Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 26, 2015
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:What Is the Purpose of The Lutheran Hour?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 2 Peter 2:9-10
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, that which was wrong has been set right. Today may all who hear God's words of rescue rejoice that they have been redeemed. God grant this joy to us all. Amen.
Rescue. The news media loves to tell us stories about rescue. When Pilot Sully Sullenberger managed to crash land his disabled U.S. Airways jet on the Hudson River and save the lives of 158 passengers and crew, his praises were rightly sung by the press and all who heard of his skill.
Not so long ago in Australia, an autistic 11-year-old boy wandered away from his family while they were camping in a forest. The media shared the story of the frantic search for the lad who was drawn to water and liked to crawl into tight, small spaces. The terrain was tough, the weather uncooperative. For days hundreds of volunteers searched for the boy. Then, just when things seemed hopeless, a searcher in a helicopter saw "something." They turned the chopper around, found the boy, and gave thanks to God for the miracle. That's what the family called it... a miracle. And in some ways it was.
Maybe you've even heard of the rescue of Louis Jordan who went sailing on January 23rd. His father reported him missing on January 29th. But it wasn't until more than two months later that Mr. Jordan was found. The ship's mast had been broken, his boat was mangled, and he had managed to survive on fish and rainwater. According to Mr. Jordan, he did a lot of praying... his chief petition being for the Lord to send rain. The Lord heard those prayers and kept the sailor going until he was plucked out of the sea by a passing German container ship.
Rescue. Here's a rescue story the news didn't say too much about. It is a story which, a few years ago, came out of Kilgore, Texas. The story told of a man who had been pulled unconscious from his car after an accident. His good Samaritans carried him to a nearby gas station. It was there that the motorist came to, opened his eyes, took one look around, and started to struggle.
Fearing that he might hurt himself further, the man was forcibly subdued and taken to a hospital. After his immediate needs had been tended to, he was asked why he had struggled so hard to escape from his rescuers. The man explained how his rescuers had taken him to a gas station.... a Shell gas station. When he regained consciousness, he quickly scanned his surroundings for some clue as to his whereabouts. He found his clue: the Shell sign. Unfortunately, at that moment, someone was blocking his view of the first letter, the "S" of the Shell sign. The man had struggled so strongly because he was certain he had died in the accident and had awakened in hell.
The man's reaction was pretty normal. Really, who wouldn't struggle against going to hell? Given the options of an eternal fiery roasting or an everlasting celebration of life with the Lord, struggling to get away from hell seems like the natural thing to do. Unfortunately today, and throughout history, most folks have tried to convince themselves that escape from eternal punishment is a do-it-yourself project. They believe if they work hard enough and long enough, they may be able to escape the punishment and damnation which is coming from a god who is justly displeased with their sinful shortcomings.
Use your GPS to pick any point on the globe; set your time machine for any day in history, and you will find people who are saying, "We must try, we must do all we can to escape the punishment which awaits us when we pass death's horizon." "We must try to escape," said the Mayans of Mexico as they ripped beating, bleeding hearts from the chests of their living human sacrifices. "We must try to escape," said the ancient Canaanite religions. History tells of how they tried to appease their deities by rolling their own children into the fire-filled bellies of their idols. "We must try to appease God and avoid hell," is the great motivator of humanity as it does its best to earn the blessing and forgiveness of their imaginary and outraged gods.
Of course, hearing of those cultures you will rightly reply, "Those things are long ago and far away. We don't do things like that today." And it's true, we don't. But that doesn't mean peoples and cultures and religions have found peace; that they have stopped trying. If you doubt me, go to India and see those who imbed needles and hooks into their skin. Go to some South American countries and see those who beat and bruise their flesh to find harmony with the divine. See the religions of the Far East which encourage a good life to bring about a good reincarnation; look at the millions who, from the darkness, constantly hope to be enlightened. See the prayer wheels of Tibet continually spinning as adherents struggle to achieve peace with god. Go to the Mideast and watch the millions engage in their religion's prescribed pilgrimages, prayers, fasts, and charitable donations. The belief that "we must try to win our salvation" is basic and fundamental to almost every major religion of the world.
Of course, you may as a modern, sophisticated citizen of a civilized country find yourself saying, "Pastor, I don't know a lot of folks who cling to the idea that they must do something, say something, earn something, offer something, sacrifice something to make their god smile." Having watched the way a lot of folks live their lives, you may have concluded that your neighbors just aren't that worried about hell. Again you may be right. After all, at least according to the statistics, many of our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members have decided that this life is all there is. They have convinced themselves that we live and then we die and that's all there is. To such souls there is no God, no devil, no heaven or hell, no guilt necessary, and no forgiveness needed.
