Holy, Heavenly Spirit: Take us, every one of us, sin saturated as we are, dwell in us, through Thy Word and ordinances, and make us new creatures in Christ Jesus by the miracle of Thy regenerating love! Show us that unless by faith in our Savior we are born again into a sanctified life of obedience to God’s Word, we can never enter the kingdom of heaven! Teach us ever anew that once we accept the precious Redeemer, who died that we might have eternal life, we who were children of wrath become children of our heavenly Father! O Holy Spirit, strengthen us all with an enlightened, heroic faith, for we know that without Thy direction we can neither come to the Lord Jesus nor accept Him as our blessed, eternal, and only Savior. Watch over all believers in the nation’s armed forces to sanctify them, guard their bodies, and preserve their souls from denial of Christ! Spirit of God, who canst change the hearts of earth’s mightiest men, give the world real peace! Grant our country a new day of devotion to divine truth! Bless our radio mission particularly by bringing souls to their Savior, encouraging the weak, comforting the sorrowful, cheering the lonely and sustaining the sick! We seek Thee and Thy fortifying guidance in Jesus’ all-powerful name. Amen!
Probably few among you knew that last Wednesday marked the silver anniversary of the League of Nations. On January 10, back in 1920, twenty-three countries began that organization which was to create a new world with war outlawed forever. An imposing palace, built as headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, cost more than our Capitol at Washington. As sixty-three countries, large and small, joined the League, mighty minds came to Geneva from the four corners of the earth, and multiplied millions were spent to enable nations to settle quarrels before a court of arbitration rather than on a bloody battlefield. What happened? In a number of minor differences the League was successful in removing what might have been the cause of actual strife; but in the great issues it failed dismally. It was unable to stop Mussolini’s rape of Ethiopia; it could not keep Horohito’s hordes from overrunning China; it was powerless in preventing Hitler from invading Poland. With the expensive shades in its palace drawn, its doors locked, its corridors empty, its furniture covered, its court rooms silent, only one of the twenty-three original founders of the League is not engaged in this shocking war, which will cost the United States more than its assessed valuation, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of casualties. Why did the League of Nations fail? For the same reason the Dumbarton Oaks plan and any more elaborate world organizations will fail: because the countries in the League were selfish and sought to use it for their own profit.
Today we are trying to make a new world through warfare. As the consequence of all the bloodshed, the suffering endured by the wounded, the loss of precious years sustained by the armed forces, particularly by the prisoners, the terrifying price paid by the victims of battle fatigue, we are told that every one of humanity’s two billions will enjoy freedom of conscience, freedom of want, freedom of speech, and freedom from fear. Do you actually believe that this struggle, with four times as many casualties predicted as in 1914-18, can produce these blessings? Rather be prepared, unless the Almighty intervenes, for power politics, spheres of influence, and the groundwork for World War III! I ask you pointedly: With God pushed aside; with even Great Britain’s Prime Minister quoted on the front page of the Detroit Free Press as declaring, “When everything you touch turns to gold, there is no need of crying out about Providence”’ with a dozen nations tottering on the brink of godless revolution, how can this war build a better world?
Other architects of a glorious tomorrow present their plans. Politicians say, “Spend yourself into a new world.” Lawgivers cry, “Legislate yourself into a new world!” Scientists demand, “Invent yourself into a new world!” Industrialists proclaim, “Work yourself into a new world!” Labor insists, “Organize yourself into a new world!” Its radical agitators shriek, “Strike yourself into a new world!” Communists claim, “Revolutionize yourself into a new world!” Modernists preach, “Earn yourself into a new world!” The philosophers of scarcity direct, “Plow your crops under into a new world!” Worldings hiccup, “Drink yourself into a new world!” But what does God say? “Ye must be born again.” His Word assures us that we can hope for a happier tomorrow only when men individually become new creatures, when the old things of sin are gone forever and “all things become new.”
words echo the triumphant truth of
our text, Saint Paul’s declaration in Second Corinthians, chapter five,
verse seventeen, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old
are passed away; behold, all things are become new!” On the basis of
blessed assurance our broadcast pleads today,
1 WE NEED TO BECOME NEW
No lengthy argument should be required to convince anyone that our world, including the United States, needs a new spirit, or that every one of us should become a new creature. How else can we account for the shocking fact that our age, with more money, more colleges, more scientists, even more churches than any previous period, also has more destruction, more bloodshed, more terrifying war, more widespread conflict, more costly struggle than any other generation? When human ingenuity, invention, achievement are at their height, many men, possessed of a sinister spirit, are driven to destroy much of the happiness built in centuries. Evil is so triumphant in our day with its second global war that men alone could not have planned and executed all this sorrow and suffering. It is the plan plotted by “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” by Satan himself.
The Almighty made the earth a storehouse of over abundant supplies for everyone. The New York Times told of a Midwest farmer who planted one cubic inch of wheat and proposed to replant the entire crop for six years, except for the harvest tithe he would annually give his church. You ask: What good can come from that tiny cubic inch of wheat? Listen to this evidence of heaven’s bounty and power! The third year the inch of wheat had yielded so much seed that an acre of ground was required; and for the sixth year the farmer will need 1,500 acres for the 45,000 bushels which the single cubic inch of wheat will have produced. If that man would continue a dozen years more, the whole United States would not have enough territory on which to sow the seed from his increased harvests. Should the globe have ten times as many people as it has, it could bring forth ten times as much food as they would need.
What have men done with this divine generosity? They have proved themselves utterly selfish, inconsiderate of their fellow men, cruel beyond description. If you would divide the wealth of the world, plus the trillion dollars this war has cost, each of the 400,000,000 families on earth, the less-than-the dust families of India, the enslaved families of Africa, the pauper families of Italy, the scavenger families of China, could have a modern, fully equipped seven-room house, a large plot of ground, an automobile, good clothes, an overstocked pantry, and a chance in life. Instead, however, brutal ambitions keep multitudes in starvation, slavery, terror. When you sit down to your sumptuous meals, don’t complain if your butter cannot be spread quite as thickly as you wish! Rather listen to this eyewitness account of famine, disease, and death in China by the chairman of the International Relief Committee: “Whole families have been blotted out; tens of thousands have been widowed and tens of thousands orphaned. I have seen children with eye infections caused by malnutrition. These children are one week from total blindness and less than a month from death. I have seen orphanages where children died at the rate of twenty a day….I have been in streets so lined with dead that the authorities were unable to bury them fast enough.” Are you satisfied with a world which permits such suffering? Think also of the cruel caste system in India, officially barred from enjoying the four freedoms, where almost one sixth of the entire human race exists in crushing poverty! Review the ruin that has overtaken the earth in our generation! Tens of millions killed on the battlefields and in civilian life! Hundreds of millions impoverished! Yet no wide spread return to the Lord! Instead, the sharpest, highest, and more destructive upswing of deliberate godlessness modern history knows, as atheism marches from one triumph to another and builds the most formidable anti-God bloc of all times! Are you satisfied with this mass murder, large-scale atrocity, crushing oppression, which keeps millions in constant misery?
No, you cry in chorus, we need a new world, a new age, a new code for human conduct. First, however, look at our own country! After all, we are not primarily accountable for what happens in Nazi Germany or emperor-worshiping Japan, but we are responsible for conditions in these United States. Must we not admit that we have lost much of the deep-rooted reverence for the heavenly Father which marked our yesterday and which, for example, led Abraham Lincoln as commander in chief of our forces to plead for the proper observance of the Lord’s Day? In a special order he declared: “The sacred rights of Christian soldiers, a becoming deference to the best sentiments of a Christian people, and a due regard for the divine will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.” Now, Sunday has often become just another day, with no thought, interest, or devotion for the Almighty. What do you think the holy God says when, beholding our country, on which He lavished His biggest blessing, He sees that the book with the largest sales is the story of a vile, deceiving, lustful, adulterous woman? More copies of that one novel will be sold in so-called Christian America than the total of a hundred books written to show sinners the way to salvation. How do you think the Sovereign of our souls is affected when His eye, which sees all, sweeps across the land to note the widespread wrecking of the home? In an increasing number of places the divorce rate is actually higher than the marriage rate; and the worst is yet to come when many hasty war marriages, made without the Lord, will clamor for separation. What do you think the righteous Lord declares as He surveys our youth, for the most part entirely without Jesus, many disobedient to parents, authorities, and divine instruction? How does our heavenly Father react if, glancing at us, the favored among nations, He beholds alcoholism so appalling that in Saint Louis we have had cases of children intoxicated, one fatally? Listen to this and be warned! William Slater, Australian Minister to the Soviet Union, was asked, “Did you see a drunken person in Russia?” and he replied, “no, I did not see any signs of drunkenness in any of the crowded areas.” How shocking that ours, a so-called Christian commonwealth, cannot meet Communist standards! In the words of Jeremiah, “a …horrible thing is committed in the land…and My people love to have it so,” Excessive alcohol causes more deaths within our borders than in any foreign country, and drunkenness can pave the way for murder. In Peoria, Illinois, a young staff sergeant and his bride-to-be—their wedding only a few days away—attended a house party where strong liquor flowed freely. Before the night was over, he had stabbed two friends with a trench knife and killed the young woman who was to be his wife. Arrested for murder he protested, “I was deeply in love with Sarahbelle.” Remember this, you who underestimate alcohol as a devilish mocker but overestimate you own power of resistance! What do you think the Triune God says when He looks down on our country, which should be closest and most consecreated to Him. And finds more people without Christ than ever before, with many churches show places, social centers, lecture halls, rather than temples of His truth, refuges for rest, and sanctuaries of His salvation; or when he sees schools teaching children to deny His existence, doubt His Word, disavow the comfort of the Cross, and desert His altars? What must He say, when His Word has declared: “Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy’? and, “Sin is a reproach to any people”? and, “The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish”? Can you not understand that the Lord of hosts has called to us each day of the war, asking us to become a new, better nation, a new, devoted people, a new, consecrated country? If we refuse, the aftermath of this struggle can bring chaos and further conflict. To prevent that, let us constantly pray: O Jesus, put a new heart and a new spirit into America!
