Date: January 24, 1943

Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.John 11:25-27

Lord Jesus:

Graciously send us Thine enlightening Spirit to help us truly believe that Thou art our only but all-atoning Savior! Strengthen us to trust Thee wholly, knowing that since our sins are removed through faith in Thy life-giving death, we who love Thee are constantly under Thy guidance and protection! By Thy compassion and power Thou canst graciously provide our every need and conquer each affliction. Mercifully forgive us our doubting of Thy grace, our indifference toward Thy marvelous compassion, our lukewarmness in testifying to Thy redemption! Equip us with the courage required to acknowledge Thee before men, so that we, in turn, on the glorious day of the resurrection will be acknowledged by Thee before our heavenly Father! Direct the course of our beloved nation toward Thee! Endow the President, the Congress, those in authority, with wisdom! Shield our armed forces with Thy protecting power and send our embattled youth back to us soon with blessed, building peace! Come to us now, O Christ, and bring many to Thee through this broadcast! We ask it, believing Thy promise. Amen.

HOW much longer will this war last? When will the last shot be fired, the last bomb be dropped? Who is right—those who predict that victory will be ours before this year is over or those who grimly insist that we must fight through a decade of the bitterest, bloodiest battles in history?—These are the questions of the day, repeated by millions in our country. Daily they view the horrors of this conflict, cities destroyed, ships sunk by the hundreds, the very foundations of civilization attacked, our peacetime industry reorganized into a mighty system with the pointed purpose to kill, kill, kill. As they think of their dear ones on the battle fronts or on the high seas, continually confronted by the danger of death, they plead: “When will this stop? When will our sons, husbands, brothers come back? When will the all-clear signal sound over the whole world with the destruction of evil and the victory of truth, righteousness, justice?”

Only God knows. More than ever before should we penitently repeat Jehoshaphat’s prayer, “Our eyes are upon Thee,” O Lord—not on our own vaunted greatness. More than all else we need the Almighty on our side, so that we can exult, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

We must constantly keep in mind, however, for our nation, our churches, our homes, ourselves, that God is for those only who serve Him in true faith, and that a question of far greater importance even than the wondering about the war’s end confronts everyone of us, soldiers and civilians, youth and the aged, the influential and the impoverished; it is a question the response to which can be a decisive factor in shaping the nation’s course, in bringing courage, comfort, and conviction into your heart and life. It is, my countrymen, the question of heaven or hell, life or death—the question of all questions:

DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST?—

the pointed issue raised by our Lord Himself in the text for this Sunday (Saint John, chapter eleven, verses twenty-five to twenty-seven): “Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”

I

WHAT YOU SHOULD BELIEVE CONCERNING CHRIST

Jesus spoke these words at Bethany, a village only two short miles from Jerusalem. He was on the way to the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, the dwelling where He often found peace and quiet apart from the strife and turmoil of a selfish world. Sorrow had entered this household, and the Lord was bringing reassurance and help.—When you pray to the Savior, as I know many of you do, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest,” and when you plead with faith and sincerity, the same heavenly Friend who entered the Bethany household will come into your family circle, no matter how difficult your problems may seem. If misunderstanding threatens to destroy the peace and joy in your home; if you feel the pinch of poverty, while others worry only over the heavy income taxes they must pay as evidence of their prosperity; if sickness has crossed your threshold; if a child of yours suffers from infantile paralysis—and, as annually, our broadcast asks you to get solidly behind the humanitarian effort now waged to help the victims of this plague; if broken marriage vows have shattered your dreams of happiness, remember that Jesus can mightily comfort you! Hard though such afflictions may be, they are far lighter than the sorrow which encircled that Bethany cottage—death. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, and Martha thought the Savior had come too late; but she was wrong, as His miracle-working mercy proved, and it is never too late for Christ to bring you help and hope.

Christ addressed these words to Martha who had run to meet Him; and today Jesus similarly would speak to all American women. They are divinely appointed supporters of morality, home happiness, and domestic honesty—these women who never lose the power of true womanhood, who regard marriage as sacred; the mothers who, despite the sacrifices they make in defense industries, find their vital activity at home, rearing the children, which God has given them, in true faith, with full devotion to Christ and country; women, married or unmarried, young and old, who, following the example of the saintly figures on the New Testament pages, first learn “to show piety at home” and then find time to work for the salvation of souls and for the Church’s interests. Because mothers with such faith are vital for a better nation, their high principles are being assailed with a viciousness and vehemence hitherto unknown in our country. Two courses confront every woman in the United States today: the one is followed by the pleasure-chasing, cocktail-drinking, notoriety-seeking, home-neglecting, divorce-exalting, sin-loving, Christ-denying; and the other is chosen by the Scripture-loving, home-building, sin­hating, clean-living, Christ-exalting. Women of America, as you ask yourselves pointedly, “Which path am I to take?” may God’s Holy Spirit give you the devotion of Martha who ran to meet the Savior!

Once before when Jesus was a Guest in Bethany, Martha had been overbusy in preparing for His comfort and entertainment. While her sister Mary sat at the Savior’s feet to catch every word of divine instruction, Martha was running between kitchen and dining room, so to speak, in preparing the best she could for Christ. Then our Lord reminded her that the “one thing . . . needful” is not food and drink, but the hearing of God’s Word. Martha learned this lesson gratefully and quickly. But there are many women, even in churches, who must change their whole attitude toward the Gospel, as Martha did. Too often people actually believe it is the prime, outstanding work of the Church to arrange socials, meals, teas, theatricals, and to attract people by such methods. Correspondingly, many women think they are doing the Lord’s chief work when they spend hours over a hot stove in preparing church suppers, waiting on tables, or engaging in other activities designed to make money for religious purposes, and when, as a result, they are robbed of the time required personally to testify for Christ. Think also of the destructive features which claim religious support. Some of you sent me church programs showing that on last New Year’s Eve, at a time when American soldiers faced death on a dozen different battle fronts, your congregations sponsored dances in their halls and urged their parishioners to dance their way into this burdened year. Recall also the public scandal of the gambling conducted under church auspices! In New York, where the city officials declared bingo illegal—think of it!—some religious groups went before the legislative authorities, requesting that the ban be lifted. We need not look far afield for the reason why some churches have lost the respect and support of the masses.—If you are in a congregation suffering from this gambling craze, stop this violation of God’s law and man’s!

Now, when Jesus, comforting Martha in her bereavement, unfolds the glorious promise which has given many of you new hope at the side of caskets or in the cold cemetery, He declares, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” Then He looks directly at Martha and asks, “Believest thou this?”—the very question He now puts before you. Jesus wants to know how you stand. He does not inquire first of all: “Do the 130,000,000 in the United States believe? Do your parents believe? Do your children believe?” The important issue is, “Do you believe?”

You ask, “What must I believe?” and Martha gives you this glorious answer, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art . . . the Son of God.” To you, too, Jesus must be more than a great man, a good man, a gifted man; more than just a mighty leader, a miraculous leader, a martyred leader; more than a helpful teacher, a strengthening teacher, a heavenly teacher; more than a high example, a noble example, a holy example; more than godly, God­sent, godlike. He must be God Himself, God fully, God truly, God eternal, God almighty, God all-knowing. He lived as God; He thought as God; He spoke as God; He was God; He is God; He ever will be God!

Do not let anyone tell you that it matters little whether you accept Christ as God-man or only as a godly man! It makes all the difference in this world and the next. Do not be misled by the tragic fact that some denominations have sought to dethrone Him! The true Church, from Old Testament days, has been united in acclaiming Jesus one with the Father and the Spirit, “God blessed forever.” Do not pay any attention to the unbelief of modern religious leaders who publicly reject the Savior’s deity! He was worshiped as God by the angels, acclaimed God by the prophets, proclaimed as God by the Gospels, exalted as God by the Apostles, acknowledged as God even by His heavenly Father. Believe with Martha that because Jesus is “the Son of God,” nothing is too hard for Him! No help you may need is too difficult for Him to grant; no problem of any disturbed soul too heavy for solution by His divine power. You can trust Him, since as your God He cannot fail. You can discover daily help through Him, because as God His is “all power . . . in heaven and in earth.” You can find guidance in Christ, since He knows the future and directs it. You can come to Him anywhere or any time, because as God He is not limited by time nor restricted by space. Let me tell you again: Jesus is more than any or all the myriads of men. He is your God.

Martha’s faith went farther. When her divine Instructor looked at her and asked, “Believest thou this?” she also answered, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ,” that is, God’s Anointed, the promised Deliverer, the atoning Redeemer, the sin-conquering, sin­removing Savior. God grant that you, too, may say, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ”! It is not enough to believe merely that Jesus lived a model life; for His purity serves to emphasize our impurity. It is not enough to recognize how forcefully He proclaimed the message of love, for your own heart feels too much hatred; not enough to concede that He died a noble death—millions of soldiers today are ready to lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen. You must know that Jesus, and He alone, is “the Christ” who was crucified—and so may everyone of you say—for “my” sins.

Believe also that Jesus saves completely, that no one is too vile to be accepted, no transgression too vicious to be remitted by the Lord of limitless love! Last week a Michigan woman wrote me in deep concern over her soul. A friend had warned her that her sins could not be pardoned, stating that if a Christian, knowing any act to be wrong, nevertheless commits it, he can never be forgiven; and she based her claim on a Bible edition and commentary which unfortunately has gained wide circulation. What a destructive denial such limiting of our Lord’s all-embracing mercy! Reject every restriction of His redemption! Trust this plain promise of Scripture, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”!

Believe that Jesus saves everyone who comes to Him in faith! Nothing but your own unbelief can keep you from His love. There are no bars but your own refusal to accept His mercy. A few days ago death came to George Washington Carver, the Negro scientist whose parents were slaves and who as a boy was sold for a race horse valued at $300. Later, in his laboratory he developed more than three hundred useful products from the lowly peanut and more than two hundred byproducts from the sweet potato. But the Bible meant as much to him as the laboratory, and he showed his childlike faith in the Savior by choosing as one of his favorite passages Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” I hold up Dr. Carver, Bible student, Bible teacher, Bible lover, to my colored friends as an example of the spiritual victories which can be won by those of a race often persecuted and oppressed. The words of a Sakalave tribal chief in Madagascar ring in my ears: “You see us Negroes, victims of ignorance and drunkenness; but who brought to our village the first little pieces of candy filled with liquor? The white man. Who is it that today calls us ‘lazy beasts,’ who mocks at our way of living? The white man. Who tells that there is no God in heaven to reign over the earth? The white man.”—As I ask you in the Savior’s name to forgive the cruelties inflicted by members of my race, I also invite you, whatever the color of your skin may be, to believe that Christ has compassion on every human being and often loves those most who suffer most.

Believe chiefly that Jesus saves freely; that pardon, which the combined wealth of all nations could never purchase, is granted you by pure grace, without any price or payment! This glorious compassion separates Christianity from all other creeds, as it shows that God did everything in redeeming you through Jesus. John Ruskin, British man of letters, declared: “The root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has ever suffered has been the effort by men to earn rather than to receive their salvation, and the reason that preaching is so commonly ineffectual is that it calls upon men oftener to work for God than to behold God working for them.” Ruskin is right. Among the hundreds of religions which claim men’s worship, fundamentally there are only two different beliefs. The one holds that man must work for his own salvation. The other—the creed of this broadcast—exalts the Christ who by the shedding of His blood has earned salvation for us. Which will you accept?

God grant that you women may secure and safeguard Martha’s faith, “Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God”! Oh, that His Spirit would give you soldiers the courage of the centurion beneath the cross, “Truly, this was the Son of God”! you men, the confidence of Saint John, “This is the true God and eternal Life”! you doubters, the conviction of Thomas, “My Lord and my God”; you sin-burdened, the comfort of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”! May that enlightening Spirit lead many this day to proclaim this deathless declaration of Martin Luther: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true”!

If you have this faith, wholly, sincerely, reverently, then, whatever your denomination—Protestant or Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed, Low-Church or High-Church—you are a Christian. But if you reject Jesus, if you contradict the Gospel promises and think that you must earn your own salvation, then you may belong to a large, imposing congregation; you may hold a high, responsible position; you may be a church officer, even a clergyman, but you are not a Christian. You are still without the saving faith.

II

WHY YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN CHRIST

No other question that can ever be directed to you has the importance, the weight in time and eternity, the urgency of this, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” With that faith comes the answer to the problem which has always disturbed human hearts, the removal of the fear which from the cradle days of history has made men cringe in fright—the terror of death. When Jesus, our God and our Savior, declares, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die,” He who can never deceive nor speak an unfulfilled promise, gives you the personal, glorious assurance that, though you must die, through Christ you will not remain in the grave. For the Christian what men call death is only the beginning of a new, incomparably greater life in eternity with Jesus.

Therefore, when He who proved His power over the grave by raising lifeless Lazarus and at Easter by bursting from His own tomb assures you, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” believe with your whole heart that through Him there is a life to come and decay is not the Christian’s final destiny. Though the time will surely come when you draw your last breath, when your body, cold, motionless, rigid, dead, begins to decompose, nevertheless by God’s might and as a believer you will be awakened in a radiant, heavenly body, perfect and painless, without flaws or faults, without marred or missing members, without any taint of disease or weakness in age.

What a sustaining comfort in this pledge! How assuredly it ought to make death easy, welcome, a glorious triumph, instead of the screaming and cursing terror it often is for unbelievers! Some of you are living your very last days. Your physicians have given you at most a week or two longer on earth. Because you have Christ, you will be indescribably better off next Sunday, if God takes you during this week. Then you will be free from all suffering; you will worship with angels and archangels; you will meet your loved ones who have preceded you in faith.

The more rabidly infidels argue against this sacred truth, the more firmly you should believe it! These words of Jesus Himself, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” are the highest truth. Christ is not only your life-restoring God and Savior; He is the only God, the one Mediator between heaven and earth, the sole Assurance of life beyond the grave. Listen to Him as He instructs especially you who may think that a dozen roads lead to a blessed eternity, a hundred different paths to Paradise above! He does not say, “I am One of the ways to the resurrection and the life.” He does not say, “He that believeth on Me or anyone else shall never die.” But He does say: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He does say, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.” His Word clearly declares, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No doubt remains! Jesus is your only Savior!—Do you believe this?

III

HOW YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN CHRIST

I pray God that you not only accept it, but also acclaim it with the confidence of Martha, who, casting all misgivings aside, declared in exultant, confident faith, “Yea, Lord; I believe”!

We need much more of this “Yea, Lord; I believe” conviction, especially because in an age of widespread falsehood and poisoned propaganda we are told that educated people no longer accept the Bible or regard Jesus as a divine, personal Savior. There are men who deliberately spend their entire lifetime in the futile attempt to “expose” Christianity. Organizations have been established for the unholy and blasphemous purpose of discrediting the Gospel. How can anyone find happiness in tearing down the faith by which men live and die? Aside from the terrible sin of denying Christ, I would not be an atheist or a modernist because of the cruelty of robbing others of their trust, of kicking the crutch from beneath a crippled world.

How absurd the claim that the Christian truth and scientific truth are at swords’ points! The other day our newspapers reported the death of two outstanding scientists: The one was Nikola Tesla, an eminent leader in American electrical research. Editors called him “the father of radio and modern generation and transmission systems.” His inventions and discoveries as listed in Who’s Who are astonishing in their number as in their variety and stupendous achievement. Without Nikola Tesla the radio might never have been perfected; and the projects on which he was working when he died, particularly the transmission of power without wires, place him in the front ranks of America’s outstanding scientists. We ask, Was Nikola Tesla an atheist, like some of the small minds that sneer and snarl at the Bible? No! His father was a servant of God. Nikola was reared in the faith of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and he remained true to it. His priest informs me that he was indeed a Christian, that he believed the Bible, accepted the Lord Jesus, and that he showed his love for the Savior through generous support of the Serbian missions in this country.

The other scientist mentioned on the same page, Dr. Howard A. Kelly of Johns Hopkins University, was an internationally recognized medical authority. He was made an honorary fellow by the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, Bucharest, Vienna, Kiev, Lima—perhaps the most widely known American surgeon and gynecologist. Now, did Dr. Howard Kelly show the anti-Bible, anti-God attitude which mark some physicians? He regularly spent from one to four hours a day reading his Bible. He wrote vigorous, convincing books and articles in behalf of his Savior. He never missed an opportunity of testifying to Christ. Though he died a few days ago, yet he lives and speaks to all doubters today as I repeat his words: “I am sure that the Bible is the Word of God, with an assurance greater than all other convictions.” “Above . . . logical deductions from philosophical and scientific premises I place the clear light of truth shining from the pages of the Bible.”

Many other outstanding scientists, leaders of the leaders, have been courageous, confessing Christians. The American culture of the past had room and recognition for “the fear of the Lord” as “the beginning of wisdom.” In 1860 246 colleges and universities flourished in the United States, and all but seventeen were directed by the churches. Of 1,700 colleges and universities today hardly one third are under religious control, and many of the rest tolerate opposition to Christ. A Yale professor reported that not one of his forty students could tell exactly who Judas Iscariot was. Another teacher there declared that a senior insisted he had never even heard of Moses. A Radcliffe girl asked her teacher: “What are the Ten Commandments? I see them referred to so often in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” The dean of Columbia University, in his last annual report, asserts that there is “a shocking degree of religious illiteracy among college students.” To protest against all this and to put more of Jesus into our education, we must stand behind Christian, church-supported colleges. Their path will become increasingly difficult during this age before us, but their part in promoting the nation’s spiritual welfare will be more vital than ever, since only by a return to the sincere, simple faith, based on the Bible and culminating in the Savior, can the masses in our country, especially our youth, find assurance for the future. If we can assist you in suggesting Christian schools for your sons or daughters, please write us! We shall be happy to counsel you.

Now, when you ask, “How can I have Martha’s firm faith?” I answer: You must meet the Savior as she did. You must read His words of encouragement and strength in the Bible, the deathless record of His life and death for your salvation. The deep-rooted trouble with many of you who oppose the Redeemer is this, that you have never actually sat down systematically to study the Word of His truth. If you would, the Holy Spirit could give you the grace He extended to Dr. David Nelson, a physician in the United States Anny. He came from a Christian home, but through his college training he began to regard God’s Word as false and Christ’s Gospel as superstition. Yet one day the thought came to him, “Why don’t you deal fairly with the Scriptures?” He did two things: He carefully reexamined the writings of Voltaire, Hume, and other skeptics, noting their inaccuracies, their unfairness, their dishonesty. At the same time, however, he began to study the Scriptures, and as he read he was brought to the full, unreserved knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In gratitude he wrote a striking book against infidelity, which has been circulated in more than 100,000 copies. May the Spirit touch many of you today, so that you begin delving into Scripture personally, privately, and with your family!

Every day you live in unbelief adds to the peril of your soul. Who knows how long it will be before you stand at the tribunal of eternity?—One of our Lutheran chaplains, cited twice for his bravery on the Aleutian Islands, told me that for weeks he had instructed a young man in the Christian religion. The young convert was so eager to confess his Savior publicly that he wanted to be baptized in a church; yet late one night he knocked on the chaplain’s door. He had walked thirteen miles through the desolate tundra country to be baptized immediately. He could not wait any longer, and there, after midnight, in the presence of several Christian soldiers he was baptized. A few hours later he returned to his lonely post. Before that day drew to its close, the Japanese attacked, and the young man was killed. Within less than twenty­four hours he was received into the Church Militant on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven. If within the next twenty-four hours you are summoned from life, will you be blessed by this magnificent assurance, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”? That depends on the answer to the question which Jesus Himself now puts before you: “‘Believest thou this?’ ‘Believest thou’ that I am thy God and Savior, thy Ransom and Redemption, thy Pardon and Peace, thy Resurrection and Life?” God grant that now from the four quarters of this country, from beyond its borders, in Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, from the islands and from the ships of the seas to the east and the west, there may come—in a mighty harmony of trusting faith—this confident, triumphant answer, “‘Yea, Lord,’ with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might ‘I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God’!” Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 17, 1943

Fear not, for I have redeemed thee!Isaiah 43:1

O Jesus, Our Ransom and Redeemer:

As in the days of Thy earthly ministry Thou didst speak peace to Thy fear-filled disciples, so look mercifully on us, despite our weakness of faith, our readiness to surrender to doubt! Give us the conviction which challenges, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” and show us that Thou art for all who trust Thee as their atoning, sin-bearing Redeemer! Draw us ever nearer to Thee! Daily may we confess the guilt and curse of our transgressions, yet with ever deepening faith behold and believe the wondrous love of Thy life-giving death! Extend Thy rich blessings to those terrorized by life’s trials, haunted by their sins, agonized by war’s horrors! Send Thy Spirit to pour courage into the hearts of the men and women in our Army and Navy, especially during the hour of danger and death! O Jesus, our Savior and our God, grant us, according to Thy will, a triumph of righteousness, a true, just, and speedy peace before many more lives are taken! Hear us and help us, for our hope is in Thee! Amen.

OUR reasons for fighting this global conflict, our hopes for the postwar world have been summarized in “the Four Freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear. The first of these is not new in our country, thank God! It was written into the Constitution and has flourished throughout the United States as in no other nation. The fact that we are able to use our most widespread radio facilities and address you in behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ is a tribute to our free government and the eminently American attitude of the Mutual Broadcasting System. With all the power and resources we have, let us battle against every attempt to regiment public opinion or restrict free expression!

The second liberty, the freedom of religion, is likewise an old privilege for us. Thank God again that we have no state church, no gestapos or commissars who control our worship or censor our preachers! Church and State are constitutionally separated. Help keep them separate, so that no denomination ever assumes control of our political affairs and no administration shows favoritism to one religious group or persecutes another!

The third liberty, however, the freedom from want, is new, as it seeks to give everyone in all the world “the right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care; the right to security.” No nation in history has ever been able to preserve people from poverty, unemployment, famine; and we doubt whether even a country with our resources can banish every want from the lives of its own citizens. It takes more than human ingenuity and machines to furnish food, clothing, shelter. We still need God to bless our seedtime and harvest, give increase to our flocks, and prosper our labor. If, with reliance on the Almighty, man’s best thought is devoted to helping the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, we should indeed invoke God’s blessing on such efforts to relieve the undersupplied, the undernourished, the underprivileged.

It is the fourth liberty, however, the freedom from fear, which particularly concerns us today. The Government generously promises us security against the haunting terror that new wars will continually arise. “The use of force,” we are told, “must be made less and less feasible on earth, until it finally becomes impossible,” and a warless era dawns with a worldwide reduction of armaments. What a glorious picture of peace, blessed peace, always in all the earth! Yet that freedom from fear and bloodshed—often predicted in the past, but never more frequently than in these last decades of the most widespread, devastating wars—will never be fully realized. Our blessed Savior Himself, foreseeing the very days in which we live, has warned us that, as the world hastens to its end, there shall be “wars and rumors of wars, . . . for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Besides, some fears are even greater than war’s terrors, and these cannot be removed even by a government as considerate as ours. To dispel the shadows which daily darken your soul, you must have heavenly strength. You need—and this is my message to you—

FULL FREEDOM FROM FEAR,

found only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and such promises of God’s Word as that offered by these seven simple words of our text ( Isaiah, chapter forty­three, verse one), “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee!”

