SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND TRIUMPH; Without Thy guidance we can never see ourselves lost in our sins, or eternally saved by Christ, Godís Son, our Redeemer. Therefore we humbly pray Thee: Come into our hearts with Thy revealing radiance to convict us of our many damning sins and to make us disavow all self-righteousness! Lead us to realize that we need our Savior every day, every minute, to remove our transgressions of Heavenís holy Law and to grant us the assurance of redemption through His precious blood! Drive away all darkness of doubt, despair over the weight of our sins, pride in the false pretense of our own goodness! Thou Blessed Comforter, without whom we cannot call Jesus Lord, keep us in grace, strengthen our trust, and help us, reborn by Thy grace and power, to walk ever more closely with Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith! Send down blessings particularly on our Christian youth with the armed forces! Preserve them in their loyalty to Christ and country! Graciously behold all the nationís defenders, and bring many to their salvation! Fortify the captives, the wounded, and the dying with heavenly love! Rebuke all enemies who promote bloodshed and atrocities! We are still and know that Thou art God who canst destroy the implements of war and then preserve peace. Therefore have Thy way, blessed Spirit, but may it be the way of peace! We ask it in Jesus; saving name! Amen!
Last Sunday night the people of central Chile were terrified by a broadcast report that great rocket planes carrying an army of horrible monsters from Mars had invaded their shores. Repeated news flashes told how the Martians wiped out the Chilean militia with death rays and poison gas, seized government buildings, destroyed warehouses, mines, and naval bases. In the ensuing excitement one person died of heart failure, a number were injured, the streets were filled by people in panic, army troops and reserves were summoned to their barracks. Terror reigned until it was learned that the whole thing was only a make-believe radio play, similar to one which a few years ago created a sensation in our country.
How surprising that masses can be thrown into frenzy over a fictitious war, with imaginary men from Mars, while they remain utterly unconcerned about a real struggle against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness of high places"! Even after World War II is over, a far greater battle must still be fought. It is not primarily a battle of arms, although millions may lose their lives; not a conflict between nations, although it extends to the ends of the earth. It is rather a contest between belief and blasphemy, Heavenís help and hellís scorn, Godís grace and menís hatred, and the world-wide and continued hostility between the Cross of the Savior and the double cross of His enemies.
That war, now upon us in full force, was foreseen and foretold long
ages ago in our Scriptures. Listen to David, who in the first six verses
of the Second Psalm, our text for today, predicts the present uprising
against Christ in these words: "Why do the heathen rage, and the people
imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers
take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed saying:
Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us! He
that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath and vex them in His sore displeasure.
Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion." As we study the fulfillment
of these prophecies, may we recognize the enemies of our faith, but gain
this certain assurance:
Never before has the assault on the New Testament truth been as widespread as today. Jesus has more enemies now than when Roman emperors ordered Christian martyrs dragged into the arena to be devoured by wild beasts. See how infidel forces are multiplying throughout the world! Look at Asia! Siberia, the northern half of that continent, is dominated by anti-God influences; China is saturated with atheist Communism; Japan, bitterly anti-Christian in its defeat, stopped the preaching of the Gospel in hundreds of places. In India foes of the faith are arising in ever greater numbers. Mahatma Gandhi, whom Modernist preachers call "the great Christian saint," has proved himself an enemy of our Lordís cause. Dr. H.W. Kirby of Sasaram writes: "Indiaís greatest problem is Gandhi, one who came close to the light in Christ Jesus and then turned back to Hindu darkness. He is today Indiaís worst enemy. In Jorhat our one girlsí high school was destroyed by fire, our girlsí middle school was saved from destruction by the English soldiers. Claiming non-violence as his creed, he is the leader of the party that has filled India with violence and so has aided Japan. He is called the saint, but he is a leader in rebellion against God, government, and Christian missions." How true are Davidís words, "Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?" when we see that in Asia alone more than half the entire human race hates Jesus!
Look at Europe! Within the last twenty-five years figures of the Savior have been dragged through the streets of atheist cities. Representatives of large organizations have sung hymns to Satan. Super-sacrilegious books have been published in large editions and widely circulated. Dirty, degrading cartoons have been displayed in public places. Churches have been destroyed or turned into dance halls. Gospel ministers have been thrown into prison or shot down by machine-gun squads. And this is only the beginning! Did you read in the newspapers that in Rome 20,000 Italians met last week, pledging themselves to put their country under Communist control? Did you note the radical revolution in Southern France? What do you think will happen to defeated Germany and Austria? These countries and others in which multitudes long rejected Christís Gospel and are now paying for their unbelief, will, unless the Almighty intervenes, become centers for deeper rebellion against our blessed Redeemer. How truly war-soaked, blood-drained, bankrupt, hunger-pinched, disease-spread Europe, with its many atheists and agnostics in high positions, fulfills the prophecy of our text, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed"!
Look at America! Although the horrors of this carnage should have made our country repent and brought us closer to the Lord, the denial of Godís truth is now more strongly entrenched in the United States than ever previously. The trend of the years before us, under Heavenís blessing, depends on the Christian instruction of our youth; yet the ideals for which this Concordia Teachers College* has worked for half a century ó the Biblical training of our boys and girls, their daily growth "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" ó stand out sharply against these educational sins of our day: First, we permit more than half of our children to grow up without any true knowledge of the Savior! Second, we tolerate teachers in our public, tax-supported school system who ridicule our faith. Not long ago a Philadelphia mother, typical of many, came to us with tears in her eyes, deploring the fact that her childís humble, simple trust was being assailed constantly by public-school teachers. Third, our sons and daughters are steadily barraged with many forms of godlessness. If American boys and girls devoted only one half the time they spend on comic strips to studying the life of our Lord, it would not be necessary for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue periodic warnings against the increase of juvenile crime. Children imitate what they see; and recently a Chicago lad killed himself, following a pattern he found on a "funny page." Because the unmistakable trend in public education since the last war has been away from Jesus, we have here a far greater menace to our national welfare than the might of any enemies.
*This sermon was broadcast from Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska.
Recall other brazen rebellions against the Almighty and His Anointed: the mountains of infidel printed matter, filthy books, and sensual stories, the utter godlessness in some sectors of the entertainment field; the open attacks on Jesus both among the sinfully rich and the atheist leaders of the masses; the growing number and influence of political groups dedicated to destroy American Christianity; the spread in power and wealth of certain religious groups opposed to plain Gospel truth; and, perhaps even more serious than all this, the coldness and lukewarmness of many church members, their conformity to the world, their refusal to testify, work, and give with a holy zeal! Think of it, between 1928 and 1943, national incomes rose 86 per cent, national taxes 600 per cent, national expenditures 2,700 per cent, but our national contributions for church work and charities only 30 per cent! In other words, our spending, largely for killing, increased 90 times as much as our gifts to help men find peace and life in Christ!
Perhaps nowhere does this battle against God and goodness become more evident than in the American home. A few days ago the largest conference on venereal diseases in medical history convened in Saint Louis. Despite all the clinics and all the newly developed cures, how many cases of these horrifying sicknesses does our country now list? Would you say then thousand? a hundred thousand? even a million? Listen to Dr. J.R. Heller, Washington chief, who gives us the shocking figures of 4,200,000 cases currently prevalent and 5,200,000 new cases each year, in only two of these diseases! While Scripture pleads and directs: "Keep thyself pure!" "Abstain from fornication!" how true Davidís prophecy, when three thousand years before our time he hears the plotting enemies of God and of His Son declare, "Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us!"
The Gospel which tells men to humble themselves before the Savior, repenting of their sins, to find forgiveness by faith, not works, the pledge of divine compassion, the assurance of eternal life and of a resurrected, renewed body ó this record of your Redeemerís mercy His enemies hate so completely that they regard the greatest love the Almighty could give as degrading handcuffs and fetters which make them unwilling slaves of Christ.
Yet the Lordís enemies are completely mistaken and history has shown the folly of their bombastic promises. Go back to the French Revolution; see men turn into beasts as the Paris gutters ran red with blood from overworked guillotines! Measure the hellish horror caused by that rebellion against our religion! Go forward to all the present-day uprisings against the Lord, especially godless totalitarianism, Communism, anarchism, and you will find that no country which builds its foundation on anti-Christian principles can truly prosper; that often not even an isolated community, established in defiance of God and in ridicule of our Lordís redemption, can maintain itself. We have a glaring example of that in the town of Liberal, Missouri, south of Kansas City, founded by freethinkers and infidels. This community was so liberal that no churches were permitted within its bounds. Its printed literature boasted that it was the only town of its size in the United States "without a priest, preacher, a churchÖGod, Jesus, hell, or devil," Yet a Saint Louis newspaper reporter who visited Liberal during its boom said that the whole place was "nothing else but hell and the devil."" His account was so horrifying that the reporter was arrested and his newspaper, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, sued for $25,000 damage. The court investigated the facts, found the reporter right, acquitted him, dismissed the damage suit, and made the officials of the freethinking town pay the charges. Today Liberal, Missouri, is a changed community. Why? It has three Christian churches. As one of the founders of Liberal admitted, "It will never do to establish a society with infidelity as its basis." Small wonder that God, according to our text, who "sitteth in the heavens, shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision." How the Almighty must be laughing now when He sees the fists of puny men clenched against Him!
