John 17:1-11a After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-- the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one.
Faith Peyron is a freshman at Shoreland Lutheran High School. Faith has leukemia. This past year her classmates at Shoreland have supported Faith with their friendship, their prayers and with benefits to raise money for her battle against leukemia.
Recently, one of the local papers picked up the story of Faith’s battle against leukemia. They posted something on Facebook that told Faith’s story and then said, “Send positive thoughts Faith’s way.”
It sounds good, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
Did you go to the cemetery this past Memorial Day to pay your respects to departed loved ones? Did you sit there on the bench and tell them what’s been going on in your life lately?
Have you wished your child “good luck” before a big game? Have you said, “My thoughts and prayers are with you?” Do you ever comment on how well things are going for you and then add, “Knock on wood?” Do you ever worry about “jinxing” something or believe that bad things come in threes? Do you ever look for a visible sign from God or wish that God would speak to you in some way?
Maybe you don’t avoid black cats, or it doesn’t bother you to walk under a ladder, or you have no fear of breaking a mirror or stepping on a crack. But even we Christians get caught up in all kinds of superstition and mysticism.
Maybe it is looking for a sign from God, and all of a sudden the sun shines on us. Or maybe we don’t know if we should have the medical procedure or not so we are looking for God to speak to us to tell us what to do.
Do you see the danger in all of this?
Every single one of these examples removes God and His holy Word from the equation.
When someone is hurting, you may like to say, “My thoughts and prayers go out to you.” But positive thinking does absolutely nothing for the person. Getting your hands dirty and helping them aids them. Actually praying to the almighty God certainly helps. But thinking about someone does no good at all. Thoughts stay in your head. St. John tells us, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
You cannot talk to your deceased relatives. Hopefully, by God’s grace, they are in heaven. They are too busy praising God in paradise to be concerned with what’s going on down here. Non-Christians try to speak to the dead in séances. Christians speak to the Living One, who holds the keys to death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).
Wishing good luck or knocking on wood or worrying about jinxes of any kind are all erasing the almighty God’s power and control from your life.
I know this may offend you. You’ve been saying and doing these things for so long.
Mysticism is nothing more than the worship of your feelings. Superstition is an irrational belief resulting from ignorance. These are what the pagans do. Christians pray to God, listen to God only in His Word, and trust God’s will in their lives. Everything else if from the devil.
One removes glory from God. The other gives glory to God.
A mystical Jesus is no Jesus. A superstitious faith is no faith.
In the upper room, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus gathered His disciples together and prayed for them. We call this Jesus’ High Priestly prayer.
Jesus first prays to the Father for Himself. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your son, that your Son may glorify you.” He knows the His glory is in His death, His being lifted up on the cross, drawing all men to Himself, and in so doing, bringing glory to the Father. He knows that the way of glory is to come from God, go through death and the grave, rise from the dead, and return to that glory by way of His ascension.
He then prays for those men gathered around Him in the upper room; His inner circle of apostles, those He would send. They are His apostles, His sent ones, His authorized representatives who would speak “in His stead and by His command.” He was “leaving,” withdrawing His visible presence from the world, but they would remain. Jesus would go to the Father, but they would remain in this world to proclaim Him.
In the third part of His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prays for all believers, “for those who will believe in me through their word.” He prays for their unity through His holy Word.
Two times in His prayer, Jesus mentions the importance of His words. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” Then, “I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.”
Jesus prayed that His disciples of all times would use His words – obey His words, listen to His words, and accept His words. Jesus prays for us because He knows how little we like to use His words – how we avoid Bible studies and special worship services and family devotions and anything else where God’s Word is prevalent.
The devil’s first lie is always to remove Jesus’ words from our lips, out of our hands, away from our eyes and ears. The very first temptation was the devil telling Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:4-5)
Do you really want to know what God has to say? Really? Are you ready to hear it? I’m not so sure.
