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"The Latest Polls"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 20, 2023
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2023 Lutheran Hour Ministries

Download MP3  Reflections

Text: Matthew 21:8-11 and Luke 23:23-25

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Lord, the world promotes an opinion which says faith in the Savior is a foolish thing. Grant that I may cling to Your truth, which says there is salvation in no one else. Grant this faith, Lord, to us all. Amen.

In 1921, silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was beloved by the nation. More than that, Paramount Pictures, which had paid him $3 million over the last three years, had signed him to another million-dollar contract. Wishing to celebrate his success, Fatty's friends threw a three-day party at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. A week later, Fatty was being held without bail in cell number 12 of San Francisco's Hall of Justice. Film distributors pulled his most recent movie, and America was shocked to find their beloved star seemed to have a darker side. There was only one difficulty: Fatty Arbuckle was innocent. True, he was accused by a lady named Maude Delmont, but Maude was never put on the stand because the authorities knew her story wouldn't hold up. Even so, her accusations were enough to cause Arbuckle plenty of trouble.

The comedian went to trial, and the first jury voted 10-2 for his acquittal. There was a second trial, and that jury deadlocked. In March of 1922, there was a third trial. The jurors having heard all the witnesses in the case found Arbuckle innocent. They prepared this statement: "Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him. There was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story, which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgment of 14 men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame."

One week later, Fatty Arbuckle was banned from appearing in the movies. The actor changed his name to William B. Goodrich and scratched out a living behind the scenes, directing films for faithful friends like Buster Keaton. Still unforgiven by the public, Arbuckle died of a heart attack on June 9, 1933. He was 46. He had found out truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.

In the last century, one of the greatest orators and motivational speakers was Winston Churchill. At war with Germany, on May 13, 1940, he spoke to the House of Commons. He said, "You ask, 'What is our aim?' I can answer in one word, victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival." His words have been acclaimed as among the best orations of history. That same honor was not always given to Churchill as a statesman. Once after he made a speech for which 10,000 people had shown up, a friend asked, "Winston, aren't you impressed that 10,000 people came to hear you speak?" Churchill replied, "Not really. One-hundred thousand would come to see me hang." Churchill had discovered truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.

Still, all of these vignettes from relatively recent history are nothing when they are compared to the Savior's story. Allow me to share two passages from Scripture. First is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, and it describes the crowds welcoming Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. The evangelist wrote, "Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, 'Who is this?' and the crowd said, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.'"

In contrast to the crowd's euphoric welcome of the prophet of Galilee is Luke's account of Jesus' trial. This time the Jerusalem crowd acts differently. This is what the beloved physician wrote: "But they," that is the people in the crowd, "were urgent, demanding with loud cries that Jesus should be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will."

Jesus as God's all-knowing Son saw humanity more clearly and completely than any sociologist or psychologist. Most certainly, He was not surprised by the change in the crowd's attitude. He had seen it before. He had been there when ten divine miracles had paved the way for the freedom of God's people from the Egyptians, and He had also heard the Hebrews' complaints about food, water, and the pursuing Egyptians. He had seen their cowardice at the prospect of actually entering into the Promised Land. Yes, the Savior was familiar with the fickleness of crowds. Under the Holy Spirit's power, the land flowing with milk and honey was eventually, but not completely, conquered. The second chapter of Judges tells of how God's blessed people abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them and bowed down to them, and they provoked the Lord to anger.

The rest of the Old Testament, almost 1,500 years, is a repeating play. In act one of that play, the children of Israel would be blessed and enjoy the favor of God. The second act would tell how subsequent generations forgot the Triune God and began to worship the false deities of their neighbors. Act three would tell how God allowed other nations to punish His children's disobedience. The fourth and final act shared how the Lord's delivered people promised to be faithful. It was a promise they never could keep, not for any length of time. The day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He knew better than anyone else that truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing.

There were also other things the Savior knew about those crowds which swirled around Him. He was fully aware of the feelings in their hearts and minds. His fellow countrymen were suffering under the brutal taxes, restrictions, and rules placed upon them by the Romans. Jesus saw into the souls of these people in the crowd. He knew how they longed for someone who would set them free. They wanted a king, a conqueror, a possessor of power who would set them at liberty. Yes, Jesus knew these things, and He also knew one thing more: they thought He was that political leader who would do the job. No army would have to worry about supply lines when they followed a leader who could feed thousands with a few loaves and fish. What courage could be shown by soldiers who entered battle knowing their leader could instantly heal all their wounds and, if the story of Lazarus could be believed, had the power to restore to life all who had fatally fallen on the field of battle.

The crowds had heard His words, and beyond any doubt they believed Jesus was the man who had been sent to free them. That is why they thought what better time could there be to begin our quest for liberty than the present Passover. The Passover, the remembrance of how God and His man Moses had set them free from slavery, was absolutely ideal. Confident and sure, they waited for the moment when Jesus would make His move. He never did. He didn't put together a bit of oratory calling for the raising of an army. No, He didn't gather any troops, and He didn't lead a revolution. He didn't do any of the things they expected of Him. Instead, Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple; He cursed a fig tree; He told them to pay their taxes to Caesar; and He taught them that true greatness is to be found in servanthood. For the crowd, it was a disappointing experience.

Now, I don't know if you've ever noticed that when the Lord does what we want, we are most appreciative, but when He doesn't do what we want, what we expect and—dare I say it—what we demand, that's different. How do you feel when things don't go according to plan or when an endless array of troubles seem to bombard you? Unless you are a most remarkable person—and Scripture doesn't tell the story of many such remarkable men and women—your attitude towards the Lord begins to change. Your own popularity poll in regard to the Lord will show a marked dip in respect and appreciation, and there's a reason for that. Speaking for the Lord, the prophet Isaiah wrote, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord.' For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,'" Which is another way of saying while God will always give you what you need, He will not always give you what you want.

That's what happened that week in Jerusalem. The people wanted Jesus to give them earthly freedom, but the Lord had a higher purpose in sending Jesus into that city that day. He sent Jesus to free humanity not from earthly oppression and repression, but to release us from the heavy-handed domination of sin, the devil, and death. Jesus' job that week was not to proclaim Himself the general of an army. It was to show Himself as the Savior of lost souls. In pursuit of that cause, He did not raise His voice in an oratorical rant against the Romans. On the contrary, He was silent as He was taken from one unjust trial to another, as He appeared before one self-serving judge after another, as He—without complaint or attempted self-defense—heard one cruel condemnation after another.

My friends, right now I'd especially like to speak to those of you who have walked away or rejected Christianity because you have felt the Triune God has been unfair or capricious toward you. Because He hasn't performed as you wished, you—like the Jerusalem crowd—have turned on Him. That is a mistake. Because no matter what you might have come to believe, the Lord loves you very much. As proof of my words, I point to the Savior. At any time during His last week on earth, Jesus could've summoned legions of angels to His side. A word from His lips had the power to erase and eliminate all those who opposed Him. But for your salvation, those angels were never summoned, and that word was never spoken. So you might be rescued from your sins and the condemnation they bring, Jesus allowed this injustice, endured the beatings, a whipping, and a crown of thorns. His care and His compassion was so great toward you He willingly received the nails which held Him to His cross.

Do you think the Lord is uncaring? Then think again. As Jesus hung on that cross, rejected by man, and forsaken by His Father, He was carrying your sins. Think back on the worst thing you've ever done, ever said, ever thought. Remember the cruelty, the anger, the lies, the theft, the lust, the foul stench of sins past. Know that your Savior knew your sins and wished to save you from them. To redeem you from those sins is why He lived, to rescue you from the devil and damnation is why He died, and to show He had destroyed the domain of death is why He rose three days later.

I would like you to recall the little line which has popped up throughout this message. That line is "truth and the most recent public opinion poll are hardly the same thing." You live in an age where it is fashionable to show that you are living your life independent of the Lord. We live in a time when a person is considered sophisticated if he or she ignores the Savior and laughs at his manger, cross, and empty grave. We are surrounded by supposedly wise men who encourage us to disregard sin, guilt, and their consequences. Those are the latest opinions, but the truth and the most recent public opinion polls are not the same. If the world tells you that you are okay just the way you are, down deep inside there's a nagging voice which says that isn't so. If you spend your days trying to convince yourself that heaven will be yours without the Savior, and because you are good enough, you are wrong—terribly, tragically, terminally wrong.

It is by God's grace, not ourselves, that we are saved. That, my friends, is the truth. Jesus was crystal clear when He shared that He is the Way, and no man comes to the Father but by Him. The public opinion polls may encourage you to refuse to believe that truth, but Jesus remains the only way: the only possibility for salvation God has made. Jesus' blood that was shed on the cross of Calvary is the only means whereby you can be forgiven of sin, and it is the righteousness of Christ that must be applied to you if you desire to be in heaven for eternity.

My friends, before I finish I'd like to read a list of names. Some of them will be familiar to you; most are not. Here's the list: Aaron Burr, Charles Pinckney, DeWitt Clinton, Rufus King, Henry Clay, William Crawford, Lewis Cass, Winfield Scott, John Freeman, John Bell, John Breckinridge, Stephen Douglas, George McClellan, Horatio Seymour, Horace Greeley, Samuel Tilden, Winfield Scott Hancock, James Blaine, James Weaver, William Jennings Bryan. Now my question is what do those names have in common? Well, a number of things. All of these men were presidential candidates in the 1800s. All of them were nominated by an adoring party. All of them were told they could win, that they would win, and all of them lost, some more than once.

In a very practical way, these men learned that truth and the most recent public opinion poll are not the same thing. Of course, they only lost an election. Today I'm talking about losing something far more important and longer lasting: eternity. No matter what the latest poll may say, I encourage you to follow this truth. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. If this Savior is a Person you would like to know better, I extend this invitation. Please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.

Reflections for August 20, 2023
Title: The Latest Polls

Mike Zeigler: I'm visiting today once more with Pastor Kurt Klaus, son of the late Ken Klaus, whose sermon we just heard. Welcome back to the program, Kurt.

Kurt Klaus: Thanks for having me back.

Mike Zeigler: In this sermon, Kurt, your dad reminded us that the truth and the results of the latest public opinion poll are not always the same thing. And because of this, Christians, those of us who follow Jesus as the truth, the source of truth, the standard of truth, we sometimes, maybe more often than we'd like, we find ourselves out of step with public opinion. As a pastor, how do you help people navigate that?

Kurt Klaus: You can kind of say the world is constantly changing. And the world is going to constantly be changing what they think is right and wrong.

That's the way the world sees things. That's the way the world does things. But in God, we have something that is consistent. His Word is going to be the same today, tomorrow, and forever. And in His Word, we can find that anchor in this world that's constantly changing, the poles that are constantly changing. It's in His Word that we have this truth that isn't going to change on us.

Mike Zeigler: I appreciated how your dad reminded us in this sermon that we are always going to be out of step with the culture, because Jesus was. And if we're following Him, that's just going to be a reality of life following Him. And so, one way to help people deal with these fears is to normalize them. This is normal. It's okay. It happened to Jesus; it's going to happen to us. There's a passage from Paul's letter to the Romans that I think is applicable here. He says he's speaking to the Christians, a little minority group in Rome, in this giant city that is out of step with what they believe, but he says, he tells them to give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all, Romans 12:17.

You're a pastor in Minnesota. How do you help your congregation follow that command, that guidance from Paul, to give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all?

Kurt Klaus: The world has this view of us as Christians, as people that just like to yell and shout and tell people what not to do. When I've talked to my congregation, one of the things I often point out is you may disagree with these people, but God wants to change their heart. Just like God wanted to save you. God wants to change their heart, too. And just like God loves you, He loves them as well and wants to save them.

And when you see people in that view, you're going to talk to them different. If you see them as the enemy, you're going to talk to them in a certain way that is adversarial. And just to be honest, they'll pick up on that. When you see them as somebody that God wants to save, and somebody who God loves and wants to change their life and their heart and their eternal destiny, it changes how you talk to them.

And when you talk to them in love, it just comes out different. And I think that's a lot of what Paul was getting at. I think one other thing I'd like to throw in here is, since we're talking about Dad's sermons, one of the things I always have respected about my father, and I think it comes across in his sermons is Dad always had a certainty.

And I think it's a wonderful gift of faith to have that. He understood that the polls were going to change every week, and he knew full well that the truth that he was going to proclaim was not always going to be liked. But he understood that it was the truth that was never going to change. And so he had a confidence in himself. I think often as Christians nowadays, we're always like, there's a certain amount of fear and trepidation in sharing the Word. Like we're worried, we're not in step with the current thinking, so maybe we're wrong, or however it is that it creates an uncertainty in us. And one of the things that I think that Dad had a wonderful gift of, that God gave him, and I think that we as Christians should try to grab hold of this more, is that certainty in Christ, the certainty in Scripture, the certainty that God is the One that created us. So even though the world might not agree with Him, He's the One we should trust in this subject or topic or idea. And so that was one of the things that I always loved and respected about Dad was that he could preach with certainty and clarity, because he knew it was the truth. The world might not agree with it and the world may even hate it, but he knew that's where he needed to stand. I think that is something as Christians that we should grab hold of as tight as we can is that certainty, because God's Word's not changing, He's not changing, and the world's going to keep changing. So let's grab hold of that and have that confidence in that.

Mike Zeigler: Like Jesus said, "We build our house on the rock, and when the rains come and the floods come, they crash against the house. But the house stands firm because it's built on the rock." And I think that's what you're saying your dad is. He exemplified for you and for all of us.

Kurt Klaus: Absolutely. I mean, there's times that Dad was... I'm like, "How did you ...?" When I started getting into ministry, and I saw some of the struggles he had had through the years and how he just seemed to be, well, this unshakable pastor in some of it. And when I got into the ministry and I started going, "Okay, right now I feel so shaken, and I feel terrified." And I am like, "Okay, Dad, how did you go through this without any fear?" And he is like, "Oh, I was terrified." But he's like, "I knew the Rock on which I stood, and I knew in whom I had my confidence. And I knew that all the other stuff was going to change. The people that were angry at me were going to change, or the subject that I was having to deal with was going to change. But the One who I trusted in wasn't, and He was going to walk with me through it all."

Mike Zeigler: Thank you so much for joining us, Kurt, and we pray and trust that the Lord will keep you and your family on the Rock of His Word and His promises as you continue to grieve the loss of your dad, but also to celebrate the life that the Lord gave him in his Baptism and faith, and that life will never end.

Kurt Klaus: Amen. That's what we're holding onto.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"O Word of God Incarnate" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.

"In Christ There Is No East or West" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House) Used by permission.

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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