"The Latest Polls"#85-04
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 24, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Matthew 21:8-11 and Luke 23:23-25
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Lord, the world promotes an opinion which says faith in the Savior is a foolish thing. Grant that I may cling to Your truth, which says there is salvation in no one else. Grant this faith, Lord, to us all. Amen.
In 1921, silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was beloved by the nation. More than that, Paramount Pictures, which had paid him $3 million over the last three years, had signed him to another million-dollar contract. Wishing to celebrate his success, Fatty's friends threw a three-day party at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. A week later, Fatty was being held without bail in cell number 12 of San Francisco's Hall of Justice. Film distributors pulled his most recent movie, and America was shocked to find their beloved star seemed to have a darker side. There was only one difficulty. Fatty Arbuckle was innocent. True, he was accused by a lady named Maude Delmont, but Maude was never put on the stand because the authorities knew her story wouldn't hold up. Even so, her accusations were enough to cause Arbuckle plenty of trouble. The comedian went to trial, and the first jury voted 10-2 for his acquittal. There was a second trial, and that jury deadlocked.
In March of 1922, there was a third trial. The jurors having heard all the witnesses in the case found Arbuckle innocent. They prepared this statement. "Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him. There was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story, which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of 14 men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame." One week later, Fatty Arbuckle was banned from appearing in the movies. The actor changed his name to William B. Goodrich and scratched out a living behind the scenes, directing films for faithful friends like Buster Keaton. Still unforgiven by the public, Arbuckle died of a heart attack on June 9, 1933. He was 46. He had found out truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.
In the last century, one of the greatest orators and motivational speakers was Winston Churchill. At war with Germany, on May 13, 1940, he spoke to the House of Commons. He said, "You ask, 'What is our aim?' I can answer in one word, victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival." His words have been acclaimed as among the best orations of history. That same honor was not always given to Churchill as a statesman. Once after he made a speech for which 10,000 people had shown up, a friend asked, "Winston, aren't you impressed that 10,000 people came to hear you speak?" Churchill replied, "Not really. One-hundred thousand would come to see me hang." Churchill had discovered truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.
Still, all of these vignettes from relatively recent history are nothing when they are compared to the Savior's story. Allow me to share two passages from Scripture. First is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, and it describes the crowds welcoming Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. The evangelist wrote, "Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, 'Who is this?' and the crowd said, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.'"
In contrast to the crowd's euphoric welcome of the prophet of Galilee is Luke's account of Jesus' trial. This time the Jerusalem crowd acts differently. This is what the beloved physician wrote: "But they," that is the people in the crowd, "were urgent, demanding with loud cries that Jesus should be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will."
Jesus as God's all-knowing Son saw humanity more clearly and completely than any sociologist or psychologist. Most certainly, He was not surprised by the change in the crowd's attitude. He had seen it before. He had been there when 10 divine miracles had paved the way for the freedom of God's people from the Egyptians, and He had also heard the Hebrews' complaints about food, water, and the pursuing Egyptians. He had seen their cowardice at the prospect of actually entering into the Promised Land. Yes, the Savior was familiar with the fickleness of crowds. Under the Holy Spirit's power, the land flowing with milk and honey was eventually, but not completely, conquered. The second chapter of Judges tells of how God's blessed people abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them and bowed down to them, and they provoked the Lord to anger.
The rest of the Old Testament, almost 1,500 years, is a repeating play. In act one of that play, the children of Israel would be blessed and enjoy the favor of God. The second act would tell how subsequent generations forgot the Triune God and began to worship the false deities of their neighbors. Act three would tell how God allowed other nations to punish His children's disobedience. The fourth and final act shared how the Lord's delivered people promised to be faithful. It was a promise they never could keep, not for any length of time. The day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He knew better than anyone else that truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.
There were also other things the Savior knew about those crowds which swirled around Him. He was fully aware of the feelings in their hearts and minds. His fellow countrymen were suffering under the brutal taxes, restrictions, and rules placed upon them by the Romans. Jesus saw into the souls of these people in the crowd. He knew how they longed for someone who would set them free. They wanted a king, a conqueror, a possessor of power who would set them at liberty. Yes, Jesus knew these things, and He also knew one thing more: they thought He was that political leader who would do the job. No army would have to worry about supply lines when they followed a leader who could feed thousands with a few loaves and fish. What courage could be shown by soldiers who entered battle knowing their leader could instantly heal all their wounds and, if the story of Lazarus could be believed, had the power to restore to life to all who had fatally fallen on the field of battle.
The crowds had heard His words, and beyond any doubt they believed Jesus was the man who had been sent to free them. That is why they thought what better time could there be to begin our quest for liberty than the present Passover. The Passover, the remembrance of how God and His man Moses had set them free from slavery, was absolutely ideal. Confident and sure, they waited for the moment when Jesus would make His move. He never did. He didn't put together a bit of oratory calling for the raising of an army. No, He didn't gather any troops, and He didn't lead a revolution. He didn't do any of the things they expected of Him. Instead, Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple; He cursed a fig tree; He told them to pay their taxes to Caesar; and He taught them that true greatness is to be found in servanthood. For the crowd, it was a disappointing experience.
Now, I don't know if you've ever noticed that when the Lord does what we want, we are most appreciative, but when He doesn't do what we want, what we expect and-dare I say it-what we demand, that's different. How do you feel when things don't go according to plan or when an endless array of troubles seem to bombard you? Unless you are a most remarkable person, and Scripture doesn't tell the story of many such remarkable men and women, your attitude towards the Lord begins to change. Your own popularity poll in regard to the Lord will show a marked dip in respect and appreciation, and there's a reason for that. Speaking for the Lord, the prophet Isaiah wrote, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord.' For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,'" Which is another way of saying while God will always give you what you need, He will not always give you what you want.
That's what happened that week in Jerusalem. The people wanted Jesus to give them earthly freedom, but the Lord had a higher purpose in sending Jesus into that city that day. He sent Jesus to free humanity not from earthly oppression and repression, but to release us from the heavy-handed domination of sin, the devil, and death. Jesus' job that week was not to proclaim Himself the general of an army. It was to show Himself as the Savior of lost souls. In pursuit of that cause, He did not raise His voice in an oratorical rant against the Romans. On the contrary, He was silent as He was taken from one unjust trial to another, as He appeared before one self-serving judge after another, as He-without complaint or attempted self-defense-heard one cruel condemnation after another.
My friends, right now I'd especially like to speak to those of you who have walked away or rejected Christianity because you have felt the Triune God has been unfair or capricious toward you. Because He hasn't performed as you wished, you-like the Jerusalem crowd-have turned on Him. That is a mistake because no matter what you might have come to believe, the Lord loves you very much. As proof of my words, I point to the Savior. At any time during His last week on earth, Jesus could've summoned legions of angels to His side. A word from His lips had the power to erase and eliminate all those who opposed Him. But for your salvation, those angels were never summoned, and that word was never spoken. So you might be rescued from your sins and the condemnation they bring, Jesus allowed this injustice, endured the beatings, a whipping, and a crown of thorns. His care and His compassion was so great toward you He willingly received the nails which held Him to His cross.
Do you think the Lord is uncaring? Then think again. As Jesus hung on that cross, rejected by man, and forsaken by His Father, He was carrying your sins. Think back on the worst thing you've ever done, ever said, ever thought. Remember the cruelty, the anger, the lies, the theft, the lust, the foul stench of sins past. Know that your Savior knew your sins and wished to save you from them. To redeem you from those sins is why He lived, to rescue you from the devil and damnation is why He died, and to show He had destroyed the domain of death is why He rose three days later.
I would like you to recall the little line which has popped up throughout this message. That line is truth and the most recent public opinion poll are hardly the same thing. You live in an age where it is fashionable to show that you are living your life independent of the Lord. We live in a time when a person is considered sophisticated if he or she ignores the Savior and laughs at this manger, cross, and empty grave. We are surrounded by supposedly wise men who encourage us to disregard sin, guilt, and their consequences. Those are the latest opinions, but the truth and the most recent public opinion polls are not the same. If the world tells you that you are okay just the way you are, down deep inside there's a nagging voice which says that isn't so. If you spend your days trying to convince yourself that heaven will be yours without the Savior, and because you are good enough, you are wrong-terribly, tragically, terminally wrong.
It is by God's grace, not ourselves, that we are saved. That, my friends, is the truth. Jesus was crystal clear when He shared that He is the Way, and no man comes to the Father but by Him. The public opinion polls may encourage you to refuse to believe that truth, but Jesus remains the only way-the only possibility for salvation-God has made. Jesus' blood that was shed on the cross of Calvary is the only means whereby you can be forgiven of sin, and it is the righteousness of Christ that must be applied to you if you desire to be in heaven for eternity.
My friends, before I finish, I'd like to read a list of names. Some of them will be familiar to you; most are not. Here's the list: Aaron Burr, Charles Pinckney, DeWitt Clinton, Rufus King, Henry Clay, William Crawford, Lewis Cass, Winfield Scott, John Freeman, John Bell, John Breckinridge, Stephen Douglas, George McClellan, Horatio Seymour, Horace Greeley, Samuel Tilden, Winfield Scott Hancock, James Blaine, James Weaver, William Jennings Bryan. Now my question is what do those names have in common? A number of things. All of these men were presidential candidates in the 1800s. All of them were nominated by an adoring party. All of them were told they could win, that they would win, and all of them lost, some more than once.
In a very practical way, these men learned that truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing. Of course, they only lost an election. Today I'm talking about losing something far more important and longer lasting: eternity. No matter what the latest poll may say, I encourage you to follow this truth. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. If this Savior is a Person you would like to know better, I extend this invitation. Please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Action in Ministry for September 24, 2017
Guest: Rachel Legoute
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry, your call to action and response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ. Pastor Greg Seltz joins us now.
Pastor Seltz: Mark, great to be here. Many of our listeners already believe wholeheartedly in following Jesus; others are still watching, waiting. I guess you could say that they're analyzing the polls as to who this Jesus is and whether they really need Him.
Mark Eischer: While people might be curious to hear more about Christ and the Christian faith, sometimes broaching that topic with someone might seem a bit like walking on the high wire.
Pastor Seltz: Right.
Mark Eischer: To make this balancing act just maybe a little bit easier, Lutheran Hour Ministries has developed a new online resource called THRED. Here to talk with us about that today is THRED Community Manager, Rachel Legoute.
Pastor Seltz: Rachel, thanks for joining us.
Rachel Legoute: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Mark Eischer: First, what does a community manager manage?
Rachel Legoute: Mostly, I manage the social media parts of our THRED project, so the Facebook, I handle comments that come in through our website, and also I'm in charge of the content distribution. We have all of our content that's given to us through our contributors and our team, and I put that out into the world for THRED.
Mark Eischer: Okay. Briefly, what is THRED?
Rachel Legoute: THRED is a network of online content that creates space for conversation with people of different backgrounds. It has a variety of different interest levels that it tries to pull in and serve with the content that we create. We're hoping to create connections that lead to community. THRED's tagline is "An open and honest conversation with people of different backgrounds about life, faith, and Jesus."
Pastor Seltz: Okay. Let's unpack that a little bit then. What is the driving force behind this project then?
Rachel Legoute: It's no secret that a lot of people are online, and there has been this explosion of digital communication in recent years through social media, the internet, and all those different things that people are going to, to find information. It's created many opportunities for learning and networking, but it's also allowed people to stay in their own comfort zones or bubbles. You can connect with people who are just like you, and you can listen to opinions that are just like your own. Faith is a topic that has been one of the places where people have the biggest divisions. What's behind THRED is the desire to engage non-churched people, and we want to engage them in genuine dialogue about the words and message of Jesus, and the relevant impact of Christianity in our contemporary culture. We want to establish a compelling narrative regarding faith, Jesus, and Christianity.
Pastor Seltz: What's available to those who visit these pages? What are they going to find when they join in?
Rachel Legoute: We launched on three main platforms: Facebook, we have a website, and we also have a YouTube channel. We have a variety of content. We have images that we share, and we hope that people who come to our page will then share them as well. We have thought-provoking quotes, maybe from people in history or just different sayings that we've found. The whole idea of those is to instigate that kind of conversation, to get it started. We also have blogs that we have a variety of contributors who contribute to our blog. We have long articles that have the THRED perspective on different topics that we believe are relevant to our audience's life. We also have videos that are created.
Mark Eischer: THRED launched back in the spring. You've had some experience with it now. What's been surprising or encouraging in the response so far?
Rachel Legoute: Every time that I see people come and view a piece of content, you wonder, "Is this going to hit? Is this going to actually connect with the people who are reading it or viewing it?" Any time that you see people start to talk about faith, you think, "Man, this is really exciting. This is important." It is fun to actually watch it do what we thought it would do.
Mark Eischer: What can our listeners do to become involved with this?
Rachel Legoute: Absolutely. If people want to go and learn more about THRED, the best place to go is www.lhm.org/thred. THRED is spelled, T-H-R-E-D. There's no A.
Pastor Seltz: Okay, no A. It's always exciting to see people engaging in the things of Christ, whether it's the first time or maybe this Gospel is something that we've been chewing on for a long time. What a great way to reach folks and get them into the conversation, especially then to focus them to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rachel, thank you for being here.
Rachel Legoute: Thanks for having me.
Pastor Seltz: That's our Action in Ministry segment today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
Mark Eischer: To learn more about THRED, go to lutheranhour.org, or call 1-855-JOHN316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for September 24, 2017
Topic: Needing Proof
Mark Eischer: Is the Bible our only source of information concerning Jesus? That's our question today for our Speaker Emeritus Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
Pastor Klaus: Hello, Mark. Good to be with you and The Lutheran Hour listeners, too. Who's asking this question?
Mark Eischer: I believe it comes from someone who had described themselves as a bit of a doubter, maybe somewhat skeptical.
Pastor Klaus: Just the kind of person we hope is listening. What does this individual want to know?
Mark Eischer: He writes, "In many ways, I would like to be a Christian. I like what Jesus is supposed to have said and supposed to have done. If true, He would be the most amazing person who ever lived. My problem is I simply need more proof."
Pastor Klaus: This is where I should interrupt and say this person needs to search the Scriptures. That's where they'll find the salvation story told in both promise and fulfillment. If you want to know who Jesus is, there's no better place to go than the Holy Bible.
Mark Eischer: Our listener knows the Bible is described as God's Word, and it's supposed to be true. The problem for him is that it's one-sided. The Bible story of Jesus comes to us from His friends, from His supporters, and you'd expect they'd want to make Jesus look good. Our listener wants to know if Jesus was so important and His resurrection so shocking to the world, why didn't somebody else write about it? Why didn't a non-disciple record something about these supposedly miraculous events?
Pastor Klaus: That's a fair question. When the president gives his State of the Union address, the opposition party always gives a reply and a rebuttal. We hear both sides.
Mark Eischer: To see that in action, all you have to do is go to court sometime and listen to divorce proceedings. There you'll really hear two different sides of a story.
Pastor Klaus: True enough. We would be quite right in expecting the same to happen with regard to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
Mark Eischer: How do you explain to our listener that God's Word should be enough for him?
Pastor Klaus: That is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we really don't have to do that.
Mark Eischer: Why do you say that?
Pastor Klaus: We don't have to say the Bible stands alone when it comes to the story of the Savior because it doesn't. There are other authors, ancient authors, who lived during or shortly after the time of Jesus. You might expect them to at least mention the Savior, and in that you would not be disappointed.
Mark Eischer: Like who?
Pastor Klaus: In the generation after Jesus, there was a non-Christian Jewish historian by the name of Josephus. He wrote a history of the Jewish nation.
Mark Eischer: He included Jesus?
Pastor Klaus: Yes, he included Jesus as well as John the Baptist.
Mark Eischer: What did Josephus say about Jesus?
Pastor Klaus: According to our friend and historian, Dr. Paul Maier, Josephus wrote, "At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day."
Mark Eischer: Now, that's interesting. It's also a pretty generous description coming from someone who was not a believer.
Pastor Klaus: Very. For many years, scholars thought some Christian scribe had made up that paragraph and inserted it into Josephus' book, however today most scholars take those words at face value.
Mark Eischer: Is Josephus the only ancient writer who mentions the Savior?
Pastor Klaus: Oh, no, not hardly. There's Tacitus, a Roman historian from the following generation. He mentioned how Nero blamed the followers of Christus for the fire of Rome.
Mark Eischer: Could we sum this up by saying there are extra-biblical sources that speak of Jesus and do so in a most informative way?
Pastor Klaus: Yes, you can do that without any fear of contradiction. Jesus is a real historical figure. He appears in the historical record of ancient writers, and the Bible gives us the eyewitness testimony of His early followers, who themselves were willing to give their lives vouching for what they had heard and they had seen.
Mark Eischer: 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.
"Salvation Unto Us Has Come" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"I Know My Faith Is Founded" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)