Sermon 6.25.17 Presentation of Augsburg Confession

Romans 10:5-17    Pastor Kenneth Frey
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession    6/25/17

Romans 10:5-17  Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Why Confessions?
1.  Salvation by faith
2.  The need for the Word
3.  The importance of confessing the faith
4.  The Augsburg Confession

Our church is a confessional church.  What we mean by that is that we hold as true statements the confessions of the Lutheran church gathered in Book of Concord of 1580.  Included in that book are the three creeds we say in church, the Apostles and Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds.  Also included in the Book of Concord are the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles and the Formula of Concord.  But why?  Why do we have confessions?  
Paul answers that for us.  He said, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  Salvation is completely and only by faith in Jesus Christ.  When you see a bug in your house, what do you do?  You step on it.  It’s a bug.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an ant, a June bug or those long black things in your bathroom.  It’s a bug.  So it is with God.  In his eyes, there is no difference in people.  No one is better or more worthy than another.  We are all just sinful bugs, deserving to be stepped on and crushed.  Even what we think is good, is filthy before God.  Isaiah described us this way:  “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Sin is the bully on the playground that terrorizes us, enslaving all.  Sin is such a powerful bully that Paul can speak about us becoming slaves to sin.  Enslaved by sin, there is nothing we could do to save ourselves.  
Salvation is completely and only by faith in Jesus Christ, who alone wipes away sins through his blood and does away with the reign of death.  This faith is a gift of God, created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  Why confessions?  To understand confessions, we must first begin by understanding that we are saved by faith alone.
How do we get faith in Jesus?  By the Word.  Where do you get the Word?  You don’t have to reserve a shuttle flight into outer space to find that powerful word.  You don’t need an expensive ticket to tour a museum where it’s stored away.  But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.  The simple Word we have right here gives us faith.  Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit working through the Word.  
But many still try to get if on their own.  Those megachurches by the highway lead people to think that they have to reach up to heaven and grab Christ for themselves.  They think they have to dig deep into their heart to find a love for God so that they can make a decision to follow Christ.  
But we don’t manufacture faith.  Faith is a gift, given through the Word.  Paul said, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  Martin Luther said, “Therefore we must grant the Gospel this honor and concede to it this glory that it is a means and a way and, as it were, a pipe, through which the Holy Spirit flows and comes into our hearts. . . . From this it follows that they act foolishly, yea, against God’s order and institution, who despise and reject the external Word.” (What Luther Says, #2863)
Hearing God’s Word is like being hooked up to a dialysis machine.  Do you know what that is?  When a person’s kidneys are not doing their job of cleaning out the blood, the dialysis machine does it.  Hearing God’s Word is like plugging into a dialysis machine.  It cleans out all that other stuff we pick up from the world around us.  You see, if you don’t plug into God’s Word on a regular basis, you are going to end up plugging into something else.  We are constantly plugging into the world and its culture.  We need to plug into God’s Word to clear out our system and to grow closer to Jesus.
The problem is that we often underestimate the power of the preached word.  It seems so commonplace, so ordinary.  In that way the Word is like water.  We can’t survive without water but we take that for granted.  Water fountains, water hose, water bottles.  Water is all around us.  Here in Wisconsin we are not in danger of running out of water.  But if you were in the desert, a glass of water would not be something you take for granted.  God’s Word is here every Sunday.  It’s easy to take it for granted and forget how much our spiritual life relies on the Word.  So let us continue to use God’s Word to keep our faith alive.  Why confessions?  We are saved by faith alone through God’s Word alone.  
But faith is never alone.  Paul said, But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Is Paul saying that we earn our salvation by confessing Christ?  No, he is saying that the heart of faith will have a mouth that confesses.  If you see a branch on a tree in summer that has no leaves on it, what can you determine about that branch?  It’s dead.  So also, the lack of confession is a sign of a dead faith.  
Fruit trees were not created just to look pretty.  And God has not brought us to faith just to fill a silent spot in a pew.  Believing and confessing go together.  Christianity is a religion of words.  It’s not a religion of doing.  We are not saved by what we do.  We are saved by believing the Word.  Confessing our faith is the only real expression of our faith.  A Jew can live a good life.  A Muslim can live a good life.  Even an atheist can live a good life.  Living a good life is not necessarily an expression of our faith.  But our confession is.  Our confession tells people who God is, who we are and what God has done to save us.  
As members of this church, we have made a confession by our church membership.  Church membership is an act of confession.  It says that we believe the same thing.  Is that confession in our hearts?  Have we continued to study God’s Word enough to say that we still believe the same thing?  Is it in our heart?  Would you pass a catechism test if I were to give one to you today?  And if it is in our heart, we will confess.  
Some churches would prefer to use personal testimonies instead of written confessions.  There is nothing sinful about a personal testimony, but personal testimony focuses too much on me.  Salvation is not my accomplishment earned by my good works and brought about by my decision for Christ.  Salvation is a gift from God, given through the Word.  By using the confessions, we keep the focus on God and what he has done for us.  Saying the creeds together also says that we believe the same thing.  It unites us not only with each other here, but with God’s church throughout the ages and reminds us that we are part of something bigger than the here and the now.  
Today we are celebrating the presentation of the Augsburg Confession.  After Martin Luther exposed the spiritual abuses and false teachings of the Roman church, he was declared an outlaw and a heretic by the empire.  Nevertheless, Emperor Charles V could not stop the spread of the Gospel in Germany and throughout Europe.  Many German princes sided with Luther, including John the Steadfast of Saxony, who protected Luther.  
Charles V couldn’t attack those princes because he needed a united empire to fight off the Muslim invasion to the east.  In order to unite the empire he brought the leaders together at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 where the Lutherans were told to present their teachings to the Diet.  On this date, June 25th, 1530, the Augsburg Confession was read and signed by several of the princes and city leaders of Germany.  This is often considered the birth of the Lutheran Church.  Those who signed it knew the danger to themselves and their office.  They signed anyway ready to face the consequences.  George of Brandenburg declared, “Rather than deny my God and suffer the Word of God to be taken from me, I will kneel down and have my head struck off.” (Concordia Triglotta, p. 23)  Later, some of them would suffer loss of position, loss of land and even loss of freedom.   Why confessions?  Because we are saved by faith alone through God’s Word alone and we want to tell everyone what our God has done for us.  
That’s what Paul is talking about in our lesson today.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. . . . ,13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  
May we continue the Legacy of those Reformation confessors by confessing our faith and sharing the hope.