These folks talk a good game, but I have been at the deathbeds of a lot of people and I want you to know that when a person is approaching his end, he takes inventory of his beliefs. His or her whole life may have been lived with bravado and self-assuredness, but at the end he will double check in hopes that he has been right. Although these individuals may not know the Bible, in their hearts and minds the Lord speaks to them. He speaks and says the same thing to them that He said to St. Peter almost 20 centuries ago. Back then God warned, I know how to "keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (by that I mean) ... especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (The ones who are) Bold and willful, (who) do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones."
Yes, I've been there... almost every minister has been there when an unbeliever's bold bluster is stripped away and all that is left is uncertainty and fear of what is to come. For some, this fear can lead to an eleventh hour, or what you might call a "deathbed conversion." For others it often means their grieving, mourning families will end up seeking the services of a clergyman who will do his best to manufacture a few words of comfort over the dear, albeit unbelieving, departed.
May I give you an example of what I mean? On November 10, 1982, the Russian ruler, Leonid Brezhnev, died. He had been the leader of the second most powerful nation the world has ever seen; a leader with almost unlimited power in a country which, at least at that time, had denied the existence of God, heaven, or hell. When Brezhnev passed away, Vice-President George Bush, went to the funeral. This is what the Vice-President reported: "An amazing thing happened at the funeral of Soviet leader Brezhnev. Things were run with military precision; a coldness and hollowness pervaded the ceremony -marching soldiers, steel helmets, Marxist rhetoric, but no prayers, no comforting hymns, no mention of God. I happened to be in just the right spot to see Mrs. Brezhnev (give her final farewell). She walked up to the casket, took one last look at her husband, and there, in the cold, gray center of that totalitarian state, she traced the sign of the cross over her dead husband's chest. I was stunned. In that simple act, God had broken through the core of the Communist system."
Mrs. Brezhnev's simple act as she traced the cross, whether in secret belief or flickering hope, showed that the message of a crucified, risen Savior cannot be excluded by an iron curtain, or an atheistic government. In truth the words of Peter were true for her, as they have been for countless others, "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials." Nothing could bring comfort to the widow of Russia's strong man than the rescue which is brought about by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God.
And it is here, my friends, that we see a profound difference between Christianity and the multitude of organized or personal belief systems in this world. While all others maintain, "We must do our best to win our escape from the price and penalty of sin," Christianity rightly holds "God has rescued helpless humanity through Jesus' great work." You are acquainted with that heaven-written story, are you not? You do know how our first ancestors despoiled God's perfect world with their disobedience. Adam and Eve were like little, rebellious children who take their father's watch apart and, finding themselves surrounded by dozens of tiny springs, screws, wheels, and gears, are overwhelmed by the knowledge that they can never reassemble those parts the way they had once been. Similarly, when we take an honest look at the wreck we have made of our lives and this world, we must confess: "Lord, we are sorry, we can't fix things. Try as we might, work as hard as we can, nothing we can do will restore Your perfection; nothing we can accomplish will forgive our sins or save our souls."
Seeing us in that terrible and terminal condition, God sent His Son to make things right for us. According to promise and prophecy, 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, true man and God, was born in the Judean town of Bethlehem. For the rest of His all-too-short life He dedicated Himself to doing all which was necessary to win our forgiveness and build a bridge which would span the transgression-created gulf between this world and heaven. His was not an easy life. He was misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, and maligned. He was hounded from town to town and no less than six plots were hatched to murder Him.
The last one, made notable by the betrayal of one of Jesus' own disciples, succeeded. The Christ was unfairly tried on trumped-up charges, convicted, and condemned to die on the cross. When Jesus went to that cross, He took all of humankind's sins and with His death paid their price so that we might be rescued from hell. Three days after His lifeless body was placed into a borrowed grave, in a wondrous proclamation of the power of God's grace and the success of Jesus' mission, He came out of that sepulcher and showed Himself the Conqueror, the Vanquisher of sin, death, and Satan. Because of what Jesus has done all who believe on Him as Savior find their lives have been changed. They have been saved; they have been forgiven; they have been rescued. From the moment faith is received they should be sure the remainder of their lives can be lived in peace and without fear of hell.
I started out this Lutheran Hour message telling you the true story of a man who was in a car accident. Now, let me tell you of another story, equally true, a story from my early years in the ministry. It is the story of a little boy on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The lad came from a poverty-stricken family where food was always parceled out to the ounce and where even glasses of milk were shared among the children. One day, while crossing the road, he was hit by a car.
