The Lutheran Hour Sermon Text

"The Honor of our Lord's Sword"

#72-41
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 26, 2005
By Rev. Charles Neugebauer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries


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Text: Matthew 10:34-42

This is not a sit back and relax message. This "difficult-to- hear" teaching of Jesus reflects something we know but often prefer not to think about. Jesus divides people. When we hear the truth about Him in the Gospel, we are either for Him or against Him. The Bible makes it clear that we cannot pick and choose certain doctrines concerning Jesus. He did not come to offer us a new set of laws or a new philosophy of life from which we can select parts that we accept and reject others. He confronts us with Himself as God in the flesh. We must by God's grace either believe or reject that claim of His, and if we believe it, the line is forever drawn in our lives over against everyone who doesn't believe in Him as God, Lord, Savior, completely and totally.

You see, when we are confronted by the reality of the Word made flesh, life's basic issues are at stake. Saved by His grace, once dead in our sins but now alive in Christ, we are forever changed. The unconditional sacrificial love of Jesus compels us in return to obey His command to take up our cross and follow Him. He reminds us that we must die to live, lose ourselves to find ourselves in Him. He divides rote religion from right relationship, the secular from the sacred, the temporal from the eternal, this world from the next, the saved from the unsaved, the lost from the found, darkness from light. He is Himself the divide between heaven and hell. Though He is the Prince of Peace, by the very nature of who He is, our Lord Jesus also brings with Him a Spiritual Sword which divides people, even those in our own households.

A sword is a weapon of honor. A cruise missile is very effective, but it does not have the honor to it that a sword does. With a cruise missile, you push a button over here, and hundreds of miles away over there, you blow up whatever you have targeted. You don't see your victims, you don't hear or feel their pain, and you really don't experience what you've done at all. You don't even know if you've accomplished your mission until you see the video later on CNN.

A sword, however, is different. There is honor to a sword because you stand toe-to-toe with your opponent. He is looking into your eyes as you look into his. You sense his fear as you yourself are afraid because you are both so vulnerable. You hear and feel the clash of the steel as he defends himself and then attacks and you in turn must defend yourself. And if you win and you strike a wound, you experience the pain of your victim, and you hurt with him and for him because you are right there with him.

When it comes to living as loved ones of Jesus Christ, commissioned by Him to go and make disciples of all nations, most Christians seem to prefer the cruise missile approach. Send some money over there, way over there for missions to foreign nations and let us know in a newsletter how it all turns out later. Very effective and necessary to win the world for Christ, but it is not the only way we are called to share the Gospel … and it's not just the pastor's job. "Pastor, I'll pray for you while you spread God's Word of salvation. The district and Synod will send missionaries overseas and even into growing neighborhoods around our area. I think it's great that you have been trained to defend the truth of God's Word. I'll give the offerings, you spread the Good News." That's cruise missile evangelism. You don't feel it, hear it, or experience it at all; it's very safe and easy when you send someone else to fight the good fight of faith. Yet Jesus clearly states the difficult truth that sometimes a Christian’s enemies will be members of his own household.

What does He mean by that? Jesus gets very personal here. He is saying that the love of God for you, and your love of your family, compels you under certain conditions to draw your sword and do spiritual battle within your own family. (Man against his father, daughter against her mother). From our Lord's perspective there can be no real true Godly peace within a family until all are His people, saved by grace through faith in Him alone. Though Jesus is the Prince of Peace, He knows that if you are truly following Him according to your new nature given to you in your baptism, then you will sometimes have to pay the price of conflict even with those you love the most, and that's not easy.

Most of us seek peace at all costs in our home and relationships. We have had to compromise many things to live together in peace. Some of us, therefore, have remained safe yet sorry for years that family members and old friends remain lost and headed to an eternity without God … because we don't want to upset whatever delicate relationships we live within. Jesus teaches against that attitude in the Gospel today. Better that there be conflict so that at least some would be saved. We cannot live in peace with Satan or sin or even indifference. We must not just sing, "Lift High the Cross" in the safety of our sanctuaries, but we must lift that wonderful cross high in the dangerous, real world of a thousand different opinions on that subject – in our businesses, schools, and social gatherings; and yes, especially in our homes.

Jesus forces the question upon us – who do we love the most? And how do we love the best? Jesus is reminding His disciples that you really can't love anyone else in the right way until you love Him first and most. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for everyone, and if you truly love your family and friends, you will take the risk to direct them to Him because no one comes to the Father but through Jesus, no matter what that may cost.

The cost often involves pain. You stand toe-to-toe with people who are known to you and who know you, warts and all. You see fear in their eyes as you yourself are afraid because you are both so vulnerable. If there is rejection or a challenge to the authority of God's Word, you hear and feel the clash of the Sword of the Spirit as you and the one you are seeking to love into God's Kingdom both advance and defend. And even if you win the battle and the Good News of salvation in Christ is received, you may first have to experience the pain of your loved one slain by God’s Law, dying to self, revived by Christ.

We lose our life to find it. We take up our cross and follow Him. We die to sin and rise with Christ to newness of life. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." We draw the Sword of Jesus because He loved us and gave Himself up for us. It is the only honorable thing to do. Because He so first loved us, we simply so must love others to Him, instead of just hoping and wishing that something will happen somehow, someway, to move that person we know needs the Gospel to Jesus Christ. We draw the sword. We draw the Sword of Jesus in honor of His Gospel even though it may forever change our relationship with the one we care enough about to risk it. It is sin to keep the Sword Jesus speaks of in its sheath because we seek peace at all costs, even if that cost is our loved one's eternal destiny. God forgive us our lack of honor in this most important mission. God sends people into our own family, our schools, our businesses, standing there right in front of us. We draw the sword.

