S-1232 5SAE//3A 02/06/11 (O) #506; (S) #412; (C) #48
Text: Isaiah 58:3-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Theme: “We Are Witnesses of these things.” (Acts 5:27-32).
Question: “Are you a WITNESS for the Gospel?
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD Observing Lutheran Hour Ministries Sunday
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany is from the book of Acts: “And when they had brought them [disciples], they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’” (Acts 5:27-32).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
You who are the most beloved in the Lord Jesus, transformed to be witnesses of the cross and empty tomb. It was on January 15th, 1967 in Los Angeles, CA the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs met in what was called the Supergame (today the Super Bowl), when the final gun sounded the Green Bay Packers won with a score of 35-10. Ever since that day people in the United States and around the world; have sat, watched and talked about the game, the plays and the commercials. Today is no different. This evening some of us here will sit, watch, eat and talk about the 45th consecutive Super Bowl. When the game will be over, people will continue to talk about the plays, commercials and the outcome. PAUSE.
However, there is an even LONGER running Super event that takes place today.75 years ago, (October 2, 1930) with a prophetic voice of proclamation, Dr. Walter A. Maier went on The Lutheran Hour Broadcast and speaking for Lutheranism and all of faithful Christianity said this:
“…we acknowledge as our own the apostle’s determination, “Not to know anything...save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” ....I offer you, in the name of the Triune God, not the Christ of present-day compromise and concession, not the Christ of twentieth-century indifference and indecision, not the Christ of modern doubt and denial, who has been exalted in His humanity, only to be robbed of His deity, but the Christ of the cross. With my hand on the Bible I dedicate this radio mission to the preaching of that cross, the cruel gibbet on which the Savior died the blackest death of all history. That crucified Christ, Son of God, yet Son of Man, the all-sufficient Savior and Him alone, we offer with the pledge, “Nothing Save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified in every message, every prayer, every hymn broadcast over this Gospel network.”
With that pledge, The Lutheran Hour was joined with this pulpit, with every parish, with every prophet and apostle who has believed and proclaimed God’s Word is truth; with every soul which has courageously confessed Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of the world, and His Name is the only Name which they trust for forgiveness and salvation. Jesus Christ is the Savior. This is God’s truth and it is a truth which Satan, the “The Father of Lies”[i], does not wish you, or anyone in this dark and damned world to know or acknowledge. And although Satan has worked tirelessly in every age, it is in our time that he has seen his efforts bearing some terrible fruit as more and more people refuse to believe they need the Savior, they need the Redeemer, and they need the Christ.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. There is no denying it! That is a truth Satan does not want the world to hear. And lest you think this is mere empty oratory, let me point to a case last year in California where, at the Los Angeles Community College, a professor called a student a “fascist”, and threatened to expel him for making a speech which defended Christian marriage.[ii] Consider Georgia’s Augusta State University student Jennifer Keaton who was told she would be expelled from pursuing her counseling degree program unless she altered her “central religious beliefs on human nature and conduct.” In other words, Jennifer had to stop being the Christian if she wanted to be a counselor.[iii] “Christians be silent” is the order which is being heard again and again in America’s institutions of higher education.
“The Father of Lies” does not want people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. In his unholy crusade he has enlisted extremists from other religions. Go to Baghdad and ask the few Christians who survived the Reformation Day attack on Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church. Let them tell you how the priest was ordered to lie down and then was murdered. Let them tell how gunmen shot at the crucifix, how they murdered more than 50 of our brothers and sisters as they prepared to worship. Understand, this was not an isolated incident. Again and again it is happening as religious terrorists demand, “Christians be silent.”[iv]
Or would you care to look at one of America’s great banking firms, J.P. Morgan Chase. This past Christmas the brilliant powers-that-be ordered all of its banks to “take down any and all Christmas decorations which had not been supplied by company headquarters.” Wishing not to be offensive to unbelievers, they decided it would be best if they ignored the Christ Child’s birth. True, when the Christian community cried out, the company reversed itself, but they had, like so many other stores, tried to profit from Christ’s birth, even as they wished to minimize the Savior’s coming. Once more the world had said, “Christians be silent.”
