"How Well Does Jesus Know Me?"#85-20
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 14, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Jesus Knows Me)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 1: 48-51
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Dear Lord, You know us, and in spite of seeing us clearly and completely, still love us and have sent Your Son to save us. Grant that all who this day do not know You may be brought to saving faith in the Christ, their Lord of life. Amen.
The most memorable wedding anniversary party I ever attended was for a couple who had been married for 75 years. Actually, it was for twin brothers who had married twin sisters on the same day. Amazingly, 75 years later all four were still alive. And although some of their bodies were showing some significant signs of wear and tear, everybody's minds were still running on all eight cylinders. Even today, many years later, I can still remember how their extended family came together to heap praises upon these gentle, loving souls who had shown it is possible to love in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad, in happy times and sad.
I recall how, when the family was done expressing their gratitude and gladness, the two grooms and two brides took the dais to offer a few words of appreciation and advice. One at a time they got up on the stage and offered standard bits of wisdom like: "Never let the sun set on your anger," and "Always spend twice as much time listening as you do talking." Coming from these silver-haired souls, those expressions carried some weight. Then the fourth member of the group, one of the wives, came up to the microphone. She stopped for a moment and looked down at all the eager faces. She smiled sweetly and with a twinkle in her eye said, "As a new bride I don't feel qualified in giving you advice on how to succeed in marriage. But if you'll come back in a few years, I'll let you know how this husband of mine is working out and if I think the marriage has any possibility of surviving." With that she turned, and began to walk off the stage. The audience was silent for a moment, and then, realizing she was having fun with them, they erupted in applause.
As she was coming down from the podium, her husband leaned over and said to me, "Pastor, there's just not enough time." Confused, I quickly replied, "There's not enough time for what?" With his eyes still proudly watching his bride, he said, "There's not enough time for me to really get to know this wonderful lady the Lord has given me." Well, all four of those sweet souls are gone now, but the comment of that husband still lives on in my memory. The passing of the decades has convinced me he was right: try as hard as we can, there's never enough time for any of us to really know somebody else.
Oh, we can work at it. And we do figure some things out. After 47 years of marriage, I know that when Pam says she doesn't want anything for her birthday, she really doesn't mean, she wants nothing. It means she wants me to think about and personally pick a present that is very special. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but it does need to be special. I know that when she says something is "Just fine!"-and she says it with that tone- it's not fine. I even know that when she says, "We need to talk," she really means she needs to talk, and I need to listen ... and I will be a dead man if my eyes glance over to the TV to see the instant replay of a 103-yard kick-off return.
Still, all these things I've studied and all these things I've learned are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking at my delightful helpmeet, I realize I will never know all she is, never understand all she feels, never be able to predict all she does, and never anticipate all of her dreams. She is a joyful mystery of unknowns and undiscoverds. And the man was right. There is not enough time to know the incomprehensible intricacies of her ... or anyone else for that matter.
And, I suppose that's a good thing. You see, all of us, every one of us, have things in our lives we don't want anyone to know about. Amazingly, if we're being honest, really, truly, honest, most of us prefer it that way. That's because most of us have thoughts, actions, feelings of which we are deeply ashamed. These are things which we have tried to bury, wall off, and put so far behind us, they will never again see the light of day. Yes, we try to keep these past things in the past, but we're never sure when someone might stumble across them. One day, in jest, Mark Twain said, "I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying, 'Flee at once - all is discovered.'" He reports, "They all left town immediately." I'm not surprised. Look at how many honorable, highly respected men and women decline to have their names put up for public office because they know they will never survive the private investigation and the public scrutiny. They know there are things in their past which would be so shocking, so surprising, so sad and sinful that, if these things came to light, the public would turn their backs on them and they would, without further discussion, reject them. So that the secret sins may stay secret, most people believe it's a good thing that nobody, I mean nobody, really knows everything about them.
And the second difficulty? The second difficulty is this: even though this message has been saying, "Nobody truly knows you," that statement is wrong. It is wrong because God, the Triune God, knows everything about you. After humankind fell into sin, Adam and Eve did their best to keep their transgression hidden from their Creator. It was a feeble, futile, fruitless effort. God came looking for them and, with questions to which He already had the answers, had them confess their disobedient act which had corrupted His perfect creation. With the same complete knowledge, the Lord called Cain to account for the murder of His brother. Again and again, the Bible narrative bears out this truth: God knows us.
Two-thousand years years ago, when Jesus was calling His disciples, He picked a fellow named Philip. As often happens when people meet Jesus, Philip immediately went and shared the good news with a friend by the name of Nathanael. When Nathanael found Jesus had come from the nondescript community of Nazareth, he was not impressed. Even so, at Philip's urging Nathanael decided to check out the new Messiah. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming down the path, He commented, "Look at that, an Israelite in whom there is no guile." It's another way of saying, "Hey, here's a guy, when you look at him, what you see is what you get."
Nathanael, overhearing Jesus' comment, was taken aback. He asked, "How is it you know me? I can't recall that we've ever met before." Jesus reply is an interesting one. Almost matter of factly He answers: "Before Philip talked to you; when you were sitting under that fig tree, I saw you." That seemingly unimpressive bit of information absolutely overwhelmed Nathanael. In less time than it takes to tell, he does a 180-degree turn. His skepticism and cynicism is replaced by a powerful statement of faith: "You are the Son of God," he says. You are the King of Israel." I can't tell you what secret information Jesus shared in His conversation with Nathanael, but I do know it was enough for Nathanael to be instantly brought to faith, to be instantly convinced Jesus knew him, really knew all of him. It was a feeling, a faith, which stayed with him the rest of his life.
God knows us. That truth should stay with you as well. In Psalm 139 we are told, the Lord knew all about us before we were born. It says, "For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ... My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret ... Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me ..." In short, God knows us. He knows the good and He knows the bad.... Including those sins you have tried so hard to cover. Not only does He know those sins, being a just God, He is compelled to punish those sins, both in time and in eternity. Now I am fully aware that all of what I've said so far is not going to make you feel that good about yourself, or your future. Truth is it's pretty depressing. Now, the knowledge we are destined for hell is totally depressing.
And this is the spot where things change. They change because my friends, I have good news for you. No, that's not right. God has good news for you. A few weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas. Do you remember what the angels said to the shepherds? They said, "I've got good news of great joy ... for you a Savior has been born." That sentence changes your world and it can change your eternal destiny. That angelic announcement says that the Lord who knows you- and all of your dark and despicable deeds-has decided to send His Son to be your substitute, and the sacrifice who will pay for your sins.
Most certainly, He is the divine Judge, but He is also a God of mercy and grace. Looking upon you and your helplessness, He has, in the Person of His Son, thrown you a lifeline-a rescue from the fact which once seemed so inevitable. That rescue becomes reality when the Holy Spirit places faith in your heart. At that moment, your sins are forgiven. No longer can the world and Satan successfully accuse you; no longer can the grave lay claim to you. You are redeemed, you are rescued; you are restored and recycled. That is also the good news of great joy.
God knows you. He knows the evil that was there and which now is erased by Jesus' shed blood; He knows the sins you have committed and has forgiven them because Jesus carried them to the cross. God knows you. No longer are those words terrifying. On the contrary, the knowledge that God knows you and brings hope and spiritual health is your destiny for tomorrow and your constant source of security for today. Faith is all that, unless you say, "No, thank you, God. I'd rather do things on my own."
My friends, God knows you. He knows every bit, piece and part of you. That truth can either be a comfort, or it can be a curse. It will remain a curse if you try to carry or cover your sin by yourself. It will eat at you and it will haunt you from this day until the day you die. And, then, on the day you die, your unforgiven sin will drag you down for an eternity in hell.
But also remember the fact that God knows you can be a comfort. It will be a comfort if you acknowledge Jesus Christ as God's Son, the Savior who was sent to carry that sin to the cross. God's knowing you will be a comfort if you recognize that the crucified Christ has, for you, said, "No!" to the temptations of this temporal life, and has defeated the devil. God's knowing you will be a comfort if you go to the Savior's empty tomb and trust that the resurrection of the Redeemer says death no longer has a choke hold on you, and life eternal is yours because of the Christ who, knowing you and your helplessness, offered Himself to change things for the better. God knows you. If you believe that, you can join with King David and say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
My friend, at the beginning of this message I told you of the married man who said to me, "There's not enough time." He was right. Time is not unlimited, which is why I extend this invitation: if you need to know more about this Lord who knows and loves you, please call us at The Lutheran Hour." Amen.
Reflections for JANUARY 14, 2018
Title: Jesus Knows Me
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was pastor Ken Klaus and Dr. Dale Meyer joins us now with some reflections about what we just heard. We heard Pastor Klaus talk about being known by God.
Dale Meyer: That's great. And God knows us as sinners whom He desires to receive His salvation, forgiveness in Jesus. Mark, when I was on The Lutheran Hour in the 1980s, I preached a message about Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
Mark Eischer: Oh, yeah!
Dale Meyer: We had to read that in public high school, and the image is this. Jonathan Edwards has a man holding a spider just by one thin thread, holding the spider over the candle, and Jonathan Edwards said, "At any time, God could drop you, the sinner, into the eternal flames." I went on to say, "That's not the way to picture God. God knows us, and wants to bring us forgiveness in Jesus Christ." John 3 says, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Well interesting, one Sunday night, the Sunday night that that sermon aired, the phone rang. Got off the couch, answered it. And a woman in California had somehow gotten my number and she said, "Rev. Meyer," I said, "Yes." She said, "You're the Rev. Meyer that was on the radio?" "Yes." And she asked me about that. She said, "I have always heard that that's the way God is, that He is just waiting to drop us into the eternal flames."
I did the best I could to reassure her that's not the message of the Bible. Yes, there is punishment for sin. Yes, there is a hell. But Jesus endured that so that we can be known as forgiven people. And I hope the Spirit took that message down into her heart. It was just a wonderful experience. Here decades later, I still remember it.
Mark Eischer: It sounds like it resonated with some deep-seated feelings of guilt on her part?
Dale Meyer: Absolutely! What goes on with guilt is the fact that we realize we've done something wrong and we're not perfect. And how we deal with that guilt then becomes an issue. Now, when a person is feeling guilty, they're not thinking it through theologically. "Well, I'm not God, and therefore I'm fallible and commit sins and so." They don't think that through. But what we do is we feel guilt. And how we deal with that guilt is critically important.
Mark Eischer: Is guilt always bad?
Dale Meyer: No. I think that guilt can be a great thing. I sometimes ask seminary students, "When you get out into the ministry, do you want to remove from your parishioners all these bad feelings that they have: guilt, fear, anxiety, and so on?" And they nod their heads yes. And I say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Don't you want those feelings to become the occasion for you to explain our sin, and then point them to the word of forgiveness in Jesus?"
So guilt, if it's dealt with, if it's brought out and acknowledged, is a great occasion to hear the word of forgiveness. And if that guilt keeps coming back, it's not necessarily bad. You just go back to Jesus and His objective word of forgiveness.
Mark Eischer: All right, we hear that word of forgiveness in Jesus-guilt is gone?
Dale Meyer: That's an interesting question. If I may refer to seminary students again, and I love these guys, I really do, they preach a sermon, they say Jesus died for your sins and your guilt is gone. Well, yes and no. Because Jesus died on the cross, God looks at us with complete forgiveness. "Although your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow," the prophet says.
But we are still wired to feel guilty. We're emotional people, and this guilt lingers, it festers within us. I mean, I think most of our hearers have had this experience that you hear some place, whether it's on the radio or in church that God for Jesus' sake has forgiven you your sins, period. That's true, they are forgiven. And then a day, two days later, I'm starting to feel guilty about this thing. What's going on here? Am I a hypocrite? Don't I have faith? No, you're being human. You're being human. God has covered your sins over with the blood of Jesus. You're just feeling guilty, which is what we do.
It's the same way with fear and many other emotions. That's just the way we're wired. The key thing is to understand that Christian living is back and forth, back and forth. We feel our guilt. We go to the objective word of forgiveness, "My son, my daughter, you are forgiven." We take that to heart, and the Holy Spirit comforts us with that word. But then time goes on, and we drift off to feeling guilty or feeling fearful, whatever the emotion is. Christian living is a constant back and forth. I think once we recognize that, then we know why in a strange, strange way, guilt, fear, and other feelings are an absolute blessing because they drive us to the word of Christ.
Mark Eischer: Is guilt the same thing as regret? I'm thinking here in a case let's say you're dealing with some of the consequences of a sin, you've been forgiven for that sin, but you're still going to deal with perhaps the consequences, and you may think, "If only I hadn't," whatever. So how are guilt and regret related, would you say?
Dale Meyer: Oh, we continue to have regret for things that we have done wrong. In my own experience it takes a while to recognize that I have done something wrong, that I have sinned against someone and against God in some way. That comes by hindsight. Somebody will say, "Well, you sinned." "No, I didn't. No, I didn't." But as time comes, you start to see that and acknowledge, "Yeah, yeah, I guess I did," and you see the consequences then, and you regret those consequences. That's the way it is on this side of eternity.
I'll bet you many of our listeners wake up in the middle of the night, fretting over something that they did wrong, and they would love to turn the clock back and this time do it right. I know the feeling myself. The fact is you cannot turn the clock back. Those consequences, those regrets, are going to continue.
But that's what's so great about the word of forgiveness. God does not hold it against you any longer. And as you're dealing with whatever the consequences are, His Word and Spirit will enable you to make the best out of what might not be a good situation. In other words, we have to be totally, totally focused on God, on Jesus, on the Spirit, and the help that they give to us who are forgiven.
Mark Eischer: So it sounds like we're kind of ping-ponging back and forth, I think, between some different emotions, some different situations. What would your advice be for our listener?
Dale Meyer: Keep ping-ponging back and forth. When you have some negative emotion, some negative feeling, a regret, a real acknowledgment that you have sinned and caused a lot of trouble, then see that as an occasion to go back to the word of forgiveness. Talk to a pastor. If you don't have one, call our office up here at The Lutheran Hour and we'll refer you to someone who will non-judgmentally deal with you.
But get into the Word. Get into that objective word that comes to us from outside. It's not in us. The guilt and the fear and so on, that's in us. The word of forgiveness comes from outside and keep putting that balm on the wound that you're experiencing.
Mark Eischer: That's really good advice. Any final words for our listeners today?
Dale Meyer: Just this. Sin is in our hearts because the fall of Adam and Eve. And also in our hearts is the Law: "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not."God has programmed that into the human heart. Now we don't recognize it there because of the fall into sin. It's fuzzy. But Romans chapter two, 14 and 15, make very clear that the Law is hidden in our hearts, and it accuses us, it keeps telling us, "You did this wrong; you did that wrong; you're not measuring up; you're not the person you should be."
It's important that we understand, and especially we who are in the church and ministers, understand that the predominance must be on the Gospel. The Good News that comes from the outside that, no, though you're feeling this way, God forgives you. Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first president of our Concordia Seminary, said that the Gospel must always have predominance. That means it must be the big thing, the most important thing, because the Law is going to always accuse us. We've got to pour in this forgiving love and knowledge of Jesus into the sinners' heart as much, much as we can.
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Dr. Meyer.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"The Only Son from Heaven" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)