-------- Original message -------- From: Lutheran Hour Ministries <email@example.com> Date: 08/24/2013 9:16 PM (GMT-06:00) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: The Lutheran Hour: August 25, 2013
Sermon Text for August 25, 2013
"Are You Sure?" #80-51 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 25, 2013 By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour (Where Is The Evidence of God's Miracles?) Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Luke 13:22-24
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! The world wasn't prepared for the day Jesus came out of His grave. Today, by God's grace, may all who hear this message find themselves ready to acknowledge God's Son as their Savior and Lord. God grant this salvation story be ours. Amen.
Are you sure? That's a good question and a fine way to begin this message. Are you sure? I only ask it because, in my own life, I have been sure of many things... many things which later were proven to be wrong. "What kind of things?" you ask. Well, I was sure that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made object which could be seen from outer space with the naked eye. Now the experts tell me I was wrong. They further enlighten me by explaining, "The wall is made up from material quarried locally. That means the Great Wall blends in with its surroundings. Second they tell me that while the wall is long it is not overly wide and can't be seen from space." I was sure, but I was wrong.
There are other times when I was absolutely sure of something and have been mistaken. For example, I was always sure that dinosaurs were cold-blooded beasties. Now I'm told that some of those ancient creatures probably had warm-blood coursing through their veins. Similarly I was always sure that, in the winter, people lost most of their body heat through their heads. Now I've been informed that this is only because our heads are often the only part of our bodies which are not bundled up under layers of clothing.
Other times I've been misinformed? Well, I was sure there was no water on Mars. I was sure that egg yolks were bad for you. I was sure that fluoride was great for both you and your teeth. I was sure that Halley's Comet was going to be spectacular when it passed by the earth in 1986. I was sure that the Cadillac would always be the kind of car which would be driven only by successful bankers and morticians. Looking back at my life I am compelled to confess there are, quite literally, hundreds of things of which I was sure but now have been proven to be absolutely wrong. Who knows, if I live long enough, I may find that some of those things might have been right in the first place.
Are you sure? Truth be told, in the scheme of life, most of those things I've mentioned are unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential. Since I am not likely to go into space, it doesn't make any difference if the Great Wall of China can be seen with the naked eye. Since I am not likely to run into a Tyrannosaurus Rex who is in need of a transfusion, it doesn't make any difference if that giant reptile was cold- or warm-blooded. And when it comes to Halley's Comet... well, I'm not planning on waiting around until that celestial traveler shows up again in 2061.
Still, there is one area where it does make a difference what you believe and it is incredibly important that you be right and sure in that belief. That special area, maybe I should more accurately say, that special Person is Jesus. In the sixteenth chapter of Acts (v. 31) we are told that if we want to be saved, we should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Those simple words are true and easy to understand. And, as far as heaven is concerned, those words need no amplification. Still, even though Jesus Christ does stay the same, people's opinions of Him and His mission are constantly undergoing revision. You need not be a Bible scholar to realize that in our present age, those straightforward words probably need to be explained and clarified. For that reason I believe it is entirely proper to ask: who is this Jesus and what should we believe about Him?
I say that because, in recent years I've had many people come up to me and say, "Oh, how I wish my pastor were more like Jesus." And although I seldom say it out loud, I always think, 'Are you sure?' I think that, because, as near as I can figure out, by today's standards and according to some experts' opinion, Jesus would not have been an overly successful parish preacher. You see, when people talk about their church and their pastor; when the experts explain what works and what doesn't, they usually have a series of attributes and characteristics which weren't part and parcel of Jesus or His ministry.
For example, today there is a belief which says Jesus was always accepting and always flexible and non-judgmental when He dealt with people. The experts assure us that Jesus would have no problem with any pastor or parish which is dedicated to finding the needs of its constituency and then doing that which provides the answers to those needs. That perspective of Jesus has allowed pastors to conclude, "If talking about things like sin and hell, repentance and blood-bought redemption is distasteful, then I will banish those terms from my message. If that cross put on the outside of my building by a previous generation is offensive, then I'll take it down. If people prefer to hear how God is more concerned about their earthly solvency than He is about their eternal spirituality, well, that is what I will preach on a Sunday morning."