I

WE NEED THIS FREEDOM FROM FEAR

This “Fear not!” of Isaiah is only one of more than a hundred Scripture passages which cry out in effect, “Be not afraid!” Bible critics have sought to remove some of these “Fear nots” as though they had crept in by mistake. But a hundred, or even a thousand, pledges of triumph over terror would not be too many in our fright­filled years. Think of the legions of phobias which relentlessly make men and women cringe before the thought that they will lose their most precious possessions. People fear the loss of health; and not thousands, but millions, in the United States are gripped by actual pain or the torture of imaginary disease. Again, many fear that they will lose their money, their investments, their home, their food, their work. And while in overprosperous periods like these such forebodings recede into the background, they are never completely banished from the mind. Multitudes fear the loss of their mental powers and shrink from the specter of insanity. Still others fear the loss of their good name and reputation. They cower before the thought that some evil which they thought safely hidden in the buried past will be uncovered. Unnumbered men and women are tormented because they dread the loss of love, the breakup of the family, the banishment of home happiness. Far worse, however, is the insistent voice of a guilty conscience that emphasizes God’s wrath, the fear of unforgiven sins, the torture of hell. And in the most crushing combination of fear men know they are affrighted by the prospect of their own death and of facing the just, holy God. If you have never seen an unbeliever die, you have been spared one of life’s worst terrors.

Some of you, of course, are completely satisfied with yourselves. You smile confidently and say: “Fear? Why should I be afraid? I have everything I need. I am not afraid of God or man. If hardship comes, I can take it. And when it is time for me to die, I will not whine or whimper. I will go with a smile on my face.” But will you? Many who similarly rejected the Almighty actually became cringing cowards in their last breath. David Hume, philosopher and infidel, ranted against the Cross, ridiculed Christ, and at the same time confidently claimed that when his time for leaving life came, he would face death cheerfully. His housekeeper, who was with him to the end, asserted that when his agnostic friends visited him, he put on a brave front; but she added: “When he was alone, the scene was different. His mental agitation was so great as often to alarm me greatly. He struggled to appear composed even before me; but to one who had attended his bedside for many days and nights, who witnessed his disturbed sleep and more disturbed wakings, who frequently heard his breathings of remorse and frightful startings, it was no difficult matter to determine that all was not right within. This continued and increased until he became insensible. I hope that I may never be called upon to witness a similar scene.”

Convicted murderers have sneered that they would walk to the electric chair or up the gallows stairs without assistance, since death meant nothing to them. But read Warden Lawes’ account of his years at Sing Sing, in which he tells how often hardened killers had to be dragged to their execution! If you shout back into your radio that the day before yesterday in South Carolina the first woman to be executed in that State walked to the electric chair calmly, declaring, “I am ready to die,” then read the full newspaper account, which tells you that she carried a Bible with her!—Despite your defiance of God and His goodness, there is a judgment which you cannot escape, a death you must die. The prouder, more overconfident, more contemptuous, your blasphemy now may be, the more appalling your despair when all the window dressing of your supposed courage disappears.

Picture to yourselves the crushing burden unrelieved fright imposes! Ask any physician to describe its consequences, and he will tell you plainly it weakens the energy of your body, lessens its resistance, interrupts its normal processes, and, if the fear habit becomes fixed, finally produces illness. Many of you have worried yourselves sick. Some of you will go to a premature grave unless you gain new confidence.

Again, worry affects the mind. It not only prevents its victims from thinking and doing their best but also banishes calm and quiet. It undermines courage, builds imaginary barriers, makes people suspicious of their neighbors, leads them to seek sinister motives behind innocent actions, to find only gloom and pessimism in life. One of the reasons for the startling number of nervous breakdowns and cases of mental disorder is this, that too many people, refusing to trust God fully, become the victims of continued, unmitigated worry. This is tragic enough, but the spiritual burdens fear imposes are even more serious. It makes people put a question mark behind God’s promises, doubt their salvation in Christ, wonder whether they have committed the unpardonable sin, and feel themselves lost forever, when in truth no one can ever be lost who trusts this plain promise of Scripture, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

What, then, do men need? What must you have to escape these destructive forces? Money? You cannot buy peace of mind and a calm heart, even with heaped millions. When one of the financial leaders of America fell fatally sick, a Christian friend comforted him at his bedside and started to sing, “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy!” That multimillionaire, whose whispers controlled stock-exchange movements in this country and abroad, the financial leader whose wish was law for a hundred boards of directors, responded brokenly: “Yes, sing that for me! I feel poor and needy.”

Can position and power grant freedom from fear, a quiet, rested mind? Before President Andrew Jackson’s second term expired, the man who had risen from a log­cabin poverty to the highest position in the United States stormed out to meet a delegation, which three times had asked to see him, and cried: “Gentlemen, people envy me in this White House, and they long to get here; but I tell you that at the end of the second term I am glad to get out of it, for it is a perfect hell.” The last sultan of Turkey spent $900 each night to have his bedroom guarded. In Germany Adolf Hitler rules with a sweep that even dictators rarely wield. But few people are permitted to see him privately. When high officers come for an audience, they are first searched for concealed weapons. Dictators fear death.

Can success and achievement provide a serene confidence? William Makepeace Thackeray, genial British writer, found recognition throughout the civilized world. But one day, while he sat in a Paris restaurant, he glanced to the other end of the room and wondered who the miserable wretch was whom he beheld there. He arose to investigate and found that he was looking at himself in a mirror.

Can science, culture, education free men from their sins? If learning could liberate, why are there so many suicides among the intelligentsia, such crude superstition among cultured leaders? Why the large number of nervous breakdowns and mental disorders, despite all our schools and colleges?

Can you sidestep fear by having fortunetellers reveal the future? Not one of these servants of superstition—the astrologers, the numerologists, tea-leaf readers, crystal­ball gazers, dream interpreters, palmists, graphologists, their forecasts, the dream books, the fraudulent sixth and seventh books of Moses, the rabbit’s feet, the good-luck rings—can ever relieve you of your solicitude for the future. African natives converted to Christ give up their amulets and charms. A missionary to that continent states that in front of a lay preacher’s hut he found rows and rows of necklaces and charms and, upon inquiring, learned that these had been placed there by the natives who had turned to Jesus and put their trust in Him. But in our enlightened country people are paying an estimated $125,000,000 a year to fortunetellers of various kinds, who ought to be banned because of the evil and sorrow they provoke.

Can you free yourself from fears by following the new creeds and mail-order religions which promise to produce supermen? They are just as dishonest as the vicious deception recently revealed, when beautifully decorated packages for the soldiers, after the contents on the top had been removed, were found to contain nothing but paper and colored straw. It is bad enough if people are thus robbed of their money, but it is far worse if men and women are defrauded spiritually by cults which offer deliverance only to substitute delusion.

Can federal laws or social programs grant release from fear? Thank God, we have a Government that says: “Don’t worry about your job; we will give you employment insurance! Don’t be afraid of losing your bank deposit; we will give you savings insurance! Don’t be afraid of drought or blight; we will give you crop insurance!”—There are limits, however, even for the wealthiest nation. When things go wrong in your family and you fear that your home will be broken, no Congressional action can help you. If you feel some terrible hidden disease gnawing at your vitals, not even a special Presidential act can remove this terror. If you are lashed by the relentless fury of your conscience, no program by men or angels can free you from such fear. When you come face to face with death and think of the eternity in which you must stand before your God to answer for your transgressions, you need divine forgiveness and assurance.

II

CHRIST CAN GIVE US THIS FREEDOM FROM FEAR

While all human hopes of freedom from the tyranny of our fears fail, we have God’s radiant assurance in our text, “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee!” This is likewise but one of many Scriptural promises pledging our salvation. No fewer than three dozen Old and New Testament passages proclaim in clear, clarion tones: God has redeemed us! Because this can become a glorious day of inner rebirth, if only you will stop resisting the Spirit and listen closely to God’s pledge, “I have redeemed thee,” I ask: Postpone your after-dinner nap for a few moments! Come out of the kitchen! Lay your magazine or newspaper aside! Give these next minutes to God! To redeem sinners means to secure their release from punishment, to pay the ransom required for their freedom; and that, nothing less, God did for you. You were hopelessly enslaved in sin, and He made you free by His grace. You were lost in your iniquities, but His love found you. You were sentenced to everlasting death, but He secured your acquittal for life. You were condemned to hell, but He pardoned you for heaven.

How marvelous the way in which God redeemed you! No ordinary ransom could secure your release. Hear this and humble yourselves before the Almighty: He sent His only Son to save you. You parents know how hard it is to give your sons even for the nation’s defense, Will you not bow thankfully before the Father’s surpassing love that sent His Son Jesus not for His friends but for His enemies? No payment in money could buy you back to God, for the errorless Word explains, “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ.” Your rescue was no exchange by which you gave something to the Lord in return for your deliverance, as when captives of war are mutually released by belligerent nations. God did everything from start to finish.

While the Holy Spirit pleads with you to accept Jesus, harden not your heart! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” Get right with God today! Do not wait for tomorrow’s uncertainties! When you receive and trust this marvelous promise of redemption, fear is defeated, then you are Christ’s, He will constantly guide, guard, and protect you as His own precious redeemed. If Jesus shed His blood on the cross, took your place in suffering the punishment of your sins; if He loved you so much that He bore the burden, the curse, the guilt, the punishment of all your transgressions, can you not see that He whose mercy never changes will be close to you on every pathway of duty? The moment you accept the Lord Jesus “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Your life is not ruled by blind, cruel “fate.” You are not the victim of “bad luck.” “The cards are not stacked against you.” Rather does everything that comes to you day after day flow from the Savior’s magnificent mercy to strengthen your faith, increase your courage, and help you overcome fear. I read recently of a four-year-old child, alone, happy and undisturbed in the coach of an express train roaring at high speed through storm and night. When a passenger asked him, “Well, little man, aren’t you afraid here all alone at night on this noisy train?” the youngster smiled and said, “No, my daddy is the engineer up ahead.” Once in childlike faith you have been reconciled with your heavenly Father through Christ, no matter how uncertain the road of life before you may be, how black the world about you may seem, your Father is always up ahead to guide your course and guarantee your soul’s safety.

Believe that through Jesus you are God-controlled; that, if necessary, your heavenly Father will draft His miracles and might to bless you! A cottage near Warsaw, Poland, is marked with an iron tablet praising the Lord’s power. The villagers, explaining why it was placed there, will tell you of a God-fearing peasant named Dobry. Things had not gone well with him. His rent was long in arrears, and finally the time came when the landlord would evict him. On the evening before, as church bells called to prayer, Dobry and his family knelt to sing Paul Gerhardt’s “Commit Thou All Thy Griefs and Ways into His Hands!” In the midst of the song a queer noise was heard at the window. Dobry arose, raised the glass, and saw the raven which his grandfather had once tamed and then set free. Can you imagine his surprise to find that the bird had brought him a costly ring, studded with precious stones? It proved to be the king’s ring; and when Dobry returned the costly jewel to the palace, he was rewarded so generously that he could build a house of his own. To commemorate his deliverance from the fear of midwinter homelessness, the grateful man placed on his door the iron tablet, featuring the ring, the raven, and the hymn. If every American Christian family which has experienced God’s glorious intervention could similarly call attention to Heaven’s help, millions of homes would be marked with a tablet commemorating His divine power.

How often and how miraculously in the present war has our gracious Father not given His children the courage to declare, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident”! How vital, too, that the men and women in our nation’s armed forces know the Lord Jesus and the fear-destroying faith in His mercy! Give our fighting men the best equipment money can provide, but first supply them with spiritual weapons, Baptism and the power of faith! Some of the happiest letters we receive come from soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, who find courage in Christ’s Gospel. Up on the bleak Aleutians, after one of our broadcasts, the soldiers raised $125 in a freewill offering to help expand our work. An aviator, ferrying a bomber to Africa, heard our message 20,000 feet above South American jungles and was strengthened for his dangerous task. Men on the Pacific battle front have gratefully received these broadcasts. From ships in the Atlantic, from submarines, from scores of camps, from privates and high officers, come thanks for God’s Word, and at the same time repeated pleas to maintain and enlarge this radio mission, particularly for the men and women in our fighting forces.

Even when Christians meet reverses, they still have David’s confidence, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me.” This is not exaggeration nor mere wishful thinking. How, do you suppose, can a God-fearing wife bear a godless husband’s ridicule and refuse to take recourse to divorce? How can Christians meet sudden calamity, permanent injury to their body, loss of members or senses, and, instead of groveling in fear, courageously face the future? How can believers endure wasting, destructive diseases, excruciating pain, while unbelievers often take the coward’s way out in suicide? God’s children have faith, and defeating fear, they can exult with Saint Paul, “Whether we live . . . or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Regrettably, many of you who know the Lord Jesus are still ruled by fear. Some of the Negroes in the Civil War days were brought north by the underground railroad, the secret journeys by which they hid in friendly homes during the daytime and under the cover of night traveled from one hospitable town to another. As soon as they reached Canada, of course, they were free. On one of the trains which drew into the Toronto station, a woman who had helped hundreds of slaves cross the border, saw a colored man still hiding in the comer, afraid that he was being pursued. She cried out in reassurance: “Joe, why are you crouching there? You are a free man on free soil! Praise the Lord, Joe!” Similarly, with Christ you have crossed the boundary from sin to grace. You are free! Praise the Lord by refusing to cringe in fear! “Stand fast . . . in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free!”

What can still put fright into your heart? The memory of your past sins? Jesus took them all away. They exist no longer. They have been forgiven and forgotten. Are you afraid because you do not feel that you have been redeemed? Martin Luther was once asked whether he felt that his sins were forgiven, and the great man of God replied, “No, I don’t feel that they are forgiven; I know they are, because God says so in His Word.” Your heavenly Redeemer does not say, “‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever’ feeleth that he is saved ‘should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” But He does declare, “By grace are ye saved.” That must be true!

Are you worried because the consequences of your sins may be revealed and bring you disgrace? Take it all to Christ! He will not only forgive you. He will also grant you strength to bear the results of your own folly!

Does your conscience assail you on the charge that your sins are too ruinous and repeated to be forgiven? Does the devil whisper into your heart: “There is no hope for you. You have committed the unforgivable sin”? Find courage in this sure pledge of Scripture, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”!

Do you fear that you may not be included in the Savior’s grace, that the artificial restrictions men have set up may bar you? Build immovable hope on this all-embracing promise, “Fear not, for I have redeemed THEE!”—That includes everyone. No racial or social bar can keep you away from the Lord Jesus.

How sorely millions in our country need this courageous victory over fear! We are in the midst of trying times. Who can assuredly see the end of our difficulties? One of the cruelest of all delusions is the too frequent promise that after the war a golden age will come, the most splendid period in history, when right and truth, democracy and prosperity, will reign as never before. But the Bible warns us that in the latter times and before Christ comes to judge the quick and the dead, “men’s hearts” shall fail “them for fear.” Unless God is overmerciful, we must look for international upheaval and the wide spread of atheism. You cannot kill myriads of human beings, destroy hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of property, spend hundreds of billions for purposes of war, and then expect that somehow human ingenuity, statecraft and diplomacy will find a way for national and individual affairs to roll on more smoothly than ever before. Only God can avert greater suffering than this generation has already endured; yet in this world of sin and sorrow His Son, our Redeemer, looks down upon those who come to Him in humble, contrite, self-denying faith; and the heavier their burden, the louder the roar of powerful enemies, the more bitter the battle—the surer will be His comfort, the nearer His presence, the clearer His sustaining assurance. Come peace or war, health or sickness, gain or loss, prosperity or adversity, life or death itself—may the Savior’s triumph over all terror constantly reecho this victory promise in your heart, “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee!” Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 10, 1943

When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.Matthew 6:6

God of All Grace:

Help us believe firmly that despite our sins we can always and everywhere approach Thee through prayer in Christ’s name and assuredly find blessed answer according to Thy will! Forgive us, for the Savior’s sake our neglect of communing with Thee, our insincerity and hypocrisy, as well as our many other disloyalties! Cancel and remove them all, merciful God, because we trust in the atoning death of Thy Son, our Redeemer! Bring many to that saving confidence, particularly the men and women of our fighting forces, who take our places on the battle lines! Let the promise of peace strengthen their hearts! Show them what a heavenly Deliverer Jesus is, what a privilege they can have in carrying all their needs to Him through fervent pleading! Make us a repentant, prayerful people! Bless this day particularly those who sorrow because of their transgressions or stagger under heavy burdens! Without Thee, O Triune God, we can do nothing. With Thee hope and heaven are ours. Come to us, then, and bless us for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

EVER since the beginning of the Second World War we have read repeated predictions of a secret weapon. Three years ago Hitler boasted that he had a startling means of defeating his enemies, but we have failed to witness any proof of its existence. The French proudly announced that they had undisclosed guns, which would blast their foes into retreat; yet their country collapsed despite this much-vaunted artillery. In our own nation an air-force officer recently told mechanical engineers that our secret planes are “enough to make the angels gasp.” But angels do not gasp. If they did, it would be to express dismay at such irreverence. Our cause is ill served by such flippancy.

Nor is America’s secret weapon our sense of humor, as a full-page newspaper advertisement proclaims, glorifying comic strips and asserting that, as long as our people can laugh, we shall be victorious. You parents ought to realize, however, that not much laughter is afforded by some of these comic pages, which reveal to your children the technique of crime, the language of the underworld. Besides, merriment will never win the war. Victory will truly take tears and sweat and blood.

Yet there is a powerful secret weapon, and everyone of us can wield it in our country’s defense as well as for the defeat of any dark force. Captain Rickenbacker found it. Describing his twenty-three days on a raft in the Pacific, he wrote: “We organized little prayer meetings in the evening and morning. . . . Frankly and humbly we prayed for deliverance. Pangs of hunger showed up, and we prayed for food. . . . Within an hour after the prayer meeting a sea gull came in and landed on my head . . . and we had food.” Mrs. Ethel Bell, adrift with her two children for nineteen days on the South Atlantic, used that secret weapon. She stated: “Every morning and as the sun set, the children and I would sing hymns and say our prayers. We never doubted that our prayers for rescue would be answered.” And they were rescued. Ruth Straub, of the Army Nurses Corps, reported that Bataan’s brave defenders discovered courageous strength in this secret weapon. Her diary revealed: “There is not an atheist on Bataan. When the bombs come, every one lies on the ground and prays aloud, regardless of who is around.” Private Hollinger, who with five companions staggered through harrowing days and terrifying nights in a Solomon Island jungle, knew that secret weapon. He exclaimed: “We just prayed evening and morning. Believe me, we did a lot of praying.” And they were saved. Similarly, for the defeat of formidable foes mobilized against our souls, for the strengthening of our hopes, for the protection of our nation, we, too, have a marvelous, superhuman, divine power in

THE STRONGEST SECRET WEAPON, CHRISTIAN PRAYER!

For this victorious promise we turn to Christ’s own words in Saint Matthew, chapter six, verse six: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

I

THE NATURE OF THIS PRAYER

Note that Jesus devotes no time to prove that His followers must beseech divine help! To Him prayer is as necessary for the spiritual life as breath is for our physical life, the sun for bodily growth, or water for the development of plants and trees. If your spiritual stature is stunted; if you suffer one punishing blow after the other; if cherished plans collapse in a sudden moment, may the trouble not be this, that you are pushing God to one side, trying to carve your own career, rejecting prayer as unmanly? How foolish and fatal, particularly in times of war—this proud, boastful claim that you do not need the Almighty! How puny and helpless men are, with all their vaunted strength, when God’s ice and His snow storms put proud battalions to rout, when the angry ocean crushes mighty battleships! You need not argue the necessity of supplication with most men on the firing line. A national news magazine reports, “The closer you get to the front, the more you pray to God.” On the brighter side of the present scene is the fact that never before has prayer been mentioned in our newspapers with as frequent approval as now in World War II. It is, therefore, of surpassing importance that we know without question or doubt how rightly to invoke the help we need.

For this direction we must turn—not to human teachers, men who promise that, if we wish long and intensely enough, we shall surely receive what we want; to scientists who have studied the habits of semicivilized people and advance theories of prayer evolution; to Modernists with their own individual anti-Scriptural theories of intercession. For the true assurance of answer we must come to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our God. He never makes a mistake. Think of it—in a score of passages Jesus gives us prayer instruction! And more! He not only taught us how to come before God, He also put His teaching into practice. Well do we sing, “Learn of Jesus Christ to pray!” for no one has ever pleaded with the power and blessing that mark our Lord’s supplication.

The Savior’s first great prayer lesson, and one that lies at the base of our text today, asks us to direct our entreaties only to the true God: to His Father, to Himself, to the sanctifying Holy Spirit. It is of no import in what language men speak their entreaties, how eloquent or simple, how long or short, how loud or soft their supplications. It matters nothing where they plead, whether at work or at worship, in church or at home, on journeys or in sickbeds. If prayer is to be answered, it must come before the Creator who gave us our existence, the Savior who redeemed us, the Sanctifier who preserves us—the triune God revealed in Sacred Scripture. When it was recently announced that Emperor Hirohito knelt before the shrine of his ancestress, the sun goddess, Amaterasu, to inform her of the war’s progress and beseech her aid in victory, millions in America laughed at the very thought of a fictitious, heathen goddess helping our enemies. Yet multitudes within our own boundaries make a similar mistake. Either their pleas are directed to an entirely unknown being as they cry out, “O God, whoever, wherever, and whatever thou art!” or they address a supreme spirit, a mind of the ages, an architect of the universe, in such a way that they clearly reject the one God; or they send their supplications to human beings who have died and passed into the next world. But all the while the Lord clearly instructs us, “Call upon ME!”

Christ’s second lesson in intercession, and again one which underlies our text, emphasizes that every request to God should be made in Jesus’ name. This means far more, of course, than merely to close your supplication with the phrase, “This we ask in Jesus’ name.” You must have the firm conviction which recognizes that you, in your sins, cannot come before the Lord in His holiness; that, while human names designate those who “have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” “Jesus” is the name of your Redeemer, who by shedding His blood and dying the death of all sinners on the cross completely cleansed you of all guilt, took away the curse and eternal punishment of your iniquities, and through faith makes you spotless and stainless in His heavenly Father’s sight. Therefore, if you are Christ’s, God will receive you when you approach Him in prayer. My fellow redeemed, in this solemn moment He wants me to ask you whether you thus know Jesus as your Savior. You need Him more than anyone else. What can we do to help you realize that without Him you are lost completely, lost hopelessly, lost forever, but that with Christ you have forgiveness, life, and salvation? Is there any aid we or the thousands of pastors working shoulder to shoulder with us can offer, so that you will learn more of Jesus and with His assistance tear yourself loose from sin’s entanglement? When David Rittenhouse, Pennsylvania astronomer, measured immense planets, he found that a small silk thread stretched across the large lens of his telescope could cover even a star of the first magnitude. Are you kept from beholding Jesus’ magnificent mercy because some secret or favorite sin, which you regard as small and inconsequential, is obscuring Christ’s radiant love? Ask the Spirit to help you remove anything that prevents you from seeing your salvation! How wonderful beyond words, when your iniquities are taken away, to have a new start in life and daily to behold Jesus as He gives you His limitless grace “without money and without price,” without condition or credential!

If you have that faith, nothing can prevent you from approaching Christ. No manmade barrier, no decree of dictators, no prison walls, no pronouncement of proud churches, no feeling of your own unworthiness, no racial prejudices, no consciousness of the most terrifying iniquity need keep you from praying to the Lord.

