The Lutheran Hour: January 25, 2015

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Sermon Text for January 25, 2015 

"Just the Facts" #82-21

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 25, 2015
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Isaiah 5:20-21

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! In a world of unsure opinion and unproven facts, I give thanks for a Savior whose love, life, and salvation are real. God grant that others may also be given a saving faith that is based on fact. Amen.

In 1951, during the golden age of television, Jack Webb brought a show over from radio entitled Dragnet. At the beginning of every show the announcer would come on and say, "The story you are about to see is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent." Those who remember the program can recall how Webb's character, Sergeant Joe Friday, walked without swinging his arms and spoke in a monotone voice. Investigating a crime he would question witnesses, victims, and perpetrators as he searched for, 'Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."

Dragnet did well in the ratings throughout its run during the 1950s. In 1967, the program was revived, and although ratings were all right, the public didn't seem quite as interested in getting 'the facts, just the facts.' Although I can't be sure, it is my belief that the revival didn't do well because, during those intervening years, America had become a bit more skeptical, sophisticated, cynical, and, dare I say it, significantly more suspicious of being able to find "the facts." It is a trend which has continued, uninterrupted, to this day.

In January I was at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin. Sitting at the student snack bar with about a dozen students I saw them respond to a car-insurance company which promised they could save you 20% on your bill. One of the math students calculated that if we took all the 20% savings promised by all the companies, pretty soon they would be paying us. They laughed when a beer commercial said their suds could make you one of the most interesting men in the world. One student observed, "The only thing that beer ever made me was burpy." They noted that if every car company compared its vehicle to Mercedes Benz, maybe Benz was the car to buy. No commercial escaped their wrath, their doubting dissection. They had come to know it's hard to get the facts, just the facts.

It saddened me to realize that most of these young men and women thought it was almost impossible to discover the facts, just the facts. I suppose they're pretty much like the rest of us. We don't trust. Do we trust our politicians to tell us the whole truth or do we think they give us bits of the truth, or partial truths, or truth with a spin on it? Let me ask you: whom do you trust? Whom do you trust absolutely, totally, implicitly, without reservation or hesitation? Historically the fast talking purveyor of side-show snake-oil, carnival barkers, and used-car salesmen have been distrusted. But, today, more and more police find themselves having to justify their actions before doubting community members. Growing numbers of individuals have come to believe college professors, once accepted as the ultimate purveyors of wisdom and truth, are now promoting their own agendas. The clergy, who once securely spoke of the justification which comes through the Savior's blood, are shocked to find repeated sexual scandals and do-it-yourself doctrines have them justifying themselves in front of their people.

It is little wonder that the average Joe and Jane are despairing of ever finding anything which looks like truth. Eloquently, the Prophet Isaiah described our age when he said, there would be those "who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter... who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!"

Indeed, if Dragnet's Sergeant Joe Friday were to go out and investigate a crime today, he wouldn't say: "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." No, he would be forced to amend his simple request so it would sound something like: "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts as they have been filtered by your own individual perspective and reinterpreted to fit your flawed and very limited understanding of what you believe to be the truth."

Am I exaggerating? Not at all. How many times haven't you heard someone babble: "There is no absolute truth and there is no absolute right or wrong. The most important thing in life is for people with different truths to never judge each other and always do their best to get along." That's the philosophy which motivates so many of our schools in which the instructors will adamantly maintain: "Our job is to teach the student how to think, not what to think." Well, that sounds good on paper, but it's not so good when you realize those teachers are saying "Right attitude is more important than right answers. Indeed, there are no right or wrong answers and truth will be found in each individual's mind." What balderdash and poppycock!

In life there is such a thing as truth. Real, absolute truth. I don't want to go into an operating room when my truth says the surgeon is going to take out my inflamed appendix and his truth is to give me a frontal lobotomy. I insist on my truth which says the dentist should fix the cavity in my molar; not his truth which says it's easier to drill a tooth closer to the front of my mouth. I want my car's mechanic to stop my car's engine from knocking, not rotate the tires. I want the person who delivers the mail to take my letter to the right address, the address I put on the envelope; not dump it in the mailbox he finds most convenient.

And to all who maintain: "What we really need to do is relax, be open-minded, and get along with each other; 'I say, "hogwash and hornswoggle."' Think about it and then tell me how pretending to agree when you don't is going to work. Tell me, how are you going to bring about peace between the cattle rancher and the environmentalist who wants to reintroduce wolves near the man's cattle? How are you going to find harmony for the Palestinian who wants to return to his family home which is currently occupied by a Jewish family? How will you find a place of peace for ISIS and Christianity, goodness, for ISIS and anybody?

Let's get along, let's all be open-minded and live in peace. That's today's most prevalent and most accepted philosophy. That being the case, I wonder, how will you make peace between someone who has been waiting in line for two days to buy concert tickets... and the fellow who cuts into the line in front of him? How can you make peace between two people who are racing to get the same parking space at the mall right before Christmas? How can you make peace between a person who believes all life is sacred and the abortionist who holds a fetus is fully disposable? I could go on, and you could too. On his best day Sergeant Joe Friday would be unable to get the real facts from folks who have such different facts; such different and contradictory truths.

So what are we to do? As I say, there are only two ways to proceed. The first path, the one we have been discussing, is the path of politically correct, non-judgmental acceptance. The pseudo-sophisticates of this world like that philosophy. The semi-smart intellectuals prefer that concept. They go so far as to suggest that the Bible, the Koran, and the many other documents of the world's major faiths are just different ways of approaching the same god who has revealed himself in many different ways and by many different names. But they never explain how the Savior who told His followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors can be the same deity as that of Islam who has said, "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." [Quran (8:12)]

Who can pretend that Christianity, which maintains we are saved by God's Son who carried our sins, resisted evil's temptation, and conquered death in His glorious resurrection, is the same doctrine as that of Islam which demands a person follow the five pillars of faith if he is to merit salvation? To try and enforce such an attitude is to force members of both faiths to live a lie. It is something they will not, they cannot do. Almost every religion knows that if it is right, the others must be wrong. And every person knows if his religion is not right, there is no reason to hold onto it.

But I did say there was another way to proceed, another path which can be walked. That path is a simple one: discover who has the truth. Christians hold that God has given us truths to govern life and salvation. These truths are not of human invention and they are not changed by our opinion or preference. God's truth, as revealed in Holy Scripture, remains true whether anybody believes in it or not; it remains true whether anyone agrees with it or not or whether anyone likes it or not. The Triune God has given us His truth and His universe and eternity are built upon it.

And if someone were to ask, "Tell me about your truth," we would say, Truth is a Person: it is Jesus, the Son of God. He is not our truth; He is the One and Only Truth; the only Way to the Father, to forgiveness and salvation. When our Savior was with us, He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He did not say that He was One of many truths; He did not say He had come to share the truth or be an Example of the truth. He is Truth incarnate.

What I am saying is this: in the Trinity we have a real God, who sent a real Redeemer into a real world to really die so we might really be forgiven and really be released from damnation and condemnation. Are you paying attention? If so, my friends, you realize, if Christianity is right in saying these things, then the other religions of the world are wrong. Period. End of discussion. And this, my friends, is that point where those of you who are fuming; those who are seeing red; those who wish to defend open-minded acceptance ought to be ready to rise up and shout, "But how do you know your religion is right? Give us the facts, just the facts."

That's fair. Let me see, where to start? If I said, "Christianity has the Holy Bible in which the Lord reveals Himself and His plan to rescue sinful humanity"; you would say, "Many of the world's religions have a similar book which makes similar claims. Preacher, just saying, 'I have a book' is not going to do the job."

Well, I could tell you that we have more than 100 prophecies made over many hundreds of years which point to Jesus as the Messiah. These prophecies were all fulfilled as Jesus lived His perfect life to rescue us from our sins. How about those prophecies, do those help?

Now if you are being smart, you will realize that no other religion has such a list of promises about the Savior. Nobody predicted Buddha would come or Mohammed. But Jesus and His work was fully outlined before He was ever born. No, you won't attack the prophecies. But you can say, "If I don't regard your Bible as being special, why should I think the prophecies it contains are special? No, Pastor, you're going to have to do better if we're going to believe you have the truth."

Fair enough. How about the fact that Jesus was crucified and, on the third day He rose from the dead? You have to admit that somebody rising from the dead is not something you see every day. Now, if you are being open-minded, you will concede anybody who conquers death has done something pretty spectacular... something only the Lord could do. Yes, you would have to admit that but first you would like more of the facts, just the facts. You would ask, "How do I know Jesus actually rose from the dead?" You'll want to know what kind of proof do I have of Jesus' physical resurrection.

Well, let's see. After Jesus was crucified He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the ten disciples, the eleven disciples, to James, to 500 at one time, to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, and when He ascended. People saw Him, touched Him, listened to Him, ate with Him, felt His breath upon them. How is that? Pretty good, don't you think? I see you look unimpressed. What's the problem?

And this is where you reply, "Preacher, you have just given me a list of Jesus' friends. Maybe they saw Jesus, maybe they didn't. If this were a courtroom, I would say you had produced "friendly witnesses."

And I suppose you would be right in pushing on that area. Of course, I maintain: if these folks were making up everything about Jesus being alive, I think they must have believed those lies. Remember, in different places, without an audience or support, most of the disciples died in defense of the risen Redeemer. They chose to die in terrible ways rather than confessing they had lied and Jesus was still lying in a borrowed Jerusalem grave.

But that's not what you're asking is it? What you are looking for, the proof you want from me is: "Do I have any of Jesus' enemies admitting He had risen." Is that what you're asking?"

And, after a pause, you would say, "That would be a substantial help. But you don't have any of Jesus' enemies admitting that, do you?" And I don't. Not really. Not in so many words.

But if you're looking for the facts, just the facts, there are a few things I would like to mention... things that we Christians don't talk about very much. Are you ready? Okay... here we go. There is little doubt that a Man named Jesus lived in Palestine during the first century. Most scholars, even most detractors, will concede He was crucified by the Romans. That information you can get from Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived shortly after the Savior left the earth. All right, we know Jesus was dead. What's that? How do we know Jesus was dead? Because it says when the Romans speared Him, blood and water came out. That only happens when someone is dead. But back to what I was saying. My question is this. If Jesus didn't rise, why didn't the authorities roll out His body, show it to the people and let them see Jesus was still dead. That would have ended Christianity right there. If they didn't have His body, why didn't they wait a month or so and roll out a body, any male body. When bodies get ripe and bloated, one bearded body looks pretty much like the next bearded body. They could have kept the crowd at a distance or had some people who kind of knew Jesus identify Him and that would have been the end of Christianity. Why didn't they do those simple things?

I can tell you why. They didn't do it, because they didn't dare. Too many people knew the truth. They had the facts. Jesus Christ, God's Son, had lived a perfect life; denied every temptation, took our sins upon Himself, and died the death we deserved. Then three days later Jesus rose and showed Himself to the guard and His friends.

My friend, we live in a world in which there are those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! They are wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight, but today I have given you the facts... just the facts. Believe on those facts, build your hope for eternity on those facts and you will be saved.

Now, if you wish to know more about the facts which I have shared today I am ready to extend this invitation. We would love for you to bring your questions and yourself and call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 25, 2015
Topic: Self-Defense

ANNOUNCER: Should Christians defend themselves and if so, how? I'm Mark Eischer, here once again with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. Pastor, greetings to you.

KLAUS: Hello, Mark. And how are we doing today?

ANNOUNCER: Quite well, thank you. And you?

KLAUS: I am also well.

ANNOUNCER: How nice these pleasantries are--especially in light of our topic for today.

KLAUS: That sounds foreboding. So, let us begin.

ANNOUNCER: It appears some folks are tired of being pushed around.

KLAUS: That's not so foreboding. That's understandable.

ANNOUNCER: They're tired of seeing Christians beheaded in the Middle East and elsewhere. They're tired of hearing their faith ridiculed by comedians and college professors. They're tired of being labeled and libeled as narrow-minded reactionaries. They're tired of being told they're not supposed to offend anyone but everyone is allowed to offend them. They're tired of seeing Christianity blamed for every evil in society... when the fact is, back when Christianity was more prevalent in society; statistics for marriage, family, education, and crime were far more favorable than what we might see today. So, the question is: "When should Christians defend themselves?"

KLAUS: Okay, let's see if we can give some relatively easy answers to a stack of hard questions. First, let's recognize that in Romans 12: 17-18, God says, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Avoiding revenge, and doing what is honorable and peaceable--these are a Christian's first goals in self-defense.

ANNOUNCER: But aren't there times when it's impossible to live peaceably with all?

KLAUS: There are. When that happens, there are a number of options open ... options which are appropriate in their level of response. First, when someone verbally attacks our faith, we can verbally defend ourselves and our faith... as did Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples.

ANNOUNCER: Do you know a place in the Bible where it says to do this?

KLAUS: Yes, actually, I do. Look at 1 Peter 3:15. It says we should always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." That last bit, the part about gentleness and respect, says our defense should strive to bring honor to the Savior and not cause a greater conflict.

ANNOUNCER: Can we defend ourselves in court?

KLAUS: Although most disputes between Christians ought to be settled out of court, when the world attacks us and what we believe, we can use the appropriate court system for redress. That is what St. Paul did when he appealed to Caesar.

ANNOUNCER: But how about when the crowd and the court are both against you, as would be the case in many Islamic countries ... there's no protection or freedom there to practice your faith. What then should be our defense?

KLAUS: The Apostles answered that one, Mark, when the Jewish Supreme Court told them to quit preaching, they said, "We must obey God rather than men." That's in Acts 5:29.

ANNOUNCER: Could a Christian soldier go to places like Iraq or Syria to help fight against ISIS? Could he defend his faith in that way?

KLAUS: That's a harder question. That soldier would be bound by his conscience and God's Word. In such a situation, he is serving as a representative of the state and the church. In such a situation he must be faithful to both authorities.

ANNOUNCER: What if a Christian were to volunteer to join the fight as a mercenary, and not as part of the regular army?

KLAUS: I think we can get onto thin ice here. One example might be the Lafayette Escadrille in World War I. American volunteers went over to France and flew combat missions before the United States officially got into the war. The religious reaction was mixed. As for me, I think the danger comes in whenever we talk about running to the fire, rather than waiting for the fire to come to us.

ANNOUNCER: And if someone breaks into your home to attack you?

KLAUS: In Matthew 26, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword... but when the Lord sent His disciples out as missionaries, he told them to bring along a sword, just in case. That's in Luke 22. I find nothing in the Bible that forbids Christians from exercising appropriate self-defense.

ANNOUNCER: So, Pastor, do you have an all-encompassing answer about self-defense?

KLAUS: Almost always, Christians are free to defend themselves, their religion, their families, and what is right. But that defense is always appropriate, respectful, and never "over the top."

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.

"You Are the Way, Through You Alone" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Christ Is the World's Redeemer" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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