A Sermon By
Dr. Walter A. Maier

"How . . . can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? - Genesis 39:9

God of All Grace and Truth, Father of Our Lord Jesus:
We come before Thee to thank Thee for the manifold outpourings of Thy bounty upon our country, especially for the saving knowledge of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer from sin and death.  Send us Thy Holy Spirit now so that throughout this broad nation many hearts may be turned from sin to grace by receiving Jesus, the Advent King of glory!  We entreat Thee to guide our youth and lead them to follow Him who lived and died for all mankind.  As we are met in one of the nation's military camps, we implore Thee with redoubled petition, heavenly Father, to watch over the young men and women in our military and naval service.  Show them that if they keep Christ in their contrite and trusting hearts, they have forgiveness, power, and the pledge of their redemption!  Guard them against sin; preserve them against temptation!  May they always be true to their parents, their Church, their country, and their Savior!  Help us all "fight the good fight of faith"; assure us of the eternal victory in heaven won by Christ for those who are His!  We plead for this in Jesus' blessed name.  Amen.

 Today for the first time in radio history a religious coast-to-coast broadcast originates in a United States Army post, at the headquarters' chapel, For Leonard Wood, in the heart of Missouri's Ozark Mountains.  We dedicate this message to our American youth especially the several million young men in our Army, Navy, Marine, and Air service, the volunteers and selectees who have left farms, factories, schools, business offices, in many instances sacrificing high positions and professional careers, to give themselves for our country's protection.  We want all our young people to know that the Church is deeply, prayerfully concerned about their souls' welfare, and we are eager to offer them the divine strength and guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ.  To the slogans now displayed throughout the land: "Keep Them Flying!" "Keep Them Rolling!" we add: "Keep Them Clean!" "Keep Them Safe!" "Keep Them True to Christ!"  Side by side with allegiance to the United States and the flag, we want our young men and women to show loyalty to Christ and His Cross.  Besides training for national defense, we want to extend help for spiritual struggles far harder than the conflict on any battlefield.

 Only the great God and our young people themselves, particularly these military men, know how much they need counsel and courage to repel the forces of impurity and lust which assail them from within and without.  If you think it strange that I speak so plainly and pointedly on this question of youth's chastity, let me tell you that an authority no less than the Surgeon General of the United States, Thomas Parran, has helped write a startling book which reveals a shocking increase in diseases caused by impurity.  If even medical experts issue such undisguised warnings, can the Savior's Church remain silent and indifferent, when not only the bodies but also the souls of the nation's youth are in danger?  Must we not plead, with all the power Heaven gives us, for purity, and at the same time outline constructive help from God's own Word?  Today, then, as I appeal:


remember, young men and women of America, I voice this plea not only in behalf of your parents who are constantly praying that you be kept clean in Christ, not only for the young person with whom you will share your life and who likewise wants you to guard your chastity; I address all of you, young and old, also in the name of our sinless Lord Himself, and on the basis of the words in Genesis, chapter thirty- nine, verse nine, "How . .  Can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"


 Many of you know the remarkable story from which this exclamation has been chosen.  A Hebrew slave, Joseph, is tempted by the wife of his master, Potiphar, to commit adultery with her, but he repels her advances and, triumphing over temptation, speaks these words of protest, "How . . can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"

 Here, then, is an ancient record, more than thirty-three hundred years old, yet with a modern, up-to-the-minute plot.  Manners, customs, styles may change, but not human nature.  The scene is far- off Egypt, but lust knows no geographical limits.  Immorality is America's besetting sin; and because this allurement is in principle similar to the enticement confronting everyone of you, stop to picture the enticement confronting everyone of you, stop to picture the tremendous moral difficulty Joseph had to face!  Here was an unmarried young servant, perhaps twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, not a cold, unfeeling automaton, but a normal man, held and swayed by those powerful emotions which the almighty Creator Himself implanted to prevent the race from dying out, the mysterious energies which through sin, can become treacherous, destructive passions, especially during the throbbing, pulsating years of youth.  Some of you young people who spurn the very suggestion of stealing, who recoil from the mere thought of injuring your fellow man, to whom slander and profanity are repulsive, who zealously maintain a loyal interest in your home and church will agree that among all temptations those which lead to the violations of purity have the most penetrating persistence and assail your highest resolve with battering, shattering attacks.

 The force of Joseph's temptation was increased by the fact that he was far from his home, alone in a strange land, separated from his mother, who could have supported him in this crisis, cut off from his father, who himself had once seen Jehovah face to face.  Similarly millions in training camps and government service, in defense work, college, or business, are away from home - and away from its protection.  The danger for many is that, "out of sight, out of mind," you forget parental love and teachings.  You start going with a fast crowd.  You tell yourself, "When in Rome, do as Romans do!"  But how thoughtless and cruel that is!  The best friends you have are your parents.  No one has ever gone wrong by following the counsel of a Christian father or mother.  And while some of you hardly take time to write your family, back home your mother is on her knees praying for your soul, your father beseeching the Savior to strengthen you against evil.

 Joseph's battle was the harder because Egypt was a country of loose morals.  Its ancient records and its painted walls show the debauchery and perversions of the age.  For about ten years Joseph, living in these surroundings, had seen enough to know that if he consented to his master's wife's proposition, he would be acting in accord with the popular spirit of that day and land.  You, too, live in the midst of an adulterous and perverse generation which often smiles at unchastity and applauds impurity.  The printed pages rolling off huge presses, the books and magazines eagerly read by millions in our country are often sex-drugged.  The moronic motion picture, with its risque plot and attacks on marriage, is a major moral hazard, a source of incalculable evil, to be shunned by every self-respecting young person.  Colleges and universities have sometimes given room to instructors who encourage premarital unchastity and free love.  Married life in America has suffered under the growing attacks of easy, dishonest, anti-Scriptural divorce and the blight of sinful birth control.  The number of unwed mothers, illegitimate children, and abortions is startling; and with all this, many young people are beginning to think that they can do anything provided they do not get caught and know how to avoid consequences.  What is more, certain misguided city governments are making immorality easy and accessible.  In this national crisis especially we should have emergency legislation abolishing all commercialized vice, as far as possible removing that damnable temptation.  During these difficult times we ought to close every saloon and dance hall where the morals of youth are attacked.  We should ban every lascivious magazine from the mails and public distribution.  The Government should clamp down on the licentious entertainments.  With every power at our disposal as citizens and Christians we should help clean up these appalling conditions and reinforce our national reserve of righteousness.

 The brunt of Joseph's temptation was made the more severe by the fact that it came from the wife of his master.  Had Joseph been guided by a worldly-wise policy of "get what you can," he might have considered the invitation a steppingstone in his career, and opportunity to gain the favor of one who could further his ambitions.  A similar situation is created today in the allurements which come from high places.  Here is a young man, reared in a Christian home, confronted in his classroom by that complete denial of personal purity which some widely applauded sociologists advance.  If an uncouth, long-haired radical would expound these doctrines from a soapbox on the street corner, the danger would be reduced, but because these attacks on Christian ethics come from those in positions of recognized authority, they are doubly dangerous.  Or there is a young woman, approached by her employer with dishonorable intentions; a conflict arises between following Christ and perhaps losing her position or, on the other hand, rejecting Jesus and securing personal advancement.

 Added to the lure of Joseph's enticement was the fact that it came repeatedly.  "She spoke unto Joseph day by day," we read; and nothing is more deadly in its devastating force than such continued, relentless hammering against good intentions and high resolves, especially if it comes from a woman.  It is bad enough when a man becomes a slave to his passions, but somehow it seems immeasurably worse if a woman, with the gentler nature and the finer feeling of her sex, wantonly serves as an agent of hell in leading others into vice.  Women of America, you have within your grasp the power, under God, to elevate our country's moral standards or tear them down, to help promote purity or assist in the breakdown of decency.  Do not abuse this power through immodest dress, wanton talk, suggestive actions!  Pray God in Christ's name to make and keep you clean and honest!


As we find a deep warning in Joseph's temptation, so we should learn important lessons from his reply.  First of all, he does not stop to consider and debate this unholy proposition as though there might be something good in it; and neither should you or I dally, once we know that according to God's holy will these sins of the flesh are condemned.  "Flee youthful lusts," His Word demands.  Get away immediately from every contact with uncleanness!  Break off every unholy connection now!

 Joseph rebukes the temptress with this pointed charge: "My master . . hath committed all that he hath to my hand; there is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife."  By yielding to her he would violate his trust and injure his master.  If only each of us were moved by this firm sense of loyalty to others!  If only every young man would see that the sins of the flesh can bring unspeakable misery on innocent victims!  Those who break the commandment of purity, besides running the risk of ruining their own bodies with the most loathsome diseases, poisoning their minds and destroying their souls, may also bring suffering to others, physical torture to their husbands or wives, unspeakable handicaps to their children who may be born blind, diseased, maimed - soul agony and shame to their nearest and dearest.

 Yet, the real reasons Joseph spurned this temptation lies deeper and is expressed in his words "How . . . can I do this great wickedness?"  He calls adultery by its right name.  It is a monstrous evil, a "great wickedness," so vile that it provokes some of the most abhorrent punishments: disease-ridden bodies, peace-robbed minds, accusing consciences, sin-crushed souls.  Today, in shocking contrast, certain teachers glorify the very sin Joseph spurned and declare,"Abstinence is nervously and mentally undesirable." I want you young folks to know that the best modern medical opinion contradicts this claim and asserts: "A clean moral life . . . is not prejudicial to the health but on the contrary is to be recommended from a purely hygienic standpoint . . . This is the consensus of most of the great medical thinkers."  The more clean and chaste our young people are, the healthier and stronger - as a whole - they will be.

 In spurning this temptation, however, Joseph was moved by motives even deeper than the thought that impurity does not pay.  Most intelligent persons, even many enemies of the Christian faith, will agree that lust often exacts terrifying ravages.  But when Joseph protested, "How . . . can I do this great wickedness AND SIN AGAINST GOD?"  he showed the most vicious and damning side of unchastity.  It is a rebellion against the Almighty, a brazen uprising against His holy will.  Joseph knew how much he owed the Lord.  God had given him life; God sustained him while his own brothers sought to destroy him; God marvelously strengthened him in the dungeon and brought him forth safely; and the same God, holy, sinless, perfect, demanded a clean, chaste life and would punish in hell every unforgiven sin of impurity.  " ‘How then,' " Joseph concludes, " ‘ can I do this great wickedness and sin against God,' the God who made me, who loved me, and who can destroy me?"
 With even greater clearness we should understand how the Almighty hates these sins, for we have a guide which Joseph never knew - the whole Bible.  Listen to these clear-cut statements in the Word which has never made a mistake and never will: "Flee fornication!"  "Be not deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God!"  "This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication."  "Fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be once named among you!"  "Adulterers God will judge."  When our heavenly Father speaks in this unmistakable condemnation and with such dread-filled threats, it should be understood that illicit relations before or after marriage cannot be lightly dismissed; for these sins, if not removed, are damning, souls-destroying transgression leading to eternal punishment, from which no brains, money, influence, no prayer can offer escape.

 Besides, we can now see clearly in fulfillment what Joseph could perceive only dimly in prophecy - Christ suffering for my sins, yours, and the transgression of the whole world.  Anyone who has beheld that Savior during the dark, desperate hours of anguish in Gethsemane, witnessed the unplumbed depths of His suffering on Calvary, heard His dying cry of agony break out over that rumbling darkness on Golgotha - should recognize personally how God hates sin and how terrifying are its consequences, since we can be saved from their penalty - not by a lifetime of repayment and regret, not through the merits and intercessions of a whole army of saints, but only by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, our Savior.  He had to become our Substitute on the cross to pay the full, final penalty for all human iniquities, the Innocent suffering for the guilty, the Sinless for the sin-curse.  Therefore, my fellow redeemed, young or old, can you, knowing how God abhors sin, how He punishes it, what an overwhelming price He paid to free us from it, behold the bleeding head, the blanched face, the nail-pierced hands and feet of that pain-racked Sufferer on Calvary, tortured in our stead - and still think lightly of your misdeeds, still continue in sordid sin?  Can you behold your wounded, dying Savior and, turning away from Him, sneer, "What is that to me?"  Can you knowingly crucify Him anew by a lust-filled life?  God forbid!

 On the contrary, let us follow Joseph by viewing our transgressions in their relation to the Almighty!  For then - blessed assurance! - we also find that our heavenly Father, for Jesus' sake, is ready to forgive freely and to remove completely every transgression of His holy law, no matter how degrading and unforgivable these sins may seem.  The loving Redeemer who refused to cast a stone on a woman taken in adultery but graciously pardoned her, though others sought to destroy her, is still the same ever merciful Christ who would fill your hearts with the feeling of repentance and a deep-rooted trust in His power to save to the uttermost.  Come to Him, although you scarcely dare to life your head, even if your whole life up till this moment has been lived against Jesus and your transgressions seem too vile, too repulsive, to be forgiven!

 Only your own refusal to accept Christ can keep you from His pardoning grace.  For here is His promise, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."  Whether you need forgiveness for a single rash act or for a lifetime of shame; whether you are troubled by lustful thoughts, evil desires - and who would dare say that he has not thus been besieged? - or whether you now shrink from a long list of shocking wickedness, Jesus is ready to forgive you freely, if only with faith in Him as God's Son and your Redeemer you penitently beseech His mercy.  Anyone can come to Christ, no matter how high or how low he may be in the scale of human favor; everyone, but particularly you; any time, but especially now, when the Spirit knocks at your heart, can be the right time to approach Him for His pardon and His blessed peace; in any place you can come close to Jesus - in camp, on shipboard, at home, in a hotel; anywhere, but notably the spot at which you now find yourself, before your radio, with the promise of divine mercy directed especially for your needs!  Knell before the Christ of all compassion with trusting faith, and you will rise restored top God, your sins completely removed!