It is to be regretted that public prayers sometimes ignore Christ as though He never lived and died for our sins. Altogether too frequently that name above all names, at which “every knee should bow,” is deliberately omitted to please people who hate the Savior. But if we sidestep Jesus, can we blame Him if He sidesteps us? Thank God, many of our soldiers show outstanding loyalty! The Cleveland Press tells the story of Richard Gourley, an eighteen-year-old marine from that city, wounded in a bloody Guadalcanal battle, who declares: “We pray, and we don’t just say, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’ We pray like this, ‘Jesus Christ, help us!’” The whole country should have that young marine’s spirit. Some of you need it with double urgency. How long before you will accept the Savior? Will it be necessary that you face enemy fire by day and bombing by night? Must you be torn from your self-confidence by the crash of affliction? May you realize the curse of sin and then, turning to Jesus and His grace, understand this loving promise, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you”!

Because we pray in Jesus’ name, we must plead humbly, penitently, with the contrite spirit of the publican who, hardly daring to raise his eyes to the Lord, could only beg, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” In our petitions we must become nothing, but Christ everything. We should say to God, “We are the clay, and Thou our Potter.” We should look to Jesus, as did John the Baptist, and resolve, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

When we pray in the Savior’s name, we must plead in the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot ask God to remit our offenses if we, in turn, refuse to pardon those who injured us. You parents who have banished your children because they made a serious misstep; you church members who refuse to speak to fellow Christians because they have hurt you, listen: Do not expect mercy from the Lord if you continually decline to extend compassion to others. Nor should you hope for an answer to prayer if you are living in unforgiven sin, oppressing your fellow men, bringing sorrow to your husband or wife, working in an occupation that helps destroy faith. Before God will even hear you, you must be reconciled to Him through trust in Christ’s redeeming love. Your sins must be removed!

Praying in the Lord’s name, we ought to have time and thought for others. Too often our petitions are a series of selfish requests for money, personal advancement, pleasure. Even after God grants our requests, we are frequently too thankless or forgetful to speak a word of praise. How different another young marine on Guadalcanal! The night before a hard struggle he pleaded—and these are his very words, recorded in a letter by his chaplain: “Dear Lord, if anyone falls in battle tomorrow, may it be I, because I know Christ as my Savior and Lord. Give some of those poor fellows who do not know Christ another chance and take me, if it be Thy will, O Lord!” If only you who call yourselves Christians and know what it cost the Son of God to redeem you would show a similar passion for souls, fall on your knees and beseech salvation for others! Especially now, when millions of our young men and women are far from home, many on the front battle lines, should we ask divine guidance for these loved ones in the armed forces. We ought to revive Samuel’s zeal, expressed in this assurance to the children of Israel, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you!”

The Savior teaches another prayer lesson in our text when He directs us to enter our own “closet” (our room, as we would say today), close the door, and there, removed from all distraction, approach our Father “which is in secret.” These words do not condemn public and family petitions. Rather, as the verses preceding our text show, does Jesus denounce the artificial prayers spoken for general approval, the hypocrisy which likes to “be seen of men,” the insincerity that thrives on formalism and outward worship, the show-Christianity which our Savior rejects in the words, “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”

Instead, Jesus wants the sincerity of trusting faith. He asks us to consider prayer such a sacred privilege that, when we commune with the Father, we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, concentrate our thoughts on God in Christ and permit nothing to distract us. Because the Lord desires not lip worship but heart worship, not empty formality but soul-deep trust, we ought to give ourselves entirely and unrestrictedly to God when we invoke His help. Let us honestly admit how many times, as we stood for prayer in church, our thoughts began to wander! We would not insult an earthly ruler with such disrespect. Why, then, should we dare show less attention and courtesy to the Almighty?

What a glorious blessing to know and feel yourself alone with God! What an unspeakable privilege to have the world recede from your thoughts, to come before Him whom angels constantly adore! Is it not deeply meaningful that practically every time Jesus is recorded as having prayed, except at meals, He knelt alone, for instance, on the mountainside near Gennesaret’s shores, in Gethsemane’s dark recesses? Can we not find a pointed lesson in this fact that the heroes of faith, mighty men and women of the Bible, from Moses to Saint John, often came before the Lord in private, personal, secret pleading, to pray divine benediction on their people, as well as on themselves? These things were written for our instruction. Following Christ’s direction, “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray!” we can experience many sweet hours of prayer in sacred solitude, but in Christ’s presence, as we bring before the Mercy Throne petitions and thanksgivings for ourselves and for others. In the darkest hours of the Revolution, George Washington was seen to leave his headquarters at Valley Forge and to kneel alone, as he besought the Almighty’s help for our country. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared that often when he saw no human solution to our national problems, he fell on his knees in the White House to beseech divine aid. Americans, accept the Lord as your Savior and Instructor in prayer! With the assurance of His blood-bought pardon in your soul, pray in your churches, pray in your homes, pray everywhere! But above all, make your petitions to the heavenly Father the personal outpourings of your own believing heart in the Savior’s blessed name!

II

THE BLESSINGS OF THIS PRAYER

Men pay little attention, of course, to such secret, unseen intercession; and to our human understanding it may seem that the appeal of a sinner saved by Christ can exert little influence in a world apparently ruled by physical force and human might. But prayer can release the mightiest forces in the universe. It can unlock the door to an unfailing treasury of hope, strength, courage. It can help perform miracles which no scientific laboratory can achieve, as it opens the gates of heaven for the redeemed in Christ and closes the entrance to hell. It can be a means of bringing lost souls from perdition to pardon, hopeless sinners from doom to deliverance. Faith­founded, penitent, personal pleading can bind the elements of nature, miraculously avert danger, restore health even when specialists decide it is too late for healing. Earnest entreaty in Christ’s name cannot only smooth the difficulties in your life, it can also solve the nation’s problems. The believer bowed low before his Savior presents the most striking contrast to the power-worshiping, control-craving forces equipped with cannon and tanks, air squadrons and army battalions, high explosives and poison gas, as they cripple, kill, and destroy; but nothing is surer than this blessed fact that the supplications of the Savior’s followers, poor and persecuted as they may be, can mightily overcome a weaponed world arrayed against them.

For to whom are true prayers addressed? Not to idols made with men’s hands! Not to a god who is so far off that he cannot hear! Not to weak, fallible men! Christian prayer is raised from earth to heaven, to the Creator in His marvelous omnipotence; and of Him it is written in Scripture, in history, in true believers’ hearts, “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Take every syllable of this promise on faith, my fellow redeemed! Ten Axis submarines may encircle the ship on which your son sails to the battle front, but the Almighty can swerve every torpedo aside. A hundred hostile planes may swoop down on his regiment as it marches through the Tunisian sands, but our Lord can steer every aerial bomb safely away. A thousand enemy rifles may be leveled against him on the Solomons, and a thousand bullets by God’s direction can miss their mark—all because your pleadings have found acceptance at Heaven’s mercy seat. Therefore I repeat: the strongest secret weapon men can ever wield is prayer in Christ’s name.

See how Jesus stresses this power when He promises that, if you pray with faith and sincere devotion, “Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly”! Don’t permit yourselves even to begin doubting these words, for they are Christ’s—no exaggeration, but His own exact truth! Your trust in God will be rewarded, all scoffing of atheists and unbelievers to the contrary notwithstanding. The entreaty which your heart of faith sends to the Almighty, although no man knows it, no one hears it, and many would ridicule it, will bring you unmistakable blessing.

Our Lord speaks generally when He says, “Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” He does not say, “‘Thy Father, which seeth in secret,’ will answer every plea of any kind you may ever utter.” Often we pray blindly and ask for those things which would injure us, harm our bodies or work havoc in our spiritual life. God loves us too much to heed such requests, but instead He gives His children a real blessing, the reward of His mercy, by which our souls are brought closer to Christ. Sometimes that open reward takes the form of sorrow and suffering; but in the end, affliction can be a far greater benediction than joy or the unruffled happiness of a smooth, frictionless life, for every one of us “must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” The burdens His heavenly wisdom permits to be imposed on us can make us more reliant on His mercy, more appreciative of His grace. Any petition for temporal, earthly, physical, bodily, family, financial help should be made according to God’s will. As Jesus at Gethsemane, under the pain of indescribable anguish, declared, “Not My will, but Thine, be done!” so we should implore every blessing for this life according to our Father’s perfect, unfailing purpose. It takes courage to ask, “O God, keep our boy across the seas unharmed, if it be Thy will!” It requires deep conviction to be able to say, “O Lord, spare the life of this baby, our only child; but Thy will be done!” Yet the more closely you walk with Jesus, the more personally you understand how gracious your heavenly Father is through the Savior, the more abundantly you will find strength in the assurance that whatever God ordains is good, that “all things”—and Saint Paul means “all things,” even disaster and death—“work together for good to them that love God.” So trust God humbly, patiently in Christ, even though you cannot understand the mysterious way in which He moves to perform His mercies!

Keep in mind also that Jesus does not say, “‘Thy Father . . . shall reward thee’ immediately, at the place, in the time, according to the manner and under the circumstances you request.” Prayer must never become dictation to the Lord. We should leave to God the way and means of His answer and confidently accept His all­knowing decision as to the where, the when, and the how of His reply as well as the why for the suffering that may intervene before His answer arrives. The time will come when, surveying Christ’s marvelous dealings with us, we shall see that God’s time, His place, His plan, and His degree of response are always the best.

By His divine mercy an open reward of grace will surely follow contrite, trusting prayer. Men may not recognize it, as they are often blind to God’s other benedictions. Even believers may not be able to explain the Lord’s public reply to their entreaties. After the fall of Hong Kong one of our Lutheran missionaries in that crown colony was about to be placed in a concentration camp with his family. He knew that the food would be insufficient and that malnutrition would be a real danger for his loved ones. He took the matter to God in fervent but secret intercession. One morning, after his devotion, the missionary, leaving his house, spied a box in the middle of the street. No one was in sight who could have lost it; so he took it to his quarters, opened it, and found that it contained many tablets of sodium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, just what his wife and children required for the internment that followed. Through this medical aid the teeth of those in his section of the concentration camp did not turn black, and their bones did not become ricketed. He was also able to save human life through these precious chemicals. Now, how did that package happen to be there just at that time? Had it accidentally dropped from a Japanese truck? If so, why was it not claimed? We know that the box was placed there by divine direction—an open reward for secret prayer. Now, you who have spent your lifetime in sickbeds, you whose home happiness is ruined, you who have repeatedly requested that the thorn in your flesh be removed, only to find it further imbedded, may feel that God is not rewarding your prayers openly. Be patient! Give the Lord time! And always look beyond the grief and clamor of a world in sin to the glory and radiance of heaven, where the Savior will say to all who have persevered in the faith, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”!

Likewise, if in any nation men humbly seek God through Christ, He will keep His word and reward them. That is illustrated in Switzerland, the country that twice preserved its liberty and independence although powerful neighboring belligerents, humanly speaking, could have crushed it into submission. The Swiss government understands the source of its blessing, and in a Call to Repentance and Prayer gives this recognition to God: “Let us remember this word of the Holy Scriptures, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain!’ The Lord watches with our army which stands nay for our country. In the peace of liberty and order we have been able to sow our fields, and the Lord has blessed their fruitfulness. Therefore we appeal to you, people of Switzerland, to spend the National Day of Repentance and Prayer in quiet, reverent concentration and not to desecrate the quietness of this day by pleasure seeking and noisy entertainment. Give honor to God as a free and praying nation!” We in the United States need more of that submission to God, for we have sinned against the Almighty—sinned frequently, ungratefully, grievously! Yet here is the divine pledge, penned by the direction of God Himself: “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Trust that promise and find in the secret, behind-closed-door prayer of millions in America our strongest weapon for the present struggle!

Pray down God’s power on our country in a real revival of true faith, which starts where every reawakening must begin, with individuals who, repentant yet reassured, come to Christ as their only Savior! My country­men, receive Jesus as your Redeemer! May the power of prayer strengthen you, your home, your church, and your country! Let the watchword of Christianity, the appeal that promises you divine hope and our nation divine blessing, the cry that has been the clarion call of this broadcast for many years, ring out ever more clearly: “On your knees, America!” “Pray, America, pray!” Battle with this secret weapon continually, faithfully, mightily, and you will battle triumphantly! We ask this victory in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 3, 1943

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!Psalm 51:10

O God, Truly Our Help in the Past, Assuredly Our Hope for the Future:

On this first Sunday of the new year we come before Thee in our Saviors name to beseech Thy guidance and protection during the trying days ahead for our country, our churches, our homes, and ourselves. We have not gone this way before, and we need Jesus every hour to pardon our sins and to walk by our side. We need the Holy Spirit to remove our fears, destroy our doubts, and grant us divine comfort. We need Thee, heavenly Father, to defend us against all evil by day and night. If we have to face the coming twelve months alone, meet the terror of war in our own strength, fight the evil without Thy support, O God of glory, grace, and majesty, we will indeed be helpless and pitiable. Therefore come to us and bring us to Thee! Call many to Christ through the preaching of Thy pure Word, and for the new year grant us all new hearts, new consecrated lives, new faith, new courage! Hear us and help us every day for the Savior’s sake! Amen.

EVERY day during the new year, until the Almighty answers our prayers, we should constantly plead: “O God of all mercy, put an end to the war! Stop this bloodshed, so that our men and women in the armed forces may return from India, Africa, the South Sea Islands, the Aleutians, from the sixty-five countries to which our troops have been transported! O God of all power, who didst send Thy Son to lay down His life for our redemption, grant us a just, equitable, righteous peace, with the triumph of truth and the defeat of evil, the restoration of liberty and the freedom to worship Thee! O triune God give us a victory that will not provoke further bloodshed, but bring the nations more closely together! We ask it, according to Thy will, in Jesus’ name.”

Not everyone will join in this prayer, of course. Some will continue to forget the power of intercession. Others will refuse to petition peace because they want more war. They have larger incomes than ever before. Why should they wish this sudden prosperity checked? Why, indeed, unless they could hear the wounded scream in agony, see bodies torn with shrapnel, visit hospitals filled with sufferers who have lost sight or limbs! Still others will reject this pleading for peace because they deny the existence of the Almighty and ridicule the mere mention of Christian prayer.

This we-don’t-need-God spirit has produced a boastful overconfidence which leaves the Lord entirely out of the country’s future. In its December issue a year ago a national magazine printed predictions for the twelve months just closed, written not by amateurs but by acclaimed radio commentators, military experts, public figures. Even a few days before hostilities were declared, not one of them definitely foresaw war with Japan. Several boasted emphatically that, should Japan attack us, it would be completely wiped out within a short time. Today, as we witness the complete failure of these expert prophecies which left God out of their reckoning, we ought to understand that, while no man can foretell what will happen during the months ahead, if we are to enjoy true peace, real blessing for ourselves and our country, we must have God on our side; and if the Lord is to rule national life, as well as individual hearts and homes during the new year, ours must be a repentant, trusting faith in Jesus. We must turn from our sins to His salvation; we must come before our heavenly Father in the Savior’s name with clean hearts, the “right spirit” of reverent trust, and new, Christ-dedicated lives. If we would meet courageously any adversity this twelvemonth may bring; if we would triumph over the temptation that its victory and prosperity may produce; if we would find comfort for suffering and confidence in calamity, let this be our plea and our assurance:

A NEW HEART FOR THE NEW YEAR!

May we, as David in our text (Psalm fifty-one, verse ten), refusing to rely on ourselves, turn to Heaven and plead, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!”

I

WE NEED A NEW HEART

This prayer was prompted by David’s remorse over a deep crime. He had taken the wife of one of his officers, Uriah, and then by devilish design had sent him to a battle front where he was sure to be killed.—What a pointed warning every one of us should find in David’s planned murder! If the sweet singer of Israel, the king close to God, the ruler with whom the Almighty spoke repeatedly, the prophet who foresaw the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection, could descend to the depths of such wickedness, treachery, and lust, how can we, with our evil natures and desires, boast that it is impossible for us to fall into iniquity and crime? Do you think that because of your church membership you are above committing a terrifying transgression? Do you feel confident because you are a minister of God and wear clerical robes that the destructive passions smoldering in your breast cannot break forth in consuming flame? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!” On the other hand, what sustaining comfort to know that, since David, home-breaker and murderer, could be forgiven and restored to divine grace, you, too, can have the positive assurance, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”!

For this pardon you must follow the Psalmist’s penitent faith. He knows and admits that his old heart, crowded with sinful longings, impure impulses, is foul and filthy. He makes no attempt to justify, explain, or excuse his crime. He does not claim that the king can do no wrong or that, as ruler of Israel, he is above the law. No; in penitent prayer he turns to God and pleads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!”

If only every one of us were guided by the same realization of our personal iniquities and sin’s sordid, destructive power! Instead our perverse age has popularized, glorified, even glamorized the transgressions of the divine Law. Public entertainment—look at your newspapers!—applauds impurity. Men and women of many matrimonial ventures can become the idols of millions. An authoress who smuggles a soldier from camp is arrested; but the same woman, whose books can take decency from the hearts of young readers, is rewarded with huge royalties and wide acclaim. The Bible warns us that abusing God’s name is a heavy sin, which provokes divine vengeance; yet our puffed-up generation regards profanity as a sign of red-blooded manhood. A New York daily, often considered the outstanding newspaper in our country, declares itself ready to print the profanity of a high Government official or Army commander, provided it is not too violent—as if the cursing of men in prominent positions were not far more dangerous than others’ misuse of the divine name! Again, the Scriptures ask children to obey their parents and those in authority; yet many distinguished, eagerly heard educators and sociologists ridicule the Biblical command and insist that boys and girls follow their own whims, be permitted to grow up without discipline! What a heavy payment our country must now make in retribution! Juvenile crime is more serious and widespread than ever before. Kansas City, for example, records an increase of 107 percent in the seventeen-year-old class! Yet when young offenders are haled before court, they are often dismissed with the instruction to read Huckleberry Finn!

At a time when the most widely attended plays are frequently the dirtiest and the most popular novels often the most suggestive, we can understand that the public denunciation of sin is the weakest. Indeed, by systematic falsehood, sin is disguised as attractive, alluring. Here are some of these vicious untruths: Lie Number One: “Why not enjoy life?” young people, and especially military men, are asked. “You do not know what will happen to you. Why not take a final fling and squeeze every drop of pleasure from the little of life that may remain?” But what of the accusing, torturing conscience, the searing memories of sin, the injury and suffering it brings others? Lie Number Two: “No one will ever find out.” Yet God’s eyes behold everything. They pierce your flesh and bone to search the secret thoughts in your heart. Lie Number Three: “You can get by and escape consequences.” So the gangsters killed in Chicago last week thought, when several months ago they shot their way out of prison. If the FBI’s long arm recaptures convicts, can you elude the arm of divine vengeance? Lie Number Four: “Sin is not serious. In fact, it often brings a reward.” However, sin never pays, but the unforgiven sinner always pays.

Sin has burdened the whole world. Early missionaries to the New Hebrides noticed that native women, leaving their homes to draw water or work on plantations, bore heavy, pressing loads on their backs. Inquiry revealed that they carried with them their household valuables, including even the chickens, lest these be stolen during their absence. Similarly, sin has brought suspicion and hardship throughout the world. It has set nation against nation, for every war, including the present conflict, comes as divine visitation. Sin has produced untold sorrow, reverses, and punishment, for God warns, “I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity!” His judgment never fails. Sin has changed man, made in the Creator’s image, holy and righteous, into a creature of unholiness and unrighteousness. It curses his labor with opposition, disappointment, and exhaustion. It causes sickness, disease, and finally death. It has filled him with evil and made him incapable of any good thought or helpful action. It has split homes, torn husbands and wives apart, separated parents from children. It has divided Christ’s Church into scores of opposing groups. Above all, sin, unremoved, closes the gates to heaven. The Bible decrees, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” Whatever men say of sin; however they seek to excuse, disguise, minimize, or exalt it, God’s true Word declares: First, “All have sinned.” Second, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The Almighty is so holy that no one with unforgiven transgressions can ever stand before His throne. If we would approach the Lord of heaven, our unclean hearts must be changed and cleansed. Our evil, destructive spirit must be made new and right. Therefore David pleads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!”

With the same emphasis on inner renewal Jesus declares, “Ye must be born again.” He wants more than a mending, patching, repairing of our old iniquitous lives. His Word demands, “Put off . . . the old man . . . and . . . put on the new man!” Though we were born in sin, we must be reborn to righteousness. That means more than living a polite, outwardly honorable life which, as far as men can see, avoids “the lust of the flesh,” spurns drunkenness, contributes to charities, and heaps up virtues. You can do all this and much more, and yet remain outside God’s kingdom. If your hope of eternity is built only on such respectability; if you forget your secret faults; if you refuse to admit that your whole existence is marred by many and deep-rooted sins, that your mind produces unclean thoughts, your heart often beats with hateful, greedy impulses, you are still far from the kingdom of God. You must have a “new heart.” “Ye must be born again.” Suppose you had an apple tree that yielded wild, stunted, sour fruit; would you be satisfied with painting the bark white, spraying the foliage, pruning the tree, watering it regularly? You could do this every day as long as the tree lived, and it would still grow the same disagreeable fruit. In only one way can you make the tree produce a good harvest: graft a new twig from a good apple tree. Similarly, God must graft new life into us.

Neither is it sufficient, if we would be saved for eternity, that we are merely convinced of our sins; that we realize and confess our repeated transgressions of God’s Law. Judas knew the enormity of his betrayal better than anyone else, but he ended in despair, a suicide. Since his day scoffers have found themselves in terrifying agony when the full realization of their folly dawned on them. Sir Francis Newport, who had received early religious training, only later to become an infidel, exclaimed on his deathbed: “Whence this war in my heart? . . . Do I assert that there is no hell, while I feel one in my own bosom? Am I certain that there is no after retribution, when I feel a present judgment? . . . Wretch that I am, whither shall I fly from my heart? What will become of me?”—That is the question many of you should ask yourselves, “What will become of me unless my heart is changed and I am ‘born again’ into spiritual newness?”

Hear David’s plea once more, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” to understand that the change which brings you to the Lord, the conversion which saves you from death and hell, starts with your innermost life! Realize what Jesus meant when He directed, “Cleanse first that which is within the cup!” Attending divine services, holding church offices, singing in the choir, leading young people’s organizations—as commendable as all this is—will not insure you a place in heaven. You need a “new heart”! “Ye must be born again.” Family advantages, the love of a God-fearing husband or wife, the guidance of believing fathers and mothers, church papers, Christian art in the home—who will deny the good these can accomplish? Yet alone they are no guarantee that God will receive you. A Christian wife cannot redeem an infidel husband. Believing parents cannot rescue their unbelieving children. You yourself must have a “new heart.” “Ye must be born again.”

