"Faith Faces the Future" #82-51
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 23, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today-The Message?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Romans 8:31
Hello, I'm Gregory Seltz, the Voice of the Lutheran Hour. You know, The Lutheran Hour has been proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus on the radio for over 80 years. In August, we celebrate the fact that this message of hope is unchanging, even in a changing world. We proclaim that this truth is just as relevant today as it has been in the past. In fact, we believe it is even more needed today than ever. With that in mind, this year, during our Archives August sermon series, we bring back several sermons from one of our esteemed speakers of the past, Walter A. Maier, and present four powerful sermons of his tenure, edited only slightly for modern presentation, to demonstrate the enduring power of Christ's message no matter the mouthpiece. This week, the sermon, "Faith Faces the Future!"
Click here to read the original sermon text as preached by Dr. Walter A. Maier
The Bible says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed, and faith in Him means life for you now and forever! Amen.
Every year, the world pauses at the same time to celebrate its oldest holiday, New Year's Eve. It seems that throughout the ages humanity has lingered upon the threshold of every new twelve months of the calendar to peer through the portals of the New Year in the fearsome flow of time we call the future. So let's go back in time, to one of the most pressing New Year's of all. There was fear and trembling on this particular New Year's Eve, when a country that had always been built on hope, suddenly was full of despair from coast to coast. Can you imagine that New Year's when the question was, "What will the year 1931 bring us?"
Now, if you were there at that time, would you presume to answer this question with satisfying assurance even bold confidence? If you would have saved the newspapers from the New Year's Day the year before, one would have read rose-colored and optimistic promises for the financial future, glowing predictions of what was yet to come, but merely a year later such words were a strange contrast to the dismal and tragic realities of a year marked by decimating unemployment, and some of the most disastrous agricultural conditions on record.
True then, it's true now, no one can peer into the future with confidence. Not the clairvoyant, the fortune teller, the crystal-gazer, the necromancer, none of them can tear aside the draperies that conceal the future.
No, we examine the testimony of those and others who rise up to give us the promises of something firm and fast and definite for the coming months, and as their faltering and deceptive answers flash into our expectant souls, the conviction forces itself upon us that, if there is to be any assurance for the coming year, any immovable base on which we can rest our hopes and dispel our fears, it must come from a divine, infallible source, from the Word of Him who maps the uncharted course of the days, whose omnipotent hand molds the course both of nations and of individuals.
So today, I want to bring to all of you who might have been having a 1931 type of year this year, to all of you who might be worrying about your daily bread, your work, your health, the needs of your family; to you for whom this year, might have started poorly and only seem to have gotten worse as the days rolled on; to you who want the new year to be a larger and better year spiritually and morally, I bring you not an economic program, not a partisan appeal, but this promise of triumphant truth, this death-defeating, life-bringing word of divine comfort by which faith can and does face the future, "If God be for us, who can stand against us?" This is the conviction that I ask you to take today into the days to follow. The Bible insists that in Christ, "God is for us; for you, for me" and faith clings confidently to that as we move into tomorrow's reality in Him.
The Bible asks you today "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Let me ask that of you right now, even if the things in your life at the moment are telling you otherwise. Let me tell you right here that unless you have received Jesus Christ as your Substitute and Redeemer, God is not for you, but is against you, because God is against sin and the unpardoned sinner. The inflexible demand of His holiness that reechoes down through the ages is this: "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." And with this demand ringing in our ears, we look back over the years that have already past, we find the unmistakable imprint of our own shortcomings, our repeated concessions to the selfish and baser impulses of human nature. Hot tears of sorrow cannot wipe away these stains of the past. Sigh for them, blush for them, weep for them, if you will: you cannot change them now; there they are, these barriers which, if unremoved, separate us from God.
