The Lutheran Hour: August 9, 2015 "What do You Think of Christ?"

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"What do You Think of Christ?" #82-49

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 9, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Why Is It So Hard to Share our Faith in Jesus Today - Culture?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 22:41-43

"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 Do You Think of Christ?"

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, "What do you think of Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David." He said to them, "how, then, does David, in spirit call Him Lord, when He said, 'The Lord said unto my Lord, sit on My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?' If David, then, calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?" 

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.

In the archived issues of a popular magazine in the past, the question was asked, "What are the outstanding dates in history." Two esteemed authors, whose writings had been manifestly antichristian, still answered that among the greatest of all great historical events, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is unparalleled in its historical importance. Their opinion is representative of fair-minded men and women even today; for if the question of our text, asked by Jesus Himself, "What do you think of Christ" if it were directed to people today, we should find that almost everyone who is guided by an unbiased historical perspective would readily concede-whatever one might think of the teachings of the Lord Jesus-no one who has ever lived upon the face of the earth has left a more indelible imprint upon the hearts and lives of human beings than He.

How can there be any reason to doubt or to minimize this absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ? Think, for example, of His influence upon the various human arts; music, literature, architecture, and their allied branches. Is it not true that in the deathless masterpieces of Bach and Handel their sublime symphonies are but the musical echo of our Lord's sublimity and grandeur? Are not the paintings of Da Vinci and Correggio, the statuary of Michelangelo, creations of an art that has been inspired by the greatness of Christ and the power of His love?

Or pause for a moment to hear the anthem of praise that rises up to the magnificence of Christ from the more practical aspects of our daily existence. Jesus was neither a statesman nor a diplomat; He strenuously rejected the overtures of those who sought to elevate Him to a reestablished throne in Israel. Yet His ideals of political life, His insistence upon loyalty and allegiance to the governmental powers that be, His emphasis upon the clean cleavage that must exist between the government and His Church, have, more than anything else, helped to make the United States and countries like it, what they are today. And when men reject Him and repudiate His principles, the confusion and chaos evident in godless empires, in atheistic national movements, in forgetful republics, bear tragic testimony to the folly of excluding Christ and His Word from human affairs.

Again, take modern business. Jesus was not a business man, an organizer, nor a student of political economy; and the treasury of His twelve disciples concerned Him so little that at least once it was necessary to replete it by a miracle. He had to requisition the beast that was to bear Him on His triumphal entry into the Holy City. Yet not only did He establish the world's oldest and greatest organization, His Church, but He also gave to modern business the only code of ethics which can ever successfully begin to cope with the problems of capital and labor and correctly emphasize the mutual responsibilities that exist between employer and employee. The disregard of the nobility of labor, the exploitation of the public, and the sullen, hate-heavy clashes between organized labor and organized capital demonstrate the hopelessness of all industrial efforts that determinedly set Christ aside.

Or consider the influence of Christ in modern education. He Himself wrote nothing, as far as we know, except a few characters scratched into the Palestinian soil, before a stone-throwing mob. But more books have been written about Him and His work than about an aggregate of hundreds of others who have been enshrined in the halls of human fame. On the corporate seal of the oldest and greatest university of the country is the motto, "For Christ and for the Church"; and there can be no well-founded doubt that Christianity has been the energizing factor behind the spread of popular education in its elementary and in its higher forms. There can, of course, be education without Christ, but where the fear of God that He inculcated is not the beginning of wisdom; there you have that cold, calculating materialism in education that has left its blight on so much of our intellectual endeavor.

Once more, picture the molding impulses Christ has given to our home life. He had no home of His own; He told His disciples, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." Hard-minded bigots drove Him out of their city gates. Yet think of our Christian home life and the finer, nobler forms of mutual devotion between husband and wife. Think of the sanctity of holy matrimony, the love for children, and the respect for parents, the ideals of purity and clean living, which faith in Jesus, and that power alone, has given to the world. Compare all this with the insistent efforts of those who proudly endorse licentious arrangements, which often amount to nothing more than free love in its promiscuous forms; and human reason, as limited and as fallacious as it has so frequently proven itself to be, will bring us to the conclusion that if Jesus did nothing else than bequeath to the world the ideals of Christian marriage and home life, He would, for that one reason alone, be regarded as the Super Figure of all human history.

Small wonder, then, that even those who reject the authority of the Word of God have paused to pay their unhesitating tribute to Christ by acknowledging His supremacy in the affairs of the human race. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the New England transcendentalist, declared, "Jesus is the most perfect of all men that have yet appeared." James Anthony Froude, historian, yet skeptic, confessed, "The most perfect being who has ever trod the soil of this planet was called the Man of Sorrows." 

