Archive

Archive for the ‘The Ten Commandments’ Category

Lent 5 Midweek 2019. Tenth Commandment and Close of the Commandments.

Lent 5 Midweek (Wed after Judica)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

10th commandment and Close of Commandments

April 10, 2019

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the tenth commandment?  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not entice, estrange, or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, but urge them to stay and do their duty.

 

What does God say about all these commandments?  He says, I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

What does this mean?  God threatens to punish all who break these commandments.  Therefore we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them.  But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments.  Therefore we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

The tenth commandment is a second commandment against coveting.  The word we usually use for coveting is “jealousy.”  Coveting is a desire for what someone else has.  In the 9th commandment God forbade us to desire our neighbor’s house—his possessions, his inheritance.  In then tenth He forbids us to be jealous of our neighbor’s wife, his manservant, maidservant, ox, or donkey.  He tells us we are not to desire the people in our neighbor’s life.

 

I always thought this commandment was funny when I was a kid, because I didn’t know anyone who had an ox or a donkey, and it was funny to think of coveting them.  Sometimes it still seems that way to me when we recite the commandments with the children.  But God goes into detail about what things we are not to be jealous of.  You must not desire your neighbor’s wife or husband, his male or female servants—not even his ox, or his donkey that works in his field.  What belongs to your neighbor God has given to your neighbor.  What He has given to you He has given to you, down to your animals, and your pets.  God wants you to recognize these things as coming from Him and to be content with what He has given you.

 

Coveting and jealousy over other people’s relationships are actually widespread in our time, perhaps because good relationships are rarer these days than they might have been once.  People are jealous that they don’t have a husband or wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend.  We are tempted to think God has wronged us because we are alone.  Others have a spouse, but they are jealous of the husband or wife of their neighbor, because this person’s husband is so much more kind or attentive, this person’s wife so much more affectionate.  People who don’t have children are jealous and feel cheated.  So are those who lose their husbands or wives or children, sometimes.

 

Why are we jealous in this way?  Because we think God doesn’t give us enough and doesn’t give us what we need in terms of relationships, in terms of love and respect.  We do not trust God to provide us with what we need.  We do not love Him so that, even if we lack a husband or children, we are happy anyway.

 

God commands us that we not feel this kind of desire.  As Luther points out in the catechism, this kind of jealous often leads people to scheme how they may alienate their neighbor’s spouse or workers and get them for themselves.  But even when covetousness and jealousy doesn’t break forth like this, the desire itself is sinful.

 

What this commandment reveals is that sin is not just something you do.  Sin is like a creature that you don’t know is there until it wakes up.  It is as if the serpent that tempted Eve lived hidden inside of us instead of in the tree in the garden.  You don’t know it is there until it wakes up.  And sin living within us is often asleep, or we are not aware of it.  The thing that stirs it up is the Law of God.

 

Paul said this in Romans 7: What then shall we say?  That the law is sin?  By no means!  Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.  (Rom. 7:7-8)

 

That’s the way the sin that lives in us works.  It uses God’s commandments as opportunities to do evil.  God says, “Do not commit adultery.  Do not even covet your neighbor’s wife.”  Sin produces in us all kinds of lust and jealousy.  Our nature rebels against God as soon as God commands us to do what is right.

 

And so God’s Law can’t be simply guidelines for us to follow.  God’s Law is a touchstone that reveals whether we are righteous and have right hearts.  And the Law shows us our hearts are warped.

 

When we get to the place that we no longer recognize our own sin and take it for what it is, that is when Christians become all the things people say we are—self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental, deceiving ourselves.

 

That is why God also gives us the close of the commandments, where He tells us what kind of a God He is.  He is a jealous God.  Our flesh is jealous and covetous.  It is resentful of other people having good things and asks, “Why has that not been given to me?  I deserve that more!”

 

God also is jealous.  The difference is that our jealousy is sinful.  God’s jealousy is righteous.  He is jealous and wants us to love Him with all our hearts, love Him above all things.  He is jealous of His glory and wants to be obeyed and honored.  He is not selfish and petty in His jealousy.  He is right, because He deserves all honor, praise, obedience and love.  He is God, our maker.

 

So He tells us that because He is a jealous God He will punish the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.  This means He will wipe out the name and the remembrance of those who hate Him and rebel against Him.  On the other hand He will bless a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

If you want to see what God’s jealousy looks like, you can look away from the commandments to the passion reading.

 

Tonight we saw Jesus carry out His cross to the place of a skull.  It was the third hour, and there they crucified Him.  The brutality of crucifixion is a physical reflection of the spiritual suffering Jesus endured on the cross.  Long nails were driven through His hands and feet and then they lifted Him up into the air to hang by those wounds.  He was naked and all He could do was gasp for breath.  As He hung there He was mocked by every group of people around Him, but He could not move away.  Above all this agony, He had an even greater one:  He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Try to imagine what it would be like to die in such pain, and have God turn away from you, close His ears to you.  Shut you out in His wrath.  This is what Jesus endured.

 

And why?  Because God is jealous.  Because He will not tolerate those who hate Him and refuse to keep His commandments—not even those who do it in weakness.  Sin must be punished.  None can be in God’s presence.

 

And so Jesus dies forsaken by God.

 

But for those who are baptized into Jesus and take refuge in Him by faith, the commandments do not speak a curse.  They speak a blessing.  I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

For those who take refuge in Christ, the law pronounces a blessing.  The law says God will show love to us and a thousand generations of those who love God and keep His commandments.  Because, it says in Romans chapter 10: Christ is the end of the Law, that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.  He fulfilled the Law’s demands when He died for our transgressions on the cross.  That is why He cried out “It is finished!”

 

For us who believe the Law is fulfilled by Christ, God promises blessing.  We have kept the law, because Jesus’ keeping of the law is ours.  And now when, believing in Jesus, we seek to keep these commandments, God counts these works as good.  He looks on us as righteous ones, as His sons.

 

Now instead of being jealous against us, He is jealous for us, because we are presented before Him pure and spotless, as His bride.

 

May we then use our Lord’s fulfillment of the law not as an excuse to serve the sinful flesh, but as those who have been set free from the law’s curse by Him who became a curse for us.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

Lent Midweek 4 2019. 8th and 9th commandments

Wednesday after Laetare

St. Peter Lutheran Church

8th and 9th commandments

April 3, 2019

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the 8th commandment?  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

 

What is the 9th commandment?  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way that only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

False witness leads to death.

 

Nothing could be clearer from the passion reading today.  Over and over we hear how the chief priests “vehemently accused” Jesus, leveled false charges against Him to Pilate and to Herod.  False testimony was the poisoned dagger by which the priests murdered Jesus.

 

Of course, false witness doesn’t always literally kill people.  More often people who are falsely accused in a court lose money and have their good name dragged through the mud.  But this is a kind of killing too—at least an attempt on a person’s life.  You take away a person’s wealth, you take away their ability to eat and clothe themselves.  If you take away a person’s honor and good name, you impose on them a kind of social death.   A person with a bad reputation might lose his job or not be able to succeed at business.  But even more that person becomes isolated.  We are learning more and more about the serious consequences of being alienated socially, being alone.  Suicide rates are higher than ever.  Depression is epidemic.  Why is it?  Because people are isolated.  They interact with other people increasingly through the safe distance of a screen and fiber optic cables.  When you “tell lies about your neighbor, slander him, or hurt his reputation” you cut those already fraying cords that allow him to be with other people and hold his head up.  You interfere with his ability to not be alone, which is really to attack a person’s ability to live.

 

False witness, lying—you might not think it could do so much damage.  But lying is tied to the very beginning of human sin.  When the devil wanted to lead Adam and Eve into sin, he lied to them about God.  He slandered God.  That is what the word “devil” means, literally—“slanderer.”  So Jesus says in the Gospel reading for the Sunday coming up that the devil was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, because there is no truth in him (John 8:44)  On the other hand, when Jesus is questioned by Pontius Pilate in the reading today as to whether He is a King, He says, You say rightly that I am a king.  I was born and I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.  Lying and slander is the devil’s work and leads to death. To tell the truth is Jesus’ work and it leads to life.

 

It’s clear enough from this that to bring false charges against your neighbor is sin and that God forbids it.  But that’s not typically what we do.  What we do more often is speak against our neighbor not in court, but to a smaller jury in the kitchen, or in the parking lot, or the locker room, or maybe in the concourse at church.  And we typically justify it by saying that our complaints and criticisms of our neighbor, whoever he or she is, is not “false witness” because it is true.

 

But in the 8th commandment God refuses to allow this excuse.   When you condemn or speak evil of your neighbor, you sit in judgment on him or her.  But if God has not given you the office to judge your neighbor, as judge, as parent, as boss, or pastor, you are not to judge and condemn your neighbor.  That’s God’s job on judgment day.  And until then it belongs to the people that He has called to do it.

 

Instead what we are called to do is love our neighbor and protect his reputation.  This is why Jesus gave us instructions in the 18th chapter of Matthew about what we are to do if our neighbor sins against us.  The short version is—you go and talk to him privately, and if he repents, you have gained your brother.  If he doesn’t listen to you, you talk to him with another person as a witness.  Then if he won’t hear you you bring it to the whole church to judge.  Or, if it is a matter with someone who isn’t a Christian, you might bring it to the civil authority.

 

The strange thing is, we all avoid dealing with our neighbor’s sins the way Jesus tells us to do it like the plague.  Why?  For at least one reason—because we are afraid of our neighbor getting angry with us.  In reality, to talk honestly with each other when we have offended each other is a loving thing to do.  You speak the truth to your neighbor.  This is what Jesus does in His kingdom.

 

The other thing we do, where we vent and complain about others, and privately condemn them, is the devil’s work.  Even if what you say about your neighbor is true, when you act as his judge in your own private court in a corner, that is not God’s work.  He does not seek to destroy, but to save both our neighbor and us.  When He judges, He does it in the open, in the light.  And even that is done (until judgment day) in the hopes that sinners will repent and be forgiven.

 

The darkness is where the devil does his work.  Coveting is another example of this.  In the darkness of our hearts, he stirs up desire and longing for what belongs rightfully to our neighbor.  He creates a sense of indignation in our hearts that God has given wealth or property to our neighbor that we think belongs to us.  And then we begin to scheme ways to get what God has given to our neighbor that no one will be able to call stealing.

 

Against all this God commands us to love our neighbor.  Instead of telling his secrets or hurting his reputation, God commands us to speak well of our neighbor, defend him, and explain everything in the kindest way.  Instead of coveting his possessions, He commands us to help him to protect and improve his income and possessions.

 

If we paid attention to these commandments, we would never run out of good works to put our energy and strength into.  So often the church is flailing around looking for schemes to get other people to go to church.  This is not always wrong.  But the most powerful thing that would attract people to church is seeing love in our hearts and lives.  This is not a new idea.  Jesus washed the disciples’ feet before He went to Gethsemane.  Then He said, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  This is why we believe in Jesus and love Him.  We believe that He loved us.

 

We believe that He was silent before the false testimony against Him because He wanted to suffer and die to take away our shame and bad reputation before God.

 

We believe that He was mocked and stripped of His good name and what few possessions He had so that He could give us, as a free gift, the Kingdom of His Father.

 

We love Jesus because He daily and richly forgives our sins.  He feeds us His body and blood.  When we confess our sins, He absolves us.  He daily renews the promise He made to us in Baptism that we are His.  He preaches into our ears how He has atoned for all our sins through His bitter suffering and death.

 

Jesus’ love is what draws us to Him.  The most powerful witness to the world is Jesus’ love working in us.  And among the many ways He has commanded us to love our neighbor is to protect his reputation, speak well of him, and seek to help him improve his possessions and income.

 

May the Lord pour His love into our hearts and teach us to exude this kind of love in the way we speak and act toward each other and those outside the church.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

3rd Wed in Lent 2019. 6th and 7th Commandments

Wednesday after Oculi (3rd Lent Midweek)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

6th and 7th Commandments

March 27, 2019

 

Iesu Iuva

 

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

What is the 6th commandment?  You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

 

What is the 7th commandment?  You shall not steal.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbors money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

 

+

 

For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore You, O children of Israel, are not consumed, God says through the prophet Malachi (3:6).  God does not change; this is one of His attributes, called “immutability.”  You can count on Him to be the same tomorrow as He is today.

 

Because He does not change, He told the people of Israel, they were not “consumed”—burnt up.  He didn’t destroy them because He had a purpose for them that He had planned before the world began. Their continual turning away from Him, as wrong as it was, would not change it.  His purpose for Israel was to bring Jesus Christ into the world, God with us in flesh and blood.

 

Since God does not change we can be certain that He will be the same today as He was in the past; He remains God with us.

 

And since God does not change, we can be certain that His will for us does not change.  God does not stop being God or become a different God when our tastes change.  His commandments are a reflection of who He is.  God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:5-6).  There is no change and no darkness in God; He commands us to walk in the light, as He is in the light—to walk in the light of His face with no stain of the darkness of sin (1 John 1:7).

 

So when God says, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, we can be sure that these commandments do not mean something else now than He meant when He first revealed them three thousand five hundred years ago.

 

You shall not commit adultery means not only that God forbids us to sleep with someone other than our spouse and break our wedding vows; it means that He commands us also to be pure in thought, word, and deed.  He forbids all sexual gratification apart from one’s spouse, forbids all breaking of the bond of marriage except in cases of adultery and abandonment, and commands that we love and honor our spouse and His gift of marriage.

 

Because we have a tendency to limit the scope of this commandment, Jesus makes it very clear what the 6th commandment entails in the Sermon on the Mount:  You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body should be thrown into hell (Matt. 5:27-29).

 

Even lustful thoughts are enough to condemn you to hell, and we must fight against them.  If lustful thoughts and desires will send you to hell, it’s clear enough that fornication—sex before marriage will too.  That shows that a person isn’t even fighting lust anymore—sin has simply won.  That is true of pornography, homosexuality, and all the other transgressions against the 6th commandment that are now considered normal.  God has not relaxed His commandments just because we have stopped paying attention to them, even many in the church.  In the epistle reading this past Sunday, Paul told us bluntly what we are to think about those who live in sexual immorality without repentance: For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience.

 

Maybe the seventh commandment seems a little less frightening.  After all, few of us are shoplifters or thugs who rob people.  It’s not because we’re so good, but because after all, the risks of that kind of stealing are so great it hardly seems worth doing to most of us.  But there are a lot of ways to steal that will never end up putting you in jail.  Being lazy and giving half effort at work is a way of stealing—not only because you get paid for work that you’re not doing, but because God commands you in the 7th commandment to love your neighbor and not only think about getting what you need, but also help your neighbor to improve his possessions and income.

 

It used to be considered stealing and a great evil to be greedy, and charge exorbitant interest, or to ratchet up your prices because you know people have nowhere else to buy what they need.  That’s now considered fair play, but God calls it being a thief.

 

It’s also a form of stealing when you waste things, or when you don’t take care of what God gives you.  You’re supposed to use your property and talents not only to benefit yourself, but others.  Think of how often this form of stealing happens.

 

And finally, it’s stealing whenever we refuse to use our money and goods to help our neighbor who truly needs it.  There are of course many people who beg because they refuse to work—but God says, “He who will not work, neither shall he eat.”  (2 Thess. 3:10)  But if someone is truly in need, and we have power to help him, but think that we can do what we want with our money—we sin against God and cast the 7th commandment aside.

 

The fourth through tenth commandments tell us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, treat him as we want to be treated.  That is who God is.  God is love.  His commandment is that we be as He is, with our property, with our sexuality, and so on.

 

But we have to fight with our sinful nature, with the power of the Holy Spirit, if we are going to keep God’s commandments.  Even when we are engaged in this fight as Christians we are not without sinful desires.

 

The very fact that we have to fight with ourselves shows us what Paul says about our nature in Romans 8: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s Law.  Indeed, it cannot. (Rom. 8:8)

 

And so the 6th and 7th commandments not only show us how God wants us to walk; they also show us our need for someone who can walk in them and enable us to do so as well.  They show us our need for someone to stand in between us and God—a person who is holy and chaste, who is not greedy or selfish—and who can turn away God’s anger against us.

 

I the Lord do not change, so you, O Children of Israel, are not consumed.  God had a purpose for Israel, so He didn’t destroy them.  His purpose was to send His Son to become man among the people of Israel; His purpose was to send His Son into the world to fulfill His commandments, to complete the law for all people, so that we would be counted as having done it.

 

That is who Jesus is.  He comes into the world and is chaste, without the least spot of sexual impurity.  He does not steal, but loves his neighbor and seeks his well-being with all His heart.  He comes and does these commands not for Himself, but for us, so that we would be considered righteous, those who have fulfilled God’s Law.

 

And in the passion reading we saw Jesus being tried and condemned for our unrighteousness.  He was specifically condemned for blasphemy—breaking the 2nd commandment.  But when Jesus was punished with whips, crowned with thorns, pierced with nails to the cross and lifted up, He was being punished for our adultery, fornication, lust.  For your laziness, theft, wastefulness, selfishness.

 

He was consumed by God’s wrath against us, and we were counted righteous.

 

Jesus warned that it was better to tear out your eye than to lust and go to hell with both of them.  But last week we heard the chief priest say that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.  And that is what Jesus is doing; His body is cast into the fire of God’s wrath for our impurity, and we are set free.

 

And in Jesus’ suffering is where we also get power to begin to fulfill His commandments here on earth.

Look at Peter.  After he denied Jesus, he broke down and wept bitterly.  He wasn’t even there when Jesus died, he was so full of guilt.  He meant to stand with Jesus and die with him, but he found out what kind of sinner he really was.

 

But later he overcame his weakness and became like his Master.  He also died on a cross, crucified for his witness to Christ.

 

How did Peter overcome this sinful desire to save himself at Jesus’ expense?  He got it from first learning his own powerlessness to fulfill God’s commands.  Through the recognition of his sin he was prepared to recognize the great love of Jesus.  He came to know that Jesus had foreseen Peter’s denial, his selfish heart, and gone to pay for all Peter’s sins anyway.  Through Christ’s cross, Peter became a new creation.

 

Don’t run when the commandments of God show you how deep your sin is.  God does not change.  The love that caused Jesus to take all your sins to the cross does not change either.  God’s verdict that your sins are forgiven does not change, nor does His good news: in Christ you are pure, in Christ you are righteous.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

4th Wednesday in Lent 2019. 8th and 9th Commandments

jesus pilate.PNGWednesday after Laetare

St. Peter Lutheran Church

8th and 9th commandments

April 3, 2019

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the 8th commandment?  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

 

What is the 9th commandment?  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way that only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

False witness leads to death.

 

Nothing could be clearer from the passion reading today.  Over and over we hear how the chief priests “vehemently accused” Jesus, leveled false charges against Him to Pilate and to Herod.  False testimony was the poisoned dagger by which the priests murdered Jesus.

 

Of course, false witness doesn’t always literally kill people.  More often people who are falsely accused in a court lose money and have their good name dragged through the mud.  But this is a kind of killing too—at least an attempt on a person’s life.  You take away a person’s wealth, you take away their ability to eat and clothe themselves.  If you take away a person’s honor and good name, you impose on them a kind of social death.   A person with a bad reputation might lose his job or not be able to succeed at business.  But even more that person becomes isolated.  We are learning more and more about the serious consequences of being alienated socially, being alone.  Suicide rates are higher than ever.  Depression is epidemic.  Why is it?  Because people are isolated.  They interact with other people increasingly through the safe distance of a screen and fiber optic cables.  When you “tell lies about your neighbor, slander him, or hurt his reputation” you cut those already fraying cords that allow him to be with other people and hold his head up.  You interfere with his ability to not be alone, which is really to attack a person’s ability to live.

 

False witness, lying—you might not think it could do so much damage.  But lying is tied to the very beginning of human sin.  When the devil wanted to lead Adam and Eve into sin, he lied to them about God.  He slandered God.  That is what the word “devil” means, literally—“slanderer.”  So Jesus says in the Gospel reading for the Sunday coming up that the devil was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, because there is no truth in him (John 8:44)  On the other hand, when Jesus is questioned by Pontius Pilate in the reading today as to whether He is a King, He says, You say rightly that I am a king.  I was born and I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.  Lying and slander is the devil’s work and leads to death. To tell the truth is Jesus’ work and it leads to life.

 

It’s clear enough from this that to bring false charges against your neighbor is sin and that God forbids it.  But that’s not typically what we do.  What we do more often is speak against our neighbor not in court, but to a smaller jury in the kitchen, or in the parking lot, or the locker room, or maybe in the concourse at church.  And we typically justify it by saying that our complaints and criticisms of our neighbor, whoever he or she is, is not “false witness” because it is true.

 

But in the 8th commandment God refuses to allow this excuse.   When you condemn or speak evil of your neighbor, you sit in judgment on him or her.  But if God has not given you the office to judge your neighbor, as judge, as parent, as boss, or pastor, you are not to judge and condemn your neighbor.  That’s God’s job on judgment day.  And until then it belongs to the people that He has called to do it.

 

Instead what we are called to do is love our neighbor and protect his reputation.  This is why Jesus gave us instructions in the 18th chapter of Matthew about what we are to do if our neighbor sins against us.  The short version is—you go and talk to him privately, and if he repents, you have gained your brother.  If he doesn’t listen to you, you talk to him with another person as a witness.  Then if he won’t hear you you bring it to the whole church to judge.  Or, if it is a matter with someone who isn’t a Christian, you might bring it to the civil authority.

 

The strange thing is, we all avoid dealing with our neighbor’s sins the way Jesus tells us to do it like the plague.  Why?  For at least one reason—because we are afraid of our neighbor getting angry with us.  In reality, to talk honestly with each other when we have offended each other is a loving thing to do.  You speak the truth to your neighbor.  This is what Jesus does in His kingdom.

 

The other thing we do, where we vent and complain about others, and privately condemn them, is the devil’s work.  Even if what you say about your neighbor is true, when you act as his judge in your own private court in a corner, that is not God’s work.  He does not seek to destroy, but to save both our neighbor and us.  When He judges, He does it in the open, in the light.  And even that is done (until judgment day) in the hopes that sinners will repent and be forgiven.

 

The darkness is where the devil does his work.  Coveting is another example of this.  In the darkness of our hearts, he stirs up desire and longing for what belongs rightfully to our neighbor.  He creates a sense of indignation in our hearts that God has given wealth or property to our neighbor that we think belongs to us.  And then we begin to scheme ways to get what God has given to our neighbor that no one will be able to call stealing.

 

Against all this God commands us to love our neighbor.  Instead of telling his secrets or hurting his reputation, God commands us to speak well of our neighbor, defend him, and explain everything in the kindest way.  Instead of coveting his possessions, He commands us to help him to protect and improve his income and possessions.

 

If we paid attention to these commandments, we would never run out of good works to put our energy and strength into.  So often the church is flailing around looking for schemes to get other people to go to church.  This is not always wrong.  But the most powerful thing that would attract people to church is seeing love in our hearts and lives.  This is not a new idea.  Jesus washed the disciples’ feet before He went to Gethsemane.  Then He said, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  This is why we believe in Jesus and love Him.  We believe that He loved us.

 

We believe that He was silent before the false testimony against Him because He wanted to suffer and die to take away our shame and bad reputation before God.

 

We believe that He was mocked and stripped of His good name and what few possessions He had so that He could give us, as a free gift, the Kingdom of His Father.

 

We love Jesus because He daily and richly forgives our sins.  He feeds us His body and blood.  When we confess our sins, He absolves us.  He daily renews the promise He made to us in Baptism that we are His.  He preaches into our ears how He has atoned for all our sins through His bitter suffering and death.

 

Jesus’ love is what draws us to Him.  The most powerful witness to the world is Jesus’ love working in us.  And among the many ways He has commanded us to love our neighbor is to protect his reputation, speak well of him, and seek to help him improve his possessions and income.

 

May the Lord pour His love into our hearts and teach us to exude this kind of love in the way we speak and act toward each other and those outside the church.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

jesus pilate.PNG

Fourth and Fifth Commandments. 2nd Lent Midweek, 2019

Wednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Fourth and Fifth Commandments

March 20, 2019

 

Iesu iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

What is the fourth commandment?  Honor your father and mother.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.

 

What is the fifth commandment?  You shall not murder.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

 

Yesterday was my father’s birthday.  If he was still alive today, he would have been 82.  This year I am turning 41, which is the age he was when I was born.

 

Since we all have a father and a mother, and most of us know our father and mother, this commandment is very personal.  Some of us had mothers and fathers we loved and respected.  Some of us had fathers or mothers who left us or abused us.  Some people’s father and mother are in between.  Whatever kind of person your father or mother was or is, God says to honor them.  He makes no distinction.  Good parent, bad parent.  Sinner, saint.  Honor them.

 

And this commandment includes other authorities whose authority stems from the office of parent—teachers, rulers, president, employers or bosses.  Pastors are also fathers, spiritually.  To all these parents God gives authority.  When we disobey parents (unless they command us to sin against God)—we disobey God.  We are commanded by Scripture to submit to rulers except when they command us to disobey God.  Both parents and rulers have authority to inflict pain on us when we disobey, because they stand in the place of God.  Pastors also have authority not to inflict punishments on earth, but to pronounce God’s forgiveness on the repentant and God’s judgment and wrath on sinners who do not repent.

 

“Honor” means more than “love.”  We are commanded to love everyone, but our parents we are to honor.  To honor means you regard them as higher than you.  It means you do not speak to them in an arrogant way.  You don’t talk back when you honor someone—even when they are out of line.  You are humble before them.

 

If Jesus walked into church today, I would not talk to him the same way I talk to everyone else.  I hope I would act as if someone very important, much more important than me, were here.  I would be glad to take his coat, to get him a drink.  I would call him “Lord.”  I would ask Him how I could serve Him.  That is what honor is like.

 

This commandment is barely known anymore.  Young people think that they don’t have to obey their parents, and certainly not other authorities—unless father, mother, teacher, pastor, police earn the respect of the young people.  This means that most young people today have learned to dishonor God.  Because God puts this commandment first after the ones that have to do with Him.  Submitting to the authorities He gives up is the most important commandment after gladly learning His Word and using His name rightly.  Do people know this today?  No.  So our kids grow up without respect for authority, not willing to have anyone rebuke them.  And it is the fault, sadly, of the adults, who have not taught them correctly.  This is why our country is a huge mess.  And it is, of course, harming the church, too.  Because when parents don’t do what God has called them to do, teach, instruct, discipline their children, the children grow up without fear of God and with great pride.

 

But there is also a promise that goes with this commandment.  Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.  Experience teaches this to be true.  Whenever you find a household that is well managed, a business that is well-managed, a prosperous country, a church that is functioning well, you will almost always find people who  know how to show honor, who know how to take orders as well as give them.  On the other hand, when we disobey this commandment, God punishes us even in this world.  When we don’t honor our parents, we are repaid with workers, students, children who do not honor us.

 

You might think we would like the fifth commandment a little better.  After all, who here tonight has murdered anyone?  But Luther in His sermon on the fifth commandment from the Large Catechism puts that misunderstanding to bed very quickly.  He explains that in the fifth commandment God not only forbids killing but every kind of vengeance, including the emotion of anger itself.  The only people who are permitted to be angry are parents, rulers, pastors, and others who stand in God’s place.  “It is proper for God and everyone who is in a divine estate to be angry, to rebuke, and to punish because of those very persons who transgress this and the other commandments.”  God has the right to get angry and to punish sin.  When God makes you a parent, a judge, a ruler, a pastor, and you stand in his place, you have the job of rebuking sin in those under your authority, and even punishing it.  But this kind of anger is not the kind where you are getting even for yourself.  If you are a parent and you are angry because your child has dishonored God by disobeying you, that is righteous anger.  But all other kind of anger, where we desire revenge because someone has injured us, God forbids in the fifth commandment.

 

In this world people do wrong and hurt each other all the time.  But it is for God to judge and to avenge.  God never sins.  He does what is right.  When we get angry and judge we don’t do it for God’s glory—we do it in our own interests.  In the fifth commandment God says, “Don’t take revenge.  Don’t even get angry and start down the road of revenge.  That is forbidden to you.  Your job is to love your neighbor.  It is my job to punish wrongdoing, whether on judgment day, or in this world through the authorities I have set up.”

 

In the fifth commandment God forbids harming your neighbor, killing him, even being angry with him.  Instead, He commands you to love and forgive him, and do everything in your power to promote his physical well-being.  Whatever he needs and you have power to help him with, you are required by the fifth commandment to give him, whether it is money, clothes, help, or counsel.  Oftentimes what our neighbor needs is truth spoken kindly and lovingly, but we often withhold it because we are afraid of what his reaction will be.  That can be breaking the fifth commandment, if by our refusal to speak we allow our neighbor to injure himself.

 

Now if you take these commandments seriously, two things appear.  One is that we break these commandments every day, and we are in great need of God’s grace.  The other is that God has given us so much work to do that we have no need to go to a foreign mission trip somewhere.  You don’t need to go volunteer at a soup kitchen in Cabrini Green or take care of lepers in India with Mother Teresa to do good works that please God.  If you simply set out to “help and support your neighbor in every physical need” and to not anger your parents and other authorities, but honor them, love and cherish them, God will give you a million good works to do every day, and if you did them all, you would be a greater saint than Martin Luther or the apostles.

 

For the first thing, how often we disobey God’s commandments, Jesus underwent His passion.  When He told His father “Your will, not mine, be done,” even as His sweat became like great drops of blood, He set Himself to drink the cup of God’s wrath that was for you and me.  When He did not take revenge and strike the high priest’s servants with a sword—but submitted to the authority of the high priests, even though they were doing wrong—He was taking your place under God’s wrath.  So that none of your transgressions would be yours anymore.  Your anger and revenge and hatred, the times you hit people, the times you dishonored your parents and other representatives of God.  None of that is yours.  It is all Christ’s.  He goes in chains to be condemned as a criminal and bear the shame and He does not defend Himself.  He goes in chains and you go free.

 

For the second part, there is no end.  When you believe in Christ you go free, not to be condemned by the fourth and fifth commandments—nor to ignore them—but to live according to them.  You live according to them, but not in order to be saved.  You live in them because that is your new life, now that you have been released from guilt.  And as you go, forgiven, to honor your father and mother and to defend your neighbor in every physical need, Jesus lives in you and works through you.

 

Amen.

 

SDG

Second and Third Commandments. Vespers, First Wednesday in Lent, 2019

burning bush.PNGFirst Wednesday in Lent-Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

2nd and 3rd commandments

March 13, 2019

 

Iesu iuva

 

In the name of Jesus!

 

Please join with me in saying the 2nd and 3rd commandments together with their explanations from Luther’s Small Catechism, as printed in the bulletin.

 

What is the 2nd commandment?  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

 

What is the 3rd commandment?  Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

 

In the second commandment, God forbids the misuse of His name, and commands us to use it rightly.  In the third commandment He commands us to rightly use His Word.  These two things—God’s Name and His Word—are the greatest gifts He has given to His people besides the gift of Himself to be our God.  In His Name He gives us access to Himself.  He promises to hear us when we call to Him for help and for our needs to be met.  By His Word He works in us to give us His Spirit and the faith that saves us.

 

This morning, right before the service, I got a call from Chase Bank.  They wanted to know if I had bought a one thousand dollar ticket on Air France this morning with my credit card.  I had not.  Somebody else had used my name to buy a ticket.  Needless to say I was very upset that someone had impersonated me like this in a way that could have cost me a lot of money, and it is unsettling to think someone might be able to do something like this again in my name.

 

That is an illustration of the power that you can have when you have someone’s name.

 

The second commandment points out that we have God’s Name.  The people of Israel were given God’s Name during the Exodus from Egypt.  When Moses asked God to tell him His name if He wanted Moses to go down and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, God said that His name was “I AM”.  The Hebrew is YHWH.  Not only did God tell Moses His name, He also called the people of Israel by His name.  They were the people of YHWH.  And what God did for the people of Israel He has done for us.  We have been baptized into His Name—the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament, the priest wore a name plate on his forehead when he went into the temple, into the presence of God.  It said, “Holy to the Lord.”  In the same way, God’s name is on our foreheads, and His mark, the sign of the cross, like the hymn says:

            All newborn soldiers of the Crucified

            Bear on their brows the seal of Him who died.  (LSB 837 st. 3)

 

If we remain in and under the Triune Name, it will save us.  That is the power of God’s name.  It protects us.  The devil is not able to harm us if it is on us.  And it is on us not only when we are baptized, but also when we hold to this name by faith.  And when we hold to this name by faith, it will be on our heads, in our hearts, and on our lips, because we will call on this name in prayer and we will praise the Triune God before the world.

 

The second commandment requires this—the right use of the Name of God that has been given to us.  He has given us His name so that we may call on Him in every need and so that we may give thanks to Him.  We are not allowed to go to any other gods for help.  We are to take up His Name.

 

In this commandment God forbids taking His name in vain—using His name in a way that He has not given it to be used.  That includes speaking it flippantly, casually, as though it were just any name, and not the name of the one true God.  It includes using it to curse people or damn things, because God has not given His name for us to use for our own purposes; He gave it to us so that we would call on Him for help against our enemies.  We misuse God’s name when we use it as a means of trying to control people or things supernaturally—as a means of furthering our own will, as is done when God’s name is used as an aid in occult practices or satanic arts.  Finally we misuse God’s name when we use it to give authority to lies.  This is done when people swear oaths falsely in God’s name, or when they wear God’s name to cover up their evil—when they bear the name of a Christian while living in an ungodly way.  Judas did this in the reading from the passion.  He is plotting to betray Jesus, but meanwhile he goes on acting like a true disciple.  He even goes to the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, even though he is already intending to sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  Since that first Lord’s Supper many others have done the same thing—gone to the Lord’s Supper as though they intended to live a Christian life, as though they were sorry for their sins, when in reality they were intending to continue in their sins.  They put on God’s name outwardly, when inwardly they did not want God and trampled underfoot the Christ who died for them.

 

This is a lot like the guy who used my name to buy an airline ticket with money that wasn’t his.  When we use God’s name to curse, or when we treat it like it is not worth much, or when we pretend to be Christians when we have no intention to live as God’s children, we use God’s name in a way that goes against His will to get something for ourselves.  Meanwhile, even when we don’t do that, we so often fail to call upon this name that He has given us and use it as He intended.  That means that we depend on ourselves and treat God’s name as though we imagine He will not hear us when we call upon it or do much for us.

 

The second commandment teaches us how we are to use God’s name to call upon Him, but the third commandment teaches us how God desires to work in us.  We know that God created the world and brought life out of nothing by speaking His Word.  In the third commandment He requires that we receive the Word that He speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures and through the preaching and teaching of His Word so that He may work in us.

 

Since we are called by God’s Name and since we are united to God, it follows that we should also be the people who attend to God’s Word.  His Word is the means by which He joins us to Himself and makes us His people.

 

However the commandment doesn’t read “Listen to God’s Word.”  It says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

 

In the Old Testament the weekly holy day was the Sabbath—Saturday.  That was the day that God rested from creation, and the Jews were supposed to keep it holy, keep it set apart, by not doing any ordinary work on that day.  They were to rest.  In the New Testament, God does not prescribe a certain day to keep Holy.  Instead God intends us to enter His rest by gladly hearing and learning His Word.  Through the Word God works in us; He works faith in Christ in us through preaching and His Word.  When we believe in Christ, we have fulfilled God’s Law and commandments, because we have the one who kept God’s Law—both by keeping it in His heart and His actions and by suffering the penalties it demands of those who have not kept it.  Jesus fulfills the Law by doing it perfectly for you, and by suffering God’s anger and punishment for your failure to keep it.

 

God’s Word shows us God’s will for us and how Jesus has reconciled God to us.  Jesus is the center of the Scripture.  So when we get tired of God’s Word and His preaching, we are really getting tired of Jesus.  He is the One who is proclaimed in faithful preaching and in the Bible.  When we are too busy with work to hear and learn God’s Word, we are treating that Word with contempt, acting as though we are able to do more for ourselves than God is able to do through His Word.  So God commands us to gladly hear and learn His Word—as Luther’s hymn today said:

 

And put aside the work you do

So that God may work in You.

Have mercy, Lord!  (LSB 581 st. 4)

 

When we come to the point that we think we already know God’s Word and that we have heard it all before, we are in a dangerous place.  That is the way that the chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes were.   They went to synagogue all the time.  They studied the Scriptures constantly.  And yet it did them no good; they missed the whole thing, because in all their study of the Scripture they missed Christ.  When we take God’s Word for granted and are tired of it, we are in the same position.  Lots of times people get like this and then simply stop hearing God’s Word.  They stop going to church.  Doing this is just as serious a sin as committing adultery or murder in terms of the damage it does to one’s soul—it simply ends the relationship with God.  On the other hand, we can do exactly the same thing and still be going to church regularly, if we are no longer really hearing the word because we believe we know it already.  Then we are no longer being brought by God’s Word to a recognition of our sins and grateful faith in Jesus who takes them away.  We are simply becoming prouder and harder toward God’s Word.

 

God gives us the ten commandments not only so that we may see what pleases Him, but also as a diagnostic tool.  They are meant to show us our sin, and how even after years of hearing God’s Word we continue to have hearts that are infected by sin, hearts that are hard toward God.  Today we see the reflection of our sin in our use of God’s name—our misuse of it, and our failure to call on it; and our use of His Word—our failure to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

 

At the same time we see this reflection we see God picture before us His healing of our broken image.  We see that in Jesus who, before His suffering began, instituted the Sacrament of His body and blood for His disciples.  He knew how they would all fall away as He was beaten, falsely accused, mocked, crucified, and abandoned by God—all for them.  So He instituted the supper to show them that all this suffering He was about to undergo was for them, so they could return to it again and again, as often as their sins revealed themselves.  The same is true for us.  As we confront God’s commandments and our sins, we must also turn our eyes to our Lord Jesus in His suffering.  This is where our sins are healed and covered.

 

Do we pass that cross unheeding,

Breathing no repentant vow

Though we see you wounded, bleeding

See your thorn encircled brow?

Yet your sinless death has brought us

Life eternal, peace, and rest

Only what your grace has taught us

Calms the sinner’s deep distress.  (LSB 423 st 2)

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

No Other Gods. Ash Wednesday 2019, 1st Commandment

small catechism.PNGAsh Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

First Commandment

March 6, 2019

No Other Gods Before My Face

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

What is the first commandment?  You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

 

Lent is the time of renewal for Christians.  In the first several centuries it was the time when converts prepared to be made new in Holy Baptism.  For those already baptized it was a time to return—to Baptism, to the Lord.

 

In almost everything in life, renewal begins by going back to the basics, starting at the beginning.  The beginning of Christian faith and life is the catechism, the basic teaching we give children about the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.  And Luther’s presentation of the catechism begins with the ten commandments because the necessary prerequisite for Christianity is the knowledge of sin.  Until we know and recognize our sin we cannot be Christians at all, and without a deepening recognition and sorrow for sin we cannot grow as Christians.

 

Recognition and sorrow for sin, however, doesn’t happen by trying to make ourselves sorry.  God brings us to the recognition of sin; He puts us to death in our conscience by means of His Law.  .  For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in God’s sight, since through the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20) St. Paul says in Romans 3.  Without this deep recognition of sin there can be no real Christianity, because there will be no desire for the forgiveness of sins, no love for the Triune God who redeems us, no sense of our weakness and need for His help in prayer.  But where God works recognition of sin through His Law there will be desire for deliverance, for what He offers in the Gospel.  This is the beginning of Christianity and renewal.

 

This is the reason why the catechism can’t be what it often has been—something we learn once when we are young and then never look at again.  It’s meant to be with us every day; we are meant to meditate on it, put it into practice, teach it to our children.  If renewal is to happen in the church, whether at St. Peter or the Missouri Synod or the whole of Christendom, it will happen through return to the catechism—the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments.

 

So today we begin at the beginning with the very first commandment, the most important of them all:  You shall have no other gods.  In Exodus 20, one of the two places in the Bible that the commandments are listed, the literal wording is, You shall have no other gods before Me—that is, you shall have no other gods in my face.  You can’t have Me, the Triune God—and then at the same time call upon the spirits of your ancestors, or call upon Krishna and Buddha while meditating.

The Israelites did this kind of thing continually before they were taken into exile in Babylon.  When God raised up Gideon to judge Israel and save them from the Midianites, the first thing He told Gideon to do was to destroy the altar to Ba’al in his hometown and cut down the statue of Asherah.  Ba’al was the idol of the Canaanites; they thought he controlled the storm clouds.  Asherah was supposed to be his sister and wife.  The Canaanites trusted Baal and Asherah to give them fruitful harvests, to make their flocks increase, their wives bear many children.  In other words, they turned to these idols to bless them and sustain them.  And the Israelites worshipped these false gods too, alongside the Lord.  They didn’t think the Lord alone was enough to take care of them.

 

Today, very few people turn to a multitude of gods like this.  The vast majority of people in the modern world believe in one God only; a smaller number claim to believe in no gods at all.  So how does this commandment apply to us?

 

In the Large Catechism, Luther explained it this way: “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress.  So, to have a god is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart…Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is really your God.”  (Large Catechism I:1-3)  When God says “Have no other gods,” He means He wants us to look to Him alone for whatever we need—to look to no one and nothing else besides Him.

 

To have the Triune God alone as your God is to honor Him as who He says He is.  When most Americans say they believe in God, they mean a vague deity that they imagine all religions worship.  That is not the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Besides this their faith in this non-existent god really isn’t faith.  They don’t trust this non-specific deity to take care of them in trouble.  When trouble comes it is almost as if there is no God at all.

 

But when you fear the Triune God above all other things, when you rely on Him alone, when you love Him above all others, you acknowledge Him to be the Creator.  You are saying—He is the One who made me and everything there is, and so He alone is able to give me everything I need.  The food I need to sustain my body.  The friends and relatives I need not to be depressed.  And so on.  You are saying: He is greater than every created thing, and worthy not only of my trust but my highest love.

 

On the other hand, when you love an earthly thing more than you love God—a person, a pleasure, a possession—you are saying that person or thing has more to give you than God.  You deny that God is God—and you reject the love of the true God, who wants and commands that you have Him alone as your God.

 

Take this commandment into your heart.  Turn it over and let it show you what is in your heart.  Then you will see why today is “Ash Wednesday” and not “celebration Wednesday.”  We are breakers of this commandment.  We have turned away from the true God, sought our treasure on earth, in created things, instead of in heaven with God.  The prophet Joel’s voice cries through the centuries to us: Return to the Lord Your God!  Because we have left Him behind and turned to gods that cannot save.

 

It’s not surprising that the world worships idols, because the world doesn’t even know who the true God is.  But it also happens in the Church among those who are called by the name of the Triune God.  So many who bear the name Christian have no fear of God.  They live a lifestyle that is against God’s commandments and they think God doesn’t mind.  And there are so many who have the name of God given to them at Baptism who have no love for God.  Their actions prove it.  They reject the calling and the life in which God has placed them and in so doing reject the God who called them and promises to be with them in their tasks.  Pastors neglect to study, pray, and visit their people because it doesn’t seem to produce results and because often their reward is people’s anger or scorn.  Parents neglect to teach their kids God’s Word, and simply to do the work of training their children in earthly things because it is laborious and sometimes expensive.  Instead of teaching their children they leave them to their phones and tablets.

 

We don’t love and trust the God who calls us to serve our spouse, our church, our boss and employees; when our callings are not exciting or fun or successful, we reject the God who called us to them.

 

This commandment is broken so often that most people don’t feel guilty about it and can’t believe that God could be angry about it.  So God attaches a threat and a promise to it to drive home how seriously He takes whether or not we cling to Him alone as our God.  We learned it as “the close of the commandments,” but in Exodus 20 it is attached in particular to the first commandment: I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

On the one hand God promises to bless us if we have Him alone as our God—to show love to us and to a thousand generations of our descendants—if we keep His commandments.  This means eternal life and eternal blessings, but also blessings in this world.

 

On the other hand God shows His seriousness, His zeal, His jealousy for His glory.  He will not allow other beings, other things to receive the honor that belongs to Him as the only God.  He will punish to the third and fourth generation those who hate Him and despise Him.  He will damn them forever and He will punish them in this life.  And the Scripture is filled with examples of this—from the flood, when God destroyed the whole world except for three people because they rejected Him, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews among the nations when they rejected Christ.  Today we see all around us people turning away from God’s Word.  They imagine that God is never going to punish and judge.  But God is jealous and will not leave unpunished anyone who rejects Him for an idol.

 

Now at the beginning of Lent is the time to examine ourselves to see who our God really is.  As we examine ourselves and answer that question for ourselves, these ashes on our heads, and the sufferings of our Lord Jesus that will be pictured before us in the coming weeks will take on their true significance.  Because it is my idolatry that brings me destruction and death, not yours.  And it was in our place, for our idolatry, that Jesus was condemned by God and suffered.

 

The good news that the first commandment indirectly says is that God is our God.  We are to have no other gods because He is our God, who created us, and who redeemed us after we brought His anger and destruction on ourselves by turning away from Him.  As you confess the ways you have turned aside from Him to other gods, He shows Himself to be your God by absolving you and giving You His Son’s body and blood by which He redeemed you.  May our gracious God renew and restore us this Lent, and teach us to walk in His commandments!

 

Amen

 

Soli Deo Gloria

%d bloggers like this: