Summary: A sermon preached on Confirmation Sunday/3rd Sunday after Pentecost (proper 4) at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon, Iowa.
Well, today is the big day! Confirmation Sunday! In a few moments, these 12 young people will stand in front of this altar, and make some pretty big promises. This last Wednesday evening, you read your essays entitled “What It Means to Me to Be a Christian” and made some pretty bold statements of faith. Now, you’ve heard me say this quite frequently, but I’m going to say it one more time “Confirmation is NOT graduation from church!”. In order to drive that point home, I thought it was rather appropriate that we have this parable in our Gospel reading for today on Confirmation Sunday, because there are essentially two ways you confirmands, and any of the rest of us here today, can go from here, two different spiritual houses we can build. So I want to look at this parable with you today, so we can gain a better understanding of the great question, a question I’m going to ask you at the end of this sermon today, “You’re confirmed, now what?”
The words of our Gospel reading are the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We heard a portion of it in last Sunday’s gospel reading. Jesus has been teaching quite a bit to those people gathered on that mountainside that day. In a similar way, our confirmation class has been listening to the teachings of Jesus over the past two years through your confirmation instruction with myself and Pastor Kukkonen. You’ve heard the teachings of Jesus through your study of the Scriptures and the Small Catechism has been one of the tools we’ve used to help you understand those Scriptures. This year in particular, we’ve spent a great deal of our time focusing on the Ten Commandments. In a lot of ways, you have a lot in common with that group that’s sitting at the feet of Jesus in our Gospel reading, hearing Him teach. And today, Jesus has some final words to teach you.
The first is a warning. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” False prophets are false teachers, not from outside of the church, but that appear to be inside of the church. There are folks out there who believe that false teaching comes only from outside of the church, but that’s a very dangerous assumption to make. Here, Jesus tells us that there are false teachers within the church, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They appear to be safe, they talk about Jesus, they might even quote a whole lot of Bible verses to back up their claims. They may be well dressed, popular, and pack the pews of their churches each Sunday, and their offerings may be going through the roof! On the outside, they may look like they have it all together, and that truly, this preacher has been sent from God and we’d better listen to him, because he’s a lot more blessed than our own church and its pastor. Folks, there are a LOT of these wolves in sheep’s clothing in Christ’s church today, yes, even within the pales of the Lutheran church. In fact, some of them are lifted up as the “model” that we as a church and I as a Pastor should conform to. So the question is going to be, how do you know if that person is a true shepherd, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing looking to devour you?
Jesus tells us “you will recognize them by their fruits.” And for you confirmands, this is where the teachings you’ve learned the last two years are going to come into play. And it’s the same for the rest of us here, too. Listen to what that Preacher is telling you. Is he or she proclaiming that you’re a sinner, and that there’s nothing you can do to pay the debt of your sin, or do they tell you that sin doesn’t matter anymore, that God simply accepts you the way you are and you can continue to live however you want, just ignore those ten commandments because they’re outdated? Is that person telling you that Jesus Christ lived the perfect, sinless life you and I could not, and then suffered and died to pay the price of our sins, and then rose again from the dead so that we will rise from death to eternal life with Christ in heaven, or are they simply telling you “This is what Jesus did, so get out there and do it too, and then God will bless you with material wealth beyond your wildest dreams?” What kind of fruit is that preacher offering you, is it the truth of the Scriptures, or is it some other Gospel, which is no Gospel at all? You see, just because someone uses Jesus’ name, or claims to be Christian, or even appears to have a powerful “ministry” going, doesn’t necessarily mean that Christ will acknowledge that teacher on the last day. Our text tells us that many who have run around saying “Lord, Lord” will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And the reason why is that they turned the Christ of the Scriptures into some other Christ, a Christ who cannot save and doesn’t even exist. To these, Jesus simply says, “depart from me, I never knew you.” For any of you out there today who think that your doctrine doesn’t matter, that we just have to say “you believe in Jesus, I believe in Jesus, that’s all we need to agree on,” Jesus has just made it loud and clear that doctrine matters. In fact, doctrine is how you judge a particular ministry or preacher to be authentic or not. And that doctrine is drawn from the Word of God.