Death Be Not Proud – Sermon on Matthew 28:1-7 for the Vigil of Easter

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Matthew 28:1-7

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In 1609 the English pastor and poet John Donne nearly died after being a pastor for eight years. After he recovered, he wrote a poem titled “Death Be Not Proud.” You would think that after nearly escaping death, you would be relieved and grateful. But Donne wrote his sonnet mocking death.

You would think death has a good reason to be proud. To our eyes, it appears that death never loses. Eventually, death gets all of us and our loved ones. We try to fight death with cancer screenings, seat belts, air bags, eating healthy, and a good fitness routine. Some fight death by coloring gray hairs and anti-aging serums. But, in the end, nothing works. And as much as you try to escape his grasp, death is happy and willing to be patient. If he doesn’t get you at sixty, he’ll wait around until seventy or eighty or ninety.

We try to ignore death. Sometimes, death is given more reverence than God Himself. In the Old Testament, people would avoid speaking God’s name because it was so sacred and holy. The same happens with death today. People don’t like to talk about death. Instead, they talk about their loved ones ‘passing away,’ or ‘going to a better place.’ Some insist that their loved ones not have a funeral but a ‘celebration of life.’

Death is lord in our culture and is seen as the answer to many problems in society today. The suicide rate continues to rise. States continue to pass “right to die” laws. And abortion – the murder and death of children in the womb – is viewed as a fundamental right by some.

Death casts a wide shadow, and we live in its shadow every day of our lives. But death has no reason to be proud because of what happened this day.

Death’s pride was death’s undoing. In his pride, death opened his jaws too wide and went too far. Death swallowed up the One who is Life (Jn. 11:24; 14:6) and it was death’s undoing. Our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shows that death has been defeated forever.

Life and death fought against each other, and the Prince of Life came out of that contest victorious. Death stuck his stinger right into Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. And because of that, death has lost his sting (1 Cor. 15:54-56).

King Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a royal donkey to face death. Christ carried His cross to answer for all your faithlessness and sin. Jesus has drowned death in His blood which cleanses you from all your sin.

Death is defeated – now and forever. Even if death takes you, Jesus, the death Destroyer, says that you are not dead. Instead, Christ says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).

Dear Christian, even in death you are not dead. Instead you are Christ’s. In your Baptism, you have already been joined to Christ’s death, which means that your death will not and cannot last (Ro. 6:3-5). In this Holy Sacrament, Jesus feeds you with His living Body and gives you to drink of His living, life-giving Blood.

Death has no reason to be proud. Not anymore. Jesus has conquered the bitter tyrant of death. And He has connected you to that victory. Amen.[1]

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds inChrist Jesus. Amen.

[1]The idea for this sermon comes from a sermon by Pr. Ralph Tausz which can be found here (http://www.apostlesmelrosepark.org/index.php?page=Sermons&sid=380).

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It Is Finished – Sermon on John 19:30 for Good Friday

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John 19:30

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dear saints, Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Jesus isn’t talking about His suffering. He doesn’t mean His agony or pain. These words do not refer to the darkness over the whole land while Jesus hung on the cross between noon and three. Yes, those things are coming to an end when Jesus says,“It is finished.”But Jesus is talking about something much bigger.

He is saying that the war between God and man is over. “It is finished.”

All of creation was plunged into sin and rebellion when Adam and the woman ate from the tree of which God commanded them not to eat. In that moment, all of humanity declared war against God. But God would not let mankind, the crown of His creation, be at war against Him. God would not fight against us though we fight against Him. Instead, He would fight for us.

Right after we fell into sin, God came down to the Garden and said that He would put enmity between Himself and the devil promising that the Seed of the woman would come and crush Satan’s head even as the devil crushed His heel. Then and there, God declared war – not against us – but against the devil, against death, and against your sin.

The Scriptures are the record of that war. Throughout the Bible, you read of the devil claiming people as his own, putting his name on them, making them his servants and followers, and dragging them with him into destruction.

But all the while God was fighting back. He kept rescuing His people from the devil and his armies. He rescued Adam and Eve. He delivered Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. God ransomed His people from slavery in Egypt. He saved Joshua, Samuel, Samson, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and countless others – both named and unnamed. God was fighting back, calling His people back to Himself. Promising that one day the battles would cease. The war would end. And there on the Cross, Jesus proclaims the victory when He says, “It is finished.”