After the accident, the ambulance took the boy to the hospital in Rapid City where x-rays revealed the lad's injuries were limited to a broken leg and a lot of scrapes. Even so, the doctors decided he should stay in the hospital for a few days for observation. The boy was showered, robed, and put into a bed between two clean sheets. That was a new experience for him... as it was when the nurse brought him a tall glass of cold, fresh milk. The boy, remembering the many times he had to share such a treat, looked at the nurse with his big brown eyes and honestly asked, "How deeply shall I drink?"
We who have been rescued by Jesus might well find ourselves asking the same thing of God, "Lord, how deeply shall I drink of Your grace and mercy?" How deeply will you drink? Once you were alone, but now, because you have been rescued by Jesus, you have a permanent Friend. How deeply will you drink? Once you were lost, but now, having been rescued by the Redeemer, you have security. How deeply will you drink? Once your feet were set on the superhighway to hell, but now, rescued by the Redeemer, you are on the path to paradise. How deeply will you drink? God, in the person of His Son, has rescued you and wishes to provide you with a full, an overflowing glass, of the good news of salvation. It is offered to you courtesy of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to you by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the inspired words of the Holy Scriptures. Looking at the transformation He has brought about in your life, heart, soul, and eternity, you can rightly say, as did the Old Testament's King David, 'my cup runneth over.' How deeply will you drink?
My friend, you have been rescued through the Savior's holy precious blood and by His innocent suffering and death. You have been rescued. Do not just take a few, meager sips of God's forgiveness and freedom. Do not deny and deprive yourself by taking the smallest of tastes. God's love and grace given to you is to be welcomed, savored, enjoyed, and relished. Drink deeply. Because of Jesus you have been rescued. No longer can any sin, even those special secret, deep-down buried sins, condemn you. You have been rescued. Satan no longer can successfully accuse you; death will not be able to hold you.
A final story for a July Sunday... a story from Christmas. The newspaper told Grandma that Christmas was only twelve days away. Knowing Christmas is special to all, but most of all to children, Grandma wanted to see Christmas through her granddaughter's eyes. To that end the two took the train to downtown Chicago's State Street where they could shop and see the Christmas' displays in Macy's windows.
Jennifer, the granddaughter, truly did enjoy all the sights and sounds of that special day. She enjoyed eating a pot pie in the store's Walnut Room and she was thrilled as grandmother chose and bought gifts all morning long. Of course, the highpoint of the trip was when the little girl got to sit on Santa's lap and share with him all the things which were on her Christmas list. When Jennifer had finished, she jumped down and Santa handed her a candy cane. "What do you say?" prompted the grandmother. Jennifer thought for a moment and then turned and with a big smile that could win the world, repeated to Santa what she had heard her grandmother say all day long. Jennifer said just two words to Santa, "Charge it."
Jesus has rescued and redeemed you. Because of that wonderful truth, you can rejoice your sins have been charged to and paid for by the Redeemer. From this point on you can be assured you will never exhaust or over-extend His capacity to love, That is, my friends, what happens when you have been rescued by the Redeemer. It is a truth which I pray is known to all of you. And if it is not, it ought to be. To that end we are ready to help. My friends, do you feel you are floundering, faltering, failing? The Lutheran Hour is prepared to introduce you to your Rescuer. To meet the Redeemer, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for JULY 26, 2015
Topic: What Is the Purpose of The Lutheran Hour?
ANNOUNCER: What are we doing and for whom are we doing it? That will be our question today for our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: Hello to you, Mark. Good to be back, but I think I'm going to need a little bit more direction for our discussion today, if you don't mind?
ANNOUNCER: Our topic today is actually the program itself. For those of you who don't know, "The Lutheran Hour" debuted almost 85 years ago, in October of 1930.
KLAUS: And by God's grace, it is today perhaps the longest-running program of its kind in the world.
ANNOUNCER: That being said, we have a listener who wants to know what we're all about. He says he listens to other Christian broadcasts on radio and TV, and "The Lutheran Hour" seems to be different, almost unique. He wonders what's the purpose of our broadcast and who is the intended audience? "There are times I think your intended listeners are all believers and then other times when it sounds like you're speaking to those who are not yet Christians;" and he also wonders if we've ever thought about going on TV.
KLAUS: I could reply to his first question anecdotally by sharing two letters I received. The first one says this: "I met a gentleman on an airplane who has newly become a Christian. He was Hindu but has converted since moving to the United States. Part of the reason he did so was because of 'The Lutheran Hour.' He said he really enjoys the program and really likes the fact that it is understandable. Just thought you would want to hear how the broadcast has touched and strengthened this gentleman."
ANNOUNCER: And we thank God that He uses us in this way. By that one might say the broadcast helps to show the Savior to those who do not yet know Him.
