The following sermon is being heard today on radios across North America. If you are not able to tune into The Lutheran Hour, you can listen to the sermons online, at anytime! Streaming of this sermon is available at: The Lutheran Hour. Tell your family and friends about this resource! You might even want to take your computer to someone you know who lives in a Senior care residence and listen to the sermon with them!
“It Ain’t Gonna Happen”
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 23, 2011
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2011 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Matthew 22:37-40
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Those words proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection are God’s sign and seal that His Son’s work of saving souls is a success. These words say this world has been redeemed by a Man Who loved the Lord with all He had; Who loved His neighbors more than Himself. These words say we have a Savior. By God’s grace may He be the Savior to us all. Amen.
It occurs to me just about the smartest thing any expert can do is put a lock on his lips and go sit silently in a corner until the urge to make a prediction is over. I say that because, over the years many wise and brilliant people, respected and renowned experts have taken out their crystal balls and gambled their good names by making a statement which described what they thought the future might hold.
Need some examples? Nothing could be easier. Almost all of you have heard of Charles H. Duell who was head of the U.S. Patent Office in 1899. Duell was terribly wrong when he said: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Here’s one: In 1943, Thomas Watson was chairman of IBM. His vision of the future had him make this forecast, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” In 1962, an expert at Decca Recording Company put his reputation on the line when he said: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” His evaluation of the Beatles, the biggest-selling musical group of all time proved to be slightly off the mark.
In 1968, an Engineer at the Advanced Computing Division of IBM took a look at the microchip and said, “But what… is it good for?” In 1977, Ken Olson who was President, Chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “”There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Even Bill Gates, the guy who often has been ranked as the richest man in the world, was mighty wrong when, in 1981 he said, a computer with 640K of memory “ought to be enough for anybody.” The computer I use to write my sermons has five times Bill’s suggested maximum.
Time and again experts have gone out on a limb and said, “This or that ain’t a-gonna happen” and time and again they have been proven wrong… very, very wrong… embarrassingly wrong. What they said “ain’t a-gonna happen, can never happen, will never happen”, did, in fact, happen. Knowing the past, poor track record of these brilliant experts, you can understand why I am somewhat hesitant, no, make that incredibly reluctant to make a prediction of my own. I already know I’m not as smart as they are, and here I am about to make a statement which is so universal in its scope that it covers you, me, and everybody who is now living or will ever live.
This look into your life and your future finds its basis in the Bible’s book of Matthew, the 22nd chapter. There we’re told about the time when a very smart lawyer tried to discredit Jesus by asking, “What is the greatest Commandment in the Bible.” It was a trick question. The lawyer figured if Jesus said, “The 1st Commandment is the most important”, he, that is the lawyer would run to the newspapers, the radio and TV stations and give each of them an interview during which he would say, “Jesus says only the 1st Commandment is important and we are free to ignore all the others.” Of course Jesus would never have said or meant anything like that… but that wouldn’t have stopped the unscrupulous lawyer from spreading his lies and half-truths.
“Jesus, what is the greatest Commandment?” That was the question. Jesus’ answer shows a bit of razzle-dazzle logic as He, in an amazing reply, manages to answer the inquiry and avoid the lawyer’s trap. The Savior said, “The most important Commandment says you are to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, that is, love God with everything you’ve got… and do it all the time. That Commandment is the biggy, but there’s one which isn’t too far off. The second most important commandment is that all of us should love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.” It was a response which sent the lawyer back to his friends in hopes of finding other questions which would bring discredit, dishonor, and disgrace upon the Savior.
So that, my friends, is the story. For the rest of this message you need only remember Jesus two lines: “Love the Lord your God with all you’ve got!” and “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” You need only remember those two lines because they bring me back to my promised, personal prediction about you. Now even as I recognize that you are, for the most part a kind person, an upstanding individual in the community, a gal or guy who generally tries to do the right thing… when it comes to loving the Lord with all you’ve got and loving your neighbor like you love yourself… my prediction is… and I’m gambling my reputation on this… here it comes… my prediction is: “It ain’t a gonna happen.”
You can dedicate yourself to prayer and meditation, but it ain’t gonna happen. You can commit yourself to a continuous regimen of Bible study and good-deed doing, but it ain’t gonna happen. You can unplug the TV, avoid human contact, remove yourself to a desert where the nearest temptation is hundreds of miles away, but it ain’t gonna happen. Try as hard as you can, work as hard as you can, be as committed as you can be, it ain’t gonna happen. You are not going to love the Lord with everything you’ve got.
