Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: June 28, 2015 "You Aren't Perfect"

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Date: 06/27/2015 9:16 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: June 28, 2015 "You Aren't Perfect"

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"You Aren't Perfect" #82-43

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 28, 2015
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(ISIS and Exodus)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 5:43-48

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today the living Son of God invites us to be transformed by His victory. May we gladly be brought to Him whose sacrifice forgives our sins and makes imperfect sinners whole again. God grant this to us all. Amen. 

The Arizona mother told the news media that her son was a "good boy." That kind of talk coming from a mom is hardly a surprise. Moms are supposed to say things like that about their children... it's in their job description. What was surprising about this situation is that this son, after saying, "I want to give you a kiss, mom," got in her car and, without any kind of warning, slashed at her throat numerous times with a box cutter. When that method of murder appeared to be too slow, he tried to strangle her. He would have finished the job if a Good Samaritan hadn't heard the mother's screams and shot the young man. Actually he had to shoot the son a number of times before the drugged-up boy was finally stopped. Amazingly, in spite of what her son had done to her, the mother could still maintain her boy "was a good boy." To that all I can say is, "In her mind he may have been 'good,' but to me he was a far cry from being perfect." 

It was a fair many years ago that I was doing some marital counseling for a couple who were having problems. During the course of our second session I asked the wife to describe her husband and the husband to describe his wife. She began "He's a good man, really. He doesn't go out during the week to get drunk like his friends do; he's only had one affair that I know about, but that was year's ago. He hasn't hit me in over a year; he spanks the kids with his belt, but he doesn't beat them. His complaining about my home cooking has slacked off over the last year and he doesn't swear at me anymore... at least in front of the kids." I asked, "Did I hear you say that you thought he was a good man?" She immediately replied, "Absolutely." The husband didn't like it much when I commented, "Ma'am, what you've just told me, he's not a good man... he's just not a terrible man. You haven't told me any good things he has done; your list was made up only of the bad things he wasn't doing... at least as often as he used to." You, who are listening, probably agree with me when I say that husband was a far cry from being perfect.

Most of us know we aren't perfect. Last week, in preparation for this message, I went online and took a "Niceness Test." The test asked me, "Have you ever gossiped about others?" I had to admit, "Yes, I had. Hopefully not often, but I had." The test asked "Have you ever felt envious of a friend who succeeded at something when you had failed?" "Yes," I admitted, "I have done that." The quiz kept asking and I kept squirming. It wanted to know if I had ever hurt someone intentionally? Ever? Well, yes, I can remember a few times when I had done that. It asked, "Do you always say, 'please' and' thank you'?" I had to confess that while I work hard at being polite, there are times when I've forgotten. Eventually I had answered the last of the questions and was able to submit my answers. The results came back almost immediately. I was told I was hardly a perfect person. Actually, the test score told me I wasn't 'a nice person and I ought to try harder." When my wife saw the test, my answers, and the results, she said, 'You could have saved yourself the time. I could have told you... you're not a perfect person." 

We aren't perfect. All of us know it... or at least we should. We aren't perfect. Upon those three words, billions of advertising dollars are spent every year by companies as they do their best to convince imperfect people that they and their lives will be infinitely better if they use the company's product. Do you have imperfect breath, there's a mouthwash which will help you become kissable. Do you have an imperfect smile, there are invisible braces which can correct your bite. There are deodorants which can make sure others will be able to stand downwind of you without wincing and shampoos which will give your hair the shine, the bounce, the gloss, the glimmer that you so desperately need. 

Is your life less than perfect, then change it. All you have to do is drink the right beer, drive the right car, wear the right clothes, go to the right restaurants, move into the right neighborhood, and find the right mate by using the right online dating service. 

We aren't perfect. People are only too glad to tell us that. You knew you weren't perfect when you weren't accepted by your first-choice college or didn't get hired at an unbelievable salary by any of the companies to whom you had sent your resume. 

2,000 years ago the Lord Jesus spoke about our imperfections. In Matthew 5, He spoke to a great crowd of listeners and said: "You have heard ... 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'" Let me interrupt and ask, "How are you doing on that one? Do you love all your enemies? Are you praying for the drug pusher or the swordsmen of ISIS? Do you wish the best for the person who steals your parking place?" I didn't think so. Jesus continued, "if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." 

Did you get that last line... when Jesus says we are to be as perfect; perfect as God? Well, good luck. Common sense, as well as Scripture tells us that none of us, not even the best of us, is perfect. Noah built an ark, but he also drank a bit too much. Abraham was a great patriarch, but he was known to tell a lie or two. Moses delivered God's people from slavery, but he couldn't resist the temptation to modify God's orders. David was a mighty warrior and king, but he still became an adulterer and murderer. The Bible is filled with stories of God's heroes of faith, but none of those folks are heroes because they were perfect. They were heroes because they had faith in the forgiveness and grace of God.

The Bible doesn't pull any punches when it says there is not a single person who has not sinned. Jesus' words remind us of that truth. Back when I was a parish pastor, I often visited people in their homes. Often I just happened to be in their neighborhoods and dropped by unannounced. I would go up to the door and knock. What happened next was usually hilarious. Somebody would pull back the curtain, see my car, and whisper in a loud voice: "It's the preacher!" Another voice would ask, "What does he want?" The first voice would take control and start shooting out commands: "Somebody, pick up those papers, put away those books. Whose socks are these? What is this doing here?" 

The house would vibrate as people ran in every which direction to get things straightened up for the preacher's entrance. After about 30 seconds, the door would swing open and I would be invited in and somebody would apologize: "Pastor, I'm so sorry for the condition of the house." Of course, by now, the house was immaculate...except for the corner of the newspaper sticking out from under a sofa cushion. 

As I waited at those doorways and listened to the commotion going on in the house, I often wondered, what would it be like if Jesus had been standing there and not me? Would the residents of the home be able to go to the door and invite Jesus in immediately or would they have had to change some, maybe a lot of things, before the Savior could be admitted? Would they feel the need to hide the magazines, switch what they were looking at on the computer, change the TV channel; clean up their language, along with picking up their dirty clothes? Could they continue on with their normal dinner table conversation without long gaps which normally would be filled with gossip? Would the prayer before the meal come easily or would they struggle and search for the unfamiliar words of thanks? Would they find themselves secretly hoping Jesus would leave so they could get their lives back to a normal, and sin-filled routine? I wonder, would being in the presence of the perfect Son of God make them uncomfortable? Would they be able to introduce Him to their closest friends without fear of embarrassment? 

Folks, the sad news is we aren't perfect. The sadder news is we sinful souls are helpless to change our situation. We can clean our homes and make them spick and span, but we can't do the same with our hearts. We can curb what we say, but we can't stop the sad, the sinister, the sinful thoughts we think. We simply don't have that kind of self-control. On a spiritual level we are, like Reynald, a portly, 14th-century Belgian duke who was overthrown by his brother, Edward. Rather than having Reynald killed, Edward took his brother to a remote castle and had a room built around fat Reynald. Edward promised his brother freedom, title, and property the day he walked out of that room. Escape shouldn't have posed much of a problem since the room had an unlocked door. But Reynald didn't leave that room...not for 10 years. Why? Because every day his brother offered him a food feast. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Reynald grew fatter and made his incarceration ever more sure. Isn't that like humanity, isn't that like us? Satan, this world, our own sinful hearts, daily offer us delectable choices which keep us imprisoned. Like Reynald, we aren't perfect and we can't change things.

Now I know secular humanists want us to believe that the world is improving and we are successfully climbing the stairway to perfection. Abortions, drive-by shootings, religious persecution, corruption, and prejudice say, "They're wrong." Educators tell us: "Learning will usher in a new and golden age of civilization." Yet, even though our children know more than we did at their age, a great many of them seem bored, jaded, discouraged, and depressed. Education alone can't change things. Social theorists want you to think that a great society can be attained by throwing money at our problems. But history's richest country has not succeeded in making improvements. False prophets and misleading religions tell us we must work our way to perfection, being recycled until we become holy. Unfortunately, every generation repeats the same sins which were committed by those who had gone before. We aren't perfect and we can't change. That's the message of common sense and Scripture.

But, thank God, human helplessness is not the only message of Scripture. God's inspired Word also says that the journey of our imperfect life does not have to lead to damnation and destruction. Although our sinful nature condemns us, God's Son saves us. When Adam and Eve were devastated by their sin, God gave them hope that He would crush the devil. When Abraham was without expectation of ever having home or family; God extended the promise of a son, a country, and a nation. Even though David was a murderer and adulterer, God did not leave him without hope, but promised that one of his descendants would establish an everlasting kingdom. 

As humans, we are hopeless, but with faith in Jesus, we are given hope. Saint Paul says it: God has, by the blood of the cross, reconciled all things to Himself. We were without family, but by God's great grace, we have been adopted into His household. Because of Jesus, we who once were poor, are now rich. Because He was hungry, we know God will feed us; because He was stripped, we now have a robe of righteousness; because He was forsaken, we now have His Divine company throughout our lives; because of Jesus' sadness, we can be glad; because Jesus died, all who believe on Him will live forever. Because Jesus took our sin with Him to Calvary's cross, those who have faith are made clean before God. Because of Jesus' saving blood, our sins have been washed away and, on Judgment Day, the Lord will look at our forgiven souls and say all requirements have been fulfilled and we are welcomed into heaven. Today the cross and the empty tomb of our Redeemer is God's good news which sets us free forever from condemnation and tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. 

Now because Christians are forgiven that doesn't mean that they shouldn't try to lead a life which is God pleasing. This they do not out of fear of Divine reprisal or because some pastor says to do so over the airwaves. We try to lead a perfect life because that is the way we glorify the Lord. We strive for a perfect life because the world all too often judges the Savior by what His people do or do not do. Years ago, a wealthy Christian was living in Nairobi, Kenya. In her employ was a young African who worked as a domestic servant. After three months of faithful service, he asked the lady to give him a letter of reference, addressed to a Muslim businessman who also lived in that town. 

Naturally, having gone to the work of training the man, the lady was somewhat reluctant to see him leave. She offered the young man an increase in wages. At that, he smiled, and shared that he was not leaving her to get more money. He was on a quest to decide whether he would become Christian or Muslim. For three months he had worked for her to see how Christians acted. Now he wanted to work for three months for a follower of Islam to observe how he lived. From their examples he would make his choice. The lady was stunned as she remembered the many mistakes and errors this man had seen her commit over the last few months. She knew her journey had hardly been holy or perfect. 

My Christian friends, how has your journey been? Have you lived as someone made perfect by Jesus? Do not underestimate the number of people who watch to see if you strive to live that way. It is the little things we do and not the great things that bear witness to Jesus. It is little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little actions, not mighty miracles that make up the lives of God's children. That is why, today I encourage you, my Christian brothers and sisters who have been made perfect by the blood of the cross, to strive to live that way as well. 

And to you who do not know Jesus as Savior, I can only say, look at your imperfect life and know that in love God wishes to forgive you, save you, and give you a new life both in this world and the next. If you wish to meet this Savior, we are glad to help you. To you I extend this invitation, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen. 

ACTION IN MINISTRY for June 28, 2015
Guest: Rev. Gregory Seltz

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action In Ministry, a call to action in response for all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. And Pastor Gregory Seltz now joins us.

SELTZ: Great to be here. Great to be here.

ANNOUNCER: Pastor, this is a week of civic celebration coming up for our listeners. We have listeners in both the U.S. and Canada. July 1st is Canada Day and the 4th of July is Independence Day in the U.S. And you have some thoughts you'd like to share.

SELTZ: Well, especially we need to be thankful for the blessings that we have of freedom, peace, and the civic order and I think both the United States listeners and our Canadian listeners, we should cherish the fact that we lived in relative peace for quite a long time and that's an unusual thing in a sinful, sinful world.

ANNOUNCER: I mean, just look at the news and what's going on in other parts of the world.

SELTZ: Right. So, whatever you're doing this weekend, don't just celebrate it but give thanks to God for the fact that we've lived under this peace because some people actually fought for this, some people actually dedicated their lives to these principles. And a lot of it has blessed us who now are sharing and enjoying these things on these weekends.

ANNOUNCER: Let's talk a little bit about how God is at work even in something like a civic celebration. Where's God in all of that? 

SELTZ: Well, what's interesting is Jesus is the One Who makes this very clear upfront. He just says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Give to God what is God's." So, He's the One Who talks about two realms and it comes from the Bible. And that means that God is at work even through the civic realm, and Caesar was no Christian. He was called to standards of morality, and ethics, and things like that to keep the peace. That's actually God at work. Now, God's greater work is to come to bring salvation to all people in His Son, Jesus Christ, and we call that the work of the church now proclaiming that. So, church and state; this is really something God has been doing. So, He's involved in both of these arenas and guiding them. The civic realm, our state senators here, or our president, or any of these kinds of things; I don't know the magistrates in Canada, the Parliament; there's certain principles and moral issues that are going on there that God has defined as things they should do even if it's just doing it when their heart's not in it.

ANNOUNCER: In that case, God is working through the rule of law.

SELTZ: Rule of law.

ANNOUNCER: And even forced to maintain order and to keep the lid on things.

SELTZ: Right, to keep the lid on things, or I like to say, it can get a lot worse and all hell can break loose and God would rather the civic realm be relatively peaceful, even when run by sinful people.

ANNOUNCER: God wants to establish a framework of stability so that the church can proclaim His message of grace and the Gospel to all people.

SELTZ: Right, I think that's an incredible thing to say because, also, it's not just the state, but the family structure; all these structures that we have, that framework is there to keep the peace and the stability so the church can be about its business of sharing the eternal good news of God. So, what an incredible thing that God's at work in both realms for all people. So you've got to keep these things distinct so you can see how God is uniquely at work so everyone can be blessed.

ANNOUNCER: And what encouragement or advice would you give for our listeners this week?

SELTZ: Well, I would celebrate this and give thanks to God for the peace you celebrate this weekend and if you want to know more information about this, we have a resource called "The Intersection of Church and State." It's unique to the American experiment but it has a lot of principles that are Biblical that apply even to our Canadian listeners. So, why not call in and get that and use that as part of your celebration?

ANNOUNCER: And we'll give that phone number in just a moment. 

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 28, 2015
Topic: ISIS and Exodus

ANNOUNCER: Did the Old Testament promote genocide? That's our question today for our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.

KLAUS: And hello to you, Mark. You've really got my attention with that one! 

ANNOUNCER: This question comes to us from listeners in the UK, responding to a recent message in which you spoke about the Israelites conquering the Promised Land. These listeners work side-by-side with Muslims from Iraq who ask how that is any different from what ISIS doing today? 

KLAUS: A surprising question. I do know a comparison of the Children of Israel with ISIS is not what I was shooting for in that broadcast message. Even so, since it is a question which IS being asked out there, we will respond the best way we can. 

ANNOUNCER: They are referring to passages such as we find in the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 7. It says: "When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and ... when the LORD your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them." 

KLAUS: No question about it... that's a devastating command and it most certainly appears to be a divine order for God's people to commit genocide against the native population of the Promised Land.

ANNOUNCER: How do we explain this?

KLAUS: Let's see how it plays out in practical terms, shall we? The first city which the Children of Israel conquered was...

ANNOUNCER: Jericho... where the walls came tumbling down. 

KLAUS: Yeah, they were supposed to destroy everything and everybody, right? 

ANNOUNCER: That was God's command. 

KLAUS: And one of the Israelite soldiers broke that command, didn't he?

ANNOUNCER: His name was Achan. He helped himself to some expensive robes, as well as silver and gold. 

KLAUS: And how did that work out?

ANNOUNCER: Because of Achan's disobedience, the Israelites were defeated in their next battle. After this, the culprit was exposed and punished; the things he had taken were destroyed, and then the process of conquest moved forward. But what point are we trying to make here?

KLAUS: Okay. Let me ask, was there anything in all of Jericho that escaped destruction? Did anything--or anyone--survive?

ANNOUNCER: Yes. Rahab, the harlot, she had helped Moses' spies; she and her family were all spared. 

KLAUS: Excellent. If you read the story, and you'll find that in Joshua, chapter 2, you will see she makes quite a statement of faith and the spies say, if you keep our visit a secret, "when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you." Now, Mark, let me ask, were the spies punished for sparing Rahab's life?

ANNOUNCER: Not so far as we know. 

KLAUS: They weren't punished. She wasn't punished. In fact, in Matthew's genealogy she is listed as an ancestor of Jesus, the Savior.

ANNOUNCER: So that order to destroy the people was not all-inclusive. 

KLAUS: Not at all. The reason God commanded them to destroy the Canaanites was because He knew that if He let them live, the Canaanites would corrupt His people and lead them astray. In fact, that's what happened to strongman Samson. But there doesn't seem to be any problem for those Canaanites who were willing to become followers of the Lord. To that list I might add Ruth, who was a Moabite, a Canaanite. She not only wasn't killed on account of her race... in sequence she married two men who were Israelites and she also became an ancestor of Jesus Christ. 

ANNOUNCER: So, can we say anything else to these listeners who are making a defense of the faith? Are there any other differences we could cite between God's people and ISIS? 

KLAUS: Absolutely. With the coming of the Savior, many things changed. The political and the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, they were put aside. No longer were God's people required to slaughter and kill, or even sacrifice animals. 

ANNOUNCER: St. Paul says that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

KLAUS: One last difference, Mark. The followers of Islam point to the excesses of the conquest of Israel by God's people and the Crusades and they say, 'That is who you Christians are." Well, that's not who we are. The Crusades were a black spot on our history--and they took place 1,000 years ago. The Crusades were designed to reclaim what had been stolen from the Byzantine Empire. They were not wars of aggression and conquest like that being waged today by ISIS. And those are important distinctions. 

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.

"In the Very Midst of Life" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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