People ought to be open and honest enough to realize that Jesus was 100-per-cent right when He told His disciples, " Without Me ye can do nothing." Joseph Barker learned that lesson in his own life. He had been a preacher but later became a notorious infidel who attacked the Gospel publicly in meetings with like-minded scoffers. But the more he saw of these men, the more repugnant they became, and by the grace of God he was brought back to the faith. He explained that his eyes were opened to the total failure of atheism when he discovered the gross sin and the hideous immorality of his infidel friends. He declared that he had never known any public enemy of Scripture who was not immoral. Was he not right? From the days of Americaís first notorious skeptic, Thomas Paine, who ran away from England with another manís wife, down to more recent apostles of atheism like Colonel Billings, who served a life sentence in an Iowa penitentiary for murder, those who rise up to say, "There is no God!" come under the divine condemnation, "They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." Yet it is with these enemies of Jesus that the Church of today and tomorrow must contend-powerful, well-supported, mentally brilliant foes who rage against God, take counsel against "His Anointed," plan to overthrow the Church, the Bible, the faith.
As numerous, popular, rich, confident as the Saviorís adversaries are, His victory is assured today, just as all past opponents of the faith have been cut down in defeat. Where are the proud, boasting enemies of God, who delighted in scoffing at the Almighty? Where is Assur-bani-pal, the haughty Assyrian monarch who called himself "the lord of the world" and took pleasure in persecuting Godís people? His empire was destroyed; his capital, Nineveh, wiped out, never to be rebuilt. Where is Nebuchadnezzar, who made himself more than his Maker and led Israel into captivity? The sandstorms of centuries have covered his Babylon, city and nation, in hideous ruins. Where are the Roman emperor enemies of our Lord? The British Museum exhibits a medal struck in honor of Diocletian, who burned companies of believers alive; and the inscription on this emblem says that he destroyed Christianity. But where is Diocletian or the decayed remnant of his body? Where is Napoleon, who too late learned to pay tribute to Jesus? He collapsed in complete defeat and left so little of his influence and power that last week his heavy, imposing crown was stolen. Where is Adolf Hitler, self-styled Fuehrer? He has disappeared, his voice no longer heard.
What happened to Ingersoll, Paine, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, and like-minded scoffers? Read the story of their lives, and you will see that some ended in chattering terror; the home in which one of them boasted that The Bible would soon be forgotten was turned into a center for distributing Scriptures; others drank away their lives and repeatedly had to be lifted from the gutter in drunken stupor. Still others who cursed the Saviorís name frantically screamed for Jesus on their sickbeds.
Such is the defeat for all deniers of Christ which our text foresees when it declares that God will "speak unto them: [His adversaries] "in His wrath and vex them in His sore displeasure." The Lord has spoken to the unbelieving world in His anger. War is a divine punishment for all who have rebelled against Him. We ought to learn, humbly, penitently, that all bloodshed is a visitation, not a means of making money. We should think of this struggle, not in terms of what we get out of it in profit, but of what our fighting men have given, as they sacrificed health and happiness, limbs and senses, life itself. We should be on our knees daily, in personal and national repentance, pleading with the Almighty to prevent further conflict and to pledge ourselves to walk in His ways. For, be assured of this, no country, however rich and resourceful, no man or woman, however smooth and smart, can oppose the Lord of Hosts without paying this appalling price: defeat, despair, death, damnation!
Now, how does God obtain His sure victory? Does He send angel legions to destroy His foes? Does He merely utter His mighty Word and wipe them out of existence? No, He triumphs through His Son. In our text the great and glorious Lord pointedly warns all unbelievers, "I have Ďset My King upon My holy hill of Zion.í" Who is Godís King? The New Testament leaves no doubt when it cites this Psalm and explains that Jesus Christ is the victorious Ruler enthroned in the New Testament Zion, the Christian Church. If we were to battle our overpowering enemies by ourselves, we should always fail dismally. Thank the Lord, we have an ever triumphant King, the Son of God, who rules forever in His Church?