Consider, it’s difficult for our nation to love the Lord with everything it’s got. The stock market is a roller coaster; while unemployment, gas prices, and the cost of gold are still high. It’s difficult for a nation to love the Lord with all its heart when it holds Him responsible for weather related disasters. Indeed, with 2011 not nearly over, we have set a new record for billion dollar, weather related disasters. Who has not been affected by the Groundhog Day blizzard, or the spring floods of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, or the hundreds upon hundreds of tornadoes, or the drought which continues to grip the south or hurricane Irene which hit the coast. Even Washington suffered an earthquake and an aftershock. As a nation, we have spent decades trying to declare our independence from the Almighty, but still many blame Him for these national and local disasters.
Of course, all of this has been speaking about the kind of national disasters which keep so many souls from loving the Lord. We have not addressed the personal problems, the private pains, the tragedies and trials, the illnesses and infirmities, the family feuds and fights, the financial failures, the insecurity, the uncertainty, the anxiety which seems to grip our hearts, gnaw at our sleepless nights, and grow with the passing of each day. At the best, many people find their focus on their problems overshadow the Lord and at the worst, they shake their fists at heaven, blaming God above for everything, anything which has or might go wrong in their lives. No matter the size of the problem, no matter the duration or scope of the trouble, it is hard for people to avoid thinking, saying, believing, “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He deliver us, preserve us, and keep these things from happening?” Jesus said, “Love the Lord all the time and with everything you’ve got.” Well, it’s just not gonna happen.
Please understand, I am not ignoring those wonderful and blessed people, those followers of the Savior, who seem to live and love and worship on a different plane than the rest of us. I’m speaking of those who appear to carry their crosses without complaint, whose hearts never seem to entertain a doubt, whose tongues never utter curse or complaint. I’m thinking of those wonderful individuals who show up whenever they are needed, whose words always build up and never tear down, who use whatever abilities and gifts they have been given to encourage, support, and lift the spirits of all those around them.
There is no question that these special souls are an extraordinary blessing to the rest of us. Surely they must have mastered the ability to love the Lord with everything they’ve got. If that is what you think, if that is what you believe, then I encourage you to ask them. Ask them as I have. Do you know what they will say? Without hesitation or pause they will tell you, “Do I love the Lord? Yes, of course I do. I love Him to the best of my ability. But do I love Him with my whole heart and do I love Him all the time? No, I can’t claim that. I am not even close to that. I am a sinner. Others may not see, but I know, I can never escape the fact that I have fallen far, far short of what God has hoped for me, what He wants me to be.” And although their gentle and gentile style will not allow them to use the hard, harsh sounding words, they are in agreement: “Loving the Lord with all they’ve got, it ain’t gonna happen.”
I have spent so much time speaking about our flawed and faulty relationship with God that I’ve neglected the other Commandment, the one Jesus said was ‘like unto the first.” You know, the one about loving your neighbor as yourself. It’s probably not necessary for me to spend as much time on that Commandment as I did the first. Most of us don’t have many delusions about how we feel toward our neighbor, our fellow man, the human race. And if you do have a delusion, all I need do Is speak about the ridiculous reasons which have brought nations to war. Let’s see, in 1325 the Italian cities of Modena and Bologna began a 12-year battle which cost the lives of thousands on both sides. The reason the war began? The soldiers of Modena stole a wooden bucket.
Then there was the War of the Whiskers. When King Louis the VII of France returned from the Crusades without his beard, his wife had a fit. She said he was ugly and he should grow it back. When he didn’t, she divorced him and married Henry III of England. When Louis didn’t give her the two provinces of southern France which had been her dowry, Henry declared war. The War of the Whiskers began hostilities which lasted, on and off, for 300-plus years.
Should I mention the War of Jenkins Ear? In 1739 Captain Robert Jenkins stood before the British Parliament holding the remains of his left ear. He demanded his ear be revenged and war be declared against Spain. Now Jenkins didn’t spend a lot of time sharing how the Spanish Coast Guard in South America had caught him smuggling illegal goods. Nor did he emphasize how he had insulted the customs agent and for the insult his ear had been cut off. No, Jenkins just wanted revenge for his ear. Parliament agreed, kept the ear on display and when a few years later war was declared between England and Spain, it was the War of Jenkin’s ear.
Silly? It would be so, if each of these wars was not marked by widows and fatherless children… if they hadn’t brought hardship and all the suffering which accompanies such conflicts. Love our neighbors as ourselves… it’s not gonna happen. If you need further proof, I ask you to turn on your television sets and watch the evening news. There you will hear and see how scammers are bilking old people out of their hard-earned savings; you will hear of murders brought about by envy over a pair of athletic shoes or a leather jacket. You will hear of the arrest of drug peddlers who traffic on the destruction of their neighbor’s lives. Proof? There is the road rage on our nation’s highways; the prejudice which still stalks our streets, the violence which takes place within our homes, the divorces which are a sorry ending for relationships which had once voluntarily declared unfailing, unbreakable love.
