A Sermon By
Dr. Walter A. Maier
"Jesus Christ…is our Hope." 1 TIMOTHY 1:1
GREAT AND GLORIOUS GOD: In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, through the power of Thy Holy Spirit, our Comforter, and with the promise of Thy grace, our Lord of love, we begin this new season of our radio ministry. We have but one purpose: to proclaim the Gospel of full, free, and final forgiveness through faith in the cleansing blood and the life-giving death of our merciful Redeemer. Without Thee, Triune God of mercy, might, and majesty, we can do nothing; but with Thee we can maintain and spread this mission of the air throughout the world, even though the legions of our enemies are multiplied a thousandfold. Therefore, we entreat Thee, bless our broadcast! Use this message of word and song in warning the wicked, calling sinners to repentance, comforting the afflicted, recalling the unfaithful, sustaining the bereaved, and, above all, in bringing souls to Thee in Christ, our only Hope and our sure Salvation! Because Thy hand still rests heavily on our country, we continue to plead: Make a speedy end to all bloodshed, O Lord of hosts, and grant this nation the triumph of truth that can come with repentance and reliance on Thee! Guard and guide Thy children in the armed forces! Keep them close to the Savior! Hear us, for we plead with faith in Jesus, who died on the cross to save us eternally! "Amen!
Today, as I assure you in God’s name of one Hope that can never fail, I point you to Him in whose name and for whose glory this broadcast was dedicated twelve seasons ago—the Lord Jesus. Much has changed since I first spoke to you. Then we had low wages and wide unemployment, but we were blessed with peace. Today wages are high, and people work overtime, but in consequence of the war a hundred new problems clamor for solution. Many startling upheavals may await us in the uncharted future; yet as I rededicate this broadcast to God’s Son and the world’s Savior from sin, what a privilege to guarantee you, by His promise, that Jesus never fails! Speaking from Bolling Field, Army air base near the nation’s capital—I tell all of you, civilians and fighting men, officers and privates, government officials and plain citizens, "Turn to Christ for courage, comfort, and conviction!" To show you His power and blessing, I have chosen as the theme and text of my first appeal in the twelfth season of broadcasting, Saint Paul’s words in First Timothy (the first chapter, first verse), this sin-conquering, life-sustaining, death-defying assurance:
1- THIS IS A STRENGTHENING TRUTH
We see at the outset that the "Apostle had little sympathy with those who claim to have found the hope for our war-torn age in man-made arrangements. He does not say, "Money is our hope," even though experts insist that all will be well with the nation when we solve the problem of our finances, postwar industry, and commerce; while the average American believes that a heavy bank account is the guarantee of happiness, we too should know that money can never purchase peace and joy for the soul. The people of Radnor, Pennsylvania, will show you a mansion in which a millionaire brother and sister deliberately killed themselves when they mistakenly thought that their high fortune was slipping through their fingers.
Saint Paul does not proclaim that armed power and military preparation are our hope. If he were with us today, he would not join those who hold that we must maintain peace by force, that we must, in the words of a Paris bishop, "kill every damned swinish Boche." In protest, see what the might-makes-right delusion did to Germany! A thousand pages of history scream the warning that force only begets counterforce.
These five eternally precious words, "Jesus Christ…is our Hope," should banish the thought that science, culture, education, are the saviors of our world. If they were, why would relatively many college professors and honor students take their own lives? Human ingenuity can make robot bombs sixty feet long, leaded with explosives, and then declare these hellish instruments of death outmoded as new and even more devastating means of destruction are devised; but all superminds throughout the ages, of themselves, have never discovered the means of speaking peace to a grief-gripped soul, pardon to a sin-burdened heart.
Again the text does not promise, "Politics is our hope." Before election day the American people are barraged by the soothsaying and oratory of candidates who insist that their party offers the only pledge for a stronger, better nation. While everyone of us should prepare to cast an intelligent, prayerful ballot at each election, the salvation of America requires far more than a Republican or a Democratic victory. It demands, first of all, a repentant return to God, national and individual, admission of our sins and a humble trust in the saving Christ.
We likewise look in vain throughout the entire Scriptures for any indication that war is the hope of our age. Yet we are assured that, as a result of the second world conflict, bloodshed will be banished and international wrongs righted. We have heard these promises before, and we ought to know by now that instead of glorifying war we should recognize even the most justified struggle as a visitation from the Almighty directed to bring us down on our knees in contrition and faith.
Neither does Saint Paul tell us that statesmanship and diplomacy are the hope of our world. How shocking beyond words if for guidance through tomorrow’s perplexity we had to rely on some of today’s leaders in the affairs of nations who are atheists, brutes, murderers! After the bloody experiences of the past twenty-five years, should anyone believe that plenipotentiaries sitting around a peace table from which the principles taught by the Lord Jesus are barred can create the real peace, progress, and prosperity for which our groping age yearns?
Once more I call your attention to the truth that the Apostle is not satisfied with declaring all religions—any kind of creed—are the hope of the world. He does not want—and neither should we—the easy, pleasant, soft, sweet delusions which prate about man’s goodness, but stifle the subject of sin, insist that all are on the road to heaven, but call the Savior Himself narrow and bigoted when He declares, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him."
Rejecting human fancies and failure, pushing earthly claims and counsels aside, God’s Word, errorless and infallible, points us to the only unfailing assurance men can ever have and declares, "Jesus Christ…is our Hope"!
Now, who is Jesus Christ? Some of you, I feel sure, are protesting: "Why bring that up? We know the answer." But, do you? Stand on Washington’s busy avenues, pause before the Capitol, stop on the steps of the Supreme Court building, ask the passers-by, "Who is Jesus?" And you will receive many conflicting answers and plenty of shoulder shrugs. For although a thousand times more pages have been written about our Lord than about a dozen of history’s greatest leaders; although Jesus is responsible, directly and indirectly, for every real blessing we enjoy today. Men are appallingly ignorant when it comes to declaring accurately, truthfully, reverently, just who this mighty Benefactor of the race is. Go into some churches, and you will hear the description of a Christ who is a weak, unhappy counterfeit and caricature of the true, Scriptural Lord.
Who, then, is Jesus? May everyone of you be given the faith and fortitude to behold the Cross and to join me in the confession of faith I repeat once in every broadcasting season—words of a man, it is true, yet to me of all human utterances closest to divine Scripture—the statement of the hero whose name is perpetuated in our broadcasts, Martin Luther’s, four-century-old, but ever new, declaration of loyalty to the Lord: "I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true." O Spirit of God, help us believe this from our innermost souls!
Why is Christ our Hope? First, because He is our God. Therefore nothing is impossible for Him to whom all power is given "in heaven and in earth." He can succeed when experts fail. He can make peace when we can see only further war. He, without whom "was not anything made that was made," who upholds "all things" in the vastness of this universe "by the Word of His power," who can move dictators as though they were helpless puppets and destroy haughty nations in a twinkling—this same Jesus can richly supply your every need, graciously share your burdens, miraculously, if necessary, rescue you from danger.
Major Allen Lindberg of Westfield, New Jersey, piloting a Boeing Flying Fortress, was forced down to sea on his way to Australia. The crew had just enough time to launch two rubber rafts, but they were "without a crumb of food or a drop of water." Soon the men became desperate, all except Sergeant Albert Hernandes of Dallas, Texas. He kept praying and assuring his comrades that the Savior would rescue them. Just before nightfall on their third day of drifting they saw the outline of a small coral island, and to their amazement soon behold three canoes filled with Australian aborigines, dark-skinned, kinky-headed fishermen. The natives explained that they lived several hundred miles from the little atoll; yet, while they were bringing their catch home, they were seized by a strange impulse to change their course and visit that uninhabited island, where they met the drifting airmen. As Christ, the almighty God, answered those prayers, I tell you fliers here at Bolling Field and you, my fellow redeemed listening before your radios, that Jesus can help you in every calamity, because—believe this with your whole heart!—He is the Lord of unlimited power.
