A Sermon By
Dr. Walter A. Maier
"Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." SAINT JOHN 6:37
How many of you stopped yesterday thoughtfully to observe the twenty-sixth anniversary of the armistice which ended the fighting in World War I? More than eight million men died in the battles of that conflict, and a total of twenty-four million soldiers and civilians—a number almost as large as the victorious vote cast in last Tuesday’s election—lost their lives. Christians in America should have been on their knees yesterday, imploring God to teach us, after a quarter of a century, the vital lessons of that armistice; instead, night clubs crowded beyond capacity, wild carnival and carousal prove how easily masses of our countrymen forget the cross-marked graves in Flanders’ fields.
That armistice should make us long for further peace. Every day every American should beseech God to spare us renewed bloodshed and humbly recognize His sovereign power to make wars cease. Pray! Pray! Pray! We must constantly appeal for Heaven’s help in avoiding another global massacre.
With many gold stars yet to be sewed onto our service flags, how despicable that some Americans have glorified war; that some manufacturers are not overjoyed by our victories since their contracts are not yet filled; that some defense workers, enjoying larger salaries than they ever thought possible, think war a period of profit! On the other hand, how reassuring, throughout an age of greed, revenge, and power madness, to turn, as we do now, to Jesus our God and Savior! In Him there is pardon and peace, refuge and rest, compassion and comfort, liberty and life, hope and heaven. No matter how cruelly the war may have crushed you, however heavily hatred may have overburdened your soul, be blessed today by the merciful Christ as he Himself promises
1 A PROMISE OF THE PUREST GRACEJesus spoke these deathless words after an over crowded day and night. He was preaching near the Sea of Galilee, in that despised hinterland from which His proud countrymen carefully kept their distance. You see, the Savior loves all sinners with such deep devotion that He will bring them encouragement even in the most distant, disregarded places. He knocks at doors and hearts in the ghetto as well as on the Gold Coast, in slum tenements as well as in stylish apartments, in both prisons and palaces. <>
Much of the Savior’s time was taken with
the sick, the crippled, the deaf, the blind. Few hospitals in our
country have as many patients as surrounded our Lord in that vast
company of the humanly incurables who sought health from the great
Physician; and no hospital in the world has ever been able to record as
many cures in a single day. If only the three million sick in our
country would turn to the Savior with the faith which humbly declares,
"Thou canst help, and Thou canst heal"! The same Jesus, rich in mercy
and power, can repeat the marvel of bestowing health, just as He has
restored some of you to whom specialists said, "There is no help."
At the beginning of the miraculous feeding Jesus took five barley loaves, with the two small fishes, and gave thanks to his Father, although that was a small supply of food for so many. — How disgraceful, that in the United States, where the average home, despite restriction, has provisions overabundant in quality, quantity, and variety, millions of our families sit down to the table as dumb animals—without a thought of gratitude to God! — When everyone had been satisfied, Jesus commanded, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost!" He wanted even the pieces and the crumbs saved. He did not endorse the "philosophy of scarcity" which in the last decade has destroyed pigs, plowed under growing farm crops, and burned the bounteous yields of orchards. Some day, unless the Almighty is overmerciful, America may pay dearly for this destruction of heaven’s gifts. To avoid that, let every family in the land, particularly now, at the approach of Thanksgiving, learn daily to praise the bounteous Giver from whom all blessings flow!
While our Lord prayed, the disciples, sailing across Galilee, were overtaken by a terrifying storm. When danger reached its height, as the ship was tossed helplessly about, Jesus suddenly appeared, walking on the waters to show that He could suspend even fundamental laws of nature. He stepped into the tiny craft, and the raging wind subsided, the towering waves dropped, the sea was soon crossed safely. Similarly, when life’s tempests seem at the point of destroying you, the eyes of your faith can pierce the gloomy darkness to behold the Son of God ready to rescue you and grant you a divine freedom from fear with the assurance, "It is I; be not afraid!"
Safely landed, the next morning Jesus first preached to the crowd. He gave them the promise of our text, which has brought hope and happiness to myriads since His day, the pledge which has helped lead heavy sinners to full forgiveness and has shown men and women steeped in vile transgressions that because of Jesus the gates of heaven are not closed to them. He gave them the truth which—I pray the Holy Spirit—will go far in changing many of your lives today, these twelve deathless words: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."
Does this pledge hold for us today? Can we really hope that the Savior will in no wise refuse to receive anyone who comes to Him? Our country will not do that, for it bars thousands of people annually from crossing its borders. Labor unions, secret lodges, learned societies, social clubs, political parties, even some churches, select their membership and keep the unqualified out. Is it true that Christ will always receive everyone who draws near to Him? How about the poor and unimportant, the widows and orphans, the sick and invalid? "O Son of God," we ask, " wilt Thou, the great and glorious Lord, have time, love, welcome, for those who by men often are passed unnoticed?" In answer we hear His universal, exceptionless invitation, "Come unto Me, All ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" His entire life of love shows clearly that Jesus devoted most of His energies to the poor and underpriviledged, the sick and needy, the oppressed and persecuted. Take heart, therefore, you who have been crushed by cruelties, you, the truly forgotten men and women of our war-weary years! There is hope and help for you in Christ. Your soul is more precious in His sight than all of earth’s treasures. Men may turn from you, but the precious Savior laid down His life for you.
Again we ask, "O Son of God, is it true that Thou wilt not cast out those who have risen up against Thee, the backsliders who once confessed Thee but now have deserted and denied Thee, the blasphemers who heaped horrifying ridicule upon Thee?" The answer comes from His Word that has never spoken an untruth, "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." We see Peter, who cursed and betrayed his Master, restored to grace and discipleship; we see Paul, who helped persecute the first Christians, become the loving disciple, strengthened with the promise of heaven; and today, after nineteen centuries, the appeals of this Gospel broadcast, by the Holy Spirit’s grace, have welcomed many spiritual traitors to divine mercy and helped make atheists, outspoken infidels, firm but humble believers. Near suicides have been recalled from self-destruction to salvation, sworn enemies of the Savior have turned to Him in faith, and in each instance, despite scoffers’ boasting and cursing, they have been received by their Redeemer.
Again we ask, "O Jesus, pure and sinless as Thou art, wilt Thou accept heavy sinners, even blood-stained murderers?" What marvelous grace to listen as the divine Deliverer repeats this Gospel promise of world-wide, all-inclusive force: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"! What did the Crucified do for the thief who hung beside Him at Calvary and who pleaded, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom?" Did the Son of God turn away, declaring" "I have no promise for murderers. I am through forever with those whose hands are stained with blood." No; despite the intense agony of atoning for all our sins, Jesus lovingly beheld that penitent malefactor and assured him, "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." As you men in prison hear this Gospel grace, believe that though you may lose your freedom. The privileges of citizenship, the respect of those who know you, nothing can bar you from Christ if only you come to Him contritely and trustfully! A young man who murdered his wife and was sentenced to life imprisonment in a State penitentiary tuned in our broadcast appeal for repentance and wrote to ask whether the Savior would welcome him. We answered by repeating the promise of our text, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." This lifetime convict was instructed in his cell, baptized, and received into the Kingdom. Heaven’s grace is offered everyone of you. In another State penitentiary a trusty in charge of the death cells has placed one of our Lutheran Hour mottoes, "Fear not; for I have redeemed thee," in the room where convicted murderers eat their last meal before going to the electric chair. He and we want these doomed men to know that Jesus is ready to receive even a penitent murderer in his last moments.
How about the many groups who suffer under the hardship of our present-day caste and class system? Does our Lord want the Negroes, whom many white people do not want? Listen as he tells us, "God is no respecter of persons," and as he asks that His Gospel be preached "to every creature." You colored folks have often suffered cutting cruelties at the hands of white men, and for these I ask your forgiveness, as I plead with you to spurn radical agitators who would entice you away from God to their atheism. Keep your distance from men of your own race who write verses like this?
And step on the gas, Christ,
Move, and don’t be so slow about moving;
The world is mine from now on.
Rather believe that the Savior died for you, that in His sight your souls are eternally precious. How happy I am when I find more and more Negroes in my audiences throughout the country, or when missionaries in large cities tell us that the broadcast is helping to bring colored folks to their services!
But, are there no exceptions to this promise, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out"? Is Christ willing to receive our enemies? Ask public figures who feel they know more than Christ, and they will shout an emphatic "No," as they have cried out, "Kill our enemies, everyone of them!" What do they care if their hatred helps pave the way for World War III? Ask Jesus, and in reply He repeats His appeal on the cross for those who crucified Him, "Father, forgive them!" He, the God who "will have all men to be saved," pleads with our enemies to repent and be blessed by His mercy. Over the din of a strife-torn world the appeal of His Word sounds clear, "Pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you!"