And yet, if this were all, as these and a host of other men outside the pale of Biblical Christianity admit, that Jesus was simply the Greatest of the great; if the answer to the inevitable question, "What do you think of Christ?" were merely that of the Jews in our text, who declared the Messiah to be "David's son," a mere mortal with pretentious power and position, we should be constrained to declare "Poor Christ!" reflecting as it were upon the agonizing death which He suffered when blasphemous hands nailed Him to the cross; but we should also echo "Poor humanity!" Confronting ourselves with the tragic picture of a world decaying in the sin to which every honest-minded mortal must plead a hopeless "Guilty."

If Christ is not divine,
Then lay the Book away
And every blessed faith resign
That has so long been yours and mine
Through many a trying day;
Forget the place of bended knee
And dream no more of worlds to be.
If Christ is not divine,
Go seal again the tomb;
Take down the cross, Redemption's sign,
Quench all the stars of hope that shine,
And let us turn and travel on
Across the night that knows no dawn.

But I thank God this day that I have the unusual privilege of proclaiming over these 1500 stations, to one million or so of all of you who are listening, to tell you that Christ is divine. I invite you to take an honest look up to the cross of Christ and to believe that He who languishes there is no misinterpreted hero, or a misunderstood reformer, a mistaken idealist; for all of these interpretations of the Christ of God that are popularized today as never before, they all fall hopelessly short of giving an adequate estimate of the essential Christ and what He means to you and to me today. No; above all this He is, beyond all possibility of human question and doubt, God in the Flesh, the Only-begotten of the Father, at once true God and true Man.

You ask for I point you to the first words of our text, which emphatically repudiate the delusion that Jesus is only human. We read that Jesus spurns the customary theological opinion of the pride-blinded Pharisees of His day who held that the promised Messiah would be only an earthly descendant of Israel's greatest king and the fallen throne of a Davidic dynasty that would be reestablished by a hero of David's lineage. He challenges these churchmen with the words, "How, then does David in spirit call Him Lord?" In other words, how can the Messiah be David's son when David, the great King of Israel's history, acknowledges the Christ as his Lord? And to show the blinded theologians of his day that David did call the Christ his Lord, Jesus quotes the opening words of Psalm 110, saying "The Lord said to my Lord" (the Messiah), "sit on My right hand till I make your enemies your footstool." Such a Messiah, far from being a mere descendant of David, the Christ is David's Lord, honored, revered, and worshipped by King David as his God and Savior.

That claim is amazingly sustained throughout the Scriptures, of which Jesus said, "These are they that testify of Me." On the very day that He was born He was called "Christ the Lord." The disciple whom He loved, pointing to Him, said, "This is the true God and eternal Life." He Himself, Jesus, told the world, "All men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father." And His mightiest missionary declared Him to be "God, blessed forever."

But Jesus not only accepted such divine names and titles, He also laid unmistakable claim to His divine nature, power, and lordship. Is God omnipotent? So is Jesus; for He declares, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," so that "all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." Is God eternal? So is the Lord Jesus, for He told His followers, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." Is God omniscient, all-knowing? So is the Lord Jesus; for when He told Peter the secrets of his heart, that disciple declared, "Lord, you know all things." Is God sinless? So is the Lord Jesus. Publicly He invites His bitter opponents to show the world a single instance in which He had been guilty of sin; but only silence greets His challenge. Is God merciful and compassionate? So is the Lord Jesus; so is the Lord Jesus for it is He who tells conscience-stricken men that His is the power to forgive sins on earth, He who pronounces the absolution of peace upon their sin-burdened souls.

Remember how manifestly He gave evidence of these and other high and holy claims. When He healed the sick, miraculously fed the hungry, restored the sight of the blind, raised the dead, suspended the laws of nature to carry out the purposes of His kingdom, He gave to the world a demonstration of His godhead, so powerful that even His opponents could not successfully contradict it. And when, in deep humiliation, He bowed His head in death and cried, "It is finished," later triumphantly to burst forth from the bonds of the grave in the victory of His resurrection, all this was conclusive proof of the divine lordship which makes Christ the most essential goal for humanity today, its only hope for time and for eternity.

Now, the divine lordship of Jesus is no vague abstraction that leaves your life cold and untouched. It is rather the most intensely essential truth that life can hold out to you. For the purpose of Christmas, Christ born in the flesh, was to tell us what the golden verse of Scripture proclaims, that "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

And, out of this same love, Jesus comes to you and to me today with a two-fold message emanating from the most basic question, "What do you think of Christ?" First, realizing the immensity of His sacrifice and acknowledging that the sins which He bears in His holy body are not His own, but the sins of every man, woman, and child that ever lived or that will live on the face of this world to the end of days, we today must cry out, "Oh, how appalling are the consequences of my manifold sins, sins that brought the almighty God down to suffer and die in my stead, as my Substitute and my Redeemer! Oh, how terrible is the iniquity of my transgressions which separate me from my God, constantly directing my heart and my desires to that which is unclean, selfish, and degrading, which also led the pure, holy, sinless, stainless, divine Christ, my Lord and my God, to take all these iniquities upon Himself!"

