April 7 “Confession”

Confession

It is a powerful thing to believe something; to confess what we believe is more powerful still.
In this way we are made in the image of God: our speech brings things into existence. Not to the extent of God’s confessions, to be sure. He confessed a universe and suddenly there was a universe. We certainly cannot create physical realities by simply saying, “Let there be…” but God can and did and does. Our confessions of belief create the internal universe of our interpretation of events and objects and people. We cannot confess “rain” and see it fall but we can sing a song like “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” and see it come true.

Confessing Christ
Jesus was instructing His listeners and followers in the Father’s confession over us—He loves us more than many sparrows! He is committed to us, offering eternal life as well as meaningful life while we remain earthbound. We must respond to these astounding confessions with confessions of our own. We must confess Christ. It is one thing to believe in our hearts—it is an essential thing—and quite another to confess with our mouths, to go public with what we believe. It takes courage. Once spoken, a new life begins. A bridge is crossed over a wide chasm; it would be foolhardy to turn back, to turn away from life and return to death. Confession of Christ is the crossing of that bridge.

Confession and Denial
Confession brings the contents of the heart to the surface for all to see. If a person is quietly considering the Jesus Story, pondering its status as truth or legend, history or myth, it is a private matter. No one sees. No one hears. Life is not altered in any way. When that careful consideration becomes a confession before men, everything changes. Life is fundamentally altered. A contract with the Almighty has been enacted, the New Covenant. God’s promises to His People go into effect. These blessings are the ones Jesus told us about in the Sermon on the Mount:

  • A new way of living,
  • A personal candle burning in each of us,
  • A house built on the Rock, impervious to storms, and
  • A privilege of prayer in the Secret Place with the Father every day.

When we confess Christ before men, the contract, the Covenant, goes into force.

Some will consider Christ in their hearts and decide that it is all a myth, a hopeful spasm of dull minds, a dead end dream that simply cannot be true. They will call Jesus a good man, a great teacher—though they do not believe what He taught—another fine person cut down by hate before he could reach his potential. Nonsense. These confessions of Jesus are worthless and deceiving, no matter how popular they are. They are an attempt to file The Jesus Story away in some safe place, lock it in a drawer, and erase it from the mind. Who needs it?

What is the response to such denial? With sadness deeper than we can ever imagine, Jesus denies the unbeliever before the Father.

Count the Cost
Confessing Christ is not for cowards. Some lose their families to gain Christ. Some lose their earthly lives to gain eternal ones. The irony of confessing Christ is expressed in the words of Jesus:

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

The life you possess came from God. Sin stole it from you. To believe in your heart and confess with your mouth is to lose it in Jesus and find it again.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:32-39
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Romans 10:8-13
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I confess that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! I join my voice to Peter and to countless saints through the ages who have made this confession. I confess that You are my Savior, my Lord and Master, and my soon-coming King! You have a plan for my life and You show it to me one step at a time by the power of Your Holy Spirit. I confess that today will be a day of faithfulness to that plan and a day peace in the process. I confess that my life is hidden in Yours and that my life is solidly built on the Rock! Amen and Amen.

Songs:
Life Giver / You Are the Christ
Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owes (from The Witness)

Who is this who has life to give?
Who is this who tells the dead to live?
Not an ordinary man with some words of truth to say
Who has His moment in the sun and one day fades away.

Who is this who has life to give?
Who is this who tells the dead to live?
Not an ordinary man but one who dares to say
He is the resurrection and the life,
And then offers it to you and me.

Come to the Life Giver, come to the Life Giver,
And let Him pour His life on You,
Let Him pour His life on You.
Let Him pour His life on You.

Who am I? What are they saying?
Do they know the truth or are they blind?
Who am I? What do you call me?
Tell me, what is my name?

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
I say You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
You are the Christ—You are the Lord!

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
I say You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
You are the Christ—You are my Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 22 “Confession”

Confession

Words have power. When they are spoken that power is called into action.
Jesus grew up confessing the psalms. It was part of the training of every boy in Nazareth. Since He was—Jesus!—we can be sure that He had a deeper understanding than others of these normal processes. The Holy Spirit inside of Him told Him things, gave Him a perspective on normal events and practices that others could not see. Thus, when as a young man, He began this teaching and miracle tour of the regions around Galilee, He had lots to say, many observations to share and many parables and metaphors to employ. Among these was the power of confession.

Jesus knew that beliefs privately held possessed an innate power and when those beliefs were publicly spoken, that innate power externalized; it entered into life itself. The crowds coming to Him were enormous and they did not depart from Him disappointed. He knew there would be many theories as to who He was. If the general confession was that He was Messiah, it could bring about the end too soon. Perhaps for this reason He implored those who benefitted from His healing, delivering touch to remain quiet about it. It was a hopeless cause, of course. Who, once blind but now seeing, could not confess it? What deaf person now hearing, lame person now walking, dead person now alive, could refrain from telling people about Jesus? What sane person, once possessed by emissaries from hell, now clothed and in his right mind could keep from telling people how it happened as by whose hand?

