Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “God Gives Us Salvation” based on Acts 4:12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Confirmation Sunday, May 6, 2018
In 1999 LeDainian Tomlinson, college running back for TCU, broke a record for number of yards in one single football game. He rushed the ball for 406 yards. He was THE guy…THE ONLY guy who had ever done that. For 15 years that record stood, until our own Wisconsin Badger, Melvin Gordon, ran the ball for 408 yards in one game. And then Melvin Gordon became the ONLY ONE in Division I college football to have that many yards in one single game. Until a week later, when that record was broken by some guy from Oklahoma. The point is, someone may rise to the top and be THE guy, the ONLY ONE but just wait… eventually someone else will come along and take their place.
Not so with Jesus. He is the ONLY ONE who brings salvation. He’s the ONLY ONE who can bring you and me to heaven. No one else is ever going to come along and do what Jesus has so completely and perfectly done. The Apostle Peter agrees, when he says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This weekend we have 29 confirmands who also agree. Jesus is the Only Way to Salvation….there is no other.
That’s not a very popular message today. We live in what some call a pluralistic society. That’s where we have many different people who have many different backgrounds and cultures…AND…many different beliefs. In fact, in a pluralistic society, people are encouraged to be tolerant. Believe what you want. Just don’t force your beliefs on other people…and be willing to admit that their beliefs are just as valid and true as yours are.
Do you know that our surroundings today are not that different than what Peter and John had to deal with? Let me provide some background. Jesus had ascended into heaven. He told his disciples, go to Jerusalem and wait there – I’ll send the Holy Spirit to you. That had happened. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, they told people about Jesus. They taught and preached. And that got them into trouble. The local authorities didn’t like them preaching and teaching that Jesus was the ONLY WAY TO SALVATION. They arrested Peter and John and told them to stop it! And that’s when Peter replies: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
1st Century Jerusalem, 21st Century America – not much has changed. People still don’t like the idea of Jesus being the only way. And if you suggest as much, you might be called an arrogant jerk or a narrow-minded jerk or any number of colorful words for jerk. Consider this: Just three weeks ago a young Italian boy named Emanuele approached a world-renowned Christian leader and asked him whether or not his atheist dad would be in heaven. And with a hug and smile, that church leader assured little Emanuele that his father who had shunned and rejected and denied Jesus his whole life, is now comfortably at Jesus’ side in heaven.
In other words, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe or who you believe in. We all end up in the same place at the end.” Today we denounce that pluralistic viewpoint. Today we echo the words of Peter: JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION. By God’s grace we make that confession…29 teenagers make that confession.
And today, we admit how badly we need Jesus. You see, we believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus…but we also believe what the Bible teaches about us. One of the passages the confirmands learned well, and we know too, comes from Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful from birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me. We are conceived and born into this world with a great need for saving. We can ignore it…make light of it…or flat out deny it…but the truth is, when I was born into this world, no one had to teach me how to be greedy or how to think about myself first. I didn’t need lessons on how to lie or talk back to my parents or hold resentment in my heart or pout when I didn’t get my way. I didn’t need a step-by-step youtube video to show me how to become a pathetic sinful human being who was deserving of God’s punishment. I could do that all by myself. What I couldn’t do was change my status.
There’s ONLY ONE who could. There’s ONLY ONE…
- Who would take my filthy garments of sin and wear them as he suffered and died on the cross…meanwhile taking his clean and perfect garments of obedience and holiness and draping them on me at my baptism.
- Who would change…has changed…my status from pathetic sinner to forgiven sinner…from lost orphan to found child of God…from hell-bent to heaven-bound.
- ONLY ONE – that’s Jesus.
Salvation is found in no one else! Prior to saying that, Peter had said, of Jesus, that he was “the stone the builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” In other words, yes it’s true, many have rejected this precious stone…many people have tossed Jesus aside and decided to build their lives and their eternal hopes on someone or something else – to their peril…but just because many have rejected him…just because we may live in a pluralistic society…that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is indeed the capstone. Which means, he is the most important part. Everything must be built off of him.
- Our purpose in life is defined ONLY by him.
- Forgiveness for the many times we have failed comes ONLY from him.
- A relationship with the true God comes ONLY through him.
- A victory over death and sin is ONLY because of him.
Let me illustrate. This past December I had a funeral. A life-long Christian and now at the age of 88, his body was wearing down and eventually, he fell asleep. There was some sadness, because Dad would be missed; but mostly the son rejoiced because Dad was now with Jesus. A month later I had another funeral. A life-long Christian, but he was a few months shy of his 25th birthday. About a decade ago he wore a white robe and sat right there as a member of the 2007 confirmation class. I’m sure at the time of his confirmation, he hadn’t planned on a heart attack at age 24. But at the time of his confirmation he did plan to place his trust in Jesus…because he knew that ONLY JESUS was the way to salvation.
I stood in the hospital room as that young man was drifting off to sleep. I saw family members come in and out of the room, saying their goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching. There was definitely sadness; because he would be missed.
- But even through the tears, his mom saw heaven waiting for her son.
- Even amidst the pain of sadness, his mom knew her son’s sins had been forgiveness by Jesus.
- Even when she was blanketed in hurt, she knew her son was blanketed baptismal grace.
- Even in her emptiness, she knew her son would enjoy the fulness of heaven.
Why? Because of Jesus. For her and her son, Jesus was not the throw-away stone.
Jesus is the ONLY ONE and the MOST IMPORTANT ONE not just on the day we wear the white robes and make our confirmation vows and not just on the day we close our eyes and fall into the sleep of death – but every day in between
-since forgiveness and victory over death and a relationship with God comes ONLY through him
-we will make it our purpose and goal to live for him.