Do you object: “I have been baptized. What more do I need?”—You can destroy baptismal blessing by rebellion against the Lord, by cruelty toward your fellow men, by sin against yourself. Baptism without faith is no pledge of pardon. Do you insist: “I pray. What more do I need?”—Jesus Himself warns, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” People all over the earth today are praying hard and long, but in the wrong way, without hope of answer.—Do you try to justify yourself by claiming: “I read the Bible. What more do I need?” Not everyone who studies the Scriptures will be saved. Bible critics who have devoted their lifework to finding fault with Holy Writ have examined its pages with greater intensity than most of you know. If you are to be acceptable in God’s sight, you must have a new, “clean heart.” “Ye must be born again.” Do not fall into the serious error which tells our military men that, if they die in battle, no matter what they believe, they will find quick entrance into heaven! A United States general sent a message to American mothers who had lost their sons, promising them that God would take these dead warriors to Himself. It is a clear violation of our Christian faith to assert that anyone can be saved by dying in defense of his country. That is Mohammedanism, but not Christianity. The Scriptures declare with the same force to you men in the armed services as to us civilians, “Ye must be born again.”

Throughout the new year and all your days on earth keep this vital, life-or-death, heaven-or-hell alternative clearly and constantly in mind! For your rescue from sin, you need more than what men call “a good life.” High intention and New Year’s resolutions are not sufficient. Bravery and patriotism; membership in a Sunday school, Bible class, or church; confirmation and church rituals, are not enough. Religious emotions and enthusiasm are not enough. Morning and evening prayers—all these are not enough.—They can be glorious gifts of God and privileges of faith; but if they are contradicted by unbelief, unforgiven sin, they only make the charges against you at the bar of divine justice the more serious. First and foremost you need to be cleansed completely, recreated spiritually. You must have a “new heart.” “Ye must be born again.”

II

CHRIST CAN GIVE US A NEW HEART

Now, if “a master of Israel” acquainted with the Scripture once asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” doubtless the question you are waiting to ask is, “How can I secure this ‘clean heart,’ this ‘right spirit’?” Surgery, particularly during this generation, has performed remarkable heart operations, and doctors now know more about this vital organ than ever before. But no scalpel can cut deeply enough to remove sin. No cardiac specialist can cleanse the heart from the stain of inherited and committed wrong.

Nor is there hope in learning. When we witness the irreligion and immorality produced by modern theories of education; when we find college men behind penitentiary bars, titled university graduates master minds of crime, we realize that our culture, although it can mold the mind, cannot change the heart. New York City has seen a wide rebellion within the public-school system. Instructors were seriously injured, their eyes blackened, their faces scratched by the pupils. A few were more brutally assaulted. One was murdered by a pupil. This may be only the beginning of what we can expect on a far wider scale when more of the atheistic-Communistic revolt against law and order sickers down to our elementary and high-school youth, in fulfillment of those prophecies concerning the last times: “Many will be ‘disobedient to parents.’ Many will be ‘ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’” Is there any assurance for this age in evolution, the claim that men are perpetually raising themselves to higher levels, that civilization is marching on to greater self-improvement? No other generation in American history has beheld the folly of that delusion as clearly as we. True, we have made progress in engineering and aeronautics, transportation and communication, but not in holiness, brotherly love, international understanding, and racial harmony. We have discovered multiplied means of making life easier and more comfortable, but no human methods for moral progress or spiritual betterment. Despite roseate claims to the contrary, the world is not growing better. It is becoming worse. With increasing insistence its depravity calls upon the Lord to return and put an end to the disorder which makes men, at the zenith of their achievement, drop lower than the beasts. Even jungle animals know when to stop fighting; but one World War has not been sufficient for our haughty age. This theory of man’s brute ancestry (taught to many of your sons and daughters in tax-supported schools), the fallacy which makes us creatures of chance, mere human animals, as all errors, holds out no hope whatever for a “clean heart” and a new, “right spirit.”

To secure that inner change, which no man, not even the most learned and virtuous can give us; to receive the blessing which no angel, not even the mightiest archangel can bestow; to be born again with a “new heart,” we must turn, with David, to the Lord. As the Psalmist prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” so we, too, must push aside all questions and doubts, every false thought of our own merit or moral achievements, and approach the Almighty in these opening days of the new year, beseeching Him, with whom “nothing shall be impossible,” for a “new heart” and a reborn spiritual life. King David could foresee only dimly, at the distance of a thousand years, the glorious means by which the Lord would grant him that newness. How much more blessed are we who in faith can stand beneath our Savior’s cross to learn this marvelous power of His atoning love, “He died for all”! The sins that burden your life, keep you from heaven, and sentence you to hell; the iniquity which neither you nor anyone else can ever remove—these transgressions in their immeasurable vastness, Jesus removed from you, Himself bore their entire guilt and endured their eternal punishment at Calvary. For you He fulfilled to the last letter God’s Law, which you daily break, paid the penalty of your sins, and restored you to your heavenly Father.

Whatever else the new year may bestow on you—money, praise, recognition—if it does not bring you faith in the sin-bearing Redeemer, it will leave you poor and pitiable. Whatever you suffer under the multitude of trials the coming months may heap upon you, if you have Jesus, the Burden-bearer, the Sorrow-sharer, you are strong and rich in spirit. On this first Lord’s Day of the new twelvemonth I beg of you, in the name of Him who can crown this year with a mighty benediction for you, accept your Savior now!

God has not only redeemed us through Christ, His Spirit also grants us a glorious rebirth. The Almighty has done everything for us by granting us Jesus; He has done everything in us by giving us a new heart. Hear it once more: our conversion and regeneration is all the Lord’s work. He sent the Savior. He puts trust in that Redeemer into our hearts. He changes our lives through this faith.

From the very moment that Jesus takes control of your life, you are reborn in Him. His inviolable truth pledges, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” You who without the Savior are slaves of sin, with Him can become liberated children of God. Now you are under divine wrath; but in Jesus you come under divine grace. Talk about the startling changes of our age! They are not to be compared with the marvels of this new birth. Debate the possibility of miracles! Is anything more striking than the conversion by which God’s enemies become His friends, blasphemers learn to sing His praise? Of course this is no change into absolute perfection; for as long as we live in a world of sin, we will never be completely free from its taint. We can, however, join John Newton, marvelously brought from ruin to redemption, in declaring: “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. Still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am,” namely, one of Christ’s redeemed, with a new loathing of sin, a new desire to follow Jesus and turn from wicked men, a new courage to face life’s uncertainties, a new joy when afflictions crush me, a new zeal to fight evil and resist temptation, a new freedom from doubt and fear, a new devotion to humanity, a new interest in home and finally, a new fervor to contribute to the nation the exalting righteousness it needs in this harassed hour, altogether a completely new and eternally blessed existence!

O pray Jesus today for that renewed spirit, the “clean heart,” the second birth, the regenerated life, because He Himself has unmistakably warned us, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”! If David had not turned to God with this prayer and trusted the coming Messiah to restore and recreate him, he would have been lost forever, even though he was a powerful king and once served the Lord with a holy zeal. No matter who you are, how high your position, how wholeheartedly you once took part in the Lord’s work, if you have fallen from grace and remain estranged from God, you cannot see “the kingdom of God,” let alone enter it. There is no other way to heaven than Christ’s way, and He says, “Ye must be born again.”

It would be blessed indeed, particularly during days of stress and nights of worry like these, if masses in our country would turn to the Lord Jesus! Diplomats and statesmen argue for this or that new order, when in truth the only real newness any people can have or need is a spiritual rebirth. As experts outline the conditions of peace before the war is won, we ought to remind ourselves that, unless Christ’s Spirit has its place at the conference tables, nothing is more certain than that a struggle of even greater scope can follow the present international conflict as soon as the belligerents have recuperated. The only guarantee against the early outbreak of World War Ill, under God’s grace, is the “clean heart” and the “right spirit” for which David prayed three thousand years ago. Missionary history shows that, whenever countries have accepted the Christian religion and its people have been led by Jesus’ ideals, an entirely new life has dawned, with a high morality instead of widespread ruin, education in place of ignorance, progress rather than superstition. On one of the Samoan Islands, Pentecost Sunday, 1862, more than five thousand natives, warriors and chiefs were gathered with King George, their ruler. Practically all these thousands had been born as heathen, many of them even cannibals, but on that day they pledged themselves to the Lord Jesus. From that time heathendom, polygamy, cannibalism, witchcraft were doomed, and the islands, utterly changed, became model communities, governed by the love of God. How marvelous if in our own beloved country, the most richly blessed of nations, our gratitude to Christ would be shown by millions’ turning to the Savior in humble faith! The benedictions of peace and prosperity that were ours when America, young and fervent in its trust, clung closely to the Redeemer could be restored.—Do you love your country and want to contribute to its moral and spiritual strength? Above all, do you seek courage for life and strength for death, the assurance of your salvation and the pledge of heaven? Then repeat David’s prayer and ask the Lord today for that rebirth in Christ’s redemptive love! Because Jesus promises this blessing through faith in His Word and by the cleansing of baptism, I invite those who have never been baptized to receive this “washing of regeneration.” The Savior Himself declared, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” His Word assures us, “Baptism doth also now save us.” Scripture calls out, “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins!” Let us send you a Christian pastor, one in the mighty army of my co-workers, who will instruct you and your household for the blessings of church membership!

What a glorious year this can be for you through that radiant rebirth! With Christ you will have light during the darkest hours. For the most grievous sins you will find forgiveness in His blood. Amid the deepest sorrows the Holy Spirit will put a song of gladness on your lips. If death enters the family circle, you can look beyond the grave to life. If this year is the last for you on earth, it will be the first for you in heaven. Therefore, my beloved, God wants me to ask pointedly: “Are you truly ‘born again’? Have you a ‘clean heart’ and ‘a right spirit’?” Do not sidestep or postpone the answer! Do not surrender to despair, as though your sins were too scarlet! Do not let doubt dominate your spirit! Come to the mercy seat! Kneel humbly but fervently before Jesus! Repeat David’s plea, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” and from the love that never makes a mistake, never spurns a penitent sinner, never bars or excludes, comes the answer written in God’s own Word, but positively penned for you, the promise of the great and glorious Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, the word that now would wing its way into your soul, “A new heart also will I give you!” Believe that and be saved! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 27, 1942

Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.Luke 2:19

O God, Unchanging and Unending:

At the approach of another year’s end, help us realize how much closer we are to eternity and how entirely we depend for our life, and particularly for our salvation, on Thy compassion toward us in Christ Jesus! For His sake and by the cleansing power of His holy, precious blood forgive our iniquities committed during the passing year! As we review our many sins and confess that daily we have broken Thy holy Law, we know that we have deserved nothing but condemnation; yet we have the confidence that through our Savior every transgression has been removed as far as the east is from the west. Bring this assurance into many hearts today! Strengthen especially the men and women in America’s armed service! Nothing is impossible with Thee, our God. Therefore we humbly ask, let this be the last year of the war! Through faith in the Christ Child banish our fears, encourage us in afflictions, deliver us from doubt, but always and everywhere keep us close to Thee! We plead in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen.

THIS last Sunday in December reminds us in the increasing rush of time that we are all a milestone closer to the grave, twelve months, which we can never again regain and relive, nearer eternity. Only a few more Christmases for most of you, no more for some of you, and life, with all its unrealized hopes and unfulfilled ambitions, will be over! We are living in the fastest tempo history has known; therefore we are under the heaviest pressure. Hurry and swiftness are the watchwords of this speed-it-up generation, with the result that our whole existence is being snatched away more rapidly than we realize.

With this high tension, increased during war’s emergencies (when ships, formerly made in many months, are now launched after a few days; when mighty military camps with a total area larger than some of our entire States spring up almost overnight); with this amazing rapidity, comes the danger that we too quickly dismiss eternal truths from our minds. Here it is only the second day after the anniversary of our Savior’s birth, and thousands of people throughout the country are busily at work in department stores, removing all signs of Christmas. In our homes, after a short week or two, the outward evidences of this radiant day will similarly disappear, and in too many hearts the magnificence of the Nativity mercy will be lost.

Added to this is the growing indifference by which the blessings of the Savior’s birth are carelessly taken for granted. Some people drive over the bridge at Niagara Falls and seldom look at that mighty spectacle, one of the world’s wonders. They have seen it too often to be thrilled by its grandeur. A transcontinental passenger, traveling by train through the Rocky Mountains, writes that everyone in the car was visibly moved by the magnificent panorama, except one woman, who hardly raised her eyes from her book. Later she explained: “This is the thirteenth time I have crossed the mountains. The first time I could not keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks, so impressed was I. But now I have known it so well that I frequently go through the whole range with scarcely a glance out of the window.” Similarly, as Christmas follows Christmas, many of you think that you know the whole story, because you have heard it so often, when in truth you can never begin to exhaust the treasures of its grace. The most deep-rooted enemy of American Christianity in our time is not the brazen atheist who boldly brandishes his blasphemy, for only “the fool hath said . . . There is no God”; not the sarcastic Modernist who often preaches only to a handful of people; not the down-with-religion Communist who threatens to destroy our churches, for God laughs at this bombastic boasting. As menacing as all these opponents of our faith may be, the most dangerous enemies of the Redeemer’s Gospel are the easy-going, self-confident Americans within the churches and without who hear Heaven’s invitation and then quickly dismiss it from their minds to live and act as though there were no Savior, no Christmas with its message, “God” is “manifest in the flesh.” These, I repeat, are the most dangerous foes because they are counted by the millions.

Now to all of you who are hurrying madly through life, with no time for the Holy Child, no heart-and-soul interest in the promise of His redemption, I say, in His name and with the plea that involves your salvation, your blessed eternity, your promise of heaven,

“HOLD TIGHT TO CHRISTMAS!”

Celebrate the Savior’s birthday every day! Take as your example our Lord’s mother, of whom it is written that after the first Christmas had come and gone, after the shepherds had worshiped and departed, “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”! (Saint Luke, chapter two, verse nineteen.)

I

CONSTANTLY KEEP THE CHRISTMAS TRUTH!

How noble and outstanding the Virgin Mary was! While we dare not endorse the error of some who have made her almost equal to God Himself, called her, in effect, the promised deliverer of the human race, we must not descend to the other extreme which regards her only as an average Palestinian mother. Twice, in the words of angels and men, does the Bible call her “blessed . . . among women.” We dare not detract from that or go beyond it. She who bore our Lord Jesus should be an example of excellency for all women.

Therefore we plead: Women of America, follow Mary! Remember that God has made you, the wives, mothers, daughters, of this country the guardians of much that is best and highest. If you fail us, the loss will be irreparable. The forces of hell are working in unbroken shifts, using the emergencies of war for a systematic attack on Christian womanhood. Too often their unholy assaults have been successful. Think of the girls lined up at tavern bars, elbow to elbow with men! Recall the startling increase in drunkenness among women! Hear the reports of growing profanity in large industrial plants! Behold the evidence of shocking immorality, cunningly practiced in the name of patriotism, and then ask God to give you a constant vision of Christmas and the glorious heights to which womanhood was exalted when Mary became the mother of the world’s Savior!

Especially, however, should we all follow Mary in her faith. She knew more about the birth of Christ than any other person on earth; and unfalteringly she trusted the Almighty. It is recorded of her in Scripture, “Blessed is she that believed.” There were mysteries for Mary at the manger, promises she could hardly understand. The angel had told her that her Babe was to be the Son of God; yet He came into the world amid abject poverty, and the first to adore Him were not priests or churchmen, but lowly shepherds. She had been assured that her Child would “save His people from their sins” and that His coming brought “good tidings of great joy” for “all people”; still was her Son not born an outcast? Only once in the whole marvelous story of her motherhood did she inquire, “How shall this be?”

We need that same trusting faith. I shall not argue or debate with you at length questions concerning the incarnation, the virgin birth, Christ’s two natures, and other truths which surpass our powers of understanding; I simply ask you to approach the whole Christmas record with an unbiased mind and permit facts to convince you. Daniel Webster and Rufus Choate were once the opposing counsels in a famous trial where the point of contention was the resemblance of two car wheels. Any open-minded person would have said that the wheels were essentially the same, made from one model. Nevertheless, Choate in a long, intricate oration, filled with technicalities and complicated arguments, sought to convince the members of the jury that they ought to overrule the verdict of their own eyes and decide that the wheels were different. When Webster arose in reply, he pointed to the wheels and said: “Gentlemen of the jury, there they are. Look at them!” Those six words completely shattered Choate’s elaborate argument. Similarly, to you who have been uncertain as to the truth of the Christmas story; to you college men and women with questioning minds; to you light seekers who have been misled by some boisterous, blaring infidel; to every doubter I say, pointing to the evidences of Christ’s truths in the world about us: “There they are. Look at them: Hellholes of heathendom transformed into model communities; savages become servants of God; cannibals changed into confessors of Jesus; sinners remade into saints; drunkards reborn into decent men and women! There it is. Look at it; the whole Christian Church! A thousand times the Savior’s enemies have sworn that they would destroy His kingdom, but a thousand times they have been defeated. Repeatedly infidels have boasted that Christianity had been wiped out for all time. Today it is stronger than ever.”

Do not insist that modern research and culture have disproved our faith. Scientists, even the greatest of them, can be wrong. Most of you have heard of Sir Isaac Newton, often called the prince of scientists. It is claimed that when that great man of learning came to grips with a practical issue of life, the problem of enabling his cats to enter the barn, he did not hesitate to cut two holes in the door, a large hole for the large cat, and a small hole for the small cat! Now, if scientific leaders make such mistakes in the trivialities of life, why should we be concerned about their denials of divine truth?

Always keep in mind, too, that many outstanding leaders in human thought have declared themselves humble and sincere followers of the Savior. Listen to testimonies like these, not from uncultured circles but from American universities, and not from any insignificant instructor, but from presidents and deans, men chosen for leadership because of their exceptional qualifications: President Thompson, Ohio State University: “The Christian hope, a living hope, begotten in us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, satisfies, inspires, and comforts. . . . I am a Christian because the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . brings me a satisfying message for the life that now is and a sure hope for that which is to come”! President Burton, Smith College: “In His infinite patience with sinners, in His divine forgiveness for those who harmed Him, in His terrible suffering and death, Jesus . . . says there is a God that hates sin, that this God is our Father, and that we are His children”! President Wheeler, University of California: “The Bible must be read more and studied more and taken more deeply into the life of every Christian. We cannot do without it. It is the heart of our faith”! Dean Rogers, University of Michigan: “I heartily accept the Bible as the Word of God and sincerely believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of men”! President Wayland of Brown University: “I place no dependence on anything but the righteousness and death of Jesus Christ”! President Finley, Princeton University: “I triumph through Christ”! President Cyrus Northrop of Minnesota University: “I shall uphold Christianity as the religion which is to save the world”! If these and many other heads of outstanding universities have followed Mary’s simple and trusting faith, what keeps you from kneeling humbly before the newborn Rescuer of the race?

Mary did not merely listen to the Christmas message and then forget it. We read in plain, one-syllable words, that after Jesus was born she “kept all these things,” the startling promises concerning the Holy Child, “in her heart.” We likewise must hold tight to the Christmas blessing even after the evergreen and decorations have been removed. The benedictions of our Savior’s birth are far too great to be restricted by the short span of twenty­four hours. You cannot put the Atlantic into a drinking glass; even less can you crowd the glories of His incarnation into a single day. When Paula, a fifth-century Christian, came to Bethlehem, she knelt at the reputed site of the manger and exclaimed: “I see the divine Infant wrapped in His swaddling clothes. I hear my Lord crying in His cradle.” Then, quoting in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, as the verses came to her mind, she recalled all the prophetic passages which dealt with His coming and concluded: “Have I, a miserable sinner, been per­ mitted to kiss the cradle where my Savior uttered His first cry? Have I been counted worthy to offer my prayers in this cave, where the Virgin Mary brought forth my Lord? Here shall be my rest, for it is the country of my Lord. Here will I dwell, since my Savior chose it.” While it is neither possible nor advisable for you now to make a pilgrimage to Palestine, by faith you can constantly keep close to the Christ Child. Accept Him as your Redeemer now! Take Him with you tomorrow when you go to work, when you march or drill, when you who must travel begin your journey! Let every day reecho the rejoicing of the first Christmas: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord”!

On this last Sunday of a year which not only reminds us of our steady approach either to hell or—God grant it!—to heaven, but which also serves as a time for spiritual inventory, look deep down into your souls! Many of you, I know, will admit that, unlike Mary, you have not kept the Christmas truth. You have lost the greatest treasure you can ever own. You had God-fearing parents. They taught you to believe that Jesus came to save you. You prayed to Him, and for years you trusted Him. Then something tragic happened. Usually it was prosperity, with pleasure seeking, luxurious living, the quick, easy making of money that crowded Him from your life; and though many of you seem successful in the sight of man, you are bankrupt in the eyes of the Almighty, because you have not kept Christ. Before it is too late—and think of the sudden deaths during the past days: boulders hurtling down a Pennsylvania hill to destroy almost all the passengers in a large bus; a family, driving to Christmas exercises in a public school, killed in a crash with an onrushing train; a commanding general in Africa shot down by an assassin’s bullet—these and hundreds of other deaths, without mentioning the heroic sacrifices on the field of battle, appeal to you personally: “Delay not! Delay not! Come to the infant Redeemer contritely, confessing your sins, trusting Him completely! He will forgive, restore and strengthen you to keep His glorious Gospel.” This week a letter from Texas told me that a man who grew up in the shadow of our Seminary and who was once ardent in the faith but for more than twenty-five years without Jesus and against Him has now been reclaimed for the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit using this mission of the air. May the same Comforter now speak living words of invitation and appeal into many hearts throughout this land—into your soul, even if you have turned from Jesus thirty-five, forty-five, fifty-five or more years ago! Come back to the manger during this radiant Christmas season with the holy resolve that, God’s Spirit sustaining you, you will guard every assurance of the Savior’s love as your priceless possession! Keep Christ in your family circle! Fathers, think of Mary, a weak woman with outstanding strength of devotion; and before the old year closes, resolve with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”! Keep the Gospel in your churches! Keep Christ on the air! Battle determinately against every sinister, un-American, anti-Christian movement that would bar broadcasts like our Bringing Christ to the Nations in a day when our boys are shedding their blood to preserve the freedom of religion!

II

CONSTANTLY PONDER THE CHRISTMAS BLESSING!

Mary not only “kept all these things” as a person treasures a costly jewel or a rare painting, but we know that she also “pondered them in her heart.” Constantly her thoughts dwelt on the angel’s promise that her son was God’s Son, a King whose rule would know no end. He would be called “Jesus,” the wonderful name which means “Savior.” Household duties, of course, demanded much of her time. Her Child needed her motherly care. There were no servants in Joseph’s humble home. Mary did all the cooking and baking, the cleaning and mending, the spinning and weaving. She never neglected her domestic tasks; yet she found time constantly to reflect on divine mercy. Not a day passed at Bethlehem, on the difficult flight into Egypt and the hazardous return journey, in the Nazareth household, without having her thoughts wing their way back to that first Christmas.

Here, too, Mary is a model for all Christian wives and mothers. Ten times as many women work in war industry today as a year ago; and while we pay tribute to their patriotism, this change brings acute problems to religious and home life. We read of children, locked in a room, burned to death while their parents worked at a defense plant. Much more widespread is the increase of domestic trouble owing to the mother’s absence from the family. No wife should unnecessarily take the place of an unmarried worker; the Government must do more to provide adequate practical help and direction for the children of defense workers. How tragic to win the war on the battle front but lose it on the home front! The mother who keeps her house tidy, sees to it that her husband has warm, well-cooked meals when he comes home from work, keeps her children clean, their clothing neat and mended, their manners courteous and polite, their souls turned to the Lord Jesus, and still takes time, like Mary, to ponder the promise of divine love, is rendering a service to American morale which, although often unrecognized and unapplauded, is as necessary as any uniformed service to which women are admitted.

God give us all much more of that pondering spirit, for too often people refuse to consider personally, seriously, unbiasedly, the claims of Christ on their souls! You may smile indulgently at the Scotch woman who, too poor ever to have seen any paper money, received letters from her soldier son containing bank notes, which she thought were simply pretty pictures. But are not many of you guilty of far more serious misunderstandings? You received many Christmas greeting cards, some of them, I feel sure, with pictures of Bethlehem’s Babe and words of Scripture. Did you take time to ponder the meaning of that Child, to read and believe those passages? They are divine promissory notes, these Bible truths, which pledge, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The bank of heaven always keeps its pledge; yet they meant nothing to you.

What do you suppose helped Mary daily recall the remarkable happenings of the first Christmas? She was no superwoman, she was flesh and blood as you are; and with God’s help you can do what she did. Continually she thought of the Lord Jesus because she had the Christ Child with her day and night. She herself nursed that holy Infant. Her own hands bathed and clothed Him. She sang Him to sleep with her own lullabies. She cuddled Him to her breast, fondled Him with her arms, kissed Him with her lips. Her precious Babe was constantly before her to remind her every moment of God’s marvelous mercy. You, too, can keep the Savior before you in the repeated promises of His Word. Within the covers of your Scripture is the whole story of salvation told so plainly that even a child can find its way to heaven. Read it! Ponder it!

As the old year hastens on to its end, may you who have not lived it with Jesus realize that you have had time for yourself but not for Christ; time for your body but not for your soul; time for amusement but not for spiritual growth; time for sin but not for grace; time for falsehood but not for truth; time for Satan but not for the Savior; time to cause others untold suffering but not to bring them happiness; time to read unclean stories and lust-laden magazines but not to read the Word of God and clean, constructive literature; time to drive your soul to hell but no time to find the one way to heaven in the Christ Child. Before these twelve months run out into the unchangeable past of all history, I plead with you: For your soul’s salvation take time, blessed time, to behold that Babe long and lovingly! Ask yourself: “Who is this Child of Bethlehem, and what does He mean to me?” Out of the miracle and the mercy of divine love comes the answer “He is your God, the almighty Lord of the universe, who loved you with the divine affection that made Him come into the world to take your place in fulfilling the divine Law you have broken, to become your Substitute in removing the curse of death, your Ransom in paying the debt of sin you by yourself could never pay.”—Repeat the questions: “Who is this Holy Child? What is He to me?” And the divine Word replies, “He is your Savior, whose unlimited, unconditioned, unpurchasable pardon and peace are granted you without payment or price, freely and forever.”—Inquire again: “Who is this cradled Child? What does He mean to me?” And divine truth responds, “He is your Friend, who helps when human friends give way, whose love kindles the warmth of comfort, the hope of deliverance, the assurance of heavenly joy in all life’s heaviness and sorrow.”—Put the pointed question once more, “Who is this Child, predicted by prophets and proclaimed by angels?” O my fellow redeemed, as the embers of the dying year burn in their last brightness, listen closely, every one of you, my countrymen at home and abroad, you men and women in the armed forces who hear these messages on the firing lines of the Pacific, in the lonely outposts of the Aleutians, on the bleak Alaskan frontiers, in remote sections of our own country, in Canada, Mexico, the West Indies, South America, the British Isles, and in other distant places—this Child is your Ransom from ruin, your resistance to temptation, your Path to purity, your Promise of a new and better life on this earth, your Pledge of resurrection glory in heaven! Keep Him, and He will keep you, through life’s fleeting years and death’s darkness, safe for a radiant eternity. We ask this old and new year’s blessing confidently, for we plead in His blessed name. Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 25, 1942

There was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2:7

Yet there is room. . . – Luke 14:22

Blessed Savior of Bethlehem:

Angels sang their praise at Thy birth. How, then, can we with unclean lips, living in an impure world, worthily exalt Thee on this happy day commemorating Thine advent into the flesh? Nevertheless, receive our praise, precious Savior, weak and imperfect as it is; help us daily grow in grace so that we may constantly direct our thoughts to the heaven from which Thou didst come and which, through Thee and in Thy time, we shall enter! Bring the peace of which the celestial host caroled, the harmony between Thy Father and His redeemed children, into many hearts throughout the world! In the greatest Christmas gift that even Thou canst bestow, grant multitudes the assurance of salvation through faith in Thine incarnation, atonement, and resurrection! Millions of Thy children are embattled in various parts of the world. Grant them a glimpse of Thy soul-peace and lead them closer to Thee this Christmas! In Thy forgiving Spirit we also intercede for our enemies, pleading that they may be brought to a penitent understanding of Thy truth and grace! If it please Thee, let this be the last wartime Christmas, blessed Savior! Let the earth reecho with praise for Thy mercy and songs of Thy love! Precious Jesus, as Thou wast born in Bethlehem, by Thy Holy Spirit be born in us today! We ask this newness of life, the true Christmas gift, by Thy endless compassion. Amen.

Two years ago, when the Germans invaded the Low Countries, the officials of a small Belgian community prepared to flee. Their village church contained a famous Van Dyck painting of Christ, and to save this treasure, the burgomaster and his wife loaded it on a truck and started for Southern France. During their whole hazardous journey they found no welcome for the priceless painting of the Savior, no roof under which the masterpiece could be sheltered. Because the weather was cold and stormy, they used its large frame and canvas as a shelter from rain and wind, until, months later, it was safely housed.

As I wish every one of you not a merry Christmas (for who, considering the American lives lost hourly in the war, the souls constantly endangered in the present conflict, can be merry in a carnal, careless way?) but a blessed, Christ-centered Christmas in your soul and family circle, I remind you that this Belgian incident represents on a small scale the startling contradiction continuously in progress since the first Christmas. Millions have closed the door of their hearts and homes to Jesus; yet in His unfathomable love He still stretches forth His hands with the invitation of love “Come unto Me!” The striking contrast of nineteen centuries is summarized in this mystery of mercy and misbelief:

NO ROOM FOR CHRIST, YET ROOM FOR US!

the double truth of our Christmas text: first, the words of Saint Luke, chapter two, verse seven, “There was no room for them in the inn”; and then the Savior’s pledge of peace, Saint Luke, chapter fourteen, verse twenty-two, “Yet there is room.”

I

SINFUL MEN REFUSE TO RECEIVE THE SINLESS CHRIST CHILD

Before the war the newspapers described a $5,000 crib made for a baby born into one of Europe’s royal families. Five thousand dollars’ worth of carving, metal work, studded jewels, and artistry—all for a human child! Yet, when Jesus, sinless and stainless, born of a virgin by a marvelous miracle, came into the world, His parents had not even a plain cot on which He could lie. They laid Him in a manger, the feeding trough of animals. You have seen that manger glorified on Christmas postcards as an ornate bed, bright with dazzling colors, pictured in a pillared, vaulted room. Famous painters have reproduced it as a substantial piece of furniture, not unlike the little crib in which perhaps you were cradled, and have depicted worshiping angels and celestial musicians hovering about it. But how utterly different the poverty of the Savior’s birth! Most of you cannot imagine the conditions in that stable where the King of kings came into this world. His birthplace was probably a cave dug into a hill outside the inn, a stable for beasts of burden; a dirty, smelly place that few American communities would tolerate.

Why was the Lord of glory born an outcast? Our text explains, “There was no room for them in the inn,” and no willingness to accommodate them, we may add. It was every man for himself in those days, and men before women, particularly women with children. We may assume that, if “there was no room . . . in the inn,” probably no resting place in the “little town” was available on that Christmas Eve. Modern Bethlehem has only 8,000 inhabitants; in the Savior’s day it may have been only one­tenth as large. Who among the villagers would be interested and warmhearted enough to shelter a couple that expected a baby within a few hours? Who would bother with them when it would be so much more convenient to rent space to others in the crowd registering for the census? Mary and Joseph may have had friends or even relatives in Bethlehem, but apparently all doors were barred to them. The priests, the Levites, the scribes, the Pharisees, the businessmen, the traders, the workmen, the shrewd housewives—all those “of the house and lineage of David” who had come to Bethlehem at the decree of Caesar Augustus and his governor—never dreamed that they could have accepted the most startling opportunity for service mortal man has ever known, the privilege of providing quarters for the promised Christ Child, the Redeemer of mankind. If they saw Mary and Joseph, they doubtless raised their proud heads higher, the more disdainfully to look down on the couple that had come from despised Galilee at such an inappropriate time.

The whole Christmas story, despite its Palestinian setting and its distance in time, has modern and American counterparts. We read that all the people had enrolled for taxation, and we begin to compute our new taxes, the highest in American history, levied for the year drawing to its close, with more people than ever before making returns. As we see Mary and Joseph on the road, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we think of the tremendous military and industrial movements in the United States that have made many of you journey far and often, that today station you soldiers and defense workers away from home. Recalling the crowded conditions in Bethlehem, we survey the many overcrowded American communities, where some of you now hear this Christmas message in cramped quarters, trailer camps, furnished rooms. When you find the Holy Family surrounded by unsympathetic people, you will be inclined to draw comparisons with the fact that you, too, are a stranger in a strange place, that no one has paid attention to you, except those who can make money through your patronage. Yet it seems to me that the most striking similarity between the first Christmas and this anniversary is the rejection of Jesus. Multitudes still have no room for Him. Before we begin to denounce the unfriendly citizens of David’s City, we should admit that masses in America, had Mary and Joseph come to their homes this morning, would have refused to welcome them. More than half our population has heard of Christ’s merciful love; millions celebrate the day of His birth intensively and speak His name in holiday greetings; yet consistently, year after year, they have closed their hearts to Him, saying in effect, “There is ‘no room’ in my shriveled, hate-filled, care­crowded soul for that Child in the manger.”

With all the modern cries for tolerance, too many show the bigotry of Bethlehem. There is still “no room” for Christ’s love; else why would this generation bleed its best power away in a second World War? “No room” for His humility; else why would half of this earth hear Him say, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” but be forced to follow Nietzsche as he cries out in contradiction, “Blessed are the war makers”? “No room” for His holy Word in modern culture, where experts would train our children without reverence for God and faith in His Bible! “No room” for our Lord’s creed of self-denial, when certain modern magazines feature page after page, picture after picture, paragraph after paragraph of profanity and indecency, but not a single sentence regarding this ageless message, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord”! “No room” for the promise of His cross and His blood, when more Americans reject Him than ever before; when theological professors, contradicting the holy angel’s anthem, “He shall save His people from their sins,” deny that the Child in the manger is our Immanuel, our God-with-us; when many American churches do not once open their doors on Christmas Day! “No room” for the Nativity mercy, which promises us that we are saved through humble, penitent, trusting faith in the Babe of Bethlehem as our Lord and our Redeemer, while great religious bodies deny this center and climax of our faith, “By grace are ye saved”!

A pointed, personal issue confronts you: Jesus, the Christ Child of Christmas, in this moment seeks entrance into your heart. Will you turn away from Him because your soul is saturated with the driving desire for money? Fresh in our minds is the account of a merchant-marine sailor who had secured a thousand dollars, perhaps more money than he had ever owned in his life, a sum so impressive that his heart was closely attached to this treasure, carefully stored in his locker. His ship was torpedoed, and after he was rescued, he admitted that in those perilous hours he had never even thought of his thousand dollars.—In the crisis moments of life, if you have rejected Jesus, you have lost more than money can ever buy. You have sacrificed your soul’s salvation. This is Christ’s warning, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” The Christmas appeal, above eating and drinking, giving and receiving, visiting and being visited, lighting and decorating, the plea that comes from the very manger of the Christ Child, asks you: “Make room for Jesus! Grant Him entrance into your heart! Welcome Him into your home!”

II

THE SINLESS CHRIST CHILD ALWAYS WELCOMES SINFUL MEN

Although “there was no room” for Christ at Bethlehem’s inn “yet there is room,” as the second part of our festival text explains—room for you in His heart of love, in His Kingdom of Grace, in His Father’s heavenly mansions. At His manger crib “there is room” for every sinner, especially the desperate and downtrodden, including those of you who write me tear-stained letters declaring that the transgressions of the past rise up to disturb you, waking or sleeping. When you come to Jesus in faith and He comes to you in His mercy, He removes the curse of your sin. He washes away its stain. The fire of His devotion burns away your iniquity. The power of His presence purifies your heart and strengthens your life. Take courage and believe on this Christmas Day that nothing can keep you from Bethlehem and the forgiveness in the newborn Savior but your own impenitence, your refusal to accept the Christ Child’s promise of full, free, and final pardon!

At the manger “there is room” for all, regardless of race restrictions or color classifications. “There is room” aplenty for friend and foe, since the Infant Jesus is the world’s Savior. He was born and He died so that all men, regardless of how completely they may be segregated into opposing groups, might be saved. During the First World War, Christmas came to a Russian war prison camp in Siberia. Up to that time it had been the scene of homesickness, misery, hatred, and despair. Suicide had been frequent. But when the prisoners and their guards gathered in the half-underground barracks for the Christmas celebration, the leader arose to say, “There is one song all can sing tonight, ‘Silent Night, Holy Night.’” They sang it—the guards and the prisoners, each man in his own language. When they were finished, the Russian commander’s eyes filled with tears as he told the captives, “Tonight is the first time in more than a year that I have been able to forget you and I are supposed to be enemies.” If you, too, will acclaim Bethlehem’s Babe in faith and trust, your hatred will shrivel away, and in new joy you will be able to worship the Savior who commanded, “Love your enemies!”

“There is room” at Bethlehem for the poor, unnoticed, unacclaimed, just as the Savior’s birth was first announced to the shepherds, lowly laborers. Joseph Mohr, who wrote the beloved lines of “Silent Night, Holy Night,” lived a humble, unpretentious life. He died within twelve miles of the place where he was born; yet his Christmas carol has sung its way around the world. And the Christ whose “strength is made perfect in weakness” can likewise save you for important purposes, no matter how little attention the world pays you. Indeed, the plain and underprivileged have always been especially welcomed by His mercy.

“There is room” at the manger for those who feel themselves lonely, forsaken; particularly for the families in which a son has laid down his life for the nation’s defense. How hard the Christmas festivities seem to you when contrasted with the sorrow burdening your heart almost to the breaking! This anniversary of your Savior’s birth has graciously dawned for you, to give you the Heaven-granted assurance that through the Christ Child “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Before this day ends, select some quiet spot and read Saint Luke’s story of the Nativity! Read it aloud! Read it prayerfully! It contains only 412 words, and it will take only a few moments. While you read, be fortified by believing that all this is written to show you that the Savior’s promise, “Yet there is room,” holds assuredly for you, in the love that knows no limit, the grace that recognizes no bounds.

Often in the history of these last nineteen centuries Christmas has been a time of mighty conversion. Today, when God uses this radio to offer you “His unspeakable Gift,” His own incarnate Son, picture the blessings which come with this Gift—the washing away of your sins, the salvation of your soul, the defeat of death, the assurance of heaven, the reunion with your loved ones in the realms of celestial glory; all these blessings which Saint Paul lists as “the fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”! Then, as the Christ Child appeals for room in your heart, asking, “Where is the guest chamber?” answer with the trusting faith of Martin Luther’s Christmas carol:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,

Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,

Within my heart, that it may be

A quiet chamber kept for Thee!

Do not be satisfied with a second-best, shoddy welcome! Years ago in a Scotch village an old lady stepped from a pony carriage, walked to a workman’s cottage, and politely asked for a glass of water. Only reluctantly the housewife agreed, showing her displeasure by bringing the water in a cracked cup. After the visitor had gone, a neighbor ran over to exclaim, “Do you know who that old lady was?” You can imagine her dismay to be told, “She was Queen Victoria!” That cracked cup is still held in high esteem, though it should be a sign of perpetual reproach. Let our welcome to Jesus be genuine, whole­hearted, soul-sincere! Earth’s Savior, heaven’s King, has come to you! Give Him the best you have, the best you are, and the best you can be by His grace! While we cannot receive Him in the flesh, yet He promises concerning our charities, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Before this holy day is over, resolve to share what God has given you with your poor, suffering, destitute fellow men!

Especially, however, may we, having received Jesus and made room for His redeeming love, bring the message of His grace to others! If you feel that the circle of your influence is too small for your testimony to bless many, remember, His Word never returns void! Church papers tell us of an American missionary who spent last Christmas in jail, imprisoned by the Japanese. The bars and barricades could not restrain his spirit, and on that holiday morning through the prison stillness he whistled “Silent Night,” “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful,” and other carols, until the guard demanded that he stop. Yet the next day one of the prisoners whom he happened to pass braved the wrath of the prison officials by whispering to the missionary, “Thank you for Christmas!” And if your testimony to the Savior rings clear, wherever you may be, you can strengthen and fortify the faith of others.

When the transatlantic cable was completed, the first message flashed from continent to continent by the marvel of that invention ended with the angels’ chorus at Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” By the greater marvel of the radio, may this same message now speed its way over all natural boundaries of mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, and find room in your heart! From shore to shore let us unite in exulting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” all through the Christ Child for whom “there was no room” at His birth, but through whom, by the rebirth of faith, we find eternal room! God grant every one of you this Christmas blessing! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 20, 1942

Lo, I come; in the volume of the Book it is written of Me.Psalm 40:7

Blessed Lord Jesus:

Receive our joyful thanks that on the first Christmas Thou, our Lord and Savior, didst come into this sin-cursed world as a helpless Babe to begin the task of our redemption, which was to end on the cross at Calvary! Thou wast born to die for us in the eternal deliverance of our souls from sin and everlasting destruction; O blessed Christ Child, continue to come to us through Thy Word and Sacraments! Help us believingly ponder the miracle of Thine incarnation, as did Mary, joyfully acclaim Thee, as did the shepherds, reverently worship Thee, as did the Magi! Turn many from sin to Thy salvation, and, O Jesus, may it be Thy will to grant us peace with a victory which will fully please Thee and soon end this bloody struggle! Watch over our young men in the armed forces! Strengthen them to resist evil and trust Thee alone! Give them the full Christmas blessing! Come to all of us now through a Spirit-filled Advent into our hearts and homes, O Christ, and help us come, penitently but radiantly, to Thee, our only Redeemer! Amen.

A DISTRACTED Delaware woman writes me that a military plane carrying her son in Alaska, long overdue, has been reported “presumably lost” in the frozen wilderness. Yet her mother heart clings to the hope that he is still alive; and she asks us to join her in beseeching God that, if it be His will, her boy may soon be found. As you sit in the warm comfort of your homes, busy with happy Christmas preparation, say a prayer for that Christian lad, who at this moment may be fighting paralyzing cold or facing the fury of a polar blizzard!

May God mercifully grant him the rescue which saved another Arctic traveler! One day while journeying in Greenland with a sledge and dog team, Peter Frenchen missed the trail blazed by his Eskimo guides. For hours he pushed on as best he could; when darkness fell, early, as it does after those short northern days, he had strayed onto treacherous, thin ice. Lost in vast, crushing stillness and frozen blackness, he cried out with all his might until his hoarse throat was silenced; but the sole answer was the echo of his screaming. He could only wait, hope, try to keep himself from falling into fatal sleep and freezing to death. The night wore on, and his terror increased. Suddenly—he could hardly believe his ears—he seemed to hear a distant call: “I am coming! I am coming!” Minutes that seemed like ages passed. Then he heard the voice again and—this time there was no mistake—it sounded clearer and nearer as its promise rang through the night: “I am coming! I am coming!” Can you imagine what joy surged in his heart every time thereafter the cry was repeated, always louder and closer, until finally his rescuer, an old Eskimo companion, did come? Just as he arrived, the first rays of the Arctic sun began to streak the horizon, ushering in the day of joy, Christmas, and with it safety, light, life, happiness.

Many of you, like Peter Frenchen, have lost the way; only for you the dangers and sorrows are incomparably greater, since you have turned aside from the one road to your Savior. You may not realize that you are lost. Indeed, you may actually boast that now at last, with the largest income you have ever enjoyed, you have really found life; but the hour is approaching, the midnight of judgment, the heavy blackness of suffering, which some of you experience even now, when you, too, will scream yourselves hoarse as you plead in vain for rescue. Oh, may every one of you lost in the night of sin, affliction, doubt, unbelief, today hear the welcome voice, not of a human guide, but a heavenly Deliverer—Jesus, your Christ, your Redeemer, your God, repeating His age-old promise: “I am coming! I am coming!” With the dawn of Christmas may your faith-filled heart exult, “Jesus, my Redeemer, has come and saved me”!

Because I am hoping, praying, for a right Christmas in your home as you make room for the Holy Child, my message for today sounds the Advent call,

CHRIST IS COMING!

the pointed promise of Psalm forty, verse seven, “Lo, I come; in the volume of the Book it is written of Me.”

I

“CHRIST IS COMING!” WAS THE CRY BEFORE THE FIRST CHRISTMAS

How marvelous these words, in which David, a thousand years before the first Christmas, envisions his Savior as declaring, “Lo, I come”! Yet long centuries before David, yes, from the very moment sin entered the world to curse man and drive him from the Paradise which God Himself had planted at Eden, the Almighty had promised the woman’s Seed, who would break hell’s clutching hold on men’s souls. Well does Jesus say in our text, “In the volume of the Book it is written of Me,” for the whole Old Testament foretells His coming into the flesh. The first book of the Bible also predicts that this death­destroying Redeemer will be the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, descended from the tribe of Judah, yet of such superhuman power that nations shall be gathered submissively before Him. The first great poet of the Bible, David, by divine inspiration records that the Father said to this promised Deliverer, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” The greatest of prophets, Isaiah, foresees the miracle of His birth, when He whom “the . . . heaven of heavens cannot contain” will be born of a virgin. It is even foretold that “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The place of His birth is recorded in advance by Micah, who, singling out Bethlehem, “little among the thousands” of villages “of Judah,” predicted, “Out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Daniel foretells the time of His coming. Jeremiah and Hosea record the startling events following His birth: the flight into Egypt and the massacre of innocent children. In its glorious climax the Old Testament thus previews the purpose of His birth: He is to bear “our griefs” and carry “our sorrows.” He is to be “wounded for our transgressions, . . . bruised for our iniquities.” From the first pages of the Old Covenant until the last, when Zechariah cries out, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee,” and Malachi exults, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple,” the Savior’s assurance: “I am coming! I am coming!” brought strength, comfort, joy, to believing hearts. Even in the pagan world men held a dim, uncertain anticipation that a mighty Rescuer of the race was coming. The Latin poet Vergil, who died only nineteen years before Christ came, declares his expectation that a Deliverer would soon be born, who would usher in a golden age. Truly that greedy, sin-encrusted era needed deliverance. It was a world in which Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, had in turn enslaved, tortured, destroyed their fellow men. It was a disillusioned period, in which human dreams of happiness were suddenly shattered; a lustful century, in which purity and decency were ridiculed; and although deeply religious, with ten thousand gods and goddesses, lavish temples and elaborate worship, unnumbered altars and uncounted idols, it was an age of dread fear, cringing superstition, spiritual hopelessness. Only God’s own people had hope—because in their believing hearts this promise constantly resounded: “I am coming! I am coming!”