What happened in all these situations? People had been incapable of loving their neighbors as themselves. Love your neighbor as you love yourself? It’s ain’t gonna happen. It can’t happen. Not as long as you and I and everybody else are sinful, selfish, self-centered souls. Love your neighbor as yourself? It ain’t gonna happen. On our own we are doomed to live with the insensitivity, the selfishness, the self-centeredness which has us doing unto others before they do unto us, which demands an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth; an attitude, an action which leaves the world populated by those who are blind and toothless. And that world, my friends, is not an impossibility.
It was to rescue us from such a world, to save us from ourselves and redeem us from sin, Satan, and death that God’s Son, Jesus Christ was born. Because of His human parent, the Virgin Mary, He was One of us… but, because of His Divine conception, His holiness made Him infinitely better than any of us. Before He was ever born the prophets had promised God’s Son, the world’s Redeemer would do what we could not begin to do. They said, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, would always be about His Father’s business; would always love the Lord with everything He had and would love His neighbors more than He loved Himself. I encourage you, please, read through the Bible’s four Gospels and see for yourself how Jesus fulfilled those predictions.
Have you ever felt alone, lonely, and misunderstood? Then look to the Christ, for He can identify with those feelings. Shortly after He was born, His monarch tried to have Him murdered. Later on, after He began His ministry of preaching and calling people to repentance, His boyhood home rejected Him and tried to destroy Him and His own family felt He was unbalanced. He brought God’s message of love to great crowds but they ended up leaving Him. His church was jealous of His popularity and influence; His government found Him a threat and His closest friends fell asleep when He asked them to stay awake and pray with Him. The evening ended with them running away rather than standing with Him.
Has a trusted friend or relative ever betrayed you? One of Jesus’ closest students sold Him out for 30 pieces of silver and betrayed Him to His enemies with a hypocritical kiss. Do you have pain? Jesus’ back was torn to ribbons by a Roman whip; His head was pierced by a crown of thorns; His hands and feet were fixed to a rough cross by nails. Have people laughed at you? The soldiers who beat Him, were amused by the Savior’s suffering; the men who plotted His death stood at His execution and mocked Him. Even a thief who was being crucified beside Him managed to find the strength to challenge Him.
Have you ever felt you were at your wit’s end and holding on to the last inches of your rope? Jesus understands. He was constantly bombarded by requests for healing, challenged by those who wished to question and trick Him. Even though He was exhausted, He continued to love His neighbor and do all He could to help. At the end of many days, Jesus was exhausted. Even so, He loved His Father with all He had and spent the dark hours of the night in solitary prayer. Has life been unfair to you? Have you been treated poorly and unjustly, then know that no Person has ever been so poorly dealt with as was Jesus. He Who had never committed a sin found Himself carrying the transgressions of every individual while those He had come to save called for His crucifixion.
Jesus’ entire life, His hours of suffering, His day of death all bear witness to this truth: this world has been blessed, and we are saved by a Man Who loved the Lord with all He had. 24-7 Jesus loved the Lord with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength. 24-7. He loved His unworthy neighbors as Himself… and more than Himself, for when He was crucified He gave up His life for us. That life was not taken from Him; on the contrary, His last breath was His last breath, because He wished it to be. All this He did so that we might be rescued, redeemed, and reborn… all this so all might be forgiven so all might be saved, so all might be given eternal life… so that you might receive Holy Spirit-given faith and a blood-bought eternity in heaven.
At the beginning of this message, I spoke of how wrong experts can be. Did you know that when Columbus petitioned Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to finance his voyage, they consulted with experts. Those experts said, “it is impossible to sail around the world because one would be reaching lands where people could only walk about upside down.” Then those experts added, “Is there anyone so foolish as to believe that there is a part of the world in which all things are topsy-turvy, where the trees grow with their branches downwards and where it rains, hails, and snows upwards?”
Those human experts were wrong. But today I am sharing a message which comes from no human expert. What you have heard today comes from the Lord, Himself and it is the truth. It is the truth which says, God’s Son loved the Lord and His neighbor… the truth which says His life was sacrificed so all who believe might be saved. I pray you are one of those believers. If not, today is the day the Holy Spirit is calling you to faith… and, if you need to know more about this Redeemer, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.