Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: August 16, 2015 "The Inevitable Question"

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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: August 16, 2015 "The Inevitable Question"

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"The Inevitable Question"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 16, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today--Personal Challenges?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 27:22

"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: "The Inevitable Question?"

Click here to read the original sermon text as preached by Dr. Walter A. Maier

Pilate asked the crowd, "What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ?" 

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.

There is a passion today that has taken possession of persons of high and low standing, a madness that distorts all true values and drives heedless men and women relentlessly on and on. It is the craze for greatness, the passion for doing big things, the mad clutching after power and authority. It wasn't too long ago that this frenzy cast the whole civilized world into the whirling maelstrom of bloody war; but even the appalling total of thirty million lives that were offered up as sacrifices to the grinning idol of greatness have not cured a self-seeking world of this insane affliction. It still grips the rulers of nations and holds up before them the mirage of world dominion; it whispers into the ears of the wealthy and breeds grasping avarice in their hearts; it beckons to the men of the laboring class and tempts them with the will-o'-the-wisp of industrial upheaval and revolution; its siren songs lure the scholar and enflame within them a selfish desire for recognition and preeminence; and, my friends, no matter what your individual position and station in life may be, you, too, feel that pulling and tugging appeal that would draw all of us to the shimmering shrine of bloated greatness; you know that only too frequently do we all kneel down and worship at that altar.

But, oh, what a contrast to the tinsel and the glitter and the glamour of this cold and artificial greatness is the sinking weakness of the eternal Son of God, who "humbled Himself and became obedient unto death," even that unfathomable, indescribable, immeasurable death on a cross! See this same Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, days before His Crucifixion, kneeling and imploring Heaven, with anguish that almost breaks His grief-torn heart, terrified by the torturing soul agony of that crushing conflict that is to come; then behold Him with a crown of thorns pressed into His bleeding head as the mob cries out, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Can you see Him today, "behold this Man," "despised and rejected," "a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief." Amidst the rumbling darkness of that first Good Friday, you even hear this One groan, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" - to our human vision there is nothing powerful, nothing dynamic, nothing wonderful and magnificent about that emaciated and fever-racked frame that dies on the accursed tree; nothing masterful and mighty about all this, nothing indeed - unless you know and believe that this suffering, bleeding, dying Christ means more to every one of you than the sum total of all the most vital human issues in your individual lives; that here in the Christ and in His cross is a power so divine and penetrating, so comprehensive and conclusive, that it brings to everyone who has ever heard the story of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the one, inevitable question of human existence, the ultimate question of your life, "What shall I do with Jesus?"

Remember, it was this vacillating Pilate who gave to the world the words of this immortal question. Hardly twelve hours had passed since that never-to-be-forgotten anguish of Gethsemane. Hardly twelve fleeting hours, and yet what an eternity of suffering for Jesus! Judas had sold Him, Peter had denied Him, His disciples had forsaken Him. And now He stands before Pilate, Pilate, who wants to shift the responsibility of making a decision in regard to Christ...he suggests that they take Christ away from him and prosecute Him according to their own laws; Pilate, who endeavors to evade the duty of his office; asking them to choose between Christ and Barabbas; who finally, tries to rid himself of Jesus Christ by washing his hands of the stain of His innocent blood, all hopeless, desperate attempts to avoid the necessity of answering this inevitable question, "What shall I do with Jesus?" 

But Pilate did not know that you cannot get rid of Jesus in this way. He did not understand that the question of what to do with this silent and inflexible Prisoner is a personal issue in every human life. He didn't realize that though he might wash his hands, he could not wash his conscience clean of Jesus. He did not realize that Christ is the inevitable figure of history and that the question, "What shall I do with Him?" must be answered personally, directly, unavoidably, by everyone who has ever met Christ in His Word.

Sadly, when you read in the Bible more about the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus; one sees that there were others who persuaded themselves that they could escape the responsibility of acknowledging or disavowing Christ. Judas thought that the jingle of thirty pieces of blood money could drown out the voice of Jesus in his conscience; but, again, Judas did not know that one can't dispense with Jesus that way. He did not know that there were not billions enough in this world to purchase release and exemption from the necessity of answering this question, "What shall I do with Jesus?" So we see Judas haunted by the suffering of the Man of Sorrows, driven by a wild and hopeless despair, we see him fade out of human history as his body dangled in the moaning winds. Then there was Peter, who on that very Thursday night before Christ's crucifixion, he can be heard cursing and swearing that he did not even know Jesus, all to try to reassure himself that his foul and infamous oath would remove the dangerous necessity of His acknowledging Jesus as the Christ. But unwittingly Peter spoke the truth when he said, "I know Him not"; for he, at this moment in his life, did not understand Jesus; and he did not realize that even such a public denunciation could not in that way rid him of Christ. A few moments later, when he gazed into the blanched face of the majestic Sufferer, we see the rough Galilean fisherman shaking in convulsive sobs, beginning to realize that he cannot avoid the inevitable question, "What will you do with this Jesus?"

Now, if you are honest, you know that all of us at times have tried to avoid that question. Some of you, right now, are indeed trying to rid yourselves of this Christ. If that is who you are, let me say this, if you have tuned in to this program this day, apparently by the merest chance, let me assure you that this time is one of divine appointment for you, where God Himself will not leave you in the delusion that you do not have to deal with Christ's call to you to believe in Him, that somehow you can merely ignore Him or leave this question, "What shall I do with Jesus?" to others. 

To you I want to say right now, with fire-winged words, which, I pray, may burn their way through all the obstacles of any sinful, self-will into the very center of your hearts. Hear clearly God's Word of Truth, as the straight scoop of what you really need right now, when His Word says boldly, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Before you answer the question, "What shall I do with Jesus," Look deeply to the cross and see the Innocent condemned for the guilty, Divinity suffering for humanity, the Creator sacrificed for the creature; and then ask yourself, 

Where come these sorrows,

Why this mortal anguish?

And hear the triumphant good news, 

It is your sins for which the Lord did languish.

When you are presented with that panoramic picture, with that Jesus in action, His life lived for you; the only question that remains is "What will you do with Him?" You may think what you will about Caesar or Napoleon, about Washington or Lincoln, or about Roosevelt or Wilson, Bush or Obama without having your knowledge or your ignorance influence in any way the spiritual truths of your life. But here in this bruised, lacerated, pain-torn figure hanging on Calvary's cross is your destiny for time and eternity.

Remember, too, that there is no other issue in life in which a choice is so unavoidable. A business man can buy or sell, a statesman can choose to run or not to run, and in uncounted thousands of questions in your own life you can follow the dictates of your own desires and conveniences and answer or refuse to answer; but here is one issue in your life that is beyond the reach of your acceptance or rejection, the one question that you must answer, "What shall I do with Jesus?" Ignore Christ? Get rid of Him? You can more easily ignore the sternest reality of your own existence than ignore Him; you can more readily get rid of the past of all ages than get rid of Him. You must deal with this question, "What shall I do with Jesus?" because He is God in the flesh, come for you. Push the question aside today, if you so desire, but let me tell you in all earnestness, there is coming a day when you will meet Christ nonetheless, and this eternal, insistent question will confront you. Laugh Him out of Scriptural existence, as modern atheism and infidelity vauntingly seek to do; yet a recent publication lists no fewer than 350 modern biographies of Christ; and someday the laughter of such scorn will change to tears of remorse.

Today though, God does not merely desire your heartfelt attention to the question. He is calling you to faith in a Savior who loves you, a Savior who guides you, a Savior who has come to give you life abundantly! There is no neutrality with this Jesus. A nation can maintain its neutrality in war; a scientist can refuse to commit themselves to a particular scientific issue; a juror can disagree; you can answer ten thousand questions with a non-committal "I don't know" and another ten thousand with an evasive compromise; but you either believe in Christ or you reject Him; you either trust Him and regard Him as the Savior of your soul or disbelieve His Word and find in Him only a poor, pathetic caricature of what He claims to be and what He is; you either cry, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah!" or "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"

What will you do with Christ? Every Eastertide in the churches that bear His Name, this question is posed to human hearts. Whenever people gather around the gifts that Christ has left His church, namely His Word, His baptism, His supper, this question must be dealt with. Even now, I am praying that you let God send this question into the innermost recesses of your soul; and before you try to evade or postpone your answer, come with me, by the power of His Spirit to behold the cross. To the morbid crowds at the murder scene it was only two pieces of dead wood, this cross of Calvary; and in the annals of corrupted Roman criminology this one emaciated Victim who felt the tearing anguish of the nails of death crush through His hands and feet was only One of the uncounted number of all who had been executed by this legal torture. 

But when you look to His cross, you will see, in fact you will hear that only once in the seven words which He spoke on the cross, is there a cry of physical pain and bodily anguish. There, on this cross, is something more sorrowful, more painful, on this cross, there is the crushing, cracking weight of sin. We learn much of sin and its consequences in history, but there is nothing in all the annals of human depravity that even approaches what is being laid on Jesus on this cross. For here, on this cross, only God in human flesh can and does bear the aggregate of all the sins that have ever been committed, the transgression of every one of the uncounted myriads of millions of men and women who have ever lived and whoever will live on this earth. 

Can you hear what the Bible proclaims? Can you see that this Jesus on the cross is there for you? O wondrous Love, O divine Lord! Jesus, as the holy, spotless Lamb of God, takes away your sins and mine. The eternal Son of an eternal Father, He who "knew no sin, became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He who is adored through all the eternity of eternities "was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities" to give us a forgiveness and faith and a hope that will prevail even against the gates of hell - delivering to all who believe a new, regenerated life and all the blessings of Christ-dedicated existence.

As you stand in spirit beneath this cross, I ask you, "What will you do with this Jesus?" To reject Him, to crucify Him anew, to attempt the impossible by endeavoring to rid yourself of Him, to be too preoccupied to receive Him, too self-satisfied to want Him, too independent to need Him, all this, if protracted by impenitent unbelief, is but the preliminary to darkness, to never-ending death, to hell; for Christ Himself said, "He that believeth not shall be damned." 

My fellow sinners, and that's what we all are, 100% sinners before the holy things of God, I implore you, "Don't harden your hearts"; don't let that holy, precious blood of Christ be shed in vain for you. Come to the Friend of friends, the Savior of your souls, as you are, however guilty, polluted, spiritually paralyzed you may be, and believe that He who promised the open gates of paradise to the repentant thief crucified with Him, that His promise to him is also His promise to you as He says in His Word, "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Concerning such a salvation, He asks of you no effort, no contributions, no cooperation, only, thank God for this, only faith, only repentance, and a trusting acceptance of Him and His salvation.

What, then, will you do with this Jesus? What else can you do if you know and believe the depths of His love as revealed by His life, death, and resurrection for you, than to grasp Him, to cling to Him, to fall at His wounded feet, and with a heart that lives anew with faith and hope and love to cry out as the church has sung for ages:

You, Jesus, have borne the smiting only
That my wounds might all be whole;
You, have suffered, sad and lonely,
Rest to give my weary soul;
Yes, the curse of God enduring,
Blessing unto me securing.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee!

To the question then that matters most in your life and in mine, may that song be your song today, by faith in Him forever. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 16, 2015 
Topic: Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today--Personal Challenges?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Today we continue our conversation with a listener who asked, "Why is it so hard to share our faith in Jesus nowadays?"

SELTZ: Mark, today we are going to focus on the personal challenges of sharing our faith; challenges like our own struggles, our own knowledge of the Gospel, our own fears.

ANNOUNCER: And that really does get personal.

SELTZ: It does, and I think this is why people get a bit scared. None of us, if we are honest, is happy about our sin. Sin is rebellion, brokenness, weakness; who wants to let others know about that? 

ANNOUNCER: But when we're sharing our faith, we shouldn't be talking about ourselves so much; we should be talking about Jesus, right? 

SELTZ: We are. But in our immediate results age people often look at our lives as a kind of proof as to whether this message of Jesus is worth listening to. That puts pressure on us because we want to look to Christ, and we feel ashamed that we often get in the way of that.

ANNOUNCER: I understand that. Who among us hasn't had those days when we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, we give in to temptations we've been fighting, and that always seems to be the time when others are looking at us and getting an impression of us as Christians.

SELTZ: Yeah, and that's the key, we've got to be ready to be vulnerable; and I mean by that to let others see that we are just as in need of Jesus, His forgiveness, His power, as they are. In fact, the Bible is very clear; all human beings are 100% sinners in need of Christ's undeserved love which is 100% as a gift.

ANNOUNCER: This really strips away our pride at the same time that it also empowers us to share what Christ has done for us.

SELTZ: It sure does. In fact, the biblical truth means that there is no one outside of the potential of becoming a forgiven sinner who now seeks to live for Christ alone, to follow Him. We can understand people's struggles, their sins, their weaknesses because all of that exists in us too. That can sure make a difference in being real and authentic to others.

ANNOUNCER: And it doesn't diminish the power of the message of Jesus at all.

SELTZ: Not at all. In fact Jesus told us there would be trouble in this world, that this world is not our home, that living here would be like taking up our cross and following Him. But He says all this with the absolute hope and confidence that grace will be sufficient for us. He even says nothing will separate us from His love and that, this is incredible; others will come to faith by the power of His message just because we share with people who need it just as much as we do.

ANNOUNCER: We can get in the way of that message or we can let God use our weaknesses and our strengths to be bridge builders to others in Jesus' Name.

SELTZ: I like that....bridge builders. To build a bridge you've got to understand both sides and understand the work that is needed to connect them. Jesus is the ultimate Bridge Builder because He truly became one of us, He suffered the brokenness of our sin, but He overcame it with a forgiveness that is eternal and a life that is full of hope, now and forever.

ANNOUNCER: That helps us to see our failures in a different way.

SELTZ: It does. Life is not about some spiritual competition to see who's holier or who is not. It is a life lived in the grace of God in Jesus for all things; so that means we take responsibility for our own lives and we bring our own sin and rebellion to the cross in remorse and repentance, asking for forgiveness ourselves. But we also pray for Him to empower us to be more obedient to following Him. And, if there is success there, we're humbled by that because we realize that all gifts come from God.

ANNOUNCER: Both success and failure, spiritual growth or struggle, it can all be useful in sharing Christ with others. 

SELTZ: I think that's right. That's why all of us have a unique Christian life to live in joyful thanksgiving to Jesus who has covered us all with His grace, and we get to live that unique life in Him in service to the people He brings into our lives. Today, right now, don't dwell on your own struggles to becoming a better witness; immerse yourself in His Word, yes, but also get to know the people that God is sending into your life. 

ANNOUNCER: And pray that they might be open to hearing about Jesus as we open ourselves up to them. 

SELTZ: Exactly, focused on thanksgiving towards Him and an openness to those He brings into your life, that's an opportunity to love them as Christ loves you, and if you think of it that way, that should really help your witness.

ANNOUNCER: In our next segment we'll talk about the problem in the message itself. 
SELTZ: There's a challenge there too. 

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

Action in Ministry for August 16, 2015 
Guest: Tad Armstrong 

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. The setting for today's sermon was that moment when government confronted Christ face to face. Jesus stood before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, and at that moment Pilate faced that inevitable question, "what shall I do with Jesus." 

SELTZ: There was that face-to-face moment, Mark, and each one of us is going to have to answer that question, there is no doubt. Today we'd like to take a little bit different tack on that. The question is, "What should we now, as Christian citizens, how should we respond when the government comes at us and challenges us in our core beliefs." We need to understand this is not just a discussion about two people having a cup of coffee. There are some constitutional things that are going on; changes in our society; and so we've got to take those on. 

ANNOUNCER: And we'll be talking about a free resource that you, the listener, can obtain that'll help you understand some of these issues. We'll talk about that a little bit more later on, but right now I'd like to introduce our guest, Tad Armstrong, he's an attorney in Edwardsville, IL. He's the author of It's Okay to Say God, and he's on a mission to help educate people on issues related to God and the U.S. Constitution. 

ARMSTRONG: Thank you so much.

SELTZ: Tad, in our Bible Study, The Intersection of Church and State, I wanted to explore the idea that each can exist in benefit to one another. The reality is that the landscape is changing today, right?

ARMSTRONG: Dramatically.

SELTZ: Dramatically. In fact, we just had this ruling about gay marriage. We're not going to be talking about the moralness of that; if you want to know our position on that, go to the LCMS webpage, lcms.org. We, actually, are talking about how this is bad law today too not just a moral issue; but it's also a legally bad law. Why is that?

ARMSTRONG: We find ourselves in our position today because of ignorance born of complacency for a number of years-50, 100 years. We do have core American beliefs that we've lost sight of. Now, the gay community should be just as concerned about the outcome of this case as every other American because what it represents is an attempt to overthrow our representative republic. When you have five of nine unelected folks willing to take on the power to determine what they believe is best for the nation, you remove self-government from our citizenry. That's not America. And this ruling should have been the other way, unanimously, because marriage is not defined in the Constitution; it's the type of definition that should be reserved to the state. It's a very clear issue and they overstepped their bounds.

SELTZ: One of the things, a Constitutional principle, state or government, they don't grant rights. In our founding documents, our rights are from God, right?

ARMSTRONG: The Declaration of Independence speaks to unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The founders believed that those rights came from God, the government cannot give them to you, they cannot take them away.

SELTZ: Right; and they were about an individual's dignity before government, not about what relationships they should be in. In fact, I argue, that even when it comes to man-and-a-woman marriage, that's not a constitutional thing so much as that's the state taking rights away from a man and a woman, making them get a contract so that, why? They don't have to raise their kids...

ARMSTRONG: That's right.

SELTZ: ...which is the state's concern about that relationship. 


SELTZ: Yeah. How did we get here and what are the real challenges to us?

ARMSTRONG: Aside from the larger issue of our ignorance of our Constitution, specifically, in this case, Justice Scalia is so concerned about this he even said that what this amounts to is a silent, sudden overthrow of government. Now you think about that. Five people, unelected folks, decided for something like 30 states, that they knew better than those states. Why? Based upon their own interpretation of morality. 

SELTZ: Right.

ARMSTRONG: This is not judicial interpretation, this is legislation. 

SELTZ: So, we really need to be educated about these kinds of issues.

ARMSTRONG: I think if we were, we wouldn't be in this place today.

SELTZ: And that's what we want to do for you who are listening today, we have a resource for you that will help you discuss this and understand it because, as Christians, we don't just want to win arguments we want to also have the ability to speak God's Word to serve others, even those that we might disagree with and that's what's being taken away.

ARMSTRONG: Correct. Absolutely. 

SELTZ: Absolutely.

ANNOUNCER: So we'd like you to call in or go online and get a free copy of The Intersection of Church and State. By the way, we also have a longer version of this conversation online at lutheranhour.org. If you'd like to hear more of what Tad had to say, please go there, lutheranhour.org. And I'll give the phone number here in just a moment.

SELTZ: It's great to be with you, Tad.

ARMSTRONG: Okay. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Get your free DVD of The Intersection of Church and State while supplies last. Call The Lutheran Hour toll free-1-855-John316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Or, go online-lutheranhour.org. Our email address is: info@lhm.org. 

Music Selections for this program:

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

"O God, My Faithful God" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"God Loved the World So That He Gave" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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