Date: March 22, 1942

If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend.John 19:12

Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s!Matthew 22:21

Strengthening Spirit of God:

Fill our hearts with deep, sincere loyalty to our Savior and our country’s welfare, so that we may gladly serve both Christ’s kingdom and the better interests of our beloved land! Keep us humble, penitent, believing, ever mindful of the truth that by following the Lord Jesus in faith and life we can give America that which it most needs—exalting, building righteousness! Look down on this strife-torn world to grant us and all nations a true peace! Because of our multiplied sins we are not worthy of this blessing; yet we approach Thee by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and, trusting in His blood-bought pardon, beseech victory according to Thy will, peace according to Thy love. Enter the homes throughout the country which have been afflicted with grief, especially the families bereaved by war and its disasters! In every need of body and soul show us the grace, the comfort, the power of the redeeming, sustaining Christ, who lived and died and rose again for us! We ask it in His blessed name. Amen.

DURING the past few days many of you have read newspaper dispatches which told how Japanese troops, landing on New Guinea, were guided on their march across the island by American missionaries. I for one simply do not believe such reports! To start with, these cables were based only on second- and third-hand sources. Besides, no modern invasion army needs missionary guides; long before the war started, the Japanese undoubtedly had accurate maps of this territory. Above all, true ministers of Jesus Christ are uncompromisingly loyal to the government under which they work. They have but one consuming purpose: to serve their fellow men by bringing them the Gospel. They want to keep out of war and follow the pathway of peace. Yet they do not hesitate to withstand enemies when the souls and bodies of their charges are at stake. A Lutheran worker in China, for example, a young man who only a few years ago studied at our theological seminary in St. Louis, had to take charge of our divinity school in Hankow after the Japanese occupied the city. When the victorious Nipponese troops started to manhandle villagers near Hankow, five hundred women and girls fled to the enclosed seminary compound for refuge. By day and by night the wily invaders sought to scale the walls and capture the women. But our young missionary faced enemy bayonets and the threat of bombardment to protect these refugees. By God’s blessing and his bravery the five hundred women not only escaped rape and ruin, but during the weeks of siege many of them learned to know the Lord Jesus and were led to accept the Savior in a great ingathering of souls.

Protesting against every slanderous claim that Christians are unpatriotic, that the Gospel is a creed of disloyalty, I want to show you today with the Spirit’s help that the Christians’ resolution always is:

FOR CHRIST AND COUNTRY!

To this end we shall study the practical, present-day lessons contained in these two passages, Saint John, chapter nineteen, verse twelve: “If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend”; and Saint Matthew, chapter twenty­two, verse twenty-one: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s!”

I

CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN LOYAL TO THEIR COUNTRY

Through the trial and conviction of our Lord men who previously had despised each other became friends and dropped their enmity as they united in crucifying Christ. Herod and Pontius Pilate had long been political rivals; yet on that first Good Friday, as each played his role in condemning Jesus, their mutual dislike vanished. Although two opposing factions, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, clashed in the religious life of Jerusalem, the desire to spill the Savior’s blood made them forget their deep­rooted differences. Various cliques could be found in the Sanhedrin, the council of Christ’s own countrymen; nevertheless when Caiaphas asked them for their verdict concerning Jesus, without a single dissenting vote they cried, “He is worthy of death!”

More than satanic agreement, however, can be found in these actions. After Pilate had repeatedly pronounced Jesus innocent and the Roman governor seemed on the verge of setting the Savior free, the priests’ diabolical craftiness became evident. They began to pose as patriots, and knowing Pilate’s weakest spot, bluntly warned him, “If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend.” The mention of Caesar, the mighty Tiberius, was a threat that could bring fear into anyone’s heart, particularly to the soul of a cheap politician like Pilate. With a record none too clean, he realized that if the citizens of Jerusalem ever formulated charges against him, the days of his official power would probably be at an end. Besides, one of his influential friends at Tiberius’ court had just been convicted of treason, and even now the emperor’s secret agents might be mingling in disguise among the crowd before Pilate’s palace to investigate his loyalty. It was partly to protect himself, then, that against his own conscience, against all the evidence, against his wife’s warning, against the Savior’s clear statements, Pilate listened attentively to these prearranged charges advanced in sham patriotism by the hypocrite Temple officials with their holy robes but their hellish hatreds.

No fair and honest judge could have found in the suffering Christ a foe of Caesar. Jesus was no one’s enemy, He loved those who spurned Him and was ready to do what the most devoted friend, the most unselfish sacrifice, could never accomplish—lay down His life for the heartless mob that was screaming: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He was actually to give Himself into death for the leprous souls of those priests, for Pilate, even for Emperor Tiberius, a ruthless wretch, guilty of indescribable debauch. The false testimony, the malicious perjury, the scheming malice had not been able to prove that Jesus was anyone’s adversary. On the contrary, Pilate, the rabbis, and the rabble should have recognized Christ as the greatest Benefactor of humanity ever to walk the pathways of Palestine. Hate people? Why, Jesus loved them with an intense devotion which led Him to heal the afflicted, assist the poor, champion the underprivileged, feed hungry bodies and starved souls—in unnumbered other ways to reveal Himself the Guide for the lost, the Hope of the helpless. This Christ an enemy, Caesar’s rival, a competitor with the Roman dominion? He did not have enough physical strength left to oppose even a child; for only a few moments before He had been tortured by one of the most terrifying penalties the old, brutal world knew—scourging.  The Gospel writers pass hurriedly over the horror of that suffering, a punishment so terrifying that often as the leather lashes, pointed with lead or spikes, lacerated the back, chest, sometimes even the face, the victim collapsed, a bleeding mass of torn flesh. No wonder, Pilate, with open contempt for the Savior’s accusers, twice placed the pale, staggering Christ before the sullen, bloodthirsty mob crying, first, “Behold the Man!” and then, “Behold your King!”  He must have felt that His abject misery could soften even their granite hearts with the feeling of compassion that jungle savages sometimes seem to show.

This plea: “Behold the Man!” “Behold your King!” echoes over the centuries to us with personal invitation to contemplate the Christ of agony. When you see Him, thorn-crowned, crimson-robed, His garments splashed with blood still flowing from His back, His countenance white, not with death’s terror, but with the horror of our sins’ crushing penalty, does it not require a mind poisoned with hatred and a heart steeped in vileness to loathe Christ as some of you have? A missionary to the Indians tells us of Red Owl, known as a mighty orator among the Lower Sioux. Fearful of losing his influence, he never attended church. One day, however, he came into the schoolroom and, stopping before the picture of the thorn-crowned Savior, asked: “What is that? Why are those thorns on His head?” For the first time he was told the story of the Savior’s crucifixion. On one of his next visits to the Indian village, the missionary was surprised to see on the nearby prairie a newly made grave, marked with a plain cross. On inquiry he learned that Red Owl had suddenly taken ill and while dying told the young braves: “The story which the white man has brought to our country is true. I have it in my heart. When I am dead, I wish you would put a cross over my grave, that the Indians may see what is in Red Owl’s heart.” As you behold the thorn-crowned, captive Christ, may the Holy Spirit lead you to acclaim Him your Savior and with a penitent, personal faith trust His immeasurable, atoning love. But do not wait until you lie on your deathbed! Your immortal soul, worth more than all the world, according to Jesus, is too precious to risk on the possibility of an eleventh-hour repentance.

When the Savior’s persecutors told Pilate that he could not be a friend of Caesar if he refused to sentence their prisoner to the cross, they implied that Christ was a public enemy of the Roman state. They lied, of course. They knew well enough, these priestly hypocrites, that only three days before they had tried to trap Jesus with the question “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar?” and He had answered uncompromisingly, “Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s!” They lied because they must have recalled how when popular opinion, swollen to high­pitch enthusiasm, sought to crown Christ king, He had declined such honor and immediately escaped this fanatical homage. They lied, since deep in their hearts they were convinced that if His whole life were examined under the microscope of minutest investigation, not one suggestion of rebellion against Caesar’s administration, as rotten as it was, could be discovered. So in mock patriotism they screamed out their malicious charges against Jesus, whose record was completely flawless, and almost in the same breath demanded the release of Barabbas, convicted by the courts of open revolt against the authorities.

The same falsehood, in principle, branding Christ and His followers as opponents of the state, has been repeated through the ages. Soon after Saint Paul was beheaded as hostile to the empire, not only the Roman rabble but also the upper classes, men of power, historians and authors, accused the Christians of hating the human race. Nero blamed the first believers in the capital for setting Rome on fire; and although Latin writers express their doubt that the odious Christians were really guilty, although we now surmise that the fire was started by the fiendish ruler himself, yet the despised disciples were covered with pitch or saturated in oil, nailed to pine wood pillars, then lighted and burned alive. Such persecutions continued until the beginning of the fourth century, the rule of Diocletian and his co-regent Galerius, a second Nero. These two tyrants, who called themselves gods and claimed divine honors, tortured and killed aged men, nursing mothers, tender children—all on the false charge that these Christians were enemies of the state. Either reject Christ and worship the emperor or forfeit your Roman citizenship, your property, your life—that was the choice placed before these early believers. To the honor of their faith let it be said that many of them, innocent of every crime against their government, accepted the pains of martyrdom rather than deny their Lord.

Even after the Christian faith was securely enthroned in Europe, the same vicious calumny continued. No more hideous records exist in the annals of the human race than the black chapters dealing with the destruction of the Waldensians and the Albigensians. These peace-loving, industrious, thrifty people in Northern Italy and Southern France were savagely assaulted by heavily armed regiments of soldiers, killed by the thousands. Why? They were accused of treason. On what count? They wanted to read the Bible in their own language and serve Christ in the light of Scripture doctrine. Nor has the human race dropped to deeper depravity than in the massacre of the Huguenots. Their leader, Admiral Coligny, was a man of notable loyalty to France; they themselves were God­fearing, thrifty, industrious people. However, because they insisted on reading the Bible in their own language, worshiping God according to its truth, they were branded as foes of the French king. It was maliciously claimed that in their church services they secretly plotted to overthrow the state. This is a lie, of course, but its falsity did not save tens of thousands from being cut down in one of the cruelest carnages men have ever witnessed.

Not only in bygone generations but also today, when the power and blessing of the Christian faith should be dearly manifest, the same groundless accusation persists that the Old and New Testaments oppose national interests. In Germany Nazi critics of the Church berate the Gospel not merely as weak and effeminate but also as directly contrary to their country’s welfare. They continue the blasphemy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote, “I call Christianity the one great curse, . . . the one indelible blot upon the achievement of man.” Don’t try to laugh away statements like this by claiming that Nietzsche was insane or that the United States is not concerned with him! A Kansas publisher recently reissued the German philosopher’s attack on the Church in a cheap fifty-cent edition, glorified as “a great liberating work,” and asked the masses in our own country to study it, asserting, “All culture, all scholarship, all progressive thought goes to support the indictment of Christianity which Nietzsche made.” And now comes the worst. The books of that publisher are featured in three full pages of advertisement by a large Saint Louis newspaper, which thus permits its columns to champion anti-Christian, anti-moral, anti-American poison.

Similar slander is being taught in certain American colleges and universities. Bertrand Russell, whose lectures are compulsory for some public schoolteachers in New York City, declared, “I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion as organized in its churches has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.” And in a hundred different ways campus men and women, except in Christian, church-maintained schools, which deserve your special support, are often instructed to regard our faith as an outworn superstition, hostile to the masses, thwarting progress, a menace to democratic development. One shudders to think what the future will bring if tomorrow’s leaders, the college men and young women of today, turn these destructive theories into practice.

More dangerous, however, is the unmistakable spread of atheistic Communism. Well known is Karl Marx’s slogan “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He held that no nation can be really happy until religion has been abolished. Frederick Engels, co-founder of Communism, asserted, “There is no room for either God or a ruler,” and he urged a thoroughgoing campaign to root out every creed. Lenin cried: “We must fight religion! . . . Religion must be abolished! The best country is a godless country.” Lunatcharsky, educational expert of the Communists, admitted: “We hate Christianity and Christians. Even the best of them must be regarded among our worst enemies.” The second woman in the Communist movement warns: “The struggle against the influence of religion among women is one of the most important duties of . . . the state. The Church must entirely disappear from . . . woman’s life. She cannot be a faithful disciple of Lenin unless she is 100 per cent godless. . . . I . . . dedicate my life’s endeavor to making the women . . . godless.” Communism’s hatred for the Savior’s followers has been written in blood. A conservative scholar estimates that 1,860,000 Christians, regarded as enemies of their government, were slaughtered in a single year, 1918. American church members cannot close their eyes to the growing specter of Communism and collectivism. To my mind it constitutes one of the major menaces of tomorrow; we should use every means at our disposal to counteract its growth within our boundaries.

As the Savior’s accusers lied when they told Pilate, “If thou let this Man go, thou art not Ceasar’s friend,” so Communists lie when they label our faith a national foe. Wherever Christ’s Gospel reigns, the power of idolatry and paganism has been broken, tyranny and brutality checked, polygamy and divorce restricted, women and children elevated, the home and family firmly established, slavery and oppression abolished, labor and industry exalted, ignorance and superstition banished, schools and colleges multiplied, the sick and the needy supplied, hospitals and orphanages fostered, and a thousand more blessings otherwise impossible systematically promoted. Without the influence of the Gospel there would be no permanently free nation on the face of the earth today. The French Revolution, with its bestial terrors and tortures, shows the failure of a government founded on atheistic ideals of human freedom and equality but avowedly against Christ. The faith He gave the world is truly “the salt of the earth,” a preservative against internal decay.

You do not have to look for proof. Right here in our own country there is a vast demonstration of the building power exercised by faith. The United States was settled, not by Communists, freethinkers, atheists, but by Christians. The charters of our colonies were not sealed in the name of Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Lao Tse, but in the name of the Lord Jesus. Each of the thirteen colonies had a Biblical foundation, and each revered the Scriptures as divine authority. The Supreme Court of the United States has officially stated, “This is a Christian nation,” not in the sense, of course, that we have an official religion or that the country does not tolerate all creeds, but because, as the highest court explains, the founding fathers, the original charters, the early practices throughout the country were distinctly Christian. Our blessings come from the Bible, from the Savior, from His Gospel. The reverses of the last years stem from the neglect of Christianity and the rejection of its truth.

The loyalty of the Church and its deep-rooted patriotism are not loud and boisterous, but sincere and effective. True pastors do not preach politics or engage in impressive demonstrations to attract public attention. In a quiet, unassuming way they occupy themselves with strengthening men’s souls, and thus build our spiritual defenses. The Christian workman who goes about his daily task in a quiet, unnoticed manner, who puts in a full day’s honest labor, lives frugally, can mean more for the welfare of the United States than many a limelight orator who makes his own money by shrewdness and does not care how he spends other people’s. A God-fearing mother who sacrifices herself to bring up her sons and daughters “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” gives more to America in God’s sight than some of the career women who do not want children, so that they can live public, applauded lives, unrestricted by families. The church member who saves defense stamps until he can buy an $18.75 bond may be a better patriot than the godless millionaire who buys the maximum quota simply for an investment.

Even by measurable standards, however, the Christians’ support of their government is outstanding. The largest single group in the present United States Army, Navy, Marine and Air Corps is made up of church members. The first soldier in the AEF to step on European soil was an active Lutheran from Hutchinson, Minnesota. The best, the physically and spiritually strongest young men now engaged in national defense, come from Christian congregations.

This loyalty, of course, is of the highest type because it is not a blind, unconditioned allegiance. Our cry is not, “My country, right or wrong!” (for no follower of the Savior can ever be in favor of anything wrong) , but “My country, may she always be right! But if she is ever wrong, God help me make her right!”

II

CHRISTIANS MUST ALSO BE LOYAL TO THEIR GOD

Now, because Jesus can bless, enrich, defend our shores and in this war give us victory with a triumph of truth and righteousness; because no religion except the Gospel, no God other than the Trinity revealed by Christ can help in the emergency before us, we can fulfill our highest responsibility to the nation and ourselves by pledging allegiance to Christ and country. If during the storm and trial of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln could say, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty,” how eager we should be to follow the Savior’s pointed direction, “Render . . . unto God the things that are God’s” and to accompany devotion to our country with complete dedication to our heavenly Father! Fellow citizens and friends beyond our borders, our greatest need and yours, in Canada, in Mexico, wherever you may be, is the faith which enthrones our Lord in the hearts of the multitudes. Correspondingly, the most serious menace confronting our people is not the possibility of economic depression, but the decay of Christianity. Wherever Christ disappears, forces hostile to true Americanism always rise. When the flowers of Gospel faith are permitted to wilt and die, the poisonous weeds of godlessness and tyranny begin to flourish.

Therefore, my appeal asks first of all that you accept Jesus as the Redeemer of your soul, the Son of God whose atoning death on the cross grants you, without any charge, as without any doubt, the assurance that even your black and scarlet transgressions have been removed forever; the pledge that life after death, heaven’s joys after earth’s sorrows are granted by His divine promise and power. Whatever may have kept you from Christ up till this moment, whether it be personal pride, the destructive self­righteousness which makes you thank God you are better than most people; or whether it be love of sin, greed for money, lust of the flesh, the sorrow of life, be fair enough and considerate of your soul to hear what Jesus offers and to ask yourself if there is any real reason why you dare refuse His matchless mercy. If you have to be humbled to gain Christ; if you have to lose money, work, health, home, even the love of some who are as dear as life itself, some blessed day you will thank God for the hand that seemed to strike harshly but really saved your soul.

Now, through Jesus we have not only this complete forgiveness, joy of life instead of depressing worry, spiritual strength to withstand temptation and overcome evil, eagerness to turn from self and serve one’s fellow men, power to triumph over all trials, but also—and this is the thought I would emphasize—the power to be a good citizen, to build the moral and spiritual defense of our country, to help increase that righteousness which, God’s Book says, exalts any nation.

When the Lord Jesus is securely enthroned within your heart, you will be able to apply the divine power Christian faith offers for helping this country. You will understand why in this emergency the cry must be: “Back to God! Back to Christ! Back to the Bible! Back to the Christian Church!”; why our heavenly Father wants a contrite, repentant, sin-hating people in the United States. You, on your knees in penitence and humility before the Almighty, can invoke Heaven’s strength. Do not ever lose sight of the divine mercy that if the Lord was ready to spare even Sodom and Gomorrah, those indescribably vile cities, had there been only ten in their midst who did seek Him, then, if it be His purpose, His favor can be extended to any land in which masses of Christians implore His mercy. Blessed by the Lord Jesus, as a true American citizen, you have the promise of answered prayer for yourself and your penitent nation; but always remember that the Almighty answers our pleas in His own way and at His appointed hour. A Christian America on its knees, subject to God’s will, could pray its way out of these difficulties into a quick victory with a just peace and the sparing of many young lives.

Daniel Webster once declared, “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and continue to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm and bury our glory in profound obscurity.” He is right, and we who love Christ must defend our Bible against seemingly unimportant questioning of its truth. Attacks on Scripture come from unexpected places, as we have been reminded during the past days, when a women’s magazine printed a statement from a very high source asserting that the Biblical record of Adam and Eve is wrong and has been “disproved by science.” That claim directly contradicts the faith of millions of Protestant and Catholic Christians in the United States, besides rejecting the verdict of outstanding scientists who have bowed reverently before the first three chapters in Genesis. If we deny what Moses wrote concerning Adam and Eve, we must admit that Saint Paul, who refers to the first parents as actual, historical people, was wrong and therefore must be questioned in everything else he has written; we must even assume that our blessed Lord and Savior, who Himself speaks of the Garden of Eden, was mistaken, and we must consequently subject everything He says to the verdict of what some people call science. If these opening chapters of the Bible are allegorical, is the heaven of its closing chapters likewise only an allegory? If Adam and Eve never existed, as the Bible says they did, how about the Savior promised them? Is He fictitious too? You see, my fellow Christians, how disastrous it is to question or deny Scripture truth and how constantly vigilant we must be to defend the Word at all costs and in all places, particularly when vague shadows along the unformed horizon of tomorrow forebode for American Christians increasing assaults on their faith.

Let the worst come, here is the cry for this crisis, the resolution for every American, the pledge for every Christian, the declaration by which the true victory is ours: For Christ and country! God give every one of you in full measure the faith and courage to speak that double dedication to our glorious Savior and our God-blessed homeland! Amen!

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

Date: March 15, 1942

Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a King then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a King!John 18:37

Christ, Our King:

Give us the grace to believe that despite the shame and sorrow Thou didst endure for us under Pontius Pilate and in the agonies of Thy crucifixion Thou art our Lord, the Sovereign of our souls, the heavenly King of power, grace, and glory! Enrich us with a deep-rooted desire to seek first of all Thy kingdom! May we daily come before Thee for pardon of our sins, strength against our weaknesses, courage in our afflictions, believing that Thou didst shed Thy blood for us and die on the cross the death which brings us life! Increase our loyalty, help us withstand the many temptations which would lead us to a Judaslike betrayal of Thy love! In beseeching Thy blessings on us, we also ask Thy benediction on our beloved nation and its armed forces. Particularly do we entreat Thee to protect all Christian young men called to the colors, who daily meet danger as they battle on our behalf! Show them that they fight not only against treacherous enemies from without, but also against ruthless forces from within; and that in a courageous faith they have promise, power, and victory! Abide with us, O divine Redeemer, and remove not Thy mercies from us! Amen.

“THE King is deposed!” “The Czar is murdered!” “The Kaiser is in flight!” “The Emperor will abdicate!” “The Queen goes into exile!” “The Sultan has been dethroned!”—How often have similar cries resounded during the last twenty-five years, the age that saw more thrones topple, more crowns removed, more kingdoms destroyed than any previous quarter century! After the first World War fifteen supreme rulers of as many nations were ousted, and during this second struggle eleven monarchs have already been captured, exiled, or stripped of their power. Excepting the quisling puppets and the native potentates of India and Africa, only England, Sweden, Italy, Japan still acclaim their own sovereigns, and some of these may disappear when the conflict is over. Royalty is on the way out.

Who knows what will take its place in the totally new world order before us? If this war keeps on for years and nations are bankrupt, there will be a wide swing toward atheistic Communism, with its massacres and brutality, or toward totalitarianism, with its racial persecution and regimentation. While we ought daily to beseech God for a true and just peace, this generation, if it remains unrepentant and hostile to God, must be prepared for national upheavals, restricted liberties, and increased human suffering. When the masses are hungry, destitute, unemployed; when they see that while a privileged few have profiteered, they have lost their savings, their homes, their sons in battle, they will be ready for the overthrow of any government that has brought such misery to them. They will listen to any agitator who promises food, shelter, clothing, work. If the past twenty-five years have produced startling political changes, must the world, particularly the defeated nations, not expect mob rule, violence, and anarchy?

Yet one kingdom cannot change or suffer defeat by the mightiest armies or navies. One and only one realm will remain universal, all-victorious. That dominion, my fellow redeemed, is the empire of Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, Sovereign of sovereigns. Because He, the almighty, ever­merciful Savior, must reign supreme in your heart if you are to have pardon for your sins, peace for your mind, comfort in darkest sorrows, joy during the bitterest moments, life even in death; because Christ, the Ruler of the universe, alone can offer the true guidance, protection, help, and strength which this battered, baffled age needs, hear Him today, in this fourth Lenten meditation, when in answer to Pilate’s question, “Art Thou a King then?” He replies (Saint John, chapter eighteen, verse thirty­seven), “Thou sayest that I am a King!” and then, kneeling in spirit before Him as your Lord and your God, acclaim Him

JESUS, SAVIOR, KING OF KINGS!

Ask Him, “Come, Redeemer, reign victorious in our hearts, our homes, our churches, our country! Yes, reign triumphant throughout the world!”

I

JESUS IS THE KING OF KINGS

Early on Friday morning, probably between six and seven o’clock, our Savior’s countrymen brought Him to the Roman governor, who alone could pronounce the death sentence. What perverted zeal! What satanic eagerness! Jesus had done nothing but good. Throughout the land He had healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the sorrowing, raised the dead. Yet the leaders of His people could not rise early enough to destroy Him. What if the Jewish codes of civil laws completely ruled out as illegal every trial by night? What if their court regulations expressly stated that a trial with death as the penalty could not be concluded in a single day? Law or no law, these religious dictators at Jerusalem, already guilty of bribery, perjury, and a brazen disregard of their own criminal procedure, now dragged the Lord Jesus, ridiculed and tortured during a sleepless night of peril, before the Roman governor, telling themselves all the while that they were doing the divine will.

Since that Friday morning men and women have repeatedly sought to justify the most dastardly actions by appealing to the Church for endorsement. During the Crusades misguided masses under fanatical leaders thought they were obeying God’s instruction when they ran their sword through a Mohammedan or beheaded a Jew. Nor have we shaken off that spirit entirely. The cloak of religion is still used to cover plain, unmistakable lawbreaking. Even in some smaller issues of modern life, the misdirected notion persists that wrong becomes right when practiced by church groups. City regulations condemn bingo, bunco, and games of chance; but spin roulette wheels in the name of religion, raffle an automobile for the benefit of a parish, and often the police will help protect a public vice as a religious virtue.

What a terrifying spectacle to behold officials of the Old Testament Church, men who were to be guided by the highest standard of righteousness and truth, deliver Jesus, their own Countryman, into the hands of the hated Roman government! This, though, was only the first in a long line of similar tragedies, by which religious bigotry requested the state to kill tens of thousands of innocent victims. Men and women charged only with worshiping the Lord Jesus according to the dictates of their conscience, have been turned over to the civil authorities by malicious, bloodthirsty clergymen who later insisted: “We did not destroy these men! The state killed them!” In this sense it is often claimed that Pilate crucified Jesus, not His own countrymen; but the stain of blood cannot be removed thus easily. God knows that behind the death sentence framed by Pilate were the unprincipled, scheming priests and Temple leaders, just as behind many persecutions we must find the cold, painstaking plotting of those who are called God’s representatives. The Almighty give us always a spirit of tolerance and love, so that even if we differ in denominational issues, we may never incite the government to raise the sword of persecution against any religious group!

Despite their eagerness to have Pilate sentence Jesus, these Jerusalem priests would not even step over the threshold in the governor’s palace, for fear that close association with the Roman heathen would make them unclean. What an upside-down conscience they had! Almost mad in their determination to shed innocent blood, they nevertheless shrank from contact with their own governor. Is it not much the same today? Some people lay more stress on forms, rituals, and outward ceremonies than on penitence and personal faith.

From the outset of our Lord’s hearing before Pilate, the governor, shrewd, scheming politician that he was, felt convinced of Christ’s innocence and even showed a certain admiration for this strange prisoner, just as many of you really have nothing against Christ except that you think Him a harmless idealist or a mistaken reformer. Twice Pilate declared his complete conviction of the Savior’s guiltlessness, and three times He proposed to release Him. One charge, however, struck Pilate. Our Lord’s accusers had declared, “We found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” When Pilate heard the word King and the accusation that Jesus had promoted a rebellion against the Roman rule, set Himself up as a rival monarch who would lead His countrymen, He knew that this charge required investigation. Without questioning Jesus concerning His teaching, His promise of salvation, Pilate sweeps all this aside and demands, in the spirit of a practical politician, “Art Thou a King then?”

Pilate’s words seem to show how personally assured he felt that Jesus was anything except a King. How was it possible, he may have asked himself, that the religious leaders of Jerusalem expected him to regard this gaunt, beaten Jesus of Nazareth as a Sovereign? What was His kingdom? In all Palestine not a single foot of ground was His. Who were His subjects? A few misguided Galilean fisherfolk, and they had deserted Him soon after His arrest! Where were His palace, His throne, His crown, His ermine robes? This Jesus a King? Not even those who accused Christ took this charge of an opposition realm seriously, and the soldiers soon showed how the masses ridiculed the very thought. A king must have a crown; so they arranged a circle of deep-cutting thorns and blasphemously forced it on the Savior’s head. A king should have a scepter; so they plucked a reed from a marshy spot nearby and put it in our Lord’s hand. A king ought to have royal robes; so they rummaged about and found a piece of purple cloth to throw over His shoulders. A king needs subjects; so with satanic scoffing they bowed down before Him to cry, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

The same ridicule heaped on Christ the King is directed toward the Savior today. We worship Jesus as our God and Redeemer, but worldly-minded politicians and preachers have only scorn for this basic Bible truth. We plead for Christ-centered education, and they laugh that away as old­fashioned. We ask for prayer in Jesus’ name, only to have them sneer at that as superstitious. We say that there is no other cure for sin, no other hope for the sinner but in the cross and the blood; yet they reply, “How can you be so stupid and blind?” We insist: this war-torn age needs Christ above all else, and every program which deliberately rejects His Word is doomed to failure. How have world leaders responded? They have cast Christianity aside, and for the second time in our generation they are fighting on the fields of bloody battle.

This ancient and modern sarcasm does not change the fact that in heaven’s own truth Jesus is a King. Long before He came into the flesh, prophet and psalmist welcomed Him in advance as Lord and Ruler. They cried out to all believers, “Behold, thy King cometh!” When Jesus now stood cross-examined before Pilate to face this question, which involved the salvation of the entire race, “Art Thou a King then?” even though this answer would finally help to seal His death warrant, Jesus replied without hesitation or evasion, “Thou sayest that I am a King.”

If only Pilate had permitted God’s Spirit to clarify his vision, he would have realized indeed that Christ, contradicting reason and appearance, was actually a Ruler, in reality the King of kings. And if only you, the uncertain and unconvinced, would likewise take Jesus at His word, you, too, would understand that while the earth has seen mighty monarchs, the proudest of these potentates are but dust and ashes in comparison with Him whom prophets, evangelists, disciples, apostles, angels and archangels, the mighty seraphim and the glorious cherubim, acclaim their Sovereign.

Jesus, first of all, is the King of power. “What power?” you ask, picturing that lonely, persecuted, sorrow-filled Sufferer before Pilate. Let the Scriptures answer, “For by Him [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” We marvel at the might of modern wealth; yet how disappointing some of the world’s greatest fortunes are! A few years ago one of the nation’s leading power and light companies was offered $700,000,000 for its property and business. The directors held out for $1,000,000,000. Yet recently it was revealed that the whole enterprise, with assets of only $2,000,000, is now bankrupt. But the Lord Jesus Christ can never be bankrupt. The silver and the gold are His. The whole earth is His: the heavens with a sun one third of a million times larger than our globe; with stars, like Sirius, having a force of light 27 times greater than our sun—all these and the many heavenly bodies in the impenetrable expanses of the universe, beyond the reach of the most powerful telescope, belong to Christ the King, who has told us, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” Can you not see, therefore, that if this Savior King is yours, He has unlimited resources at His command? His angels can guard you in every way. You never need worry about family affairs or lie awake at night wondering how you can make ends meet. Christ can provide in overabundance.

We are awed by the size of modern armies, but Christ our King is stronger than the battalions of all nations. He is so powerful that if it but be His will, He can make a quick end of the present struggle. Do you doubt that? Read the twentieth chapter of Second Chronicles, and you will see that in the days of Jehoshaphat, when the superior numbers of their enemies threatened to overwhelm them, God’s people took this crisis to Jehovah in penitent prayer. In answer a prophet arose who told the Israelites, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you.” The people accepted that startling promise. They marched to battle, raising their voices instead of their weapons, singing, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever.” What happened? The Lord Himself intervened. The powerful enemies were completely destroyed because Israel had faith in God. Christ our King can likewise give peace and victory to an America that sincerely confesses its sins and with trustful prayer bows humbly before Jesus. If, however, masses refuse to crown Him King; if unbelief, worldliness, lust, continue to increase; if churches keep on going farther away from Christ, He can withhold His blessings until the people realize He is the supreme Ruler of the nations.

In the present chaos Jesus may appear to be far from wielding control over human affairs. Modern unbelief would still press the crown of thorns on His brow if He were with us in the flesh. Often it seems that the power of evil is becoming more solidly entrenched, unbelief bolder even in the churches, and atheism more widespread throughout the world. But be sure of this: Rule He will, for rule He must! Pilate was soon deposed. Caiaphas the high priest was likewise thrown out of office. Herod was similarly removed and sent into exile. Judas took his own life. The members of the council who condemned Jesus paid bitterly for their shocking rejection. The people who screamed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” brought a horrifying curse upon themselves, for many of them were brutally killed in the siege of Jerusalem. You may be ever so rich, self-confident, and your life crowded with personal triumphs; yet if you refuse homage to Christ, the time will come when your self-assurance will vanish, and God’s wrath will make you realize that Christ is King. How is it possible, you ask, that Jesus, weak, wan, friendless, as we behold Him before Pilate, is really a King? To understand the seeming contradiction, you must believe that He is also the Lord of love, the Sovereign of your souls. Today men are asked to suffer and die in behalf of earthly rulers and human governments. But Jesus suffered and died for us, the King for His people, the Lord for His subjects, God for His erring, rebellious children. Russian history tells us that when Catherine II was to pass through an uninhabited section of the Black Sea territory, artificial homes, entire sham villages, even make-believe cities were hurriedly erected along the banks of the river on which the royal barge would travel to disguise the deserted countryside. French history recounts that when Queen Marie Antoinette made an extended tour, the authorities ordered all the maimed, diseased, hungry off the streets along her route in order not to irritate the Queen by disagreeable sights. English history relates that when the Prince of Wales visited the hospitals for World War veterans, the physicians tried to keep the mutilated, shell-shocked, and mentally unbalanced out of his sight. But as New Testament history assures us, Jesus deliberately sought the lowliest, the most destitute and distressed as the objects of His particular love.

Most people are never granted the privilege of approaching their king or president personally and speaking directly with him. Yet our Savior King invites us, “Come unto Me!” and promises, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Julia Ward Howe, author of “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord,” once wrote a prominent member of the United States Senate to enlist his help for a man who had suffered shocking injustice. The senator replied, “I am taken up so much with plans for the benefit of the race that I have no time for individuals.” Jesus, on the contrary, was particularly concerned about individuals. Even at Calvary, amid agonies you and I cannot begin to fathom, He had mercy for a penitent thief and promised him the immediate glories of Paradise. He had compassion on His weeping mother and instructed John to provide for her. He looked on those who nailed Him to the cross, and pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Earthly rulers use force. They maintain armies and navies. They wage war—offensive and defensive. But in His realm of grace our Savior-King reigns with love and mercy. One day in exile on the lonely island of Saint Helena, Napoleon told General Montholon, his attendant, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, I myself have established far-flung empires. Upon what did we build our power? We have built upon force and violence. Jesus Christ has built His kingdom upon love.” And in this age of hatred and might-makes-right, how sorely we need the mercy of the Savior who died for Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Hirohito; a Redeemer in whose sight all men—white, black, red, yellow; all classes—capitalists and laborers, underprivileged and overprivileged; all races—the primitive and the advanced, Jews and Gentiles—are held in such heavenly devotion that Christ the King gave His own body, shed His own blood to save them for eternity! Not long ago a cable from Asia revealed that in the heart of ancient Mongolia a silver casket had been found which apparently contained the remains of Genghis Khan. This dispatch was restricted to a short paragraph tucked away with inconsequential news on an inside page. Yet Genghis Khan was perhaps the mightiest militarist of all times. He ruled from China to Europe; in twenty-two years, it is said, he killed fifteen million people. While today Genghis Khan is unknown to most people, millions dedicate their lives to Christ, the Lord of love, the Prince of Peace, who gave Himself for His enemies, for the cruel priests and churchmen, plotters of His destruction, the fanatics screaming for His blood, the Roman soldiers guilty of the most monstrous misdeed in history. He died personally for you and for me, even though our thanklessness and rejection of divine mercy had arrayed us against God and His Anointed. No one else can save us but Christ, and there is no cleansing power besides His blood. The newspapers tell of a Missouri young man who offered to sacrifice a cornea to be grafted onto the eye of an elder brother now facing lifelong blindness. The surgeons decreed that the operation would be futile. Now, if men cannot transplant a good eye for a diseased eye, how can they ever hope that one man’s sin-stained soul can redeem a brother’s? Where human effort fails, Christ our King comes with heaven’s mercy to give Himself as the Healing for our sin­sickness, the Atonement for our total depravity. While earthly monarchs require payment for their favors, the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ is free. Salvation is yours, purely by faith!

All other rulers in the changing pageants of history have lived their life span and then disappeared forever. Christ alone is eternal and gives eternity. In the great climax of His conquering love He completely vanquished the last enemy, death. What seems to be the triumph of the grave is really a joyful victory when sinners, saved by grace, are brought to the waiting arms of their Father in the heavenly homeland. In one of the smaller islands of the Philippines there is a street of unusual name and character, “Victory Road,” leading to a cemetery. It is the way along which the broken, ravaged bodies of dead lepers from a Christian colony are carried to their final resting place. To them, as to Saint Paul and all heroes of the faith, death is glorious release, the evidence of eternal triumph. When Christ is your King, He will so fortify your courage that you, too, can exult: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

II

WE OUGHT TO SERVE HIM AS THE KING OF KINGS

If, therefore, the Lord Jesus, above our poor powers of comprehension, is the King of life and death, the self­giving Sovereign of your soul, the heavenly Ruler who can provide for every need, protect you in each danger, preserve you against all enemies; if Jesus in His kingdom of power and mercy is the Great Hope of our disconsolate age, you should fall on your knees before Him, accept Him as your Lord and Savior, believe every word He spoke, and trust Him through the perplexity of life into death itself. You belong to Christ since He purchased you with a price, His holy, precious blood. By His suffering and dying He Himself redeemed you from the curse of the Law, hell’s horror, and death’s eternal doom. Pledge Him your sincere, undying allegiance!

Every Sunday among the vast numbers who worship with us in this mission of the air are many American and Canadian citizens, outwardly respectable people, who may have had too much success—or sorrow—thus to acclaim the Lord Jesus Christ their Sovereign and Redeemer. Yet as every Sunday I use the facilities of this coast-to-coast network to imprint on their souls the truth that they are lost without the Lord Jesus, so today I plead with them to ask themselves where they will be without Christ in the fearsome future before them. Our age more than any other should teach every one of us that we cannot chart our own ways through these increasing perplexities. We need God in Christ with a constantly growing urgency. If you remain outside His kingdom here on earth, you will be excluded from His kingdom in heaven. Take time, blessed time, therefore, you, the skeptics, you, the burdened, weighted down by increasing agonies, to read and hear the sacred truth of Scripture by which the Holy Spirit leads you into the Savior’s realm! Because Christ wants to be your King, He can use that Word of His grace to make you His child, however black and stained your soul, and give you the new birth, new life, new assurance which is yours through trusting reliance on His promises.

Jesus, as the supreme Ruler of our souls, ought to be petitioned for the riches of His grace with even greater confidence than that with which people approach earthly rulers. In this harassed hour the cry to every American which should resound even above the many specialized slogans asks, wherever the American flag may fly, “Keep Them Praying!” We shall be farther along the road to righteous peace if the masses in our country put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and constantly commune with Him in His Word and fervent prayer.

Since Jesus is our King, we must be ready to defend Him, not with instruments of war, with bigotry and hate, but with an unquenchable loyalty to His truth, an irrepressible determination not to permit one attack on His holy name to go unchallenged and unrebuked. I hope that all of you will join me in a resolute rejection of every assault on our glorious King. Whenever the newspaper in your community prints a slur against Christ, make the editor take it back! If the children in your schools are forced to use textbooks ridiculing Scripture, see that those textbooks are banned! Should the leaders in your church, which in its charter is committed to the whole Gospel truth, deny Christ, question His Word, and permit infidelity to flourish in a building dedicated to the Savior, get these men out or protest until they put you out!

With Christ as our King, we must be eager to tell others of this glorious Savior and Sovereign. How sorely our country needs such missionary testimony to the Lord Jesus! Not long ago a young mother in Pennsylvania was executed in the electric chair for having taken part in the murder of a State trooper. On the witness stand, however, she declared that not once in her whole life had anyone invited her to attend Sunday school or church in her city, a place crowded with churches. And because we are continually moving toward a pointed crisis in which it will be either “Christ or chaos”—and these are the very words recently used by one of America’s leading economists—I plead with those among you who love the Lord Jesus to speak up and let the world know that you worship the King of kings. This mission of the air, as its name, Bringing Christ to the Nations, proclaims, seeks to spread the message of the sovereign Savior to everyone in this country, and many more nations, far beyond the twenty-five in which we now have stations. That is why I am not the least reluctant to appeal for your generous support, since I ask nothing for myself but only means for broadcasting the Gospel throughout a spiritually dying world. How gladly we ought to give to the Lord Jesus! Seven years ago Agha Khan, a Mohammedan potentate, received from his people twice his weight in gold. For his coming diamond anniversary three years hence, his followers propose to present him his weight in diamonds, a staggering sum representing at least $25,000,000. If the subjects of a Moslem leader thus pay lavish tribute to an earthly king, how much more generously should we support the work of Jesus, our divine King!

Sincerely acclaiming Christ the King of power and the King of grace, we also have the assurance that in heaven He will be our King of glory. There the same Jesus of whom Pilate demanded, “Art Thou a King then?” will reign supreme in a beauty that eye hath not seen, amid celestial anthems that earthly ears have never heard, and with the marvels of divine magnificence of which the human mind cannot even begin to conceive. My greatest hope, my constant prayer, my pleading with you every Sunday is directed toward the one supreme purpose that on the great day of the resurrection it may be given to me, by our Savior’s abounding grace, to present many of you to the Lord Jesus as white-robed saints, cleansed by Christ’s blood, saved by that faith in the Cross, resurrected by His power over death, which these broadcasts every week, with the Spirit’s guidance, would bring into your hearts.

God direct us all to live loyally as Americans and as Christians, to the end that, by His grace, we may strengthen our beloved nation with exalting righteousness and help extend the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ! We ask it in Jesus’ precious name. Amen!

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

Date: March 8, 1942

When He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?John 18:22-23

Jesus, Merciful Savior of Our Souls:

Help us testify to millions that Thou, our heavenly Redeemer, canst cleanse from all impurities everyone who trusts Thee! Give us whatever else Thy mercy may decree; but, O Christ of endless compassion, grant us Thy saving grace! Destroy our pride, our love for self, our indifference toward the suffering of others, our unclean impulses and desires! Lead us to confess our many, repeated transgressions and to cry, “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” Strengthen us also to believe assuredly that, cleansed by faith in Thine atoning blood, we can face our heavenly Father and hear Him speak pardon and peace to our souls! Send the Spirit to stir us into flame and enrich us with an intense eagerness to serve Thee! May we proclaim Thy name courageously and confidently challenge those who attack Thee! Make the masses of this country repentant, so that Thou canst look on us with Thy favor, and soon grant us a blessed, building peace! Be with all the distressed throughout the land and bring many sorrow-laden, grief-stricken sinners and sufferers to Thy comforting, saving, sustaining love! Amen.

“TOO little and too late!” once more is the reason for startling military losses. Yesterday Manila, Singapore, Batavia; tomorrow Rangoon and perhaps other pivotal cities—all lost because of poor preparation, too little planning, and help too late for victory.

“Too little and too late!” also accounts for reverses which many churches suffer: Too little Gospel—too late in applying its power! Whatever the outcome of the war, however long the struggle, whichever degree of victory is ours, this much seems certain: Atheism and unbelief will find in the postwar upheaval fertile fields where the seeds of discontent may be sown freely. Each international conflict has been followed by a period of restlessness and revolt; and the present hostilities, mightiest of all, may be succeeded by the most destructive consequences. After the American Revolution crime and irreligion increased. Colleges surrendered to skepticism and the ridicule of the Christian faith. If 150 years ago the follies of the French Revolution made slow but sure progress across the Atlantic to our country, then in this age of quick communication, radio, cable, clipper, superspeed liners, we can expect the denial of God, now widely spread through Europe, to find its way swiftly into many discontented lives on our shores. We are constantly being warned that the American people must accept a lower standard of living: For civilians, no more automobiles, tires, typewriters, radios, no more unlimited supplies of a thousand other commodities, at least during the war; and at the same time increased taxes, higher prices. Christians—for they love this signally endowed nation—can bear up under these restrictions, and they are willing to forego more than cuffs of their trousers, the pleats on their dresses, and the second spoonful of sugar. There are others, however, who, unwilling to make the real sacrifices required for patient, painstaking rebuilding, will be easily won by the agitators, the Red revolutionists who cry out: “Cancel all debts!” “Make all people financially equal!” “Destroy the right of private property!” “Down with the Church!”

In our present emergency, therefore, when millions look to our Christian faith for spiritual defense, the churches must purify and prepare themselves as never before. We must have houses of God in which the preaching of Heaven’s Law and Christ’s Gospel are not pushed aside by dances, plays, theatricals, even gambling. Neither is there any hope in congregations that neglect sound doctrine, appeal chiefly to the emotions, agree to disregard differences and join in a union which is outwardly impressive, yet unacceptable to God, since it is built on the denial of divine truth. We must pray for true Christian unity, of course—and I hope you do—asking the Holy Spirit to bless and guide all who acclaim the Bible as God’s infallible Word and bring them together in complete doctrinal agreement. The churches which are to be the salt of the earth in a day of spiritual decay should be 100 per cent loyal to Christ and His Word, courageous, outspoken, militant, seeking to please God rather than men; churches that do not ask whether the world offers its applause, but first of all whether the preacher sees eye to eye with the Lord Jesus Christ; pulpits which, while telling all men that without Christ there is no hope for a blessed eternity, warn the sinner of his evil ways and relentlessly attack unbelief.

In this respect Jesus has been a divine Pattern for us. There was nothing evasive or compromising in His words, and He could not be intimidated. As we pledge ourselves anew to follow His example and repel every assault on the Gospel, we employ this third Lenten devotion formally to issue

CHRIST’S CHALLENGE TO SEVENTY MILLION AMERICAN UNBELIEVERS

We find this suggested in the words of Saint John (chapter eighteen, verses twenty-two and twenty-three): “When He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?”

I

CHRIST CHALLENGES, “HAVE I EVER ‘SPOKEN EVIL’?”

After Jesus had permitted Himself to be taken captive in the Garden, He was bound and led first to Annas, probably the most influential figure in the religious life at Jerusalem. For six or seven years he had been the high priest, the representative of God to His people. When he had been deposed by the Roman governor, five of his sons, his son-in-law Caiaphas, and one of his grandsons were successively installed in that exalted office. He was immensely wealthy and received a large income through the sales at the Temple booths. At the same time he was a Sadducee, who openly denied the resurrection and otherwise paid little attention to doctrine. How he hated Jesus for cleansing the Temple, thus interfering with his revenue! How determined he was to destroy the Savior!—Today, too, the most brutal attack on the Christ of the Scriptures comes from the clergy itself, from Modernists who occupy top positions in their denomination, the twentieth-century Sadducees who under the guise of religion traitorously attack the Savior.

Annas began by cross-examining Jesus in regard to His disciples. If the Savior Himself would reveal the names of those who had followed Him and preached His doctrine, they could be captured and sentenced with Him. Oh, how faithful Jesus’ love! Although every disciple had shamefully deserted Him despite the promise of loyalty, He did not forsake them; He refused to answer Annas’ question. He could have assumed a friendly, ingratiating attitude to win His liberty; but He spurned every thought of currying favor and even withheld a reply to some of Annas’ inquiries. May our heavenly Father give us the courage to follow Christ in defying the foes of our faith! Because God is on their side, Christians dare not be timid, apologetic, servile. There are times when we must be defiant, and for those moments may God infuse us with heroic resistance! We need much more of the courageous spirit that lived, for example, in Polycarp of Smyrna: When told by the Roman governor that unless he denied Christ, he would he banished, the venerable patriarch replied, “You cannot banish me, for I am at home wherever Christ is.” The chagrined official continued, “I will take away your property.” Polycarp responded, “I have none; if I had, and you took it away, I would still he rich, for I have Christ.” His captor warned, “I will take away your good name.” That hero of the faith answered, “It is gone already, for I have long since reckoned it a great joy to he counted the offscouring of all things for Christ’s sake.” “I will put you in prison,” the Roman ruler threatened, only to be told, “You may do so if you please, but I shall always be free, for where Christ is, there is perfect liberty.” “I shall take away your life,” the governor concluded, but Polycarp triumphed, “Then I shall be in heaven, which is the truest life.” Ignatius, first-century martyr, cried out: “Come fire, come cross and crowds of wild beasts; come tearing, rending, and breaking of my hones; come the mutilation of my members and the shattering of my whole body and all the torments of the devil! I would rather die for Christ than rule the world.”

When Annas continued to examine Jesus concerning His teachings, our Lord once more refused to respond directly, declaring: “In secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou Me? Ask them which heard Me!” Had the high priest been a poor, contrite, groping sinner, eagerly seeking the way to God, how carefully, lovingly Jesus would have explained His Gospel, answered every question, outlined the whole plan of salvation; for—let this he your comfort!—no sincere inquirer after divine truth can be too lowly and despised to be welcomed, instructed, strengthened by the patient Redeemer, who loves the humble and the penitent. But let this serve as a warning: No one, not even powerful Annas, the man who ran religious affairs in Jerusalem, can be high and imposing enough to secure Christ’s consideration if he is moved merely by curiosity, or, worse, by a desire to destroy His Church.

The Savior’s protest, “In secret have I said nothing,” shows how open, honest, undisguised His truth is. Millions are attracted to secret organizations and occult creeds with mysterious rites and ceremonies, undercover oaths, passwords and privileges only for the initiated. But Christ’s Gospel is as opposed to all this as the brightness of day to the utter darkness of night. Jesus has nothing to conceal but everything to reveal. It is necessary, of course, that our soldiers and sailors guard military and naval secrets. Billboards throughout the nation remind us how dangerous it is even for commonplace information to fall into enemy hands. Yet because the Gospel is dedicated to save men’s souls rather than destroy their lives, Jesus wants us who know His grace to proclaim the promise of His love. He still declares, “Ask them which heard Me!”

Now comes one of the most brutal scenes in our Savior’s entire suffering. One of the Temple servants, turning sharply to Christ and demanding, “Answerest Thou the high priest so?” struck Jesus a heavy blow. Henry Martyn, missionary among the Mohammedans, tells us that when he was translating the New Testament into the Persian language a native lad, reading this passage for the first time and inwardly shaken over this blasphemy, asked, “Sir, did not his hand dry up?” We, too, often wonder how the innocent, stainless Son of God could endure such brutal treatment without striking His assailant dead on the spot. Christ, however, had thoughts only of love and life, not of hatred and destruction. Even that soldier, guilty of the most terrifying sins, could have found forgiveness in the Savior’s unlimited grace, just as His arms are never closed when you approach Him penitently, however black and blatant your unbelief may have been.

Instead of threatening or cursing the man who struck Him, Jesus looked Him squarely in the face and said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil.” Had that soldier taken time to ask himself: “After all, why have they made this Nazarene a prisoner? What is His offense?” he would have come to the same conclusion—had he been fair and open-minded—which Pilate reached when He pronounced Jesus innocent in the verdict, “I find in Him no fault at all.”

This challenge “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil!” is directed to all unbelievers today and now particularly to the seventy million Christless people within our shores. I deliberately ask any individual or organized group to produce evidence of a single destructive action or teaching in our Lord’s life. Since the days when His enemies stooped to perjury and false witness, the opponents of our faith have always used fraud and lies to discredit Christianity. A renowned scientist, seeking to heap ridicule on the Biblical doctrine that man was created by God, actually manufactured spurious evidence for his assault on the Scriptures—only to have his dishonesty and duplicity exposed. From the first century, when Jesus’ followers were branded as enemies of the State, Christ’s creed has been maliciously attacked, His utterances misquoted, His meaning misinterpreted, His love willfully misunderstood. The New Testament has been fine-combed by hostile critics seeking to accuse our Lord of inaccuracies. Every word He spoke has been examined and cross-examined by experts as no other utterances in history, all in the hope that some flaw or contradiction might be uncovered. Yet with millions of dollars spent in assailing Jesus, long years devoted to discredit His Word, the truth of Scripture has been repeatedly confirmed by archaeological research.

Confident that our Bible is God’s own errorless verity, we demand of those who oppose Jesus, “If He has ‘spoken evil, bear witness of the evil!’” Is there anything wrong with the Savior’s teaching that He is the Son of God? In this age of broken promises, who would want to rely on man’s word, when Christ as our Lord offers heaven’s unbreakable truth? On the day after last Christmas the British public was told by an acclaimed orator, “Sure I am, we are the masters of our fate.” But it has well been pointed out that we are not the masters even of our feet, since the Scriptures assert, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Particularly during the uncertainties of war, American Christians want the divine Christ in control of their fate, the heavenly Ruler of their destiny.

Is there anything “evil” in the Savior’s love which led Him from celestial radiance to an earth encrusted with sin, greed, hatred, that He might become one of us, yet without sin, and give His life as the Ransom, the Atonement, the Forgiveness for iniquity?