See how marvelously Jesus always wins! Listen to these men whose programs of unbelief He completely shattered. Athenagoras, the heathen philosopher, could testify, "My Savior, I ridiculed Thy mercy and set myself to write the volume that would destroy Thy Church forever; but Thou didst win, O Christ of endless compassion and, instead, I dedicated my book to the defense of Thy Gospel." Lord Lyttelton could declare, "I hated Thee, O Jesus, I planned to write a treatise which would show how contrary the various accounts of Saint Paulís conversion are, but Thou has won, and I have completed a book to show how harmonious these records are." Sir Gilbert West could relate, "I despised Thee, Lord, and I intended to compose a volume that would reveal how false and fanciful the story of Thy resurrection is; but Thou has won, my Savior, and I have produced pages to prove how true the Scripture account relating to Thy defeat of death is." General Lew Wallace could confess: "I was urged to be the author of a book that would put an end to Bible faith forever. I tried to, but Thou hast won, and, instead, I have written Ben Hur, with its tribute to Thy life and love." Professor Romanes could admit: "I published a book to demonstrate there is no God, but I met Thee in Thy Word, O Christ, and Thou hast won. I have now issued a volume to express my faith in Thy promises." Sir William Ramsey could report, "I used to question the New Testament records, but Thou has won, O blessed Redeemer, and I have now completed large works to show the exactness and the truth of these sacred pages." Rabbi Slostowski of the Rabbinical School at Tel-Aviv could explain: "I denied that Thou wast the promised Messiah. I lectured and wrote against Thee; but Thou hast won, O Son of God, and I have openly confessed that in several hundred passages of Scripture I find Thee portrayed as the divine Deliverer." Paul Elmer More could declare: "As editor of The Nation and professor at Princeton, I taught and wrote in denial of Thy Deity; but Thou hast won, O Jesus, and I have bowed before the manger at Bethlehem to worship Thee as God incarnate."
A hundred, a thousand, a million, a hundred million and more witnesses through the ages could be summoned, similarly to testify with what marvelous victory our Lord triumphs. He always wins. No matter how confident unbelievers may seem; regardless of how brazen blasphemers may appear to prosper while Godís children suffer; despite the boasting infidels who shake their fists against the Lord and challenge Him to strike them dead, Christ the King never knows defeat. Usually the Almighty shatters His enemies here in this life, but always and inevitably He punishes them in the next. How terrifying that some of you are still against His Son and therefore under the sentence of doom, eternally lost, everlastingly rejected, perpetually crushed without Jesus! What an appeal to you, the rich, proud, self-sufficient, impenitent, lustful, to get right with your Creator, to fall on your knees before the conquering Christ and penitently petition His pardon!
Likewise, what source of supreme comfort for you to take refuge in your Redeemer, to know that He will surely win! Clinging closely to that blessed Victor, you can exult in this world of strife and opposition, "If God be for us" ó and Calvaryís Cross shows that He is ó "who can be against us?" Our conscience, recalling our rebellion against Gospel grace? "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." There your transgressions have been completely removed. Can the legions of hell overcome us? If we have the Prince of Peace, we know that He has destroyed Satanís power forever. Can our own human evil nature triumph over us? The unbreakable Word shows us that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." He will wash all our scarlet and crimson guilt white as snow, spotless as fleecy wool. Can our affliction gain supremacy over us? Join Saint Paul in challenging, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Because all losses and crosses come to those who worship Jesus as proof of the Fatherís love, the means by which He keeps us humble, reliant on His grace, we too can face disaster and cry out, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Believe with your whole heart that through our Savior we are "more than conquerors" of our many and repeated sins; "more than conquerors" of the infidel, hostile world; "more than conquerors" of all doubts concerning our own unworthiness, of the fear that we have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit; "more than conquerors" of death and the bodyís decay, since, beholding our living Redeemer, we can challenge, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?"
Are you winning victories with Christ? Come to Him, though you have to crawl in deepest repentance; for He is the all-embracing Savior, with salvation for every contrite sinner, the all-merciful Savior, who grants His grace freely, without payment; the all-compassionate Savior, whose love strengthens us even in warís pains and bereavements; the all-sustaining Savior, who fortifies us against doubt and the devil; the all-sufficient Savior, whose companionship will help us meet every need; the all-faithful Savior, who unfailingly stands at our side; the all-victorious Savior, who can defeat every enemy of our soul forever.