On the first Christmas—O glorious day!—Christ came; and He appeared to fulfill those ancient prophecies concerning the place, time, purpose of His virgin birth. His nativity at Bethlehem, therefore, should be sufficient to make any person accept the entire Bible; for where, among the thousands of books written by men, is there a single volume that can do what the Old Testament does when it foresees, five hundred, a thousand, almost fifteen hundred years in advance the incarnation at David’s city? Today fear-weighted people, especially in our national capital at Washington, cause fortunetellers, crystal-gazers to work overtime; but be sure of this: No man can unlock the future. God alone can foretell accurately, and as a matter of record only His inspired Scripture has consistently forecast the truth. Skeptics and unbelievers ought to believe Scripture if only because of its fulfilled prophecy. You believers, children of God, should find strength in the assurance that, if Christ kept His pledge: “I am coming! I am coming!” and in the “fullness of the time” came, then certainly He will carry out every one of His blood-sealed promises to you. I cannot blame you if you put a question mark behind human assertions. Some of you trusted your best friends, but they lied, cheated, stole your business; or you paid dearly for impressively sealed stocks and bonds of great corporations which have failed to meet their obligation of repayment. Others among you have built your hopes on the assurances of politicians and statesmen, only to find their utterances empty, windy phrases; you relied upon your children’s word, but they broke it; you put your confidence in the sacred marriage vow now severed by cruel unfaithfulness. Do not let this embitter your heart against Jesus, for the first Christmas proves that He keeps His word! He came as He had promised; and He will come to you as His Word declares.

When the Old Testament ended and the New Testament began at Bethlehem, the Christ child had been born of the Virgin Mary for one marvelous, merciful, magnificent purpose. He did not leave His heavenly throne to found an earthly empire, for He forbade His disciples to take the sword even in defense of His life. Jesus did not introduce an age of ease, comfort, power, and prestige. On the contrary, He said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me!” He did not come to consort with the mighty and devote His time to the political interests of self­righteous leaders. Instead, He pledged: “I am . . . come to call . . . sinners to repentance.” He was not born to bring universal peace among nations, for He warned, “I came not to send peace, but a sword”—the persecution, the violence that those who confess Christ must endure at the hands of evil men. He came, not to enjoy the honor and acclaim which was rightfully His; rather does He tell us, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” Truly, “this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He came to offer Himself as a living, dying sacrifice in atoning for the transgressions of all mankind. He came, a Mediator between Heaven and earth, to restore lost men to their God. Therefore He appeared as “the Light of the world,” to banish darkness; as the Hope of the world, to plant joy into the hearts of despondent men and weeping women. He came with the victory by which His followers are “more than conquerors” in life’s struggles. And because He came, the earth was changed, history was altered, our calendar began anew. He was born nineteen centuries ago, but His grace has not lost its power as the years have slipped into history. He was cradled in a manger, though His influence has been stamped on every great, good movement since that day. He never traveled far, with the exception of His flight into Egypt and His trips north to the shores of Tyre and Sidon—a distance of about two hundred miles separated these points—yet His Gospel has advanced to the ends of the earth. His mother and foster-father were Jewish, but His love has brought men and women of every nation, race, color, and clime to their knees before His cross. Jesus never wrote a book, nor do we read that He ever attended school. However, He gave the impulse to the best of modern enlightenment; more volumes have been written about Him than about a thousand of history’s mightiest figures. He came for men cold in their cruelty, to bring hundreds of millions the warmth of His compassion; for mankind hard in its hatred, to redeem sinners and put love in the hearts of His believers; for a world groaning in its misery, to make the sorrowing and tear­stained raise their heads happily and sing, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”

II

“CHRIST IS COMING” SHOULD BE THE CRY BEFORE THIS CHRISTMAS

Praise His eternal mercy! Though Jesus no longer walks earth’s pathways, He still comes to us, as it is written of Him in “the volume of the Book.” Every time a picture or a greeting card portrays His love (What a shame that on this hundredth anniversary of the Christmas cards so many feature irreverence, hatred, anything except the Christ who gave this day His name!), every time you hear a carol praise the newborn Savior, He comes to you, asking entrance into your heart, promising Heaven’s blessing for your life.

You may feel yourself lost in the darkness of many and grievous transgressions, but the Savior of whom it is written, “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” now calls to you: “I am coming! I am coming to you with the promise of pardon for all your sins.” Do not regard Christmas only as a holiday on which you can stay home from work! Do not let fancy wrapping paper and evergreen decorations, burned up after New Year’s, mean more to you than God’s everlasting love and His unspeakable grace in His Son! Do not let the quickly tarnished tinsel and the fragile ornaments take more of your interest than the worship of Jesus Himself! Find time even during this holiday rush to learn in a personal, unmistakable way that the Redeemer was born for you! Let Christmas Day be Christ’s and yours in the mystic union of faith and love!

Are you suffering under life’s many sorrows? Jesus calls, “I am coming; I am coming with comfort, strength, and help.” He knows the anguish you must bear, for He suffered far more than all mankind has endured. When friends asked a young woman whose life was slowly ebbing away whether she suffered much, she admitted that she did; “but,” she added, pointing to her hand, “there is no nail there; He had the nails, I have the peace.” Touching her brow, she said, “There are no thorns there; He had the thorns, I have the peace.” Laying her hand on her side, she concluded, “There is no spear there; He had the spear, but I have the peace.”

Are you poor and unnoticed? The Christ Child was, too. In one of the Pacific Coast race tracks, where the Japanese evacuees were temporarily placed, a believing Japanese, forced to live in a reconstructed stable, wrote: “On the wall of my stall hangs a picture of Mary and the Christ Child. He was born in a stall, and so, I guess, He must feel at home here. That makes us feel so much better.” You, too, will feel a new upsurge of joy if in your anguish you answer Jesus’ call, “I am coming, I am coming to you,” with the prayer: “O Lord Jesus, come to me now! Strengthen my faith! Deepen my trust! Turn these sorrows into joy! Make all this torture work together for good because I love Thee!” As the apostles sang in the midnight of their imprisonment, so, no matter how completely you feel yourself encircled by darkness or how eagerly hatred seeks to control your thoughts, you likewise can find courage in faith and song.

Hardly six days remain before the anniversary of the Savior’s birth, and during these Jesus cries out with constantly renewed love, “I am coming, I am coming.” The question of life-and-death importance for you is this: Will you open your heart, so that He can bring you pardon and hope? Some years ago, when Ibrahim Pascha, Egyptian general, was to make an impressive entrance into Jerusalem, laborers smoothed the way along which he would travel. Heavy stones were removed from the road and the holes filled. A large banner proclaimed, “The Pascha is coming”; and from all sides the cry arose: “The Pascha is coming! Remove the stones!” That was the picture Isaiah had when, beholding the Savior’s advent, he appealed, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” For you this means that every barrier, obstacle, hindrance, which keeps Christ from your soul must be completely removed, so that He, the Lord of Love and Prince of Peace, can come into your heart. This Gospel broadcast, on the Sunday before Christmas, has the one definite appeal: it asks you in the name of Bethlehem’s Babe: Give Him the control of your souls and bodies! Beseech Him to remove the impurities, stubbornness, pride, lust, covetousness, doubt, unbelief, disobedience to God, neglect of His Word! Accept the greatest Christmas Gift Heaven itself can give: the indwelling of Jesus and His Spirit, which grants you hope and strength, courage and joy!

Let me emphasize, as the birthday of our divine Lord approaches, that there is no other source of salvation for you, except faith in the coming King. False Christs, lying, deceitful Messiahs roam over the earth today; but before you give them your allegiance, recall the disasters their falsehoods have provoked! A century after Jesus was nailed to the cross, an impostor named Ben Chochbha announced that he was the promised Deliverer. Mobs flocked to him, and it is claimed that he was able to capture 980 Judean towns and villages; but three hundred thousand of his fellow countrymen were slain on fields of battle; many more died of plague or famine; finally the false Christ himself was slain. Even more disastrous are the spiritual consequences of trusting men and human deceptions. God Himself knows of no eternal help for you except in Jesus, for “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” but Christ’s holy, precious name.

Your Redeemer is coming—will you greet Him in faith and welcome Him in love? When Christmas dawns on this war-torn world, will you be for the Savior or against Him? Will you young folks celebrate His birthday in a series of wild parties even though American lives are lost hourly in the struggles of this widening war, or will you be in a true church of Christ, joining your hearts and voices with joyous worshipers in the newborn Savior’s praise? Will your home be so overoccupied with holiday preparations that after crowded days and sleep­robbed nights the Infant Jesus will find even less room in your house than at the Bethlehem inn? On the blessed day when inner peace and complete gladness should reign in every household, will joy be banished from your family circle by bitter quarrel, brutal drunkenness, blasphemous cursing?

III

“CHRIST IS COMING!” MUST ALWAYS BE THE CRY

This cry, “Christ is coming,” which the believers raised during long centuries before the first Christmas, should constantly surge through our souls and leap from our lips; for the same Savior who entered the world as a humble mite of humanity will come again, not to suffer at the hands of His enemies and die on the cross of shame, but in almighty power and heavenly majesty, to judge the quick and the dead. This, too, is written “in the volume of the Book”; indeed, few truths of our entire faith are more frequently expressed than the promise of His second advent. Do you realize that in the New Testament alone 318 passages, no fewer than one of every twenty-five verses, speak of Jesus’ return, as it is mentioned in every New Testament book except three of the smaller epistles?

No doubt should remain: Christ is coming. Listen, as over the bloodshed and brutality of a world in war Jesus cries, “I am coming”! Through all of man’s blasphemy, the taunting of atheists, the lies of false prophets, who sneer, “Where is the promise of His coming?” our Lord repeats, “I am coming.” Amid the persecution which His Church sustains, amid the sufferings which believers endure for His sake, the Savior repeats the promise of deliverance, “I am coming.” More definitely than thousands of millions who have preceded us, we are close to that blessed but awful day of His return. “The time is short.”

Behold the startling fulfillment of the signs to precede His coming for judgment and deliverance! Here are only a few: War! At no time in previous history has bloodshed been as widespread as now. Famine! Over in Honan Province in China, hunger-crazed mothers are trying to sell baby daughters for twenty Chinese dollars, a single dollar in our currency; and if there are no buyers, the children are often thrown away and left to die. Think of Greece, where “many of the children are like skeletons,” Belgium, where 60 per cent of the school children have no breakfast! Earthquakes! From various, widely removed parts of the world come ominous reports of tremors. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy”—eight signs that describe our generation, the age which has produced dictators, leaders swollen with pride, and has seen more disobedience on the part of children to parental or governmental authority than we have ever before known in this country. In the last days, men shall have “a form of godliness,” but deny “the power thereof.” How true of our time with its mighty church buildings, its million-dollar congregations and their unbelief; its overpretentious, costly rituals, from which the plain Jesus, clothed in His workman’s garb, would turn in sorrow! Great apostasy, falling from faith, will mark the beginning of the end; and if the true Christian churches in the United States could compute the number of people lost this year, when many have proved themselves “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,” the total would be appalling.

Masses of Americans do not discern these and a score of other signs. They have not returned penitently to God in Christ. From the State of Washington a listener writes: “I am a shipyard worker. The cursing, swearing, obscenity here are unspeakable. Sixteen-year-old boys learn to blaspheme and outdo their elders. I could not possibly paint the picture too dark. A shipyard is an average cross section of our nation. Can we win a war with this situation? Will God stand this blasphemy forever? I am afraid for our beloved country.” Many other letters come to my desk showing that multitudes in the United States scoff at the thought of Christ’s return. I beseech you: Believe that Jesus is coming soon! Prepare yourself now for His advent! He is coming, the sacred Volume warns, “suddenly.” It will be too late if you postpone accepting His grace until He comes. You must receive Him now. Set your house in order before He returns! My fellow redeemed, come out of the Sodoms and Gomorrahs of this world to be rescued by Jesus!

Beloved, as the Advent and Christmas cry rings out, “Jesus is coming,” how will He find you? God grant that, even though the lights of hope have gone out in vast areas of this sin-darkened world, the lamp of your faith will bum ever brighter; and as Christ now calls to you through this broadcast, “I am coming,” may you, penitent but confident, sin-conscious but grace-assured, beholding Christ, your Redeemer from ruin, your Savior from sin, your Pardon from eternal punishment, pray in joy and triumph, “Oh, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 13, 1942

These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through His name.John 20:31

Lord of Eternal Life:

We praise Thee, Father, because Thou hast given us the Scriptures, in which the everlasting truth is clearly revealed. Particularly do we thank Thee for Thy grace in granting us the glorious Gospel of Thy Son Jesus Christ. Without Scripture and without the Savior we should be hopelessly lost, but with the Bible and through reliance on the pardon purchased by Jesus we are saved eternally. Keep us from regarding our blessed Redeemer with anything less than the fervor of a living faith! Constantly remind us of the unfathomable compassion with which He loved us and gave Himself for us while we were yet in our sins. When doubt of our salvation or despair over our transgressions would seize us, heavenly Father, send us Thy Spirit to banish fear and increase our trust! Keep us humble, reverent, and courageous, even when the tide of warfare seems to turn against us! In Thy time and according to Thy gracious purpose, let bloodshed cease and peace prevail! Until the last shot is fired, watch over Thy children wherever they may be in the turmoil of this struggle and fortify with the strength of Thy presence the lives of all who trust Thee! Grant us this mercy, for we plead in our Savior’s name! Amen.

ONE of the most thrilling rescue stories of the present war comes from Norfolk, Virginia. At a religious meeting in that city a young American sailor who had been at Pearl Harbor gave this testimony: “My ship was torpedoed; four other men and myself were on a small life raft out on the ocean for over thirty-two hours. I had my New Testament in my pocket. I had hardly read from it before, but surely did read from it on the raft. . . . Three of the men made fun of me for reading, but the fourth said, ‘Read on, Buddy! Read it out loud, so I can hear!’ I read and prayed that God would have mercy on me, a poor, helpless sinner, and save me from a watery grave. Nightfall came, and one by one the three men who scoffed and laughed at me slipped from the life raft, out into dark eternity. This left but two of us, so we prayed that if God would spare our lives, we would live for the Lord Jesus Christ. After what seemed an eternity, a light came out of the darkness, a searchlight from a United States destroyer. . . . Then and there I knew that my sins were forgiven. Ever since that hour I have been living for Christ.”

God rescued that sailor; and some of you, adrift on life’s sea, tossed about by the waves of adversity, can likewise find deliverance from sin, sorrow, destruction, if only, with all your heart, you take God at His Word and trust His promises in Christ. Too many, however, like those three scoffing sailors on the raft, ridicule the Bible; and unless you stop rejecting His Word and His grace, you likewise will drop off into the darkness of eternal death. There is no other guide to spiritual safety besides our Bible, no other Savior in addition to Jesus, no other escape from the consequence of sin than through faith in His atoning blood and redeeming death. Therefore, today, on Universal Bible Sunday, may God give you—especially the uncertain, the doubting, the scoffing, the self-confident—a firm faith in the Bible’s greatest promise:

BELIEVE CHRIST—AND LIVE!

Saint John’s inspired words (chapter twenty, verse thirty­one) offer you this pledge: “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through His name.”

I

THE FAITH WHICH GOD’S WORD DEMANDS

Saint John does not stop to debate or argue the Bible’s assertions, and neither should we. He heard Jesus pray, “Thy Word is truth,” and that settled any uncertainty for him, just as we should unreservedly acclaim Scripture the unfailing Word of life, in at Genesis and out at Revelation, the Almighty’s divinely inspired, errorless, marvelously protected record of our salvation.

Some of you, however, are prejudiced against the Scriptures. You heard a brilliant infidel attack the Bible, an unbelieving college professor direct his sarcasm against its pages, or a blasphemous atheist completely denounce it. Without taking time to investigate Holy Writ, you joined those who put question marks behind its promises and otherwise belittle its utterances. Yet many of those who most vehemently attack God’s Book do not know the Sacred Volume. American and British agnostics have often confessed that they either had no copy of the Scripture they sought to destroy or that they had never read it completely. Are you making the same mistake? Why not be fair and at least give the Bible a chance to prove its heavenly origin and its divine power by a careful, personal, unbiased study of its record?

Keep in mind, too, that many who sought to discredit the Bible, once they studiously investigated its truth, were led to drop their hostility and, convinced of Scriptural truth, acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior! Alexander Hamilton, Lord Lyttleton, Sir Gilbert West, General Lew Wallace, Sir William Ramsey, Professor Paul Elmer More, Lord Rochester, Giovanni Pappini, Professor Henry Drummond, Professor George Romanes, Thomas Jay Hudson, Felix Mendelssohn, John Stuart Mill—these and many more made a right-about-face from unbelief to reverent faith. May the Holy Spirit today touch the hearts of you who have kept your distance from the Bible and convince you of its heavenly might!

It is helpful, likewise, to know that many claims repeatedly raised against the Bible have been altogether disproved. One hundred years ago, in December, 1842, the task of uncovering the ruined, long-buried cities of Assyria and Babylonia began, when Paul Emil Botta, French consul at Mosul, dug into one of the huge mounds which the dust and debris of twenty-five centuries had heaped over Nineveh, the largest, proudest city of its day. The recovery of these ancient, devastated nations has helped emphasize the Bible’s absolute, divine truth. Just at a time when, particularly in Germany, higher critics were denouncing the Scriptures as unhistorical, untrue, unreliable, the very stones of these fallen empires cried out in defense of Holy Writ. For example, enemies of the Bible used to say that Sargon, mentioned in Isaiah twenty, was a fictitious character. They maintained this attack until 1842, when Botta, in his first excavations, discovered the palace, the annals, the pictures, of the very Sargon whom unbelief had boldly, but mistakenly, denied historical existence. They used to say that Moses could not have written his five books because he lived before people knew how to write; but they do not repeat that erroneous claim now, since archaeology has unmistakably shown that long centuries before Moses men inscribed their thoughts into clay and stone. On the table before me today is part of an inscription, secured in Iraq by one of my students, written 500 years before Moses. Critics used to claim that Nineveh never fell, as the sacred writers predicted it would; but they do not reaffirm that now, because in 1924 a tablet was deciphered containing an account of the city’s capture—a record in remarkable agreement with Old Testament prophecy. They used to say, in a hundred other overconfident assertions, that Holy Writ had been proved misleading and mistaken; but no modern critic will repeat the attacks of 1842; for a hundred years of excavation have shed new, welcome light on many assailed Bible passages and strikingly supported their accuracy.

We in this broadcast believe that Holy Writ, as the true Word of God, cannot successfully be charged with error. Annually we have challenged unbelievers in our audience to produce from it a single statement that can be proved false. We reissue that challenge today. In past years, though this message every week reaches many skeptics and atheists, we have received no charge that could be substantiated. Instead, only the restatement of ancient attacks rejected so often that they should have been dropped long ago! Our Christian faith, far from being accepted only by third- or fourth-rate minds, has been acclaimed by recognized leaders in human affairs, endorsed and exalted by scholars of international fame and by first-rank scientists. Mark that, you college students who are tempted to question or contradict Scripture!

The Bible is not simply true, accurate, honest; it is not only excellent when viewed from the point of literature and morals; above all it is a saving Book, because it teaches what no other volume can offer: the truth about our Lord and Savior. Pointedly does Saint John declare in our text, “These” (the many miracles he has reported) “are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” His whole purpose, he says, in recording marvelous incidents throughout our blessed Redeemer’s life, is to prove that He should not be classified merely as a man among men; but that He is infinitely higher than all earthly leaders, all supermen and saints; that He is, in Heaven’s own truth, “the Son of God,” with divine power and resources at His disposal. Twice the great God said of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son.” In many places Jesus asserts that He is God’s Son. Hundreds of passages in both Testaments similarly acclaim Him. Scores of startling miracles gloriously prove His divine Sonship. Therefore the Jesus whom the Bible and this broadcast give you, in distinction from the Jesus preached this morning from many pulpits where He was acknowledged as a great man, but only a man; the Christ who alone can help fumbling, faltering, falling mankind; the Savior who holds out certain solution for your problems and assured relief for your afflictions, is the Son of God, almighty in His power, unlimited in His understanding, unrestricted by time or space, unhindered by any human weakness, as He comes to you with pardon. Will you not agree that for our distressed day—when human props have collapsed, when human plans for peace and progress lie shattered, when human proposals for safeguarding the future provoke deep-rooted suspicion—we need divine direction and superhuman assurance? Are you not ready to admit that the difficulties in your own life are beyond men’s counsel and consolation; that your heart, crying out for a deliverer, asks, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!” the Source of all my help? Thank Heaven today, that question is eternally answered by Jesus! In Him you have your God, whose power can rescue you in every affliction, whose knowledge foresees each path you take and leads you with loving-kindness, whose presence daily accompanies you, so that you need never be without His sustaining companionship! If you are fighting life’s battle alone—and losing; if you struggle against evil only in your own strength—and suffer defeat; if you find yourself crushed beneath the avalanche of sorrows that no human rescuers can ever remove, believe the Bible! Believe God! Believe Christ! Believe the “many infallible proofs”! Believe the true, unimpeachable witnesses who, pointing to Him, declare, “He is our God”!

All this is inseparably tied up with the second great Bible truth by which we declare that Jesus is not only divine, with the Father and the Spirit our one and true Lord of lords, but also that He is, as Saint John likewise states, “the Christ.” Do you know the real, blessed meaning of the six lettered name Christ? (Regrettably this is so frequently misused in profanity and so lightly regarded even by those called Christians that the eternity of love and the measureless compassion it contains remain unrecognized.) Listen carefully, then, as I explain this name of everlasting blessing! Christ means the One Anointed of God, the promised Messiah, the long-foretold Deliverer who, moved by fathomless mercy, left His eternal glory to become, as the Christmas message proclaims, a helpless mite of a babe in Bethlehem’s manger, to live years of service and sacrifice on this sin-scarred earth, and then, in the startling climax of His indescribable self-sacrifice, to lay down His life in suffering the penalty of all mankind’s iniquity. To understand what Christ really means for your soul, you must first see yourself hopelessly lost in sin, separated from the Father by the evil of your transgression, unable with all you have and are, with everything you can earn, to purchase pardon and release even from a solitary violation of the divine Law. You must see yourself rejected by the Almighty, in whose sight no sinner can stand, continually ruled by the lustful, covetous longings of an evil heart. You must find yourself banished from heaven, consigned to hell. But then this name above all names, Jesus, the Christ, can have new and personal meaning for you, when you believe assuredly that He took from you the curse of your sin, even though it cost Him His life; that He removed hell’s clutching grip on your soul, even though He had to be nailed to the cross to gain the victory; that He paid once and entirely the price required to redeem you from eternal death, even if He had to endure indescribable agony in becoming your Substitute and your Salvation. That Christ—and may every one of you say, “My Christ, my Redeemer, my Ransom, my Substitute on the cross, my Savior from sin”—is the center of the Bible, the fulfillment of startling prophecies which predict His birth, death, and resurrection centuries before He went to the cross; the climax message of the New Testament and its thousands of radiant passages.