As your God, Jesus is likewise ever faithful. He keeps His Word. You may doubt the glib and grandiose promises that after the war a golden age will dawn with no more hunger and want, no more war and wickedness, no more fear and terror-—promises which exceed anything the heavenly Father Himself has ever offered for this earth. But don’t doubt the Savior; for, come what may, His pledges must be fulfilled! No one who trusts Him has ever been put to shame.
By the marvel of His compassion Christ is also your Hope, because He is your Redeemer from ruin. If you have never known what a fearful thing it is to break the divine Law; if you say that you have never felt any sorrow over your secret and sinful affairs; if you boast that you actually enjoy living in defiance of God’s will, then listen carefully! You cannot stand before your heavenly Father unless the heavy crimson stains of your transgressions have been wiped away. You cannot find real happiness and peace of mind unless your guilt has been removed. You cannot sidestep the terrors of death, avoid eternal judgment and condemnation, unless the evil on your hands and lips, in your mind and soul, is pardoned. Now, since you and I, far from being able to take away a single sin, are constantly leading ourselves into greater guilt and deeper condemnation, Jesus—endless praise be to His compassion!—paid the full penalty of every unholy thought, word, and act in our lives, suffered their punishment, blotted out their charges, canceled them so entirely and eternally that in God’s sight they no long exist to be charged against us. All this our precious Savior did when on the cross He became "sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Here, then, is the Christ you need, the Christ you must have if you are to get right with God, the Christ you can have by simple, trusting faith.
Because our Lord offered Himself as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," He is also our Hope in every burden, problem, and sorrow. You and I may count but little in an age which regards human life so cheap that millions can be killed on fields of battle and many more civilians crushed out of existence; but in the Lord’s sight we, as His own, are worth more than the entire world and are therefore constantly guarded by His protecting love. We have been purchased by the highest price ever paid, His suffering and death, in our stead; and by faith we have become His beloved. Therefore nothing happens to us without His permission and His blessing. Every sorrow believers suffer is sanctified, so that affliction is part of the divine plan for their spiritual strengthening and their ultimate happiness. Take Christ out of the hearts and lives of His children, and the world becomes a chaos ruled by cruelty and terror; but keep men'’ eyes riveted to the Cross, and they realize that "all things work together for good to them that love God," in His Son Christ. When He assures the burdened, the bleeding, the brokenhearted, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you…. Let not your heart be troubled," believe that He is Light for the tear-blinded, Support for the falling, Healing for the soul-sick, Strength for the tempted, Truth for the doubters, Victory for the defeated, Life for the dying. My fellow redeemed, he is—and for you this is the supreme truth—your Hope, whatever your past has been and whatever your future may be. But—pay close attention!—He is your one and only Hope, your first and last Hope. It is written, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
2- THIS IS A CHALLENGING TRUTH
If it is true, divinely, eternally true, that Jesus is your only Hope, what will you do with Him? Do you call yourself a Christian? Then believe Him, not merely with a denominational faith, a church faith, a family faith, but with your own personal conviction which joins the Apostle in declaring, "I know whom I have believed!"
Love the Lord! Don’t be satisfied with head worship and lip service! Give Him your heart and soul! Don’t be content with devoting to Him an hour on Sunday, more or less regularly, with offering Him the small change which remains after you have paid for your pleasure! Rather behold Him in the indescribable agonies of Calvary, His soul and body tortured in the punishment you should suffer, dying in the penalty for your transgressions; and a you begin to understand the matchless mercy your Savior showed you, fall down before Him to cry out: "I love Thee, Lord Jesus! I love Thee, merciful Redeemer, more than I love anyone else on earth, more even than myself!"
Loving the merciful Christ, however, is not enough; you must also trust Him. Your faith must not be like a weather vane, which points one way in sunshine but whirls around in the opposite direction when the storm breaks. Strengthened by the vision of the cross on which the Savior shed His cleansing blood, you should not be fervently hot today, lukewarm tomorrow, and cynically cool the next day. With the Spirit’s help build your faith not on the shifting sands of feelings or emotions, but on the Son of God, the Rock of Ages, where you can stand unmoved in war or peace, pain or prosperity, suffering or security! O God, help us all rely so completely on our Redeemer that we, too, can say and believe, "I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord"!
