Sermon “No Other Name” (no audio captured this week, sorry)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
There is no other name by which we are saved. No name other than the name of Jesus. We read that in Acts 4:12. Jesus, according to the apostles, is the only one who brings life and salvation. He is the only one who has died for the sins of the world. He is the only one who has redeemed humanity to God. He is the only one who has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. He is the only savior we have. He is the one who gives us reason to proclaim salvation no matter the cost. He is the one who leads the apostles to defy the Jewish authorities, to continue proclaiming the name of Jesus for salvation no matter the opposition, to give up their very lives.
What is it about this name of Jesus? Why did those early believers cling to their faith so stubbornly? Why did they give their time, their money, their possessions, their families, and their lives for the Gospel? They did it for one reason, and finally only one reason. There was no cultural pressure for the early Christians to live as Christians. It was considered abnormal, just like today. There was no economic benefit to living as a Christian. Quite the opposite. Being a Christian businessman in the first century meant risking poverty. Family pressures were against conversion to Christianity. It was considered foolish, even dangerous, to live as a Christian. So why did they do it? Because Jesus showed himself to be the savior. Jesus showed that he was the good shepherd who laid down his life for his people. Jesus is the one in whose name we are delivered from death and hell. He showed that when he died and captured the sin of the world. He showed that when he descended into hell and proclaimed his victory to the souls in prison like a victorious general makes a parade through the land he has conquered. He showed that when he rose from the dead as the firstfruits of the resurrection. He showed that when he ascended to heaven. He showed it when he sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven. he shows it day by day as he lives to make intercession for the saints. Jesus, the good shepherd, is the resurrection and the life. No one comes to the Father but by him. There is no other name under heaven or on the earth or under the earth by which we may be saved. None other. Accept no substitutes! Jesus is the savior. He's the only savior. Nobody else will do.
I'm afraid there's a disconnect, though. It may be a serious one. Most of us in this room will confess that Jesus is the savior. But do we agree about how serious our state is without him? Do we agree about the desperate state of our world aside from Christ? Do we realize that apart from Jesus' blood and righteousness applied to us we stand condemned? Maybe we fall into that deadly trap, and it is a deadly trap, of thinking that the Church is some sort of a social organization. I've been told by well-meaning people that it's nice that I as a pastor am in the “helping professions” along with social workers, counselors, and people who run public food pantries. Maybe we think of the Church as that, just something that helps people get by. I've had people here, from this congregation, suggest to me that we should do mre counseling and point out that ours might be as helpful as that of the secular counseling center but that ours is free. Maybe people just need to come to church and it will fix all their problems. I have news for you. The business of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus, the savior of the world, whose forgiveness and cleansing is greater than all our sin and shame. The business of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus, the one who reconciled us to God. And if we are reconciled to God we may as well get used to the idea that as God's reconciled people we can live at peace with our neighbors also, even if they choose not to. The business of the Church is to point people to Jesus and his work for them. The business of the Church is to bring the help and hope that Jesus provides to our community. It isn't about the help and hope that we can provide. There's nothing in it about our human potential. It isn't our own strength, it isn't our own answers, it isn't our own wisdom, and it certainly isn't the wisdom of the medical community, the social science researchers, or the pharmaceutical manufacturers. None of those people are in the business of resurrection. Jesus is in the business of resurrection. Is our counsel free? It sure is. And it's effective, because it's God's wisdom, it's God's redemption, it's all about Jesus for you, not you changing yourself to be nice to the people you are in conflict with or about you changing your attitude about yourself. It is about God changing his attitude about you, giving you an identity as a chosen heir of the heavenly realms. It is about Jesus laying down his life for you. There's no other name by which we are saved. All the rest is window dressing.
Now before I make some of you stalk out in anger, please give me a moment. I know what I've been saying goes counter to what our society has taught us, particularly in the past forty years. During that time solid Christian faith has dropped off in some parts of our society. In fact, among average, working-class people, in the past forty years, during my lifetime, and during the lifetime of most of you, regular involvement in the body of Christ has decreased by about half. People are flocking away from the Church, saying it doesn't seem relevant to them. And the more we do to try to be engaging, the more we do to try to imitate our world's approach to social organizations, in short, the more we see ourselves as existing in the realm of the “helping professions” the more irrelevant we seem to be. We have lost the proclamation of the power of God. We need to recapture it. Was I saying that the secular counselor can't do any good? I wasn't saying that. Was I saying that the doctor who prescribes you a medication to help deal with some of the physical or emotional difficulties you are having can't do any good? I wasn't saying that. I was saying that we can't depend on those things alone. They are based on man's intuition. They are based on man's wisdom. They are temporal, not eternal. They are of limited usefulness. They generally deal with only part of the picture. Our Lord deals with the underlying issues. He's the one who created us. He knows us. And he has laid down his life for us.
So what is our response? Do we simply proclaim Christ crucified and leave everyone to work out the details? Do we proclaim Jesus as the resurrection and life and then try to live our lives as well as we can, leaving everyone else to live a life as well as he can? What did we see in 1 John? We see that we also lay our lives down for our neighbor. We also give our goods, our money, our time, all that we have in order to love and serve our neighbors. We serve as Jesus' instruments of grace to call our world to faith in him. What were the Jewish leaders upset about in Acts? They were upset that the apostles were preaching faith in Jesus. What did they bring the apostles in for? It was because they showed mercy to a person.
I want to challenge each and every person in this congregation today. And I'll probably keep challenging you in this way. Can you think of three people who you know, people who are in need of the mercy and grace of Jesus? People you can show that grace to? People you can love and serve for Christ? I'm sure you can. A few of you are looking at family members right now. So let me make it more difficult. Make those three people who are not involved in a faithful Christian congregation. Make sure they are people who you have no reason to believe are trusting in Christ. Take a moment and think of them. Maybe you want to write their names on your prayer list in the bulletin. Now here's the challenge. Pray for those people. Seek out ways to love them and serve them in Christ. Pray that the Lord will give you opportunity, and that you will take the opportunity, to talk with them, to let them know that you, as someone who trust in Jesus, the one who has reconciled you to God, will care for them no matter what, and that you would like to see them living at peace with the true God, the triune God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, trusting in the name of Jesus, the one name under heaven and earth and under the earth by which we might be saved. Three people. What if they reject you? It's all right. How many times have we rejected Jesus? What if they believe? Then they see Jesus' redemption is for them as well.
Jesus has laid down his life for us. Let us lay down our lives for others. Yet as I close this sermon I am compelled to ask, do you see Jesus as the redeemer? Do you trust in him? Do you call upon his name as the only one by which we might be saved? If not, look to him in faith. He is the one who has laid down his life for you. And if you are realizing your need for him, if you are realizing that he is the one calling you to himself in repentance, cast your cares on him. He cares for you. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It was true when John wrote it in the first century. It was true when we proclaimed it at the start of the church service. And it's true now.
Now may the Lord of all mercy grant us his grace, in the blessed name of Jesus, our Savior, the one who reconciles us to God. Amen.