Fear God & Give Him Glory
Text: Revelation 14:6-7
Reformation Sunday, C
What do people fear more than anything? That is a difficult question as there could be so many different answers. Most people’s fears have moved away from the ghosts and witches and goblins you see on so many front lawns in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Today our fears lean more toward identity theft, global catastrophes, or the internet going down for more than a few minutes. However, if we were to define our fears not by what makes us queasy or short of breath just to think about, but by what actually makes us change our behaviour to avoid at all costs ... well then, I think a very good argument could be made that the real fear most of us have is being embarrassed in front of others. For the fear of being thought stupid we keep our mouths closed. For the fear of being seen as intolerant, we accept what we know is wrong as if it were not. For the fear of prosecution or persecution we will stop doing or start doing almost anything.
But here is the really scary part. No matter how much you say or do to avoid this fear of losing face in front of others, it is still going to happen. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s zero. The worm always turns. The glory of always being adored, respected or just plain liked by one and all is not for you or me. One day you will be called out, mocked, ridiculed, persecuted. The only question is whether it will be for a good reason or not. Will you be called out for standing with the good and the right, or for standing with the mob who is just looking for an excuse to turn on you when you become an easy target?
6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."
Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of real wisdom. Why? Because His judgment alone will stand. Because His will shall be done. Because He’s the guy in the big chair, and He’s the One who lays down the Law. 19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
It is a fool’s errand. No one can live up to the ever-changing human standards of what is now acceptable. Yet those human standards are nothing compared to the accountability we face under God’s Law. His demands have never once changed, but they are also absolute. And if you are not perfect then the best you can do is be quiet. Don’t even bother trying to argue the point that you didn’t understand, or that you will do better, or you were raised that way, and you will overcome those prejudices if allowed another chance. You will never be justified that way. The only hope for you is forgiveness! And that’s the main problem with so much of our world’s fear based overreaction and virtue signaling. It all amounts to works of the Law in the hope of justifying yourself before others. Others, who do not understand forgiveness let alone offer it. Once you’ve been labeled there is no redemption for you. With man such things are impossible, but with God even this kind of forgiveness is good, right, and truly possible.
21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This is of course the great Reformation Gospel. The greatest of Good News for those who simply don’t measure up. For fools like you and me and Martin Luther. We are all sinners, failures, fools. But God has come and justified us. God has made us right with Him again, by the gift of His grace through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. A perfect and holy man who, even while He was dying for the sins of the world, was mocked by the woke mob of His day. Yet even then, Jesus offered them peace and forgiveness in His prayers for them from right there on the cross.
This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus ... 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. If you don’t want to be seen as a fool, then turn your face to the one who is your justifier. Place your trust in the one who set His face to go to the cross so one day you could meet Him face to face in heaven. Fear the one whose will is just and right and absolute, and then give God the glory for your salvation. Praise Him for the Gospel at work in your life.
6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Did you hear that dear friends? The Gospel is eternal. No amount of woke cancel culture will ever remove it, defeat it or cancel it. The Gospel, the good news will still be here for you long after the last person with blue hair, tattoos and frightful piercings has been canceled by their own outrage. The Gospel remains no matter how many times we might lose sight, lose our nerve or simply lose steam in our quest to be faithful Christians. The Gospel and its good news for us fools is forever.
And Jesus Himself tells us what that good news is: 31"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 33They answered him, "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?" 34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Son has set you free and you are free indeed. And you are free because of what He has done, not by anything you could ever do. Lutherans understand this better than most. It is baked into our Church’s DNA. And so, foolishly (as some would see it) here we still stand. We can do no other. God have mercy on our souls that fear Him first and always, and seek to give Him the glory in all things. AMEN.