January 1, 2012
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4
It seemed like an unusual custom, but many decades ago "auditioning" the pastor was a common practice in some denominations.
It was in such an age that one congregation, after some significant searching, had managed to pare down their list to two possible candidates. Each of these men was requested to present an audition sermon to their congregation. That's how it came to pass that on two consecutive Sundays the potential pastors found themselves preaching to a most attentive audience.
The first pastor preached on hell, as did the second.
When it came time for the congregation to make its selection, the vote for one of the pastors was made in a unanimous, first-ballot decision. After he was installed, the new pastor found out both he and the other pastor had used hell as their topic. Understandably curious, he asked one of the congregation's leaders why the church had picked him.
The leader didn't have to think long before he gave his answer.
He said, "When the other pastor preached on people going to hell, he seemed to be almost satisfied that they were getting what they deserved. When you preached about people going to hell, everybody could see that it just about broke your heart."
That would, I believe, accurately describe the heart of the Lord.
When the Lord thought about the billions who would populate the world, the billions who would be lost without His intervention, it broke His heart. During His lifetime when Jesus looked upon the crowds who followed Him as well as the multitudes who never met, heard of, or paid attention to Him, His heart would have been broken.
It was the Lord's grace and desire to save lost humanity, which had seen Jesus born in Bethlehem. It was the Lord's wish to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth, which had motivated Jesus during His years of ministry. It was God's goal to drag sinful souls from the brink of hell and into heaven, which motivated the Redeemer to
• remain silent during His trials;
• suffer without complaint as He was whipped, beaten, spit upon;
• offer words of forgiveness to those who nailed Him to the cross.
The Savior's passion, death and, above all, His resurrection show how God's heart was committed to the Redeemer's rescue mission -- a mission and message we have been asked to share with a lost and dying world.
It will be a task we will be glad to do, if the idea of people going to hell breaks our hearts as it did the Lord's.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, for caring about humanity which disobeyed You and rejected Your love, I give thanks. For sending Your Son to live under the Law, reject temptation and defeat death so we might be saved, I should always remain grateful. Now may I share the story of redemption with those who remain lost. May I share that story in thought, word and deed. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries