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Why Teaching People to Obey God Isn’t Nearly Enough…..

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:
16  The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18  Then Jesus approached and said to them, All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NAB)

280      You know that you will never lack God’s grace, because he has chosen you from all eternity. And if this is what he has done for you, he will grant you all the help you need to be faithful to him as his son. Go forward, then, with assurance and try to respond at every moment.

As I continue to see debates about faith and works online, as I continue see to people demand full obedience to one commandment and not another, I am saddened.  For people hyper-focus on the law, and debates about it, much as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Herodians did in the age of Christ.

Because of this, I know quite a few people who leave the church, dismayed either because of hypocrisy, or because of a burden that they are expected to keep, that they cannot on one hand.  On the other, they are dismayed because despite what scripture says, they don’t see the life of those claiming to be believers to be all that different.  There are the same kind of sinners, justified not by the blood of Christ, but because of their own justifications, they still go about life, unchanged, and in chains to sin.

My contention isn’t that we need to teach people to obey the commandments, or to simply live free of them.  My contention is that we don’t do nearly enough in teaching people to obey God.  We go about it wrong in teaching them to obey, and when we reduce it simply to God’s commands, we do something even worse.

First let’s deal with “obey”.  In the very well known passage called the great commission, about half of my translations use obey, some use observe, and a few older translations use keep.  I think the idea of obey comes from that old KJV era use keep, but they in doing so, they cause a problem.  The word in Greek comes from the word to watch over, to guard, to treasure, to protect.  As I have noted before, the keep in a castle was the place of the greatest possible defense, the final point of resistance, the place where children and wives were kept, along with the treasure.

Guard them, treasure them, doesn’t make as much sense when we combine it with command.  or at least it seems awkward.  But consider how much the psalms rejoice in God’s law, in His commandments.  (for example in Psalm 119) Consider the opening of Proverbs 7,

1  My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. 2  Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. 3  Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (TEV)

1  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2  keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3  bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (ESV)

I put the two translations here for a reason, there is something more to commandments than what meets the eye.  Normally we think of commands as God’s law, the Decalogue, what are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

I would contend that we would be less confused if we replaced commandment with a synonym, commissioned (we call it the Great Commission, don’t we?) But we have a slightly different meaning.  Commissioned doesn’t reduce what is taught to the “do’s and do not’s”.  It beings out the scope to include all God has ever commanded about you, as well as what He has commanded you.

For instance, the declaration of our righteousness, the work of Christ’s life, lived with one mission.

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19  and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” Luke 4:18-19 (TEV)

it includes His work in completing what He began in us, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us.  It includes the entire covenant – promises as well as regulations.  That is why spending time heaing and meditating upon what God has commissioned brings such joy, not just bondage to a law.   (btw, the commission concepts works with the Decalog/Ten Commandments)  as well, including what some dismiss as the prelude – the key to understanding it.

This is why the joy is so complete, for what God has commissioned for you and I is wondrous.  It is the full measure of His love, not just His plans for our lives.  It is that we are to become His worksmanship (Eph 2:10), a people He made for His own.

Teach His people, those He has claimed in baptism this Truth, for they are His disciples, His children.  And the joy will be unsurpassed.  As they treasure what God has called and commissioned into their lives, the obedience will follow, naturally and assured of His empowerment.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1137-1140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He Thinks about, and Cares for US!!

He Thinks About, and Cares for Us!
Psalm 8

In Jesus Name

May you receive the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that you resonate with the cry for His majestic name, His incredible glory, to fill the earth!

What to Preach about this Week?

When I looked at the readings this week, and realized that on hallmark calendars it was Father’s Day, and on the Church Calendar it is Trinity Sunday, I faced a dilemma.

Which incredible thing do I preach on?

Do it preach on Trinity Sunday, and what the Athanasians’ Creed means?  Do I preach on how those of us who are fathers can try to be like our Father in heaven?  Or how our children should respect us like we are supposed to respect our Father in Heaven?  Look at the readings – we have the incredible passage about the great commission! Go into all the world my friends and let’s get to work making disciples!  Or about baptism, or doubt, or faith?  I could have even preached on the longer optional reading today, which was all of Creation in chapter 1 and some of chapter 2 of Genesis.

Lot’s of great choices!  Which one do we need to hear the most?

Not one of those…

We need to hear the words of the Psalm… we need to grasp the incredible praises that are communicated in those words, and then, join in the praises!

Though we rarely give thought to the psalms, besides to pray through them, I think this day… everything else, why we want to explain the Trinity, the Mission of the Church, the role of fathers, everything, begins to make sense…..  so let’s get to it!

  • What is Man?

How many of you saw the moon Friday night, or last night?  How many have looked up into the sky and seen the brilliance of the millions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy?   Or simply lain in the grass and looked at the clouds passing by on a beautiful day, and realized that it is God who put these things in place…it is He who ordained all of creation…..
How glorious, how inspirational, how even creating something like a star, or the universe through which it’s light and energy travel.. How it is all kept in balance, how amazing…
Compare that to us.

