of being loving, you are deeply wrong.  The devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never taste death.”

            Then and now, the dying world, standing under God’s judgment, would take up stones to rid the world of God’s truth.  But Jesus said, “Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I AM.”

            Jesus is Yahweh the Lord, who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, “Tell Pharoh, I Am who I am.”  Jesus is the eternally true God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who took up the cause of His dying world – and so took up your cause as well.  He didn’t come with fleeting comfort to dull the truth or paper it over with happy phrases.  He came to receive once and for all in His sinless flesh, the full fury of God’s wrath against all sin and every sinner. 

            Nearly 1700 years ago, this past Wednesday, the Emperor Constantine convened a council at Nicea to speak God’s truth that Jesus was fully God and fully man who had come to save His fallen world.  That truth was being obscured and Christians were called then, as we always are, to speak God’s truth and condemn the devil’s lies.  The Creed formulated there stands through the centuries testimony to the eternal Son sent from heaven to nail your sins to the cross and bury the condemning lies of the devil in an empty tomb.  Jesus is God with the Father and the Spirit and He invites you to receive His grace as you drink from Him “the fount of living water that wells up to eternal life.”  Covered in the blood of Jesus the devil’s lies and condemnation hold no power over you.  Joined to His death and resurrection in Holy Baptism and trusting in His victory, you too have passed from death to life.

            “Truly, truly, if anyone keeps My Word, He will never see death.”  Don’t fill your ears with lies.  Don’t allow the devil to falsify God’s truth.  Don’t listen to the clever arguments of dying men.  Jesus said to the saints in the ancient church at Philadelphia, “Behold, I set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power (and that’s still true of God’s Church in this world, humanly speaking) and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name.  I am coming soon.  Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.  To the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” 

            Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word.  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

            And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.