Yet, why think only of people far across the seas? Why not personally, pointedly, ask the Savior: "O Lord Jesus, wilt Thou receive me? Can I be assured that Thou wilt in no wise cast me out?" As you repeat that question, think of your sins, their number, their rebellion against grace, their selfishness, — your repeated rejection of Heaven’s mercy! Admit that you have no excuse, no goodness of your own which could move the Almighty to pardon or reward you! Realize that in the Father’s sight you are guilty, lost, and condemned, with nothing you can ever do or pay, give or say, able to grant freedom from hell’s curse! Then, when you confess that you are nothing but that your Lord is everything; when you turn to Him for mercy, not merit, for redemption, not reward, you can pray: "O Jesus, by the agony of Thy soul and the pain of Thy body; by the anguish of Thy nail-broken hands and feet; by the sweat, tears, and blood of Thy torment and torture for my transgressions: by Thy God-forsakenness and death on the cross of shame; by Thy resurrection and heavenly life, Christ, my Lord, my God, my Savior, my Redeemer, for give me, accept me as Thine own !"—With that faith you will have the full assurance of His promise, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."
You may be heavily burdened by iniquities; your conscience may continually revive the recollections of rankling evil; you may feel altogether too unworthy of the Savior’s love; you may be surrounded by doubts; you may even wonder whether you have committed the unpardonable sin and therefore placed yourself beyond the limits of Christ’s mercy; but if you love the Lord, turning to Him as the atoning Redeemer; if you believe that in His own body He bore all your transgressions; that on the cross He paid their guilt and punishment, removing them forever; that by His blood He cleanses you of their stain; that through His death he earned eternal life for you; then all the devils in hell and the combined might of their satanic power cannot keep the blessed Redeemer from you. He is yours, and by His own promise He "will in no wise cast" you "out."
What happens when Jesus thus receives sinners? Well, what will happen when all our victorious armies return? They will be greeted with the widest acclaim this country has ever known. With incomparably greater glory the holy angels will rejoice throughout heaven when a sinner, triumphant over hell and death, becomes a devoted saint of God. From what does Jesus save us? Think clearly and confidently on this all-important truth! A recent quarterly, published for the young people in one of America’s largest denominations, asked this very question, "What does Jesus save us from?" and answered: "He saves us from indifference and carelessness about life to serious concern and high endeavor. He saves us from selfishness to love, kindness, and service. He saves us from fear and worry to hope, confidence, and enthusiasm. He saves us from restlessness and frustration to aspiration and self-realization." Our Lord does all that, of course, but would you describe a mountain by picturing a few blades of grass on its slope? Why, then, keep silent on the most glorious fact that when the Son of God receives us He cleanses us from sin, delivers us from hell, snatches us from the grave? He rescues us from despair over our sorrows by showing us that the afflictions He permits us to suffer are for our souls’ benefit and our growth in faith. He saves us from the fatal surrendering to temptations by fortifying us with His power to resist. He helps us overcome fleshly hatred when His Holy Spirit strengthens us to follow the new commandment "That ye love one another." He liberates us from all fear of the grave and its gruesomeness by assuring those who believe Him that, though their bodies decay in death and return to the dust, they shall be resurrected into new, heavenly life; that in glorious celestial bodies we, eternally redeemed, shall be like Him. That marvelous mercy is ours by faith in the Savior.
2- A PROMISE WITH PERSONAL APPEAL
Here, then, is Christ’s personal promise to you, no matter how you may differ in race and religion, color and creed, ignorance and intelligence, age and activity, prosperity and poverty: "If you, just as you are, come to me, just as I am, ‘I will in no wise’" (that means with no exceptions, at no time, under no conditions, in no way, in the face of no opposition) " ’cast’ you ‘out.’ " Never has a man or a nation been able to make this offer, but because Christ is your God, His words are true and eternal, stronger than all human security, yet pointed and personal in their blessing. You can write your own name into Saint John 6:37.
