Date: April 16, 1939
Prayer for Loyalty to Christ
O Thou Spirit of Truth, who together with the Father and the Son art alone our eternal God,
Bring into our hearts, we implore Thee, a radiant faith in the resurrection glory and keep the Easter-message, far too blessed to be restricted to a single day, perpetually alive in our trusting souls! Show us the power of the risen Christ, sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heavenly majesty as the Sovereign of the universe. But help us also to behold Him as our everlasting Advocate and Intercessor, pleading before the throne of eternal justice for our souls’ salvation! Keep us ever loyal to Christ, consecrated to Him who was never ashamed of us despite our rebellion against His truth and love! In a world that contradicts every promise of Gospel grace and an age that would still crucify the Lord of Life, we need Thine enlightening presence to defeat the repeated temptations which ask us to deny our Savior. Come to us, then, as Thou once didst fortify the faith of the fearsome disciples, and make us zealous to testify to every man of the hope that is in us! Particularly do we ask Thee in the days of this Easter cycle to knock again at hearts closed to Christ and with the gleam of the resurrection radiance open them to receive the blessings of faith. Approach those who have fallen along the roadside of life, either by their own sins or through the inhumanities of others and bring them to Jesus both for this world and the blessedness that is to come through faith in His blood-bought redemption! Hear us, O renewing Spirit, and bless our country, our churches, and our homes through Jesus Christ, our victoriously risen and eternal Savior! Amen.
Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. – Jude 24-25
EASTER has come and gone; but I pray God that the power of Christ’s resurrection will linger perpetually with you, constantly to help tear any unbelief from your hearts. May the Holy Spirit produce within you that complete change which the risen Savior wrought in the souls of His timid, sorrowing disciples! Torn by fear and crushing grief over Jesus’ death on the cross, the followers of Christ had no sooner beheld their victorious Lord than they were filled with faith and joy. We often overlook the remarkable power the Easter victory exerted even on those related to our Savior. Whether the four men mentioned by the evangelists as “the brethren of the Lord” were His half-brothers or even more distant relatives, what a meaningful message of Easter blessing is found in the fact that, while at least some “brethren” of the Savior refused to believe in Him even until the time of His later ministry, after the resurrection they all recognize Him as their death-destroying Lord and are found waiting, praying with the disciples and Mary, His mother.
One of these close relatives of Christ, from whose doubting heart the message of the open grave rolled the stone of unbelief, was Jude, author of one of the smallest, yet most impressive books of the New Testament. If you want to read in fewer than three minutes a detailed prediction of the religious conditions in our age, turn to the twenty-five verses of this epistle. At the beginning Jude, who never lost the imprint of the Easter triumph, signifies his intention to write concerning the “common salvation.” What an example for twentieth-century preachers, many of whom waste their hearers’ time and their own by a pulpit discussion of secular subjects that leave the sinmarked souls of men uncleansed! Then Jude addresses the members of the Church, asking them—not to unite the men for a bowling league or a dartball tournament; not to promote sociability through a fish fry or a church supper (secondary activities that sometimes assume undue importance) ; certainly not to raise money by card games or automobile lotteries—but earnestly to “contend for the faith,” zealously to fight for the truth of God. How much stronger our congregations would be today if their members were moved by such red-blooded, militant eagerness to defend Christ instead of squandering precious and irretrievable time in patching up petty differences resulting from overemphasis of social activity!
Then Jude deliberately warns his fellow-Christians against the enemies of the truth, in principle the same opponents of the Lord with whom we come into conflict today: “ungodly men,” he writes, “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Modernists of his day and ours, agreed as they are in dethroning Christ, the eternal God. “Filthy dreamers” he calls them; and we need think only of the perverted teachings by which psychoanalysis stresses morbid dreams. These enemies of the Cross in Jude’s day despised dominions and spoke evil of dignities, forerunners of the revolt against all human and divine authority that has disgraced our age. They utter “great swelling words,” Jude declares, since they are moved by the show of human authority. Does not this recall many a modern pulpit catering to the rich and respected?
Finally Jude comes to his constructive message. In all this opposition he asks that the followers of Christ keep themselves “in the love of God”; and after encouragement to this end he concludes his short letter with magnificent praise to Christ. Today as we approach the end of these regular Sunday afternoon messages, I have chosen as my last text for the present season this closing doxology of Jude’s book: “Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from failing and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever! Amen” (verses 24, 25), because I, too, want to give
ALL GLORY TO THE SUSTAINING, SAVING CHRIST
and as the summary and climax of all that I have told you, as the final purpose in every message I have ever spoken, exalt that “name which is above every name,” giving the praise of our hearts to Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, our crucified and risen Savior, our eternal and majestic King!
HE SUSTAINS US DURING THIS LIFE
If anyone asks us what practical advantages for this life we find through faith in Jesus Christ, we can answer pointedly in the promise of Jude: He “is able to keep you from falling.” Here is a fundamental pledge of Christianity: The Lord Jesus can sustain you when you stumble in the dark moments of life or stagger under the weight of its burdens.
Can you think of any assurance our age needs more insistently? The human supports to which we have looked for security have often given way. Make no mistake about this: Our generation may yet be called upon to suffer years of blood and agony such as this country has never known! I hope you will not be misled by the soothing predictions of better days to come, the pulpit promises of “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace in a war-minded world and the forces of hell itself seek to lure our civilization into the terrors of new bloodshed. Don’t minimize the punishment God’s justice imposes on any people that rebels against His supreme sovereignty and opposes His standards of right and truth! Where, since the establishment of Christ’s Church, has the world witnessed such a brazen uprising against the Almighty as in these years of our vaunted enlightenment? Never before have tens of millions turned from God to godlessness; never before have leaders, in a nation once Christian, murdered priests and ministers by the thousands; never before has atheism been able to muster such worldwide and organized strength. For this unparalleled apostasy our age must pay unparalleled punishment, unless, through the grace of God and sincere repentance, disaster be averted.
With this uprising against God comes the overthrow of all basic moral demands which the Almighty imposes on every nation. Turning away from Europe,—and how easy it is in smug self-righteousness to survey evil on the other side of the Atlantic!—let us discuss for a moment our national sins and the marked change that has come over the moral life of this generation. Do you suppose that twenty-five years ago the Post Office Department of the United States would permit lewd and lascivious pictures to be sent through the mails? Yet exactly this occurs today over the protest of Christian citizens and with the express permission of the Post Office Solicitor. Do you believe that twenty-five years ago the Federal Government would be asked to lend its legislative support for the spread of gambling and its many attendant evils? Yet a bill before Congress in veiled terms proposes to enlist Federal aid for a Nevada gambling syndicate. The past decades have had their full share of political corruption; but I challenge any one to cite a previous period of American history in which Government officials were guilty of the same gross bribery; in which corruption stalked through American courts as confidently and law enforcement collapsed as frequently. No nation, even though it have the size, wealth, and confidence of the United States, can escape God’s judgment for such national iniquity; and when we add to this sordid background the details of immorality flourishing before our eyes: filthy magazines in popular circulation; the radio featuring broken family relationships; motion-pictures helping to wean people from that which is good and honest; a more formidable rule of crime in all its forms than has ever disturbed the nation,—these are some of the destructive forces that may help cover the years before us with an avalanche of sorrows. We have no reason to believe, unless the mercy of God intervenes and this nation is shaken out of its delusion of security, that the destiny of the United States will be any different from the fate of every country forgetful of God and the demands of His moral standards.
Where, then, can we find power to sustain ourselves during the next war, which students of world affairs describe with such horrifying pictures that even we in the inland shudder before the specter of enemy airplanes quickly turning our cities into shambles or new poison gases wiping out entire communities almost literally in a single breath? Where, if the Almighty averts this terror, can we find support if ten more years of financial difficulty, unemployment, and suffering should be our lot? In statesmanship and diplomacy? I think not; for sometimes leaders seem more eager to provoke war than prevent it; and if the last ten years, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars, have brought no definite solution for some of our problems and we face the future with a staggering indebtedness, restricted world markets, increased complications, we should realize that statecraft even at its best may not be capable of solving all deeprooted difficulties, that no program, however high-minded, can succeed if accompanied by blatant godlessness in the lives of the people. Where can we discover a force to help us face the brunt of life’s storms? In culture and education? I discount that possibility, too; for the age with the most numerous and best-equipped schools witnesses the most widespread and costly international carnage history knows. Where can we establish security for an insecure hour? In old-age pensions, unemployment insurance? As commendable as these are, our difficulties may be so complicated and extended that they require more than the yield of social security; often our deepest sorrows cannot be touched by money. Is there no unfailing support for us, then, when every earthly prop gives way? Was that young man right who last week took his own life before he could be drafted to fight in another world war? Or—and this is the final appeal—can religion help us? Certainly not those firebrand, rabblerousing churchmen who preach race hatred and plot political programs! Assuredly not the modernist churches, where preachers and theological professors systematically discredit the Bible, offer the masses only vague and timeworn human theories barren of all substantial comfort. The one effective source of strength to keep us from stumbling and falling in a day when life’s course is continually beset by treacherous pitfalls, the only infallible sustaining power in the world,—inscribe this certainty in your heart with the indelible impress of faith!—is the love of Jesus Christ, of whom Jude promises: He “is able to keep you from falling.”
