Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: August 2, 2015 "What is Truth?"

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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: August 2, 2015 "What is Truth?"

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"What is Truth?" #82-48

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 2, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Do Miracles, Like in the Book of Acts, Still Happen Today?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: John 18:38

"Hello, I'm Gregory Seltz, Speaker of the Lutheran Hour. This broadcast has proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus for more than 80 years. We celebrate the fact that THIS MESSAGE OF HOPE IS UNCHANGING, EVEN IN A CHANGING WORLD. With that in mind, in a series we're calling Archives August, we bring back several sermons from one of our esteemed speakers of the past, Dr. Walter A. Maier, edited only slightly for modern presentation, to demonstrate the enduring power of Christ's message, no matter the mouthpiece. Our sermon this week: "What Is Truth?"

Pilate said to Jesus, 'What is truth?' John 18:38 

In the Name of the One who is, who was, and who is coming again to judge the living and the dead, Jesus our Savior. Amen!

"What is truth?" asks a wavering Roman governor named Pilate as he concludes his private cross-examination of Jesus. And as we repeat this question, we often wonder what the motives may have been which led that shrewd, worldly-wise politician to make this immortal inquiry. 

Was he a seeker after truth or merely a deep-rooted skeptic, an anxious inquirer, or a disillusioned cynic? 

Knowing him as we do, it seems quite remote that he entertained the hope, even for a fleeting moment, that the silent, yet strangely majestic Galilean named Jesus could end the search for the truth that had eluded the soothsayers of Rome, the philosophers of Greece, and the astrologers of ancient Babylon. To his grasping heathen mentality, this Jesus, of despised Nazareth, was but a harmless, high-souled dreamer of dreams, a dealer in dim abstractions. 

And so, with a half-flippant, half-sarcastic, "What is truth?" this administrator of Roman justice, able to perceive the right in other realms, he fails in the greatest crisis of his life, and as the reins of justice slip from his careless grasp, he delivers the very incarnate Truth into the crushing power of His tormentors.

It seems like not much has changed. Many today approach Jesus with the same cynicism as Pilate.

Today, when a restless, disillusioned world echoes, "What is truth?" people often ask the question with a calculated seriousness that is born of distrust and suspicion. Experience has made people skeptical. People have been led to believe that through the introduction of political and economic measures a beneficent wave of prosperity and material growth would cover over us, but today, in the United States and in many places around the world, there is demoralizing unemployment, with a riotous and conflicting combination of legislative millstones around our national neck, distancing the so-called golden age of economists and politicians even further from our grasp.

All this has had its reflex in all things religious too, especially in those questions that pertain to the soul. When people today ask, "What is truth?" more than ever before they follow the example of Pilate by refusing to listen to the one Source of supreme Truth. Divine revelation has been rejected by our modern, grasping, skeptical age, and human reason has been enthroned, cold, calculating reason, which tells us that the only religious verities are those which can be tested and proved by the results of modern scientific investigation, that meet our expectations and notions alone!

As we pause, then, we ask, "Is this the inevitable destiny of the church of Jesus Christ," that it must transfer its faith from God's Word to man's word; whether it must turn away from the bloodshed forgiveness of Jesus earned on the cross for all to the attainments of man; or, whether, finally, it must admit that human reason is the foundation for truth and faith? I thank God that I have the privilege of demonstrating that what men call scientific truth is often so faulty, so self-contradictory, sometimes even so dishonest, and always so incomplete that, if we build our hope for time and eternity upon such shifting sands, we may just as well try to promote our own well-being by dieting on double-strength strychnine.