Accept Him with your whole soul as your Lord and Redeemer, Prophet and Priest, King and Conqueror! Build your hope on Him, and as truly as He is the Son of God, victory is yours. You will face enemies of course. The stronger your faith, the more numerous its foes; yet with Jesus you will fight no conflict alone. He will help you win.
We have our personal part in this battle against unbelief. Ours is the privilege and responsibility of preaching His cross-centered invitation to grace. He is the only Hope of this corrupt world and its misguided millions. Lord Salisbury had a friend, Mrs. Bishop, a world traveler, whom he often consulted regarding foreign lands. She was so prejudiced against missions that she used to ride twenty miles around to avoid passing a Gospel station. Yet she spent her last eight years endorsing, urging the spread of Calvaryís Good News. To her the cross became the only symbol of the worldís hope. Why? She explains, "Because I have lived in every part of the world, and in every country which has not the Christian faith I find absolute hopelessness and disorder." And, we could add, without the sustaining love of Jesus in human souls, disorder and despair reign. Therefore let us preach with new force not a counterfeit gospel, a man-made gospel, a social gospel, but the Gospel of Christ and His cross, Christ and His blood, Christ and His death, Christ and His atonement. Stand by us in this mission of the air! Support us with your prayers! By our Lordís promise, and with your help, we cannot lose. Help us spread this broadcast throughout the world to tell men of all colors, climes, and conditions: Here is Godís Son, Davidís Savior, Paulís Savior, Lutherís Savior, your victorious Savior, the Lord, who made America great, who can preserve you, both from yourself and from your enemies.
We must also teach our boys and girls, who represent tomorrowís nation, tomorrowís home, tomorrowís churches, that Jesus will surely win. Daniel Webster called attention to our Lordís words, "Suffer the little children to come unto ME." He did not send them to anyone else first for lessons in morals," Webster explains, "to the schools of the Pharisees or to the unbelieving Sadducees, not to precepts and missions, phylacteried on the garments of the Jewish priesthood"; He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto ME." That holds for today. Jesus does not direct American children to self determination, to modern radical theories, to independence from God, but to Himself; and that means, in plain terms, to Christian training, to the reading, studying, memorizing of His Word; to devoted parents, to consecrated teachers, to God-fearing, Scripture-proclaiming instructors, such as the men and women who have graduated from this Concordia Teachers College during its past fifty years. Realizing the necessity of a Cross-centered education, conservative groups in our country are planning to establish church-controlled religious schools in which the pupils will daily be taught Bible truth and receive secular instruction in harmony with Godís Word. My own Church, which has led all Protestant groups in maintaining Christian day schools, is experiencing a nation-wide upswing of interest in its efforts to keep American youth with Christ through daily Bible lessons. It is a matter of statistical record that adolescents thus trained do not figure conspicuously on police registers and in crime statistics. The former warden of a West Virginia penitentiary states that 95 per cent of the inmates under his charge were guilty of juvenile delinquency before the age of fifteen. Parents of America, give your children to Jesus during those early, vital, formative, primary, and grammar-school years! Give them to us in our Lutheran parish school system! Hundreds of our schools from coast to coast are open to your boys and girls without cost. One of the richest blessings you can give your youngsters is this Scriptural schooling. Write us for particulars! Write today!
If we thus believe Christ, preach Christ, teach Christ, love Christ, live Christ in separated, consecrated, reborn lives, we shall certainly win with Him. Let blasphemers boast; let atheists exult; let persecutors plot against usóand why should the United States be one of the few large nations in which believers have not been persecuted to the blood?ólooking to Jesus, to His cross, His open grave, His victorious ascension, and His triumphant, eternal reign, we have assured victory. Men can never defeat God nor His children. Earth can never triumph over heaven. And when we stand together in eternityóO Holy Spirit, bring all those who have worshiped in this mission of the air, the masses whom we have never met face to face, before the Saviorís throne!ówe shall wave the palm of triumph, because through Godís Son we have defeated care and worry, doubt and denial, sin and sorrow, death and destruction. Resurrected in the many mansions, each believer with a place prepared by our Savior, each faithful follower of Jesus with a new resurrection body, freed from all pain and parting, frailty and failure, grief and groping, torture and torment, reunited with our loved ones in faith, in that happy, heavenly homeland, we can sing, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Christ will win. Christ has won. God grant that you will win with Him! Amen!
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in November 1944