KLAUS: And that would be true. Week after week we tell the simple but wonderful story of the Savior's sacrifice. How many souls the Holy Spirit has reached through these messages we will never know this side of heaven. I do know that we work hard at using simple language so that the message of God's grace can be understood by those who have had little or no experience with the Bible, the Church, or the Savior.
ANNOUNCER: You said there were two letters. What about that second one?
KLAUS: Yeah, it reads this way: "Thank you for your recent message on 'The Lutheran Hour.' As I write this, my wife and I are celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary and she has been in a 6-year-long battle with cancer. Three weeks ago, we were informed that there is nothing more that can be done, so our wedding anniversary celebration has a bittersweet aspect to it. Your message addressed many of the issues with which we have been struggling."
ANNOUNCER: So the broadcast is also for those who already know and trust in their Savior?
KLAUS: Yes, it's for them, too. The truth is our broadcast is for whomever and whatever audience the Holy Spirit will give us, both believers and unbelievers.
ANNOUNCER: I like how the prophet Isaiah puts it when he says the Word of God is both "seed for the sower and bread for the eater."
KLAUS: As almost every broadcast has said, "We bring Christ to the nations." Our job is to share the story of salvation. The Holy Spirit takes that story to places we've never been to, dreamed of, or sometimes even thought possible. And the Holy Spirit then works through that message to bring the nations to the Church, which Christ calls His bride.
ANNOUNCER: One last question.... What about "The Lutheran Hour" on TV?
KLAUS: As an organization, we do have some experience with television and we're working on plans to continue and expand upon that. In recent years, our Men's NetWork has produced several TV special programs such as "The Bible on Trial" and "The Intersection of Church and State."
ANNOUNCER: Pastor Gregory Seltz is currently involved with a DVD project that'll take several classic episodes of our long-running TV series, This Is the Life; and make them available once again. Obviously the Internet has changed how people obtain their information. Radio and TV are still very important. At the same time, the Internet now provides many new opportunities. While we don't know exactly what types of media Lutheran Hour Ministries will use in the future, we're actively looking at ways to use radio, TV, and the Internet with all its new and varied possibilities to share the timeless message of Jesus with all whom the Holy Spirit brings to us, both new and old.
KLAUS: Giving thanks to the Holy Spirit for the doors He opens and thanks to God for our listeners' ongoing prayers and support.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. We also thank our listener for that question. We thank you, the listener, for making this program part of your day. We hope you'll join us again next time. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Action in Ministry for JULY 26, 2015
ANNOUNCER: The 16th century Reformation marked a turning point in western civilization and in the life of the Christian church. Lutheran Hour Ministries is preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a three-part video series called: "A Man Named Martin." Part one is now available. It recounts the life and theological development of Martin Luther.
AUDIO CLIP: For Luther, in his day, righteousness of God meant the expectation that God has that you have to live a certain way. That means living without sin. That means doing penance for any failures that you do have, and so for Luther, when he would contemplate the righteousness of God, this was not a happy thought, but a horrible burden because the righteousness of God, well, that's perfection.
AUDIO CLIP: Luther, at this point, was very concerned, of course, about his salvation and despite the fact that he was in a monastery, he never felt the security he thought he would find as a monk.
AUDIO CLIP: In late medieval Christianity, there was a real bookkeeping mentality in regard to sins. Sins were viewed as discreet acts or things that you had forgotten to do. And so you could list them off-what had you done or what had you not done that you were supposed to do.
AUDIO CLIP: Staupitz told Luther that repentance begins with the love of God. And at the time, Luther thought that that was really quite an enlightening thought. He said, "So, what everybody else thinks is supposed to be the end of repentance is really the beginning. The beginning of repentance is that I love God, not for the sake of saving my own skin, but I love God for God's sake."
AUDIO CLIP: Staupitz helped young Martin Luther enormously. He helped him to realize that his struggles with sin, his struggles with what kind of God he had-was it an angry God, but Staupitz didn't get Luther all the way to his Reformation breakthrough. Luther came to his Reformation breakthrough as a process.
ANNOUNCER: You'll gain insight from Pastor Gregory Seltz and from noted historians and authors, including: Drs. Paul Maier, Ken Schurb, Joel Biermann, Mary Jane Haemig, and the Rev. Daniel Preus. "A Man Named Martin" new from Lutheran Hour Ministries. You can view and download this video for free at our website: lutheranhour.org. That's lutheranhour.org. It's also available on DVD. For more information, call The Lutheran Hour toll-free-1-855john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Entrust Your Days and Burdens" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"God's Word Is Our Great Heritage" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)