To understand this assurance, you must believe these two essential truths: First, Jesus is able to keep us from falling because He is, as the text testifies, our only God, whose wisdom and power can always sustain us, miraculously if need be; the Christ who on Easter proved His divine power can employ His omnipotence to support you in the smaller affairs of your life, when all human help fails. And secondly, Jesus as the almighty God not only can keep us from falling but in His mercy shows that He wants to sustain us. Remember how intensely Jesus loved you and me, estranged from God, unclean, unholy, ungrateful as we were; loved us with the complete devotion that did not shrink from bearing all humanity’s transgressions on the cross, suffering in His own sinless soul the punishment God Himself had demanded for the atonement of man’s wrong. That Savior whose blood was shed for us, whose life was given for our redemption, and whose resurrection completed the entire plan of salvation, the glorious and eternal deliverance which only the loving God and Savior could conceive and execute, the risen Redeemer, protects all souls entrusted to Him, so that through faith we are continually under divine care. His vigilant love, which neither slumbers nor sleeps, guards and guides us who are His, often mysteriously but always mercifully; sometimes over rough paths but at all times over the right paths; frequently through the valleys of the cross but unfailingly to the heights of the crown.
Here someone may demand: Is all this pulpit talk and sermon rhetoric? Are these promises merely examples of wishful Christian thinking? Or is Christ “able to keep” us “from failing”? And if He is, how does it happen that Christians suffer so much? Let me answer the last question first. Christ did not give His followers any promise of exemption from suffering. He never entertained legislative programs designed to make His disciples rulers of the world. He nowhere pictured His Church as politically powerful or enjoying a reign of golden glory on this earth. To the contrary, He clearly stated that until the last the cross would be indelibly stamped upon the believers, that those who were His followers in truth would be obliged to suffer even as He suffered. Yet with the clear warning that the kingdom of heaven was to be won only after much tribulation, He gave this glorious assurance that all adversities come upon God’s children for constructive purposes, to refine their faith, deepen their love, promote their trust in God alone. The faith in Christ which turns sorrows into blessings is so powerful that it never permits any of earth’s tribulations to fell us. Trusting Jesus, we know that He is always at our side to understand our sorrows, for He was afflicted more than we are. He directs our pathway, for His divine knowledge sees far beyond the close horizon of our understanding; and He sustains us when we are falling, since He is mightier than any adversary, and His “strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Now that other question: Is all this simply a disguised anesthetic to drug aching hearts into a few painless hours? Or can Christ keep us from plunging into despair over the agony of our afflictions? Human experience knows nothing more definite than Jude’s promise: He “is able to keep you from falling.” We can prove this by examples, not only from distant ages and remote lands but also from verifiable instances in present-day life. A few weeks ago a friend was obliged to undergo a serious operation on one of his eyes. Because of surgical requirements it was not possible for him to take ether, but with his full senses he had to suffer the terrifying procedure—we shudder to think of it—by which a needlelike instrument pierced his eyeball. The first part of the operation was successful, but through later complications the good results were undone, and the surgery had to be repeated. Yet this sufferer in Christ knew that Jesus was able to keep him from falling, and he has endured affliction, not stoically or desperately but with the assurance that whatever happens, he will not be moved, since Christ is with him and His good and gracious will, always the best, must be done.