Is there anything “evil” in the glorious Gospel promise that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself?” Does our hate-ridden, strife-burdened age not plead for a compassion like Christ’s which offers the inner peace of pardon to all men, including the lowliest and most despised?

Is there anything “evil” in the magnificent mercy by which Jesus forgives, without any payment whatever? Think of the startling, constantly growing indebtedness sin heaps up against every one of us! A few days ago, the newspapers reported, a drug clerk claimed that in 1929 when he was discharged, the company owed him $8.96. Now, in 1942, only thirteen years later, this amount, through penalties, unpaid back salaries, compound interest, has become $18,720; and his lawyer is appealing to the courts that this large sum be awarded his client. With the increasing indebtedness of our transgressions unspeakably greater, what objection can you have to a Redeemer who has wiped out all charges against us, whose Word pledges, “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves”?

Is there any “evil” in the bounty by which Jesus offers His love and help to those staggering under the burden of care and worry? Do you find fault with our Lord because of the guidance He offers during life’s dangerous moments? One of our Lutheran young men who gave up a university career to enter the United States Army Air Corps writes: “Last Monday I took off from the field, and after gaining an altitude of about seventy-five feet, my plane’s left wheel came off. For an hour and a half I circled the field, preparing to land. At the same time preparations were made on the ground for a crash. Thanks be to God, I was able to land safely on one wheel, damaging the plane only slightly. During the entire incident I was able to remain calm only through and because of my entire trust in God.” Why do you unbelievers want to take away that trust, and what will you give us in place of this divine guidance by Christ? The fatalists claim: Everything happens by luck, good or bad; life is only a series of accidents, men the weak creatures of chance.—You can have this if you want it, but in hours of desperate need, when human power proves its pitiable weakness, you will scream for a divine refuge.

Is there anything “evil” in Christ’s teaching concerning the home, business, government? Which of these does the nation need today, the Savior’s code of family ethics with husband and wife bound together by undying love and self­sacrificing devotion, with marriage a holy, blessed, lifelong union, and children welcomed as the gifts of God’s goodness—or the destructive theory that matrimony is only an arrangement of convenience and pleasure, to be broken when these ends are no longer served? What does our country require in this crisis? The Christian idea of business and labor as a service, as an expression of Jesus’ Golden Rule, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise,” or capitalists and laborers striving to secure the highest possible prices, income or wages, while millions of young military men risk their lives at hardly ten dollars a week? Do we want the Christian type of patriotism which is wholeheartedly “subject to the powers that be,” yet at the same time prays God soon to give the world a real, righteous peace—or the spirit of a St. Louis woman quoted as declaring that she hoped the war would last for years, since both she and her husband were enjoying the highest salaries they had ever received?

Above all, is there “evil” in Christ’s teaching concerning death and the promise of a glorious resurrection, a life beyond the grave, a radiant existence with fullest compensation for earth’s tears, sweat, and blood, its sorrow, pain, and toil, a heaven where the wrongs of earth will be righted? How can anyone except those with a diseased mind kick this crutch of hope from beneath staggering men and women with the claim man dies like a dog and his personality, his thoughts, his being are destroyed forever with his last breath? A few days ago newspapers carried the account of a Memphis man, thirty-six years old, doomed to die of cancer within a few months. Through an Associated Press dispatch he asks for counsel as to how these last weeks of his earthly life should be spent. Probably he will receive hundreds of suggestions, directing him to “eat, drink, and be merry” before he is wrapped in the silence and destruction of the grave. I have wired that man and now tell him: “You have one supreme duty as your end approaches. You must prepare to meet your Maker. None of us can see God in our sins, yet by faith in Christ, His Son, the Savior of the world, our transgressions have been completely removed. Accept Jesus now as your Redeemer, and He will help you bear your pain, strengthen you in the hour of your departure and receive you in the heavenly mansions where there will be no more cancer, no more suffering, no more death! Put your whole trust in this Christ, and these last months of your life can be your happiest! Enjoy all the good things God still gives you and do not fear the end! Christ has destroyed death. Your Christian fortitude may help bring others to the Lord. Your Christian endurance can preach powerful sermons. Faithful unto death, you can be assured of the crown of eternal life.” I ask you: What can unbelief give this afflicted man that is comparable to the Savior’s pledge of eternal life?

Today, as we point to our captive Savior, defying the unbelief of His day, “If I have done evil, bear witness of the evil!” we repeat that challenge publicly by asking any unbeliever, Modernist, Christ-denier, atheist, skeptic, scoffer (your letters, particularly the anonymous communications, prove that many of you listen in) to send me a single instance of evil in the words of our Lord, and in turn I will read any real charge or indictment of Christ over this coast-to-coast broadcasting system. At the same time, however, let me enlarge this challenge and ask: If you remove Jesus as the Savior of the world, whom will you follow in His stead? Karl Marx, with his atheistic Communism that stands clearly condemned in its immoral consequences? Voltaire, who was a deceitful, immoral sophisticate? Once when he tried to versify the Fifty-first Psalm, that great penitential outpouring of David’s soul, everything went well till the French radical came to the words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!” Then terror seized him, his body shook, his pen refused to move at the dictates of his hand, and his mind was so disturbed that even later he could not recall this incident without a feeling of gnawing uneasiness. What will you substitute for the Savior’s mercy and love at a time when the world is bleeding from ten thousand wounds? What will you offer in place of Christ’s widespread charity? We have forty-seven hospitals in St. Louis—Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and others. We have dozens of orphanages, old folks’ homes, convalescent sanatoria, and similar institutions erected by the churches or by civic funds which directly or indirectly have come from the impulses of God’s Word. But nowhere in the whole city, as far as I know, is there a single charitable institution erected by atheists or agnostics.

II

JESUS CHALLENGES, “WHY SMITEST THOU ME?”

That servant in the palace of Annas could not point to anything evil in Christ’s words or in His life, nor could he answer the Savior’s further question “If I have spoken well, why smitest thou Me?” Probably the misguided soldier struck Jesus in order to secure the high priest’s favor, just as some of you have thought you could advance yourselves by turning from Jesus, denying the Lord of your childhood and youth. Like Judas, you have sold your souls for money, or, like Peter, you have become unfaithful because you could not stand the ridicule of unbelievers. Still others have been coaxed from Christ because, swayed by blind infatuation, you married someone in whose heart and life the Savior plays no part. For a dozen different reasons your fists are clenched against Jesus. He condemns sin; you love it. He warns against the lusts of the flesh; you want to follow them. He asks humility, self­denial, self-sacrifice; but you are proud, unbending, selfish. So you try to push His love aside, claiming that Christianity is contrary to reason and spurned by all brilliant minds. Yet some of the world’s mightiest intellects have acclaimed the captive, scourged, crucified Christ their Savior. Notable in the history of the sciences is the work of Michael Faraday. On one occasion, after a brilliant lecture on magnetical electricity, he performed an astonishing experiment that brought long, thunderous applause from the distinguished audience. Then the Prince of Wales, later King of England, proposed that official congratulations be extended to Faraday. The motion was seconded and carried as applause again rocked the hall. After the handclapping subsided, the celebrated scientist had vanished. Later it was revealed that he was the elder of a small church which had only twenty members on its roll. The evening on which Faraday gave the remarkable lecture was the time for the midweek service, a meeting he never neglected, and while the applause reechoed through the crowded hall, he had hastened, unnoticed, to worship his Christ in prayer. If you will take time to meet your Savior, to have His Spirit convince you of sin’s great curse yet of Christ’s greater grace, you, too, will know the Lord is the highest Wisdom. Go back to the Bible, the divine Word, “which is able to build you up”!

Terrifying beyond words are the consequences of denying or striking that innocent Savior. The whole high priesthood in royal Jerusalem was soon wiped out completely. The city which crucified Jesus was visited with such widespread destruction that the Roman conquerors under Titus could not find enough timber on which to nail the rebellious citizens. The whole land of Palestine, blessed as no other spot on earth because Christ taught and preached within its borders, seems to have been blasted by divine wrath, overlaid with a heavy penalty. Similarly, no people has ever permanently prospered that has risen up against the Lord Jesus. We must take note of that truth in our country and counteract every anti-Christian influence arising in our schools, our homes, in the affairs of our Government, and even in our churches. This is the hour for the most striking testimony to Christ this country has ever known.

Even more, now is the time for some of you, enemies of the Savior, to accept Him as your own Deliverer from death. It is His promise that “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” However destructive and damnable your past sins may have been, however defeated your life, that scourged, crucified, bleeding, dying Redeemer has thoughts of compassion especially for you. With your wartime needs and wants, above all, your sins of unbelief and rejection that place you side by side with the soldier who struck Christ, the Savior of surpassing love asks you to make Him yours in an eternal unity that neither battle’s horror nor prosperity’s temptation can ever destroy.

Blessed by that Savior, your faith and life should continually bear witness that He “hath done all things well.” You will know in an exalted confidence that the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we have beheld in His Lenten suffering as the persecuted, beaten Victim of man’s hatred, is, in God’s own truth, the Savior with matchless mercy, with free forgiveness for every transgression, almighty help in every weakness, divine comfort for life’s most crushing sorrows, the unfailing Guide from earth to heaven’s hallowed glory. May every hand clenched against Him or lifted to strike Him, now be raised in the oath of loyalty! May you with firm-founded faith declare: O my crucified Savior, accept me, despite all my sins, frailties, selfishness! Wash me, purify me, through the cleansing power of Thy blood! With Thy help I promise to bear witness to the world that Thou art holy and perfect, my Lord, my Redeemer, my King. Amen.

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

Date: March 1, 1942

If, therefore, ye seek Me, let these go their way!John 18:8

Beloved Lord Jesus:

Receive our thanks for the immeasurable mercy by which Thou didst willingly, yea, eagerly, tread the path of suffering! Let Thy readiness to endure shame and anguish be a strengthening example for us when our burdens become heavy! Open our eyes first to our lost, helpless condition without Thee, but then to our assured salvation with Thee. More than ever before in these beclouded days we need the trusting faith in Thy compassion even unto the cross and the courage to take refuge in Thy never-failing love! Show us that Thou didst permit Thyself to be captured and bound so that we might be freed from the rule of sin, the tyranny of worry, the dominion of death! Save us from stubborn doubts or willful contradictions of Thy Word, and by Thy Spirit nurture within us a childlike trust in Thy mercies! Keep firm on our souls the imprint of Thy love! Fill us—and many others in our country—with true penitence and a Heaven-sent determination to walk in Thy footsteps! Grant us all a joy-instilling, life-giving faith, precious Savior, for Thou alone canst help us! Amen.

WHEN Japanese bombers last week struck heavily in northern Burma, our newspapers cited two women for “coolness and heroism.” Fifty civilians had been killed and many more wounded at a railroad station; but these two women, spurning danger, helped carry the maimed to safety “from a platform slippery with blood.” Tirelessly they bandaged the injured, held flashlights while surgeons operated and amputated, took charge of a school with sixty-nine children whose teacher had been blown to bits. Now, who were these heroines, and why, instead of fleeing to shelter, did they sacrifice every personal interest, risk their own lives to help the natives? Not travelers in search of adventure, not local air-raid wardens, not the mothers of the wounded, not professional nurses working in line of duty! These two fearless messengers of mercy were American missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, forsaking ease and comfort, went to the Burmese hinterland and there dedicated themselves solely to serve their fellow men in the Savior’s spirit.

The annals of Christian missions are filled with countless instances of the same devotion. We shun homes placarded with “Scarlet Fever” or “Diphtheria” signs, but servants of Jesus, forgetting their own health, enter leper colonies and daily come into contact with that loathsome disease because the love of Christ constrains them. David Livingstone, invading the dangerous cannibal regions in darkest Africa; Allen Gardiner, laying down his life on the bleak shores of Patagonia; Hans Egede, fighting his way through ice floes to Greenland—these and ten thousand other missionaries following Christ’s example have undergone indescribable hardships and thus given the world the high example of lives, energies, talents, wholly directed to help perishing humanity.

Our cold, cruel age cries out for such love and compassion. One of the basic conflicts today is the struggle between Christian self-sacrifice and the growing philosophy of selfish materialism. As we witness international warfare, systematic destruction, class hatred, the stubborn insistence, “Might makes right,” and, “Only the fittest should survive,” we ought to realize that we are far from a world in which men serve, rather than kill, each other, or nations cooperate honestly instead of competing treacherously. We want a world with the harsh caste and class systems broken down by mutual assistance among men, with the rich sustaining the poor, the learned devoting themselves to the unlettered, the powerful supporting the weak. We need homes in which the husband, in place of playing cards with his cronies night after night and spending a large part of his income purely for his personal pleasure, loves his wife and children, gladly shares everything he has with them, and ceaselessly labors for their happiness; families in which the wife understands how, in trying times like these, God expects her to make the home a haven of peace and rest for husband and children. For our own individual lives we need, not the “get-yours-while-you-can,” “I’ll-stick­to-my-rights” attitude, which, like murderous Cain, sneers at the thought of being our brother’s keeper. We want—and our whole age pleads for this—men and women, young and old, who learn from Christ that earth’s highest joy comes from serving and helping save others.

The uplifting power by which we can dedicate ourselves to our fellow men, go as missionaries into unknown and incalculable dangers, sacrifice our money, time, strength, if necessary even our lives, for the benefit of the race, comes directly or indirectly from Jesus. Therefore, to receive more of His heavenly grace, to see how He willingly offered Himself in our behalf, let us, in our second Lenten message, study

THE SAVIOR’S MATCHLESS MERCY

as this is recorded (Saint John’s Gospel, chapter eighteen, verse eight) in Jesus’ own words, “If therefore, ye seek Me, let these go their way!”

I

HE SUFFERED WILLINGLY

Hardly had our Lord finished His pleading prayer in Gethsemane, asking that the cup of suffering be removed, yet adding, “Not My will, but Thine, be done!” when, strengthened by the ministering angel, He arose, divinely fortified for the ordeal awaiting Him. He clearly foresaw each separate sorrow ahead of Him: the cruelty of His arrest, the binding of His hands, the repeated trials before His own countrymen and the Roman authorities, the abuse at the hands of coarse soldiers, the mockery with purple robe, reed scepter and crown of cutting thorns, the frightful scourging, the crucifixion itself with its crushing agony, and, far more terrifying, the torture of soul and mind that He would have to endure before completely atoning for the sins of the whole world. He knew all this in advance, and it would have been easy for Him to escape under the cover of night. Within a few hours He could have hidden away in one of the secret caves high in the stony Judean highlands. But these thoughts never entered Jesus’ mind. He loved us with such self-giving devotion that, banishing every suggestion of flight and personal safety, He advanced resolutely to meet the Roman soldiers and the Temple guards, come to capture Him. With a majesty men have otherwise not beheld, He stepped forward to greet the heavily armed group with the quiet question “Whom seek ye?”

We wonder why the soldiers failed to recognize Christ immediately. It has been suggested that perhaps the darkness in the Garden prevented their identifying Him; yet we read that they carried lamps and torches, and even in that flickering light the Savior could easily have been discerned. Most likely these men did not know Jesus. Doubtless most of the Roman soldiers had never seen Him and even the Temple guards had paid Him scant attention. Therefore they had to have Him pointed out by a faithless wretch who would betray his Master with a kiss.

Does this ignorance concerning our Lord not picture much of modern unbelief? Men arise to attack Jesus, but actually they do not know who He is. Some of the most vicious enemies of His truth are spiritually ignorant and must confess that they have never personally studied His Word. Some of you set yourselves against Christ without ever having approached Him earnestly, honestly, in an unbiased, open mind. If we were to stand at Times Square in New York City, on Michigan Boulevard in Chicago, on Market Street in San Francisco, and ask those passing on these busy thoroughfares who Christ is, we would soon discover that although more books have been written about the Savior than anyone else, although more schools have been built for His cause and more houses of worship erected to His name than have been dedicated to any other person, there is still a widespread ignorance concerning our Lord which keeps multitudes from Jesus and His salvation. If only you, the skeptical and the sworn enemies of our faith, would take time to meet Him in His Word, to learn of the rich blessings He has brought everyone, your questions of doubt would be answered and your sullen hatreds removed.

Acquaint yourself with Christ before you condemn Him! Meet Him face to face in His Word before you reject Him! Behold the Savior in the Garden, as His enemies, armed with swords and staves, encircle Him and their flaming torches light up His countenance! Though you may not have seen Jesus in this light before, look at Him there! Though you may never have known it and you now seek to contradict it, this Sufferer in Gethsemane, serene even in the face of persecutions soon to break upon Him, is far more than a victim of priestly jealousy, a target of popular hatred, a misunderstood genius, a self-sacrificing idealist. He is rather—and I call as witness the sacred Scriptures with their repeated endorsement of this truth—the Savior of the world, but especially your own Redeemer. Give Him your heart! Let Him control your life!

When the soldiers, answering the Savior’s question “Whom seek ye?” replied, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and our Lord quickly answered, “I am He!” these few words suddenly hurled the guards to the ground. You see, then, Christ did not need to escape. If one short sentence could cast His enemies prostrate, another sentence could have destroyed them. In Jesus there is an unseen power of God, a source of immeasurable divine strength that helps you defeat the foes of your faith. When boasting, taunting men arise to challenge the Lord, some weak Christians often wonder whether God has been defeated, whether reason has triumphed over divine revelation. Yet the same Savior who threw His adversaries on their faces can and actually does intervene today in frustrating the designs of evil men. Before God’s inescapable judgment every unrepentant person who has clenched his fist against Christ and spoken words of defiant unbelief will be cast down in eternal defeat before our royal Redeemer.

Jesus not only permitted the Temple guard and the Roman soldiers to scramble to their feet; He also refused to summon for His own aid the twelve legions of angels at His beck and call, the 72,000 heavenly messengers, each capable of destroying all the armies in the world. Our Lord deliberately rejected every possibility of avoiding the cross, saving Himself from its rack and torture. For—here is matchless mercy, love such as only a divine Savior could show, grace so deep that we could not believe it, were it not the truth of Heaven itself—Jesus wanted to suffer. He willingly laid down His life. The salvation of a perishing world was of such supreme concern to Him that nothing could keep Him from that pathway of anguish. He saw the cross ahead, and no one will know as Jesus knew what excruciating agony Calvary meant; yet beyond the cross the blessed Savior saw you, and He loved you with such intense, heavenly self-giving that He could even glorify His Father in His suffering for the redemption of mankind.

Never has there been a compassion as magnificent as this. We give our deep-rooted thanks to the guardians of safety, the policemen and firemen, public servants who protect us and our homes. Yet when they risk their lives, they do it in line of duty. They are paid for their services. Jesus did not have to suffer and die. We had no claim on Christ that would bring Him from the radiance of heaven to a sin-cursed earth. He had nothing to gain, humanly speaking, for Himself by being born in a stable and dying as a criminal on the cross. The only earthly payment He received was jeering ridicule, stinging sarcasm, the “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” of those whom He had come to save. Yet His love for us was so endless and depthless that no mortal power could have kept Him from the cross.

We have high regard for the millions of men who have been selected for the nation’s defense. They go for us, and our prayers should continually ascend to the Throne of Mercy in their behalf. Yet, while they are summoned by law, Jesus was called by love. They are drafted and go because they must; but no compulsion drove Jesus to the pathway of pain indescribable, nothing except the divine, never-to-be-fathomed compassion for our souls.

Nor was there anything haphazard about our Savior’s suffering and dying. People sometimes give their lives unintentionally for others. A few years ago in Florida when an assassin’s bullet, aimed at President Roosevelt, killed Mayor Cermak of Chicago, the dying man expressed his thanks that he had been struck, and not the President. No element of chance, however, nothing haphazard or accidental lingers in our Savior’s anguish. Ages before you were born, He knew you and loved you with such tender, limitless affection that He would not stop short of the cross; instead, He was determined to give Himself in the mightiest sacrifice even He could make for your salvation.

Words are woefully weak in describing our Savior’s incomparable mercy. He bore His never-to-be-fathomed grief willingly, moved not by duty, necessity, chance, but by the marvel and miracle of His heavenly compassion, His sacred longing to have you with Him in eternity. As we can never express the height and depth of this voluntary, self-giving love, so we can never understand why Jesus unhesitatingly yielded Himself to the shame and agony of the crucifixion for our sakes. But why try to comprehend and analyze this unconditional readiness to complete our redemption? Believe it! Trust His grace! Take Christ at His Word, and you will experience that His willingness imparts itself to your life, enriching you with a sacred readiness to suffer and serve! That is one of the supreme needs for our disquieted day, this eagerness to promote the welfare of our fellow men. If the present is disturbed and distracted, what of the future? If, as we are told, the hearts of men are being tried now, then in the question­marked tomorrow, when we begin to pay for today, the souls of men will be doubly tried in affliction’s fires. This country, which, generally speaking, has enjoyed more of life’s bounty while enduring far less pain than any other people on earth, may yet be brought to grips with the cold, cruel, ruthless battle for existence. In England the pinch of hunger is driving people to eat sparrows, starlings, crows. In some of the Axis-controlled territory dog meat is sold at $1.60 a pound and cats for $4.00 and up. Do not say, “That can’t happen here!” Until last week many people laughed at the idea that American coasts could be bombarded. Rather ask yourself: How can I face the burdens to be imposed by the widening, lengthening war and by the perils of the aftermath? How will I learn to help my brother in the critical changes that may overtake us? Only by knowing Jesus and having the joy of His salvation in our souls!

Missionary Willis R. Hotchkiss tells us that his long search for a word to convey the idea of Savior in the unwritten language of a Central African tribe was finally rewarded when one of his men told how a native had been “saved” from an attacking lion. The missionary at once used that term to explain Christ’s redemption, and immediately the Negro’s face lighted up as he exclaimed: “I understand now! This is what you have been trying to tell us all these moons. Yesu died to save us from sin.” Later, recalling the joy which illumined that black man’s countenance, Missionary Hotchkiss wrote: “I have dwelt four years practically alone in Africa. I have been thirty times smitten with the fever, three times attacked by lions, several times by rhinoceroses, a number of times ambushed by the natives. For four months I never saw a piece of bread, and I have eaten everything from ants to rhinoceroses. But let me say to you: I would gladly go through the whole thing once more if I could again witness the joy of having the word Savior flash out in the darkness that envelopes another tribe in Central Africa.” In much the same way, come what may, if you study the Lord’s holy eagerness to suffer for you, His spirit of self-giving will be transplanted into your soul and show itself in your willingness to serve, work, pray for the bodily and spiritual help of your fellow men, even your enemies.

II

HE SUFFERED FOR OUR FREEDOM

The Savior’s mercy is matchless also because His suffering brings us freedom and salvation. We might think that at His betrayal and before His capture Jesus would be so engrossed in His own pain, so terrified by the thought of His impending crucifixion, that there in the Garden, before being taken captive by the Roman legionaries, His thoughts would center in His own shattering sorrows. Some people continually bemoan their aches and pains, though their troubles are small and sometimes insignificant. How different Jesus! Here in Gethsemane He forgot His approaching torture in His deep concern over His disciples. Unless He intervened, they, too, might be captured; and if He were sentenced to death, the eleven might have to share His fate. If these disciples were destroyed, what would become of the Church? So at the very first clash with His enemies Jesus voices no appeal for Himself; He pleads for His followers. In the spirit of the Scriptural warning “Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm!” He faces His persecutors squarely and says, “If, therefore, ye seek Me, let these go their way!” He is willing to endure the most excruciating pain that degenerate men could invent; His disciples, however, must be spared. Similarly throughout His entire suffering He showed deep personal anxiety for those who had accepted Him as their Savior. The whole torture of Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha was in our behalf, to liberate everyone who would accept His mercy from the tyranny of sin, sorrow, hell, despair, and death itself.

True, there have been martyrs who lived and died for their fellow men. “He laid down his life for others” was the headline of a London paper which recorded the tragic death of Captain L. Oates, member of the ill-fated Scott expedition to the Antarctic. He was one of the five who got through to the South Pole in 1912, but eighteen weeks later, after constant exposure to snow and ice, he was so severely frostbitten that he could make only a short distance each day. His brave comrades refused to desert him, but Captain Oates knew that food and fuel were becoming scarcer with every hour and that if his four friends were kept back by his slow progress, they would all die. So one day, without warning, he staggered out of the tent, declaring, “I am just going outside, and I may be gone some time.” The blizzard howled as he closed the door, and he walked out into the frozen, lifeless Antarctic waste with this one purpose: he would freeze to death and let the snowdrifts cover his body so that his companions, unhindered by his weakness, could be saved. Even this self­sacrifice could not rescue the others. As their diary, discovered later, showed, they struggled on for almost two weeks and died only eleven miles from the depot where a ton of food and quantities of fuel awaited them. But Jesus never fails. He does far more than lead those who trust Him close to the glories of heaven. He brings them, by His mercy and might, into their prepared place.

We can well understand why people love their own family, their friends, those who have helped them; why Christians desire the good, beautiful, clean; yet how can we explain that Jesus loved us when we hated Him, when our sins insulted Him, our unbelief wounded Him, our transgressions sent Him to the cross? The Scriptures tell us, not while we were good, virtuous, pure Christ gave Himself for us, but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” for every transgressor, including especially also those who have dropped to life’s lowest levels, who are shunned by polite society or regarded as outcasts even by criminals. It is a miracle of grace that Jesus loved Judas and would have restrained him from his suicidal course. Far greater wonder, however, than His choosing one who afterward became unfaithful, greedy, gold-loving, is the fact that in His glorious grace He chose you and me, that through faith we may point to the Savior and say: “He loved me despite my ingratitude, my unworthiness, my stubborn pride, my carnal mind. He loved me and—oh, mercy without measure!—gave Himself for me.”

The Savior who pleaded for His disciples in the Garden went all the way to the cross for them and their salvation. “Having loved His own, which were in the world, He loved them unto the end,” the heart-breaking, soul­crushing end at Calvary. His burden might become heavier, the cruelty He endured deeper, the blasphemy more shocking, yet His Savior-love never wavered. Many women who have suffered pain and abuse at the hands of a brutal husband or who have been the victims of repeated unfaithfulness write: “My husband killed something in me. I can’t love him anymore.” But the entire sins of a wicked world could not kill the Savior’s devotion to us. Unfaithful, ungrateful though we have been, He shed His blood to prove His divine, unchanging, unending affection.

What radiant reassurance that the Christ of the Garden, now no longer weak and wan from his wrestling with the powers of darkness but glorified in heavenly strength, loves us with the same intensity today! When dangers combine to overwhelm us, He can intervene with His divine authority and power to declare: “Let these,” My disciples, “go!” If you who are Christ’s could only understand from how many dangers He has protected you, your life would be a continuous hymn of praise. Day and night, at home and work, His guardian love has shielded you. It will be of surpassing comfort for you parents who give your Christian sons for the nation’s defense, to have the assurance that if your dear ones face death, the same Savior can, if it be His will, divert the bullets, shells, bombs, torpedoes, and say, “Let these,” My children, “go!” After the war—and, O God, we pray, let it end soon, with a just peace and a victory that will not sow the seeds of even more bloodshed!—the veterans of this second world struggle will cite thousands of instances in which the Savior intervened to push aside what seemed sure, inescapable destruction.

Especially in the spiritual realm do the words Jesus spoke in the Garden find their fullest application. Every time your conscience seeks to accuse you and to whisper into your ears, “You are marked by sin; you have broken God’s will; there is no pardon or peace for you!” you can turn to Christ and, believing that His blood “cleanseth us from all sin,” find Him standing at your side to repel your doubts and weaknesses, to answer Satan’s whispering with the majestic, “Let this child of Mine go!”

Should worries seek to embitter us and we grope about, unable to find a way out of our perplexities, what better can we do than approach the Lord Jesus with the confidence that as He restrained His enemies in the Garden, so He can banish everything which would destroy our happiness and teach us to cast all our cares on Him. This is the promise of His Word, “He careth for you.” Even when the last, the most destructive of adversaries seems to gloat confidently as death prepares to call us from the land of the living, the triumph of the grave will be only momentary for those who believe in Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection. They rely on Him, the Lord of life and eternity, who commands the forces of hell and eternal darkness: “Let these,” My believers, My faithful, “go,” for He promises, “If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.”

This matchless mercy is offered freely, without payment or price, without any contribution or credential, only by His unrestricted, unlimited love. Do you really know what Christ’s full and unconditional grace means? Think of the debt which our iniquities have heaped up with the Almighty, the sins that started apparently small and insignificant but soon led to complications and tragic developments, the transgressions for which we could never pay were the whole world ours! In this overwhelming indebtedness Jesus comes with His mercy. Unlike the procedure of modern business, His Gospel does not try to make a settlement with us by having us pay so much on the dollar, but He takes the total charges of our indebtedness, marks them, “Paid in full by faith in My atonement”; and, just as in the Oriental world when an account was settled, it was nailed to the debtor’s door, proving publicly that the creditor was satisfied, so Jesus nailed the handwriting to the cross to show the world that every sin of every sinner has been fully paid by the only payment which God would accept: the Savior’s precious blood.

You see, then, why the grace of Christ is matchless; but you can also realize why this love and its liberty must be proclaimed throughout the land. The supreme task of the Church, amid the multiple projects clamoring for its support, is to help reveal the crucified Christ as the divine Redeemer of our race, the most considerate Friend of the outcast, the highest Example of unfailing, tender mercy.

A few days ago 3,000 school administrators met in San Francisco to consider the nation’s needs. One speaker asked our people to stop attending night clubs and ruining their health with late hours and drinking. We heartily endorse this request, but temperance and more sleep alone will not remove this crisis.—A Federal school official at this convention said, “Education must give us the means to defend ourselves against tricksters and tyrants.” Nevertheless, it has often been education that has equipped the tricksters and tyrants. A crude, uncultured criminal can start a street brawl or a gang fight, while an intelligent, well-read criminal can throw his country or the whole world into turmoil. We need far more than culture. This war did not start among barbarous, primitive tribes, the Bushmen, Kafirs, Hottentots, Igorrotes, head-hunters of Borneo, the Pygmies or the giant savages of Africa, but among the mechanically, scientifically most advanced peoples. Last week one of the world’s leading literary figures and his wife committed suicide. The letters they both left behind showed that they were unwilling to bear the hardships of life; yet true Christians with resigned trust accept whatever God ordains as good. Another speaker at the San Francisco meeting declared, “America needs character education,” and claimed that the United States has entered this war with “perhaps the lowest moral standards in its history.” But how are we to build character? How, indeed, unless we “let this mind be in” us “which was also in Christ Jesus,” and, reborn by faith, follow in the Savior’s footsteps.

We hear much in these days of the Singapore spirit, the deadly inertia responsible for the quick fall of the $400,000,000 fortification. A former resident of the city gives this explanation: The people continued with their parties and dancing until the very last. The climate, the easy, luxurious life, the laziness of the people, combined to undermine the morale and make Singapore’s capture easy. “It was just parties, bridge, dancing,” the wife of the previous commander summarized.—Do you know that there is a Singapore mind in the religious life of many American people? They refuse to be aroused by the dangers threatening their souls. They go on straight to the greatest of all disasters—the loss of their salvation, the surrender to the enemies of God.

To avoid that, to be blessed eternally by the Savior’s blood-bought redemption, accept the Lord Jesus Christ now as your own individual, personal Savior! Have Him speak the peace of forgiven sin and the promise of new life to your heart, and at the cross you will find a joy that many of you have never known before! Put Christ into your homes! As your tires wear out and gasoline is rationed, bring blessing on your stay-at-home evenings by restoring the old family Bible to its proper place, reestablishing the family altar and the Christian home ideals! Assist in spreading the kingdom of Christ here in our own country! If there is anything we can say or do that would bring you or your home closer to Jesus, let me now in the Savior’s name offer you our services or the counsel of thousands of Gospel ministers who, completely united with me in faith, will travel many miles, if necessary, to point you to His marvelous grace. Write me now, while the Spirit moves you! Standing at your side, Jesus will face all the accusations of sin that would keep you from Him, the inner doubts which make you question His grace, the hardships or the temptations pulling you from His outstretched arms, the threats of hell itself. With majestic, victorious power He will command, “‘Let My servant go’—into the blessings of faith now and into the glories of heaven hereafter!” God grant that Christ’s matchless mercy will thus bring you to salvation! Amen.

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

Date: February 22, 1942

Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done!Luke 22:42

Christ, Our Lord:

Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us and grant us Thy peace! As we prepare to follow Thy footsteps from the gloom of the Garden to the death cry of the cross, help us stifle every suggestion of self-righteousness as we find in Thy suffering the appalling price Thou didst pay to free us from our sins! Come especially to the discontented, the disillusioned young and the world-worn old, to the restless and tormented, burdened of soul and conscience, to those who have religion in their heads but no true faith in their hearts! Enable us all to submit ourselves to Thy perfect guidance and repeat the words Thou Thyself didst pray, “Not My will, but Thine be done!” Grant that during these months of war the work of Thy Church throughout the world may not be hindered! Send Thy Spirit to accompany all Gospel preaching, so that sinners are brought to repentance, doubting hearts strengthened, distressed souls fortified! We ask this, together with a prayer for the nation’s victory, according to Thy will, assured by the promise of Thine atonement and the power of Thy cleansing blood! Amen.

LAST week in hundreds of American communities religious and lay leaders of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish groups issued a signed statement featuring seven articles of faith, called “The Foundation of Our National Life.” It contains approximately 450 words, but not once, directly or indirectly, is the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned by name or reference—as though He had never been born at Bethlehem or nailed to the cross at Calvary, there to shed His blood for the cleansing of all sin.

In the light of Bible teaching, such declarations which refuse to recognize Christ and deliberately omit the “Name which is above every name” are not acceptable to the Savior who says, “Without Me ye can do nothing,” and who instructs us to confess Him openly, boldly, persistently. Today, while America is engaged in the most dangerous struggle of its entire existence, we who have pledged ourselves to the Lord Jesus should know that it is not enough to cry out, “Back to God—any God!” We must say, “Back to the God revealed in Jesus Christ!” It will not help us to resolve, “Back to religion—any religion!” Some creeds can destroy rather than build, as we were reminded only a few days ago when the two founders of a California cult were convicted of fraudulent use of the United States mails. Nor can any help and hope be found in crying, “Back to the church—any church,” for the certainty of prevailing victory is granted, by divine promise and history’s verdict, only to those who love Jesus Christ and cling steadfastly to His Word.

This may appear narrow and bigoted to some of you; yet it is in harmony with good Christianity and certainly not in conflict with good Americanism. The Savior Himself warned, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Again, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.” Again, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” And the first President, whose birthday the nation observes today, supports these statements. If millions of American defense workers tomorrow show their appreciation of George Washington by working instead of taking a holiday, then let millions of American citizens devote at least a few moments to honor George Washington by reaffirming their allegiance to the Savior. The Father of our Country was not ashamed of Jesus. As a youth of twenty he acclaimed Christ when he wrote into a booklet called Daily Sacrifices prayers like these: “Be our God, and guide us this day and forever for His sake who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord! Remit my transgressions, negligences, and ignorances, and cover them all with the absolute obedience of Thy dear Son! . . . Be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ’s sake; and so into Thy hands I commend myself, both soul and body, in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ!” Throughout his life he definitely acknowledged the Savior. In a later prayer Washington plainly stated that unless we follow Jesus’ example “we can never hope to be a happy nation.” Religious leaders, searching for a better day in our country, may sign their names to a document which ignores the Lord, but Washington reminds us that we can never be a “happy nation” without the Redeemer.

Similarly I tell you that unless you learn to follow the Savior’s footsteps you will miss the true joy of life. For the future, heavy with grievous burdens, you should subject yourselves to God and walk in Christ’s footsteps, as Washington pleaded in his prayer. And how, amid ascending dangers, can you more assuredly show your love for your Lord than by making the very words He spoke your own, turning to the Father in His name and praying:

“NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE!”

Let this be the subject of our first Lenten devotion, as, reviewing the opening scenes in our Savior’s suffering, we read, Saint Luke, chapter twenty-two, verse forty-two, and repeat, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done!”

I

WHY WE SHOULD SUBMIT TO THE DIVINE WILL

The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed these words, is the only place in the entire record of our Savior’s passion which can be identified today almost with certainty; also the one spot mentioned in the Lenten record that probably has escaped the ravages of destruction. The Cedron Valley, winding at the foot of Olivet, has been covered with ruin and wreckage, while God’s wrath has repeatedly loosed its fury against thankless, stubborn, self­willed Jerusalem. But the Garden where Jesus “ofttimes resorted . . . with His disciples” and where He spent part of the night before His death has remained unharmed for nineteen centuries with their bloody battles. It is as though our heavenly Father had purposely preserved that sacred site to retain within the limits of battle-scarred Judea one area to which men could point with considerable certainty and say: “Here God’s Son and the world’s Savior knelt in prayer. Here began the agony that was to end in our redemption.”

To speak merely of “agony,” however, does not begin to describe the overwhelming anguish which in Gethsemane almost crushed the Christ of God into death. Before blasphemous hands bound and struck Him; before the lash cut into the flesh of His back; before the thorny crown was pressed onto His head, He had to endure torture no other sufferer has known. It was not merely the fear of the cross nor the terror of death which gripped our Lord in the Garden; for if men can face death bravely, certainly He could. If Christians in the early Church so readily surrendered themselves to their executioners that at one time a law had to be passed preventing believers from deliberately seeking a martyr’s death, assuredly the Lord of life and death could be expected to show unflinching fortitude in His last hours.

Nor is the unspeakable, unparalleled agony in Gethsemane to be explained by the fact that Jesus, alone in His death vigil, was assailed by unrelieved loneliness. The companionship of the disciples whom He had selected to watch with Him would indeed have offered strength and comfort; yet even His closest friends were so utterly insensible to the weight of His woe that they slept in heavy, almost stupefied slumber. This, of course, pressed heavily on our Lord; but the wound which tore at His heart and made Him gasp, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” was the curse of sin that He there started to bear, the penalty of all the world’s transgressions for which He prepared to atone with His life.

Picture to yourself the shocking consequences which may follow a single violation of God’s Law: the banishment of peace, the insistent charges by an outraged conscience, the threatening of hell itself—the restless anguish that can drive sinners to despair; add the grief which your transgressions have heaped up during your own life, the sleepless nights, the distress of mind, the fear of God’s justice and its punishment; try to visualize the appalling total of sins in your home, community, state, the whole nation; go to the earth’s limits and the bounds of the past and the future to heap up the iniquity that has cursed the race, and then believe that for all these sins Jesus—may you ever praise His mercy!—made such complete atonement, that through faith you have no sins in God’s sight! Now, if our Savior thus carries the weight of human guilt—and the Scriptures clearly teach that He is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the WORLD,” that “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities”—can you not understand why with the punishment mankind should have endured sweeping down on Him, with hell’s furies loosed on his soul, suffering as His has never been seen elsewhere? Great drops of sweat, as blood, begin to run down His pallid face. In His agony He falls headlong to the ground. Three times He raises His voice in piteous entreaty to pierce the silence of the darkened Garden with the plea “Oh, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!” The heartbreaking, soul-racking torture was so overwhelming that Jesus could not be fully human without begging God to stop the racking, tearing, crushing of His soul that almost killed Him. Yet Jesus could not be true God if at the height of His anguish He had not added to His “Father, . . . remove this cup from Me!” this victorious cry of submission, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done!” What holy self-surrender! What complete obedience to God!

At no time will you and I face any sorrow which even resembles Gethsemane’s ghastly horror. The worst that life and death itself will ever inflict on us should not be mentioned in the same breath with Christ’s anguish. The time will come, however, for everyone of us, when our burdens prove too hard, our grief too heavy, our pain too agonizing to endure, when we cry, “O God, remove this cup of suffering!” In those agonized moments think of our Savior, grief-gripped in Gethsemane, and remember that Jesus, so perfect that men have never been able to raise a true charge against Him, submitted to heavenly direction, praying, “Thy will be done!” How much more should we, with all our frailties and weaknesses, follow His sacred example by discarding our wishes in favor of divine wisdom!

“Not My will, but Thine be done!” we, too, should pray, realizing that our will is often marred with mistakes. A renowned surgeon at one of the nation’s leading medical schools was asked to remove a diseased, lightless eye from a patient. However, he made the tragic error of destroying the sound, healthy eye and left the patient blind. Even with our best intentions we often do the wrong thing. The guns at Singapore were directed seaward to prevent a naval attack, but the assault came from land, and those eighteen-inch guns were useless. So it often happens in life that despite the utmost sincerity our purpose is diametrically opposed to our own good.

Again, we should ask for God’s leading since man’s will is thoroughly selfish. Even in these war days when almost every freedom we love is at stake, when millions of American young men are being summoned by law to risk their very lives in our country’s defense, we witness the driving urge of personal gain which produces war profiteers, men obsessed with the mania that they must get richer while the war makes most of us poorer.

“Not my will, but Thine be done!” we should repeat because our will, enslaved by evil, is directed toward destructive ends. Many in the godless masses deliberately devote themselves to the enjoyment of lust. Consequently bodies are wrecked, mental powers impaired, souls sent to hell. We have it on the authority of leaders in military circles that the heaviest losses suffered by the United States Army result from impure living. In fact, the whole World War has been provoked by the fatal tragedy that multitudes have changed the words of our text to read, “Not Thy will, but mine be done!” Aggression, militarism, dictatorship, disregard of the divine law, ingratitude for Heaven’s blessings have placed man’s desires over God’s, and for generations we must continue to pay the penalty of this folly.

“Not my will, but Thine be done!” we should pray, because we are too shortsighted to see the far-reaching sequel of our own folly or to measure the wide extent of divine mercy. We clutch at momentary enjoyment instead of seeking everlasting benedictions. Like children who cry for those things that can bring harm and injury, we want the sweet, easy pleasures of life when we need bitterness, hardness, the friction and pain of reverses to strengthen us, the fire of trial to purify us. God’s marvelous mercy in Christ grants what we need instead of what we blindly want. Only by His grace are we saved from ourselves. Think what would happen if our misdirected desires, selfish ambitions, sinful cravings were granted free reign! The horrors we witness in this world of war would be increased a hundred times. All peace, calm, and rest would be banished under the clash of our restless cravings.

How imperative, therefore, that we learn of Jesus how to pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done!” and know that God’s intentions for His children are always right! To shortsighted human vision it may appear cruel for the Lord to have permitted that excruciating agony in the Garden, but how glorious was the final outcome of the Savior’s self-sacrifice! It offered complete pardon to every penitent sinner, liberation from the dread tyranny of sin, victory over hell, restoration to the Father, benediction of an abundant life amid rankling disappointment, triumph over death, promise of an eternity with God. If the Lord had not permitted Christ to suffer, these unsearchable riches of His mercy could not be ours. Jesus had to be crucified if this world was to be saved. By the same principle of divine love God’s will toward you in Christ is directed toward your salvation. Until you acclaim Jesus the Savior and Sovereign of your soul, you are sentenced to rebuke and rejection by the Almighty. The sorrow you suffer is one of the penalties (however small in comparison with those which are to come) you pay for your unbelief, stubborn rebellion against God’s grace. But from the very moment the Savior enters your heart, your life is divinely controlled, your destiny directed toward heaven, and everything you experience, the good as well as the sad, is part of an infallible plan by which your heavenly Father constantly draws you closer to Him.

Be sure of this, the divine will toward the redeemed is always perfect, errorless. Sometimes the all-knowing God has to use harsh, strong means to carry out His blessed program. A few days ago, the newspapers told of a sailor from a torpedoed ship who found that some of the crew in his lifeboat were being overcome by the numb drowsiness which precedes death by freezing. He deliberately struck these men, aroused their anger, made them fight back for the purpose of keeping their blood in vital circulation and preventing icy death. So God often lets conflict come to arouse you from the stupor of sin, save you from self-indulgence. He permits your faith to be attacked so that you will be driven to defend it and in so doing search the Scriptures to find spiritual reserve.

It has been hard for some of you mothers to give your sons for the nation’s defense. Everything for which you hoped and prayed, worked and saved, as you planned what you thought best for your boys seems to have collapsed. Yet, every soldier who has Christ in his heart, who can truly point to Jesus and say, “‘If God be for us’—and I know that He is because He sent His Son to redeem me—‘who can be against us?’” will experience that these years of military training, with all the perils of land, ocean, and air, can become a design in God’s perfect pattern for life. Our chaplains write us that men in the armed forces are being converted to Christ. Despite the hazards of army camp life, Christian selectees are being deepened in their faith. After this war, when we can view God’s ways with us from that higher level, multitudes will thank the Almighty for taking the course He did to prove in an unmistakable manner that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Almost with every mail I receive letters from young folks who face the alternative of marrying now or of waiting until peace has been declared, and many of these couples feel themselves the victims of cruel circumstances. What if you cannot marry now? Do you not believe that the God who gave you the Savior is powerful enough to make up for months and years of married happiness you may lose? Perhaps postponement of your wedding, as unbelievable as this now seems, may give you greater happiness. Trust God’s will in Christ to use even delays and hindrances for glorious purposes! When Bishop Gobat was working among wild tribes of the Druses, he was invited to visit the chief whose support he had long hoped to win. Before he could accept, he took sick. He was likewise obliged to decline a second invitation. When the third came, he set out with a native guide so that he would not miss the chief’s home. But the leader lost his way and refused to advance. Completely disappointed, Missionary Gobat had to forego his visit. Later, however, he learned that the chief had set a trap for him and that three times a group of murderers waited to destroy him. The influence which the missionary hoped to exert by personal contact was secured even without seeing the chief, for the tribal head acknowledged, “That man must be the servant of God, for though I sent messenger after messenger to bring him, he was always hindered.”

Through Christ, life’s heaviest adversities can become part of God’s wonderful guidance. When Dr. Moon, a twenty-three-year-old physician in England, lost the sight of both eyes, his friends must have concluded that only death itself could be harder than total sightlessness. But Dr. Moon was a Christian. Although prayers seemed unanswered and medical help failed, he cried out: “O God, I thank Thee for the talent of blindness. May I so use it that at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ He may receive His own with usury!” Dedicating himself to the Savior, he produced the Moon system of script for the blind, which has been used in 492 languages and dialects to help bring thousands of sightless to the Lord Jesus. Even in the deepest of all sorrows, when death enters a home, through Christ we can rest with the assurance that God’s will, as contrary to reason as this sounds, is but the proof of His love. Your letters testify to the fact that it took a sudden death, perhaps of a devoted husband or wife, to shake some of you out of indifference into the realization of your lost and hopeless condition. It may be that God called a beloved one because in His overmercy He wished to spare His child much earthly anguish, save it from overwhelming temptation, and early grant it the happiness of the heavenly homeland.

In short, God’s will, however it may manifest itself to the believers, is always for our salvation. As the magnet attracts steel particles, drawing them straight toward it, so His love, as it molds our lives through pain and pleasure, seeks to draw us to Christ and His inexhaustible mercy. Our age has witnessed many philanthropies, gifts of billions of dollars for the advancement of the race, to cure its ills and solve its social problems. But everything men have to offer, in comparison with the Savior’s marvelous grace and the wondrous ways of His will, is but as a small, evaporating drop of water in relation to the ocean’s fathomless depths. Grace, pardon, peace, assurance, divine help, heavenly, unfailing wisdom—all these are ours when, loving Jesus with contrite, cross-centered faith, we submit to God and say, “‘Thy will,’ not mine, ‘be done!’”

Before us in the United States lie days, months, it may be long years, of deep-rooted difficulties. Some believe that the America we have known in the past is gone forever. They question the continuance of our free institutions and visualize the darkest days this country has ever known, as they forecast the triumph of Communist principles and their destructive practices. Self-appointed prophets have predicted a war of five, ten, twenty, even thirty years. As we pray God that He who overnight can change the tide of battle grant us a righteous peace and true tranquility, let us remember that there is only one way in which Christians should face both national difficulties and personal reverses! That is not the path of fatalism which stolidly sneers: “Life is against us! The cards are stacked for evil! Our whole existence is a gamble!” Such folly offers no consolation during the crisis hours of life and death; rather it proves its own futility. Nor can there be any real help in the false bravado which boasts that it fears neither God nor man, that it can defy life’s hurricanes, bending but not breaking under their force. How often have agnostics who spoke the language of that taunting self-sufficiency ended as shivering, shaking cowards! One and only one route leads to inner peace amid war’s ravages, to soul-calm in the chaos and confusion of this wicked world, and that is the road of resignation to God, by which we say, “‘Thy will,’ not mine, ‘be done!’” For then we have the assurance that as our Savior, submitting to divine direction, was gloriously rewarded with the ingathering of unnumbered souls, cleansed in His blood, forgiven by His grace, restored by His atonement, so the cheerful “Thy will be done” can bring us the highest joys the heavenly Father has prepared for His children.

II

HOW WE CAN SUBMIT TO THE DIVINE WILL

To be blessed by this Christian resignation you must first of all learn to know as much of the divine will as God’s wisdom has revealed. You must study your Bible, the sustaining Guide for America through the dark hours of this emergency. I am not asking you to place confidence in earthly help or cure; for the blind reliance on widely heralded agencies has repeatedly betrayed our trust and steadfastly failed to meet the real needs of the masses. Scientists, even experts of great renown, have made bad guesses and aroused false hopes which have often turned to rankling disappointment. Prophets of new cults raise enthusiasm to high pitch only to fail cruelly in producing practical help. The only promises on which we can rely completely are Christ’s assurances. His are the words of Heaven’s truth, immovable, unchangeable, eternal. All the critical examination of the Scriptures has never produced a single false or misleading statement. If you are to find the assurance for your own life that will enable you to bear one blow after the other and still pray, “Thy will be done,” you must go back to God’s Word, which, according to the apostle, “is able to build you up”!

While our age has much praise for the Bible, while American statesmen have paid lavish tribute to Holy Writ, how deplorable is the spiritual ignorance and Scriptural illiteracy shown by millions of otherwise intelligent Americans! The most powerful indictment of militarism, the most scathing denunciation of the “might-makes-right” policy, which today rules our world, is found in the Book of Nahum, only forty-seven verses, which can be read thoughtfully in six or seven minutes. I recently told a newspaper reporter that not one in a thousand St. Louisians knows this book of sacred Scriptures. And after more deliberate thought I am ready to say: Not one in ten thousand throughout the United States is personally acquainted with the teachings of that prophet. It is high time to take our Bible seriously, to study it personally, at home, in Bible classes, throughout the land. May one of the happier results of the present conflict be this that it will bring millions from coast to coast back to the divine authority of the Scriptures, so that we learn with increasing clarity what the divine will is and how earnestly our heavenly Father asks for real repentance, contrite hearts, surrendered souls, submissive lives!

After you know what God requires of us, you must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation His mercy grants us. You can never truthfully say, “‘Thy will,’ not mine, ‘be done!’” unless in heart-deep faith you have knelt in spirit at the cross to cry out: “He is my Savior. His blood was shed for me. His hands and feet were pierced so that I could escape the punishment of my sins. He was crowned with thorns that I, faithful unto death, might receive the crown of life. He endured agony beyond description or measure to free me for glory beyond earthly beauty and power of expression.” Therefore, my fellow ransomed, for whom the Lord of life died the anguish of all death, let these Lenten weeks draw you closer to Him! Pray with us that, following the Savior from scene to scene in His suffering, many of you will accept His pleading invitation “Come unto Me!” and approach Him for pardon and the resigned peace that asks, “O Father, ‘not my will, but Thine be done!’” Jesus has everything you need for the greatest joy possible in this life or the next. He offers His Gospel grace to the whole world, but in this moment especially to you. He bestows His rich blessings freely, without charge, by the sheerest mercy that even Heaven knows. God grant, as Jesus’ arms are extended to you, burdened with your sins, worries, hardships, you will now resolve that, the Father helping you, the Son accompanying you, His Spirit sustaining you, you will break the tyranny of sin over your soul, dispel its gloom of fear from your life, remove the weight of worries from your heart, and say with hope-filled faith: “O Jesus, Thou art my Redeemer! Nothing can happen to me as long as I am Thine, except it come from Thy love to chasten, purify, strengthen. I give myself to Thee and pray, Abide with me, bless me, make me in turn a blessing for many!” And that Savior, whose Word is truth itself, will enrich you with the joy of salvation, guidance for each perplexed pathway, Christian courage in every danger, and the submissive love which constantly prays, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

It takes a strong faith thus to resign oneself to God. But everyone of you can find Heaven’s help, as Jesus did, in communion with the Father. How lamentable that while prayer should be highly prized, it is often ridiculed! Be sure of this, however: The time is coming, and it may not be far distant, when millions in America will learn to pray, when they will not have to be urged to fall on their knees before the Almighty. Again and again in accounts of ships lost at sea, survivors tell us of petitions to God that could be heard above the turmoil of disaster. Do not wait until danger brings you on your knees! Beholding the Savior in the Garden as He prayed with agonized earnestness yet with submissive trust, you are reminded that He still wants His followers to watch and pray with Him! Before the sleep of indifference overtakes you, kneel in spirit beside Him and there in dark Gethsemane “learn of Jesus Christ to pray!”