"If my audience wants to be entertained, I will give them a circus; if they want worship with high production values, then I'll hire Hollywood. If they want music which features a great beat in the place of a hymn with solid theological content, that is a small sacrifice to bring about a growing, satisfied congregation." That's what they think, but I think Jesus would disagree. Understand, Jesus did care about people, but the Bible tells us that when economic theories, financial strategies, and social speculations replace Christ crucified and risen, something is wrong. Anytime Christ is represented as being content with every manner of compromise and concession and doctrine is tarnished by indifference and indecision, by doubt and denial, Jesus has a problem and we should too. When Jesus' humanity is emphasized and His divinity is diminished, there is a problem.
Yes, there is a problem when such aberrations and deviations permeate a congregation's worship and education, fellowship and service. There is a problem when the church thinks of itself as an enormous theological smorgasbord where people can browse the philosophical buffet and pick those doctrines which are most tolerable to their particular tastes and personal pallets.
No, as near as I can tell, Jesus would not approve of or have done well at such a parish. I say that because, when it came to His church, Jesus was more interested in quality rather than quantity. As evidence, I share the day when a fellow came to the Savior and asked, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" It was a good question and Jesus answered it by saying: "Strive to enter (heaven) through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." And if you are wondering what is the narrow door to heaven, the book of Romans (5:8) tells us this: "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." The narrow door to heaven is that which has been opened by the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary's cross. There our sins were wiped away; there Jesus finished His work of taking our place under the law and with His resurrection from the dead, those who believe are saved from their sins. This Jesus has done, and ever since that day He has been looking for those who are ready to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Of course there are those who would reply, "That may have been what was preached centuries ago, but it no longer works today. Nobody wants to hear such things. If we are going to succeed, if we are to fill up stadiums and build mega-churches, we need to have a new message, a new way of reaching out to people. If the church is to grow, we need to make the message pleasing, appealing, and engaging." That's the common belief, but it is not a belief taught by Jesus. No, the Savior said, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one can come unto the Father except through me." He did not say there are a number of ways, a bunch of truths, a Christmas string of lights that can give salvation. Jesus and Jesus alone is the door to heaven.
But don't take my word for it, listen instead to St. Paul who wrote a letter to the church in Galatia. To those folks who were beginning to think Jesus wasn't the only door into heaven he wrote: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ....(Which is why I say) even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed...."( excerpts: Gal 1:6-9 ESV) The Apostle was of the opinion that you can change the music, the style, the facility and time of the message, but the message must remain constant. We can enter heaven only through the narrow door; we can be saved only through faith in the Savior who gave His perfect life so sinners might be forgiven and saved.
Which leads me to ask again, "Are you sure? Are you sure you want to be part of a religion which says you can be saved only through faith in Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose to save you?" Please, think carefully about your answer. As Jesus' life shows us, doing what God wants is not a particularly safe or comfortable thing to do. Consider: when Jesus was born, His country's monarch tried to murder Him and in adulthood His hometown tried to stone Him. Of course there was that town in Samaria which rejected Him and the Pharisees who tried to trick Him into the capital offense of blasphemy. Rulers found it politically expedient to wash their hands of Him; His church believed Him to be a humiliating and dangerous embarrassment and He was eventually railroaded to the cross by a consortium of powerful people who thought His demise would be advantageous for the nation.
If that's what they did to Jesus, God's perfect Son, think what the world will do to His less-than-perfect followers. Goodness, you don't have to think about it, Jesus tells you how the world will react to His disciples. He said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.... If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you... all these things they will do to you on account of my name..." (Excerpts John 15:18-21 ESV)
Does that sound daunting, intimidating, frightening? Good. I think it's meant to sound that way. You know as I read the Gospels, it seems that Jesus is always trying to say and do that which will make people think twice about following Him. He is always asking potential disciples, "Are you sure?" There was the time when a man asked Jesus' permission to bury his father before he became a card-carrying disciple. Jesus told the fellow: "Let the dead bury their dead." When a rich man came to the Christ and asked how he might be saved, Jesus told Him to give away everything he had. That's everything he had. To the great crowds which followed Him, Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:25-27 (ESV)
You see what I mean? Jesus doesn't make it easy for anybody to be His disciple. That's not because He doesn't want them to be His followers. His entire life was dedicated to saving the world's lost and sinful souls. Jesus gives all these warnings, puts up all these barriers because He wants people to know that being a Christian isn't an easy thing. He wants them to be sure. He wants them to understand that when you become His follower, you will become a special target for the world's hatred and Satan's temptations. On that day He doesn't want you to get all woe-is-me and say, "Nobody ever told me it would be this way." Jesus wants you to know being His disciple is going to cost you, and it may end up costing you big time. He wants you to be sure.