Again, if the Savior is the only Hope of the world and, as we testify to you, the sole Source of your blessing, should you not live your faith and confess Him before men? How enthusiastic people become over small issues! You should have seen the celebrations in Saint Louis when our two baseball teams each won the coveted pennant! Immense crowds thronged the park! Banners and buttons, signs and show cards, publicly proclaimed allegiance to the favorite team. Why is it, however, that Christians, to whom has been entrusted not a world series but a world’s salvation, can conceal the fact that they are the Lord’s? Why, with the Savior who will reign eternally, long after baseball is forgotten and there is not more Saint Louis, do those who call themselves God’s children show Jesus only a fraction of the outward loyalty and enthusiasm displayed over these championship contests? May the Holy Ghost stir the hearts of American Christendom into flame and make us realize that once we have stood at Golgotha to witness our Lord’s suffering for our redemption, dying for our life, we should be a people separated from the unbelieving world! We dare not join skeptics and scoffers in the sensual amusements, the lust-filled entertainment, and the unholy practices which have cursed our age. We must come out from unbelief and with the Spirit’s help radiate in our lives the love of Him who gave Himself for us.
We should likewise defend Jesus with all our might. Do you realize that the gentle, loving, atoning Savior is being attacked in systematic, premeditated assault? The war did not bring masses of Americans to their God. The long-hoped-for revival of Biblical faith has not come. Instead, our Lord is being criticized in many high schools and colleges, where His deity and His redemption are openly ridiculed. He is assailed in many courts of the United States, particularly in divorce trials, where perjury flourishes and the marital faithfulness His Word requires is contemptuously cast aside. Jesus is opposed by some of the high figures in Washington circles, who, forgetting that this nation was founded by Christian colonists, publicly reject His Word and write articles for popular magazines in which Scripture truth is decried. The Son of God is contradicted even in thousands of American churches, which cunningly deny that He is our divine Redeemer, which hate the mention of the atoning blood. A campaign to dethrone the King of kings is being waged by organized atheism, particularly under the political influence of ruthless radicalism. Even now throughout war-devastated Europe this anti-God, anti-Jesus, anti-Bible curse is gaining new impetus. In Southern France, the Red upheaval is spreading rapidly; and this is only the beginning of what we may soon expect when defeated, desperate masses across the seas flock to the Red banner. The momentum of this destruction will be felt in this country and will strengthen the strategy of atheistic Communists who already occupy important places in certain sectors of American education, American labor, American youth movements, American government. Because our faith is under fire on these various fronts and the battalions of Christ-deniers are increasing, God wants all of us who love the Savior to defend His cause to the utmost. Churches should be militant, always engaged in a holy offensive against those who assail Jesus. You preachers of the Gospel should redouble your efforts in proclaiming salvation through the Redeemer’s shed blood, in opposition to the shabby, threadbare theories of salvation by character. You men and women who love God’s Son should treble your activities in protesting against every attack on our Lord. There can be no compromise with the foes of our faith, no mentality in this battle for the blood and the cross. Jesus Himself warned us, "He that is not with me is against Me."
Again, if we are persuaded with Saint Paul that "Jesus Christ…is our Hope," we must be ready in a strenuous, self-sacrificing way to bring the message of His blood-bought salvation to others. What a crime for those who know that Jesus died for their sins to keep this assurance of deliverance from their fellow men! When the decisive battle at Waterloo was fought, Nathan Rothschild, a founder of the international banking house, kept close to the front, in the safety of a shot-proof hiding place. As soon as he saw the beginning of Wellington’s victory and Napoleon’s defeat, he mounted a swift horse and rode furiously to Brussels, where he hired the fastest carriage he could secure and drove at top speed to the Belgian coast. A wild storm raged over the English Channel, and Rothschild had to pay an adventurous fisherman $500 for ferrying him across. Reaching the British shore, he galloped on horseback to the London Stock Exchange. Here he found the bankers dejected, expecting the news of their country’s defeat. Without breathing a hint of what he knew, Rothschild and his agents bought up at low prices all the government securities they could. The panic lasted for two days, until the news of Wellington’s victory reached London, and the stock immediately rose to fabulous figures. Then in two hours Nathan Rothschild made a profit of $10,000.000 by selling at high quotations the securities he had bought at bottom prices. "What treachery," you declare, "to withhold the message of peace!" Yet what greater treachery for some of you to know that Jesus has conquered sin, death, hell, and still to keep the Gospel of His grace from your fellow men! The first-century Church grew, under the Holy Spirit, because those who accepted Christ were constant witnesses to Him. The twentieth-century Church will experience new and necessary blessings if present-day disciples of the Lord, hearing the sin-bearing Savior say, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me," declare, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
You can learn that testimony to Christ is blessed from this broadcast, today entering its twelfth season, older in experience and benediction, larger in the number of its stations, wider in the reach of its international Gospel network. It is evidence of pure mercy that a radio mission like ours has grown steadily; and it is even greater grace that the Holy Spirit has accompanied its message of hope throughout vast areas. From the Hawaiian Islands, for example, a woman who in her childhood was dedicated to pagan idols writes us, pleading for the message of inner peace in the Lord Jesus. From darkest Africa, the land of the Zulus and the Bantus, come encouraging responses to our messages broadcast in Portuguese East Africa. From Chili, Columbia, Argentina, Uruguay, and many other Latin-American neighbors we receive evidence that the Word of God preached in our Spanish Lutheran Hour is converting men and women who never before knew the Savior’s full mercies. From Army camps, Navy stations, Marine bases, from Flying Fortresses in the air and battle ships on the sea, comes the testimony of young men who have been mightily strengthened by accepting Christ. Stand by us, pray for us, work with us, as we promise you to do our utmost in securing new outlets in foreign lands, among unevangelized masses—all for the purpose of proclaiming that "Jesus Christ…is our Hope"!
Here at home these broadcasts give me the privilege of speaking to you, my countrymen, who have not confessed the Lord your Savior. Many of you once knew Jesus. You had god-fearing parents. You were eager, active church members. Yet somehow you surrendered your childhood faith; you brought shame and grief to your father and mother; you left the Church, forsook Christ and thereby lost your only assurance. Don’t try to tell yourself that you are satisfied to live on in stubborn unbelief! Deep in your heart you know that your thoughts are twisted and torn by unrest and fear. May you realize personally how terrifying are the consequences of having pledged allegiance to Jesus only to disavow and deny Him! May you heed the Spirit’s call and return, sin-crushed but grace assured, to the Redeemer who promises, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out."
Above all, the Son of God asks you who until this moment have lived without Him and against Him to find in His grace forgiveness for your sins, power to resist temptation, blessings of the Spirit’s rebirth ,new life in faith, comfort for sorrow, courage for every trial, strength for each weakness and the blood-bought hope of heaven. Do you object that you are too unworthy to approach the holy, stainless God? Humble reliance on Christ takes all your sins away and gives you free access to the Father. Do you ask, "How can I find and face my Savior?" Take the Bible, which many of you have neglected, study the seventeenth chapter of Saint John, the fifty-third of Isaiah, the eighth of Romans, the record of the crucifixion in any of the Gospels, and then the Holy Spirit can lead you to Christ. Charles Reade, one of England’s eminent novelists, was an agnostic and skeptic for many years until a friend asked him to approach the Scriptures without prejudice. He started with the Old Testament, the part of the Bible most widely ridiculed; and this reading of Holy Writ led directly to his accepting the Lord Jesus as his Redeemer. As you meet the Savior face to face in His Word, may the Spirit similarly blast away the barriers of unbelief, give you peace, joy, victory, through faith, when, kneeling before God’s Son, your trusting heart exults: Jesus, Thou art my own and only Hope in life and death, in time and eternity! Oh, Christ, give Thyself unto us now! Amen!
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in October 1944