Our Lord’s pleading was answered when the Father sent a strengthening angel to attend His Son. Our entreaties for a deeper, fuller trust will likewise be fulfilled whenever they are spoken in Christ’s name, that is, in full reliance on His cleansing blood and whenever we ask, “Thy will be done!” As Jesus could rise, fortified in spirit for the ordeal awaiting Him, never again during His trials or the convulsing pain of the crucifixion to plead, “Remove this cup from Me,” so you and I can emerge from the fires of affliction purified, steeled against every adversity. We can face the worst that earth or hell can direct against us with the same deep-rooted faith through which God’s children have triumphantly braved all danger. Such implicit trust is still found today and in unexpected places. A Chinese missionary tells of his humble native servant, a Christian, who during an errand to the market was caught in the terrors of an air raid. The roar of the Japanese planes became louder and louder, but the servant only smiled at the terrified group locked in a store with him. When one of his heathen friends demanded: “Are you not afraid? Do you not know that all of us may be killed in two minutes?” he replied: “Why should I be afraid? I am a Christian, and God will take care of me.” “But they may drop bombs upon us, and you may be killed,” the others objected. Calmly he answered, “In that case I will go to heaven, and that will be even better than being here.”

Therefore when the storms of disaster swirl down on your happiness, bringing sorrows you never dreamed possible, do not clench your fist against the Almighty! If the tremors of disaster shake your home and seem to destroy the foundation of your family life, do not surrender to despair or moan, “What’s the use anyway, what good is my faith now?” Your health may break or accidents on the highway inflict lifelong injuries; yet, though the doctor shakes his head, admitting that he knows no human cure, you must not sink into dark, sullen rebellion against the Almighty! Should death, unannounced, snatch your loved one from your side, don’t charge God with cruelty! Instead, go into the Garden with Christ, and as faith triumphs over doubt, repeat the prayer that has brought happiness and help to myriads, “‘Oh, my Father,’ if it be Thy will, Thy gracious will for my good and the blessing of others, ‘remove this cup’ of suffering ‘from me: nevertheless,’ O Father of all mercies, ‘not my will,’ my blind, sinful, selfish, shortsighted will, ‘but Thine,’ Thy holy, perfect, loving, salvation-bringing will ‘be done,’ both now and forever!” And the same God who brought Jesus through Gethsemane and Calvary to the triumph of His resurrection will lead us through the small, short afflictions of life to the incomparable “glory which shall be revealed in us” because we are Christ’s.

O God of all grace, hear us as we pledge ourselves anew to Thee and ask, for Jesus’ sake, with His faith, and in His own words, “O Father, ‘not my will, but Thine be done!’” Amen.

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

Date: February 15, 1942

Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.John 14:1-2

God, Our Gracious Father:

In our deepening sorrow help us believe confidently that there is “a better country,” a heavenly homeland, for all who accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior from sin, the Victor over the grave and its terror! Let Thy Spirit teach us that day after day we approach more closely the inescapable moment when life ends and we must face Thy judgment! Without Christ, who died and rose again for everyone of us, we are doomed to eternal death; but, O Father, we thank Thee that by trusting the Redeemer with our whole hearts we have a prepared place in the many mansions of heaven. Bring multitudes to the faith through this broadcast! Call sinners to repentance! Lighten the load of the heavily burdened! Relieve the suffering! Abide with us as our country’s God! Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake, and grant us more of that righteousness which alone exalts a nation! Hear us, O merciful father, and in Thy time bring us all together before the throne of Thy celestial majesty, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our heavenly Redeemer! Amen.

AN early missionary to Tierra del Fuego, the tip end of South America, tells us how every morning the natives of that barren country greeted the sunrise with piercing howls and shrieking lament. As he later learned in seeking an explanation for this weird rite, so much misery crowded into the lives of the Fuegians that they viewed each new day with horror, every sunrise as the beginning of added evil.

We are separated from Tierra del Fuego and those missionary days by 8,000 miles and many long years; yet too many people in our country and this modern era, gripped by the same fear which tortured those savages, likewise greet each dawn with grim forebodings. They have endured such unspeakable agony of body, mind, and soul; they have beheld so much misery on all sides, that each morning, instead of breaking with joyous hope, seems only to add grief to grief.

The number of these, the heavyhearted, will increase during the burdened months before us. The fall of Singapore, it is predicted, will add another year to the world conflict—twelve months more of killing and being killed. The American people, we are warned, do not yet realize that we are in the midst of a devastating war. As the millions of men who today and tomorrow register for the draft are called into military service; as the casualty lists gradually increase in size and frequency, masses in this country will need help to keep them from doubt, distrust, and despair.

Men are asking themselves: “Where can we find unfailing comfort during this crisis? In pleasure?” As late as Wednesday of this week tea dances catered to large crowds in the Raffles Hotel at Singapore; people stood in long queues waiting to buy tickets for their favorite entertainment. Last night Singapore fell. Can forgetfulness of sorrow be found in drunkenness? Positively not! The growth in liquor sales throughout the United States is so staggering that it ought to recall the prophet Nahum’s warning concerning Nineveh, which was to be destroyed after drunken carousal. More than ever we need clear­thinking men and women whose perceptive powers have not been befuddled by overindulgence in alcohol. Can money purchase release from fears and worries? Jay Gould, American multimillionaire, lamented on his deathbed, “I am the most miserable man on earth.” Will unbelief, the denial of Christ, the overbrave reliance on self, conquer human miseries? Skeptical, sneering Voltaire cried out, “I wish I had never been born.” Can courage be found in an alert, trained mind, the calmness of a pleasing personality? These advantages melt away quickly under the heat of affliction. In these days of trying men’s souls, as promises prove unreliable, hopes misplaced, our own strength insufficient, we must turn penitently, pleadingly to God in Christ.

Whatever our individual troubles may be, let us find sustaining strength in faith! Through Christ we are in God’s hand. For every perplexity believe that in Jesus there is

HEAVEN’S HELP FOR TROUBLED HEARTS—

the comfort pledged by our Lord Himself in the words that have brought light and life to millions of sin-darkened souls, the radiant promise of Saint John, chapter fourteen, verses one and two: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

I

IN CHRIST WE HAVE THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S HELP FOR THIS LIFE

Remove all doubt from your minds that there can be any exaggeration in these words! People are suspicious today. Again and again within this generation they have been led to expect happier times with the blessings of peace, but throughout the world they face sorrows deeper than they have ever known. Diplomats break their word; politicians prove unreliable; scientists make bad guesses; prophets of new cults raise the hopes of their fellow men to the highest pitch, only to fail cruelly in producing real help. Yet this utterance of the Lord Jesus, as all His pledges, are divine truth, immovable, unchangeable, eternal. By His own declaration “heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.” Christ’s promise can never fail. Let that be our sustaining assurance! The Bible, as God’s revelation, must prevail.

Our age particularly ought to be impressed with this sacredness of Holy Writ. Just a hundred years ago, in 1842, the first systematic excavations were undertaken in Bible lands, and the intervening period has indeed been a century of progress in defending Scripture. Archaeologists working in the ruins of ancient cities, especially in Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Palestine, have uncovered historical records, now three and four thousand years old, which remarkably support the Bible and corroborate its claims. Not, of course, that we need such human endorsement! Through the Holy Spirit the Christian knows God’s Word is true; but how timely and helpful that just in these days of brash unbelief the promise has been fulfilled, “The stones shall cry out”! Therefore when you face the cutting criticism of the Bible, remember how often those who had been the most bitter in assailing Christ’s pledges, once they have really become acquainted with their truth, have defended the Scriptures. George Romanes, the British biologist, wrote a book to support atheism. He explained, “I took it for granted that the Christian faith was played out.” When, however, he saw that Christianity worked; that many eminent men, some the most illustrious in the fields of science, had ranged themselves on the side of the Gospel, he resolved to let the Bible speak for itself. As a result of his studies he wrote a book called Thoughts on Religion, showing why, from the merely human viewpoint everyone should be a Christian. He concluded—and now he speaks to you who have placed a question mark behind the statements of Holy Writ, “Unbelief is usually due to indolence, often to prejudice, and never a thing to be proud of.”

“Let not your heart be troubled!”—This word offers added comfort since it is among our Lord’s final utterances, spoken on the last night of His earthly life, shortly before He began the ordeal which was to end with His death on the cross. Jesus left His followers nothing of wealth or earthly value; but in this sacred pledge He bequeathed them and us the heritage of untroubled hearts; and within less than one day after speaking this promise Jesus sealed it with His blood, died to prove its truth.

“Let not your heart be troubled!” Jesus says, for He recognizes the severe trials which burden our souls. Those who give counsel for the distressed often do not understand the problems they promise to solve, Christ knows our every sorrow. He was born in a stable and understands the needs of the poor and the outcasts. To save His life He had to flee into a foreign country! He can measure the suffering of refugees, religious and political exiles. He spent the greater part of His earthly existence in lowly work and more than any expert in labor or industry He realizes what the laboring man requires. He suffered from hunger, thirst, weariness. Has anyone a better insight into the privations to be endured by millions of the famished and undernourished? He was persecuted by those whom He had helped; and because He felt the pains of spurned devotion, He can sympathize with you who have been deserted by someone whom you loved and for whom you labored hard and long. He was slandered and defamed, although He was absolutely innocent of wrongdoing: and whenever false accusations blacken your character or baseless rumors disturb your peace, confide in Christ and know that He felt, though in a far deeper degree, the cruelty inflicted on you. What comfort, too, when faced with coaxing, tugging enticements for evil, to know that “He was in all points tempted like as we are”! He was made to bear the unspeakable anguish of bodily suffering as the lash cut its furrows on His back, the blunt nails were hammered through His quivering flesh, and the tortures of crucifixion crushed out His life. When you toss on your sickbeds, broken by accident, consumed by wasting diseases, turn to Him for sympathetic love! He was burdened above all by inner agony in that unfathomable rack and torture of His soul when He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” If it ever seems that God has left you; if you begin to doubt whether there is any salvation for your soul with its sins; if you verge closely to despair, then, what an understanding, compassionate Friend Jesus proves Himself!

Much more than sympathy, however, is found in Christ. He can say, “Let not your heart be troubled!” because He has removed forever the cause of fear and worry. Everything which disturbs your peace of mind, each affliction that has brought trouble into your home, every burden you must bear, is to be traced, finally but definitely, to sin, the transgression of which you or someone else is guilty. This war comes from sin. The tragedy in your home starts with selfishness. Your money losses originate in dishonesty and fraud. The sorrows you young people meet in courtship often begin with unfaithfulness and untruth. Even the sickness which lays us low, the injuries that seem to come merely by accident, are ultimately traceable to evil.

All glory to the Lord Jesus that He, Christ, forever broke the power of sin and completely removed its curse! Clinging to Him, we can exult, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the Law, but under grace.” No dictator with the combined powers of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco, has ever exerted the complete sway over mankind and the full control over souls which mark the tyranny of sin. It locks us in its iron grip. You and I were born under its rule, and without Christ we die in its slavery. It burdens your conscience, robs you of your peace, and makes life a continued series of griefs, death a terrifying horror. Yet with Jesus—eternal praise to the compassionate Christ!—sin’s curse has been removed from your life if only you will believe this divine assurance “He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” How did Jesus remove your sins?  Not by overlooking, forgetting, simply canceling them, but by suffering for them, paying the price of every transgression, satisfying the demands of a just and holy God, giving Himself as the redemption for all iniquity, the sacrifice for the appalling total of human transgressions; by shedding His holy blood, the divine cleansing for each wrong; by laying down His life as the ransom price demanded for our liberation! You will not be able to understand how Christ could take away your sins. It is too miraculous, too marvelous, too merciful. Believe God and this promise of His Word, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”! When you give your heart to the Savior, your sins are removed “as far as the East is from the West.” You are restored to grace, reconciled with God, reborn into a new, blessed existence.

“Let not your heart be troubled!” Jesus assures you, because the same love that removes your sins can make the hardest blows the tenderest caresses, use the galling bitterness of affliction for purposes of sweet, bounteous mercy. That is why a soldier leaving for distant fronts could write me, “It took this war to bring me to Christ.” By the same love for your soul Jesus promises, not that you will escape trouble, that life will be a round of unbroken pleasure (on the contrary, He still warns you, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”), but that through faith, “sorrow is turned into joy” as “all things work together for good to them that love God.”

“Let not your heart be troubled!”—This comfort is doubly sure because it comes not only from Jesus, who is our Christ, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” but also from Jesus, who is our God. Plainly He declares, “Ye believe in God; believe also in Me!” He asks men to trust Him as they trust the Almighty. What a powerful proof-text with which to confound those—and their number is increasing!—who are willing to pay our Lord almost every tribute except to admit that He is God, together with the Father and the Spirit, the ever­blessed Trinity! “Ye believe in God,” He says; “believe also in Me!” for, as He states elsewhere, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus, according to His own words, according to Old Testament prophecies and New Testament epistles, the proclamation of His Father, the adoration of the angels, the verdict of His miracles, is God almighty, with the resources of heaven itself at His command; God omniscient, who foresees the path we must take as the road to glory; God the ever present, whose pledge “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” must be of outstanding consolation for millions subjected to the perils of war and its destruction; God all-merciful, to forgive us our selfishness and hatred, our impurities of thought and action, our rebellion against His grace, our refusal to help our fellow men. Jesus is all this, nothing less, yet much more. He is—hear it, believe it, trust it!—your God and your Savior. The Lord who can help us and whom this groping, bleeding age needs with double necessity is the divine Christ. Tens of thousands of men have been nailed to crosses, though their suffering affects us little now. The day before yesterday 130 students at our seminary gave of their blood, the largest single group of blood donors on record in this part of the country. While many lives may be saved by the transfusion of these gallons of vital life-fluid into broken, anemic bodies, all the human blood throughout the world can never cleanse a single sin-stained soul. Increasing numbers of American youth are laying down their lives in the nation’s defense. God grant that their sacrifice will be rewarded by a true, righteous victory! But no man can give his life to pay for iniquity. Only God could do that; only God did do that when Jesus, our divine Savior, atoned for all sin.

Therefore His appeal “Ye believe in God; believe also in Me,” is directed both to the young in the prime of hopeful lives, as they gird themselves for the service of war and to the aged, who are passing the last milestones on life’s long journey. “Believe . . . in Me!” He says to those who have placed their reliance on everything else except His grace—only to see their hopes completely shattered, “Believe . . . in Me!” He repeats to you who have found life easy and prosperous, but for whom the next years may bring sudden, complete reverses, “Believe . . . in Me!” He entreats those who have steadfastly spurned His outstretched arms, rejected every overture of His mercy, “‘Believe . . . in Me!’ Accept Me as your Savior! Trust Me sincerely, perpetually, and your hearts will not be troubled!”

With faith in Christ, what can destroy your peace of mind, rob you of inner joy? Questions of money or of health, good name, quarrels in your home, losses in your business, matters of physical or mental health, the fear that your sons may never return from the battle lines? Listen to this promise: “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Whenever the burden seems too heavy, the way too steep, the night too dark, the pain too torturing, turn to Jesus! If He loved our souls so much that He gave His own body to rescue them for eternity, certainly He will take care of the comparatively small details of our earthly needs and use them for uplifting purposes.

Why are we so fainthearted, so reluctant to go all the way with the Savior? People in Saint Louis tell of a traveler who in the early days came to the banks of the Mississippi during a hard winter, when the river was completely frozen over. Not trusting the strength of the ice, he began to crawl on hands and knees from the Illinois shore toward Missouri. Every advance was made slowly and cautiously. After covering a few hundred feet you can imagine his surprise when, hearing a loud noise behind him, he turned to see a wagon, loaded with heavy logs and drawn by two horses, move quickly over the frozen stream. In much the same way many of you are crawling on your knees, beset by worry and care, when, if you would only take God at His Word in Christ, you could walk safely across icebound rivers of doubt or affliction with the assurance of a blessed eternity constantly to strengthen you.

II

IN CHRIST WE HAVE THE PLEDGE OF GOD’S MANSIONS FOR THE NEXT LIFE

It is in this promise for the hereafter that the Savior’s grace reaches its glorious climax as it triumphs over the most fearful of terrors, death’s paralysis. Men love life so dearly that they cringe in horror before the judgment beyond the grave and go to almost any extreme in avoiding the grim, clutching power of death. They will cling to rafts during thirst-crazed days and delirious nights; they will hastily throw away the earning of a lifetime if this weighs them down in their race for safety; they will end raving, chattering, cursing in despair, as they see life slip from their grasp and know that before long they must face God. Add all other sorrows men endure, and their appalling total is not to be compared with the dread of the end! No scientific theories can offer any comfort here. No speculations, however learned, will dry tears at the side of a casket. No spiritist séances can ever remove the numb, aching pain of bereavement. Despite the systematic study of the circumstances surrounding thousands of deaths, science knows no more of the next life than did the ancient Egyptian pyramid architects or the Babylonian tower builders. The Bible is the only source of positive assurance regarding the hereafter, since it is the one Volume that offers God’s revelation and Christ’s assurance. If it were not for our Jesus and His divine comfort “Let not your heart be troubled!” men would be cringing creatures, far worse, with this fear, than the dumb animals.

Through our Savior, however, we can exult: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” See how clearly our blessed Redeemer relieves death’s pain! He tells His disciples in the Upper Room a few hours before He sets His face toward Gethsemane: “In My Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you.” He was going, first of all, to the cross, but beyond Calvary’s shame and agony He was directed to heaven. How overfilled are these words with personal comfort! He speaks intimately of His “Father’s house,” and He assures those who believe that there is a blessed existence for them after the grave. Cling closely to each word in this promise, especially during these doubt-filled days when the statements concluding the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe . . . in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” are assailed with new, destructive hatred or laughed at in ridicule. We need a ban on every allegedly humorous reference to heaven. Public or private slurs on Bible teachings concerning the life to come are always objectionable, but doubly so in an emergency like the present when masses of American youth defending our country may be close to death on land, in the air, at sea. Men by the millions are killed in world conflict, laid into hastily dug graves, their bodies drowned in the deep sea or exposed to the devastating elements; and that, unbelief sneeringly claims, is the end. How bitter and cruel life would be if it were! Instead, we ought to find constant comfort in the fact that through Christ death is only the beginning of glory incomparable, immeasurable, unutterable.

One of our Lutheran families in Omaha had the harrowing experience of being informed soon after Pearl Harbor that two sons, both volunteers, had been killed aboard a battleship in Hawaiian waters. What anguish must have shaken the souls of that father and mother, even though their sons had died defending the nation! Now, as you try to feel the heartbreaking sorrow of those bereaved parents, you can begin to understand the rejoicing which must have been theirs when recently they received the electrifying report that the death notices were mistakes, since the two boys had been found safe and secure! Few people, I suppose, have ever thrilled with such deep-souled rejoicing; yet everyone of you, my fellow redeemed, accepting Christ’s resurrection, His death-destroying love for the world, can have the far greater joy of knowing that whenever unbelief says your dear ones, asleep in Jesus, will never live again, this is a lie. In God’s good time you, too, will learn the full truth of the Savior’s pledge “If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death,” the eternal death. Here, then, is the first promise Christ gives you today: The grave does not end all. There is a future life, an eternity, which the Lord of life Himself has won for us by removing our sins and destroying forever the power of eternal death.

We have only begun to survey the glories of His promise. Jesus also tells His disciples, and He includes all who receive Him as their Redeemer, that they shall be in His “Father’s house,” in heaven. What unspeakable bliss! To be face to face with God the Father who gave us our existence; to sing our praises to God the Savior who redeemed us by His own life-giving atonement; to exalt God the Holy Spirit who gave us the new birth in holiness and righteousness—can any earthly privilege even approach this unspeakable joy?

Perfection, sinlessness, absolute holiness always dwell with God. Therefore the Scriptures want us to believe that in the celestial city we will experience no sorrow or grief, no pain or broken hopes, no partings or tears. There, in a radiance we cannot describe or understand, all our frantic, unrewarded toils, the aching anguish of broken hearts, the sorrow of sin, will utterly vanish under the realization that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Though we cannot even faintly picture its dazzling splendor, let us rest with the assurance that if this world, despite sin, contains marvels of breathtaking beauty—the towering mountains etched against the flaming sky, the amethyst-green surf, the ocean’s fringe dashing restlessly on our shores, the rainbow arching its spectrum of color across the land—the celestial realm must be magnificent.

In His “Father’s house,” Jesus says, “are many mansions,” a vast number of heavenly dwelling places. These everlasting homes will not remain empty; they have been reserved for the mighty host, the ten thousand times ten thousand, the myriad times myriads, who have been faithful unto death and have received the crown of life. You may be crowded out of many places on earth, but there is room for you in heaven. Jesus promises, “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” Before the throne we shall meet those who have likewise died in the faith, the prophets and the apostles, the disciples and the evangelists, as well as those who “as a firebrand” have been “plucked out of the burning,” rescued in the last moment, as the thief on the cross. Especially, however, will we be reunited with those Christians whom we knew in this life. Earthly relations like marriage will stop and give way to a higher, more blessed existence. For the comfort of those still wounded by recent bereavements, let me say that the Scriptures contain no word which keeps us from believing that in heaven we shall be reassembled with those who have gone before us in the faith. What an incentive to remain true to Jesus! What a compelling reason for each member of the family to accept Him as the Savior!

Note the personal, pointed “I go to prepare a place for You.” Jesus died for all the world, but I tell you individually that He gave Himself for you. He shed His blood for you. He was crucified for you. He died for you. He rose again for you. Christ deals with the world through individuals; therefore your faith counts, not your church’s, your parents’, your wife’s. Your name must be written in the Book of Life. How comforting in days like these when all else gives way to think of heaven not merely in a vague, indefinite sense, but as your “Father’s house” with a special place prepared by Christ Himself for you!

“I” [Jesus] “go to prepare a place for you” helps answer the question “How can I be sure of my prepared place in the many mansions?” Some people try to earn their title to this heavenly dwelling, pay their way or have someone else pay it; pray themselves or be prayed into heaven. They want the blessings of the “Father’s house” to be theirs in reward or recognition. But this is not Christ’s teaching. He told His disciples on that Thursday night that He, as our Forerunner, our God and Savior, would make our place ready. How He fulfilled that promise and marked a celestial place with our names, what fearful price He paid to serve as our Way to heaven, is told in the story of Lent, which the Christian churches begin to commemorate this week. May it be a blessed season for all of you! May you learn to believe that by the shedding of His blood, His dying on the cross, His resurrection from the sealed grave, Jesus gives you, even now through faith, the indescribable blessings of eternity!

Why, then, with heaven as our real home, should our hearts be troubled? Why weep at funerals as those who have no hope? In the second century a Greek named Aristides wrote to a friend concerning the early followers of our Lord: “If any among these Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God. And they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving, as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.” God grant you the same resolute faith, so that when death takes a beloved one or finally comes to summon you, you may rejoice in spirit even though in tears of human sorrow! Clinging to the resurrected Christ, may you look forward joyfully to the “Father’s house,” with its “many mansions,” the reunion with all God’s children, and particularly to our own personal prepared place, where we shall behold our Savior. “For we shall see Him as He is.” O God, bring us all to that glory for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: February 8, 1942

They [Paul and Silas] spoke unto him [the jailer] the Word of the Lord and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.Acts 16:32-34

Gracious God:

Into Thy watchful, loving care we commend the homes of our people. Protect them against invasion with its bombings and blastings, fire and destruction! O Thou who dost neither slumber nor sleep, guard oar families by day and night! We beseech Thy goodness in Christ to speed the course of the Savior’s Gospel, so that entire households may be sustained by His blood-bought pardon and find joy of soul despite future sorrows! Rebuke the forces of lust and impurity which seek to destroy Christian marriage and home life! Bless husbands and wives with self-sacrificing devotion to their privileges and duties! Implant in children a spirit of obedience to their parents! In this time of trials, when our nation needs the inner support of homes hallowed by Thy presence, we implore Thy fatherly goodness to send Thy Spirit across our broad land, so that in many more households Scripture reading and prayer will find an honored place. Strengthen many with the assurance that through Jesus they will finally be part of the whole family in heaven! We ask this by His unfailing promise. Amen.

DURING the battle of Yorktown, the last and decisive struggle in the American Revolution, it became necessary to dislodge the enemy from a prominent house occupied as headquarters. By coincidence this was the residence of General Nelson, Governor of Virginia, a leader of our Colonial troops. With the full knowledge that he was ordering the destruction of his own dwelling place, General Nelson turned to his artillery squadron and gave this quick order, “Sergeant, train your cannon on my home!” The battery roared in obedience, the cannon balls struck their mark, the enemy was driven out, and the victory that was to help seal our independence brought closer—all by the patriotism of a man who sacrificed his cherished possession, his home, for American freedom.

Others have been ready to give up their dwellings in the nation’s interest. When President Garfield was shot by an assassin, his physicians sought a cool, quiet spot, where he could find the required rest for healing. Finally they selected Elberon, New Jersey; and since the town had no railroad connection, engineers planned to build a rail spur from the main line. The right of way, as they plotted it, was to run over the front lawn of a certain farm house. At first the owner refused to permit the railroad passage over his property; but when told that this was part of an effort to save Garfield’s life, he answered: “Oh, that is different! Why, if the railroad is for the President, you can run it straight through my house!”

Now, if these men were willing to have their homes destroyed for the country’s welfare, should we not be ready to build our households for the nation’s strengthening by consecrating our families to One incomparably greater than any President of the United States—Jesus Christ, Savior of our souls? Domestic life with Him the constant Guest, families with time for reverent prayer and Scripture reading, these are bulwarks of national defense, a firm foundation for the Church’s growth, an uplifting power for all that is good. During war, with its stress and strain, home ties are often loosened. In England, as our newspaper correspondents cable, people are learning that the most menacing danger to the British family has come not through air-raid damage but by a growing spirit of irreligion, indifference to parental authority, and the unmistakable lowering of morals. Similarly on this side of the Atlantic the cry resounds: “Guard your homes! Protect your families! Reinforce the ties binding together parents and children!”