Again, if you are beset by some overreaching sin that threatens to dominate your life and ruin your happiness, knowing the love of Christ, you can take courage in the promise that He “is able to keep you from falling.” Some time ago a young couple from Northern Illinois wrote me concerning a serious problem in their home-life. A baby was expected in their family; yet because of unemployment and financial difficulties this knowledge that should bring almost unbounded happiness was regarded only with dread and regret; and vaguely thoughts of deeper sin presented themselves. These heavy mists vanished, however, as soon as Christ took the dominant part in their lives. They were kept from falling into terrible sin; and the letter written after the baby’s birth breathes happiness in Christ.
Human hearts tom by restlessness and discontent can likewise testify to the support the Savior offers. Some time ago a young woman in Pennsylvania wrote that she was misunderstood in her own home, was vaguely dissatisfied with life, envious of other young women; and she confessed that never in her life had she crossed the threshold of a church. But the Savior whom she had ignored came into her soul, and on Palm Sunday, after instruction in the truths of the Christian faith, she publicly pledged herself to Jesus. With joy she now writes: “At last I have become a Christian. . . . I am determined to spend the rest of my life following Jesus’ road to glory.” She knows that with the Savior she cannot fall back into a dark, selfish mode of life.
If some of you think: “My sorrows are deeper than anything yet mentioned. I am shattered by the pain of parting and the sorrow of bereavement. Even Jesus cannot help me there,” let me assure you that the risen Christ can keep you from surrendering to despair. It has always seemed to me that the most tragic of all bereavements are losses such as that sustained by Margaret Barrie, sister of the novelist Sir James. Three weeks before the day set for their wedding her intended husband, a young clergyman, was thrown from a horse and killed. Here, according to all human standards, was one of the shocking cases that can make people fall from faith and charge God with cruelty. But Margaret Barrie loved Jesus; she had her distinguished brother write these words to the parish bereaved of its pastor: My sister “is not afraid. . . . God, who gave His Son for the redemption of the world, has told her that He had need of this disciple’s life. . . . So God chose His own way and took her Jim, her dear young minister. And she says: ‘God’s will be done,’ and she thanks Him for taking away so suddenly only one who was ready to face his Maker without a moment’s notice. And she says that you are not to grieve for her overmuch, for she is in God’s keeping.”
My fellow-redeemed, do you have the conviction that Christ “is able to keep you from falling” even when sudden death confronts you? If you have, then follow Jude in singing “glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever,” to the sustaining Christ. Yes, give glory to Jesus “now,” you, His own, who know that, far from exaggerating, I have simply testified to the blessed truth. In one of the families that helped organize our Church in Wisconsin many years ago a son had to undergo a second operation for cancer of the mouth. Before that ordeal the three-year-old boy, who knew from experience how painful the surgery would be, asked his father: “Will the doctors believe in Christ if He gives me power to lie quietly?” During the protracted suffering—this was before the application of anesthesia,—as the father encouraged his child with repeated prayers, the only word the son uttered between various stages of the operation was “Jesus!” What a blessed example of glorifying the Savior even in suffering this child gives all of us! Hundreds of thousands of Christians have suffered nothing in comparison with this; yet their lips are unsealed to sing the glory of God only in church or on rare occasions within smaller circles. This age cries for Christian testimony, for men and women, young and old, whose lives, words, and loyalty to Jesus offer a perpetual anthem of praise to His holy name. Give us followers of Christ who know that for every hard, uphill pathway, for every treacherous moment of temptation and doubt, Christ will sustain them; who, as they feel the strength of Jesus uplifting them, exult: “Underneath are the everlasting arms”; whose hearts sing confidently:
Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee,
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly failing, hath stayed thee;
and this Christ-exalting faith will fortify the Church with the heavenly power that promises: He “is able to keep you from falling.”
What shall I say to those among you for whom Christ’s help is an unknown blessing, who have never received from the risen Savior the pledge of His eternal companionship? What else can I say if not first of all to warn you in the sacred earnestness of this hour that without Jesus you must fall and, cast down, you will be unable to find any answer to the sorrows of life except the wrath of a righteous God. What more can I do than in the name of Christ, once despised and rejected in the agony of the cross but now eternally triumphant in the majesty of His resurrection, plead that as Jude, who first doubted Christ’s promises but then believed because of the Easter miracle, so you will not let this sacred season pass without acclaiming Christ your Lord and Savior? Once more I remind you that several thousand pastors associated with me throughout the country who preach the same Gospel, the same promise, the same hope in Christ, will thank God on their knees for the opportunity of helping you. Will you not let me have one of them come to your home with the love of Jesus and the promise that He “is able to keep you from falling”? There is always a last time when the offer of Christ’s salvation is brought to a sinner. This may be your last time. Will you pass it by? God forbid!
