St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Take To Heart The Words That Are Declared Today

Confirmation Sermon on Deuteronomy 32:46,47

Text: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

“Listen up!” “Listen carefully to what I am telling you!” When might you hear words like these? You might hear them from a coach who wants to make sure that you are paying attention. A parent might say this, because what they have to say to you is important. An adult might hear them from his boss, because he wants to be sure that his employee is doing exactly what needs to be done. Just prior to our text for this morning, Moses sang a song in which he outlined what God had done for the people of Israel as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. In this song, he mentioned some of the times when there people’s ancestors had rebelled against God and suffered as a result. This was given as a warning for the people of that day. Moses also spoke of the ways that God had blessed their ancestors. This was an incentive to follow God’s paths. In conclusion, Moses spoke the words of our text. These words are also fitting for your confirmation day. It is my prayer that, not only you, but all of us would TAKE TO HEART THE WORDS THAT ARE DECLARED TODAY. 1. They Are Not Idle Words – They Are Your Life. 2. By Them You Will Live.

I’m going to ask you a question. How many songs, would you think, you know all of the lyrics to? Going all the way back to your early childhood today, how many songs have you learned? How many movies or television shows would you be able to quote from? My guess is that, if we were to begin counting, we would be surprised by how many there were. Thinking about your days in school, how many things have you learned? Going all the way back to kindergarten, how many math facts and social studies facts and English facts and science facts have you learned? You have spent eight plus years learning many things at school. You have learned a great deal during that time.

Looking ahead, how much of what you have learned will you remember? There will come a day, when you can’t remember exactly the words of your favorite song. You won’t be able to remember which movie that line came from. Also, I hate to break it to you, that there are some things that you learned in school that you will never use again. This is not to say that they are not important, but depending on what you do with the rest of your life, they may not pertain to it. In that sense, we might say that they have been idle words.

You have just spent the last three years with me in confirmation class. During that time, you have learned the chief parts of the catechism. You have learned quite a number of Bible passages during that time. You have learned the answers to the questions that you were asked earlier today. How are these words and these facts different from all of the other things that you have learned? Moses would tell you, “They are not just idle words for you — they are your life.” They are completely different, because by them you have eternal life.

These words that you have learned begin with the message of the law. We spent a great deal of time, approximately a third of each year, learning the law, as summarized in the Ten Commandments. It doesn’t take too long before we realize that we have not kept the law as God demands that it be kept. God tells us that he is to have the number one position in our lives. All too often, we have allowed other things to take that spot. It might be our relationship with other people. We don’t want to hurt them, so we fail to speak up for God’s ways. God tells us that we are to trust in him above all things. Yet, we find ourselves trusting in our wealth or our health. Rather than holding God as the most dear one to us, we put our recreation or other leisure activities in this place. The law points out just how wretched we are. It points its accusing finger at all of us. We hear verses like Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” The penalty for failing to be perfect is also just as clear. We heard it earlier in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” It is hard to think that these words are life to us. It sounds like they are nothing but gloom and death.

Yet, they are the beginning of life, because they make us realize that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot stand before God on our own. It is only when we are brought to this realization that we are ready to hear the message that gives us life, the gospel. We spent the remainder of the year focusing on this message. It started with the Father’s love for us. We then, highlighted Jesus’ work on our behalf. We were reminded that Jesus came to the earth to live a perfect life in our place. We had the opportunity to look at Jesus’ death on the cross and know that it was there that Jesus paid for our sins. We talked about what it means that Jesus rose from the dead. We can be sure that all of our sins have been paid for and that we will be with Jesus forever in heaven. Then, we focused on the work of the Holy Spirit. We saw that he took us, who are born outside of the family of God, and created the faith in our hearts that makes us his children and heirs of eternal life. Then, we focused on the ways that God continues to bless us through the sacraments and prayers.

This is the difference between all of the other things that you have learned to this point and what we learned in confirmation class. All of those other things are not really that important, in the grand scheme of things. When your time of this earth comes to its end, it won’t make a difference if you know what the Pythagorean theorem is, or what was the date of this historical event or that. What makes a difference will be your relationship with God. Jesus says in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” The words that you have learned and have declared in front of the congregation this morning are not idle words. They are not meaningless words. They are life.

As Moses spoke to the people about the words that he had spoken to them, he didn’t just point to their past. He pointed to their future. They were about to enter into the Promised Land. So, he also reminds them, “By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” When they followed God’s instructions for their lives, they would be blessed by God.

The same holds true for you as you go through the rest of your lives. In the next bit, you will have many changes in your lives. You will be going to high school and then, perhaps, college. It won’t be too long before you are out on your own. You are going to have to make many decisions about your life. The words that you have learned, God’s Word, will help you as you make those decisions. This is not to say that if you are wondering if you should move or take this or that job, you pull out the

Bible, flip it open, stick your finger at a random place on the page, and you will find your answer. What this means that, as you are looking as to how you might live as a Christian, how you should act as a Christian spouse, parent, or employee, you can find the instructions there. We, also, know that, when we do things in a God-pleasing way, thanking him for all that he has done for us, he will bless us. This does not mean that you will have great wealth or prestige when you live God’s way. Rather, God blesses us in so many ways, when we do it his way. By the words that you have learned you will live.

There is one other set of words that you will speak in just a few minutes that I would call your attention to. These are the vows that you will make before your God. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this teaching and to endure all things, even death, rather than fall away from it?” In other words, ‘Will you remain in what you have learned for the rest of your life? Are you willing to die rather than give up the teaching you have learned?’ That is a pretty big thing that you are promising God that you will do. The second question you will be asked is: “Do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the teachings of God’s Word, to be faithful in the use of the Word and sacrament, and in faith and action remain true to God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — as long as you live?” The second question asks if you will live the rest of your life as a Christian? Will you continue to come and hear God’s Word and receive the Lord’s Supper? This is also a very big thing that you will be promising to do. Are you up to that?

The fact is, on your own, you cannot keep these vows. No one can. That is why, to both of those questions, you will answer, “I do, and I ask God to help me.” Listen carefully to these words and lean on God for your strength to carry them out.

Dear members of Zion and St. John, friends and family, I would ask that all of us also listen carefully to the vows that these four make. Many of us have made these vows in the past and we know the struggles that accompany life. We know the temptations to throw it all away in pursuit of the things of this life. Keep these four young people in your prayers. Help to continue in what they profess today. Be an example to them. It is, ultimately, our prayer that all of us would enjoy that eternal life that waits for all of us in heaven, as a result of our God’s amazing love for us.

Chloe, Amara, Jacob, and Bradyn, I want to tell you that I am proud of what you did today. I am proud of how much you have learned since we started confirmation class three years ago. Remember how intimidating that first class was, when you saw how easily those in eighth grade got it, and you were wondering if you would ever get it? You stuck with it and made great progress. My dear friends, keep in the word. The word is where you will find your strength and guidance, your comfort and your hope. Take to heart the words that have been declared to you. Amen.