Above all, however, we individually must become new creatures—not only to help our land, but also for our personal blessing. I therefore ask you pointedly, Is anyone in this audience completely satisfied with himself? “Certainly,” many of you reply, “things were never better with us. We are making more money” [and the average citizen, the government tells us, receives two and one-third times as much as he did five and ten years ago] “we are having a better time, we are enjoying more pleasure than ever before.” But, “Are you right with your God?” we counter. How about the protesting voice of your conscience, the heaped sin, cruelty, selfishness, greed, hatred, envy, lust, uncleanness which—if you are honest, you will confess—marks every day of your life? How about the secret vices which make you ashamed of yourself every time you recall them? Whether you hear another radio gospel program in your entire life or not, you must face your Maker. The time is coming when you , as “every one of us,” must “give account of himself to God.” That moment may be much closer than you realize. The other day a woman in Portland, Oregon, wrote me: “My husband and I were listening to the rebroadcast of your program last Sunday night, and at its conclusion my husband said, ‘What a blessing that sermon has been to me! Thank the Lord for it!” At the time he uttered these words he was well. In an hour and a half he had put on immortality and had gone to be with Jesus, the Friend he loved the best.” That man was prepared to meet his Maker. Are you, with unforgiven sins, uncanceled guilt? Before you answer, I remind you that the Son of God—and He is always right—plainly tells us, “Ye must be born again.” Heed that “must”! Pay close attention when the Savior of your soul repeats, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”! May this Holy Spirit give you the grace to understand personally that if you are to be saved from the curse of your iniquities, from death and hell, you must become a new creature!
How can this change be brought about? How can those who loved sin love the Lord? By surgery? Can a new heart be transplanted into our breast? A Dayton, Ohio listener writes, “Please tell the truth about Russian Communists,” implying that in battling against atheism I have shown a hatred for the Russian people. We love these people and want to bring them the Gospel. Let me clear this up once and for all! I, as every Christian, can hate no one, certainly not the Russians, and especially not God’s children in that vast country. But just as clearly let me insist that no believer can ever exalt leaders who are against God and His Son, who have persecuted Christians, destroyed churches, boasted of their blasphemy, advocated the overthrow of our form of government, and agitated for world revolution—no matter how closely these men may be allied with us! Don’t write me that I am preaching politics when I say this! Was Isaiah preaching politics when he denounced godless Ahaz? Was Jeremiah preaching politics when he attacked Jehoiakim? Was John the Baptist preaching politics when he assailed Herod? How can you expect me to see my Lord and Savior viciously blasphemed—and not protest? If anyone in Moscow, in Berlin, or for that matter in Washington, cries out against Christ, I cry out against him.—Now what was it that listener wanted to tell me about the Russians? Just this, that Professor Nikolai Sinitsyn, of the Gorky Medical Institute, has succeeded in transplanting the heart of a frog. Does he imply that human hearts may be transplanted? Even if this were possible, you could not make a new creature by a physical change in man’s heart or in all his vital organs. You would have to change his soul. Men may alter their outward appearance, but before God they are all victims of their own vices. Plastic surgery can produce startling facial disguises, but the most skillful skin grafting cannot turn a sinner into a saint.
Again, you cannot become a new creature simply through your sincerity. Often we hear the claim, “It does not matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” Nothing could be farther from Bible truth. Not a single passage tells us that God gives rebirth to those who earnestly follow their own views, as opposed to His. The fakirs of India are sincere when they lie down on beds of nails; but that does not bring them to heaven. The French may have been sincere when they massacred the Hugeuenots on Saint Bartholomew’s night, but they were archcriminals, and the Almighty punished them.
You cannot make men new creatures by using force. A Representative from Pennsylvania wants a law enacted requiring members of Congress to be present when the chaplain opens the House session with prayer. But people who have to be driven to God will receive small blessing from their petitions. Besides, experience shows that the more laws we have, the more are broken. If legislation could create moral goodness, our nation today with its surplus of statues would be a shining light, whereas in truth we are among the most crime-ridden of civilized peoples.
Nor do we become new creatures simply by joining a church. The rosters of American congregations list many people who will go to hell, because they are only lip worshipers, mouth confessors, whom God indicts because “their heart is far from Me.” His Word also warns that millions in America are supporting the wrong creeds. The evangelist Moody revealed: “I was twenty years old before I heard a sermon on regeneration. I was only told to be good, but you might as well tell a black man to be white, as to tell a man to be good without telling him how.”
Again, mere outward attendance at religious services will not give you a new heart and soul. Our troops were troubled by the fact that when the Nazis occupied villages, certain Belgians were their friends, but when our men recaptured these places, the same people were friends of the Allied cause. Similarly, some of you are with the Lord on Sunday or in sickness, but on weekdays and in health you are against Him. The government punishes a man who pretends to be a physician or a civilian who parades as a soldier. If everyone were arrested who claims to be a Christian but in truth rejects the Lord Jesus, how empty many churches would be!
You cannot secure the new life—and this concerns especially you service men and women—even by dying on a battlefield in the nation’s defense. True, a popular song claims that ‘killed in action” is a pass to Paradise, and spokesmen for both sides of the conflict have insisted that when a man goes down fighting for his country, he goes up to the heavenly realm. Don’t put that much faith in your own blood, when the Almighty has told us that only “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”! Parents, if you have neglected to tell your sons of the one, but wondrous Hope we have in Christ, write us today, without delay, so that we may send them God’s Word, with its promise of our Savior’s redemption!
No man, not the wealthiest of the rich, the best of the good, the strongest of the mighty, can himself earn that newness of life, buy it, or pay for it. A mother in Greenville, Illinois, who last Sunday heard me mention the American flier blinded by Japanese gunfire, writes: “I wonder whether I could give him one of my eyes, that he may see. I am in dead earnest. I have large, brown eyes, and good sight.” The chief eye surgeon at our Lutheran Hospital in Saint Louis tells me that this is impossible. Now, if the gift of an eye cannot restore sight, then even the costliest sacrifice any man, or all men. Saints and angels, can ever make will not be sufficient to renew us spiritually before God. No, our whole being is so saturated by sin that outward reform, mending patching, repairing, are never enough in Heaven’s sight. We must be “born again.” It is not true that we are all naturally good—and need only a slight improvement to become perfect. We are all naturally bad, and we must become completely new creatures. This, I emphasize, is the miracle of the Spirit, not of human ingenuity, the sacred blessing of Jesus Himself and the Holy Ghost.
2 CHRIST CAN MAKE US NEW CREATURES
Hear and believe that glorious promise, not because of what I say, but because God’s truth pledges you today, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Before studying this mercy, note the wide sweep of the words, “any man”! What I am telling you now is eternal assurance offered every one of you, without restriction. Last Monday we received almost 8,000 letters, the largest number that has come to us in a single day during twelve years of broadcasting. They contained words of encouragement from people of various nationalities, different educational, financial, social levels; capitalists and laborers, clergy and laity, Protestants and Catholics, Gentiles and Jews, soldiers and civilians—a fact, incidentally, which shows that the American people want no fancy, goody-goody talk, but Scripture messages. Can you imagine how I rejoiced when a colored listener in Boston, my birthplace, wrote me, “Thousands of Negroes are praying that God will spare you to preach your uncompromising Gospel”?
God’s promise of the new life, the new birth, the new existence, holds for everyone who hears this, even though you sometimes send me personal letters to confess shocking sins and ghastly crimes. Many of you young folks are playing with immoral fire that has singed your soul. Some of you soldiers have caused young women deep heartaches, and you girls have often forgotten what the Bible demands in purity of body, soul, and mind. I know that some of you older folks, too, have cheated, led double lives, pretended to be good, but practiced evil. I admit that I myself deserve no consideration whatever from God. Yet Jesus declares that there is hope and promise for every one of us. The same Lord who could forgive sin-sorrowing Aaron for molding his idolatrous golden calf; the same God who could restore contrite David after lust had driven him to have his general killed; the same Almighty who could receive repentant Peter when he had denied his Savior; the same heavenly Father who could accept penitent Paul, even though he had persecuted and destroyed believers; the same all-gracious Comforter who says, “If Any Man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature,” offers the promise of a new life to all believers with the pledge of a new start, new victory, new joy. No matter how many times you have been disappointed in the past, as you went to a Modernist church and heard nothing that could comfort you; to a wealthy church, where people looked askance at your plain clothing; to a fashionable church, which left you cold and unwelcome, you cannot be disappointed with heaven’s own help! No matter how long you have vainly sought an answer to distressing questions of your soul, stop looking now! You have come to the end of your search. Here is God’s pledge to you, personally, individually, surely: You, whoever you are, can be a “new creature” “in Christ.” You, wherever you are, can say, “Old things are passed away”—the “old things” of sin, once delightful but now shocking; the old evil habits, degrading vices, destructive practices; the old fears: “Can Jesus really save me?” Have I committed the unforgivable sin?” the old doubts: “Is the Bible entirely true?” “Is there actually a hereafter, a heaven?” the old hatreds; the old envies; the old weaknesses; the old despairs; the old griefs; the old afflictions—all these can pass out of your life forever.
How? A magazine article accuses me of raising voice, even shouting when I talk to you. Who can speak in mellow, dulcet tones, if the Spirit gives him the privilege of offering America and two dozen countries outside our borders the priceless promise of the new life? Saint Paul could not speak with a soft voice when he proclaimed this truth, and neither can I as I cry out to America: Every one of you can become a new creature “in Christ!”
Now, what does “in Christ” mean? It is the opposite of living outside of Him, away from Him, against Him. Being “in Christ” means being united with Him by faith, being blessed by His grace, His love, His protection, His truth, His comfort, His wisdom, His courage, His strength. To be “in Christ” means to believe in Him, the royal Redeemer, who was crucified for you, who shed His blood to wash away your sins, who suffered agonies innumerable, immeasurable, and died on Calvary, to free you from the eternal pain and punishment of your transgressions. To be “in Christ” means to trust Him as the Son of God, who completely redeemed you from ruin, paid the whole price for your release, furnished the complete ransom required for your deliverance. It means to confide in Him as your heavenly Friend, who loves you so deeply that He never sends you anything but good and even changes life’s blows into blessings. To be “in Christ” means to live in Him as your King, the riches of whose grace can “supply all your need,” defeat all your enemies, overcome all your despair. To be “in Christ” means to hope constantly in the Savior, who has counsel for every problem, guidance for every path, help for every burden. And, one glorious day, to be “in Christ” will mean to be in heaven, with the most marvelous happiness even the Almighty Himself could prepare for those who revere Jesus as their Redeemer.
Now, our text assures us, “if any man be in Christ.” through this faith, “he is a new creature.” By His marvelous power God the Holy Spirit, who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies” us, “all things are become new.” The regenerated believer looks the same before and after conversion, although sometimes, I feel, previously hardened faces become soft and kindly, otherwise better countenances, benign and beaming. But as truly as I speak to you, outwardly the same, the reborn believer “is a new creature,” with new faith, new hope, new fortitude, new fearlessness, new fervor. Through the Spirit’s indwelling, love crowds out lust, harmony supplants hatred, gladness replaces grief, cowardice gives way to courage, as children of wrath become children of love, the sentenced the saved, the rejected the redeemed.
My believed, in the Savior’s name. I ask each one of you: Are you “born again”? Are you “ new creatures” “in Christ’? Don’t object: “Everything you have said is too mysterious for me! I can’t understand it.” Who asks you to understand it! I am pleading that you believe it. Millions of changed lives testify to this truth. Myriads of startling conversions prove this new birth. In 1898 a black, native chief in Central Africa, named Kanjundu, was brought to Christ. He showed that he was a new man by freeing his slaves, helping his people build new homes, schools, medical centers, and making his village the missionary headquarters for the entire territory. However, a near-by trader who lost money when the people stopped drinking rum employed the rankest perjury and conspired to have the Christian chief thrown into jail. After Kanjundu was released and restored to his position, his people planned to take vengeance on the scoundrel who had lied their leader into prison. Earnestly the converted chief protested,”Let there be no revenge on the trader! We must be kind to him and love him and pray for him!” An African, reborn in the Redeemer, showed more of the Savior’s love than many mighty figures in so-called Christian nations.
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in