HE SAVES US FOR THE NEXT LIFE
However, all that the sustaining love of Christ does for us during this life can hardly be compared with His ultimate purpose in bringing those who are His home to His Father’s heaven. If we cannot sufficiently thank our Savior for His preserving love here on earth, shall we ever be able worthily to praise and glorify His mercy for the indescribable bliss of our resurrection and life everlasting?
It is the second promise of our text that Jesus is able “to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” I like to take each of these expressions literally and find in them the highest hope of happiness that God Himself can offer. We are to be presented, Jude tells us; and how wonderful to know that in heaven we are not vague, undefined spirits, but that our identity is preserved; that we shall recognize each other in the hereafter, even as the risen Christ was recognized by His disciples! How blessed to have the conviction that the salvation of the world is not merely a mass project in which, because of the millions involved, the individual loses all meaning and importance, but that our redemption is an individual blessing; that Christ died and rose again for every one of us personally. Since His Word exults: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine,” we know that on the glorious day of presentation our names, written in the Book of Life because of our faith, will be read and everyone who has died in the Lord will be brought before God the Father, Son, and Spirit as a soul cleansed and saved forever by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. How many who hear this message in our far-flung mission of the air will thus be presented to Christ? It will never be my happiness here on earth to meet more than a small percentage of those who have joined in our weekly worship; but eternity is endless, and it is my prayer, as I hope it is yours, too, that we may all, the hundreds of thousands who have written us and the many millions more who have not, be presented to God as the redeemed of Christ, kept by grace: that in the heavenly homeland you and I, whose earthly pathways may never cross, will meet in heavenly recognition.
We shall be presented “faultless,” the text assures us; and the use of this term throughout the Scriptures recalls almost unspeakable blessings. “Faultless,” without any sin to destroy our perfect holiness; “faultless,” with no power to shatter our peace or provoke even one regret; “faultless,” as the Savior’s Easter promise reminds us, in our resurrected bodies, with all blemishes and imperfections, all weaknesses and pains, removed forever,—the “faultless” redeemed in a “faultless” heaven! Can you not see, my friends, how Sunday after Sunday we have but one purpose: not to build any earthly shrine, not to organize political parties, not to preach class hatred, but by the Spirit’s help to have you stand “faultless” before the throne of eternity?
In that complete holiness we are to be presented, our text continues, “before the presence of His glory.” This is the climax even of heaven itself. I stand before the presence of that blessed Savior, to see Him face to face whom angels and archangels continually adore; to bow before Him, the eternal Sovereign of the universe, reflecting on His endless mercy for us; to hear Him speak words of celestial truth and power,—human phrases echo emptily and mortal senses cannot comprehend the most sacred of all eternal privileges,—this standing before the throne of Christ in the rapture of eternity!
We can understand, then, that Jude envisions “exceeding joy” in that heavenly radiance, joy so surpassing that a lifetime crowded with increasing sorrow will be forgotten; joy so complete that no room can remain even for a passing flash of sorrow; joy so divine that, if we could measure it, we would eagerly offer all that we have for only a few moments of its blessing.
Forget, if you must, any assurance of earthly wisdom but remember this truth until your last breath and let no threat of man or treachery of hell tear this promise from the treasury of your soul! Here it is, the Gospel that gladdens angels: Jesus Christ, your God and your Savior, lived, died, and rose again to give you, your sins washed away by His cleansing blood, this life eternal, this faultless presentation before His throne in exceeding joy. Merciful Savior that He is, He offers you and all who believe, no matter how poor and lowly, how despised and forsaken, how sinful and rejected, these everlasting glories, if you simply have trusting faith in the mercy of His death at Calvary and in the power of His resurrection at the open grave.
God give us all the grace, standing in the shadow of the cross and the radiance of the broken tomb, to dedicate our hearts and souls to Christ! To this end take your Bibles now, open them to these closing verses of Jude, and with a fervor of faith that this moment causes rejoicing in heaven join me in this transcontinental, international acclaim of the loving Christ: “Now, unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever! Amen.” Lord Jesus, hear us! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.