And you see, the pain is worth it. It's like major surgery, like an operation in the hospital. I used to work as a supply clerk in a VA hospital while I was going to college. I'd watch in amazement as the surgeons first had to cut and open and pull apart before they could take out whatever was sick and fix whatever needed fixing in there. They had to cause some pain to heal.

The Bible says the same thing about the Sword of God's Word in Hebrews 4:12-13: "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

God loves us enough to open us up and pull us apart with His Word that reveals the truth about ourselves. This may cause us some pain when we see how far we are from what God calls us to be. But then once everything is open and laid bare before Him, He takes our sin out from us, removes that guilt and sin that has made us so sick, He takes that fatal disease called sin upon Himself and then He repairs our heart and soul with His blood transfusion of love, and grace, and mercy, forgiveness, and the promise of everlasting life in His name. He then sews us back up again with the Gospel. Jesus, the Great Physician, has died to heal us of all our sins, no matter how awful or helpless we may feel that we are. Jesus has won the ultimate battle over sin and death on the cross on our behalf, and now the victory of the resurrection is ours forever.

A sword is a weapon of honor. The Sword of Jesus is the most honorable of any sword there has ever been. Jesus paid the price of His life to be your Savior. He now calls on all of us to give our lives as His disciples in the real world in real ways to those He sends our way. It's not always easy to take up the cross, to lose yourself to find yourself, to draw the Sword of God's Word, but it certainly brings honor to Christ as He divides sin and death from another precious soul through your prayers, words, and acts of compassion for the lost in your own backyard. And the most amazing thing of all about this Sword of Jesus is that in the midst of all of the battles that we face in life, this Sword brings with it daily blessings, and of all things, a peace that passes all human understanding. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 26, 2005
TOPIC: If Jesus already died on the cross for our sins, why do we have to ask for forgiveness now?

ANNOUNCER: Stay with us now for Questions and Answers with Pastor Ken Klaus. I’m Mark Eischer. Here’s a question that came in to our Response Center: “If Jesus already died on the cross for our sins, why do we still have to ask for forgiveness?”

KLAUS: Good question! Along with that question, you know, there is almost always a companion question.

ANNOUNCER: And the companion question would be? …

KLAUS: If you die without confessing a sin will you be condemned?

ANNOUNCER: I seem to think we've answered that one on a previous program, but perhaps we could cover both questions in the time we have today?

KLAUS: Let’s give it a try. Answer the companion question first … will you go to hell if you die without having confessed a sin?

ANNOUNCER: How would you answer that?

KLAUS: The answer, for a Christian, is, “No.”

ANNOUNCER: You said, “for a Christian.” Does that make a difference?

KLAUS: Oh, it does. According to the Bible the only cause for someone being lost, for being damned is not having faith in Jesus as their Savior. Of course, such a person, not recognizing Jesus as their Redeemer, would have no reason to confess their sins, or expect to be forgiven. So, without faith, these folks are lost.

ANNOUNCER: And for a Christian … what happens if they were to die without having confessed a particular sin?

KLAUS: For a Christian … they still go to heaven.

ANNOUNCER: You sound pretty sure of that.

KLAUS: I’m sorry if I only sound pretty sure. I should sound absolutely, positively sure. If we have to confess every single one of our sins, we are all in big trouble.

ANNOUNCER: How so?

KLAUS: Mark, every day you commit all kinds of sins of which you're not even aware. Sins that just slip on by your conscience and consciousness. How can you possibly confess sins that you didn't know you did?

ANNOUNCER: And I would guess I’m not the only one here that has these unrecognized sins?

KLAUS: Absolutely not. Everybody has them. You have them. I have them. Our engineer, Brian, in the control room has them.

ENGINEER: Me, too?

KLAUS: Everybody. If we had to make a list, check it twice, and not miss a single one of those sins in our confession, we’re not going to make it to heaven.

ANNOUNCER: It also seems to me that if we have to confess all of our sins in order to get into heaven, it’s almost like we are doing something to earn salvation.

KLAUS: And that’s obviously not true. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life which comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. (cf. Romans 6:23) And you don’t earn a gift.

ANNOUNCER: Which takes us back to our original question. If we’re forgiven of our sins, why do we still have to make a confession of them?

KLAUS: There are a number of real simple answers to that question. First, we confess our sins because the Bible, in any number of passages, tells us to do so.

ANNOUNCER: Could you give us an example of that?

KLAUS: How about 1 John 1: 8-10? “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”

ANNOUNCER: But I think our listener would like more of an answer than just, “the Bible says so.”

KLAUS: I agree. We can help with that. When a sinner comes to God, confessing his sin and asking for forgiveness, he is showing a proper understanding of the relationship that exists between him and God. Confession recognizes that God is the Giver and we are the receivers. God is the One Who is giving, and we are the ones who are getting. Even more, we show that we are appreciative of the fact that Jesus entered this world, suffered, died, and rose so that we might be the beneficiaries of this forgiveness. A person who confesses his sins says he gets it. He realizes that he is already forgiven even before he mentions a specific sin.

ANNOUNCER: So, to be clear, confession is not a good work that we do to earn forgiveness.

KLAUS: No, it is merely stating that we acknowledge the truth of God’s Word when it says that we are, with faith in Jesus, forgiven sinners, gratefully assured, and sure of God’s grace.

ANNOUNCER: Before we close today, anything else?

KLAUS: Yes, I think there is one more reason to ask for forgiveness, Mark.

ANNOUNCER: And that is?

KLAUS: It helps us to stay on track. It keeps us from saying, “I’m forgiven, I can do whatever I want to do.” Confession leads us to realize, “I’m forgiven, and, in thanks to the Savior for what He has done, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m going to try to avoid those sins of which I am aware and lead my life in a way that glorifies Him and points others to the power of His redemption.”

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.