"To Know God, Look to Jesus"#84-37
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 14, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: John 14:1-14
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me. If you had known me you would have known my Father also. From now on you know Him and have seen Him." Well, Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and it's enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you Philip and yet you have not come to know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father, so how can you say show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, otherwise believe because of the works themselves."
Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. Hallelujah.
You know, spring fever is happening with full force these days and when the weather gets warm who doesn't want to jump into a cool and refreshing swimming pool? Well, that's what a young boy who was visiting a friend's house wanted to do. His friends had a beautiful swimming pool in their backyard. He wasn't quite in junior high yet and he didn't know how to swim but he loved the water so into the pool he went. He was floating on a little raft with his feet placed through the whole of a small life preserver. That's when he fell off the raft. His feet were still floating in that life preserver on top of that water so his head went under. He was underwater and he couldn't get to the surface. The boy struggled. He started to drown.
Now, let's pause the story here. I don't want to leave you in too much suspense. The boy did survive the ordeal but what did he need at that moment in his life? Did he need someone to cheer him on? Did he need a cheerleading team to step up to the pool and say, "We believe in you. Come out of that pool." How about a book? Did he need someone to step over the edge of the pool and throw him some informative literature so he could read up on how to make his way through this drowning? What did he need? Did he need to reevaluate his life and get his thoughts and attitudes in line so he could be less troubled and decrease the stress levels he was experiencing? What did that young swimmer need?
He needed help. He needed to be saved, so the question for today is what do you need? What do I need, cheerleaders, pats on the back, people fawning at your feet? Well, there's always going to be a lot of that around. Throughout the ages humanly developed religions, philosophies, and ideologies have given answers to those questions. Some belief systems have said it this way, "You can do it. With the right thoughts, and speech, and action, and living, you can do it." That's what the world's thoughts and philosophies have said throughout the ages and that is what new movements of spirituality still say today. They cheerlead. They give you books. They hone your thoughts, many with good intentions to help you be happy and feel more in control, but all the while you're drowning. You're helpless against the forces of a broken world and your own broken soul. You're going down and in that reality, which you can't control, what do you really need?
You know, in the middle of all this chatter and cheerleading God cared enough about you to speak up. He had to get it across to you, you know, the truth of your helplessness and need. God didn't say, "You can do it." He didn't even say, "I'm going to work with you to hone your coping skills." He didn't say, "I'm going to harness your goodness within." He said, "You're drowning. Your helpless." Isn't that refreshing diagnosis? I mean if you really, really think about it. It's called the truth and Jesus says it straight to you and me.
Ephesians 2 says it this way, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins." Romans chapter 3 adds, "None," that's no one, "is righteous. No one understands. No one seeks God. All have turned aside together. They have become worthless. No one does good, not even one." Jesus says, "You're lost. You're helpless. You're like sheep without a shepherd."
Now, I know that's a hard truth to hear, isn't it? I mean it's hard for me to say. It's hard for me to hear as well but you and I can both see it in our own lives. You can see it when you look into the mirror and you recognize your own human frailty. You see it when crowds of people cower with fear in public places because of violent attacks. You experience it when cancer will not give up in spite of our best efforts. You see it when the clouds of depression refuse to clear up. You see it when someone you love refuses to show love to you in return. You experience it when you try to overcome a destructive habit but your strength cannot manage it. Your actions keep hurting you. They keep hurting you and others.
That's the truth. We're all broken. It's the hard truth of what the Bible calls sin, falling short, missing the mark, going over the edge. It's helplessness. It's drowning. But what's the answer? What's needed? Well, the apostle Peter spoke up in Acts chapter 4 as he talked about a man, who after being born unable to walk, was miraculously healed. Peter said this, "This helpless man was helped". He was healed by the name of Jesus Christ. Help came from the outside and that's where our help comes from too. That's what we all really need. Then Peter made one of the most defining statements in the history of all world religions. He said this, "There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." What's that name? That's the name Jesus.
Peter was saying, "Cheerleaders, books, thought processes, philosophies, spiritual ideas, yeah, we've got a million of those but now you are given something new, a Savior." You're drowning and Jesus jumps into the pool to rescue you. He drowned in your place and pushed you to the surface so that you could breathe again, and every day then know this, Jesus jumps into the pool for you. Yes, especially when you're in the deep end, especially when you and I are going down for the count.
The Savior helps you in your helplessness with His living word the Bible. The Savior picks you up to carry you through your life in baptism. He says, "I've got to you". The Savior risen from the dead, alive and active, gets into your life through His body and blood and holy Communion. He says, "Here I am. I'm the way, the truth, and the life and you are saved, forgiven, new life, eternal life." That's the truth about what you really need and that's the gift that God gives to you and to me. Jesus then can even say this, "Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me" because" I am the way. I am the truth and I am the life and no one comes to the Father except through me."
God's word doesn't give you ideologies or abstract self-help thoughts. Jesus said to believe in Him, to trust Him. God's word talks about faith in the Savior, God. That's the word Jesus used in John 14:1. It's a word that means to rely on God's help, His doing. It's a word that happens when you've got a Savior in the picture. You know, being saved by Jesus Christ is not religion. It's reliance. Let me say that again. Being saved by Jesus Christ is not religion. It's reliance. Reliance upon God's grace, God's doing, God's amazing love for you, and help, His help, in your helplessness.
That's why Martin Luther took the apostle Paul's words very seriously, the words that were proclaimed in Romans 1:16. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it's the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." If you want to know God and if you want to receive what you truly need, you need to look to Jesus. You need Him because He's your Savior and mine.
You know, I've read that when people are drowning they may get to the point of total peace. It's called drowning calm. Wow. I hope I never have to experience that. It seems that right then drowning becomes okay. Well, is that where you are today? Are you drowning and you're fine with it or do you need to be saved? Are you listening to the cheerleaders of worldly thinking and spirituality or are you hearing the truth? Today Jesus says, "Believe in God. Believe also in me." He says, "I'm the way, the truth, and the life." Today you are called to say, "Okay God. Show me you saving work in my life. Give me your help." God is faithful. He will do it.
For those of you who trust in Jesus this message may lead you to ask the question, "What will happen to the people in the world who don't know the Savior? What about them?" This issue of truth trouble your heart because you do care about drowning people. What about them? Well, Jesus says, Jump in. Jump in. I'm sending you now. "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age." I'm with you to even as you jump into that pool for others. You've got a meaningful and monumental calling. Bring the truth. God has put people in your life whom you are called to love and help every day. You get to do that and He will be with you through it all.
Now, Jesus didn't say, "Let's change the truth to make everyone feel comfortable." He said, "They're drowning. Bring them my truth, my help. I don't know if a drowning person is hearing or reading this sermon right now. If you are, help is jumping in right now for you. Jesus, the only Savior ever revealed to all of humanity, is here for you. Now perhaps you are listening to this message and someone in your life is drowning. Maybe Jesus is saying to you, "Let's jump in together. Why let that helplessness have the final say in their life?"
This month in many Lutheran churches around the world young people are confessing their faith publicly in a rite called Confirmation. Standing before their family and friends these teens are making their commitment to Jesus Christ, their Savior. Why? Why would these people confess Jesus as their Savior? With all the options in our multifaceted society and diverse word world why would they walk the road that Jesus described in John 14 when he said, "I am the way?" Could it be, as one Confirmation student said, "My mother made me?" Is that the reason?
Well, maybe this generation has a refreshing honesty about it along with a great sense of humor, or maybe they're foolishly missing the point and they know what buttons to push. But one thing I have learned after years of teaching young people, everybody needs the real deal and the real deal is Jesus for you. If you're listening, you know my confirmants, those who I have had the privilege of teaching down through the years, God bless you. You're still in my thoughts and prayers. I was so proud to be a part of your Confirmation, your testimonies. Like I just heard lately where one young lady said, "God loved me so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for my sins that I could go to heaven to be with Him, and when I walk on the path of life I don't feel alone because I know God's always there for me even though I may have doubts."
I heard another student say this, "I learned in these classes that Jesus died on the cross for people who didn't deserve it. Everyone wanted to kill Him but He still died on the cross and went through all that torture for us. It's amazing to me that anyone would go through that and die for us and for our sins. I'm sure that God will help me more and more each day until I die and join Him in heaven."
There you've got it. Did you hear their words? These are reasons why young people are confessing their faith in Jesus Christ. It's the same as it was for so many of us. Jesus the Savior really works. He's alive. He's here to bless and to strengthen their walk and your walk. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and if you really want to know God, you want to be connected to Him, to be in a relationship with Him, look to Jesus. Nothing can replace the miraculous relationship He initiated by jumping into our world and into our lives.
You know, we confess Jesus as the Savior not because we're biased toward our preferences and traditions. No, that's not it at all. We confess Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life because there is no other Savior. There are only our feeble efforts, our limited strength, but Jesus has done and can do what no one else has.
