It’s in obedience to God
First St Johns, York, Pa. February 16, 2014
.Loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to him, for He is your life and length of days… We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who love, obey and hold fast to the Lord their God said … AMEN
Lutheran preaching, Lutheran doctrine is about Law and Gospel, you first have to know that you are a sinner, that you have broken the Law. Afterall, what do you need a Savior for if you have nothing to be saved from. This is a path that contemporary Christianity and not what we would just think of as liberal Christianity, for example the emerging church, which is all about shows and entertainment, much of Christianity is teaching that it’s not really about our sin, everyone is good, it’s about what we do. Are we “good”? Do we do “good deeds”? Because we really are good, so there’s nothing we really need to be saved from. Are we “good” to those around us? If we tote up enough points on God’s cosmic scoreboard, then we are good? This is exactly what Dr Luther pushed back against the Roman Church about. Give us money, give us labor, soldiers, do good tasks, good deeds and you will be good to go.
Luther said no, it’s not about what we do, it’s entirely about what Christ did for us, we can’t improve on that, we can’t add to that, Jesus is perfect, Jesus is all-powerful, Jesus is God and by virtue of that, what He does saves us. What He gives us, saves us, He is the complete, total sum of all that is and because of that we can only be saved in Him. In John 15:16, Jesus is telling His disciples and of course, we are His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” It’s about Jesus as our Lord, do we go and do good works? Yes! But it is through His moving us, it is through Him
Yahweh is painting a picture for His people in today’s reading. He has been leading Israel through the desert for forty years, He has been teaching them to be dependent on Him. Not themselves, not other “gods”, not the government, not big business, not big medicine or big academia, Him, only Him. He has provided for them, He has protected them. So our Old Testament reading today starts with: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and his rules,…” Our reading last week ended with Jesus saying: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” God is telling His people, “Look, I’ve given you what you need to know about me, I’ve given you the rules, I decide for life and good, death and evil.” Sounds like a contradiction between Jesus and the Father. It’s not, throughout the Beatitudes, Jesus is being hyperbolic. Jesus says, “if your hand offends you cut it off, if you eye offends pluck it out.” In no way does Jesus ever tell us to be stupid. What he is doing is exaggerating his point in both comments. Don’t sin, don’t let your hand or your eye guide you, because it would be better for you to be without an eye than to burn in Hell with both eyes, then to be in heaven. OK, point taken, does that mean when we sin we won’t be forgiven unless we pluck our eye out? No, the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus has paid for our sin, our baptism saves us and what Jesus did through His death, His sacrifice to save us, to pay for our sins. On the other hand, you really want to try it, you really want to go for it, to live your life in perfect righteousness? Do you think you can outdo the Pharisees? Come on, no you can’t! It’s not going to happen! The only way you can be righteous is through Me, for you to have My righteousness, which we have as Christians. At this point in time, the Pharisees have decided that the Law is what it is all about, there has to be laws, commandments, rules for everything. It didn’t start out to be a mean spirited attempt, but that’s what it really ground down to. It was supposed to be a way for people to understand what they should and shouldn’t do. Rabbis, pharisees, scribes would sit together for years debating points of law and through their own wisdom, their own discretion and yes frankly their own pride and prejudices they came up with their own rules, because apparently, the five books of the Law, Genesis through Deuteronomy, the ten commandments, well these weren’t enough, their people needed more guidance. They came up with an additional 240 commandments and 300 rules. When Jesus says “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He is saying you can’t keep all those rules and regulations, sort of what we’ve found out when you have to conform to the Code of Federal Regulations, our government pumps out rules and regulations by the volume. We have created an environment that doesn’t allow for good will, for honest error, we’ve created an environment that tries to criminalize everything. That is what the Pharisees were trying to do, create an entire maze of laws that were intended for “gotcha”, that’s the new fad today. Don’t really care what’s right or wrong, what will actually serve, only care that I can confuse the issue enough for you to make a mistake and then “gotcha”, oops, you messed up, you’re on the hook now, you blew it, I win, you lose.Laws and regulations don’t make you righteous, we can only be righteous in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is trying to untangle all the Pharisaical ,rules He’s telling us, you can get all caught up in these rules and man-made devices, like the National Football League or you can trust in Me, as I tried to teach your ancestors after they had been in the desert forty years. You can try to make it through the maze the Pharisees created, or you can come to me in repentance and humility and trust my mercy and forgiveness. Trust that what I’ve done for you is going to save you, that you do not have to make your life like a football game and fuss over every little bit of nonsense. That you can concentrate on what is important. Trusting in me, doing the good works that I lead you to do, witnessing to others about me, serving and worshipping according to my laws and not a few hundred man-made laws. I’ve referred to the person who tells me that they live by the Sermon on the Mount. They usually say this in this sort of patronizing, “you silly little preacher, I’ve advanced beyond you.” OK, you have just called me a fool, Jesus is telling us that by treating people with contempt you are essentially committing murder against me, [buzzer sound] sorry you lose, thanks for playing and you aren’t going to like your parting gift very much. You decided to play the Pharisee, there’s no love in your heart for God or your fellow man and you’ve ignored what God has said from the outset: “”And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deut 10:12) Take some time this week to back off from all the man-made stuff, try to see what life would be like to live in the simplicity of God’s leading, God’s rules. God wants life to be simple and straight forward for all of us, He’s not the one making things difficult and complicated. How can you back off your life, to truly follow Him, to truly know His will for you and not worry about the clutter we make when we try to play God and set up all sorts of conditions and rules. How does that affect your life at work, at home, at church?
The commandments and statutes He gave us, if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us, we will be faithful to Him and serving all of those God leads us to come into contact with and to serve. Do you do that? Do you live that way? Or is it all about what you chose and leave God out of the equation?
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
(Jude 1:21) Shalom and Amin