How, you ask, can we defeat the mobilized enemies of the American home during the dark hours of this struggle and amid the difficulties of postwar reconstruction? How can we secure positive solutions for domestic problems, unfailing help in family sorrows, blessed assurance when sickness, accident, or even death itself crosses our thresholds? I thank God that I have the privilege of answering across the continent by pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ and pleading not only that you dedicate your home to Him in a general way, that parents or children welcome Him, that some members of your household accept His mercies—far more than that; the Savior wants—and in His blessed name I ask it—

THE WHOLE FAMILY FOR CHRIST

This appeal is strengthened by the Scripture passage chosen as our text, these words of Acts, chapter sixteen, verses thirty-two to thirty-four: “They” [Paul and Silas] “spake unto him” [the jailer] “the Word of the Lord and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”

I

OUR MODERN FAMILIES NEED CHRIST

This account concludes one of the happiest New Testament stories. It all started in a dungeon at the Greek city of Philippi, the last place in the world where we would expect Christ’s mercy and power to be revealed. Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown into prison. Why? Only because the apostle had cleansed a slave girl by banishing a destructive spirit of divination.

The disgrace and pain of this imprisonment would have made many other men give up their discipleship and object, “If that is the price I have to pay for Christianity, I am through with Jesus!” Some of you have left the Church because of slight reverses and disappointments in small matters. The solo part in the choir that you wanted for yourself was given to another singer; someone else was made chairman of the committee which you planned to head. You have been mistreated by one church-member and bitterly you conclude that all are hypocrites. You expect people in your congregation to make their purchases at your store, and if one of them deals with your competitor, you are through with religion. Now, while you have a small grievance—it may be well founded—and you risk your soul’s salvation by cutting yourself off from the Church, the apostles, their backs crisscrossed with deep wounds and their pain-racked bodies locked in instruments of torture, never once bemoaned their suffering nor charged God with in justice. Instead they lifted their voices—oh, think of this!—“and sang praises unto God,” hymns of thanksgiving that could be heard throughout the whole prison. When the black midnight of sorrows overtakes you, sing out courageously, and you, too, will have the blessed assurance that the hardest afflictions can become the strongest advantages. Paul and Silas were to make this remarkable discovery, for while their praise songs reechoed through dungeons and damp cells, suddenly another sound grew louder and louder until, rumbling like thunder, it silenced their hymns. It was the shaking, quaking, of the earth itself. The very foundations of the building swayed. The doors opened. The bonds sprang from the prisoners’ hands and feet.

That earthquake, which brought the thrill of freedom to the prisoners, produced the threat of disgrace to the jailer. Philippi was a Roman colony, and under the Roman law, in the event criminals escaped, the responsible official suffered the penalties to which his captives had been sentenced. Fearing that the worst had happened and that all had run away, the distracted warden saw only one way to avoid dishonor. It was a popular method in the ancient pagan world, well-known in Philippi and widespread even in our modern enlightenment: he planned to take his own life. Yet as he drew his sword and prepared to send his soul to hell, a voice stopped him. It was the warning by Saint Paul “Do thyself no harm!” and the assurance “We are all here.” A light was quickly brought. The apostle’s words were true. None of the prisoners had taken flight. Instead of being merely gratified by the startling turn of events, the warden was seized by dread concerning his soul. He knew that these two prisoners, for whom Heaven’s omnipotence shook the earth as the human hand plays with a ball, were not ordinary men. They conquered pain and chanted their praises to God while others would have cursed and screamed in agony. They had been called “the servants of the most high God” by the demoniac slave. The jailer realized that despite darkness Paul had been able to see his evil intentions and had saved his life. He felt himself confronted by a higher power and in the presence of God’s ambassadors. So the Roman officer who had previously been unconcerned about his soul’s salvation now falls down before Paul and Silas—the warden before the prisoners. Pleadingly, penitently, he cries out in that question of all questions, the personal, pivotal request, which I pray God many of you will repeat today, “What must I do to be saved?” Almost in an instant, it seems, he was led to understand that he was on the swift, sure way to his soul’s destruction. His whole life, it suddenly dawned on him, had been lived in the wrong way. The restless, relentless inner voice reminded him that he must get right with the God whom these men represented; and from a heart conscious only of its guilt, its helpless, hopeless, lost, and damned condition, he begs Paul and Silas to reveal the road to his redemption.

The apostles’ answer is the very cornerstone of our faith and the keystone of its arching promises. Listen attentively to their reply as I now repeat it under the guidance of the same Spirit who blessed the Philippian jailer, the pledge of salvation in one short sentence of eleven words, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

Measure each of these blessed words! Start with “Believe!” and let me assure you that you need have only faith—the knowledge, acceptance, trust which comes with unquestioning reliance on your heavenly Father’s mercy in Christ. God asks not for good works, for payment, contribution, cooperation, not for meeting Him halfway, one quarter of the way, one short step of the way, not for good intentions or resolutions. No other human being can intercede for you. In the widest, highest, deepest grace of Heaven itself, pardon and peace are yours completely when with all your heart and soul you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing that He, the Son of God, is your Savior and Substitute who went the way of suffering to Calvary’s cross and there, on that gory altar, sacrificed Himself as the Atonement for all humanity’s sins. Acknowledging the wrong which springs from your heart, speaks from your lips, and shows itself in your actions, build your hope, the assurance of pardon for every sin, solely but entirely on Jesus’ self-surrender to death. By that faith, through God’s infinite grace, you, too, will be “saved” from the consequences of your sins, “saved” from the punishment of divine wrath in this life, “saved” from death’s eternal doom. What must you “do to be saved”? So that you will make no mistake in this most vital issue, so that you never can protest, “No one ever told me the way of salvation!” hear this answer once more, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

To this promise the apostles purposely added the words “and thy house.” They were concerned about the jailer’s family. At the rumble of the earthquake the warden’s household was filled with terror. Now, after hearing of the way to heaven, they “rejoiced.” A few hours earlier the Philippian prison keeper had been utterly unconcerned about his prisoners’ suffering; now, through the rebirth by faith, he was a new man, bent on helping his fellow men in Christ’s spirit. He started with the beaten, bleeding apostles and “washed their stripes.” Before midnight the members of that household were pagan. After midnight, when they had accepted the Savior’s redemption, they were baptized and, through that washing of regeneration, became members of Christ’s glorious Church. What a difference the Spirit of Jesus made in that home!

What a difference the Savior can make in our families! The basic needs in our households are still the same as during that first-century day. Our American homes should have—beyond education, culture, domestic-arts programs, the conveniences of modern architecture, the axioms of twentieth-century psychology—the presence of the Lord Jesus. When He enters any family circle, His peace replaces trouble, care, and burdened anxiety. Happiness reigns instead of bickering and strife. Contentment takes the place of worry. Calm overrules the passionate outbursts of selfish assertions. Inner spiritual joy overtowers earthly sorrows. We cannot assert, of course, that Christ’s presence is a divine guarantee against every grief. On the contrary, in His inscrutable wisdom God often sees fit to lay increased burdens on Christian homes. But whether these visitations be harder or lighter, the Savior can relieve sorrow, as He did after that memorable midnight at Philippi. Is your household burdened by constant quarreling and jealousy? Let Jesus in to check the ravages of self-centeredness, to give husband and wife, parents and children, the power for restraining all unworthy desires, and His promise “My peace I give unto you” will be fulfilled. Without Him little faults and failings are magnified, just as a new microscope recently perfected makes a single hair look like a tree branch. But with Christ frailties and failures are overlooked, and as a modern searchlight can be focused on an object of joy and beauty, so faith magnifies good qualities and virtues.

Has the devil of drunkenness taken cruel possession of a father or a son? Do warnings seem useless, cures hopeless? When Jesus is granted control of any drink-addicted life, He breaks its treacherous tyranny. Has disease imposed its pressing burden? Let Jesus step across the threshold of any sickroom, and He can give the sufferer sweet patience, with the privilege to be an example for others. If it be His will, He can remove the illness, or, for higher purpose, call the sufferer home to unspeakable glory. In the loneliness following the bereavement some of you now endure, the Savior’s presence can be of real, lasting comfort, besides turning death’s sorrows to faith-strengthening ends. A brilliant attorney used to keep a pair of baby shoes on his desk and tell inquirers: “Until the little feet that fit those shoes were taken to walk in Paradise, I never believed. Now heaven is near, and Jesus is my all in all.”

Particularly when disaster suddenly looms close, can Jesus offer the cheer that His benediction brought to the jailer’s home. At a terrifying mine accident a few years ago in Belgium the wives and children of the entombed men stood near the top of the shaft and wept loudly. One woman, however, a widow whose only son was trapped below, stood apart, serene and undisturbed. She explained: “My comfort is this, that my son was a reverent Christian. If he has been killed, he is with God in heaven, where I shall soon meet him again. If he is alive, God is with him and will see that he comes back to me safely.” Is not this the confidence many of you parents need during the days when your sons are called to our country’s defense? If they have Jesus, whether they are now in distant lands, in the air, on the ocean, under the sea, God Himself is at their side. He can protect them, if it be for their soul’s welfare, against bombing and blasting, injury and death. If He wants to show them special grace, He can give them heaven’s glory and the unspeakable radiance of the blessed homeland where there shall be no more separation or suffering, no more havoc of war’s destruction. No problem ever is too great for Him. By faith you will understand that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God,” that our Father never makes a mistake; His ways with His children, though we may not understand them, are always the paths of truth, blessedness, peace.

But you say, “There are no apostles today as in that period when Paul on his missionary journeys could visit the homes of the believers.” Are you sure? Thousands of pastors working together with me are eager to knock at your door and to be welcomed into your family circle, for the one purpose that they, too, may speak “the Word of the Lord” and bring the Savior into your household as surely as He accompanied the imprisoned apostles into that Philippian dwelling. No family in the United States or Canada need be without Jesus or lack the guidance of a true minister of His Church. We are deeply interested in bringing you His sustaining promise.

You can also welcome the Savior by honoring His Word in your household. The family altar, that is, joint Scripture reading and prayer by parents and children, has been a notable force in the nation’s past crises, and today it should be the rock on which people found their home life to withstand all future trials—and who can look into the days before us without realizing that America needs this? Think of the appalling difference that Christ’s presence or absence makes in any family! An Arkansas pastor testifies: “When I was the chaplain of a penitentiary in Arkansas, out of 1,700 convicts I found only one that had been brought up in a home where they had a family altar. I heard since that he was pardoned, as he was found innocent of the crime with which he had been charged.”

Jesus was brought into that jailer’s home, and He can be brought into your house through the blessing of Baptism which, by faith, cleanses you of your sin. Modern theology belittles this Sacrament; even in many churches its washing of regeneration is neglected. Perhaps this disregard helps account for the loss of power in many Christian groups. The Savior’s command is clear, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost!” The Bible itself assures us in words which all should accept that this ordinance is a means of divine grace, since the apostle declares, “Baptism doth also now save us.” Therefore the appeal of this hour is identical with the plea which rang out in the early Church, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!” Since our Lord Himself instituted Baptism, since He requires it of all who know His grace, I ask you, young and old, who have never received the strengthening Sacrament to write immediately: “I want to be baptized! Tell me more about it! Send someone who will explain its blessing to me!”

You young folks especially should understand how all-important it is to give Christ the decisive place in your future home. We witness a wave of hasty marriages. Such weddings, especially when prompted by the desire to avoid military service, are often without spiritual foundation and therefore frequently preludes to marital disaster. Despite everything you may hear to the contrary in a day when evolutionists, Communists, Modernists, radical theorists, religious extremists, attack the Christian code of marriage, build your home with Christ! Follow the rule: “Whatsoever ye do” [in courtship and marriage] “in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Make Him the Counselor in your wedding plans! Focus your marriage ideals on this central, pivotal point: My home must be a church of God, a temple of His truth! From your first wedded days until the last, in sunshine and shadow, in health and sickness, in prosperity and poverty, let Christ be the Head of your home, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation! Keep Him as the uplifting, refining, selfishness-destroying power, so that, instead of insisting on rights, you live in and by the Spirit of the humble, self-giving Savior! Continually seek His guidance in all problems and perplexities! Follow His instructions concerning parenthood and childhood; then, come what may, your home will withstand the formidable difficulties which may yet be mobilized against it.

II

THE WHOLE FAMILY NEEDS CHRIST

Now, it was the apostles’ hope and plea that the whole family at Philippi should be brought to Christ. This is emphasized three times in our text. First, Paul spoke the Word of the Lord “to all that were in his” [the jailer’s] “house.” Secondly, we read how “he and all his” were baptized; and, thirdly, how “all his house” believed in God. Nor was this the only instance in which the entire family was sought and won for Jesus. Repeatedly in the brief New Testament accounts we find missionaries teaching, instructing, baptizing, the whole household, parents, children, relatives, servants, and friends.

Every time I read these records in the Book of Acts testifying that everyone in a certain home was baptized, I ask myself: If the apostles baptized complete families—and it cannot be that all these homes were without boys and girls—why should some churches today demand that children be excluded from baptismal blessing? If the Old Testament had a special rite for infants, why not the New? If Jesus insists, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” why bar them from Baptism, when the Church in the second and third centuries regularly baptized the sons and daughters, even the youngest, in the families of the believers?

The apostle’s chief purpose in winning the whole family for the Savior was basically the driving desire “that the world through Him might be saved.” And our concern in helping to bring the members of our households to Him must of course be a personal interest in their souls’ salvation. Life knows few sorrows deeper than that of a consecrated wife, for example, who sees her husband remain in cold, sneering unbelief, or of parents whose children steadily turn from the Lord. How reassuring, by contrast, to know that those whom we love most dearly are all in the Savior’s grace!

We follow the apostles in asking the whole family to accept Him also for the tranquility and happiness He bestows. When both parents, with their children, are Christ’s in true, trusting faith, the home has a radiance which no money can purchase, no culture bestow, no modern experiment impart. The family circle united in the worship of Jesus may be poor, humble, unnoticed; yet in His sight these lowly believers are so high and blessed that He grants them an overflowing measure of His mercy in contentment and rest.

When sorrows enter the home with the impact of unexpected blows, the family completely consecrated to Christ is strengthened by the mutual trust that the God of grace “hath done all things well.” Death snatches a child in the joy of its young life, but the bereaved father can take his wife in his arms, and because they are the Lord’s, he can say: “My beloved, we will face this together with trust in our Savior. Because we both belong to Him, because our child believed in Jesus and was baptized, we know that ‘all things,’ even this sudden, crushing death, ‘work together for good,’ to our dear child and to us.”—Contrast with this the hopelessness of an atheist father who stands beside the casket of his little one and can only stammer meaningless generalities or groan in unrelieved despair!

The family should be united in its allegiance to the Lord because Christless parents or children often exert a destructive influence on the faithful members. Many a young woman, resolute, determined, outspoken in her spiritual loyalty, has seen her assurance slowly but surely grow weaker through daily life with a husband in whose heart Jesus had no part whatever. At first she attended church every Sunday, but gradually either outspoken dissatisfaction, carefully planned coaxing, or day-by-day assault on her faith weakened her resistance, made her drop church work, skip attendance at services, and finally produced total indifference. Because Christ loves us too much to see those for whom He shed His blood led into unbelief, His Word pleads that those who live together worship together.

The family, above other forces of human society, should be united in acclaiming the Savior, so that the spiritual life of the children entrusted to its care may be safeguarded. Repeatedly the Old and New Testaments direct parents, in effect, to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” When Jesus is the Head of the home, that command is followed; parents teach their children to pray, tell them what Jesus has done for them, bring them to Baptism, see that they attend Sunday school and, whenever possible, offer daily religious instruction. Especially do Christian fathers and mothers give their sons and daughters a good example in regular, reverent church attendance. But picture the houses divided against themselves in religious matters. When Sunday comes, the boys see their father shun the church; or the girls soon notice that their mother has only a smile of contempt for the faith. From the first moment the children sense this opposition to Christ’s Gospel, the seeds of doubt are sown in their hearts. Soon they form the conclusion, very logical to them: “If father or mother does not attend church, why should I?”—the practical reasoning that keeps millions of our children away from every contact with their Savior.

For a dozen different reasons we repeat the plea: Bring the whole family to Christ! You young folks who know the Lord, earnestly resolve that you will never marry an unbeliever, no matter how insistent and repeated his pleas of love may be! To those living without Jesus or against Him I say: “Don’t ever ask a Christian girl to be your wife! Don’t think of a Christian boy as your husband! You will probably cause them more misery than you can imagine. If you persist in rejecting your Redeemer, then marry someone who shares this unbelief! But don’t spoil a Christian life or endanger the devotion of those whom you profess to love!” Still more, however, I say to them: “Have you ever taken time to meet Jesus on the pages of the Bible, to study the blessing and promise of His Gospel, the sacrifice of His own holy body for your sins? Be fair enough at least to examine His truth and give the Spirit a chance in your heart! He is your Savior! He wants you at this moment. He pleads with you through this message, Be reconciled to God through faith! In His name I promise that when you kneel before Him, convinced that He is your Redeemer and your God, then peace that you have never before dreamed possible will be yours. Then, too, you will be ready to take a Christian as your life’s companion and establish a home where the Savior will reign supreme.”

To believing young men and women I add: “Never marry anyone who does not completely share with you this unity of Christ-centered truth!” It is not enough to say: “Even though my sweetheart is Catholic and I Lutheran, we both believe in Christ.” These religiously mixed marriages are often the source of deep sorrow. I am not speaking in theory, but on the basis of facts which have come to me from many hundreds of cases. I doubt whether anyone in the United States has reviewed as many instances of mixed marriages as are locked in my files; and on the basis of these documents I tell you that such marriages often lead to misunderstanding, quarrel, separation, divorce, and, what is even worse, to the neglect and denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Make this your prayer and resolution: “God helping me, I will marry only a true Christian!” Everything you do in maintaining your faith will bring His rich, repeated blessings.

To you parents God says: “Take time for your children! Give them the guidance, companionship, discipline, they require! Watch over them by day and night, particularly during these years of unrest, when sinister forces try to coax them from Christ! Show them how Christians should live! Sit with them in the family pew! Let your prayers continually ascend in their behalf to the throne of divine mercy!” If you are Christ’s, you must plead powerfully and persistently before the Lord for your child’s soul, for its usefulness in this life, its blessing in the next!

Let us make American homes—dear Father, place this resolve into many hearts throughout the land!—havens of the Savior’s peace and blessing, so that, come what may, we are always ready to receive Him! When the Prince of Wales visited a town in the Midlands, he selected a typical laborer’s home at random and entered unannounced. The next day the workman told his friends: “I did not expect him, nor did my wife. The house was untidy, and I hadn’t washed. We shall never forgive ourselves. If we had known he was coming, we should have been ready for him.” After what I have told you today, you should be ready to receive more than any earthly ruler the Prince of inner peace, Jesus, the Friend of sinners. From this moment keep your home in readiness to welcome Him who promises, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.” Ask yourself, you who know the Lord Jesus, these questions suggested by the Bible itself: “Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?” Is it well with thy wife? God give you the strength and courage resolutely to work and pray for the conversion of all your relatives! Then, when it may be said, adapting the language of our text, that those who are in your house hear “the Word of the Lord”; when all have been baptized; when your whole household believes God in Christ, you will have this radiant assurance: In heaven, when Jesus’ promise “I am the Resurrection and the Life” is magnificently fulfilled, you, as part of “the whole family in heaven,” will be reunited with those who are yours and Christ’s on earth. The span of this life passes far too swiftly to be marred by unbelief. Relatively few couples enjoy more than thirty or forty years of married life. Golden weddings are exceptional, diamond anniversaries great rarities. Oh, let these fleeting years be a period of preparation for the never-ending joys of the heavenly homeland, where we shall be with the Savior and together with the loved ones who have died in the faith! God give us all that supreme glory by keeping Christ first, last, and uppermost for the whole family! We ask it in His name. Amen.

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

Date: February 1, 1942

Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.Acts 26:28

Lord Jesus, Our Only Redeemer:

Show us today that we must go all the way with Thee; that almost believing Thy grace is not enough; that we cannot be saved unless we accept Thee unconditionally as our divine Savior from sin, our never-failing Friend in every need! We confess that too often we have doubted when we should have believed, questioned the Cross when we should have affirmed its truth. For Thy mercy’s sake, forgive us our sins of pride and vainglory. Dwell in our hearts constantly! May our faith increase, looking to Thy guidance in this life and the assurance of everlasting blessedness in heaven with Thee! Sustain our broadcast throughout the country, and in many homes make this a day of decision for Thee! Defend our mission of the air against the special dangers threatening it, and let America’s Christian forces help build the righteousness which by divine grace can exalt the nation with true and victorious peace! Hear us, O Christ of endless compassion, and bring us, especially also the burdened, the bereaved, the grief-gripped, altogether, all the way, to Thee! Amen.

IN the early part of the sixteenth century two men, in different countries of Europe, each named Martin, came to the same glorious knowledge that they were saved, not by their good works, but by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. With the same marvelous opportunity of making that message of mercy known to their fellow men, what did they do?—The one Martin, fearing public disfavor, wrote these words on parchment: “Oh, most merciful Christ, I know that I am saved only by the merit of Thy blood. Holy Jesus, I love Thee, I love Thee!” Then he secretly hid the parchment behind a stone in the wall of his chamber. Hardly one of ten thousand has ever heard of him and one in a million may know the details of his life. He was Martin of Basel, and it was only accidentally that, several hundred years after his death, his hidden testimony to Christ was discovered. Meanwhile the victorious promise of full justification by faith, which he in fear had concealed, was heard through the civilized world. Why? The other Martin, as soon as the light of saving grace illumined the night of his despair over sin, threw caution to the winds. He cried, “My Lord has confessed me before men; I will not shrink from confessing my Lord before princes and kings.” Impelled by the love of his Savior, he used every means within his grasp—the pulpit, lecture hall, printing press, schools, universities, churches, music—to spread the Gospel of salvation. With a courage unintimidated by threats of persecution and a loyalty unchanged by the promise of high honors, he preached, wrote, published, proclaimed Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God and incarnate Son of Mary, as the divine, complete, never-failing Redeemer of the whole race. That second Martin, I hardly need tell you, was Luther, the mighty Reformer, from whose world­moving testimony to Christ we date our modern era.—Martin of Basel was almost a mighty man of God. Few men in all history have ever been offered the opportunity within his grasp. Yet he failed, as some of you have failed, because of fear and weak faith.

Yet a tragedy still more grievous than such refusal to exalt Jesus is the unwillingness even to accept Him, though the Spirit of God testifies that He is the Atonement and Redemption of our souls. Modern Chinese history knows two men who illustrate this truth. Both were officers serving their country. Both were well educated. Both had become interested in Christianity. When one was invited to make a decision for Christ, he told the missionary: “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock.” Before that same day closed, he was assassinated, This man, apparently only a few hours distant from Christ, yet in reality an eternity from him, was Admiral Chen. The other national leader was urged by his mother-in-law to read the Bible and pray God for enlightenment. He followed her advice, and his private, early morning devotions brought the Holy Spirit into his heart, made him study the entire Bible, convinced him of the baptismal blessing, and finally led him all the way to the Lord. That man of the hour, a humble Christian who can pray, as visitors testify, even for enemy airmen circling over his city with the avowed purpose of destroying him, that convert to Christ for whom “almost” was not enough, is Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of 400,000,000 Chinese.

Because indecision, the refusal to accept salvation now, this coming close to the Kingdom but stopping short of the final step, is a soul peril which hangs heavy over many, I want to show you the folly and tragedy of being

ALMOST PERSUADED—

“almost” but not completely convinced—that Christ is your atoning Lord. To learn this vital lesson read—and may your doubts there be changed to faith!—in the Book of Acts (chapter twenty-six, verse twenty-eight), “Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”!

I

THE FOLLY OF “ALMOST” AND ITS CAUSE

Few scenes even in the swift-moving New Testament history are more powerful and electrifying than the account from which this text has been chosen. Saint Paul, mightiest of Christ’s missionaries, had been imprisoned at Caesarea for two long years, guilty—O blessed guilt!—of preaching the reconciling Gospel and of showing his countrymen how the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ. The governor at Caesarea must have believed his prisoner innocent of the fraudulent charges; but shrewd, graft­loving, money-grasping politician that he was, he thought he could demand a price for a release. After two years he was succeeded by the new governor, Festus. Paul’s case was brought before him, and, convinced of the apostle’s innocence, Festus arranged for King Herod Agrippa, who ruled a section of Palestine through the favor of the Roman conquerors and who was visiting Caesarea, to hear Paul.

What a striking spectacle ensued! With royal pomp and elaborate ceremonies King Agrippa, his sister Bernice, Festus the governor, Caesarea’s military and civic leaders, royalty and officialdom, were assembled amid the display of the palace luxury to hear the Savior’s Gospel and the defense of His persecuted disciple. Not often have enthroned kings thus faced Christ’s ambassadors. Throughout the centuries men who have wielded immense might, including power over the life and death of their subjects, have satanically misused this control simply because they have spurned the Christian faith and utterly rejected our Lord. Oh, that in today’s world, leaders of human affairs would take time to consider and apply the Savior’s teaching! Among the notable blessings of our American government, for which we cannot sufficiently thank God, is this that we have had in the presidency many men who have been humble followers of Jesus. And while Christians have always prayed for the chief executive and the nation’s leaders, the heaped perils in the present crisis make that intercession doubly, trebly necessary. No one realizes how, particularly in wartimes, national leaders are beset by multiplied problems and overtaxing burdens. The least we can do, and what we as Christians must do, is to intercede fervently and constantly for the government of the United States, asking that all, especially the President, his cabinet, the Congress, he guided continually by divine wisdom, truth, and righteousness.

God give you who know the merciful Savior’s love the same desire to testify to His grace which moved Saint Paul before that impressive assembly! You may never have the apostle’s opportunity of speaking to kings, but you can hear witness to others. If you are a maid in a non-Christian home, you may be able to speak of Christ to your employers, courteously but courageously, as Paul did. An unnamed Hebrew servant girl, as the fifth chapter of Second Kings tells her story, directed mighty Naaman, the commander in chief of the Syrian armies, to God’s prophet for healing and salvation. If you work in an office, factory, store, you can tactfully but determinedly acknowledge your faith in Christ before those in higher positions. If you are a Sunday-school teacher in search of more children for Christ, do not skip the fashionable sections of your community because you may be afraid to talk to important people! Often they need the Gospel more than others. I personally know a remarkable instance in which a family, frequently featured by the nation’s newspapers, was led to affiliate itself with a Christian church largely because of the aggressive, bring-the-Gospel-to­everyone spirit shown by a Lutheran pastor and his Sunday­school canvassers.

Even more impressive than the fact that Saint Paul addressed this royal assembly is the way in which he brought his message. We can almost see him there, erect, majestic, as he looks into Herod Agrippa’s face or turns his penetrating gaze to the others seated before him. His eyes flash. His hands move in emphatic gestures. Words roll from his lips. Conviction speaks in his sentences. God’s Spirit fires him with startling eloquence. Festus, the governor, unable to explain the power blazing from the apostle’s words, interrupts him to cry out loudly, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” But no one has ever been saner than Paul in that moment. He knew whereof he spoke. No “perhaps” or “maybe,” no theories, guesses, or wishful thinking mark his defense. His words were uttered with personal conviction. Forty­two times in the twenty-six recorded verses he refers to himself as he describes the way in which the Almighty brought him to Christ. May divine goodness likewise give us many men as spiritual shepherds who have not merely a head knowledge, a book understanding, but heart assurance that they themselves, born in sin, doomed to death, have been completely saved by faith in Christ’s cleansing blood; preachers and teachers who understand how mercifully God has dealt with them, so that they may help persuade others to receive Christ’s redeeming grace!

Paul went back to Moses and the prophets. He delivered a Scripture-grounded, Scripture-supported, Scripture-exalting sermon. In this respect, as has well been said, Paul, the preacher for kings, remains the king of preachers. God give us men in American pulpits who draw their sermons from the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible; who speak with authority because they declare, “Thus saith the Lord!” During this emergency help us keep our churches churches, that is, houses of the Lord, where God’s Word is explained and applied! We have public forums at which political views may be aired; legislative chambers for the discussion of new laws and social codes; libraries where the latest books are reviewed; places of amusement for dispensing humor; college classrooms for expounding new theories; but for soul guidance and the spiritual defense of millions in this nation today we should guard our churches as God’s sanctuaries where His Word, not man’s, rules; where Christ’s eternal verities, not human guesswork, reign supreme.

Note especially, however, that throughout the whole discourse Paul’s purpose was to win Agrippa and the others in that palace for Christ! The Savior’s suffering, redemptive death, resurrection, reconciling the whole world to God, formed the climax and center of his entire plea, the startling truth that made Festus, the governor, charge him with madness. Today, too, every loyal evangelist must expect to be denounced if he preaches the final, full, free message of the Savior’s redemption. Let him be denounced! On the great day of His appearing Christ will bring those who have been faithful unto the end to His Father with the declaration, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” It is not enough that sermons have Scripture texts. It is possible to take passages, for example, from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and for years offer moralizing messages without mentioning the Savior. Verses featuring the Lord Jesus may be selected and then misinterpreted so that nothing is left of our blessed hope in our blood-bought salvation. But Saint Paul could not deliver a sermon without asking a decision for Christ, and neither should you and I in any way neglect or ignore Him, the blessed Foundation of our faith. A hundred other activities can crowd into our religious work, but the one purpose of every truly Christian church is to tell all men that while without Christ they are hopelessly lost in their sins, with faith in the same Jesus they are eternally redeemed from their transgressions.

Nor should we overlook the personal, direct force of the apostle’s plea to the whole assembly. Six times he speaks straight to King Agrippa, and though it is not given to me now to look into the face of everyone in this audience who has not received Christ, I want you to accept these words as directed to you individually. Your heavenly Father wants you to be saved. As Saint Paul put this pointed question before his royal judge, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?” and hoped the ruler would answer, “Yes, I believe the prophets and the Messiah of whom they have prophesied,” so I ask you: “Do you believe the Bible and the Savior of whom the entire Scripture testifies? Do you acclaim this Christ as your own Redeemer?”

God grant that you give a better answer than Agrippa’s reply “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”! Although this remark has been variously interpreted, his words certainly imply that a man has to be persuaded to become a believer, and yet, as a matter of fact, discipleship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the most marvelous blessing we can ever experience. You do not have to convince a drowning sailor to grasp a life line. You do not need a long, elaborate discussion to show a man that he ought to step from the path of an onrushing automobile, argue a starving man into accepting food, a lost traveler into following a forest ranger to safety. Why, then, must people be persuaded to accept that which is incomparably greater than the mightiest benefits man can ever give his fellow man?

If people today would only take time to study our Christian faith and recognize the help it imparts, our churches would be overcrowded, the Bible universally read, the name of Jesus not abused in profanity but spoken with reverence. For, think of the glory that comes to those who pledge Christ their allegiance! His compassion answers all questions disturbing to the mind, removes each difficulty that distresses our thoughts, lifts every burden weighing heavy on our souls. Christian trust acknowledges that we are not accidental atoms of humanity, changed by chance from a lower brute stage, but creatures of God, the masterpiece of His almighty wisdom. Christian truth reveals whither we are bound. It assures us that we have been freed from the consequences of our sins by the self-giving, the suffering, the bleeding, the dying of the Lord Jesus as our Substitute. Our souls are so precious in His sight that He constantly guards and guides us along the paths of heavenly rightness, and always for the blessed purpose of directing us to our eternal salvation. Particularly in trying days like these it should not be difficult to bring men and women to the cross, there to acclaim the crucified Savior their own, since only in Him is there a complete refuge from fear and weakness, a satisfying source of strength to withstand the stress and strain of sorrow, the one true solution to suffering. Restored to grace, reconciled to God, we have this pledge in Jesus: Our heavenly Father loves us with such deathless devotion that the very hairs of our heads are numbered. As long as we are Christ’s, no evil will draw nigh us, and everything we may be called upon to endure becomes the evidence of His love by which He would fortify our faith, reinforce our reliance on His mercy, purify our desires, and daily draw us closer to Him. When we are Christ’s and He is ours, we can rejoice in affliction. If all else seems dark and hopeless, we have light and assurance in the victorious truth that “with God nothing shall be impossible.” His limitless love overnight can change tears into gladness. You ought to accept Jesus without any lengthy appeal and repeated plea, for He alone solves the mystery of the grave and answers your question “What becomes of me after death?” While other creeds refuse to reply or offer vague, deceptive theories, Jesus declares with His divine authority: “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 promises world-weary believers, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and His holy Word reveals, as far as the mortal mind can grasp, the glory in a heaven of unspeakable bliss, a celestial radiance beyond compare; eternal companionship with the redeemed before the throne of the living God; heaven without tears and toil, without agony and grief, without pain and loss, sickness and infirmity; heaven with Jesus. You should be willing to give up everything you possess, sell everything you own, pay everything you earn to make these blessings of Christian faith yours. But when I tell you once more in the Savior’s name that His love is granted you freely by the magnificence of His mercy; that this redemption is yours, wholly, unconditionally, assuredly, by faith, why does every one of you not agree that instead of arguing whether or not you will accept Christ, you should fall on your knees and cry out, “O Jesus, I am not worthy that Thou in Thy holiness shouldst even look at me in my sins; but by the promise of Thy love, as by Thy bitter suffering and death on the cross, receive me, wash me, cleanse me, make me Thine forever!”?

Why was it, then, that Agrippa came close to confessing Christ, yet failed to take the last, decisive step? Why is it that some of you hear this appeal pointed directly at your souls, yet turn away from the outstretched arms of Christ? The Book of Acts gives no explanation for Agrippa’s action, but his motives were doubtless the same as those now influencing many people. Perhaps he feared the consequences of confessing Christ. It meant that he would be scorned, hated by his royal friends. He would have to substitute faith for reason, and this he was unwilling to do. Becoming a Christian meant changing his life; and because he was living in sin; because he condoned immorality, he would not pay the price. Accepting Christianity might involve the loss of his royal office, being stripped of gold, silver, precious stones; and he was too selfish to take up that cross, as Jesus commanded.

Are not these the very stumbling blocks which keep people from turning to Christ today? They feel inwardly that the Bible is the truth. They cannot deny or disprove its statements. They are unable to raise a justified charge against it. They have a good word and a kind thought for Jesus. No one else who ever trod the face of the earth was His equal, they admit. They see that Christianity works. Yet in the decisive moment, when they are to declare Jesus their Savior and say without reservation, “I am a believer,” it is either the dread of ridicule, the fear of loss, the love of sin, the refusal to live as Christians or the reluctance to take reason captive—which helps make them deny Christ, forfeit their hope of salvation, close the gates of heaven against themselves.

II

THE SORROW OF “ALMOST” AND HOW TO AVOID IT

For, to be only “almost” persuaded really means to be lost. “Almost” is never enough. The airplane that “almost” clears the mountain top is destroyed. The city that has “almost” enough defenses will be captured. The reprieve from the death sentence which comes “almost” in time, only a minute late, will not save the prisoner. “Dereliction of duty,” neglect of watchfulness, such as reported at Pearl Harbor, has a spiritual counterpart when modern men and women are only “almost” prepared to resist the onslaughts of treacherous enemies.

It is not enough to call the Lord Jesus the most outstanding Person of the ages, the most unselfish Hero men have ever known, the greatest Benefactor our race has ever had. You must go all the way and, pointing to the Crucified, say, “He is my God and my Savior!” It is not enough to hear the story of His atoning love and then wonder whether or not there is grace for you, forgiveness for your transgressions. You must take the final step and believe that you, too, are saved, since no sins are too scarlet, no iniquities too abhorrent to be removed by the compassionate Redeemer. It is not enough to think you can be saved provided you earn your entrance into heaven by a long list of penances, good works, and self-denials; you must trust altogether in Christ and know you are “justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law.” Jesus paid your entire ransom from sin, hell, and death’s despair.

Herod Agrippa missed the opportunity of becoming a Christian, and never, as far as we know, did he embrace the faith. And finally he faded from the historical records of his day—an insignificant failure. Had he been fully persuaded to acclaim Jesus his Savior; had he been ready to take up Christ’s reproach, his name would have been honored by hundreds of millions throughout the succeeding centuries. What is of far greater importance, Jesus would have acknowledged him before His throne. Unknowingly he missed the greatest moment in his life, just as others have lost mighty blessings. Some years ago a young man of prominent social standing in Philadelphia killed a friend. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Powerful influences soon sought to have Governor Pollock commute the sentence, but he refused. Finally the mother of the condemned murderer journeyed to Harrisburg to plead with a mother’s devotion for her wayward child. When Governor Pollock told her that he could not change the sentence, she fainted and fell limp to the floor. The governor then turned to his secretary and said, “One thing I can do; I will see the boy and prepare him for death.” So he went to the cell and without revealing his identity spoke to the young man of God’s promises in Christ to every penitent sinner, prayed with him, heard the condemned youth say that he was not afraid to die, and then left. A few moments later the prisoner called the warden to ask, “Who was that man who just now left my cell?” In surprise the warden exclaimed, “Why, he was Governor Pollock.” “O warden,” the prisoner cried, “the governor in my cell—and I did not know it! If only you had told me he was the governor, I would have thrown my arms about him and never let him leave the cell until he had given me my pardon!” One incomparably greater than any governor now stands before you, with free and full pardon for all your transgressions, offering you the commutation of that terrifying sentence which Scripture places on every unforgiven wrong when it warns, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” God grant that you will not permit Jesus to pass out of your lives without receiving the joy of your salvation! Say to Him now, as Jacob said to Jehovah of old, “I will not leave Thee, except Thou bless me!” This may be the last broadcast you will hear, the final appeal for Christ ever directed to you. Do not make the fatal error of continually postponing your welcome of His mercy, of remaining an “almost” persuaded man or woman, until death makes it impossible for you to be altogether persuaded! You need Christ for this life, particularly in view of the uncertainties of the conflict years now upon us. Most urgently, however, you need Christ for the next world, since His own words insist: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me!” Therefore to be only “almost” persuaded means to miss the right way, lose the truth, forfeit the blessing of the heavenly radiance. To avoid such tragedy, that most terrifying loss, learn to know Christ! Come to Him in His Word, you who have neglected or despised the Gospel! Take the sacred Book, read it without prejudice, and let God’s Spirit work in your hearts! His divine Volume has turned many a skeptic into a saint, removed the “almost” and made it an “altogether”! M. L. Bautain, a French professor of philosophy, was an unbeliever until he studied the Scriptures. And then he wrote this remarkable confession: “A single Book has saved me, but that Book is not of human origin. Long had I despised it, long had I deemed it a classbook for the credulous and ignorant, until, having investigated the Gospel of Christ, with an ardent desire to ascertain its truth or falsity, I found that its pages proffered to my inquiries the sublimest knowledge . . . and at the same time the most exalted system of moral ethics. Faith, hope, and charity were enkindled in my bosom; and every advancing step strengthened me in the conviction that the morals of this book are superior to human morals as its oracles are superior to human opinions.” In the same way the study of your Bible, the preaching of God’s Word in true churches, the help of a real Christian pastor, your prayers in Jesus’ name can take you, the “almost” persuaded, and by the outpouring of Heaven’s highest grace, help you join the mighty apostle in declaring, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God grant that today many of you will thus come all the way to Christ! Amen.

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

Date: January 25, 1942

Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old!Lamentations 5:21

Our God and, through Jesus Christ, Our Father:

In this hour of our country’s need we come before Thee to implore Thy guidance and Thine almighty power for the welfare of our nation, for victory with a just, righteous peace. We know, however, that Thou art pleased only with those who love Thee, follow Thy Word, and seek to do Thy will. Therefore, as we behold sin and wrong in our lives and unbelief rampant in America, we approach Thee for mercy, beseeching Thee, by the power of Christ’s cleansing blood and His life-giving death, to forgive us, restore us, strengthen us. Ws have not deserved Thy compassion; but Thou hast promised to be gracious to us for Jesus’ sake, and we rely wholly on Thy Word. Lay on us whatever Thy wisdom decrees may be necessary and helpful for us; but, O God of endless love, bring many to Christ, keep those who know Thy Son as their only Redeemer faithful to the end! Make us a thoroughly Christian people! Bless the preaching of Thy pure Gospel throughout the world! Ws ask these favors and Thy benediction upon this broadcast for Jesus’, our glorious Savior’s, sake. Amen.

FOUR thousand billion dollars! Who among us can really understand that staggering sum? Yet a Harvard professor of economics recently told those worried about our growing national deficit that within fifty years, provided the Federal income continues to increase as it has, the United States will be able to sustain an indebtedness of that inconceivable amount. Four thousand billion dollars! Who knows whether this figure, cruelly fantastic to many of you who would thank God if you had four dollars, represents the breaking point in American financial power? An army of experts, I suppose, will contradict this claim; moreover, we should realize that a nation’s existence is not guaranteed by the amount of its money nor its destruction sealed by financial loss. A country can rebuild, sometimes better and stronger, after complete bankruptcy. The wildest inflation, when people pay hundreds of thousands in paper money for a loaf of bread or a quart of milk, need not mark the utter end of any nation.

Similarly, if we ask ourselves, What is the worst disaster that can overtake our beloved land? we ought to agree that the most devastating danger comes not from without, but from within. Just as a man can recover from ghastly surface wounds, broken or even amputated limbs, while below-the-surface diseases, like cancer or internal injury to the vital organs, prove fatal, so a nation, with its cities, towns, and villages, can regain its peace after the chaos and upheaval of war; it can be restored to health after wide epidemics of influenza or typhus; it can rise victoriously from the ashes of fire, the debris of flood, earthquake, tornado, the ruin of bombs and cannon. Yet history testifies that there is one inner loss which is final, that can remove national glory forever and permanently reduce any country, however rich and powerful. That deadliest danger is unbelief, ingratitude toward God Almighty, the blasphemous ridicule of His Word, the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the denial of the cleansing blood, the contempt for the Gospel, and with this, the carnival of crime, the sweeping rule of sin, the glorification of evil. God’s truth, majestic in its plain, unalterable force, warns, “The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish,” and every time an empire has collapsed—review this parade of fallen kingdoms: Egypt, Babylonia, Syria, Media, Persia, Greece, Rome, and, above all, Judah—the truth of that warning is fulfilled.

The most vital necessity for America today is, therefore, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ’s power to forgive sins and restore us to God. That truth was recognized when the United States was founded; but because the opposition to our Lord and His Church is steadily increasing, while sinister anti-Christian forces attempt to destroy the faith which has been the heritage of millions, I appeal to you in Christ’s name:

KEEP AMERICA CHRISTIAN!

For our text we turn to the closing words in the Book of Lamentations (chapter five, verse twenty-one), where Jeremiah, surveying his people’s unbelief and their sorrow, cries out, “Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old!”

I

WE ARE LOSING OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

In this plaintive plea, “Renew our days as of old,” the prophet recorded his sorrow over the tragic fact that Israel, blessed by Jehovah above all other nations; Israel, protected by divine might and heavenly love since its earliest days; Israel to whom alone God sent His prophets, His Word, and the promise of a coming Messiah, had forgotten its Creator and Redeemer. The ancient days during which the people stood close to their God had given way to a new, sin-marked era in which the Lord was ungratefully cast aside. Recalling David’s golden age when Israel loyally acclaimed Jehovah; Solomon’s temple, where swelling psalms joyfully sang the Almighty’s praise; the reign of God-fearing kings, when Old Testament Scriptures were held in high esteem, sacrifices performed with humble repentance—and contrasting with those distant, happy days the worldliness, unbelief, rebellion against God which aroused divine wrath and summoned Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian hordes to lay Jerusalem waste, Jeremiah breaks out into this plea: “‘Renew our days as of old’! Bring back those glorious years when Israel gladly served God!”

Need I remind you that a similar, lamentable contrast exists between the America of today and of our founding fathers; that we, too, must pray with deep-souled appeal, “O God, ‘renew our days as of old’!” The Book of Judges points to grave national calamities which began when “another generation” arose “which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.” Similarly a new generation has now arisen within our boundaries which does not know the God who made America great nor recognize His overbounteous mercy toward our country. Despite everything radicals may try to tell you, keep this basic truth firmly implanted in your mind: Our colonies, later the States, were settled by men and women who were Christians, who came to our shores, among other reasons, because they could here spread the Gospel, erect Christian churches, and worship the Savior according to His Word! Those early pioneers had their faults, of course, and I am not endeavoring to glorify something so far distant from us that its frailties cannot be seen; but for the most part, the people who built America were outstanding in their devotion to Christ. The Charter of Virginia assures its colonists the right to live together in “Christian peace” and instructs them to help “in propagating . . . the Christian religion to such people as yet live in ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.” The Plymouth Charter specifies that the colony is established “to advance the enlargement of the Christian religion, to the glory of God Almighty.” The Delaware Charter defines one purpose of that settlement as “the further propagation of the Holy Gospel.” Maryland’s Charter explains that its first settlers were moved by a “pious zeal for extending the Christian religion.” The Massachusetts Bay Charter emphasizes that Boston was founded by men who wanted to bring the new world “to the knowledge and obedience of the only true God and the Savior of mankind.” The early settlers of Pennsylvania came to America, according to their own declaration, for the spread of the “Christian religion.” The Rhode Island Charter commits its people to the “true Christian faith and worship of God,” and in the Rhode Island Compact the signers declare, “We submit our persons, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” The Connecticut Constitution in its preamble pledges the settlers to help “preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The first article in the New Hampshire Charter begins: “We . . . in the name of Christ and in the sight of God.” The oath that this instrument requires was to be administered in the name of “the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and Savior of His people.”

Similarly, in the early days of our War for Independence, although freethinkers sometimes occupied high places, an unmistakably Christian note rang through the official proceedings. The closing words in the Declaration of Independence confessed the nation’s dependence on God. The first American day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, in 1776, was appointed by Congress so that the colonies might “through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness.” The first Thanksgiving Day, ordered by Congress in 1777, asked the people’s prayers for God’s solemn blessing and “the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to blot our sins out of remembrance.” President John Adams proclaimed a country-wide fast, asking the citizens to admit their sins before the “Most High God” and with the sincerest penitence implore His pardoning mercy through the “Great Mediator and Redeemer for our past transgressions.” In the midst of the Civil War, 1863, the United States Senate passed a resolution suggesting that our people seek God’s help “through Jesus Christ.” In a hundred different ways, it could be shown, the America of yesterday exalted Almighty God as the Supreme Ruler of our commonwealth, taught that in the Scriptures His will is revealed for the infallible guidance of men, and that Jesus Christ is the divinely appointed Mediator between God and the men who make up nations.

I am not now discussing the relation of Church and State nor pleading for intolerance or religious discrimination, both of which are condemned by true Americanism and true Christianity. I am trying to show you that the founding fathers in America were not atheists, skeptics, unbelievers, pantheists, freethinkers, Mohammedans, Buddhists, but (despite their denominational differences, which I would in no way minimize) Christians who built their hope on the Lord Jesus Christ. Here and there, in the course of years and with the freedom America offered all men, a settlement of unbelievers and atheists did spring up. For example, when the city of New Ulm, Minnesota, was planned, its founders boasted that in this community the folly of religion would be revealed by the success of irreligion. Yet New Ulm and a few other similar experiments failed dismally to function as centers of antireligious agitation. Today a Lutheran college and church steeples show Christ’s victory over unbelief. On the whole, the pioneers along our Eastern seaboard, the men and women who built cities and towns in the Colonies, the first to cut down forests in the Northwest Territory, to cross the Alleghenies, to sail down the Ohio and up the Mississippi, the early farmers on our Midwestern plains, the hardy adventurers who drove covered wagons to the Rockies and then fought their way over desert or mountain passes through blister of heat or blizzard to the slopes that drop into the blue Pacific, were close to the Almighty in those days when most of our congregations were established, most of our mission groups, Bible societies, Christian charitable and educational institutions founded.

Now, however, the scene is changed. We have more churches, but not stronger churches. The clear-cut acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ which marked the original American way of life is subdued. Public orators speak of God, it is true; but have you noticed how woefully infrequent is the reference to “the Name which is above every name”? In some instances men of prominence deliberately refuse to mention Christ. Certain fraternal organizations, called “Christian,” systematically bar His name, perhaps because they are afraid of incurring the disfavor or losing the support of anti-Biblical elements. Even some religious groups which during the hard, formative periods of this country were outspoken in their loyalty to Jesus have gone over to the left wing of Modernism. They have imposing buildings, well-paid choirs, celebrated pulpit orators, elite membership, social halls, gymnasiums; but they are without Christ, the Son of God, the one Savior. They have lost the faith of their fathers, they have compromised when God’s Word demanded opposition to error and warned, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.”

At the same time, other countermovements have been set in motion against our Lord. Atheism has been systematically organized. Communism—and I mean the Bible-ridiculing, Christ-blaspheming sort—has made startling headway in the United States during the last two decades, and we may well expect that it will go forward in greater strides after the war. American Christians should realize that every atheistic Communist has sworn hostility to the Gospel of Jesus and that the higher his rank, the greater his influence, the more dangerous his hatred of the Savior.

When we thus behold the denial of the Lord Jesus in this blessed nation, generations ago dedicated to faith in His redemption; when we see the America in which, while strange, foreign sects and cults become firmly rooted, half of the entire population belongs to no church whatever and, therefore, comes under Christ’s verdict “He that is not with Me is against Me,” do you not agree that the prayer to be spoken from our innermost hearts must repeat Jeremiah’s plea “O God, ‘renew our days as of old’”? Bring back the America that was not ashamed to confess the Lord Jesus; the America that had days of fasting, humiliation, and penance; the America in which Sunday was a time for church attendance by the whole family; the America that wanted sermons instead of sermonettes, that listened to preachers who called sin sin; the America in which frontier settlers shared their homes with circuit riders or traveled for days to hear a preacher expound the Gospel; the America that had no streamlined trains, no airplanes, no radios, no electric power, no steam heat, no modern plumbing, no production lines, yet that had the Savior, and, having Him, was victorious over its enemies!

“Renew our days as of old!” we repeat as we recall the startling change which has overtaken American education. The first schools founded on this continent taught the Christian religion and were based on the Scriptural maxim “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Today much of public education is pointedly antireligious, with a deep-rooted determination on the part of many teachers (whose salaries are paid from public funds) to poison young minds against the Bible. Most of you have no idea of the startling extent to which textbooks used in many public schools feature an away-from-God tendency. While recent years have witnessed a remarkable increase in school building and enrollment, on a steadily mounting scale we have been forced to erect more prisons in the battle against juvenile crime. In many cities we are training children to be mentally shrewd rather than morally good, cute and cunning instead of honest and straightforward. Because the collapse of morality and reverence constitutes a serious menace to the future of the nation, we ought constantly to ask the Almighty for a return to the early American educational ideals. They had no modern theories of training in those pioneer decades, no “progressive” systems, no theories of self-expression; but they kept first things first. For them no training was complete without the study of the Bible, the memorizing of its passages, the exalting of its truth.

True, we can never fully recapture that early American ideal since our public schools, attended by children of various, conflicting creeds, cannot give spiritual instruction or require Biblical training; but the Christians of our country can return to the colonial practice—and the conditions after the war may make this necessary—by which the churches built their own elementary schools to insure religious instruction. My own Church annually spends millions of dollars to maintain and expand a system of child training which helps the pupils keep the Lord Jesus uppermost in his mind. We gladly pay our taxes to support the public educational system; but we also believe that the nation and the churches require hearts and minds illuminated by the Holy Spirit, souls daily instructed in Biblical truth. Therefore we maintain hundreds of Christian day schools throughout the land, offering more than secular culture can legally give—a sound, Scriptural training. These schools are open to your boys and girls. Give us your children so that we can help give them to Christ! Juvenile court statistics show conclusively that youngsters thus trained have a moral and spiritual force in their lives which goes far in keeping them away from crime and closer to Christ.

Similarly, we need a return to the spirit of Christian higher education which marked our country’s yesteryear, when colleges and universities were founded for the defense and spread of the true faith. Read the records of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries to remind yourself that the oldest, largest, and best universities were dedicated to the Savior in their charters, on their seals, and in their Scripture-centered instruction! Deeply we regret that many of the colleges thus called into existence by humble, Christian faith, built by Christian funds, endowed by legacies from Christian friends, have forsaken this foundation. In too many cases such schools have become hotbeds of infidelity and hatred of the Redeemer. As some of you parents know from bitter experience, young people who enter colleges as happy, trusting believers, leave as dissatisfied, sophisticated skeptics. Particularly in times like these, when the nation needs spiritual strength for its first line of defense, we must keep Christ in culture. Therefore, if you fathers and mothers want your children to attend a college in which Biblical religion, far from being assailed, will be exalted, write me for a list of spiritually accredited colleges connected with my Church!

Similarly, the plea “Renew our days as of old!” arises from a dozen different sectors of our life. Give us the early American household, with large families, mothers devoted to their home, fathers conscious of the fact that they must be God’s priests among their own, children who are obedient and respectful; homes, in short, with Jesus the constant Guest and His Spirit the consecrating Power! Think of it, Christian marriage was so sacred in the Plymouth Colony that during its first seventy-one years only six divorces were granted, and these on Scripturally justified grounds! Contrast with this the reports of fifth, sixth, and seventh marriages in the United States and a divorce rate which now seems primed for a startling increase!

This “renew our days as of old!” should be spoken with redoubled sincerity now, when the burdens of war begin to press heavily. Listening to some speakers, one would imagine God plays no part in the triumph of our forces or in the just and righteous peace for which we pray. “We must win this war,” it is said, “because we have the will to win.” But we need more than the armies, navies, air armadas; more than hundred-billion-dollar expenditures; more than organization and strategy, bravery and sacrifice! My fellow countrymen, we need God; and since He is with those only who accept Him in humble, trusting faith, let us seek Him penitently in Christ and recognize how earnestly He speaks to us in war’s visitation. Church papers do well in featuring these paragraphs spoken by a preacher in Bournemouth, England, to his congregation: “We have ignored the ringing of the church bells calling us to worship. Now the bells cannot ring except to warn of invasion. We have left the churches half empty when they should have been filled with worshipers. Now they are in ruins. The money we would not give to the Lord’s work, now is taken from us in taxes and higher prices. The food for which we forgot to say thanks, now is unobtainable. The service we refused to give to God, now is conscripted for the country. Nights we would not spend ‘watching unto prayer,’ now are spent in anxious air-raid precautions.” Similarly, of our own country it could be said: We have used our automobile tires to take us away from church on Sunday, and now many have no tires for the whole week. We did not send enough missionaries to convert the Japanese, now we must send soldiers to destroy them. We have not trained our youth for the Savior; now we must train them for slaughter.

II

WE NEED GOD TO PRESERVE OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

We should, however, do more than cry out, “Keep America Christian!” We must act! Everyone who knows the Lord Jesus and the magnificence of His grace in reconciling a lost world to His heavenly Father must be ready to assume individual responsibility. Jeremiah does not primarily seek to start a mass movement nor ask others to act for him. He recognizes his own share, his personal duty. May the Holy Spirit awaken men with the courage of that mighty prophet who, as few others, protested ceaselessly against evil, defended the faith at all costs, resolutely championed his Lord and continually sounded the necessary note of repentance and contrition! Let American clergymen make this fearless man of God their model by clinging to the whole Word of Truth! Such loyalty may produce opposition, just as Jeremiah had to fight the chief priests and the officials in the ecclesiastical system of his day. Dare to be a Jeremiah, and you will have a Jeremiah’s blessing—deliverance in danger and persecution! If necessary, the Almighty can invoke His heavenly power to sustain you in any struggle.

Laity of America, read these Old Testament prophecies to find strength and courage during disturbed days! You are not too small, insignificant, isolated, to be heard or have your objection to apostasy sustained. The man with the Almighty on his side is still a majority. Therefore, if you hear any attack on Christ, cry out in rebuke! If in church circles you meet denial of the faith, any contradiction of God’s truth, raise your voice in disavowal! If in the realm of politics attempts are made to discredit the divine Word; for example, if efforts are made to introduce anti-Biblical, anti-American, evolutionary, Communist books, reading guides or courses into the public-school system of your community, start a petition to prohibit them! Take the lead in eliminating violations of Scriptural teachings and our constitutional rights! Some of you business men, blessed with a clear-cut understanding of the Savior’s teaching, should enter the nation’s political life and contribute the uplifting power that Christian leadership can offer. Today there is a marked need in the weighty public offices—especially those dealing with the lives of our military youth—for many more far-sighted men who know Jesus and His exalting righteousness.

Jeremiah, realizing that without God all his protests would be of no avail, turned to the Almighty in the prayer of our text. Oh, that millions from coast to coast would likewise find refuge and strength in true petition and bring down God’s benediction through fervent intercession! America on bended knees, with folded hands, bowed heads, and humble hearts could win victories over foes a thousand times stronger than our enemies across both oceans. So, pray, America! Pray penitently! Beseech God in your own room, your household, your church, wherever you may be! Pray persistently, with trust which can never be defeated because you know “with God nothing shall be impossible”! By the omnipotence of heaven, if it be His will and for our individual and collective best, He can change our sorrows, stop this war, and give the world a true and righteous peace, with all oppression defeated.

Especially, however, pray as Jeremiah did when he pleaded contritely, confessing the sins of his people as well as his own transgressions! Multitudes across this nation should repeat his prayer “Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned!” Come before God, you among the unconverted who have never accepted the Redeemer! Ask the Almighty, “Turn me from sin, from hell, from eternal death! Turn me from my own sinful flesh, from my own lustful thoughts, my own selfish, hateful, revengeful self! Turn me from the lure and lust of temptation! Turn me from the despair over my transgressions, from the accusation of my conscience, from the fear of death! Turn me from Thy wrath, and for Jesus’ sake bring me into Thy love!” When you plead with this complete trust which takes Christ fully at His Word; when you know in the positive assurance of the Holy Spirit that the suffering which Jesus endured, the blood He shed on Calvary, the cry of anguish which there escaped His parched lips, the death He died on the cross, was all for you, so that by the humble acceptance of Him as your Savior you could be turned from sin to salvation—you are saved for earth and heaven. Then, while you cling to Christ, no power of men or devils combined can tear you from His hands. You have been born again into a new existence that has turned you to God!

Many of you (I know from your letters) could now testify that God has marvelously turned you; that the Spirit has changed men who have beaten or deserted their wives and made them repentant, loving husbands. Some of you had to be imprisoned to meet Christ and find the new life in Him; now—praise God!—drunkenness, envy, malice, unmentionable sins, have all been forgiven and conquered in your life through the Spirit who has turned you to the Father by the power of His regeneration.

Do not let anyone or anything keep you from Christ’s love! Ask God to turn your mind so that instead of doubting, you gladly accept the glorious truth which even mighty intellects have acclaimed! Beseech the Spirit to direct your heart from the treacherous clinging to worldly treasures! Last week a sailor on the doomed tanker Allen Jackson, instead of fleeing to a lifeboat when the torpedo struck the ship’s side, remembered eighty dollars left in the locker and ran to salvage his wallet. But he sold his life for money he could never enjoy. While his shipmates escaped, he was drowned. To avoid spiritual death, beseech your heavenly Father for the strength required to cut loose from all destructive entanglements! Ask God to turn your life from the slavery of sin to the service of your neighbors and your country in this hour of its need, so that perishing souls may be restored by a word of Christ’s grace and truth you may be privileged to speak!

Plead with God in the faith of Jeremiah to turn you wholly to the Savior in body, soul, heart, mind, and spirit! My fellow redeemed, may the joy of a saved, sanctified life be yours! By the power of rebirth and reconciliation to the heavenly Father, you, as believers in Christ, can be a mighty force in restoring the “days as of old,” in keeping America Christian. God bless you in your love for the Savior, and God bless a Christian America, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: January 18, 1942

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.1 John 5:1

Purifying, Strengthening Spirit of God:

Make us new creatures in Christ through the mercy and marvel of the second birth! Show us again today that as soon as we find in the Lord Jesus the atonement for our sins, the cleansing for the stains of our guilt, the ransom from all punishment, we who were children of wrath have—by the miracle of the new birth—become children of a loving heavenly Father! Help those who know their Redeemer to face every adversity bravely and walk resolutely in the Savior’s footsteps! Especially do we beseech Thee mightily to spread the glorious promise of Gospel grace. Convict many of their sins and bring them contritely to their Savior! Guide our country and those responsible for its policies; enrich us with true repentance, and according to Thy good will grant us genuine peace! Destroy the evil plans of selfish, unbelieving men who promote aggression and hatred! Be with us, strengthening Spirit, as Thou wast with our fathers, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

IN 1858 thirty-four-year-old John Paton left Scotland for the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Words cannot begin to describe the lust for blood, the shocking vice, the satanic practices, he found on his arrival among the naked, treacherous cannibals. Blood flowed so freely that sometimes even the springs were discolored by its crimson, and Paton had to use rainwater for drinking. The devilish desire for human flesh drove the natives to dig up decaying bodies and to consume the rotting remains. When one of the savages died, his wife was choked to death. If a chief took sick, three women were sacrificed to secure his recovery. The entire island was ruled by bestial superstition, sorcery, and the cringing fear of demons. Yet, before thirty years elapsed, when this brave man left the New Hebrides, the fiendish fury of the inhabitants had been completely and miraculously transformed. The chiefs had pledged themselves to avoid war, women and children were no longer murdered, sorcerers and witch doctors were banished, nakedness outlawed, fear supplanted by happiness, and in a hundred other astonishing ways these people had been freed from the hideous slavery of vice and literally changed into new persons.

What was the secret of this startling success? Was Paton a military genius, acquainted with the strategy of slaughter? Did he follow dictators’ methods by killing masses and forcing survivors into subjection? As far as his life story shows, Paton never raised a rifle to his shoulder. Did he produce this phenomenal change by making people physically better, removing tonsils, adenoids, head bumps, instituting new diets, explaining vitamins and calories, teaching eugenics, demanding health examinations? He never dreamed of all this. Did he write a new code of laws, establish a police force on the islands or seek to elevate the minds by holding lectures on culture and civilization for the cannibals and thus argue them out of their vicious habits? Did he try to socialize them into progress and prosperity? If you have ideas like these, you do not know John Paton. You cannot understand this South Pacific miracle or the same wonder perpetuated in 10,000 other places unless you realize that instead of force he used love. Instead of trying to alter the body or influence the mind, he sought to change the heart, to purify the soul. For Paton was a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his preaching the glorious Gospel of free, full, final forgiveness through faith in that Savior, the Holy Spirit cleansed the blackened hearts of those natives and made of them new creatures in Christ.

The same wondrous grace of rebirth in Jesus has been repeated millions of times throughout history whenever a sinner has come to Jesus in trusting reliance on His mercies. But far more important than other instances of conversion and regeneration through the Savior is the matter of your rebirth. Pay close attention, then, as in our Lord’s name I put this pointed question before every member of our coast-to-coast radio mission:

ARE YOU “BORN AGAIN”?

May the Holy Spirit so enlighten the hearts of multitudes from the Atlantic to the Pacific that today—and O God, let it be a time of glorious grace for thousands!—many may believe this promise of our text (First Letter of Saint John, chapter five, verse one): “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” with repentant faith give themselves to Christ and through His Spirit become totally “new creatures”!

I

YOU “MUST BE BORN AGAIN”

When Saint John here speaks of being “born of God,” he tells us that there is a second birth, marvelous and beyond human understanding. As all who come into this world of physical life must be born of human parents, so all who would enter the next world for spiritual and eternal life must be “born of God.” Don’t think that this rebirth is merely a pretty thought, a pleasant phrase, a pious wish, yet empty of practical value! When you see drunken blasphemers permanently sobered into courageous witnesses for Christ, wife-beaters become loving husbands, murderers remade into true Christians, South Sea Island cannibals into self-sacrificing believers, African child-killers into devoted parents, sworn enemies of Jesus into His avowed friends, snarling atheists reborn as contrite confessors, devil worshipers as children of God, you are confronted by reality, positive and assured.

Even unbelievers have often admitted the truth and power of regeneration in Christ. Charles Darwin certainly was no Christian; and his claim that man is descended from apelike creatures, together with his further rejection of the Bible, has helped to send many souls to hell; yet he conceded openly in his writings that no other power could alter human hearts and lives so completely as conversion to Christ. Darwin traveled to Tahiti, saw the startling missionary transformation on that island and wrote in his Journal of Research: “Human sacrifices, unparalleled profligacy, infanticide, and bloody wars had been abolished, dishonesty, intemperance, and licentiousness greatly reduced by the introduction of Christianity.” He went to New Zealand and, beholding the conversion of the natives, wrote: “The lesson of the missionary is the enchanter’s wand. . . . The march of improvement consequent on the introduction of Christianity throughout the South Seas probably stands by itself in the records of history.” He sailed to the southern tip of South America and, dumbfounded by the moral, social, spiritual improvement in Christianized Patagonia, recognized the renewing power of the Gospel by sending an annual check to the Patagonian mission. Now, if this man, whom militant atheists have exalted as one of the Bible’s most destructive enemies, thus freely conceded the electrifying changes Christianity brings, should not those who bear Jesus’ name unhesitatingly express their faith in its regenerating strength?

We know, of course, that this truth has been violently attacked even by churches. When asked to explain his refusal to preach on the new birth, a Christ-denying pastor sneered, “I will have no obstetrics in my pulpit.” We had learned to expect such ridicule and blasphemy from Modernists; but it is even more discouraging to see how many Gospel churches neglect this teaching. In protest, note the repeated emphasis God’s errorless Scriptures place on this truth. No fewer than seventy Old and New Testament passages explain, exalt, exemplify the new birth. If the Bible speaks only once, that should be sufficient authority for all men; but how unusual the stress when the Scriptures speak seventy times in the words of prophets, psalmists, evangelists, apostles, and particularly in the sacred utterances of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!

Do you know that according to the Gospel records rebirth in God was the first great doctrine Jesus explained at length? When our broadcast is over, take your New Testament—and if you are too poor to own one, let me send you a copy!—turn to the third chapter of Saint John’s Gospel and read of the remarkable visit paid to our Lord during the darkness of night by Nicodemus, teacher and leader of Israel. How solemnly, how unmistakably Christ taught the reality and necessity of the rebirth! Read these verses carefully, and you will see that four times the Savior says, “Verily,” as though He were taking a repeated oath to stress the truth. Once again, if the Son of God speaks, that should settle the issue, but when He uses four “verily’s” (I know of no similar number of verses in the whole Scripture with this quadruple emphasis), He speaks with compelling power. Pay close attention, therefore, when the Redeemer tells Nicodemus and you, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”; when the Savior repeats, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”; and when, for the third time in five verses, Jesus decisively insists, “Ye must be born again.” May that “Ye must—ye must—ye must—be born again” be dinned into your very souls! Wealth can never buy the key to God’s kingdom. High position and authority will not unlock the door to heaven. Old age and white hair cannot bring you a step closer to God. Church membership is no assurance of your salvation. You need far more than leading offices in the congregation. Even preaching from pulpits gives you no title to a prepared place in the many mansions. You may come from a Christian family with a long list of churchgoing ancestors; you may have a devout wife, a consecrated husband, but all these, unmistakable blessings that they are, will never bring you before the Throne of Mercy. You may show the close acquaintance with the Bible which enables you to cite book, chapter, verse; you may display medals for Sunday-school attendance or certificates for teaching; you may wear a robe and sing in the choir; you may be generous with your gifts, sympathetic with your fellow-men, abounding in so-called good works—but this is not enough. Men have enjoyed such preeminences and still gone straight to hell! Jesus tells us, “Ye must be born again.”

Because this rebirth is so vital, forget the war for a few moments and think of the struggle in your soul, as well as your own personal need of being born again! Realize immediately this basic, inescapable truth from which our haughty, self-righteous world constantly recoils—the shocking reality that men without Christ live in repeated, grievous sin, held and swayed by envious, covetous, lustful, hate­filled thoughts and cruel, dishonest, destructive actions! Take Christian influences from our modern culture, and unbelievers in principle would not be different from those hideous savages who opposed John Paton in the New Hebrides Islands! Take God out of men’s hearts, and they will be devoted to evil instead of good, to hatred much more than love, to war in place of peace, to lust rather than purity, to falsehood before truth, to kicking their helpless fellow-men instead of helping them! At the beginning of this twentieth century, scoffers, without the churches as within, insisted loudly that mankind was really good, that the whole race was improving, that human affairs were on the upgrade toward beauty, truth, happiness. The Bible passages which declare, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” or, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not,” were laughed away as outworn, pessimistic errors. At the heyday of that delusion came World War I, and after just enough time for another generation to arise, World War II with greater hatred, brutality, mass destruction, murder of innocent hostages, suffering on the part of non-combatants, than any war between cannibals has ever witnessed. And unless God is undeservedly merciful, in the year 1965, or thereabouts, if this earth can stand that long, World War III will be in the making, with even more shocking destruction.

Survey our reaction to the heaped blessings God has showered upon us! Ungratefully men have rebelled against the Almighty and employed His benedictions in sin’s service. They have used their brains and intelligence, the faculties of schools and colleges, to attack His Word and banish God from modern life. They have poisoned home happiness with adultery, lust, unfaithfulness, strife, unbelief. Many churches have become campaign headquarters for assaults on the Scriptures. Newspaper columns, as here in St. Louis, advertise material which champions atheism and free love. Across both oceans, in Europe and Asia, dictators restrict the course of the Gospel. Crime soars to the zenith in American history, and those who are aware of these trends ought to be convinced that the whole human race without God is an ugly, sordid, selfish, sensual aggregate; that men who reject Christ are truly murderers of their own souls.

It is not easy for me to use this microphone and vast network to tell you, the self-respecting, substantial, esteemed, and applauded, that you must be born again if you would behold God, that lacking the new birth, you are still children of wrath; but in the eternity awaiting every one of us I do not want you to point a finger of scorn at me and say, “You had that coast-to-coast radio hookup, and you never told me that I was lost in my sins, that I had to be born into a new existence before I could see God.” Every one of you ought to realize in an intimate, direct way that daily you commit transgressions which invoke divine wrath.

While most people are ready to admit that not all is right in their lives, yet nothing is harder to wring from the heart of an unconverted man or woman than the confession “I have sinned before my God.” One of the supreme needs of this spiritually decadent day is to call sin by its right name, to recognize every violation of God’s Law as an iniquity capable of sending the soul and body to hell. Many deluded individuals, particularly church-members, can become so blinded to God’s truth that they seek even to glorify sin. Some of you labor under this curse when the divine Word plainly brands your actions as sin and you try to justify yourself by disguising iniquity as virtue. But you will never succeed. If you are not born again, you are spiritually dead. You face complete and everlasting rejection by the Almighty, eternal death and banishment from heaven, the pain and penalty of hell itself. To escape that terror, to enter God’s kingdom, to be assured of heaven, you must—O Father, engrave it on our souls!—“be born again,” or in the words of our text, be “born of God.”

II

YOU CAN BE “BORN AGAIN”

As I now repeat this direct question, “Are you ‘born again’”? I thank the Lord that the blessing of this rebirth can be yours through the Savior’s grace and might. If it were not for this power, of course, you would be helpless, hopeless, lost forever, unable to lift a finger, move an eyelid, whisper a plea that would help change your hearts or purify your lives. True, modern science and industry can produce amazing transformation. Visit a paper factory and you will see how dirty rags, thrown into a large hopper, cut into pieces, treated with acids, finally emerge as white, spotless sheets. But no industrial process can take human beings despite claims of many righteousnesses—the Bible calls these “filthy rags”—and make them clean, stainless. By the marvels of modern chemistry coal tar, black, sticky, smelly, altogether unpromising, can be converted into a rainbow of wonderful colors, an array of perfumes, a number of useful plastics, an assortment of explosives, and many other materials. But the soul will not yield to such treatment, and neither education, medical care, social improvement, can transform black, sordid, corrupt characters and endow them with beauty, strength, and power. At best, evil may be concealed or disguised; but as little as you can restore a rotting, worm-eaten apple by polishing its skin, purify water by painting the pump; bring life into a corpse by putting rouge on its cheeks, so and even more impossible is it to change the soul by culture, medical or social science. You need God for that!

Thanks to His endless compassion, you can have God in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are crushed by the weight of our sins; when we grovel in damning, degrading vices; when in human blindness we grope for safety and salvation, only constantly to find ourselves farther from the goal, then what glory beyond compare to know, as I now assure you, that our heavenly Father in the magnificence of His divine mercy has sent every one of us a Savior! This Redeemer—oh, for a thousand tongues, ten thousand radio stations, a universal hookup throughout every nation, to sing His blessed praise!—is God’s own Son, Jesus, the Christ, who alone could fulfill the Law we had broken, suffer the penalty we had deserved, die the death that should have been ours. This Savior gave Himself, His holy, divine Self. He was nailed to the cross, the accursed tree, to which the lowest criminals were sentenced. There He shed His blood, suffered the agonies of excruciating pain, the torment of ridicule, and, above all, the anguish of soul torture—for this sacred, heavenly, compassionate purpose,—to remove once and forever the entire burden of men’s sins, with their ugly guilt and the dread damnation to which, if unforgiven, every transgression must lead. Whether you have heard this before or not; whether you now believe it or not, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” to save you.

Such glorious grace, however, does not exhaust the Savior’s mercy. Besides redeeming us for eternity, His love also remakes us entirely, for as soon as we penitently confess Him our Ransom and Redemption, sincerely crown Him the Sovereign of our souls, contritely cling to Him as the immovable Rock of Ages, the Holy Spirit has begun His marvelous work in our souls by which we, children of wrath, become children of grace; sinners in the eyes of men, but now saints in the sight of our heavenly Father—all in fulfillment of the sacred promise “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.” We look the same after this rebirth as before, but we cannot act the same. A real change has come from within. We who hated God begin to love Him. Those who ridiculed and rejected Christ now show Him reverence. Those who served sin now serve Jesus. Habitual drunkards write us to testify that after hearing the broadcast Word the power of alcohol has been broken. Self-confessed atheists testify that they have become humble believers; would-be suicides that they have found life eminently worthwhile when lived for Jesus. Scoffers have converted their blasphemy to testimony, their foul-mouthed profanity to praise for Christ. Parents who wickedly plotted to destroy their unborn children have learned to stop this murder, welcome and cherish the baby that came to them as God’s gift. In hundreds of ways by the Spirit’s power working through these broadcasts, lives have been remade, the desires of the heart directed from sin to the Savior, the understanding of the Scriptures opened and simplified, as men who before their conversion had sought contradictions in the Bible now bow before its harmony.

With this new birth comes a new power to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to lead clean and pure lives, never perfect, it is true (since we are still in the flesh while here on earth), yet always, despite serious lapses, progressing toward holiness. With this new birth comes new courage, fortitude required to face the difficulties that will confront many of us during the postwar crisis, the bravery with which Chrysostom, fifth-century pulpit orator and witness to the Lord Jesus, could face threatened exile and exult: “Should the Empress banish me, let her; the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. If she cast me into the sea, let her; I remember Jonah.—If she cast me into the fire, the three Hebrews were there. If she throw me to the wild beasts, Daniel was among the lions. If she stone me, I shall stand with Stephen. If she behead me, I am the Baptist. If she takes all—naked came I into the world, and naked leave it.”

I ask you once more, “Are you ‘born again?’” Remember that the blessings of the new birth are assured you in heaven’s highest mercy. Our text promises, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” That blessed “whosoever” includes you, for whom life may have little attraction, who may be suffering under racial prejudice, social injustice, religious discrimination. Here before the Lord Jesus Christ—all on the same level—are men of various colors, conditions, and countries, men of all creeds which proclaim Jesus as the only Savior. Before Christ there are no Protestants, Catholics, Lutherans, or Reformed, no denominations or divisions within denominations; but “whosoever,” wherever and whatever he may be, “believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”

And what marvel of mercy radiates from that word “believeth”! It implies the supreme glory of our Christian faith which enabled Saint Paul to exult, “By grace are ye saved, through faith,” and which gives us the assured conviction that while this whole world of striving men could never heap up enough wealth, perform sufficient penances, earn the merits required to pay for a single sin, Jesus by the shedding of His blood, His atoning death, has earned and paid all a holy God requires for the remission of our sin. We need only believe, only approach Christ, our compassionate Redeemer, with contrite, trusting hearts to have pardon, peace, and power.

Think of the blessings which could come to our world in these days of deep-rooted sorrow if millions who now reject Christ could be “born again” in Him and if those who confess His name would show their new birth! We could then be assured, for example, that the terror of war would be reduced. Men reborn in Jesus are reborn to peace with their God and, as far as in them lies, with their fellow-men. Wherever true missionaries of our Lord have planted His cross, they have checked bloodshed. If only the churches of Jesus Christ could proclaim His good news to men throughout the world, so that Christian faith would produce an increasing number who live, work, and pray for peace, blessed peace! Perhaps this war is to remind us as American Christians, with our advantages in men and money, that we have been remiss in our missionary duties. Who knows, had we really made sacrifices in the past and brought the Gospel with greater intensity to Japan, whether much of international misunderstanding could not have been removed, some of the cause and spirit of aggression retarded?

I come back, then, to this vital question, “Are you ‘born again’?” If you are and can testify that everything I have said is God’s holy truth, then show the world that you are “born of God”! With all your heart get behind the spread of the saving truth by which others may be reborn! Work for missions! But if you do not acclaim Christ your own Savior and must confess, “The black powers of darkness still control my life,” then let me ask you in the most vital question ever directed to you, “What keeps you from Jesus?” In stubborn pride do you insist you have no need of a Redeemer? The last person who told me that was a derelict in the shelter for homeless men here in Saint Louis, and he was in a drunken, slobbering stupor, as he struggled to his feet to say he had never done anything wrong.

Swinging to the other extreme, do you think you have been guilty of sins too terrifying to be forgiven; that you are so steeped in iniquity that you can never be cleansed? Hear David, after his adultery, pleading, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” only to receive the promise of pardon and purity! Recall skeptical, sword-bearing Saul, transformed into penitent, believing Paul; Augustine, the sensualist, remade into a saint!

Have you refused to accept Christ and His new birth because you cannot understand the unsearchable love and power of this grace? But you do accept the mystery of this physical life though neither you nor anyone else can explain it. Why, then, reject the divine processes which no physical instruments can measure and no laboratory analyze?

Have you postponed your desire to accept Christ, hoping, in common with many deluded people, for a more convenient time, a day which may never come? For the sake of your soul, now, today, while the Spirit urges you, give Christ His blessed way in your heart! Welcome Him as your own Savior! Receive Heaven’s own Redeemer, sent to the world for all men but particularly for you! Resolve today that with divine assistance you will take time for instruction in the Christian faith, to read the Scriptures, to be baptized for the washing away of your sins! Let me send you a true man of God, a pastor and spiritual guide who preaches the same messages I have broadcast to you for nine years! Give us your children for our Sunday-schools and Christian day-schools! Welcome Christ into your family circle! And as you accept Him, by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, you will be “born again,” “born of God,” born into everlasting life. O Father, may this day be the spiritual birthday, the beginning of a new, reborn existence for multitudes in this mission of the air! We ask it in Jesus’ name and by the restoring, re-energizing, renewing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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