Holy Spirit, Our Comforter
Many powerful enemies have been mobilized against the nation and the Church. From both without and within our own lives we feel the attack of dark, hateful forces which oppose the free and full grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive us, we beseech Thee, for the Savior's sake, our many disloyalties, our repeated sins against Him in whom alone there is heavenly hope! If in our own strength we seek to resist the foes of the faith, we are lost, for "with might of ours can naught be done." But be Thou, O blessed Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, our Shield and Protection against the onslaughts of hell, the assaults of our own conscience, and the enticement of a sinful world! Show us that our victory is granted by our trust in the power of the Cross! Defend our blessed homeland against all adversaries, the menace of unbelief, rejection of divine grace, and destructive godlessness! Thou art our Defense. Hear us and help us, then, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
Today is Defense Sunday, and this is to be a defense message -- but not the kind which certain congregations are featuring and for which many pastors have received especially prepared sermon outlines. True churches of Christ do not need such reminders of their members' duty to defend our country and its liberties. It is a vital part of the Christian creed that we who accept the Lord Jesus follow His injunction "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's!" obey His word "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers!" accept its instruction "Be subject to principalities and powers!" and "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lords's sake!"
Those who should receive these defense-talk reminders are the groups in our country which have repeatedly opposed our system of government. The appeal for wholehearted endorsement of our military, naval, and air preparation should be sent to the Association for the Advancement of Atheism and like-minded infidels who are steadily undermining national foundations. The plea to work harder, longer, more intensively for the protection of the United States should be directed to the Communists, many of whom are pledged to overthrow our American institutions. For unbelievers who reject the Bible and its repeated appeals for loyalty and allegiance to the constituted authorities are those, above all others, who need constant instruction in the duties of citizenship.
My remarks will differ from the opinions some of you heard in your churches this morning, because this broadcast is dedicated to the truth that only in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of mankind can our age and the millions in our country find sure defense. Men who do not know the Redeemer, who propagate a creed opposed to Christ or who at best omit all mention of the Lord from the sermons they preach on this Sunday, understand neither the greatest weakness of our nation nor the divine help to be found in Jesus and His Word during these darkened days.
Therefore, when military leaders, production experts, and government officials point to the increasing war clouds on the international horizon, the Christian churches should re-emphasize our responsibilities as citizens of this uniquely favored land, unparalleled in its divine blessing; but let Christian pulpits, in addition, call attention especially to the moral and religious dangers confronting us and the necessity of protecting our hearts, our homes, our national institutions against the assaults of unbelief..
So when I speak to you on
defense, I want to stress the side
that many politicians forget in this crisis, America's need of a
bulwark, the safeguarding of our souls. To that end I give you this
assurance for the present emergency:
When a nation exalts God and heeds His Word, its people can say in the certainty of our text, "He is my Defense," and be marvelously shielded by the Almighty's guidance. In 713 B.C. the trained armies of Sennacherib, Assyrian king, with regiment upon regiment of fully equipped veterans, came up to besiege Jerusalem. The city seemed doomed, but King Hezekiah, the prophet Isaiah, the priests, and the leaders resorted to the house of God, prayed earnestly for divine help and received His assurance "I will defend this city to save it," Despite overwhelming odds, Sennacherib was completely defeated when the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians. Remember also how in past crisis moments of American history, during Colonial times, the Revolution, the Civil War, our heavenly Father answered the pleas of the masses by delivering our people from overwhelming enemies. God's promise "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee" and these records combine to tell us that where the Lord is honored, the people can say, "He is my Defense," and be comforted by the knowledge that ultimately His Good, gracious purpose must prevail.
A country may be attacked not only from without by foreign foes but also from within by even more formidable enemies. Destructive forces, seeking to sap its strength and undermine its resistance, can hew down the pillars which support freedom, blessing, prosperity, rest. Here they are, these powerful but often unrecognized adversaries of a better America: National Enemy Number One: unbelief, rebellion against God. This rejection of the Almighty has no armies to oppose our military forces, no air squadrons for the bombing of our cities, no naval craft to shell our shores; but it has a satanic might more deadly than tanks, airplanes, and cruisers, a force that is not many miles distant, but a spiritual TNT at work now, within our boundaries. The multitudes of Americans who have rejected Christ, His Word, His Church; the pride that boasts, "We don't need God": the insolence which ridicules the Christian religion; the perjury, blasphemy, and profanity which desecrate God's holy name, the sarcasm heaped on the Almighty in literature, entertainment, often in everyday life; altogether, then, the 50 percent of America that does not honor God, the ungrateful masses who will not find a moment to remember the Lord even on the two coming days of national Thanksgiving -- these constitute the most formidable danger to our country's welfare. The Almighty will not continue indefinitely to bless a people in which unbelief constantly grows bolder. The verdict of His Word and of history is this: "The nation...that will not serve Thee shall perish"; and again, "If they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord."
National Enemy Number Two: godlessness and crime. Larger than any battalions which can invade us is the army of our past and present criminals, almost five million fellow Americans convicted (and the many others unconvicted) of serious crime: murder, assault, robbery, the heavy sins of violence and greed, the oppression of the poor and underprivileged; the getting rich at the expense of widows and orphans -- this can inflict more severe and lasting damage on the United States than any war. For the Holy Word warns; "The Lord hath a controversy with the nations.... He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord," and again, "Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth."
National Enemy Number Three: corrupt government. Never before has our country witnessed graft, bribery, official dishonesty on the large scale this generation has produced: judges conniving with criminals, law-enforcement officials working hand in hand with the underworld; legislators selling their votes for patronage and expedience -- all this lies over the land as a heavy shadow to forebode evil; for the eternal truth records that while judgment establishes the land, "he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it." Again Scripture warns, "It is an abomination" for those in authority "to commit wickedness."
National Enemy Number Four: unfaithful churches. The studied insolence heaped against the Bible in thousands of American congregations; the rejection of Christ' s vicarious atonement at ministerial training schools where not a single faculty member accepts the inspiration of the Bible or the promises of the Cross and the Blood; the worldliness, the lip worship. Worship, the "form of godliness" even in sound churches -- these are disasters far more grievous even than the loss of many a battle. "Be not deceived," the divine Word protests, "God is not mocked."
National Enemy Number Five: immorality in the home. We record to our shame that the United States has more broken families than any other civilized nation., excepting Russia; that unfaithfulness between husband and wife is increasing; that young people are constantly lured to break the purity commandment. The loose spirit in our age, the bad example by elders, the ridicule of decency, the spurning of parenthood, the disregard of childhood, all combine to form a menace of tremendous proportions. No country can ever be stronger than its homes. To the extent to which our American households crumble, a vast part of our moral foundation is destroyed.
National Enemy Number Six: anti-Christian education. This tragedy will be more deadly in the years ahead, when today's boys and girls will be tomorrow's fathers and mothers. If our youth is trained to be mentally cunning instead of spiritually good; if its education molds the brain but neglects the soul; if schools refuse to recognize sin and wrong, have no place for God and His grace in Christ, can you not see, should this treachery toward our youth assume control of American education, that the ship of our state may slowly but surely be steered toward destruction on the rocky shoals of unbelief?
National Enemy Number Seven: the disregard of God's law in labor and industry. When, on the one hand, radical elements direct American working men away from the Lord and His will, as the toiling classes are tempted to misuse for selfish interests the power which is theirs in united action; when, on the other hand the moneyed groups help make the poor poorer and in this day of rising prices, increasing living costs, refuse to share a greater part of their profit with workers, this double disregard of divine instruction may help to produce hard, bleeding days of internal strife and long-drawn class war.
In short, America needs to be defended against itself. Some years ago Sir Edward Arnold told the students at Harvard University: "In 1776 and in 1812 you conquered your fathers.... From 1861 to 1865 you conquered your brothers.... Your next victory must be over yourselves." He was right, and the conquest over these even national dangers can be won only by a penitent return to God and His Word, by a widespread spiritual revival which will bring masses to the atoning Christ and His divine protection. We must strengthen the nation from within and build its religious foundation firm and strong.
Because no people can be weak with God on its side, the Christian cry in this crisis hour should be: Defend America by accepting Christ! Every man, woman, and child in the United States who acclaims Jesus Savior and Sovereign can help bring divine protection on this land through personal prayer. If God was ready to spare degenerate Sodom and Gomorrah, provided they contained only ten righteous people, most assuredly He will regard with blessing multitudes which turn penitently to His grace. Besides, every Christian with his regenerated life and his determination to follow the Savior's footsteps, as far as humanly possible, adds to the country's moral strength, increases the righteousness which exalts a nation, and battles against the reproach of sin. No appeal to America in this international emergency is more vital than the plea of our text which, pointing to the gracious God, urges, "Trust in Him at all times, ye people!" Look to Christ for the guidance, strength, reliance, that says, "‘He is' our "Defense!'"
Therefore, fortify America by keeping Jesus in the churches built and dedicated to the glory of His name! Every Christian pastor who, seeking to please God rather than men, avoids, soft, Christless preaching and instead reveals God's whole truth, the punishment of His Law and the promise of our Savior's pardon, increases spiritual reserve.
Defend America by strengthening Christian homes! Husbands and wives who keep Jesus in their households as the honored Guest, who train the children they bring into the world to be God-fearing, useful, law-abiding, patriotic citizens, do more good than many frequently quoted and frequently married public figures.
Defend America by supporting Christian education! Colleges where the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of all wisdom, where atheists and Christ-deniers are banned from the faculty; lower schools like those conducted by my Church, but open to all, where children are instructed not only in the customary branches, but are daily taught also to love the Lord Jesus, to obey their parents, to thank God for America -- these are powerful factors in the promotion of national good and the rejection of evil.
Defend America by putting Christ's teachings into capital and labor! If the American workingman, in conformity with God's Word, gives honest, wholehearted return for his salary, rejects every recourse to violence and oppression, and does unto his employer as he would have the employer do unto him; if capital refuses to exploit the toilers, but accepts the Scriptural program of fair, upright treatment for the working classes, ours will be a stronger and happier country.
Defend America by purifying its political life! Exercise your privilege and responsibilities as citizens! Send men to the legislatures who cannot be bought, who refuse to connive with evil, and will stop the enactment of legislation contrary to divine Law! Give us patriots instead of politicians, Christian statesmen rather than partisan leaders and America, under God, will be defended.
I do not say that if
these principles were followed in our
country, we would experience no national difficulty, attacks from
or serious problems from within; for sometimes the Almighty sends
to make a people spiritually and morally stronger. But I am equally
that if multiplied millions of Americans look to the Lord in Christ and
say, "‘He is' our ‘Defense,'" our heavenly Father will powerfully, if
miraculously, protect and bless us.
No human being will give you that pardon and peace. But Jesus, blessed Jesus, can. When He, God's Son and Mary's, your Savior and Substitute, went to the cross of shame, He took with Him my sins, your sins, the whole world's sins, suffered their appalling punishment, endured their frightful curse, paid their death penalty. By believing this Gospel grace we can find pardon, escape hell's terrors, defeat the grave, triumph over despair. Through this faith we have the immovable, unmistakable confidence that salvation is ours completely, ours eternally; that a special place has been prepared for us in the many mansions; that in the heavens opened by the Redeemer's atonement ours will be the glory -- oh, marvelous privilege! -- of seeing Him face to face, with endless rapture and adoration.
What matchless love in Jesus! Think of all the vile criminals throughout history who have been sentenced to death, and ask yourself how often you have heard anyone volunteer to take their places at the gallows, the guillotine, the electric chair! But Jesus, merciful Jesus, did even more! He died for the worst of sinners, to save them from the horror of eternal death. Picture the millions in misery all over the earth, either paying the consequences of their own sins or groaning under imposed cruelty. Can you find anyone who has said, "Let me suffer for them, die in their stead, so that they can live in freedom and happiness"? But Jesus, beloved Jesus, did this and more. He went the hard Calvary road to restore to His father's love a world lost in its own wickedness.