I want to remind you, in the first place, that often mankind's wisdom, especially the so-called scientific truths, hopelessly contradict one another. Issues as direct as the age of the world are fraught with conflicting "facts" and opinions. From the very beginning there was disagreement. Not too long ago, esteemed professors from major universities placed the age of the earth on the one hand between 70 million and 150 million years, but another one claimed that the range was between 8 million and 1.7 billion years. Still another said, "No, the earth may be as young as 1.5 million years, while another claimed that it must be at least 200 trillion years old. Those figures differ to the extent of more than 199 trillion years. And it is no better today....Now, if science cannot definitely tell the age of rocks, but can offer a hundred variant and contradictory theories, you will realize that it certainly cannot give the world the Rock of Ages for which the spiritual needs of all humanity cry; you will appreciate that we must harken back to the warning of St. Paul concerning the "folly of human wisdom, whatever its form."

Again, the results of scientific investigation often lack all stability, for they are changed and modified in the most kaleidoscopic fashion. Thus the Bible tells us in the very plainest language that God created this earth. But many modern scientists and lay people alike have dethroned the Almighty and tell us that myriads of millions of years ago there was a fiery mist, or a nebula; and from this, it is claimed, our world emerged as a great ball of fire, which gradually cooled and contracted into its present form. But another scientist rises and tells you that this nebular hypothesis is unscientific and out of date and that you must accept the planetesimal hypothesis, which involves a huge disruption instead of the shrinking together demanded by the other theory. And while you are listening to him, a third approaches with one of the still more modern hypotheses, which is diametrically opposed to all others. Now, which of these conflicting claims will you accept as the truth? Can you accept any when you know that the one you accept today may be rejected tomorrow?

Again, the history of science (the science which modern theology wants to make the basis of religious truth) reveals one error after another and a long series of misrepresentations. When Daguerre, the father of modern photography, spoke of reproducing pictures, his scientific comrades thought him insane. When Harvey suggested that blood circulates through the body, as we now know it does today, he was ridiculed by learned men in all professions. 

My purpose, of course, is not to cast aspersions upon the heroic accomplishments of really scientific men and women, who, always conscious of their limitations, have rendered inestimable service to humankind. No statement of gratitude can adequately express our indebtedness to their labors and even to their errors, which have often served to advance the truth of scientific research. The point I wish to make, however, is this: can you afford to trust your soul to a system that can make such mistakes? Remember, for the eternal salvation of our souls we must have something that cannot change, something that is surer than the foundations of the earth, something that is as everlasting as eternity. But this is not to be found in the delusions which are being taught our children in many of our tax-supported high schools, where the minds of girls and boys are being perverted by anti-Biblical speculations which real scientists rejected years ago. Neither can this faith and assured hope be formulated in scientific laboratories and expressed in scientific textbooks and reached in scientific lectures. Nor can it be found in any human system of learning, because the human mind, darkened by sin, is too feeble, frail, and fallible to give to the world the final and absolute truth.

But, thank God, today the answer to Pilate's question, "What is truth?" comes to us from a divine and infallible source, from the blessed lips of Him in whom the very fullness of the Godhead dwells. None other than the Son of the living God, Jesus the Christ, He has told us that, if we continue in His Word, we "shall know the truth." Communing with His Father in prayer, He declared, "Thy Word is truth." Offering His divine guidance to a perishing world, He pleaded, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." All these and other related passages unite in a convincing answer to Pilate's question and tell us that the Word of God, our Bible, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which claims to be, which we believe to be, and which proves itself to be, the revelation of God to men, is in every sense of the term the truth, the absolute, definitive, positive truth. Let me repeat: this divine Word not only contains the truth, not only presents the truth, not only leads to truth, but is the truth.

Consider its unchangeableness, portraying to us, as it does, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever." Men have tried to change it, it is true; they have tried to accommodate it to passing fancy and to the absurdities of their own speculations. But while human theories change with depressing haste, as one generation rushes on after another, we have heaven's assurance that not one jot or tittle of this sacred truth will pass away.

Remember the imperishable power of this truth, which according to divine promise will outlive heaven and earth. Men have risen up to blast this truth off the face of the earth; a fanatical Roman emperor had this inscription carved on a stone: "The name of Christ has been destroyed." It was the vain boast of Voltaire that, although twelve men were required to write up Christianity, he himself would prove that one man could write it down. But today this truth of God is annually circulated in more hundreds of millions of copies than ever before-the one, true, deathless volume, the Scripture.

