This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. If you had to decide between denying Christ and living or confessing Christ and being killed, which would you choose? We pray we never have to make that choice. But if we did, how wrong would it be if denied Christ, and as soon as the bad guys are gone, asked God to forgive us, and then everything would be back to the way it was? It doesn’t quite work that way. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had tried that, instead of doing what they did, they would have immediately noticed a difference inside them. The Holy Spirit gives us forgiveness, peace, hope, joy, and comfort. All this would have left their hearts, and they would have been filled with guilt, gloom, and a dread of God’s judgment. And, yes, they could have asked God to forgiven them, and for Jesus’ sake God is merciful. But they would have carried the consequences of what they did in their hearts for as long as they lived. Now, all this said, there’s an even more important reason why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm in their faith. It’s what believers do.

Martin Luther is another example of someone who stood firm. He had proclaimed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone. But like the three men in our Old Testament reading he was given a choice. Deny that, or be burned at the stake. Not knowing what would happen to him or when, he told the court: Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture… and since my conscience is taken captive by God\'s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. This morning the Lord is calling us to join believers from every age and say with them: Here We Stand! 1. Here we stand as God’s Children. 2. Here we stand as messengers of the Gospel.

1. Here we stand as God’s Children.

Our text reads: Then I saw another angel flying in midair. “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. – Revelation 14:6a, 7a The word “fear” has two meanings and both apply to us. The first meaning is “fear God” as in be afraid of his judgment, because the fires of hell are far worse than any fiery furnace or burning at the stake. But Satan has been working real hard to get people to believe that hell doesn’t even exist, and so it’s said that say a loving God would never send anyone to eternal punishment. Let’s not judge eternal things by what people are saying, or by our fallen reason. Let’s judge according to God’s Word. He says in verses after our text: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand (this is picture language for willfully choosing the ways of this world over God), they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. – Revelation 14:9-11a Now God’s anger at sin is mixed with his mercy. Those in hell will receive God’s anger full strength. Also the holy angels will watch all this, and will be totally good with it. Our human reason asks how can that be? How can the holy angels not be bothered when they see people suffering in hell? Because they’re holy! And when we’re purified from all our sins, the fact of hell isn’t going to bother us either. But for now, hell may scare us. Hell may make us wonder deep down if we’re really good enough to get to heaven.
Martin Luther wondered this too. When he was growing up, he was taught that Jesus had NOT pay for his sins. Rather Jesus’ death on the cross only earned him the right to pay for his own sins by doing extra good deeds or punishing himself. But the harder Luther worked at this, the more he realized that he did not love God the way God requires. And so, Luther tried still harder, but could only conclude that if Jesus was God’s standard of obedience he was supposed to follow, he couldn’t do it. He was doomed to hell.

While Luther did not love God, from eternity God loved Luther. And so, from infancy God was watching over Luther and guiding his life, though at the time Luther didn’t realize it. Anyway Luther got a reputation for being someone, who had a very sensitive conscience. His superiors gave him a job that they thought would make Luther too busy to be thinking about his conscience. He was to give lectures on the Book of Romans at the University of Wittenberg.

There in the first chapter he found the peace he had been looking for all his life. It says: In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, “The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:17 Notice, righteousness or being declared right so we can live with God comes from God Himself. God reveals this righteousness in the Gospel. Now when you hear the word Gospel think: the good news that God the Son was righteous in our place, and the full strength of God’s anger at our sins was poured out on Him instead of of!

Earlier when I was talking about hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you were just about ready walk out. I’m thankful you stayed. We don’t like hearing about hell, but we need to, because then we can know that as great as God’s anger is at our sins is, His love for us in Christ is double that. And so, through Christ God not only declares us fit for heaven, he likes us and enjoys spending time with us as his friends.

And now this brings us the second meaning of “fear God”. The first meaning, again, is to be afraid of His judgments. The second meaning is to have such respect for Him, because of His love for us, and because of His blessings, and because of His promises, that we repent with sorrow of our sins and ask Jesus to cleanse our heart, so that our very hearts can be a heaven on earth for Jesus.

Think about that! Jesus, whom all the infinite universe cannot contain, and who enjoys all the glories of heaven all the time, wants to make our hearts his dwelling. Is this what you want? Then count yourself dead as far as sin goes, and let Him be your Savior, and decorate your life with deeds of love that are pleasing to Him. But how does a sinner get to this point? Such fear, love, and trust, again, come from God through Word and Sacrament. By these means God made us spiritually alive, and all who are born of God are destined for victory!

It’s with this attitude that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell into the flames, and you heard what happened. With this same attitude Luther faced being burned at the stake, but he wasn’t! Instead he became a messenger of the Gospel, so that we’re still talking about the Reformation 500 years later. We, too, are destined for victory, but now it’s our turn to be messengers of the Gospel.

2. Here we stand as messengers of the Gospel

Our text reads: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. – Revelations 14:6 I don’t have to tell you that Satan is attacking the Gospel with everything he has. In Luther’s day, he mainly attacked the Gospel by saying that God’s grace has to be earned. For your information in the 1700s Satan attacked the Gospel by saying faith isn’t enough, that we also have certain feelings and live a certain way. In the 1900s Satan began attacking the Gospel by saying the Bible is not reliable, and that truth evolves, just like man supposedly evolved. Lately Satan has been attacking the Gospel all three ways at once. As a result, anyone, who believes salvation is by the grace of the Triune God alone is accused of being intolerant toward other religions. Or, anyone who says salvation is through faith alone is accused of unloving, because they say we don’t need faith, we just need to be tolerant. And anyone who believes that the Bible is word for word the Word of God is made fun of for being an unscientific ignoramus. Because so many are swallowing what Satan says, hook, line and sinker, Satan has come out more with persecutions and glorifying every kind of evil. Yet do not be afraid! Satan is already condemned, and even the smallest Word of God sends Satan fleeing.
So, let’s send Satan fleeing! Let’s repent, rejoice, and praise God in song. Also, whenever you turn on the news, don’t turn into a pessimist. Luther said, “Der Christian ist ein optimists.” I think you know what that German means. A Christian is an optimist. Luther said this when things were going horribly. Yet we can be optimists, because all nations are under God, whether they know it or not. And God is at work through world events to protect and spread His Gospel. And then when the last person is brought to faith, who’s going to be brought to faith, Jesus will come again and make all things new. In the meantime, God will keep on blessing the Gospel we share, even as He keeps on equipping us to share it more and more. And so, life is good, and when our life here is over, here’s what’s next. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” – Revelation 14:13 “Blessed!” That means happy. Right now happy are those who have died in the Lord, for they rest form their troubles and difficulties, but they are active in love and service to God. Furthermore, everything they have done here, Jesus is pointing out there as evidences of the faith He gave them.
Now, having heard all this, is there anyone here, who would be willing to curse Jesus and bow down to an idol, just so they can live a little longer in this sinful world? Or is there anyone here who’s okay with letting sinful pleasures crowd faith out of his heart? I pray not! But how shall we thank God, who has destined us for victory? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thanked God by giving their lives to the flames, and Jesus gave their lives right back to them. We get to thank God by giving our lives to live for him. Take your stand, then, in the world. 1. Stand as God’s children! Stand as messengers of His Gospel! Amen.

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