My fellow redeemed, is Christ the sole and sacred glory of your faith in this morally upside-down world—on the one hand with millions of men bent on killing, and on the other with millions spending and squandering, living in drunkenness and debauch, impurity and vice, as though there were no war and American men were not being sacrificed daily? If anything or anyone has kept you from proclaiming Him your Redeemer, cut yourself loose today from all soul-destroying influences! Make this a glorious Christmas season! Cause joy in heaven and on earth by declaring with a contrite, yet faith-filled heart: “O Jesus, my Prophet, Priest, and King, Thou art my Friend, my Sustainer, my Guide; but, above all, Thou art the Son of God and the Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer! I am weak and sinful, but Thou art almighty, and Thy blood can cleanse me. I am not worthy even to approach Thee, but Thou art full of grace and plenteous mercy. I have only a faltering faith. Yet, dear Jesus, ‘I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief’! Strengthen me! Keep me with Thee and bless me eternally!”

II

THE BLESSING WHICH GOD’S WORD PROMISES

When Christ is thus acclaimed in sincerity and devotion, you have a gift of grace so radiant that eternity will not be long enough to exhaust its marvelous mercy. Saint John promises us that, when we truly believe in Jesus, we shall have “life through His name.” Because on the cross He paid for all our transgressions, we have no sin in God’s sight and have therefore been completely freed from the terrors of the grave. “Christ . . . hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.” Think of it, believe it, exult in it, praise God for it! Christ gives those who are His a hallowed dwelling in His Father’s house, an unending home in paradise! After earth’s turmoil, heaven with its rest; after death, everlasting joy; after the repulsive vices in this life, heaven with its sinlessness and purity, its beholding and worshiping Christ, instead of the cursing and blasphemy here below; heaven with its higher knowledge, in place of our errors and limited understanding; its light and beauty, in place of the grime and gloom in this war­racked world; heaven and its reunion with those beloved ones who died in the faith, instead of parting and farewells; heaven, where we shall be like Jesus, after an existence during which in our sins we have been altogether unlike Him—that heaven Christ offers everyone of you! God grant you will not turn away indifferently from the most blessed gift which even the Almighty’s grace can grant!

The life which our text promises is not, however, reserved exclusively for paradise. As soon as you acclaim Jesus your Savior, you are reborn, a new creature, and even here in this world you begin that blessed, God­directed, everlasting existence. Therefore believe Christ—and live joyfully, despite the weight of your affliction! Through Jesus your sufferings are hallowed. Every sorrow is the evidence of the merciful Father’s compassion, for “whom” He “loveth He chasteneth.” With this unquestioning faith in divine guidance an Illinois mother who has lost five children at birth could tell us in a letter last week that she still trusts her Savior. That is why an Ohio friend could write that though he has been in bed for forty-eight years and apparently must suffer until God calls him home, he still glorifies his Savior.

Believe Christ—and live courageously, for with Jesus as your Redeemer, you face no hardship or danger alone. Never forget that, you men in the armed forces! More than everything else you need the strengthening Savior. Keep close to Him, you, the weak and uncertain who make too many compromises with unbelief and refuse to protest when His name and His truth are attacked! In connection with the Boston fire a newspaper told the remarkable story of a woman who, leaving that night club with her friends in protest against a dirty song featured by one of the entertainers, was hardly out of the building when it was turned into a blazing inferno. If you give Him your heart, He will plant within it a resistance to temptation and evil which, under God, can help save your soul from destruction.

Believe Christ—and live in Christlike service! This greedy, self-destroying world cries out for men and women who, following in the Savior’s footsteps, will extend the guiding hand of love and sympathy to suffering mankind. And where, if not in Jesus, can we discover the perfect example of devotion to the needs of others? By putting His “new commandment,” “that ye love one another,” into action, many of you can find new happiness. Princess Eugenia of Sweden, a humble believer, spent most of her income on various charities. When the Island of Gottland was sorely pressed for a hospital to serve the poor, she, constrained by Jesus’ love, sold her crown diamonds and with the proceeds built a home for incurables. There one of the patients seemed peculiarly unapproachable, and the princess, in her own words, “prayed much for her.” One day, after long intercession and tireless testimony, as Eugenia approached her bed, the sick woman broke her icy unbelief, saying, “I thank God that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,’ and that means me.” Even as she spoke, the tears streamed down her cheeks, and “in those tears,” wrote the Swedish noblewoman, “I saw my diamonds again.” In the joy of salvation which the Savior permits you to bring into others’ lives, you, too, can discern everything you have ever given for Him.

Believe Christ—and live victoriously! With the Son of God enthroned in your heart, doubt will not secure a permanent foothold on your soul. Adversity’s storms can never demolish your faith, for it is built on a Rock. Even war cannot destroy your calm of soul, for its peace is sealed with Jesus’ blood. As long as you have Him, you will not be uncertain of your salvation; for it is offered you by His pure grace, as our text emphasizes when it declares that, “believing, ye might have life,” and have it “through His name.” You require, not your own good resolutions or intentions, your money or merit, but faith in the Savior’s mercy vouchsafed by His name. You need only believe the thousands of golden truths in Scripture. As you focus your eyes on the cross, declare, “All these pledges of mercy, these assurances of victory over sin and temptation, these guarantees of triumph over death and hell, all the offers of eternal life, are mine, as definitely as though my name were inscribed on every message”!

What is it, then, that our age needs with particular force if not a return to the reverent regard and the serious study of the Scriptures, a new understanding of the Bible’s promise, “Believe Christ—and live”? Therefore take your Bible! Read it reverently and devotedly, with concentration of thought and consecration of mind! As I recall a friend in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who out of love for Holy Writ spent five years in learning the Hebrew and the Greek languages so that he could delve more fully into the depths of divine promise, and who, together with his wife, has read God’s Word from cover to cover more than sixty times, I plead with you, Resolve that, the Holy Spirit strengthening you, you will read through the entire Bible, starting today! If you need directions and guidance for Scripture readings, we shall be happy to supply them. Get right with God; now, in the only way you can, through faith in the Christ promised by His errorless truth!

Read the Bible in your family circles! More than two thirds of all domestic troubles could be avoided, I think, if disturbed households had time, interest, love, for Scripture.

Read the Bible in your churches! If the entire laity of Christian congregations were enrolled in Bible classes, we could witness the mightiest upswing Christianity has ever experienced in this country. Much of the pulpit disloyalty to Jesus would be banished, and many more churches could become spiritual forces for the help of individuals and for the strengthening of national morale.

Have your children study Holy Writ daily, if at all possible, in the Christian day schools that I regularly endorse because they can bring eternal salvation to your boys and girls!

In short, my fellow countrymen and fellow Christians, let us, each one of us, individually, dedicate ourselves to this program: The Bible for my world! The Bible for my country! The Bible for my church! The Bible for my home! The Bible, with Christ and His promise of life eternal, for my soul, now and to all eternity! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 6, 1942

Tell me, what hast thou in the house?2 Kings 4:2

God, True, Triune, and Eternal:

A year ago our country entered this world war; and today we pause to thank Thee for every act of protecting love by which Thou didst shield the lives of Thy children during the past twelve months, sustaining them amid peril and affliction. We praise Thy mercy that our shores have not been invaded nor our homes blasted by bombs. We have not suffered as the people in other lands. Continue, we beseech Thee, to look mercifully on us! We confess that too often we have been proud, forgetful of Thy grace, heedless of Thy warnings. We have deserved punishment in place of pardon. Forgive us these and all our sins for Jesus’, our only Savior’s, sake! Bless us according to Thy holy purpose with victory and a triumph of Christian truth! Comfort the wounded, the imprisoned, those under fire of attack! Turn them from war’s destruction to the blessed pursuits of peace! Without Christ we can do nothing; but with Him, through firm faith, we can overcome the world. Enrich us with a fuller measure of humble trust! We ask it in the name of Jesus, our Redeemer. Amen.

IN many Midwestern cities civilian defense workers are now making house-to-house calls to learn whether our homes are prepared for air raids and other war emergencies. With splendid and unpaid devotion to their important tasks these volunteers ask one family after the other: “What have you in your home: A blackout room? A first-aid kit? Sand pails to check incendiary bombs? Fire extinguishers and other useful equipment?” They want every American household to be fully prepared against danger.

How helpful if the churches could similarly take a spiritual checkup on all our households, if every family from coast to coast would honestly answer questions like this: “What have you in your home—a place where you regularly pray God for light in these dark days, a Bible that you daily use as spiritual first aid for domestic difficulties, Christian faith to subdue fiery passions and quench burning anger?”

If the Government marks with a victory V those dwellings in which the family limits its needs, saves scrap; purchases bonds, follows civilian defense instructions, and is guilty of no careless speech, then certainly we ought to mark with the Savior’s cross those households which have room for prayer, ban loose, profane talk, contribute to our Lord’s kingdom, and follow His Gospel with its plans for soul defense.

We need such faith-blessed homes not only because Christian families are a strong part of the country’s foundation, because war and its separation are weakening domestic ties, because the Bible’s code of married life is being attacked as never before, but especially because the Christian home (which acclaims the Lord Jesus, emphasizes the blessings of wedlock, exalts parenthood and childhood, denounces divorce, pleads against sinful birth control, and helps bring parents and children constantly closer to the Savior) can, under God, be a powerful agent in helping lead many to eternal salvation.

On the first Sunday of this year’s last month, then, as we pause for spiritual inventory of our family life, I ask every one of you:

“WHAT HAVE YOU IN YOUR HOME?”

This is not a new question, for 2800 years ago the prophet Elisha (Second Kings, chapter four, verse two) spoke these words of our text, “Tell me, what hast thou in the house?”

I

DO YOU HAVE EARTHLY, MATERIAL, PHYSICAL SORROW IN YOUR HOME?

Back in those distant days when Elisha went about teaching and preaching, a widow came to him for relief in her helplessness. She had no money, her debts were mounting, and her creditors were demanding repayment at the usurious rates the loan sharks of those days extorted. When Elisha asked her, “Tell me, what hast thou in the house?” the poor soul was forced to reply, not that her cupboard contained meat, bread, wine, figs, honey, and other foods, but that she was on the verge of destitution, since only one pot of olive oil remained. That was usually mixed with meal and baked into bread; but she had no flour, no other food with which the oil could be used.

Her plight recalls the poverty and privation many have suffered even in this richly blessed country. Since the 1929 crash about three and a third million American families have lost their homes, their farms, or real estate through mortgage foreclosures. If you of the comfortably situated middle and upper classes could see 10,000,000 of your countrymen living in dingy, overcrowded, unsanitary slum tenements and ramshackle, rickety huts, you would understand that multitudes across this broad land would have to answer the question, “What hast thou in the house?” as did the widow, “We have destitution, want, poverty.” I know that these conditions often arise from laziness and destructive sins; but I am just as certain that too many have been deprived of a real chance in life for themselves and their children because they have been cheated, underpaid, and generally defrauded.—Now what are you going to do, you whose pantries are empty and clothes closets bare, whose husbands or wives are pale and sickly, whose children must forego the comforts and luxuries other boys and girls enjoy? Will you join the radical Communists as they cry out against every form of private property and demand, “Divide all wealth equally!” Unless God is especially merciful to our country, the years of the postwar readjustment may tempt many to reject the principles of true Americanism and the requirements of Christian faith. God keep you clear from such crash and ruin! Rather follow the faith of this widow! In her anxiety she made contact with God through His prophet, and by the miracle of divine power the oil in that pot was multiplied. All the vessels she had in her home and as many as she could borrow from her neighbors were filled with such an abundance of oil that the money derived from its sale paid her debts and met her needs.

I cannot promise you, in a day of rationing and restriction, that this miracle will be exactly repeated in your home; but I can give you higher assurance, since we have One who is greater than Elisha, Jesus, God in His own right and by His own power. His unbreakable Word pledges that He, the Christ of limitless might, can grant all our needs “according to the riches of His glory.” He who in the days of His flesh looked compassionately on the hungry masses, multiplying bread and fishes for them; He who changed water into wine at a humble country wedding and told Galilean fishermen, disappointed after a night of unsuccessful toil, how they could catch an unparalleled draught of fishes, has lost neither His providing love nor His producing strength. If it be His will, and that always means if it be for the eternal good of those who trust Him as their Redeemer, He can enrich you miraculously, if necessary, with everything essential for your happiness. Do not protest, “This is irresponsible talk and wishful thinking!” Many can testify how, just when it seemed there could be no more hope, the Almighty stepped in with heaven’s help. May God give all of you the faith to approach Christ for every bodily need!

This widow was also tormented by the thought that her sons would soon be taken from her. She had already home one crushing bereavement—the loss of her husband. Now her creditors threatened to sell her two boys as slaves. Some of you have personally felt the anguish of similar sorrows. Perhaps your husband, on whom you leaned for love, support, and guidance, has been claimed by death or, even worse, has deserted his family, run away with another woman. Many thousands of you fathers and mothers know what it means to be separated from your children.—I think of families in our Church that have given seven, even eight, sons to the armed forces. What a tremendous sacrifice!—Now, what will you do when, at the end of this month, the Selective Service Act registers 2,000,000 of our eighteen- or nineteen-year­old young men and later on your son is summoned to the colors? Will you drive yourself to the verge of nervous collapse, run to fortunetellers for false assurance? I hope not! Do what this widow did: she turned to God’s prophet and found that the oil, miraculously increased, brought enough money to save her sons from slavery for debt. So you can turn to Jesus, your Prophet, Priest, and King, who by the shedding of His blood and His self-sacrifice on the cross freed everyone of us—be sure that you believe it!—from the indebtedness of our sins, from the slavery of hell, and the despair of eternal death. Now He also seeks to liberate us from fear and fill our hearts with the confidence that all His ways, even though far beyond our powers of understanding, are always right and blessed. Commit to Him your sons, on whatever front they may be.

Many when asked, “What hast thou in the house?” will answer, “Sickness, pain, injury!” Some of you have been invalids most of your lives. Others have deformed, subnormal children. Oh, treat them tenderly, for Christ loves them just as much as the healthiest and most brilliant child! Not a few among you have been crippled by the carelessness or cruelty of others. What will you do? Continually murmur and grumble? Take recourse to religions which seek to convince you that there is no sickness, that your sufferings are only a state of mind? Do not make this mistake! Rather bring your pain and agony to Jesus in trusting faith! And if this will help your soul, He can heal you even though medical specialists have decreed, “There is no hope!” Scripture records twenty instances where Jesus laid His healing hand on the diseased, and He never departed from sickrooms without leaving aid. What He did then He can do now. Every Christian doctor will tell you that God can start when medicine and surgery stop. If in His far-seeing plan for you He permits you to remain an invalid, deprived of your sight or hearing, your strength wasted, believe, although you now cannot explain it, that all this is divinely scheduled for your good because you love the Lord in Christ.

“What hast thou in the house?” I can hear some of you answer, “Nothing but quarreling, stinginess, jealousy, faultfinding, cursing, nagging, even physical violence, there where above all other places we should find love, self-sacrifice, companionship.” Why is it that some husbands and wives only a few years after their wedding no longer take their helpmates into their arms to say, “O my dearest, how I love you!” Is this not because Jesus, who can bring husbands and wives more closely together, has been banished from their hearts and homes?—If affection is vanishing in your marriage, what will you do about it? Consult a psychiatrist? Try modern theories for a smooth family life? I have just read one of the latest of these volumes, intended to help develop “morale on the home front.” It is written by a professor of education at a California school. Significantly, the author does not mention Christ as essential to home happiness. God appears only in absurdly childish rhymes or in repeated profanity, which is indirectly called an aid to democracy. Not a word of Scripture, not a syllable on the necessity of prayer, not a sentence about church, not even a vague reference to spiritual strength! That paganized policy is becoming stronger day by day in the United States. Need we wonder, therefore, why we miss family happiness more frequently than before we heard of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts? They can render excellent services, but they can never take the Savior’s place. You must go to Him if you would have quiet instead of quarrel, for He alone can change the human heart, root out selfishness and supplant it with sympathy.

“What hast thou in the house?” Do I hear some of you falter, “Drunkenness and its disgrace!” It brings tears to many eyes, I know, to recall the joyous moment of your marriage, when you stood with your beloved before God’s altar, and to contrast with that the brutality and bestiality you now suffer because the demon of drunkenness controls his life. But don’t give up! Follow good counsel, but remember, you need superhuman power to overcome alcoholism, especially in this loose age when the Christmas issue of a magazine features eight full-page color advertisements of whiskey. Implore the Savior’s assistance! Again and again in the days of His flesh He drove out demons, and He can repeat that purifying cleansing in those who have become slaves to alcohol and are bound for hell unless they repent! Believe this: Jesus can help you! A Minneapolis family, regular listeners to our messages, suffered because the father was a habitual drunkard. One Sunday, as we warned against this destructive sin and pleaded in the Savior’s name for recourse to His help, the Spirit touched that man’s heart. He arose quietly, went to his wife and said, “From this moment on I will never touch another drop!” She was skeptical, because he had promised before. But this time he implored Christ’s help; and for more than two years he has been a total abstainer. The same Savior can deliver you.

“What hast thou in the house?” One of the most distressing replies will be, “Unfaithfulness!” You can stand anything else, you say: poverty, sickness, even bereavement. But a broken marriage vow, disloyalty, deception, a secret affair—this is too much. Do not think of divorce! Sometimes it is far better to forgive and try to forget, to follow Jesus, who says we are to forgive our brother not seven times, but seven times seventy times. Besides, divorce at best is hard and dangerous. The wave of broken marriages flooding our country is a peril to our national morale and strength. Altogether too many world leaders who regulate the affairs of others are divorced because they have not been able to direct their own home.—No, look to Christ! Despite infidelity, your married life can still be happy through Him. Listen to this thankful letter from a Wisconsin woman: “About three years ago I wrote you my problem, an unfaithful husband. You advised me to stand by him and told me how. I have, and now God and time have changed him completely”! The same Savior can work this change in any marriage.

“What hast thou in the house?” I can almost hear some parents sob as they answer, “Selfish, ungrateful, disobedient children.” The cry of alarm goes up from all parts of the country: Juvenile crime is on the increase! You may complain that you have spent thousands of dollars on your children; that you have sacrificed and denied yourself even necessities in their behalf. Nevertheless they turned against you, though you have done everything you could for them. Have you? Is it their fault entirely? Or were they spoiled in their younger years, brought up without discipline? Were they neglected, as many children are today because their parents are too preoccupied with business or the pursuit of pleasure? Have you given your children a Christian training which taught them to love, honor, and obey their parents? Have you set them a good example by attending a true church regularly? Do you know where your children were last night, where they will be tomorrow night? A week ago long lines of panic-stricken parents and relatives waited before morgues in Boston to see whether their sons and daughters, missing from their homes, were among the almost five hundred on whom swift, horrifying death descended in that nightclub fire. Parents of America, God holds you responsible for doing everything humanly possible to have your children, your own flesh and blood, grow up into clean, consecrated manhood and womanhood. How will you meet this responsibility? Now that the damage is done, night clubs and drinking places are to be inspected for fire hazards. Curfew laws and other legal remedies are being enacted to keep young people off the streets. Yet state legislatures could meet day and night to grind out new regulations without solving this problem or changing youthful hearts. We need Christ in the home to give young people both the example and the power of obedience and love for Christian parents. Wherever sons and daughters recall the solicitous love He showed His mother even in His agony on the cross, faith in Him builds a superhuman foundation for the loving regard and generous support of parents. Remember that, you men in the armed services, whose fathers and mothers are continually thinking of you, praying for the Savior’s abiding love in your hearts!

“What hast thou in the house?” Some of you will answer, “Well, that widow had at least two sons, and despite my pleading I have no child.” You see some who consider children a burden, whose boys and girls grow up unwanted and unloved; yet your arms are empty, and doctors tell you that you will never cuddle a child of your own. Do not surrender to bitterness! The Almighty can overrule medical opinion and lay a precious mite of humanity, His highest human gift, into the arms of an overjoyed mother. Ask God, if it be His will, to bless you, even belatedly, as He enriched Hannah, Sarah, and countless other mothers. However, should it be His will that you are to remain childless, then remember the Church agencies that can still help you! Thousands of couples have found inexpressible joy in receiving one of Christ’s little ones from our home-finding societies or orphanages and then bringing them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Perhaps we can help you. If this is your particular problem, write us! It may be that, under God, this broadcast will be the means of opening the door for lasting happiness in your household.

“What hast thou in the house?” we ask again, and some of you are beginning to feel, as the years increase, that you may never have a home of your own. Often we cannot understand why splendid Christian girls, who would make devoted wives, have been disappointed in love, had engagement promises broken. If you have suffered in this way, do not let your heart grow hard! Put your life under Christ’s control! He can still give you a happy home. Perhaps His mercy has kept you from entering a marriage that would have proved an unrelieved heartache. He may have lofty purposes for you which you can best perform without family ties. As soon as you are the Lord’s, you are under divine love and guidance; whatever turn your pathway takes, through Him it always leads to your eternal blessing.

II

DO YOU HAVE SPIRITUAL SORROWS IN YOUR HOME?

Besides all these bodily, material burdens there is a far deeper sorrow in which Jesus can manifest His mercy as your Savior. When I ask you once more, “What hast thou in the house?” many thousands of you will be forced to reply, “We have unbelief, the refusal to accept the Redeemer, the rejection of His mercy!” And that is the heaviest load. Therefore this is the most vital question, “Does Christ reign in your heart, and have you brought Him into your home?” Do you answer that you do not need Him; that, since the war began, you have higher incomes, greater crops, better business, larger salaries, than you ever thought possible; that you are living in a more pretentious house; that you and your wife have been buying new rugs, furniture, silverware, and equipment you could not have purchased before; in short, that you are getting along pretty well without worrying about religion! Just how much happiness can you really buy with your increased income? What good is a new dining-room suite if accident knocks at your door or sudden death crosses your threshold? All the money you have heaped up will not secure pardon and forgiveness for the sin you have thought was safely concealed, but is always revealed to God’s penetrating eye; the iniquity which once seemed enticing and alluring, but now after twenty, thirty, forty years, as your letters testify, torments your conscience with this warning, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.”

Will you not see eye to eye with me when I tell you: The greatest issue before you personally and your home is this, that you stop resisting divine grace and take time, blessed time, to learn what a glorious Deliverer Jesus is! Though your life may have been sinful, sordid, until this moment, if you believe and repent, Jesus is ready to blot out the “handwriting of ordinances that was against us.” However many you may have misled into wickedness, the Lord is eager to save your soul. Come, then, in repentant faith and with sincere effort to make restitution whenever possible. No matter how unworthy and unclean you may seem to yourself in comparison with the spotless, stainless Savior, you have this assurance, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from ALL sin.” O my fellow sinners and my fellow redeemed, let Him reconcile you to your heavenly Father! Let Him, as His Spirit now seeks sacred entrance into your heart, give you the precious promise beyond all question, hesitation or doubt that He alone can cleanse every sin-laden soul, yours especially, if you trust Him as the crucified, yet victoriously risen Son of God and Redeemer of the race!

When you can truly say—and may you make this blessed declaration today!—that Christ is in your home because you are in Him, do everything you can to dedicate your whole household to Him and to let the world know that yours is a Christ-exalting home! Throw out all suggestive, indecent pictures, and adorn your walls with sacred scenes, a motto showing all who cross your threshold that Jesus is the Head of your family! Remove all lust-laden, sex-ridden magazines; they help send souls to hell! Have at least one good religious publication in your home! Put constructive, Christian volumes on your bookshelves! Watch the household conversation! Banish profanity, abuse of God’s name, slander, and unworthy talk! Christmas is coming. Begin now to sing its joyful carols! Say grace at table! Set aside at least a few moments each day when the whole family unites to read the Scriptures, to pray God’s blessing on the home! Send your children to bed with a heart-spoken prayer! When they arise in the morning, have them commend themselves to the Savior’s guidance! Join a true church! Take part earnestly in its work! Have a minister of the Gospel come into your house! In the verses following our text we read that Elisha was graciously received into another home, where a special room was provided for him. His presence there brought blessing. Throughout the United States and Canada thousands of pastors, united with me in the complete fellowship of the faith which this broadcast proclaims, eagerly await an invitation to your home, so that they can instruct you in the saving truth, baptize your household, and bring the whole family to Jesus!

