Each year we have a special Sunday when we recognize those young people who have studied God’s Word in order to become adult members of our congregation. It’s an important Sunday for so many reasons, but I’ll just list a few. First, it helps everyone in the congregation to remember how important Christian education is. Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, getting bogged down by sports, grades, extra-curriculars, jobs, etc. is a very real condition. Sometimes, I get the sense from our parents that they’re just run ragged by everything. And, without downgrading any of those things, I think that can be a pretty effective tool of Satan to keep you from seeing one thing, and that is how well you are passing on your Christian faith. Confirmation Sunday is a reminder and encouragement for all of us to make sure we’re doing that. Second, this Sunday gives us the opportunity to pray for these young people specifically. Young people need our prayers. Pastor Degner once told me that young people have it harder today than ever before. I don’t know if that’s exactly right, but he was smarter than I am, so I’m just going to agree. Pray for these students. Even after today, continue to pray for them.
But there’s another reason, too. Confirmation Sunday may be one of those few times in your life when you have a sermon that is directed just at you. So, while I know everyone else is going to be listening, I want you to know, Marty, Hunter, and Tate, that this sermon is mostly for you guys. I want everyone else to listen and learn what God has to say, too, but I wrote this with you in mind. I don’t have time to cover everything that we talked about in catechism classes, because you have been learning this stuff for three years now. But I want to remind you of some of the most important things. These are things that I want you to take with you for the rest of your life. Sometimes we adults take people your age too lightly. We sometimes treat you as if this time of your life doesn’t matter or as if everything is going to change anyway. I’m not going to do that today. The things I am going to tell you in this sermon, and the things that you will promise before your congregation and your God later on are not temporary. These are life-long matters. They don’t go away. It would be really hard for me to tell you to remember it all, so I won’t. But, remember the most important parts.
In my life, I have a rule. When I buy clothes, I always buy earth tones. That way, my clothes almost always match. Sometimes I wear way too much brown, but otherwise it usually works out. I think it flows from a general philosophy I have about life to avoid being flashy. I just tend not to be a flashy person. I’m pretty average looking. I make bad jokes. I listen to calm blue grass music. My favorite food is probably everyone else’s favorite food: pizza. I think that’s okay—especially for a pastor. Imagine if it was different. Imagine if I wore the nicest, trendiest clothes. I was just ripped, looked like I spent most of my time in the gym. I was the funniest, cleverest preacher in the whole world. I was super charismatic, and people just loved me. To some that might sound nice, but I think it’s a trap. Maybe what it would come down to is this: what if people joined this church because they liked me? I think that would be awful. In those cases, I would have been a reason that people missed the real reason our church exists—to trust in Jesus.
I know that it may sound like this is just another excuse for me to avoid exercising and continuing to eat lots of pizza, but it’s just another way of saying what the apostle Paul does:
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Paul was also not a flashy pastor. He says that he wasn’t a good speaker, some people think he may have even had a speech impediment. He didn’t try to impress people with his beautiful words or his amazing knowledge. He could do miracles, but he didn’t, because that wasn’t the point. The point was his weakness, and he didn’t try to hide it.
Weakness is something that our society hates. I bet, it’s something your brain is even trained to hate by this point in your life. I bet you hear in school that you need to try and get rid of weakness, to overcome it and defeat it. I don’t think that’s bad, but I want you to know that you will never be able to get rid of all your weaknesses, and that is a good thing. Your weaknesses are something to boast about. People should not come to this church because of how flashy and amazing their pastor is. I hope they don’t. Instead, I will boast more and more about by weaknesses. I want people to see them. I want people to know that I am not the best, the smartest, the coolest. I am a weak, mortal man, but Jesus isn’t. In spite of me and my weaknesses, Jesus has shown me grace and uses me to preach his Word. I am not Jesus. I love him. I want to be like him, but I am so far from being him. Yet, I am so happy to have him show through me.
One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is in this section. It’s probably the most important thing I try to do as a pastor: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). For the apostle Paul, for me, for this congregation you are joining, everything is about Jesus Christ who crucified to take away our sins. My friends, do not rely on yourselves. Don’t not seek flashiness. Certainly, seek to overcome your weaknesses, but don’t be ashamed of them. The world is going to tell you a different message. In fact, I bet your parents, your family, and friends are going to tell you a different message. But, that’s the way of the world. That way doesn’t lead to wisdom or knowing Jesus. It leads to confusion. It may even lead you to unbelief and eternal death.
I told you earlier that I want you to remember the most important parts of today. Here’s the first thing. Remember this. Don’t forget it. Know nothing except Christ crucified. Jesus has saved you, not only from your sin, not only from death, not only from Satan, but also from the lies of this world. He has saved you from the emptiness of needing to be the best, the smartest, the flashiest. Honestly, God doesn’t really care about those things. In heaven, he’s not going to say, “Welcome to heaven, you’re here because you so funny,” or good at track, or video games or whatever. Everything revolves around Jesus Christ, who was crucified for you. It is this that gives you value, dignity, and something to boast about. Remember this: know nothing except Christ crucified. Nothing else matters. Let your life be about Jesus, so that others can see him through you.
To accomplish this, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom. You’ve spent three years building yourselves a foundation on God’s Word. It is through this that God has made you wise. It’s through his Word that he has given you the mind of Christ. Think about it this way. Imagine that your whole life you have lived in a dark cave, deep underground. There underground, you are chained to a wall, unable to move or leave. All day long, you stare at the cave wall across from you. But, it’s not as boring as it sounds. Because somewhere behind you there’s a fire, and people come and make shadows on the wall. You don’t know who they are. You don’t know what the shadows mean. You and your fellow prisoners sit and talk about the shadows. You talk about who might be making them. You try to figure out just what it all means. But mostly, you’re just guessing.
Then one day, in the darkness of the cave, you feel someone unsnap your shackles. Your legs and arms are free for the first time ever. You hear a voice that says, “Follow me,” so you do. You follow the person up the wall you used to be chained to. You see the fire there that lit the wall you spent so much time staring at. You’ve never seen anything like it before, but it suddenly becomes uninteresting to you. For the first time, you see a passageway that leads out of that room in the cave. The voice you’re following says, “This is the way.” As you walk out the passage way, everything begins to change. At first, it’s really dark, but the further and further you get out, the more light you see. You notice something you never have before—colors. Soon, in front of you, there’s the brightest light you have ever seen. Then, for the first time, you step out of the darkness and into the light. The world explodes with colors all around you. The sky is blue. There’s fluffy white clouds floating overhead. The sun is casting a beautiful yellow light all over a field of the greenest grass ever. There’s flowers that are blue, purple, red, orange growing everywhere. It’s overwhelming at first, and it should be. You’ve never seen anything like this before. All you’ve ever known is shadows on a cave-wall. This is the reality.
At that point, do you decide to head back into the cave, rechain yourself to the wall and stare at shadows again? How could you do it? You’ve seen the truth, that Christ has been crucified for you. God has led you out into the light, so that you know him, and it’s changed everything. He has revealed to you this fascinating mystery about how he saved the whole world. I know you may be tempted to go back into the dark, to stare at the wall and talk about shadows again. But, by faith in Jesus, you have seen the light. In fact, you have been given the light. You have the mind of Christ. This is the second thing to remember. Take this home with you today: You have the mind of Christ. You know what Jesus stood for, and through his Holy Spirit and his Word, he is guiding you to know just what life looks like following him. It might not be flashy, but that’s fine. Because in this world of color, he’s the Sun that illuminates everything. My friends he has illuminated you.
“12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words…. we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13, 16).
Know nothing except Christ crucified. You have the mind of Christ. Amen.