Bethsaida
So they came to a fishing village called Bethsaida. A blind man was led to Jesus by friends. He and his friends begged Jesus to touch him. Jesus did some strange things:

  • He took the man by the hand and led him out of town.
  • He spat in the man’s eyes and laid His hands on him.
  • He interviewed the man. He asked if he could see anything.

“I see men like trees, walking.”

The job wasn’t finished. The man’s true confession revealed that there was more healing needed. Jesus touched his eyes again and made the man look up, beyond the level of men or trees. The blind man’s vision was completely restored. Then Jesus sent him home, commanding him not to confess his miracle to the town. He left the outskirts of the village and made his way unassisted home avoiding the townspeople.

Caesarea Philippi
By foot Jesus and the Twelve went north to Caesarea Philippi on the slopes of Mount Hermon, the northernmost point of Jesus’ ministry. On the road, Jesus asked His disciples about the various confessions of His identity. As they discussed various ideas expressed by the wondering crowds, Jesus asked them personally who they were confessing Him to be. Peter’s answer continues to ring all these centuries later.

“You are the Christ.”

It was too soon for this explosive confession, so Jesus asked them to keep this to themselves for a little while.

Confessing Christ
It is great to believe in Jesus, but we must confess Him publicly. When we do this with repentance, we become a follower of Him. When we do this every day we are a witness to Him. The innate power of our believe goes out into the world with our confession and someone’s life gets changed.

Scriptures
Mark 8:22-30
Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.” Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

Prayer:
Confession of Faith

The Apostles’ Creed
From the Book of Common Payer
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Don Moen

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church and we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birth.
We believe in the resurrection
That Christ one day will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy, holy is our God!
Worthy, worthy, worthy is our King!
All glory and honor are His to receive.
To Jesus we sing because we believe.

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2017: “Believing”

Believing

There is an exercise for the spirit, soul, and body. 
No heavy weights will clank behind us.  Our breathing will not be affected.  No muscles will be flexed or stretched.  No calculations will spin in our brains.  No emotions are required but joy in the aftermath of the workout is assured.  What is this marvelous exercise?

Believing.

Believing the Word of God, the words of Jesus, and the covenantal promises of our Father in heaven rejuvenates the body, refreshes the soul, and revives the spirit.  It is a daily discipline.  Yesterday’s believing will not get us through today.  Tomorrow’s believing will have to wait until this day turns from test to testimony and goes into the record books.

In daily prayer we review the things we believe and we believe them again.  Systematically we read the Book, pray the psalms, see the story of Jesus and the disciples on the movie screen of the mind, and we check our inbox for letters from the Apostles.  As we read and pray, we believe—again.

  • Jesus speaks to us.
  • We travel with Peter and Paul and Silas and Luke throughout the world tell people about Jesus.
  • We weep with the prophets over a backslidden people of God.
  • We wonder with them at the bright Kingdom soon to come.
  • We are charged with the job of living the productive life in the Spirit and
  • we gaze with wonder at the revelation of Jesus we soon will see.

We are believing.

Our believing affects not only us, it affects the world we inhabit.
Though “deep darkness covers the peoples,” the Lord “shines on us” as we step into the day.  At the end of the day, the burning ball of the sun might set, but our central light keeps shining deep into the night.  Why? Because we are  continually believing.

In the shadows enemies may plot against us.  In the streets and offices of the marketplace foes may lie in wait to ambush us.  We do not fear what man can do to us for a squad of angels goes before us and goodness and mercy are following us. Why?  Because we go into the world believing.

We are saved, translated from darkness to light, because we confessed with our mouth and believed in our hearts.  We are fruitful in life because we feed on the eternal Word of God and drink deeply of the living water flowing freely from the well Jesus dug in our hearts when we first believed in Him.  We are fearless because we believe that if God is for us, it simply doesn’t matter who is against us.  We are at peace, our borders secured by armies of angels and our hearts guarded by the unsleeping eye of our Father in heaven.

Today, your assignment is this:  Keep believing!

Scriptures:
Psalm 119:65-66
Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.
Mark 5:36; 9:24 NKJV
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 11: 24 NKJV
…I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mark 16:15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
John 20:26-31
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Romans 3:22; 6:8; 10:7-11
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believeNow if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
… “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Prayer:
The Apostles’ Creed
The Book of Common Prayer
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Don Moen

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church And we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birth.
We believe in the resurrection,
That Christ one day Will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy, Holy is our God
Worthy, worthy, Worthy is our King
All glory and honor Are His to receive.
To Jesus we sing Because we believe.

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved