Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. As the tanks rolled, nation after nation succumbed to German military might during World War II.
In their fatherland there was little resistance, even from the believing church. They quickly caved into the Nazis, substituting a swastika for the cross of Christ. We must never forget that it could happen again. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, is there still time for today's church to learn the lessons they need to learn from the German church's failures? You know, Dave, that's an excellent question, and I have to say it is so easy for us to point fingers and to say to ourselves that if we had lived in Nazi Germany, we would have stood against the Reich during the kingdom that Hitler was trying to build. But would we have, or in the midst of the cultural pressure, the moral pressure, and of course even starvation, would we be willing to give up the faith?
That's the issue. Let me ask you a question. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of Running to Win? If the answer is yes, it's because other people just like you have invested in this ministry. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner?
An endurance partner is someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts, and of course the amount that you give is entirely your decision. Of course, what you need is more info, so here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com, and when you're there, click on the endurance partner button.
Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us ask ourselves if we had lived in Nazi Germany, how would we have responded to this cultural tsunami? Why do I mention this business of laws?
Because as you look at America today, you can see that that's exactly where the battle is taking place, is it not? And when Hitler's henchmen were tried at Nurnberg, what they said was, we did not break any laws. You see, the reason they said that they should not be tried as criminals is because, to quote the words of Eichmann, I obeyed the laws of my country and my flag.
The laws were rewritten so that Jews would be non-persons, therefore they never killed any human beings, they only killed animals. Now here's the point. We think of our nation, we think of the Supreme Court. We think of the 1973 decision regarding Roe versus Wade, arbitrarily made, literally made up out of nothing. And I know that the excuse was privacy, but actually when you stop to think of it, everybody, I think, acknowledges that this is not in the Constitution, but we live in an era where laws can be rewritten.
And when some pro-lifers called abortionists murderers, those abortionists wanted to accuse them of slander because they said, how can you call us a murderer when we are breaking no laws? You look at the American history and you will find that the greatest battle we have right now going on in our hands, we have many battles, but one of the most important is our laws, our Supreme Court, and what is happening in the courtrooms of America. Well, after the laws, of course, then come the lashes. I chose that word because you've already guessed it.
I wanted to have three L's in a row. So you have lies, you have lashes, you have laws, I should say, and then you have lashes. Or you can say propaganda, prosecution, and persecution. That came next.
Pastors who did not sign on board were removed from their pulpits. Many of them were thrown into prison and arrested and many of them died. And there are some heroes to be heard about, as we shall see in some future messages. But you know what the sad fact is? That most submitted to the will of the fearer. Do you know what Hitler thought of Protestants? Here's a quote. You can do anything you want with them.
They will submit. They are insignificant little people and they are as submissive as dogs and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk with them. Well, there were some people, not many, but there were some who were not as submissive as dogs.
And I will tell you about those in a future message. But folks, I need to read a paragraph from Shire's book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. And I read this paragraph with a heavy heart and I want you to listen to it because his analysis is probably correct. And what an indictment to the church in Germany this is and an indictment for us as well. Shire says it would be misleading to give the impression that the persecution of Protestants and Catholics by the Nazi state tore the German people asunder or even greatly aroused the vast majority of them.
It did not. A people who had so lightly given up their political and cultural and economic freedoms were not, except for a relatively few, they were not going to die or even risk imprisonment to preserve freedom of worship. What really aroused the Germans in the 30s were the glittering successes of Hitler in providing jobs, creating prosperity, restoring Germany's military might, and moving from one triumph to another in his foreign policy. Not many Germans lost much sleep over the arrest of a few thousand pastors and priests or over the quarreling of the various Protestant sects. And even fewer paused to reflect that under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann, and Himmler, who were backed by Hitler, the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists. As Bormann, one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, national socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable. But nevertheless, most of the Church signed on.
It's easy to be critical of them. But I wonder what we would do if it came to the point of saying that we would be thrown into jail, that we would lose our jobs. I've known people who have cheated just to keep a job.
Would there be people who would be willing to actually die for the cause of the gospel and to die for Christ? Let me bring this to some kind of a resolution and application by noticing some of the lessons that are so important for us to learn. The first is the power of propaganda versus the power of truth. Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.
The scripture says that Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies and he lied from the beginning. Oh, how desperately we need in our culture to separate between the lies and between the truth. And we think of cultural conditioning.
We think of the barrage of things that come to us from the media and in the newspapers and perspectives that are constantly shaping our thought that are coming to us from our culture and sometimes we are unaware of them. And if I may say, generally speaking, the church in Germany was paralyzed because it had become so part of the political structure that it could no longer sit in judgment of it. It could no longer critique it. It could no longer say to the nation, behold your God. It could no longer exalt Jesus Christ as the one and only savior because Jesus had been made into a mere man and therefore it was drained of its spiritual impact and it was drained of its power. Jesus said on one occasion, he said, you are in the world, but you are not of the world.
We are supposed to be in the world like a ship is in the ocean, but when the ocean gets into the ship, we are in trouble. You know, the only thing that would have spared the German church, the only thing that would have given Hitler something to be concerned about is if the church had repented and sought God. They would not have been as submissive as dogs, as Hitler said about them.
They would not have been sweating with embarrassment when he spoke to them. And I say to you and to me today that if we want to be able to sit in judgment of our culture, that is to say if we want to stand above it, if we want to say to our culture, behold your savior and your God, we cannot become such a part of it that we lose our credibility and our ability to critique what is happening in our own world. Well, we talk about the lies that are believed in our culture.
What about the lies that you have personally believed about yourself? You know, the Bible indicates our great need of a savior. We can rationalize our own selves.
We can rationalize what we do. We can rationalize our sin so that we end up believing a lie and forgetting that God is a God of truth and that in his presence we are in great trouble. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you can believe lies as well quite easily, lies about your need to always be defeated.
You know, there are some Christians who say, I've got to commit the same sin over and over again because there is no deliverance. That is a lie. It's a lie, but it's a lie that holds people bound. We learn from this experience the need for truth and also the power of lies.
Secondly, we learn a lesson about the power of laws or the power of the state. I have always in this series of messages related what was happening to antichrist and I will do so very briefly today by pointing out that in the book of Daniel chapter 7 verse 25, in fact if you have your Bible still open to the third chapter of Daniel, we can look at chapter 7 and we can see in verse 25 this is a reference to antichrist. Daniel 7 verse 25, and he will speak out against the most high and wear down the saints of the highest one and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law and in law and they will be given into his hand for a time, times and a half a time for that three and one half year period that we talked about. What is antichrist going to do? He is going to first of all teach people a lie. I am God and that won't be hard for people to believe because some people think already that they are God and so what he will do is say, I am God.
There's the lie. Here's the law. You bow down and worship me. You take my mark on your forehead or on your hand or you are in deep trouble and if you don't do that, what comes next?
You will be put to death. The power of laws. The power of laws. And I would say that we have a responsibility as a church to do all that we possibly can to train attorneys, to train those who are in the legal profession and to be able to support those organizations that are committed to maintaining our freedoms.
Do you realize how quickly it could all end for us? James Dobson said on a program that there was a law in Congress that almost passed and would have passed were it not for a filibuster which in effect would have shut down his family radial ministry. Four attorneys who looked at the law told Mr. Dobson it would have required him to give to the government, to an agency of the government, his entire mailing list because he would have had to be registered as a lobbyist. Now this was put under the banner of quote lobby reform. You'll notice how things are always passed in Congress.
Everybody's for reform and probably we need some lobby reform. You see, what is happening in America as we become more pagan, as we begin to leave God, you will see the encroaching power of the state continuing to gobble up our freedoms. And I don't want to be melodramatic but we do need to watch that because there are people who will not be happy until Christianity has been stamped out. Unless of course all that we do is study our Bibles and listen to the trains rumble by and then just sing our hymns a little more loudly.
That is not a threat to the state. When we were in China 10 years ago I remember the tour guide as we began to question her about freedom of religion. I'll never forget her famous quote.
I mean she doesn't know it's famous but it was famous because it was very important to me. She said oh yes of course we have freedom of religion in this country. She said people can be as religious as they want to be within their own minds. In other words the state has taken over everything. It has gobbled up what you can read, what you can see, what you can hear, who you can talk to. It has outlawed freedom of worship etc. But the state has not yet been able to control the mind so you can be worshipful and religious there. And I want to say to you that there are some people in America whom I believe will not be happy until Christianity has been confined to the human mind.
But I want to ask you today as I ask myself what would we do? What will we do when those kinds of moves are being made? I think of a pastor in Sweden who was in jail for three weeks because he preached against homosexuality under the law that said he was committing verbal violence. Verbal violence. Now you know this has to do with the politically correct idea that actually you can say something and be committing a crime because it can be construed as violence.
And therefore you cannot speak against certain pet liberal theories. What do we do? A number of years ago when I studied this out my heart was so heavy because I was told that in our universities today there are many Christian students who will not open their mouths for Christ, who will not take a stand against some of the things that are clearly unscriptural, and they have to be silent in order to get through and to graduate. Let us not be critical of Nazi Germany because it is the seeds of that kind of cowardice that eventually produces a commitment to a leader who says, obey me or die.
You know what I think? I think that if every Christian in America just stood for Christ and said, if I don't graduate, if you fail me, I won't get through grad school, I won't get through medical school, but I need to do what is right. I think that the Christian church in America would have such a great impact upon its culture that people would shudder. But we have too many people who are absolutely silent.
They say, if I open my mouth, I will not graduate, or if I open my mouth, I will be fired. Well, that's the same kind of spirit that enabled one man to arise and say, unless you swear allegiance to me, you're dead. And most people said, we swear allegiance. Finally, I think what we need to reiterate again is the awesome power of the gospel. I want to contrast what happened in Germany with what happened in China. Here in Germany where the gospel, for the most part, was lost. I keep saying, for the most part, because there were some wonderful exceptions that I'm going to tell you about at some other time. But for the most part, the gospel was lost.
And you know what they told us in China when we were there? Bishop Ding, with whom we met, said, quote, he said, even though I don't agree with you folks theologically, I know where you are coming from because, and here's the quote now, Christianity, he said, wiped out theological liberalism in China. And what was left after all that persecution was a church that was basically evangelical in nature, believing in salvation by faith through Jesus Christ alone.
And when I heard that, I thought, well, you know, that only makes sense. Of course persecution would wipe out theological liberalism. Can you imagine a liberal being willing to die for a Christ who was only a man?
I doubt it. God used that process in China to sift and to work deep repentance in the lives of his people. And you know that there were a half million people when communism took over in 1949, a half million Christians among the hundreds of millions. And what happens today, the estimate is 50 million believers in China, no Christian radio, no opportunity to witness.
I know things have opened up a little bit more recently. But throughout all those decades, no opportunity to witness, no Christian literature could be distributed or, for that matter, even read. The church grew anyway.
Why? Because there were believers who said that we cannot compromise with the state even if the state says bow down and worship the image or you will die. And hundreds of thousands died.
But as Tertullian said so many years ago, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church. Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego have a lesson for us. They said, look, King, we wouldn't even have to talk about this.
This is nothing to dialogue about. But since you've raised the issue, we will not bow before the image because our God can deliver us. And if he doesn't deliver us, it doesn't make any difference.
We will not bow before the image. I believe that what God is calling all of us to say and to do is to say that in our sphere of influence, wherever he has planted us, where we are supposed to be salt and light, not that we will become unnecessarily obnoxious, though it may require that at times, but that we might say, by God's grace, we will not submit to our culture. We will not become a part of that which dilutes the gospel. And by his grace, we will be the kind of people we should be rather than when the difficulties come, simply bowing as submissive as dogs and sweating with embarrassment because we believe in Jesus Christ. My message today is multifaceted, but it comes down to the bottom issue of a commitment to Christ, the love, the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our souls, whatever it takes and whatever the cost. And a footnote, if you're here today and you have never believed on Christ, I want you to know that that's the most important decision that you could make. Christ is the one and only Savior. You need a personal relationship with him just as these people did because any other faith will evaporate when difficulty comes. Only those who know a triumphant Savior can endure.
And even at this moment, you can trust him. Join me as we pray together. Our Father, we pray that you might prick our hearts and help us to learn from what happened in the past and then help us to turn to your word and to see what others have been able to do. And we think of the apostles who said we have to obey God rather than men.
Now Lord, we have in our congregation nurses and doctors and lawyers and factory workers and accountants and all kinds of vocations. Father, would you make us faithful wherever we are, wherever we are, knowing that even the small compromises are really the seeds of the larger compromises that are sure to come. And we pray that as a church we may never lose focus on the wonder and the opportunities that are still ours to share Christ with the freedoms that we have. And now Father, for those who have never believed on Christ in this moment, though they perhaps have come to church for a different reason, cause them in this moment to say, Jesus, would you receive me? I trust you as my Savior. And we pray these words in his name. Amen.
And of course, even if we never experience what believers experienced in Nazi Germany, the simple fact is that eternity is just around the corner, so to speak. And what we need to do is to make sure that our faith and trust is in Jesus, because all that really matters is what matters forever. Let me ask you a question. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of running to win? I trust you are. If so, it's because other people just like you have invested in this ministry and they have helped us get the gospel of Jesus Christ in 20 different countries in four different languages. Would you help us? Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? Endurance partners are those who stand with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
And of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision. Why don't you investigate it? Here's what you can do for more info. You can go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button.
Read it. Find out whether or not the Lord is leading you to help us in that way. Go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or here's the phone number, and I hope you have an opportunity to write this down, 1-888-218-9337. Let me give that to you again, 1-888-218-9337. Become an endurance partner, a partner that stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. The word martyr simply means witness. A faithful witness maintains that witness at the cost of his or her life. Nazi Germany subverted the church, but not every believer. Many gave their lives rather than bow the knee to the swastika. Next time, a powerful look at the Third Reich and the blood of the martyrs. Don't miss this. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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