What will you do, then, with this pledge of pardon and peace which Jesus directs to you individually? What should you do if not come to Christ for the blessing of His marvelous mercy? "But," you ask across the country, ‘how can I come? What must I do to receive the assurance of my redemption?" If the Savior would answer by telling you, "Sell everything you have and follow Me," that would be asking far too little for your salvation. If the Lord would direct you, "Leave your home and live alone out in the wilderness"; if He would demand that you devote each day to constant penance with no time for any earthly calling, no consideration for family and friends; if He would ask you to give yourself in atonement for your transgressions, how cheaply you could purchase these eternal blessings! Yet if we could pay Him everything we own, everything we have saved, everything we can earn, beg, or borrow—the Son of God, unlike some churches, is not in business. He has nothing to sell, nothing to buy, nothing to exchange. Your redemption cost Him agonies beyond number, but it costs us nothing. He gave His life for us, yet we need give nothing to be assured of our redemption. Because He paid our indebtedness with the Father to the last penny, our accounts are cleared. Here is the highest mercy: for our salvation we need only believe, only take Christ at His word, trust Him as our God and Savior, come to Him confessing our sins, building our hope of forgiveness solely on His blood and righteousness. Then, by this faith and by nothing you or anyone else can do, you are Christ’s and the countless blessings He offers His redeemed are yours, the gift of His grace.
This complete reliance on Jesus, this uncompromising denial of our own ability to win divine favor, will not appeal to human reason, human ambition, human delusions of greatness. Tens of thousands of churches in America alone, and hundreds of thousands throughout the world refuse to give room to the all-merciful and all inclusive, comfort-bringing and courage-instilling truth of salvation by God’s grace through trusting confidence in Christ. Mighty religious councils have officially damned the clear and repeated teaching of Scripture that good works cannot help us earn our salvation; and justification by faith has been hushed out of all Modernists’ pulpits as though it were crude and childish, a teaching of which self-respecting people must be ashamed. Yet it is not only the one valid pledge and promise of eternal redemption, not only the cornerstone doctrine of soul-saving churches, but it is also the sole source of personal power and happiness, particularly in sorrow-swept days like these. Facing a world arrayed against them, those firmly founded in the faith can exult, "If God be for us"—and every drop of blood the Savior shed at Calvary cries out that he is for us, in Christ—"who can be against us?" With the Son of God assuring us of our salvation, "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution and famine or nakedness or peril or sword?…Nay; in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
What confidence can people without Christ find for the moments of sorrow, suffering, and death that these war-filled years bring? I read the other day of a dying woman who had been prominent in spreading unbelief, but was suddenly taken sick and brought down on her deathbed. Her unbelieving friends urged her to "hold on to the last." To this she replied, "Yes, I have no objection to holding on; but will you tell me to what I am to hold?"—My beloved, to what are you holding: to life or death, Christ or chaos, faith or futility, heaven or hell, salvation or damnation?
To what is our world holding? This second global conflict, besides bringing a God-granted victory for our cause, also points to the sweeping triumphs of atheism, unbelief, blasphemy, and ridicule of Christ’s redemption. One might think that a struggle which has shaken civilization to its foundations and has brought death to tens of millions of homes would make the masses turn quickly, completely, and contritely to our God, who has spoken to unbelieving nations in His anger. Yet the dark, damning delusions which seek to dethrone the Almighty have grown in vast areas of war-torn nations much faster than the cause of our Savior’s kingdom.
To what is America holding? Unmistakable are the inroads and the increase of unbelief, despite the extraordinary grace with which the beneficent Creator has enriched and sustained us. If the time of war witnesses an undeniable away-from-God trend, what will the ease, safety, and flushed prosperity of peace bring? Clutching atheism, reaching for the throat of European Christianity, may soon unite with blasphemers on this side of the ocean in the attempt to remove all religions as bad. May we be given the vision and the urge to spread the Gospel of grace in Jesus with renewed power, using also the miracle of the radio as part of the mightiest missionary movement history has known! We thank God for the privilege of doing our part in bringing Christ to the nations, and we praise Him that despite increased difficulties He blesses us richly. Last week brought new and startling progress: fifty-nine new military stations which will bring our messages closer to your sons and daughters under the colors; the first and enthusiastic reports from broadcasting in Nigeria, Africa; two letters in one mail from Valparaiso, Chile, with these sentences: "I plead with you, please instruct me in the religion of Jesus which you profess," and again, "I want to plead with you, for Christ’s sake, to permit and guide me to belong to the Christian Church," May the Holy Spirit today lead many of you in North America to write us: "I want to come to Jesus; I want forgiveness for my sins, peace and life everlasting!" As we promise to help you draw near to the Lord and offer you the guidance of thousands of cooperating Christian pastors throughout the United States and Canada, the blessed Savior, His countenance radiant with joy, beholds you and promises, "If you come unto Me, ‘I will in no wise cast’ you ‘out.’ " God grant that you will come! Amen!
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in November 1944