So, you see, the Savior is offering you good practical, truthful advice. It is truthful because almost every one of the disciples who continued to follow Jesus found their loyalty cost them their lives. Over the centuries those who have been faithful to the Lord Jesus have discovered that, for some reason, their devotion to Jesus drives the world bonkers. Even in our supposedly enlightened age, in nations around the world, there are Christians who are being attacked, kidnapped, raped, and murdered for no other reason than because Jesus Christ is their Savior. In our own country it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Lord's followers as court and college classroom, movies, and media seem to have made an alliance which says they will repeatedly shout out all the past and present sins of the church and its people, but when it comes to the successes of the church, those will be whispered or ignored. They will accuse Christians of being narrow-minded in their thinking and beliefs and hope that nobody notices that they are open-minded to everyone except to Jesus' followers. Yes, it will cost you to follow the Christ.
Which is why I ask, "Are you sure? Are you ready to follow the Redeemer?" Are you ready to hear the summons of the Holy Spirit who is calling you out of darkness into the light provided by the Savior? Are you ready? Are you ready to leave the wide path of the world and let the Lord direct your spiritual feet on the narrow path which leads to heaven? With all my heart I pray your answer is an unqualified, "Yes." I pray that every fiber of your being responds in powerful and positive gratitude to the Savior whose commitment to you was unflagging, unfaltering, and untiring.
Are you ready? How could anyone not be ready to follow Jesus who lived for them? I pray that, by God's grace, you will put aside anything and everything which makes you unsure and uncertain, undecided and hesitant. May you truly see all that the sinless Son of God has done so you may enter heaven through that narrow door. In Holy Scripture may you see how Jesus, true Man and true God, entered this world for the singular purpose of saving you. Read the Gospels and see Him as He reached out in love and touched the leper who had been banished from his home, his community, and his friends. Listen to Him as He, in the face of a blood-thirsty crowd, interceded for a sinner and then, having disarmed her accusers, urged her to a new and better life. See Him as He restored earthly sight to a blind man and then gave that same man spiritual insight into the love of God.
Are you ready? How could anyone not be ready to follow Jesus who suffered and died for them? Watch with pity as your sins and my sins were placed on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was God's all-powerful Son, but the weight of those sins crushed Him into the dirt. Stand in awe as He allowed Himself to be arrested and taken away for a trial which would lead to His demise. Watch as He refused to defend Himself as lies were told about Him; declined to ward off the blows which were directed at Him; and suffered the whip's lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery of His enemies, and the nails of the cross upon which He died.
Are you ready? How could anyone not be ready to follow Jesus who rose for us? Look into His empty tomb and know that because Jesus lives you will live also. Stand with Thomas and touch the wounds of your living Lord and know death's stranglehold on you has been broken. Look upon Jesus and like Saint Paul rejoice because, in Jesus, "Nothing in all creation can ever again separate us from the love of God."
Are you ready? My father was a blacksmith and he often used the blacksmith's expression, "Strike while the iron is hot." He knew that red-hot metal responded better to his touch than metal which was cold. It is the same way with souls. Which is why, if the Holy Spirit has made you ready for Jesus but you don't know what to do next, I extend this offer: please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. We will be glad to help. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 25, 2013 Topic: Where Is The Evidence of God's Miracles?
ANNOUNCER: Where is all the evidence of God's miracles? Pastor Ken Klaus responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: Hi, Mark. And hello to our listeners.
ANNOUNCER: So, where is the evidence for all the miracles we read about in the Bible?
KLAUS: Mark, do you know what it means for something to be "hiding in plain sight?"
ANNOUNCER: Yes, I've heard that expression.
KLAUS: Keep that thought in mind as we discuss this.
KLAUS: Alright, where is the evidence of God's miracles? Let me ask you: when were all the dinosaurs wiped out?
ANNOUNCER: I think the answer might depend on one's presuppositions.
KLAUS: Yeah, the way you see the world.
ANNOUNCER: Right. For example, an evolutionist would say dinosaurs became extinct millions and millions of years ago and creationists would say dinosaurs lived not so many thousands of years ago.
KLAUS: I'm smiling because the evolutionists are wrong. And I'm also smiling because the creationists are not exactly right.
ANNOUNCER: Okay. So what is the answer?
KLAUS: The answer is the dinosaurs were never wiped out. They're still around. And I'm not talking about cryptozoology or Ogo Pogo from Canada. I'm talking about crocodiles. They are reptiles, like museum-type dinosaurs. They were alive during the time of the museum-type dinosaurs. The only reason we don't call crocodiles "dinosaurs" is because they aren't extinct. In a sense, dinosaurs are hiding in plain sight.
ANNOUNCER: That's all very interesting, but what do dinosaurs have to do with evidence of ancient miracles?
KLAUS: Everything. Our questioner is of the opinion that there is not a single shred of evidence to be found concerning God's miraculous workings. I'm pleased to tell you he is wrong.
ANNOUNCER: And are you now going to provide evidence of ancient miracles?
KLAUS: Yes, that is what I am going to do. I am going to give evidence of ancient miracles. Real, bona fide miracles. Now, I could go the easy way.
ANNOUNCER: Okay, what would that be?
KLAUS: Well, we have ancient documents that talk about the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Mark, you've been with me when we went to Israel.
KLAUS: What did you think of those ancient cities?
ANNOUNCER: Well, we never saw them.
KLAUS: Oh? Were we too busy? Or did our guide just not get to them? Did he forget where they were? Was there some kind of political unrest which prohibited us from seeing them?
ANNOUNCER: No, we didn't see them because they no longer exist. They're gone. They're not where they used to be.
KLAUS: Ah! Evidence of a miracle. Cities that should be there, aren't there-- because they were wiped out by one of God's miracles.
ANNOUNCER: All right. Any others?
KLAUS: Mark, does science ever talk about a global catastrophe that wiped out much of life?
ANNOUNCER: They talk about a giant meteor striking the Earth, forming the Gulf of Mexico and causing extinction on a massive scale.
KLAUS: Bingo - another miracle. We've got the story of that one in the Bible, too. We call it Noah and the flood. I could keep on going. I could talk about the rainbow. That's a leftover from one of God's miracles.
ANNOUNCER: But, I think our listener would say this kind of stuff doesn't count.
KLAUS: Yeah, I'm almost positive he would say that. But he would also have to say then that crocodiles aren't dinosaurs. But they are. We don't call them dinosaurs because they're still alive and the museum-type dinosaurs are dead.
ANNOUNCER: Okay. Any other miracle remnants?
KLAUS: Yeah, the best one of all. Where is Jesus' body?
ANNOUNCER: You really can't use that one. You can't say that just because we haven't found a grave with Jesus' bones in it that this proves Jesus rose from the dead.
KLAUS: Well, that's true. And if a missing body was all we had as an argument, I wouldn't push the point. But something happened in Jerusalem after Jesus rose from the dead. There was a force unleashed during that time that swept through the known world. That force turned cowardly, uneducated fishermen into brave-hearted evangelists. That force took on Rome, the most powerful military force the world had ever seen. The resurrection was opposed by Rome, but ended up converting Rome. When Jesus rose from the dead, nobody believed it was going to happen. Within a hundred years there were a million Christians in the world. Do you want to see evidence of a miracle? Look at the churches, the believers, the message of forgiveness and new life that has prevailed to this day. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and that event has changed the world. And that, my friend, is evidence of a miracle hiding in plain sight.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
Click Here to END subscription to St. John's Group Email.
The mission of St. John's Lutheran Church is to preach the Word of God in its purity and to teach this Word to all people. We do so through the means God has given us, the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
What We Believe
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.
We accept the Confessions because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.