Think of all the unsparing and soul-searching penetration of this truth, which refuses to sugar-coat the inborn perversities, and iniquities, and sins of all human beings, but instead asserts with definitive finality, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 

And yet, even more definitively, this truth calls us to behold the unspeakable love of this truth, a love so intense and overpowering that human comprehension cannot understand even a fragment of it. I want you to see this day, for yourself, in that Man of Sorrows, who suffered on a cross for you, the truth of a love so profound, that it could uncomplainingly suffer the ruthless disregard of every principle of truth and justice so that you and I could be saved. 

Sadly, we hear of corruptions in our courts today; the annals of criminal procedure repeatedly have recorded instances in which the innocent have been pronounced guilty and even sentenced to death; we have all read of men who for this reason or that have taken it upon themselves the punishment that should have been meted out to others. Yet all of this...even in its highest and noblest form, magnify and intensify it as we may, it is so pale and insignificant when compared with the mocking injustice to which that suffering Savior was subjected. For He upon whose naked back those vindictive persecutors rained the lacerating lashes, He upon whose exalted brow blasphemous hands crushed a crown of cutting thorns, He is loaded down, not with the punishment for His own sin, for He had none, but with the punishment of the uncounted myriads of millions of transgressions of which humanity in its entirety and throughout all ages had stood condemned. 

No wonder that, with the sins of every man, woman, and child that ever lived or ever would live crushing down upon His innocent soul as He wrestled in the agony of Gethsemane, He cried out: "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." No wonder that, when he hung suspended on the cross, with His arms stretched wide, as though in the dying gesture to embrace all of humanity for which He was now being slaughtered, He cried in piercing despair, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" 

What an unimaginable pain. Yes, I know, there are glimpses of such pain in humanity. We read of the excruciating pain which characterizes the dying hours of some who suffer from appalling diseases or agonizing accidents; we shudder when we hear of the bloody persecutions to which followers of Christ have been subjected by human malice and fiendishness at its worst; yet all of the pain that murder, war, disease, accident, persecution, oppression, in their totality have inflicted upon humanity--all this is but a temporary annoyance compared with the agony that all but broke the Savior's heart as He cried, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death."

So today, as you hear the overpowering immensity of His devotion to humanity when even on the cross He says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; as you listen to His last cry, "It is finished," not as a cry of defeat, but in reality the greatest triumph in the world; as you stand under the eternal shadow of that cross, you must realize and believe that above all the loneliness and never-to-be-measured grief and weakness that marked that black and bitter death, in this person Jesus Christ, you are face to face with truth in the highest love that even the universe cannot contain.

Think of the worldwide sweep of this truth, still breaking down all the barriers by which men have separated into distinct and opposing groups and knocking at every heart that hears these words today, with no one too exalted or too cultured, no one too lowly or too illiterate, to understand and believe that this message of truth is for them. Think of the unconditional offer for the gift of this truth. Men may endow millions and devote decades in the attempt to ascertain the truth of our physical life, but here, in Christ Alone, without any prerequisites and without any price, is the free and unconditioned gift of truth, "By grace are you saved." Think of the renewing and regenerating influence and the demonstration of power by which ruined lives have been recast, hopeless careers reborn with high expectations, and souls torn from the tyranny of sin by trust and faith in a Savior Who promises, "This Truth, My Truth, I am the Truth, the Truth shall set you free." 

Pilate asks the question we all ask. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is a proclamation that He is that Answer for you and for all who believe. Today, ask yourself if you have this freedom, His freedom and remember that the most blessed reality in your life, the positive, immovable, unalterable, imperishable truth, is Jesus Christ incarnate, Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ risen again, Jesus Christ everlastingly victorious is for you, for your life, now and forever. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 02, 2015
Topic: Do Miracles, Like in the Book of Acts, Still Happen Today?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, in the Book of Acts, we hear that the apostles performed various signs and wonders. For example, people brought out the sick and St. Peter healed them all. A listener close to the program asks, "Do miracles like that still happen today?" 

SELTZ: Wow, Mark, what a great question because people are always interested in miracles, aren't they? We love to hear if there are things that immediately, miraculously, change or confirm what is going on at the moment. So, when the Word of God was preached or shared in the book of Acts, there were miraculous events that happened at the same time. 

ANNOUNCER: But, it is important for us to understand the context of these miracles that took place.

SELTZ: That's right. The context of what is going on in Acts is important, and we'll get to that, but that really doesn't answer our listener's whole question.

ANNOUNCER: Let's start with the most basic one..."Do miracles still happen?"

SELTZ: Of course they do. God can do whatever He desires to bring us to faith in Him. The question is, "Is that the main way that God desires to work faith and salvation in our hearts?" Biblically, the answer to that is no, generally not. Remember the verse, "Jews demand signs, Greeks demand wisdom, we preach Christ Crucified....foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to those of us who believe, it is the power of God!"

ANNOUNCER: In this way, God works to bring the world to faith in exactly the opposite way the world seeks God and expects God to work.

SELTZ: That's true. So whatever is going on in Acts, it isn't power for power's sake, that's what we would demand of God's things. Just think about how God generally works. God sends His Son, not to dominate like our heroes would but to serve sinners and rebels. Then God the Father allows His Son to be crucified on a cross, rather than send His legions of angels to defend and protect the most perfect Person who ever lived. 

ANNOUNCER: And, then, God empowers a bunch of forgiven sinners to go and preach that Gospel to the whole world. So, God is doing things exactly the opposite way that we would expect.

SELTZ: And that's vital, because it is for our own good, so that we can see that it is all by God's grace. Even the miracles of the Bible tend to focus us away from the miraculous event to the message of the suffering servant Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: But why then do there seem to be more miracles associated with the proclamation of the Gospel in the Book of Acts? God seems to be doing the opposite of what you are saying.

SELTZ: At first glance, that appears correct. But let's take a closer look at the context. Jesus Christ has risen again and located His message in the public ministry of these Apostles. They are living testimonies to that message of Jesus that by the power of the Holy Spirit is bringing people to faith. When that message moves into a new place, among a new group of people, there are times when there are miraculous signs and wonders that accompany that proclamation, to drive home that this isn't the apostles' words; these are the Words of Jesus Christ even through them.

ANNOUNCER: Should we expect with our proclamation that that would happen today?

SELTZ: This is where I believe the context of that first proclamation of the Gospel through the Apostles might indeed differentiate itself from our context today.

ANNOUNCER: What do you mean?

SELTZ: Remember, the book of Acts is describing how the message of Jesus Christ moved out, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching and teaching of the Apostles. It didn't say that it had to go out the same way through us. And, remember, too, what made that context of that time different than today.

ANNOUNCER: Well, for one thing, people didn't have the New Testament in a written form yet. 

SELTZ: Exactly, this was a time of Apostolic letters and public teaching and preaching. I believe the Holy Spirit undergirded their work in unique ways to help root that message and break down the ethnic encasement of that message. But, the greatest miracles were not the healings or the speaking in tongues; the greatest miracles were the Word of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit gathered into what we now call the New Testament!

ANNOUNCER: So, when we have, now, the very words of Jesus brought to us through the Apostles, that should be the thing we yearn for, not signs and wonders.

SELTZ: Well said. And that's why, with the Bible in our hands, we have the greatest miracle already. Whether other things come or not, they don't add or detract from the Spirit-filled Word of Jesus that brings us to faith and everlasting life. With that in mind, let God do whatever else He pleases.

ANNOUNCER: And He certainly knows what's best for us and He gives us what we need for everyday. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Action in Ministry for August 02, 2015

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action In Ministry. Pastor Seltz, today's sermon was a bit different from others that you've preached. Let's tell our listeners again what Archives August is all about and what its purpose is. 

SELTZ: The Lutheran Hour has been on since the 1930s, so it's been a long time. We've had wonderful preachers and proclaimers of the Gospel. It just seemed interesting to say let's go back and see if we can pull some sermons from the archives of some of these great men and could they be preached today? And the challenge then is the Word relevant today? And so that's why we decided to do this-to show that the Word that was proclaimed then is not only just as applicable today but it's amazing how even that sermon could still be applied in many ways today. 

ANNOUNCER: For our listeners who may not know, who was Dr. Walter A. Maier and what was the context for his preaching back in 1930. 

SELTZ: Dr. Maier was the first Lutheran Hour Speaker and a lot of people don't realize but he was, in many ways, a cultural icon as well.

ANNOUNCER: A radio pioneer.

SELTZ: A radio pioneer. He just was a magnanimous figure who brought the Good News of the Gospel. He felt the Gospel needed to be preached to the nations; and so, again, he took that radio, that new technology, and said how about this? He made a lot of sacrifices to make that happen, as well as a lot of people; the Laymen's League, things like that, who sacrificed to bring it to fruition. 

ANNOUNCER: Let's think also about the social context; the people that he was speaking to at that time, what they were facing. 

SELTZ: Think about all the things: the World War, Depression. Modernism was a view that we had all the answers now with our scientific know how and all these different kinds of things.

ANNOUNCER: Didn't need God.

SELTZ: Didn't need God at all. In fact, we were forging a new future in a lot of ways and then when you had these wars break in to end all wars, it shows what technology really is doing to us. And we can struggle with that same issue today. And so, again, he's coming with this message that cuts through all of that and says this world is not our home. This world is sinful. This world is passing away but there is a kingdom that lasts and it's the one you're called to in the Name of Jesus Christ alone. He preached that with boldness at a time when the world really was struggling to find hope. 

ANNOUNCER: How would you compare those messages in substance and style to the sort of sermons you preach on a regular basis?

SELTZ: Well, it's interesting because there's a lot of content in the sermons and I think the modern listener would probably say that's too much to listen to. Today we hear you've got to tell stories to keep people's attentions and things like that. In that sense it was a different literary time, obviously. Radio was a different medium. We've become visual people-bumper sticker-type people, twitter people even. So it's harder to hold people's attention spans, but when you see some of the meat in the paragraphs and the sentences, you just want to slow down and chew a little slower. 

ANNOUNCER: And, finally, what would you like listeners to derive from hearing these messages that were first written and preached 85 years ago?

SELTZ: Interestingly enough, as we started to bring these archives forward, we realized that the message seemed to cut through time and it was something that applied in many ways even to today. So, what we were trying to demonstrate to our listeners is that this is because God's Word is unique. God's Word is universal and eternal, but it's coming specifically to you in your time and in your place. So when people say is the Bible relevant today, yes it is. Listen to this message because, in many ways, you can almost hear Dr. Maier preaching it to you today. And when you see that, again, realize it's not Dr. Maier, it's not Pastor Seltz, it's really the Bible that we're trying to bring to fruition. So, we just hope that this Archives August allowed people to really hear that for themselves and then they can trust in that Word for themselves too because it'll be just as relevant 100 years from now. 

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"I Know My Faith Is Founded" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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Daily Prayer requests for today for Adams family and tomorrow for Aubuchon family

TODAY: Please pray for the Adams family as they all go back to school soon, as Matt and Laura try to sell the house and as their car broke down today that they can get it fixed without too much trouble. 
TOMORROW:  Pray for Jerry and Mary Aubuchon and family at Mary mourns the death of her sister and as they deal with some family issues. 
Pray for Dave and Kerry Aubuchon that they are able to make ends meet and that they can find their way back to church for worship soon.