Who are we, compared to the distances of space, the energy that could reflect off a moon and shine so gloriously in the night sky?

The psalmist asks that very same question:

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

Who are we?

We might answer we are dads, or moms, we might answer by what we do for a living, I am a pastor, Tom is retired, Chris is a professor and a musician…

We might answer more honestly from our perspective, we are people who know sorrow and grief, are anxious, sometimes dwell in guilt and shame, we are broken, sinful.  We struggle to understand things of God, like how the God is three and one, or how Jesus is 100% God and 100% man… or how a creed written 1400-1700 years ago explains it.

But that is from our perspective, from our view, and the Psalmist is asking God what He thinks about us……. and why He would care for us….

That is why the Psalmist praises God, because God does think about us, and He does care for us…..

Unbelievable, Incredible!

Not just think as in – oh yeah, there they are, the word has a depth of perception, of looking into deeply and understanding.

God – the one who thought for a moment and the moon and stars were made….

Thinks deeply and cares about us.  About you, about me, about us together as Concordia…

And He cares.. more deeply than we can imagine..

Yhwh and Adonai

I want you to go back, and look at verse one for a moment.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Do you notice that the first LORD there is all in capitals, and the second is normal?  That is because in Hebrew, there are different words.  The first, the one all in capitals, isn’t the word LORD, but the actual name of God.  Yhwh or Jehovah depending on pronunciation.  The Name that is to fill the earth, the Name above all names.  The Name God has given us to call upon Him, that we would know He saves us!

The second is His title – Lord, Master, King, the one who reigns over us.  But that to is not always what we think.  The word comes from the idea of a foundation, of the one who provides support and sets us up firmly to stand.

The description of it in Hebrew reminded me of something here, the base for the processional cross.  Hmmm…. Vicar, come up here for a moment please.

We are like the processional cross… without a base – we look nice – and maybe able to stand for a moment.  But without the base, we will fall eventually and maybe even crack someone on the head…

But with the base…the foundation, the place where we fit, we stand….

And that is the nature of God’s reign, of His Lordship.  It focuses on His commitment to us, the promises He makes and fulfills in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

We see it in His sharing His creation with us, giving us responsibility for it.  A responsibility to care for it, to care for each other, even as He cares for us.

It makes sense for God to do this to Jesus, to place all this authority and responsibility in His hands.  But does it make sense to put it in our hands?

It does, when we realize that God never leaves us, that God is always present here, in our lives, even as Christ’s Body and Blood are present in the Lord’s Supper.

And in Christ, joined to His death and resurrection in baptism, we find ourselves alive in Him, His co-heirs, God’s children.  I love the Apostle Paul’s way of phrasing this:

12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.
Colossians 2:12-15 (TEV)

Does God think about you?  Does God care?

Look at what He has done for us in Christ……

And know He knows you, He cares for you…

The Majestic, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Triune God… thinks about you, cares about you… loves you….

And brings you into His glory and peace, a place beyond all description, where we are guarded and protected by Christ….

So let us worship Him!  AMEN?

Pray for All Men

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September 21, 2013

1 Timothy 2: 1-8

 

Greetings in the name of our Mediator, Jesus the Christ who reconciled God and humanity through His being lifted up in glory for all to see.

 

Alleluia, amen.

 

“ I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”

 

Those are powerful words that Paul has written and my question for you is, as a community of believers in this church and in a personal sense, are you ready to hear them?

What is this church about? Is it ready to hear these words and do what God says through Paul? Are you?

Are we an introspective church scared and concerned for the future and feeling sorry for itself? Do you?

Do we see only the shortcomings and the sins of fellow members? Is that what you see?

Is this church full of anger, strife, and quarreling and is it just under the surface ready to boil over and fueled by gossip and slander and false witness? Are you?

Do we only see the condition of the facility, the peeling paint or the stained carpet or all of our little friends in the kitchen? Is God’s Word less effective here because the floors are not waxed every week?

An introspective church, that is to say a church that only looks internally assumes a cowardly, fatalistic and anemic and defensive stand rather than an offensive stand to the world. That church doesn’t evangelize, it doesn’t witness, it doesn’t share the most incredible and perfect gift of the Gospel. It becomes a country club with an exclusive membership rather than an inclusive one.

Now I don’t want you to think I am just picking on Our Savior. These symptoms and problems can effect all churches no matter the size and how big or little of a budget they have. You see when a church starts focusing and looking only inward and focusing on its own problems rather than focusing and looking at God, it gets caught like a fly in molasses.

A church that looks at God is a church that believes in God’s plan formed before the foundation of the world of salvation for all people. It sees it in the cross of Jesus Christ who was, like that bronze serpent lifted up on the pole for all to seek healing, lifted up and glorified on the cross. He was lifted up and glorified so that all would be drawn to Him.

Paul says in verse 5,

”For there is only one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Jesus Christ. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave the world at just the right time.”

A church that looks at God rejoices in hearing this because this is what we are about! The church rejoices in the Mediator, Jesus Christ sent by the Father at just the right time to reconcile and save all. Seeing and knowing that, the church worships the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Creation, the God of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Now I guess before we go any further we have to figure out what the church is. What is the church? Is it just these four walls that surround us that we inhabit a couple of hours a week?

This is where we meet to worship and this is where God calls us to worship as we begin that worship in the name of the Triune God and this is where He serves us in Word and Sacrament. But ultimately the church is the priesthood of all believers. It is the community or church that God has gathered as He calls His people to Him in baptism through His Son. That community like any community it is made up of people and who are those people in that community or church?

You are the church, I am the church, we are the church! The church is made up of you and I and all others who profess and confess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Master and Mediator.

So If the church is made up of you and I, that brings it to a personal level doesn’t it? It brings our lives into play and what they are about and Paul urging us to pray for all people. Not just your family and friends or the brothers and sisters who are part of the church but all people. Friends, enemies, strangers, Paul says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”

This is a hard teaching isn’t it? Who here wants to pray for an enemy or maybe even a president and congress that they didn’t vote for. What about leaders who subjugate and mistreat their own people? Or maybe closer to home, what about a fellow believer that you have a problem with in the congregational community or members who are not here this morning for whatever reason or excuse?

What about all those people who as we are in worship right now don’t know what that is because they don’t have an intimate relationship with God meaning they don’t believe?

You see the church that looks outward instead of inward sees the world and feels sorry for it, not for itself. It sees people suffering and hurting and disenfranchised because they don’t see or know Christ.

Look around and you can see the brokenness and the guilt and shame that this world offers and does to people. Just drive down the street. You see people substituting and trying to compensate for something that is missing. They are trying to justify themselves and fill in the holes with all sorts of idols and quite often we try to do the same thing. They are searching and floundering and this hurts and saddens God.

God has no desire to see anyone enter into eternal damnation. It breaks His heart to see that. He wants everyone to know the truth and it will set men free-that truth is Christ Jesus who through His dying on the cross justifies us to God and mediates sinners before God. We are free and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb.

The church must never forget this and it must answer this call to arms. The church must answer the call of Christ found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations.

The priesthood of all believers must pray for all people that they would hear the call and believe and see and know the grace, mercy and peace given freely because of the love that our Father has for His children.

We as the church can pray for all people, we can go on the offensive and now look out not because we are so smart and better than others but because the grace of God has been given to us. We have been equipped and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do just this, to share the Gospel.

The church that looks to God and depends on and has faith is mission minded and knows that it can relay and witness the message that God gave to the world at the right time. We can show and tell about the relationship that God has reconciled with us as we depend on Him, living in faith and trust that God is with us faithfully.

The church that is focused on God is fully dependent upon  Him and His mercies and testifies through prayer and the Word that the sinful human race, His very creation from the greatest to the least and in every corner of existence where there is human life desperately needs the Triune God whom we adore and praise.

Through Jesus we can be bold and not worry about making mistakes and messing up because we will, oh trust me, we will! We along the way are going to sin and we are going to err but the truth is that God forgives sin, all sin. What man does for evil or bad, God will use for good. Remember the bumper sticker.’ Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven?’

We can be bold because our faith and trust are in Jesus Christ who serves His children by taking our sin and becoming sin for us.

Through Christ, we are that church, His church, His bride.

We might be small in numbers here at Our Savior right now but that doesn’t diminish us because we are large in the blessings that are bestowed on us from the manger to the empty tomb.

We look to the cross and see Christ lifted up in glory and we know that the cross leads us to the resurrection. We can only through Him, as Paul writes in verse 8, “Pray with Holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

Through the forgiveness of sins and the redemption bought and paid for by the Christ, God has called you and I to be no less than representatives to a fallen and corrupt world, sharing the ongoing good news of the Gospel and praying for all, asking and depending in His grace and love and knowing it pleases God our Savior.

You are the church, we are the church through Christ!

Alleluia, amen.

 

Keeping God’s Commandments… a deeper look..

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!

It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.

Some focus on the going..

Some focus on the making of disciples…

Some focus on what it means to baptize,

Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”

Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us  – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…

Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….

In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” .  Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us.  So it bears a look into it.

First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”.  It is far more than simply obedience.  And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical.  Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed.   So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure.  You can obey someone – without treasuring them…

That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do.  We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have!  This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ  – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.

So what is the treasure?  What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?

Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.

I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture.  It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”

Look to Creation…

He spoke the word, and there came into existence..

Look to our Re-creation…

The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..

the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…

Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works”  He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life  with Him.  Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….

Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.

That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….

AMEN!

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