Do you say: “Oh, that my whole family were dedicated to Christ! Instead, my husband has not accepted the Savior. My children are not in the faith. My parents are still unbelievers. Mine is a house religiously divided against itself.” That—let there be no mistake about it!—is a serious situation. If the members of your family are to be saved, they must cling to Christ in their own individual faith. You may be married to a person without that trust. You were moved only by good looks or a pleasing personality; you thought that as a follower of the Lord Jesus you could make a convert of your mate. You failed. Years of contact with unbelief have weakened your own allegiance to the Savior. Therefore, I say to Christian young people: “Don’t marry an unbeliever, no matter how attractive such a marriage would seem! Don’t marry even a member of an opposing Church and bring spiritual disunity into your wedded life!” To my Roman Catholic friends—and your letters show that thousands are regular listeners—I declare further: “Don’t marry a Protestant! Choose someone from your own Church, for too often these mixed marriages produce lifelong misery. If you question this statement, go to the officials of your Church, and they will repeat essentially what I have just said.” If it is too late for some of you to take this counsel, be patient! Realize that nothing is impossible for God and His Spirit! Pray for your unconverted mate! Live a consecrated life! Read the Scriptures in your family circle! It has been our repeated experience that the Holy Spirit has used this radio mission to bring the Savior into unbelieving homes. Listen to these testimonies, only a few of the many the Almighty has graciously given us:

Wisconsin.—“God’s grace and your broadcast brought my husband to the faith. He goes to church with me now every Sunday.”

Massachusetts.—“My wife and her mother have always been Christians, but the writer is a convert by radio. The Lutheran Hour was mainly instrumental in my decision at the age of fifty-two to accept Jesus as my own personal Savior.”

Illinois.—“My husband was an unbeliever who said all pastors were hypocrites. One day I tuned in your station. When my husband heard of Christ, he was spellbound. The following Sunday he attended our Lutheran service. Last Sunday he was confirmed, although once he had said that he would never consent. His sister and brother-in-law were also confirmed.”

Nebraska.—“My parents have been married twenty­five years, and my father never wanted to hear about belonging to the Church; but since he has listened to the Lutheran Hour, he has become a member of our Church.”

Illinois.—“My husband joined our Church after we were married. He heard several broadcasts of the Lutheran Hour, and then he had a talk with our minister and started instructions immediately. That is why I feel so grateful toward your messages.”

New York.—“We never miss the Lutheran Hour sermons on Sunday; through its help my husband has joined the Church.”

When the whole family is won for Jesus and kept in His grace, then, no matter whether you live in a trailer or on a large estate, in furnished rooms near war plants or in a commodious apartment on an elite boulevard, whether your family is still united or separated because husbands, sons, brothers have answered the country’s call—as long as you have Jesus, you can answer the Prophet’s question with this triumphant declaration of fact and faith: “We have peace in the midst of war; joy, though we may be visited by sorrow; hope, when all seems dark around us; faith, though others may doubt; love, even in a world of hatred. We have all we need for time and eternity! We have the seal and pledge of our salvation. We have the title to our prepared place in the celestial mansions. We have the radiant foregleam of ‘the whole family in heaven.’ We have this and more, because—oh, blessed assurance!—first, last, and forever uppermost we have—in our homes as in our hearts—Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior. Eternal praise be to Him for His blood-bought mercies!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: November 29, 1942

He [Jesus] said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise! And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.Luke 7:14-15

Enlightening, Comforting Spirit of God:

Take possession of our hearts and lead us to believe with all our souls that because Jesus died on the cross in our stead, atoning for our sins, humble faith in His mercies can strengthen us in weakness, comfort us in sorrow, and sustain us in every trial! Bring the glory of full Gospel grace into many sin-marked lives throughout the land! Show the impenitent that the way of the transgressor is hard, but that the way of the Redeemer is the road, through pardon and peace, to heaven itself! Bless our broadcast everywhere, especially among the men in our military forces! Many of them, we know, are not at peace with Thee. Prove Thy power mightily in their hearts and call them, contrite and trusting, to their Savior! Keep those in the Army and the Navy who are God’s children clean amid temptations, and daily show them the courage they can find in Christ! Bring them back to us, O Holy Spirit, and soon grant the world blessed peace in which righteousness and truth prevail! Hear us and help us for Jesus sake! Amen.

RECENTLY our American troops, trying to land near Buna, New Guinea, were suddenly attacked by a squadron of eighteen Japanese planes. The air bombing became so heavy that two of our generals, their staffs, and most of the men were forced to dive into the water and under constant fire swim a half mile to shore. On board one of these landing trawlers was Captain Wilfred Schnedler, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, one of our 188 Lutheran pastors now serving the armed forces as chaplains. He stayed on deck as long as he could, tossing over hatch covers and oil drums, by which others might keep afloat and save their lives. Finally he, too, had to leave the ship and make for shore. After thanking God for their deliverance, our troops stopped to take inventory. All their possessions had gone to the bottom. Many of the men were without even clothing. “In fact,” Chaplain Schnedler summarized, “We lost everything except our religion,” and then, naming the heaviest loss sustained, he concluded, “I could not save even my New Testament.”

Why do you suppose that New Testament meant more to the chaplain and to many of his men than anything else? Or, why do many American soldiers, when asked which gift they prefer, not answer, “Cigarettes”; “Cookies”; “Candy,” but, “The Bible”? Why do letters come to our desk every day from men with the nation’s fighting forces stating that the strongest morale-building agency in their lives is Scripture? All this testifies to the glorious truth that God’s Word, as the errorless, complete, inexhaustible truth of Heaven, is man’s priceless, peerless possession today because it reveals Jesus as God and Savior, the one and only Answer to our greatest needs in this critical hour. Destroy every copy of Holy Writ, tear the memory of its promises from the human mind, and the world will become an even more brutal battlefield on which the horrors of the Second World War will appear small by comparison! But spread the Bible with its pledge of Christ’s cleansing power, give a constantly increasing number of sin-torn human hearts the assurance that Jesus is both Lord of lords and the universal Redeemer, and men will find new hope for the life that now is and for that which is to come. That is why Chaplain Schnedler missed his New Testament more than all else, why thousands of American marines, sailors, airmen appreciate the Scriptures above all other gifts you send them. That is why—with the New Testament picturing Christ as our eternal God and Redeemer—you and I must turn to His Word for the guarantee of pardon and the pledge of heaven.

In His name, then, and with the Spirit’s help, I devote this broadcast to exalt

JESUS CHRIST, OUR GOD OF GRACE,

choosing as the text Saint Luke’s memorable words (chapter seven, verses fourteen and fifteen): “He [Jesus] said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise! And he that was dead sat up and began to speak.”

I

HIS GRACE IS SHOWN BY HIS SYMPATHETIC COMFORT

This miracle takes us outside the gates of Nain, a small city in southern Galilee. At first glance its geographical location may seem of little importance, but as every word in the Bible is packed with meaning, so these cities where the Savior lived and worked bring us a special message. Do you realize what it meant to live in Galilee? That was the land of mixed races, mixed bloods, mixed languages—the territory from which self-respecting church leaders and the socially prominent in Judea and Jerusalem kept their distance. It was a country generally of poor, underprivileged, lower-class people, which according to popular estimate would never produce a great man of God—a district so despised that the Pharisees and Sadducees could sneer, “Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet!” Yet in this neglected province Jesus lived. Here He spent most of His ministry. Here He chose practically all His disciples.—What a vital lesson and present-day challenge in this fact that Christ grew up among the Galileans and performed His miracles for them! His grace is offered all men, but especially those on whom the world pours its self-righteous scorn. His appeal “Come unto Me” is addressed to the whole race, but particularly to those who “labor and are heavy laden.” Priests and Levites might refuse to cross the threshold of a tax­gatherer’s home, lest they contaminate themselves, but our Lord sat at table with those social outcasts, lest they be deprived of hearing the promise of eternal life.

Jesus never changes; and today you need not fear that you are too humble and unimportant to be received, welcomed, comforted, saved, by His love. The Gospel we bring you in His name is the pledge of grace for every sinner, no matter how spurned he may be; the Christ we preach is the Savior for all, for the forgotten and forsaken. Let American churches learn to follow Him in His compassion for the underpaid and underprivileged, the overlooked and overburdened! Sometimes we have too many churches in the suburbs and too few in the slums, imposing granite sanctuaries on the right side of the railroad track and dilapidated structures on the wrong side. Too much time is often spent with the rich and prominent, too little with the poor and ignored. Although we are fighting for democracy, millions of Americans, including many nominal Christians, still speak with contempt of Jews and Negroes, of “okies” and “hillbillies,” immigrants and aliens, when in the sight of Him who died for their salvation, their souls are immeasurably precious. Before it is too late and the neglected masses rise up to indict the churches for catering to the rich and throwing only a few crumbs to the poor, the pulpits of the United States should emphasize that, as the Lord spent practically His whole life and more than half of His public ministry among these pushed-aside people of Galilee, so the mission of His kingdom is particularly directed to the Galileans of our twentieth century.

When Jesus stopped outside the Nain gates, He paused to greet a widow. At that time the lot of the woman who had lost her husband was often crushing; and throughout the world, until Christ’s principles penetrated heathen strongholds, widows were systematically oppressed and persecuted. In India the bereaved wife was urged to throw herself on the flaming funeral pyre that consumed her lord husband’s remains. In sections of New Guinea a widow even now must veil her face and for six months daily crawl on hands and knees to her husband’s grave. Papuan widows are compelled by custom to wear the skulls of their departed husbands on a chain around their necks. In China widows are often driven to suicide because relatives seek to force them into a life of shame. In New Britain, even during recent years, widows were still choked to death, so that they might serve their husbands throughout the next life.—Into this maze of cruelty and brutality came the Lord Jesus, to fulfill His promise, “Behold, I make all things new,” to change the human heart so that widows would be regarded with charity and compassion, supported in their needs, comforted in their bereavement.

Added to the Nain widow’s sorrow was the fresh wound that her son, the only support for her advancing age, had now been taken by death. What doubly crushing heaviness must have burdened her heart, and how she must have yearned for true comfort! Small wonder that a throng of sympathizers followed her in the funeral procession! They meant well, even the professional mourners who probably marched along with the cortege, raising their voices in loud lament. Yet the words of the Psalmist must have run through the bereaved woman’s mind, “I looked for . . . comforters, but I found none.”—Many of you can understand the depth of her anguish: you recall a bereavement in your own family circle and remember that flowers, messages of condolence, visits of sympathetic friends could hardly lessen the aching grief. You were inconsolable, tempted to charge God with cruelty. You, too, had only human comforters.

While the long funeral procession slowly passes through the gates, another column of marchers appears, intent on entering the city. It is the Lord Jesus with His disciples and many of the common people who had followed Him from Capernaum, where He had healed the centurion’s servant on the day before. How was it, we may well pause to ask, that these two processions—one of death and the other of life—met on the Nain road? Apparently it was only accidental; but there are no chance happenings in Christ’s comforting grace! That morning, when Jesus had set out with His followers, no one except our Lord Himself knew that, before the day closed, He would meet this agonized widow. And this morning many of you arose without realizing that today could be a time of heavenly destiny when Christ would approach you with forgiveness for sin and comfort for affliction. Fifteen or twenty minutes ago many of you were thinking of anything else except the Lord Jesus and His salvation; yet it was not chance which led you to your radio at this particular time to hear Christ’s message of grace and truth. Stop everything that may keep you from concentrating on His appeal! Lay your newspaper aside! Let household duties remain unfinished for a few moments! A crisis moment for this life and the next has now come for many of you, just as it came to the grief-stricken widow on the Galilean road. God grant you will not permit the Redeemer to pass without welcoming Him!

When Jesus beheld the sobbing, grief-gripped widow, Saint Luke tells us, “He had compassion on her.” His heart was moved by deepest sympathy, for His divine gaze penetrated her wounded soul to discover the full extent of her anguish. The same blessed Savior is moved by divine sympathy for you in all your needs of soul and body; yet who can worthily picture His inexhaustible, immeasurable, indescribable love? Every time I come to the heart and center of these messages, the Savior’s eternal mercy, I feel keenly and personally the utter weakness of words, the stark limitations of the human mind. All I can do is ask the Spirit’s blessing on your soul as I tell you: The Lord Jesus had compassion on you when you had only hatred for Him. He loved you, even when your sins helped crucify Him. He saw you in your iniquities, while your eyes were too blind to behold Him in His forgiving grace. He found you, lost in your transgressions, spiritually dead, completely helpless; then, driven by His limitless devotion, He forsook His majestic heaven and came, as this Advent Sunday recalls, into a world of war and woe, to prove His love for you on the cross. What glorious assurance for sin-burdened souls to know: Christ has compassion on me!

Jesus has the same compassion for the entire race with its crime and endless wickedness. Could you blame Him, holy, stainless, perfect in His purity, if He would reject and destroy an earth in which, from its earliest centuries, men have oppressed and murdered their fellow men; a world that for the last 8,800 years, according to a Union College professor, has known only 227 years of general peace—fifteen sixteenths of all known history being marked by bloodshed and destruction? Were the full facts known, the proportion of war would be even greater. Could you really blame our Lord if—as He searches human hearts, only to find in every one of them, envy and hatred, avarice and greed, lying and falsehood, impurity and lust, unbelief and mockery of God—He would turn completely away from the whole rebellious race and permit men to destroy themselves? Yet—praise His everlasting grace!—He has mercy on us; and though you may doubt it and wonder why He could love you with your wretched hatreds, yet the Christ of the Nain road is the Christ of your life’s road with grace for your soul.

He shows the same sacred sympathy for every sorrow endured by those who accept Him. His unbreakable Word assures us that He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Some of you parents know by heartbreaking experience what agony that Galilean mother suffered when her son was snatched away in death. Hundreds of you have been saddened by Government notices informing you that your boy was killed in battle, drowned in the sea, or lost in a plane crash. Throughout this deepest anguish learn the strengthening truth that in the Savior you can find heavenly compassion! Turn to Him for consolation! Find sustaining grace for the burdens some of you Christian women bear because of a brutal husband, or the affliction some of you men endure because of an unfaithful wife! See His countenance light in loving sympathy for your agony, you whose health, home, happiness, are gone, but who can never lose Him as long as you remain in the faith! Do not think dark thoughts of vengeance nor waste time and energy pitying yourselves! Look to Jesus for the unmistakable courage He alone can give!

Our Lord spoke only two short words to that widow, “Weep not!” and He repeats them to you after nineteen hundred years, “‘Weep not’ in despair over your sins!” He tells you: “Turn to Me for mercy and forgiveness! ‘Weep not’ disconsolately in your suffering! ‘Weep not’ in rankling disappointments! ‘Weep not’ even in the darkness of death! ‘Come unto Me’ for comfort and support!”

II

HIS GRACE IS SHOWN BY HIS DIVINE DELIVERANCE

Jesus does more than speak, however. Unlike human helpers, who often promise everything, yet give nothing; world politicians who pledged peace and brought us war; economists who said that we would have plenty if we destroyed our food, but who now admit that we may have too little even if we ration what is left; false religious teachers who, offering financial prosperity in Christ’s name, still leave the masses disillusioned, deluded, desperate—unlike these, Jesus never comforts without being able to support His words by deeds. Before the sobbing widow speaks to Christ, He has already planned to put His words into action. Without having a single request addressed to Him, Jesus is ready to relieve. Before we call upon Him, He has heard us. Before we realize what we need, He can supply us. In a mighty moment of history He directs this command to the lifeless corpse, anointed for burial, wrapped in winding sheets, cold and still in death, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!” Hardly had the words leaped from His lips, when by the mightiest miracle Jesus had performed until then, “he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” Death had been defeated, and a son who would have been lowered into the grave was returned to his mother.

I have called this one of history’s epochal moments because it gave clear proof that Jesus was more than a Leader, Teacher, Guide; more than a Model, Pattern, Ideal; more than the mightiest Man, the outstanding Hero, the most masterful Mind of the ages. There on a rocky Galilean road Jesus showed that He was God; when by His own authority He declared, “I say unto thee, Arise!” and the corpse, infused with new life, obediently arose, He demonstrated that He was the Almighty, the Lord of life and death. Men can stand before caskets and cry: “Arise!” “Arise!” “Arise!” only to learn that the hollow echo of their failure continually mocks them. Scientific experts and medical authorities may devise remarkable, complicated apparatus by which they seek to restore or prolong life, but they cannot add a split second to the allotted life span, let alone return a soul that has entered the valley of death. Multimillionaires and rulers of mighty empires have pleaded on their deathbeds for a day, an hour more; but all their money and might could not purchase the slightest extension. When their breath stopped, they were gone beyond recall. Yet here is One who is higher than princes and potentates, scientists and savants; here in Christ we have our God of grace and glory, who has to speak but one word, “Arise!” and death is robbed of its victim. If all Scripture passages testifying to the Savior’s deity were to disappear and only the record of the resurrection at Nain remained, this truth alone should convince the most skeptical that Jesus of Nazareth was more than man, more than angels, nothing less than the very God of very God.

No age in our history has more desperately needed the acknowledgment of Jesus as the Lord of lords. To escape the eternal punishment of sin, to be freed from the grip of everlasting death, and at the same time to have divine comfort for the heaviest earthly sorrows we need far more than the best human counselors, the most fervent hopes and wishes. We must find the Almighty in Christ! One of the reasons the all-wise and all-knowing God has permitted the horrors of two world wars to overtake this generation may be seen in the supertragedy that our age, more than any similar previous period, has questioned, spurned, ridiculed His deity, one of the pillar truths for the men and women who founded this nation. Read the declarations of the brave colonists who settled our shores, built our earliest towns, established our first colleges, and you will learn that these men and women regularly were moved by the sincere conviction of Jesus’ deity. Trusting Him, they could, as they did, found a nation of unparalleled wealth and resources on this North American continent! Yet today many have forgotten this keystone creed in our faith, that Jesus, together with the Father and the Spirit, is the only God. Churches by the thousands have denied this climax truth. Theological seminaries, Sunday schools, foreign mission boards, young people’s religious groups, in far too many instances have joined unbelievers who insist that Jesus was only another prophet alongside of Moses, Mohammed, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius. Then we wonder why Protestantism has so often failed. My fellow redeemed, you who bear Christ’s name, remember that the Savior expects unshrinking loyalty and faithful testimony from you! He looks to you for protest every time unbelief seeks to drag Him down to the low level of men. He asks you to come out from those groups in which preachers willfully, persistently exalt Him as the most outstanding of all the race, yet refuse to kneel before Him and with Thomas to call Him “my Lord and my God!”

Especially does Jesus desire the loyalty and the love of those who until this time have never known and believed that He is their Lord; that He can turn eternal death into everlasting life for them. Let no one now say: “Miracles can never happen!” “This story of the young man at Nain can’t be true.” Why not? Listen to this statement by Daniel Webster and ask yourself whether you can continue to doubt Christ’s miracles and His deity: “I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God! The miracles which He wrought establish, in my mind, His personal authority and render it proper for me to believe whatever He asserts. . . . And I believe there is no other way of salvation than through the merits of His atonement.” Or, considering the commonplaces of everyday life and the wonders in nature, which you accept every moment you live, listen to William Jennings Bryan as he speaks of the radish and declares: “Some skeptics say, ‘Oh, the miracles—I can’t accept miracles!’ One may drop a brown seed in the black soil, and up comes a green shoot. You let it grow, and by and by you pull up its root and you find it red. You cut the red root and find it has a white heart. Can anyone tell how this came about—how brown cast into black results in green and then in red and white? Yet you eat your radish without troubling your mind over miracles. Men are not distressed by miracles in the dining room; they reserve them all for religion!”

Why doubt, when you can see the evidences of Christ’s divine power in human lives saved from spiritual death? A visitor to the island of Raiatea in the South Seas tells of finding 600 children gathered to worship Jesus. Had the Gospel not been brought to that uncivilized island, many parents would have followed the pagan perversion and killed their children. As these boys and girls sang the Savior’s praises, a father could be heard to say, “What mercy it is that we spared our dear girl!” An old gray-haired chief cried out, “Oh, that I had known that the Gospel was coming! My children would be here among this happy group! But I destroyed them.” Wherever the Gospel of the Savior slain for an evil world is heard and believed, those who have been “dead in trespasses and sin” are born again “of water and of the Spirit.” They die, of course, but death in Christ is only a passing from suffering to glory. Because Jesus Himself bore their “sins in His own body on the tree,” He has removed the curse of everlasting death. As He united mother and son outside the Nain gates, so, but in a much higher way, He will reunite all the faithful in the never-ending happiness of the heavenly homeland. For His holy Word leads us to believe that in the celestial radiance, husbands and wives, parents and children, relatives and friends, will not only recognize one another, but will also be together in unspeakable bliss as part of “the whole family in heaven.” To you, the bereaved who wonder whether in the “many mansions” where Christ has prepared your place you will know your loved ones who have gone before you in the faith or who follow after, I say: “The Bible clearly teaches that we do not lose our personal identity in heaven, for Scripture mentions many by name whom we will meet in that better and blessed land.” Of course, earthly relationships will be changed and hallowed. For instance, there will be no more marrying or giving in marriage. However, God will supply something so incomparably better that with our restricted reason we simply cannot understand “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rest assured, those who love the Lord Jesus shall meet in the hereafter with the higher knowledge by which “I shall know even as also I am known.” What an appeal in this to keep the whole family for Christ! A California listener wrote me that two years ago after her godly father had died, our message reminded her that if she was ever to meet him again, she would have to accept the Savior. On that blessed day the Spirit touched her soul; she came to Jesus for pardon, peace, and life. God grant that many of you will understand in a personal, unmistakable manner that, if you are to join your faithful, Christ-dedicated parents; if you are to escape death’s doom and hell’s terrors; above all this, if you are to see Jesus face to face, then be certain of this: You must acclaim Him your Redeemer! There is no other way.

This is a special appeal to American youth. Jesus speaks to you young men and women in our armed forces and in civilian life, to our high-school students, our college and university men and women, and His cry is still: “‘Young man,’ young woman, ‘I say unto thee, Arise!’ ‘Arise’ from sin and selfishness! ‘Arise’ from unbelief and doubt! ‘Arise’ from the low level of sneering and scoffing at Christ! ‘Arise’ from the gutter philosophy, which urges you, Yield to your passions, follow the lure and lust of the flesh! ‘Arise’ for Jesus! Exalt Him before the world as Savior! Trust His Word! Build your hope on His promises! Fight temptations in His name! Follow the good, pure, helpful paths with His power and guidance! Meet Jesus daily and prayerfully in His Word, and you will not only give our country what it needs, even above armaments: the exalting righteousness; you will not only be privileged to help save others for Christ, but you yourself will have a new life, new strength, new joy!” Youth of America, arise for Christ—and on the great Day of Judgment Christ will arise for you! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.