In truth, it would be easier to be silent. It would be politically correct to be silent. It might make us more popular if we were to be silent or preached a message without sin or repentance, without the Savior, or the salvation He has won. It would be easier to preach a social Gospel, a name-it-claim-it brand of religion. But we can’t do that. The faithful followers of the Lord can never do that. Turn to Scripture and see Peter and John who were arrested and arraigned by the same Sanhedrin which had orchestrated the crucifixion of the Christ. When these apostles were told to stay silent in regard to the Savior, with deliberation and dedication they declared: “We cannot help but speak about what we have heard and seen.” These special servants of the Savior knew preaching Christ must take priority over silence or political correctness.
And, we, His modern day disciples cannot remain silent to the truth of the Savior’s cross and empty tomb. Every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve has been called upon by the Lord of the Church to bear witness of His gift of salvation which He earned for us through His suffering on the cross of Calvary. PAUSE.
Many talk about the weather, the Super Bowl, the events in Cairo and the economy. But when was the last time you spoke about Jesus to a friend; perhaps to a brother or sister who have not darkened the house of the Lord? When was the last time you gave a powerful witness to the God of the Bible even though you knew you would be ridiculed for it?
Oh you, who are blood bought and redeemed by the Christ of the Bible, witnessing is not an obligation but an opportunity; it is not a payment but a privilege; it is not a have to, but a want to. When we are faithful in ignoring the father of lies, and speak of the Father of Love God will work in the hearts and ears of hearers.
Let me introduce you to an Arab Palestinian from the West Bank. Tass Saada was born into a Muslim home in Gaza. He and his friends murdered Jews in Israel. They murdered civilians and soldiers alike. They attacked Christians in Jordan. Sometimes they tossed hand grenades at Christians’ homes. Other times they strafed houses with machine-gun fire.
But in 1993 after marrying an American girl (Karen) and moving to the US a country he had long hated—this Jihadist met the Savior (I changed this line from Found Jesus. Jesus was not lost Tass was). This violent radical was one day radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This killer became a man of peace and compassion.
What made the change in the life of this Radical? Someone cared enough to share with Him the love of Jesus. Someone challenged him to read the Bible! Someone called him lovingly and caringly to review the difference between the god of the Muslims who destroys life, and the God of the Bible who wants to save all lives. Perhaps I should let Tass tell you his story: (Read out of the book: Some of the above information and below are paraphrased from the book Inside the Revolution by Joel C. Rosenberg pp. 363-366) “I was a Palestinian sniper,” Saada would later tell me. “But then I fell in love with a Savior who loves Arabs as well as Jews.” In his remarkable book, Once An Arafat Man, Saada explained his realization that the God of the Bible loves us all with an unfathomable, everlasting, unquenchable love. He explained that God’s love is so amazing, so divine, that He actually offers all of us—Jew and Gentile alike—the free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. And he explained that God wants to adopt each one of us into His own family. He wants to bless us. He wants to take care of us. He wants to heal us and change us and make us more like Him. And He wants to empower us to be a blessing to others.
This change happened because someone witnessed to Tass Saada. There are many in our community, county and country that have not been challenged or heard of the love of the Savior. Dr. Walter Maier’s words on the Lutheran Hour 75 years ago still ring true today. We are partners with the Apostles who said, “We are witnesses of these things.” This pulpit, this congregation, and every Bible Study and event that took place here has been to equip people to be faithful witnesses so that others like Tass Saada, you and me, come to bow before the Throne of Grace and meet the God of love and mercy—Jesus.
Like the Apostles, like the different speakers of the Lutheran hour, we, too, remain committed to telling this sin-saddened world that Jesus has not almost succeeded in saving us; He is not an almost Savior, an almost Redeemer an almost Conqueror. He is the One to whom we must go, for He is the One Who has eternal life. This is the Christ Whom we have seen and heard. His is the story that we share. May God grant His Spirit’s blessing upon us as He breaks Satan’s silence as we share what we have seen and heard. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA
[i] John 8: 44
v Rosenberg C. Joel. Inside the Revolution, Tyndall House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois pp. 363-368