 But more: our blessed Savior, whose mercy is so magnificent that we can never even begin to exhaust its promises, not only remits your transgressions, redeems your soul and reunites you with His Father; almighty God that He is, He gives His own new strength to resist temptation and to follow Him along the pathways of purity.  If these sins of the flesh seem to have secured a strangle hold on your life; if with all your good resolutions you fall back into the very evils you seek and pray to avoid; if you have read many books on personal chastity and find these human remedies helpless in emergencies, then come to the Lord Jesus with this ancient prayer for purity, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!" and the God who promises, "A new heart will I give you!" by the Holy Sprit and the miracle of the second birth will make you a new creature in Christ, with heavenly power to resist evil and triumph over you temptations!  No matter how many times you have already tried and failed; regardless of the clutching grip bad habits may have on your life; in spite of the fact that Satan may even now be whispering into your ear: "This is too late for you!  You have gone too far!  You have dropped too low!  There is no help for you!"  Jesus, blessed Savior, can still make you clean.

 Can you not see, therefore, that the great purposes in your life must be to cling close to the Lord Jesus and employ His divine aids to a clean, happy life?  And here they are, His powerful helps to purity: First: The Bible, which, as no other book, has within its covers a heavenly strength.  Read Scripture every morning and every evening!  Read it even though scoffers may make fun of you!  Read it reverently and build up your spiritual reserve!  Second: Baptism and the Lord's Supper - these holy ordinances, which, through faith, can help strengthen and preserve you against temptation.  If you have never been baptized, write now and let us help you!  Third:  The divine power of Christ-centered prayer.  Jesus promised, "Ask, and ye shall receive!" and does not He who understands the problems of youth better than youth itself mean especially that if we ask for power to resist temptation, He will grant it?  So pray fervently and in Jesus' name!  Invoke Christ's presence in every household, whether torn by dissension or blessed by peace!  Fourth: Attend a true Christian church regularly!  If you really love the Lord Jesus, you will not be satisfied until you join others in Christ-dedicated worship and hear God's Word expounded!  We will be glad to assist you in finding a real spiritual home.  Fifth: Busy yourself with Christian work which will bring the Savior's promise of grace to others or help the destitute and distressed in the spirit of the Savior's charity!  Once you start testifying of Christ, unsealing lips which have never yet spoken in His behalf, you will find, as a blessing from above, that your faith is fortified, your resolution steeled to meet temptations.  In this connection I plead with the Christians of American to open their homes to the young men and women in the nation's service and provide wholesome influences for those who are making heavy sacrifices in our behalf.

 The struggle against sin is never easy, and in the eyes of the world it seldom brings reward.  Joseph was thrown into prison because he spurned the call of lust; and sneering skeptics who saw him languishing in the Egyptian jail might have asked cynically: "Well, what did the saint get for his purity?  Had he been wiser, he might have had everything his own way."  In our lives, too, it may seem at times that we lose by rejecting temptation; yet purity always pays rich, repeated compensation.  If Joseph had not been imprisoned, he could not have been exalted to the second highest rank in all Egypt and to the position of food director in the seven years of
 agricultural depression in the Nile Valley.  True, we can promise youth today little of material blessings if they remain loyal to Christ.  Before us stretches a future which can bring more hardships, fewer opportunities, heavier burdens for the rising generation than any previous period of American history.  But come what may, young people who have the Lord Jesus Christ enshrined in their hearts will be able to find strength to triumph over whatever difficulties may seek to overwhelm them.

 Men of Fort Leonard Wood, soldiers, sailors, air men, marines throughout the country; youth of American, youth of Christ: for pardon and strength in your own lives, for the sake of your devoted Christian parents, in behalf of your future husbands and wives, in the name of your unborn children, for our country's defense, since righteousness is our greatest asset, for the upbuilding of Christ's Church, I ask you, standing in spirit with me beneath the flag of our glorious nation and beneath the cross of our Savior, to repeat this declaration of loyalty: " ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of American and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all:; I also pledge allegiance to the Cross and to the faith for which it stands, one Savior - King eternal - Jesus Christ, with grace and mercy for all.  So help me God!"  Amen.

The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired on November 30th 1941— one week to the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor