God, the Father of Our Lord
In this world-wide distress, when millions are blindly pushed into disaster and death, teach us, above all else, to approach Thee, trusting in the full salvation, blood-bought for us on the cross, by Thy Son, our only Savior! Let Thy Spirit fill us with a contrite sense of our own unworthiness and make us realize, personally and forcefully, that if we neglect Jesus, we can never escape Thy Judgment! Turn many to Christ! Use this broadcast to convert sinners, recall the unfaithful, strengthen the weak in heart, and save many from despair over their transgressions! Bless our country in this critical hour! We plead: O Father Almighty, if it be Thy will, restore to the world peace; yes, O God of grace, help our bleeding world! But more than all else, give us inner peace with Thee and pardon for our sins through Thy Son! We ask this according to His promise. Amen.
The deepest danger for America today is the sin of neglect. I do not mean our country's past carelessness in providing adequate defense; not the shameful waste of our natural resources that has helped turn fertile farm lands into desert dust-bowls; not the disregard of the underprivileged, underpaid, underfed millions within our borders. In comparably more grievous is our continued ignoring of the Lord Jesus Christ, the world's Savior, the only Hope for our bewildered, bleeding age.
America should learn the fatal folly of this neglect from the horror which has gripped Europe, the continent that forgot God. Germany, mightily blessed as the land of the Reformation, produced the world's most scornful Bible critics, evil leaders of millions who rejected the glorious Gospel. And the result? Dictatorship, race hatred, militarism, appalling wars and suffering! In Russia worldly, power- seeking churches neglected Christ and helped keep the masses poor, ignorant, superstitious. The consequence? An atheistic revolution filled with crime, horror, murder! Despite frequent statements to the contrary, freedom of worship was ruthlessly restricted under the Red regime as churches were closed, their property confiscated by the government, religious papers banned, Christian schools locked, the clergy persecuted, exiled, even martyred.
France is broken, prostrate. Why! Let those who best know the reason answer! When the first Parisian newspaper appeared after the fall of that city, its editor printed this confession across the top of the front page: "Citizens of France, we are going to pay for sixty years of de-Christianization. . . . We have worn out the patience of Providence! We have disgusted the good God Himself!"
Great Britain also has suffered by neglecting Jesus. Earnest Christians in England, valiantly fighting for their country's victory, acknowledge the widespread indifference to our Lord, bemoan the unbelief that admittedly marks some of their leading clerics. Listen to a British churchman, Dr. W. Percy Hicks, who recently wrote: "As a nation we have not turned to God. We have desecrated His day, forsaken His house and neglected His Word. We have shown that we are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."
Can you not see,
therefore, what our course must be in this
crisis, when millions in the nation tremble with dread of the disasters
each new day may bring? We should tirelessly warn against
Christ's Gospel in a day when our own sins cry to the high
Crime increases. (The city of St. Louis has recorded a 509 per-cent
upswing.) As American atheism spreads, American education becomes
saturated with the denial of the Savior, and many American churches,
theological seminaries, close their doors on Him. The plea and
that would speak directly into our hearts since you, I, and 130,000,000
others like us make this nation, must be:
All this and nothing less our broadcasts, which today begin their ninth season, would bring straight to your soul. AS I speak from the campus of one of the country's largest divinity schools - and during the 102 years of its history not a single Christ-denier, skeptic, or Bible critic has served on its faculties or boards - I promise you, with one hand raised toward the cross placed high on our radio tower and the other hand resting on the Bible, that each message will offer you the surety of salvation in Jesus. Repeatedly I am urged to used our Gospel network for the support of partisan politics, racial hatred, and war projects; but, "My kingdom is not of this world," our Lord Himself declares; time is short, men's souls are dying, and my Savior's mercy is so marvelous that no substitute "gospel" will ever push the blessing of His cleansing blood to the background of this radio mission. The world may hate Christ; diplomats may ignore Him; unbelieving preachers betray Him; dictators dethrone Him; atheists blaspheme Him, - yet this Bringing-Christ-to-the-Nation broadcast, God helping us, your support strengthening us, will proclaim Jesus, first, last, forever uppermost, as the great God, the Redeemer of the entire race. If during the coming months with their uncertainty and the increasing probability of war this exaltation of our Savior should be barred from the air - Pray God it will not be removed ! - our almighty Father who can make the stones cry in witness to His truth will bring us back in His time with stronger power and increased blessing.
This "salvation" is called "great" in our text; and it is "great" beyond words because it comes from the Lord of heaven Himself. Think of it, God, who scattered the stars across the measureless expanse of the universe, the Creator to whom the highest mountains are but as specks of dust, the deepest oceans merely dwindling water drops, the largest armies only powerless shadows - that holy, omnipotent God took time to love you, you especially, you individually, you, despite your sins and sorrows. You may be lonely, pushed to the side, hated in your own home; but may the Spirit help me to show that through Christ you have a heavenly Father who has mercy, help, and heaven for you!
His "salvation" is "great," immeasurable "great," because of the price it demanded. We are accustomed to the mention of multiplied billions in this age of easy money (though I shudder to picture the day of reckoning and the hardships then to be placed on the churches); yet the staggering totals spent throughout the world, hundreds of millions of dollars every day for the purpose of destroying men, would not be enough to pay your way into heaven. You were "bought with a price," the supreme price of all history, the highest the great God Himself could offer. The Father gave His Son, Jesus gave His loving, sinless Self to atone for your iniquities, to bring you back to God, to give you a sure title to a prepared place in the many mansion. Never have heaven and earth witnessed a costlier payment than Christ's crimson blood by which we were ransomed from death.
Your salvation is "great," indescribably "great," also because it is offered freely, without payment, by the most magnificent mercy sinners can ever receive. Your redemption cost Jesus a fearful price; but it costs you nothing. You can come to the Savior just as you are, without fee or price. You need only say: "O Christ, my sins crush men. I hardly dare draw near You. There is nothing good or praiseworthy in men. But I am sorry for my transgressions and, O Jesus, I believe with my whole heart that on the cross You became my Substitute and Atonement. Forgive me, bless me, help me!" And the Savior whose arms are outstretched to the weary and heavy laden will reply: "Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." "Thy faith hath saved thee."
This blood-bought salvation is "great," altogether too "great" for sinful, selfish men because of its world-wide, all-inclusive extent. No one hearing these words now broadcast across the country or later to reach South America, Asia, Africa, the islands of the sea, should every doubt that the full blessing Christ's Gospel can be his. Man's cruelty may deprive you of many eathly advantages, and your own transgressions may destroy happiness, peace, even freedom; but when you read this summary of divine grace, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life," remember that you have never sinned too grievously to be received, if penitent and believing, by the Savior of whom it is written, "He died for all"! Not long ago, a prisoner serving a life sentence in a Wisconsin penitentiary for murdering his wife, wrote us for help. In the depth of his misery, thinking that he had fallen too far from grace ever to be forgiven, he heard of Christ through our broadcasts and asked whether the Savior would have mercy for him. We sent a pastor to bring him peace in Jesus. He was instructed in the faith; the same Savior who says: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out," has pardoned, cleansed, and now received him as His own.
Once more this
"salvation" is "great" because of its absolute
truth and certainty. Blessed by the full Christian faith, you
need be torn by doubt as to whether you are saved. Looking to
you know with unwavering conviction that "salvation" is assured, since
you are His and He says of His own, "Neither shall any man pluck them
of My hand." - Is not this the positive, immovable confidence for which
you yearn in these grim, forbidding days? Come what may, extended
war or - God grant it! - constructive peace, depression or prosperity,
sickness or health, home life for better or for worse, if Christ is
you have an inner joy that no blasts of bombs, blood of conflict,
and destruction, can remove. Every sorrow you may endure, as a
child of God, will finally work for your good.
Some of you are too busy with the entangling affairs of your business, your profession, your work, you pleasure, you social life, to find time for Jesus, who devoted His lifetime to you. People stand in line all night to secure front row seats for baseball series; they travel hundreds of miles to attend football games; but it is expecting too much, we are told, to think that they should set aside an hour on Sunday for worshiping their God and Savior.
Others turn a deaf ear to Christ because they love sin. They do not wish to be disturbed in their secret affairs or favorite vices. But they know that if they come to Christ, these must be renounced. They are making money in sinful occupation, finding pleasure in breaking God's law of purity. They derive too much sensual satisfaction from following their own lusts to heed the Savior's call for repentance and faith. So they pass Jesus and heedlessly turn their faces from the only Savior they can ever have.
Still others spurn their salvation because Jesus seems to offer little of practical value, dollars-and-cents profit, everyday comfort. They like soft religions with all the alleged answers to questions concerning the ease of life. They prefer the new sects that have mushroomed over the land (more than fifty new creeds sprang up within the last ten years) to take the place of the old Gospel, to supplant the old cross, to push aside the old, unchanging atonement of grace.
Many of you, however, are discarding Jesus against better knowledge. You grew up in a Christian home. God-fearing parents brought you to the Savior, taught you to pray. You were baptized and accepted as church members. Some of you became leaders in youth groups, officials in your congregations. You were happy to sing in the choir, attend Bible class, work actively for the spread of the Gospel. - Now you have turned away from Jesus, lost the faith and for years have not seen the inside of a church.
And how many there are among you who trifle with Christ, wavering between accepting or rejecting His grace! You see the benefits of the Gospel. Your conscience tells you to accept the Savior. But you reject every plea that would make you decide for Jesus, saying: "What is the hurry? Let me think this over again! Tomorrow, not today." During this delay and postponement you may be summon to eternity, too suddenly even for the death-bed repentance on which many build their hopes.
Whatever the reason for this negligence may be, more than half the people in this country, blessed by the Almighty as no other nation since the beginning of history, are so utterly indifferent to the Lord Jesus that they have never acclaimed Him the Redeemer of their souls, the Guardian of their lives. American homes disregard the Christ. How many families are there throughout this radio assembly in which our Lord's presence is exalted as the highest benediction on the home or in which His help is invoked daily by Scripture reading, prayer, and sacred song? American schools sometimes oppose Christ, and I mean our tax-supported higher educational systems, often outspokenly anti- Christian, as well as the large colleges and universities not under State control. Here the young people of 1941, the leaders in 1941 and 1961, are being trained for their responsibilities with Jesus, often against Him and everything for which He stands. Even many American churches are pushing Jesus aside. A few years ago Calvin Coolidge declared: "I think most of the clergy today are preaching socialism . . . The Church must preach a new birth." And in the eight years since his death the number of pulpits featuring economics, politics, ethics or seeking to enflame the passions of hatred, but omitting Christ as God and Savior, has increased enormously. - Consequently the American way of life often completely discards Jesus. True, men speak of God vaguely and mystically; but the only God who can ever save us and besides whom there can be none other is the everblessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our age has much to say about religion; it herds all creeds together as though no differences separated them; yet only one religion can sustain us in this crisis - faith in the atoning, sin-removing death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Men have much praise for the Bible, although somehow public speakers generally avoid passages mentioning the Lord Jesus, His cross, His blood, His death; but the only faith that can ever help a man or a nation is the acceptance of God's errorless truth centering in Christ's redemption.
How timely, personal, forceful, then, is the question of our text, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" There is a sure retribution for disregarding Christ, and its penalty is often executed during this life. Many of you suffer because you have turned from Jesus. You have been defeated by continued sorrow and adversity, money trouble and home trouble, worry about you work and business, fear concerning the health of your body or mind; for while the Savior, ready to share your burdens, pleaded, "Come unto Me!" you spurned Him and deliberately invited these sorrows as God's punishment. Even if you shout back that you have escaped all this and now earn twice as much as a year ago, that you have never been sick or sorry, I stell say the time is coming when, boastful, self- confident, neglectful of Christ, you must stand before the divine judgment. You will not always have inflation salaries. You cannot keep your heath, your haughty pride, your sinful life forever. Disaster may even now be knocking at your door. Tomorrow death may reach out for you. What then? The Bible answers, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Will you be able to stand before the all-holy God with your unforgiven sins, brazen rebellion, slavery to your passions, when His truth insists, "The souls that sinneth, it shall die"? Here is the hardest sentence for human lips to speak: With out Jesus to take away your sins and restore you to the Father, you are doomed to eternal death, forever banished from God, self- sentenced to the hell that fearful men try to deny, although it is as real as heaven itself.
When I thus repeat what God's infallible Word proclaims in a hundred places, "Without Christ you are lost," I must add the crushing word, "forever." When Scripture today asks, "How shall we escape?" it answers pointedly, "There is no escape." Prisoners have managed to find their way out of the Bastille of Paris. They have escaped from Siberia's exile or Devil's Island's torture. They have dug through the strongest penitentiary walls or built long tunnels beneath war-prison barricades, but no one who neglects Christ can outrun God's avenging retribution. A few spots remain on the face of the earth whither criminals may flee beyond the long reach of justice, but if you should try to elude the Almighty in flight to darkest Africa, the lonely South Sea Islands, or the uninhabited vastness of the Arctic, His all-seeing eye would still discover you. If even Federal authorities can bring draft dodgers back across the ocean, how can you expect to be a successful fugitive from the all-knowing God?
Those who break man's law often avoid punishment through bribery and corruption; the records of American courts reveal repeated instances of graft; but you cannot buy your way out of God's court. You will never have enough money to purchase release from His judgment. Master minds use legal tricks and perjured testimony in cheating the law; but you will never be smart enough to deceive God and argue yourself out of paying the full penalty for every unforgiven sin. No college course or university degree will enable you to avoid standing face to face with the divine Judge.
You are not able to escape yourself, and neither is anyone else able to help you outrun holy justice. If two mighty nations had to cancel their plans for the release of wounded war prisoners, how, do you suppose, can any human influence free the prisoners of sin? Don't build false hopes on the thought that a friend or relative can take your place! When a woman was recently sentenced to meet death in the lethal gas chamber, the convicts at San Quentin Prison, California, wrote the governor proposing that lots be cast to find a substitute who would die in the place of the murderess. Their petition was refused since the law makes no provision for one man dying in the place of another. Similarly, according to God's Law men can never substitute for their fellow-sinners. Heavenly truth has decreed that "none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." If you have been relying on the faith of your parents, the prayers of a God-fearing husband or wife, the intercession of a saint or martyr, this will never save you.
Above all, don't send your soul to hell by believing that you can live without God, blaspheme Christ, reject His Gospel and then, after death, have someone pay or pray your way into heaven! There can be no reprieve after death, no second chance beyond the grave, no intermediary stage between heaven and hell; for the record of eternal truth testifies: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in October 1941, just six weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.