But I've got one final question for you today. Can this confession of faith, can it stand the test of time? What about those teenagers I quoted? Will these young people fizzle out in their faith? Will Christ fade out of their lives? Does the way and the truth and the life become just a faded memory crowded out by hurried and worried lives? Well, let's fast-forward four years to another young lady. I'll call her Jean. She made her Confirmation commitment when she was in eighth grade and as a senior in high school she had to write a little biographical statement in the program published for her senior musical.
Listen to what she wrote, not because she had to, but because she wanted to express who she truly was. She said, "The most important person for me to recognize is Jesus Christ. This man saved my life. Every day He saves me in ways I can't even describe. He's the stronghold of my life and I pray that you know Him as well, and He can work such miracles in you as He has for me."
You know, today on this kind of Confirmation weekend that's going on all throughout the world I thank God for the pastors, and teachers, parents who taught me about Jesus. I thank God for the people powerful testimony they shared and the Bible that we learned. I thank God because knowing and believing in him as the power of God for salvation, the power to live life now and forever. There you have it, an answer of lasting truth. Do you want to know God? Do you need help? Look to Jesus. He is your Savior. He won't let you drown and He won't let you down. In His name, amen.
Action in Ministry for May 14, 2017
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry. It's your call to action and response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ, and Pastor Seltz we can only imagine what it must've been like for the disciples that day to have been with Jesus on the mountain hearing Him describe all that was about to take place.
SELTZ: Yeah, incredible and yet even then, this is incredible to read, some doubted. You know, to be honest I'm sure I would've been right there along with those guys wrestling with what's going on, wrestling with similar doubts.
ANNOUNCER: You know, I think we all face doubts and uncertainties in life but we also have a place we can find answers. This week we have for you a resource. It's titled When in Doubt Read the Book. The goal of this little resource is to help us see the Bible as, I guess you could say, an instruction manual for life but certainly so much more.
SELTZ: Yeah, so much more. I really do love this booklet. It points us back to the truth of God's word and why it really matters. It matters to you. If you're listening today it matters to you in your life. This book the Bible is a reliable source of help and eternal hope.
ANNOUNCER: Now in your own experience as a parish pastor how have you seen the Bible play a vital role in people's lives?
SELTZ: As a church planter we started churches in some pretty tough places and I taught people how to do that, and there was a point, a lot of times in their lives we came to the point where all we had was Jesus and the power of His good news and the confidence that He was with us. Let me tell you something, when that's all you have and you realize that's all you need, it changes your life. I saw that in people's lives as they began to understand that this proclamation of the Scripture, it cuts through everything and it transforms and changes everything.
I saw it redeem marriages. I saw it change personal lives in just my church work and of course in the middle of tragedy when you don't even have the words to say, and then you have that message of Christ by the power of the Spirit that really holds on to you. It's powerful stuff.
ANNOUNCER: The overarching message of the Bible is God's plan for our salvation. Now some people might not even understand they need to be saved from anything. What do we mean by salvation and what does the Bible have to do with that?
SELTZ: The key themes, salvation; life, forgiveness. You know, there's two ways. People look at life and they say, "Well, it's what I do with it. It's what I make of it and I have faith in myself." Well, when you come to realize that that's not enough, that you can't even do the things you think you should do, let alone the things that God created you to do in life, then you hear about a God who loves you and cares about you and wants to redeem and restore you.
If you go into this booklet it talks about heaven and hell and it's interesting. Jesus is very clear. There is a real heaven. There is a real hell. Now, most people today, yeah, they believe there's heaven. They don't think there's much of this hell thing and everyone thinks they're going to heaven, you know? That just shows, again, our pride. I mean we all think we're good enough and we all think,"You know, God you should just accept me as I am no matter who I am or what I've done." And of course we compare ourselves to each other which is like getting off the hook.
Again, once you begin to realize, there will be a time in your life when you realize that your best efforts aren't enough and then the message of the Bible's going to really ring true.
ANNOUNCER: Going back to what you just said there's this popular notion that we just need to be a "good person" as if that's all that God really expects, but how does that compare with the message of the Bible, specifically the message of the Gospel?
SELTZ: Well, again in my work in New York City we had Bible studies on Wall Street. These were people who made it in life, you know, and what we were told over and over again is that once they got to the top of their mountain they began to realize there's nothing really up there and they had lost so many things in their life to get there. Again, the good news was that's only halftime. There's a book on this. It's only halftime. Your life still can be lived abundantly.
When you find out that even a good life in this world without purpose remains empty you're going to begin to realize, "Wow, there's got to be more. There's got to be more." There's great joy in finding out what God has in store for who you are and what He has in store for your life. That's something that you need to hear and hopefully as you see what it's all about you'll want to hear it more and more.
ANNOUNCER: The Bible tells us that the truth is impossible to understand for those who don't believe but even for the believer there are those times and issues that cause us to sometimes doubt, and this booklet helps us understand that God has given us His word in order to guide and teach us along the way. We encourage you to call or go online right now for this free resource titled When in Doubt... Read the Book. God's word is the antidote to doubt because it's there in those pages of Scripture that we'll meet Jesus, the word who became flesh for us.
SELTZ: And you'll be glad that you did, and that's our Action in Ministry segment today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: For your free copy of this resource go to LutheranHour.org and click on Action in Ministry or call 1-855-JOHN316, that's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for May 14, 2017
Topic: How can we understand who God is?
ANNOUNCER: How can we understand who God is? That's our question today for Pastor
Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Jesus refers to His Father and to the Holy Spirit. What's He talking about here? Is there one God or are the three gods?
Greg Seltz: You know, when I hear this question Mark I think about God's word in Isaiah 55. He said, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." The first answer to our listeners question is this, there is no way we can fully understand God.
ANNOUNCER: Right, who God is, how He works, what His plan entails, that's all in the realm of divine mystery I would say.
Greg Seltz: Yeah but let me add this though, that in spite of the loftiness and incomprehensibility of the Godhead we can know Him because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.
ANNOUNCER: That's an important point. We can't know God on our own but we do know God because He has chosen to make Himself known to us.
Greg Seltz: Yeah, and we should stop right there and give God a huge thank you for revealing Himself to us, but one word of caution however, God hasn't told us everything and we will never be smarter than Him. He has revealed to us what we need to know for one purpose and one purpose alone.
ANNOUNCER: And that purpose is not to impress people with our knowledge. It's not to think that we're running the world along with God. The purpose is that we who are lost and broken might be saved eternally.
Greg Seltz: Exactly. God revealed Himself to us because He loves us so much and He wants all people to be rescued from sin and death.
ANNOUNCER: Our question references Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how does that connect to way God revealed Himself?
Greg Seltz: Well, that's a perceptive insight by our listener. God lets us in on the mystery of His being so we can see who He is in our lives and how He cares for us. The Gospel of John is an excellent place to grow in understanding about who God is. In John chapter 14 for example we hear Jesus say, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you." Jesus tells us about our heavenly Father, the Creator of all things including our heavenly home.
ANNOUNCER: John then also writes about Jesus' role as savior.
Greg Seltz: Yeah, He's the one who prepares a place for us by forgiving our sins as only God can and being our advocate before His Father. Jesus emphasized this in John 6 when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me."
ANNOUNCER: Now, later in chapter 14 Jesus references the Holy Spirit.
Greg Seltz: That's right. He says, "These things I have spoken to you while I'm still with you but the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I've said to you." This is just a sample of how God's word reveals who God is action for our life and salvation.
ANNOUNCER: Through the ages God's people have described God then as the Holy Trinity or the triune God because of what the Bible is saying.
Greg Seltz: Yes. Triune means three and one, one in three. Remember God's not trying to confuse us. He's letting us in on the mystery of who He is and how He works by showing us the practical ways that He connects to our lives. You know, the Father sent His Son in the power of the Spirit to save us so we confess that God is three persons, one God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one God. The Bible makes that very clear. One of the three ancients ecumenical creeds of the church then is focused on this mystery.
ANNOUNCER: Here you're speaking of the Athanasian Creed which many congregations recite on that Sunday that follows Pentecost on Holy Trinity Sunday.
Greg Seltz: That Creed is very thorough. It's a thorough affirmation of how God reveals Himself to us but remember, God's point isn't for us to get caught up in trying to figure Him out. His point is ultimately to show us His gracious work in our lives.
Mark Eischer: And that work takes place as Creator, Savior, and counselor.
ANNOUNCER: He made us. He knows us. He gave us His life. He rose from the dead for us. He's with us to comfort, guide, and sanctify our lives, so the truth of the triune God gives us a beautiful practical understanding of who God is in action for us, and it helps us tell others about the gift of salvation from our loving triune God.
Mark Eischer: Thank you Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"At the Lamb's High Feast" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"We All Believe in One True God" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)