Yet, because Christianity is essentially a proclamation, a religion if you will, of joy and happiness, I ask you to glance through the pages of your Bible, see Mary Magdalene in restored love before her Savior, find the centurion confessing Christ, behold the dying thief forgiven, cleansed, and strengthened by the promise of paradise, and gain assurance and confidence in the conviction that this Christ seals to you the forgiveness of every shortcoming, every inconsistency, every sin that expresses itself in your life. Will you with me, with an undaunted faith that you, having been made a child of the heavenly Father through Christ's constraining love, will you share in that deathless inheritance that cannot fade away, one that will abide forever in heaven? 

Or, finally, look at the life of St. Paul, once a persecutor of Christ and His Church, confronted by the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus road, stirred to the depths of his soul in the anxiety of that crisis, he calls out, "Lord, who are You?" Maybe that is your question today. Maybe you too, find yourself staggering along the pathway of life, baffled by the enigmas of your existence, and burdened by the load of sin that bears you down in the dust. Will you look up to heaven with me today and cry out, "Lord, who are You?" remembering that this searching question of people of all ages has been answered by the assurance of Jesus, that "He that sees Me," He says, "sees the Father." Whatever you are facing today, I pray that your vision may be divinely directed to the God-Man Jesus, the Christ, and that as you hear the voice of His divine authority ask you, "What do you think of Christ?" you may kneel down right now, casting all doubt out of your heart and declare with me, the immortal confession of St. Thomas that this Jesus, the Christ is "My Lord and my God!" God bless you with such a faith now and forever. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 9, 2015 
Topic: Why Is It So Hard to Share our Faith in Jesus Today - Culture?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, one of our listeners asks, "Why is it so hard to share our faith in Jesus today? It seems like it's tougher and tougher just to be a Christian." 

SELTZ: Mark, I hear our listener's pain. There are challenges today unlike any other time in history. Some of it has to do with our culture, some of it has to do with us, when it does come right down to it, most of it has to do with the message. But there is help and there is hope for each challenge.

ANNOUNCER: That sounds like a much larger conversation.

SELTZ: It is, so we'll take a stab at them one at a time. Today, let's look at the challenges of our culture to sharing the Gospel. We're living in a time when people are searching for things to organize their lives, things that will hold life together, but they're searching on their own terms with no real expectation that there is anything big enough to hold it all together.

ANNOUNCER: People have been told growing up there really isn't any God, truth is what you make it, the goal of life--be as happy as you can; so you can see why people are skeptical.

SELTZ: On top of that too, Mark, there really is a caricature of Christianity in our culture today and I think for the most part it is unwarranted. I know there are Christians who reflect the stereotype. But, more often than not, most Christians realize that they are sinful, in need of repentance, and they are looking to Jesus Christ not only as their Example, but as their Savior.

ANNOUNCER: Why would the culture be so antagonistic to a message that is beautiful and empowering?

SELTZ: There are many reasons, but I think a dominant one has to be laid at the time of the personal freedom revolution of the 1960s. In that decade, like never before, at least in the culture of the U.S., all authority was considered suspect and personal freedom, no matter the cost, was the goal. Authority figures in every vocation were suspect. Long-revered institutions like marriage, family, government, and, yes, even the church, were enemy number one in the revolution.

ANNOUNCER: Would you say distrust of religion as an institution is a major factor in making faith more difficult to share?

SELTZ: I think it is a huge contributing factor, that's for sure. I remember in the '80s and '90s, talking about the statistics that are now part of our culture, the destruction of marriage, divorce rates, single parent homes, venereal disease, violence in the homes, in the schools; and the spike occurred right after the so-called revolution. But we don't hear the revolution blamed very much. In fact, the church and its message is ridiculed more than ever today.
ANNOUNCER: Hasn't that been true throughout time? 

SELTZ: It has, and I'm not saying that all of the results of that movement are bad. But, I will say this without Christ and the proclamation of His truth and His call to repentance and faith in Him; without that, all movements are destined to bring misery and broken dreams in the end. So, the biggest challenge is to tell people that no matter what's going on in the culture, all people eventually have to get right with God, and the Bible says that happens when one is face to face with Jesus Christ!

ANNOUNCER: In other words, you can know Him as Savior or you'll meet Him as Judge. 

SELTZ: What a challenge that is. When Jesus calls us to repentance and faith, it is a call to see the sin in our own lives. That is one of the most offensive things to people today. They don't believe in sin, even if Jesus calls things sins. So, that's going to be a problem in sharing the faith no matter how loving and caring you might be. Truth is truth, and for Christ's blessing to have its way, Christ's truth must have its say with all of our lives.

ANNOUNCER: What can be done? 

