LWMS Spring Rally – Marshfield April 28, 2019
Text: Acts 4:8-20 ILCW – B for Easter 3 19:2128
Theme: “I Can’t Help Myself!”
If you consider all the religions that are in our world today, how many do you think exist? What are some of them? Pastor Flunker….What religions are you familiar with? Okay. Now back to my original question: How many religions are there?
Would it surprise you that there are just two, at least from the standpoint of salvation? There is man’s religion, and there is God’s religion. Just two. What do they each say?
- In matters of salvation Christ is the only one who can help me.
Man’s religion says: “You must save yourself. Do, do, do! Do something to make yourself right by whatever god you follow. Save yourself before him by your works.” All the religions of the world outside of Christianity, and even some so-called versions of Christianity, say this. They all have the same thread running through them – “saved by works; saved by what you do.”
What does God say? First of all He says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Pv.14:12). He also says, “With man (salvation) is impossible” (Mt.19:26). In other words, in matters of salvation, I Can’t Help Myself.
So God turns us a different way in our text, a way that is outside of ourselves. He turns us to Christ, and He says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” In matters of salvation Christ is the only one who can help me.
God’s way is completely different from man’s. What sinful man could never buy, earn, or obtain on his own, Christ Jesus won in our place. He became “the atoning sacrifice” for our sins, yes, “for the sins of the entire world” (1Jn.2:2). Those blessings become ours by faith, for God declares that He “so loved the world…shall not perish” (Jn.3:16). “By grace you are saved through faith, not by yourself, it is the gift of God, not by works.” Or, as our text said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” It is the arrow of grace coming downward from God to us in Christ, not the arrow of man’s works going upward to impress God.
No other way! No one else but Christ and by faith in Him! Can it be stated any more clearly than that? I Can’t Help Myself. In matters of salvation Christ is the only one who can help me.
You know, it seems totally unnecessary for me to spend any time this morning convincing you of this. Isn’t that the good news of the Gospel that we as Lutheran Christians prize so highly? Isn’t that the message that we as members of the LWMS seek to support? Of course it is. Should I spend time convincing you? No!
But our purpose here is not to convince us of this truth as much as it is to encourage us in it. Encourage us how? To proclaim what we know. In matters of salvation Christ is the only one who helps me, because I Can’t Help Myself. Once I see the gracious nature of salvation, I just have to respond because …
- …I Can’t Help Myself from telling the saving truth. Nothing is going to stop me from telling others. I Can’t Help It!
That’s what Peter and John said in our text. It happened soon after Easter and after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. A few weeks later they had gone into the temple to pray. As they entered they found a crippled man lying there. Every day his friends brought him to the temple so that he could beg for money. When Peter and John passed by, he begged them for mercy, thinking he would get some money. They didn’t have any. Instead, Peter looked him in the eye and said, “Silver and gold I don’t have, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Instantly the man was healed and began hopping about.
Imagine the stir that created. Many came to see what had happened. When Peter saw that, he couldn’t help himself. He used the opportunity to tell them the saving truth about Jesus. He was bold; nothing could stop him. He even told the authorities the things they did wrong in crucifying Jesus. That put him into danger. But he couldn’t help himself. It was true and they needed to hear it so that gospel message could help them find the Savior too.
You see, dear friends, Christians can’t help themselves. When they know that Christ is the only way to heaven, they can’t help telling that saving truth. Even if it should endanger their lives, they tell it for there is a kind of divine restlessness that seizes their hearts. Peter said, “I can’t help speaking about what I’ve seen and heard.” Paul said, “I am a debtor (I owe people) both Greeks and barbarians, both the wise and the unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you” (Ro.1:14). Paul was saying the same thing: “I Can’t Help Myself. In telling the saving truth, nothing can stop me. I owe it to people.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we all burned with that same type of gratitude for the Gospel and love for people who don’t know it? It’s a divine restlessness that seizes the heart. If we continue to meditate on the blessings of Lent and Easter and what Christ did for us then, we will burn with it.
We owe it to family and friends, the neighbor down the street, the coworker, those in India, the Moslem in Iraq, the Chinese and on and on and on. With this Gospel Christ sends us to save men from hell. Nothing else can do it for there is “no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” There may be many religions of man, but there is only one that saves eternally – in a word, Christ.
I Can’t Help but proclaim Him! God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
I’m not the only one the Lord Jesus knows and wants in His flock. He’s got others, as dependent as I am. And I depend on Him to bring them in also. Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn10:16).
Some of you know that Pastor Witt talked me into getting involved in China Partners several years ago. It’s hard to believe but I think I’ve been teaching skype classes for 8 years now and I’ve been in China twice. I’d like to tell you a story from the first time I was there in 2014 and relate it to this closing verse.
Tomorrow, 5 years ago, I was alone on a plane going to a country of 1.3 billion people, not really knowing what to expect. I didn’t know where I was going, other than to China; I didn’t know who I’d meet; I didn’t know for sure what I was supposed to do. I was only told that someone would pick me up at the airport.
Well, after 14 hours on a plane and finally landing I missed my pick-me-up person at the airport in Shanghai. For over an hour I wandered through the terminal, wondering what to do next. I really wasn’t afraid because I have traveled in foreign countries before, although that was years ago. But I knew My Shepherd was with me. He knows my situation and promises that He will stick by me. I’m dependent on Him and He is dependable. Sure enough, finally after an hour of wandering around the terminal, I turned around and came face to face with Ting, my friend and translator who said, “Pastor Lehmann, I’ve found you.”
Besides that, the week I left here the Chinese government tore down the church in Wenzhou where we were to teach. Our hosts felt it was not safe to go there. That threw our whole schedule out-of-wack. What now? A new plan had to be made. But a pastor in the southwest part of China called and wanted us to spend time there. And then another called and wanted us to come there. And then another. So it was that amidst our worries the Good Shepherd had His plan to carry out. Why? Because He’s got other sheep, just as dependent as we are, whom He wants to bring into His flock. And He will find the way to do it through us.
He will see to it that other sheep are brought in. I had to learn that; you do too. Things in life don’t necessarily go by our schedule and plan, but by His. And He is dependable. He is the Good Shepherd we need and follow and work for. God bless our work for Him as we seek to reach those sheep, wherever they may be.