All Saints' Sunday
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
I Peter 5:6-11 Sermon
November 7, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
556 "Rise Ye Children Of Salvation"
144 "For All The Saints"
146 "In Heaven Above, In Heaven Above"
143 "Hark The Sound Of Holy Voices"
WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN HE COMES FOR YOU?
TEXT: (vs. 8-9) "8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
Philipp Nicolai was a bright young boy, born in the year 1556. He grew up in a parsonage, the son of a noted Lutheran pastor. He studied diligently, and knew his Bible well. He studied at two very prestigious universities at Erfurt and Wittenberg. It was no surprise that at age 27 he completed his theological studies and became a pastor himself.
Things weren't easy for him from the very beginning. His first congregation was at Herdecke, and he lasted there exactly three years. He stood up for Biblical truth, and stood unwavering in his allegiance to his God. Unfortunately, there was a very strong allegiance to the doctrine of Rome. In effect, the Catholics ran him out of town.
His second congregation was at Niederwildungen. This was only a yearlong appointment as a deacon, to sort of fill the gap before his next call.
His next call was a very prestigious one. He became the senior pastor at Altwildungen, and also served as the court preacher to the Countess Margareta of Waldek. While he was there, he ran up against the Sacramentalists, who denied the Biblical doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Even though he was knee-deep in controversy, he still managed to complete his Doctor of Divinity degree while he was there.
His next call was the most notable, and the most difficult of them all. He went to Unna in Westphalia, where he encountered the Calvanists, and more doctrinal controversy. That in itself was bad enough.
However while he was there, the Bubonic Plague hit the town. And the results were devastating. Over 1300 people in Pastor Nicolai's congregation died from the plague. The stench of death hung heavy in the air as more and more people lost their life.
In just one week's time, Pastor Nicolai conducted 160 funeral services, which amounts to a little over 22 per day. His heart was breaking, and the stress was unbelievable. As tempting as it might have been for him to do the funerals in assembly line fashion, he knew each person was very special. And so every funeral he did had a very personal message and theme. Each family was assured with the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One day, Pastor Nicolai was in his study on the second story of his home. He could look out and see the cemetery at his church next door. He watched as 30 separate graves were dug in one day. These were indeed dark days, and every home was in mourning.
It was during this time that he put pen to paper and wrote a book entitled, "Freuden-Spiegel des Ewigen Lebens," which means "The Joyful Mirror of Eternal Life." In it, he writes these words: "There seemed to me nothing more sweet, delightful, and agreeable than the contemplation of the noble, sublime doctrine of Eternal Life obtained through the Blood of Christ. This I allowed to dwell in my heart day and night, and searched the Scriptures as to what they revealed on this matter..."
Pastor Nicolai reckoned that it was a sheer miracle that God had somehow spared his life from the Bubonic Plague, and he was thankful for it. Obviously God had spared his life for any one of a number of reasons, one of which was to give hope and comfort to those who mourned the death of their loved ones. His tender heart and optimistic outlook for the future would give special meaning to this pastor and master theologian.
One thing that Pastor Nicolai knew very well, was that Satan was at war against him and God's people. Satan tried to discourage him when the Catholics ran him out of town. And when that didn't work, then Satan sent the Sacramentalists to do his dirty work. When that wasn't successful, he put him up against the Calvinists. And when that plan failed, Satan tried his most diabolical trick of all. He tried to kill all hope amongst the people as a result of the Bubonic Plague.
As hard as it might be to imagine what Pastor Nicolai was experiencing, can you even begin to imagine what the people were going through? With death and dying all around them, their faith was put to the ultimate test. They had to be doubting that a God even existed, let alone a God who loved and cared about them. And Satan was having a field day with all of this.
The words of our Epistle reading for today are amongst the concluding remarks Peter makes in his first general Epistle. It's called a general epistle because it wasn't written to anybody or any group in particular. It is addressed to the entire Church-at-large.
Peter also knows what Satan is up to. He isn't after just one or two of God's people, he's after everybody! And Peter knows first-hand what Satan can do to a person.
Remember Peter? If we look at Luke chapter 22, Peter says in verse 33: "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." Such noble words he speaks! But what is Jesus' reply to him? In verse 34 Jesus says, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."
And we know how that story turns out. Peter openly denies Jesus three times! And this was to a servant girl, no less! And after this happens, Jesus shoots daggers with his eyes at Peter. Then Peter remembers what Jesus had said was going to happen, and he went away and wept bitterly.
Satan had taken complete control of Peter, and caused him to do the unthinkable. Peter had vowed to stick by Jesus and even die with him! But like a hungry lion, Satan attacked and devoured him.
This morning as a title to my sermon, I used a line from a song written by Bob Marley and performed by the reggae band, Inner Circle. It's called "Bad Boys," and if you've ever seen an episode of the reality show "Cops," you've heard it. And so, on the basis of our text for today, I'll ask you all the question the song asks, "Whatcha gonna do when he comes for you?"
Now that's getting deep down and personal, isn't it? What are you going to do when Satan comes for you? And he's not Sheriff John Brown either! He's the bad boy to end all bad boys. And he's after your very soul!
I'm not excluding myself from this either. Satan is always after me. I am very well aware of that fact. He continually battles in my life. Sometimes he wins out, and sometimes he doesn't. I'm human, and that's the way life is. And believe me, putting on a backwards collar and a liturgical stole doesn't keep him away. If anything, that makes him try harder. So I'm definitely not immune.
So how is Satan going to attack you? Peter uses the metaphor of a roaring lion. It's interesting to note that a lion's roar is one of its most effective weapons. It is so loud that it can make its prey go temporarily deaf, and throw it into a state of confusion. Once this happens, then the prey becomes an easy mark. And the lion will basically devour anything it can--it's not picky about what it eats.
How Satan affects your life is as individual as each one of us are. We all have our weak points, and I can assure you that Satan knows where they all are. Satan knows us probably better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly how and where to strike.
Our Gospel reading for today is the way Luke recorded the Beatitudes. It wasn't long ago that I read what was called "The Devil's Beatitudes." This should give us some insight on how Satan likes to operate.
1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, or too distracted to attend worship or Bible Study; they are my best workers.
2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked; I can use them.
3. Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church; they are my missionaries.
4. Blessed are the troublemakers; they shall be called my children.
5. Blessed are the complainers; I'm all ears to them.
6. Blessed are those who are bored with the pastor's mannerisms and mistakes; for they get nothing out of his sermons.
7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church; for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.
8. Blessed are those who gossip; for they shall cause strife and divisions that please me.
9. Blessed are those who are easily offended; for they will soon get angry and quit.
10. Blessed are those who do not give their offering to carry on God's work; for they are my helpers.
11. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister; for he shall be with me forever.
12. Blessed are you who, when you read this think it is about other people and not yourself; I've got you too!
You and I are not alone here. Peter reminds us that Christians all over the world experience the very same thing. And not only that, but this has been going on ever since the Garden of Eden, and will continue until Christ's return.
But Peter does not leave his readers hanging on this rather gloomy picture of Satan attacking us. He wants us to recognize what Satan has done to us, so we can fully appreciate what Jesus has done for us. And that's the whole purpose behind Jesus coming to this earth in the first place.
If we flip back a few chapters in Peter's first epistle, to chapter 3, we read the following in verses 18-19: 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whomalso he went and preached to the spirits in prison..."
Do you know what that's referring to? That's Christ's descent into hell that we talk about every Sunday in the words of the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds. Jesus not only died for all of our sins, but he also went to hell--not to suffer, but to lead a victory march. Jesus had defeated Satan! He rendered him powerless! Even though Satan continues to battle on, Christ Jesus has won the war!
In verse 10 of our Epistle lesson this morning, Peter continues on. He writes, "10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
There is hope, there is forgiveness, and there is restoration. It is there through the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is ours through faith alone.
In James chapter 4 verses 7-8 we read, "7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you."
We have often heard the words: "Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness." That is a reality. Through faith in Christ we have not only been forgiven for all of our sins, but we have all of the weapons to fight the devil right at our fingertips. It's like Dr. Luther writes in his hymn, "One little word shall fell him."
Back in the latter part of the 16th Century, Pastor Philipp Nicolai had some real challenges to face. The Bubonic Plague had wiped out 1300 members of his congregation. The coffin makers and gravediggers could hardly keep up.
The people felt God had deserted them. Satan was using the plague to sow his seeds of doubt and distrust. He was out to destroy God's people and God's church any way he could.
But God used the talents of somebody the likes of Pastor Philipp Nicolai to lift up the people and show them the love of God and the hope they had through faith in Jesus. In the midst of this devastating disease, he wrote a book entitled: "Freuden-Spiegel des Ewigen Lebens," which means "The Joyful Mirror of Eternal Life." In that book, he wrote the words to several hymns, two of which are very familiar to us. One is "How Brightly Beams the Morning Star" that we sing during Epiphany, and the other is "Wake, Awake for Night is Flying."
Verse three of that hymn goes: "Now let all the heavens adore thee, let men and angels sing before thee, with harp and cymbal's clearest tone. Of one pearl, each shining portal, where, dwelling with the choir immortal, we gather round thy radiant throne. No vision ever brought, no ear hath ever caught, such great glory; therefore will we, eternally, sing hymns of praise and joy to thee."
May God continually give us strength to withstand the attacks of Satan in our lives, and lift our eyes so we may clearly see our eternal glory, which is ours for Jesus' sake.