Now forget the rest of humanity for a moment and concentrate on yourself! Review your own transgressions, your hate-filled, lust-laden thoughts, your cruel, cutting words, your shameful acts, sometimes hidden from human gaze, but -- be sure of this! -- known in all their sordid details to the holy God; and as His Word and your conscience remind you that you cannot stand before Him with unforgiven transgressions, I ask you: do you know any man, saint, or angel who can transfer your guilt to himself? But Jesus, precious Jesus did" "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree," His cross is your defense against sin; His blood, your defense against hell; His death your defense against the decay of the grave. When Christ is enthroned in your heart, you can face an accusing conscience with the triumph: "Jesus ‘is my Defense!'" "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercessions for us." With the Savior controlling your life, you can reject the coaxing of satanic temptations. When doubts assail you, you can push them aside to declare: "Jesus ‘is my Defense!'" "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." If Christ is your Lord, you can face divine justice and though your sins are many, grievous, and disheartening, tell of Judge of eternity: "O Father, Jesus ‘is my Defense.'" ‘He was wounded for' my ‘transgressions, He was bruised for' my ‘iniquities.'"
My fellow redeemed, if you want a sure protection against evil, acclaim Christ your own Savior! Accept Him now! A day; even an hour's hesitation, my prove too long and too late. If the Ark Royal had been an hour or two earlier, it could have been towed safely into the shelter of Gibraltar, only twenty-five miles away. That delay sent the mighty craft to the bottom of the Mediterranean. Some of you have been limping through life, battered and shattered by the enemies of your soul, but now at this moment the refuge in your Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, is close at hand. Will it be life with Christ or death without Him for you? Give the Spirit His way into your heart and declare: From this moment on, despite my past sins, my backsliding, my thanklessness, Jesus is mine, God helping me, forever!
As our Lord is the divine Defense against sin, so He is unfailing Protection against life's sorrows, dangers, and fears. Take courage, you the crushed in spirit who feel yourselves ground under the heel of continued cruelty! His Savior-love is extended especially to the world-weary, the heavily afflicted, the burden-bearers. Look steadfastly unto Jesus, for He not only knows your suffering, since He endured far more than we will ever be asked to bear, but he also promises to help you carry your cross! Through the night of black sorrow, in the depth of depressing gloom, hold your head high because you raise it to Him and repeat the Psalmist's confidence, "He is my Defense; I shall not be moved"! Keep your eyes focused on Calvary and remember you are so precious in God's sight that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to free you from the shackles of sorrow! God, the almighty Creator, can help you in every need. He wants to help you, since He loves you in Christ; He will help you even in desperate moments when every human prop gives way!
What, then, are the surrounding afflictions which you would escape? Are you laid low by sickness? The savior can be your Rampart against its ravages. He can start where medical science stops. Even more, He can use bodily illness to create a healthy soul. Last week a Christian young woman told me: "I was sick for years, unable to work, confined to my home. But that suffering helped bring me fully to Christ, and if I had to go through all those years of agony again to receive Jesus as I now know Him, I would gladly endure everything once more to have the Savior in my heart." Are you attacked by money troubles, want, poverty? The Lord is your Defense here, too. He who has the riches of all the universe at His disposal can make you prosperous overnight if this is for your good. And if Jesus keeps you poor, He can perform a greater wonder: change this burden to a mighty advantage, transform your earthly poverty to a treasury of spiritual riches. Is your happiness assailed by the tragedy of a loveless family, a broken home, loneliness, desertion? Once again, find sustaining comfort in Jesus! He is able to restore shattered happiness and make it even more radiant. Your own letters testify how divorces were averted and peace restored in your households after Jesus was made the Head of your home. If in His inscrutable wisdom the Lord sees fit to have you suffer under repeated instances of unfaithfulness and continued strife, believe that divine compensation will give you unsurpassable soul peace in the close companionship with your Savior!
Whatever the gloom encircling your life may be, let Christ dispel it! However many enemies may be mobilized against your soul: opposition, persecution, ridicule, cruelty, broken hopes, shattered ambitions, Jesus can repulse every one of them and make life's defeats faith's glorious victories. The Savior will not forsake you as long as you cling to Him -- that is your confidence for these clouded years as you go into unpromising future, overcast with the specters of war and the signs of deeper suffering for all mankind. If in these darkened moments you rely on yourselves, you are lost. But if you trust God in Christ; if you, the unfaithful, who have turned from your heavenly Father, now return to His grace with penitent hearts but with the faith which takes His Son at His Word, then, though the noise of battle roar and hatreds rage, through the wail and woe of suffering, let this be your battle cry, "He is my Defense." and this your triumphant hymn of praise:
God grant every one of you that eternal victory through Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation! Amen.
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in November 1941, just three weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.