SELTZ: First, make sure that you know the Bible. I hear people talking today about what Jesus says and they are saying something completely untrue, completely unbiblical. As Christians, we've got to know what He says. And, just as important to that, we have to serve others with that truth so that they see that what we're sharing something that is for their blessing and benefit, not for our ego or pride.

ANNOUNCER: It brings to mind the verse in Ephesians, chapter 4, "Speaking the truth in love." 
SELTZ: Yes, and 1 Peter tells us to be ready to give an account but with gentleness and respect, because you know that Jesus had to serve His love into your life too. 

ANNOUNCER: It does sound tough today to be a Christian and to share Christ with others.
SELTZ: Yes, in general. But, person to person, I think it's always been the same. Trust the Word, pray for your friends, and love them the way that Jesus loves you. Who knows, that might even transform a culture again. 

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Action in Ministry for August 9, 2015 
Guest: Rev. Wayne Palmer 

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. Today's sermon asked, "What do you think of Christ?" We can't avoid that question, but maybe you haven't even gotten around to that question yet. Maybe there's other questions you've been asking yourselves; questions like "How did I make such a mess of my life?" "How am I going to make this right again?" "How will my family ever forgive me?"

SELTZ: Mark, it's sometimes easy to think of Jesus making a difference in someone else's life, but we often fail to see how that same grace, it applies to us too. Now we have a special guest with us here in studio who can help us with that. Rev. Wayne Palmer has written an outstanding resource that speaks to this very issue. Wayne, thanks for joining us.

PALMER: Thank you. Happy to be here. 

SELTZ: In your resource, there is one character in your booklet that I can really relate to and I think many others can relate to it as well-Peter. Peter was one of Jesus' closest friends and disciples, one of the greats of the Bible, if you will, but there was a time when he really blew it, wasn't there?

PALMER: Oh, yeah. He followed Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest. He wanted to find out what was going to happen and then when servant girls approached him and said "You were with Jesus," he denied it three times.

SELTZ: And Peter didn't just move on from that defeat, did he?

PALMER: No. He had a lot of problems with the guilt and the regret and the question about can I be a leader again? 

SELTZ: And as you explain in your booklet, that's exactly where Satan wants us to be. He wants us to feel disqualified, isolated, withdrawn, just trudging around in our own sin and guilt. And Peter was there for a time, but God did a great work in him, didn't He? He had to reconsider that question, "What will you do with Christ?" and also "What can Christ do with me?"

PALMER: Exactly. And what Peter found the answer was, was Jesus' appearances after the resurrection. We have in the Bible the account of Jesus making a special visit to Peter but no details are given. It's almost as if God wanted that to just be a personal thing that only Jesus and Peter knew. Then also later on at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus took special time to reinstate Peter and give him three chances to confess his faith and his love for Christ.

SELTZ: Wow, Jesus gave Peter everything he needed to be sure so he could stand secure in his faith. I know because God had much more to do through him for the sake of others. But I think people are listening in today wondering can God really do that for me. And I guess that's the ultimate point. This booklet is called, Regrets, Reality, Restoration; your restoration, God doing that same work for you, which is so fitting.

PALMER: Exactly. The reality is we all blow it and Satan is still at work just as he was with Peter, trying to get us to wallow in our sin and regret, but God's in the business of restoration. He keeps pulling us back to the cross and showing us Jesus paid the full price for you. You don't have to beat yourself up over that. And then He gives you the power and the Holy Spirit to overcome those doubts, to be reassured, and to march forward in boldness and confidence like Peter could. 

SELTZ: Yeah. I love what you just said-"God's in the restoration business," the reconciliation business. And there's another part of the booklet I think is so powerful. I'm quoting here, "Satan is trying to use regret to take you down. If he can intimidate you to doubt Jesus' love and forgiveness, he knows you'll never be the person that God created you to be, the person that Jesus restored you to be through His suffering, death, and resurrection." So, Peter was just a guy who experienced deep regret and then that awesome restoration, that awesome restorative power of Jesus. We just want everyone out there listening...God wants to do that with you, too. 

ANNOUNCER: We want to send you a copy of this resource that Wayne has written. It's called, Regrets, Reality, Restoration. It's a powerful resource and it can be life-changing for you. And in just a moment I'll tell you how you can receive your free copy. 

SELTZ: I want to say thank you again, Wayne, for being here but also for writing this resource because there's a lot of people out there who are struggling with these kinds of things; reality, regret, restoration. They don't think restoration is possible and you're going to help them see that. 

PALMER: Definitely.

ANNOUNCER: For your free copy of the booklet, Regrets, Reality, Restoration, call The Lutheran Hour toll-free, 1-855-john 316. That's 1-855-564-6316 or go online, Our email address is 

Music Selections for this program:

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

"Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"In the Shattered Bliss of Eden" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)




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