There is a plague affecting Christianity these days … but it’s not anything new. People claim they want to hear what God has to say, so they look for signs, search their hearts, and explore their feelings. But God doesn’t speak to us in any of those ways. Those are the places where the devil and our sinful flesh inhabit.
People claim they want to hear what God has to say, but they don’t. Not really. Why? Because God usually has something to say that we really would rather not hear. God will tell us precisely how, why, when and where we are ruining everything in our lives. And that’s the bit we would rather not have God talk to us about.
It seems God is not really all that great a conversationalist. He is kind of a fanatic, and that’s the sort of person who won’t stop talking and won’t change the subject. And that’s pretty much what God is like when He talks to us. He won’t change the subject, no matter how much we wish He would. There are a lot of people who turn to false gods and false hopes and false religions precisely because they talk about things that interest them. And nothing is of more interest to you than you, right? You would rather have God talk about you, but even then, to talk about you in a very certain way – positively. “God, please assure me once more what a basically wonderful person I am, that I’m not really all that bad.”
Well, the bad news is that God does not talk to you, and me, the way we would prefer, but in the way He chooses to talk to us. And where is that?
In His Word.
God talks to you, and to me, through His Word. When you pick up your Bible, that is God speaking directly to you. He is always going to be speaking to you using either His Law or His Gospel.
Jesus prayed to His Father, “I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.”
God’s Word is the only place where God speaks to us. He speaks to us like a Father – openly, honestly, lovingly. Open your Bible and you will hear God pointing out your sin. He will tell you that you have disobeyed Him in your thoughts, words, and actions. He will show you that there is nothing good that lives within you that will make Him love you. There is only sin and death.
But that is precisely what you need you hear! For once your illness has been pointed out, then God can provide the cure. Once you learn that you are dead, then Jesus can give you life. Once you feel the flames of hell licking at your feet, then you are ready for the treasures of heaven. Once you have tasted the bitterness of your sin, you are eager for the sweetness of the Holy Spirit’s Gospel.
God loves to talk to you about His Gospel, in fact, this is His “native tongue” — the language of the good news. And what makes it such good news is that it is the news that you are forgiven, you are loved, you are called, you are redeemed. God does not attach conditions to the Gospel. You do not have to prove you are worthy of His mercy (you aren’t!). You don’t have to show God how much you have earned it (you haven’t!). No strings are attached to the Gospel. It is purely a gift of God’s love, the news of this love that caused God to send to this world His own dear Son to live, suffer, die and rise again, for you.
So,if you want to get God to talk to you, open your Bible. Pray and meditate on it. It is God who is speaking to you. In ways that may shock you, may surprise you, but will always lead you once more directly to your Savior, Jesus.
Jesus taught, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the place and person through whom God speaks. Jesus took in Himself all our reliance upon mysticism and superstitions and spiritualities as our hope of finding God. Jesus took the divided and fractured idol in our hearts and nailed it to the cross with Him.
Jesus said, “The [Holy] Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Jesus’ words are life. His words have meaning. His words are salvation.
Jesus prayed, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-- the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus placed His name on you in your Baptism. He sent His holy angels to protect you. He gave you His Holy Spirit and made you a child of His heavenly Father. Jesus makes us one with each other, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. We don’t need anyone else. We don’t need to listen to anything else. We don’t need to look anywhere else.
Satan’s lies of trying to find God speaking to us anywhere other than the Bible is not a new phenomenon. Martin Luther dealt with it in his time, too. He sums it all up when he writes: “In a word, mysticism (although he calls it “enthusiasm”) dwells in Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world. Its venom has been implanted and infused into them [us] by the old serpent. … Therefore, we must constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit – without the Word and Sacraments – is the devil himself. (Smalcald Articles III VIII 9-11)
God loves to talk to you. But not in emotions, the weather, signs, thoughts, dreams, or other mystical and superstitious ideas. God loves to talk to you through His Word. And only His Word. That’s what you need to hear. That’s all you need to hear. When Jesus prays, “I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them,” may we say, “Yes, we have.” Amen.