Whenever we stand at the precipice of the future, God calls us first of all to be honest with ourselves, to be fully aware of our own moral liabilities. Let us not be guilty of that serious inconsistency that tries to cover and conceal sin; for here is the Scriptural warning, "He that covers sin shall not prosper." Let us not ignore sin; for this fallacy leads to the utter collapse of all righteousness and morality and only heaps higher the mountain of iniquity. "If we say that we have no sin," St John warns us, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Let us not try to justify sin; for the voice of conscience shrieks out its shrill and ceaseless protest. As we face the future challenges that our lives might bring, one that might indeed be starting tomorrow, it's time to get right with God today, follow the direction of His unfailing Guidebook, "Repent and believe that your sins may be blotted out."
As the gates of every new hour, every new day, and every new year swing open, let us remember, and I pray God that this truth be emblazoned on our innermost hearts, that the assets and resources which the grace of God offers to us by faith in Jesus, they far outweigh any and every liability of sin that will be presented for accounting before the divine tribunal. There is not a soul listening to this broadcast today, those who recognize the forces which would separate us from God, but who also know greater still the radiant light and hope that streams from the cross of Christ; they know theirs is an assurance to face whatever the future holds with the promise, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." There is not a repentant individual listening in who, although you may be debarred from other hopes or privileges because of your past, your social position, your misfortune, your race, your poverty; in Christ, right now you may freely and unconditionally enter into this limitless love of God because of Him. Again, as His Word assures us, "He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity." There is not a person among the highest of the high or lowliest of the low who cannot face whatever life brings in the Name of Jesus Christ, with God's own assurance that He is for us.
Think of what this really means to you today! Right now! Think of the vast and glorious promises extended to us by the conviction that God is for us! It means that all the sins and weaknesses of the past are canceled and forgotten; it means that every step that we take in the now, tomorrow, and on our last day, is under the guidance of the loving Good Shepherd; it means that every prayer that we utter has the assurance of His divine and perfect answer; it means that we have God for us in our homes, in our businesses, in our pleasure; it means that we can celebrate that each and every day we are new creations in Him, with a new vision, new courage, new ideals, a new hope of accomplishment, a new sense of duty toward our fellowmen, and new help to meet these obligations. That's the power of God for us in life!
But there is even more. With this conviction in our hearts that God is for us, we challenge the future with the shield of faith and with the cry, "Who can be against us?" Who is there and what is there to rise up and nullify the gracious promise of a loving Father? Of course, there will be difficulties, and trials, and obstacles, and hindrances during the days to come; for the Gospel does not bring the child of God home to his Father along smooth or rosy paths. If the church were to promise that all who join it would find the key to political preeminence, business success, and social advancement, or the means of avoiding the unpleasant things of life, the churches of our country would be stampeded beyond capacity by eager, clamoring crowds that are now cold, and calloused, and indifferent to the spiritual message of Christ. Twenty centuries of history bear striking testimony to the words of Jesus that "the disciple is not above his Master," and those who walk in the path of the Redeemer's faith can follow Jesus only if they, too, are prepared to take up their crosses.
The people who faced the reality of 1931 faced a world that brought tremendous sorrow, anxiety, and disappointment, but those who faced those issues with the promise of God in Christ, that God was indeed still for them, those obstacles did not drag them down to despair, but offered even in the midst of that struggle, the victorious confidence that the believers journey is always from cross to crown and that, as the Bible assures us, all in Christ, that "all things," truly do "work together for good to those that love God." That's a confidence for 1931, for 9/11, for 2015, and beyond. In Christ alone, you can have the comfort that defiantly contradicts our short-sighted human vision, that enables the believer in Him to rejoice beneath tears of human pain and woe; blessed even by that strange, yet sorrow-soothing truth, "The one whom the Lord loves, He chastens," but only for a time!
Remember, and I am speaking now especially to those of you who may feel in human bitterness that God has dealt unkindly with you, you who linger on weary beds of sickness, you whose life has brought one crushed hope after another, you who live under the blight of some consuming sorrow that gnaws away incessantly at your happiness and peace of mind, remember that if God is for you through Jesus Christ, all of these thwarted purposes and shattered hopes will only promote the growth of your inner life, preparing you for the fullest of life forever in Him.
We see that truth around us in precious things today, don't we? The purest gold is the metal that has been refined in the hottest flame. Steel that is tempered in the blazing crucible gains in strength and value. The diamond must be cut and ground and polished to sparkle in its fiery radiance. And in your own spiritual lives there must be conflict and resistance to strengthen your Christian character and to bring out those qualities which mark the victorious life that lives in Jesus.
If God be for us, then we face no issue on our own. Rather, we face all things with Him, in Him, through Him as His people. And that, dear friend, changes everything.
But God's good news, the proclamation, "Nothing can stand against us in Him" faces, with confidence, the final enemy as well! Even the last enemy, as St. Paul calls death, cannot permanently triumph over us. It is at that moment most of all, that Romans 8 is true; all who have God for them, in and through their resurrected Savior, are divinely enabled to conquer death and death's corruption, to face the inevitable of what is yet to come with a Christ-centered confidence in life eternal, that demands, "nothing can stand against us in Him?"
What if today were a New Year's Day for you? What if your life could truly begin again with God? And what if that meant that your past was covered by His grace, your present day was empowered and directed by His Word, and your future was in His hands with each day, a new opportunity to live as His people for others? That's God's offer for you this day, with a promised grace, and power, and wisdom to face whatever the future brings. In that sense, it doesn't matter what year it is, what day it is. What matters is this, "Are you facing that challenge with the hope, the grace, the love, and the wisdom that only God can bring?"
If you've wandered from God, take heart, He's looking for you just like He always comes looking for prodigal sons and daughters, lost sheep. Today's the day for you to get to know Him better through His Word, to trust in Him by faith. God is the One Who can "Create in you and me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us." Christ is the One Who can answer prayers with the promise, "Behold, I make all things new"! And St. Paul, one who faced pain, and struggle, and challenges unimaginable for us, he reminds us that with faith in Jesus, "tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword....shall these separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ? No, no way; in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
So, my wish to you all, for your very lives, is to face whatever the day bring with the conviction and confidence that you, too, can be, "more than conquerors through Him that loved us," through the glorious, saving companionship of the Christ of the Ages, Jesus, your Savior, your Lord, your Friend. That's a confidence to deal with the day that is rooted in Who God is, not who you are. That's a confidence that can see through the grimmest reality. That's a confidence that can even help a person face the success and blessings of the day with a wisdom that knows even these things are not ultimately what makes life worth living. Whatever tomorrow brings, the One Who went to the cross for you, overcoming death and rising from the grave for you, it is His invitation, His call for you to repent and believe, and to face each day with the enduring conviction, "that God is indeed for you in Christ, and nothing can stand against you." To that end....may God richly bless you always.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 23, 2015
Topic: Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today-The Message?
ANNOUNCER: Why is it so hard to share our faith in Christ? Could it be the message itself? I'm Mark Eischer here once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz.
SELTZ: Mark, today I want take up one of those challenges that is often leveled at the church....here it goes, "I could love Jesus, I just hate the church." Have you heard that statement before?
ANNOUNCER: I have. People reject the message because they say it doesn't change the people who believe it. You know, the church is full of hypocrites; the church is just about people who think they're better than everyone else; you've heard it.
SELTZ: That's right, and now I've tried to deal with that honestly in our discussion last week. So if you want to hear about that, "How we get in the way of the Gospel of Jesus and how we can get out of its way," then you are going to have to go back to our archives.
SELTZ: Today, I want to tell people, "No, you might have a problem with Jesus too; at least right up to the time when you put your faith in Him."
ANNOUNCER: That's something to think about. It might be Jesus Himself who bugs us.
SELTZ: If you look in the Bible, people were getting mad at Him all the time. That's especially true of people who felt that they weren't sinful, that they didn't need to repent of any sin. They were often angry at Jesus because He pulled no punches with them. Without forgiveness there would be only eternal judgment with God.
ANNOUNCER: And that makes people today mad as well.
SELTZ: It does, but that's not the church talking, that's not we Christian's talking, that's Jesus talking. The people that were open to Him, the ones that He was gentle with, they were sinners too, but they knew it, they were ashamed of it, they were seeking forgiveness for it. He was the One who was incredibly loving to the unlovable, to the ones in need who knew their need.
ANNOUNCER: But, there's more to what makes Him so challenging, isn't there?
SELTZ: There is, and this might be the one thing that irritates people most of all; and that is Jesus Himself when He claims that He is the only way to salvation, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He says He is the Savior of the world, not merely a good example or a loving teacher. In a world of self-help, self-made, self-focused pseudo saviors; that kind of talk would probably get you hung on a cross today too.
ANNOUNCER: So, what can we do to help us share our faith in Him?
SELTZ: Again, there's no secret to it. We have got to get to know Jesus and His Word even better today. Because, the only way that people overcome their skepticism of those kinds of claims is when they, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they get to know the uniqueness of the Jesus of the Bible. So, I'm just going to say it this way, friend, if you are skeptical of the claims of Jesus, I just ask you will you get to know Him first? Let Him have His say in your life because there is really nobody like Him!
ANNOUNCER: And as it's been said, "It's really not bragging if you can do it."
SELTZ: Even better, it's not bragging when you can really do it, and you did it all for others so that they might have the benefits of your work as a gift. Think about what the Bible says, Jesus is God in the Flesh who didn't use His power and status for Himself, He used it so that you and I, rebellious people by nature, could be reconciled to God eternally! Think about that. I know that His uniqueness can offend at first; but as witnesses, our job is just to keep "boasting about Him."
ANNOUNCER: Which can cut through the skepticism and the unbelief.
SELTZ: That's how it always works, Mark, because of our sin, our hearts are as hard as stones. It's the power of Christ, His Word, His Spirit that turns us from self-centered sinners to forgiven, sharers of His grace to others. Only He can do that!
ANNOUNCER: And He does it over and over again!
SELTZ: And folks, that's what we're inviting people to see when they come to church. They should see a lot of people just like them, with all kinds of struggles and problems, but with one difference. We see all of our life in the grace of God that comes in and through Jesus Christ Alone. So even worship is about coming into His presence, receiving His gift, His Word, and then venturing out into the world to be His people so that others might see Him too!
ANNOUNCER: So then, as witnesses sharing our faith in Christ, the challenge, really, is to learn how to boast even better about Jesus.
SELTZ: Right, and don't be surprised if people even get mad at Him at first. The message of Jesus, it shakes all of our lives to our shakable foundation so that He can build our new lives in Him, on Him forever.
ANNOUNCER: We've talked about the challenges to sharing our faith in Christ; challenges that come from the culture, from our own personal struggles and from Jesus Himself.
SELTZ: I hope this helps.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Action in Ministry for August 23, 2015
Guest: Rev. Dion Garrett
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. Jesus said, "In this world you will have troubles." Pastor Seltz, today we're going to talk about how to make a comeback from whatever life throws our way. In fact, we have a resource for you by that name, so I hope you'll stay with us for that information. Joining us today is our author, Dion Garrett. He serves as senior pastor of St. John's Church in Ellisville, MO and he has a passion for helping others live fuller lives through faith in Christ.
SELTZ: Hey, that's great because we do too. Pastor Garrett, thanks for joining us today.
GARRETT: I think it's awesome to be here. Thank you.
SELTZ: Well, listen, as we talk through your booklet, because this is a resource for our people; we often think of teenagers and young people of having this it's-not-going-to-happen-to-me attitude. We expect trials not to come. Why is that?
GARRETT: We do tend to imagine that suffering shouldn't come our way and I'm not sure why that is. I'm not even sure why we're preoccupied with that question. As if we could just answer that question, I think we feel like we could insulate ourselves or something.
SELTZ: Or figure it out.
GARRETT: We could figure it out. I don't think it's the right question. I think the right question is what next? But when trouble comes, there's nothing personal. God Himself suffered in the form of Jesus Christ. He suffered Himself. None of us are immune to suffering. It shouldn't surprise us.
SELTZ: As you explain in your booklet, Comebacks, there are two different responses, then, to that. We've seen those who have been brought low and they continue in that defeat for some time.
SELTZ: But we've also seen someone in that same type of circumstance get back up, brush themselves off, and come back with an amazing grace and tremendous personal growth. So, what's the difference?
GARRETT: I don't think there is any difference in the people necessarily. I don't think some are just made differently. I think it probably comes down to more of what those people believe; what they believe about God, what they believe about what God can do through their hardship and the suffering that they've been through, how God can redeem their trouble for good.
SELTZ: He can do things with their suffering that could be incredible blessings; maybe not to them at that moment.....
SELTZ: ...but to others. And they got that view of that. That's what they're looking for.
GARRETT: Yes. You see that time and again; just how God takes horrible circumstances and he uses them for something great in the world for the good of other people and it can change your mindset.
SELTZ: Well, you talked about how it changes actions, too. I love the story you tell in the booklet about how you changed the way you prayed for your children. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
GARRETT: Yeah. I grew up probably in a more disrupted household. Our household had a little more craziness going on in it.
GARRETT: So, I'd been through a lot and over the course of my journey I've realized how God used all that. I think, wow that was hard stuff but God used it. My kids, in comparison, grew up in a pretty stable household, for the most part, I mean. They have to deal with me as their dad but... How are my kids ever going to get this character and get life experience having such a stable life and at night I pray with my kids every night and you pray those prayers of protection....God protect us while we sleep and those are good, but it started to occur to me that I don't want kids who are just protected, I want kids who are formed. And so I started to pray, every time I pray protection I start to pray formation over my kids that they'll be formed into people who will be useful for God's purposes. And I realized that might include going through some hard things.
SELTZ: Well, that's the job of a parent, too, to kind of get them ready for those kinds of things. You're right. That's when comebacks happen, when we're transformed in and through the trouble, right?
GARRETT: Yeah, and as we're going through trouble, if we can look for God, if we can believe that God is good, if we can just hold on to that fundamental conviction that even though I'm experiencing hard things, that doesn't mean that God has ceased to be good. He's still good. He still loves me. He's still for me. And if I can believe that, then it enables me to see God being good in the middle of the trouble I'm going through and then certainly after; how God begins to redeem that stuff. And then as you see God being good, it reinforces your belief that God is good and there's this great energizing, upwards cycle that we can experience if we just cling to the belief that God is good.
SELTZ: And that's what the Bible is all about because the Bible is basically God making His promises and keeping His promises....
SELTZ: ...and we see that all throughout people's lives and sometimes they waited hundreds of years for those promises to be fulfilled...even thousands of years...and so it's not even just hope against hope, it's actually...we've seen Him do it time and time again. And He will do it with us, too.
ANNOUNCER: We've been talking with Pastor Dion Garrett about his booklet, Comebacks-How to Get Back Up After Life Knocks You Down. And in this booklet you'll find some practical ways to further your own personal comeback. In just a moment I'm going to tell you how you can get a copy of this resource for yourself or for someone you know. And Pastor Garrett, thanks for joining us today.
GARRETT: Hey, my pleasure. Thank you.
SELTZ: It's been great and we can just close by saying it's not if, but it's when the day of trouble comes, remember the purest gold comes through the hottest fire. We appreciate your being here, Pastor Garrett, for reminding us of this. God is for us and God will get it done even through our lives. Thanks for being here.
ANNOUNCER: And for your free copy of the booklet, Comebacks, call The Lutheran Hour toll free-1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Or click here. Our email address is email@example.com.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Spread the Reign of God the Lord" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)