The victory was costly – more costly than we can ever fathom. And the victory did not appear to be glorious. The victory, in fact, looked like defeat as the eternal Son of God hung there, dead on the cross. It is much easier for us to see Jesus’ heel being crushed than to see the devil’s head being crushed because that heel crushing is overwhelming.

But, dear saints, if the crushing of Jesus’ heel appears to be that devastating, how much more annihilating is the crushing of the devil’s head?

Today especially, but whenever you consider Jesus’ suffering, see what God is doing. He is ending the war. The war is ended not with a ceasefire or a peace treaty, but with total and complete victory. “It is finished.”

Consider what God says the crucifixion of our Lord means. It means that everything that was ever demanded of you in the Law (Col. 2:14), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

All the prophecies about Christ’s suffering that were recorded for us in the books of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Lk. 18, 24), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Everything that was necessary for the Christ to suffer so you could be forgiven and adopted as God’s child (Php. 2:5-15), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Everything that was necessary for you to be saved and have eternal life (1 Pet. 1:10-12), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Remember that God calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:19-20). It is God’s loving and gracious will for you to believe in Him. Everything that weighs on your soul, every sin that troubles your conscience, every burden of doubt, every fear, every worry, and every guilt is taken off of you and placed on Jesus. And Christ bears it away and buries it in the depths of the sea (Pr. Preus). “It is finished.”

Today is not bad Friday or sad Friday or black Friday. Today is Good Friday, the day that our Lord restored the original goodness to His creation, and that is most certainly good for us (Petersen).

The death of Christ is your redemption, your victory. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain, but now lives forever and ever. Christ has suffered and died in order that you might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Christian, just as Christ is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, you will too. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Clean and Cleansed – Sermon on John 13:1-15 for Maundy Thursday

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John 13:1-15

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Peter gets uncomfortable when Jesus laid aside His outer garments, tied a towel around His waist, got down on His hands and knees, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus washes the Disciples' feetThe Man whom Peter had confessed to be the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16), the Man who had healed the sick, fed the masses, and raised the dead, the Head of all creation (Col. 1:15) kneels to wash Peter’s dirty, smelly feet.

Foot washing was a common thing in those days. Anyone who was going to be a guest at a banquet would have their feet washed even if they had just bathed. The walk from one house to another would make a person’s feet dirty and dusty enough to need another washing. But the task of foot washing was always reserved for the lowest of servants. Disciples would do many different chores for the rabbi they were following, but foot washing was never one of them. But here, Jesus, the Rabbi, the Teacher sent from God, and in fact God Himself in the flesh, humbles Himself to do the lowest of tasks for His disciples.

To understand how shocking this is, you have to imagine having some guests over for a fancy dinner. You have cleaned the parts of the house you expect they will go, but not the whole house – especially not that one bathroom. But imagine your horror if you found one of your well-dressed guests on their hands and knees on that hard, tiled floor with a sponge scrubbing the scum and stains around that neglected toilet.

We aren’t told how the other disciples react to this; however, they were probably uncomfortable with the arrangement as well. But Peter is, of course, the one to speak up and object, “You shall never wash my feet.”

But Jesus turns this event into a new lesson, “If I do not wash you, you have no share( or “no part”) with Me.”Jesus isn’t simply talking about washing feet anymore. He doesn’t say “If I do not wash your feet…,” He says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”This is about Peter’s heart and his general need for the cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus has come to give. And Peter understands so he says, “Then don’t just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head too.” In other words, “Jesus, I need You to thoroughly wash me and make all of me clean because I am so sinful.”

But Jesus responds, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”

Not everyone who is in that upper room is clean because Judas was still there and was about to betray Jesus. Judas is not clean because he is not a Christian; Judas does not trust in Jesus’ promises of mercy and forgiveness. The other eleven disciples do trust in Christ, so Jesus says that they are completely clean. Their whole being is clean. Jesus is referring to not their bodies, but their souls. Even the dirtiest, most sinful parts of the disciples are completely clean. Their sins have been washed away and cleansed.

So, what is this that Jesus says they need to have their feet cleaned? Well, they keep falling into sin. They keep fighting with each other about who is the greatest. They keep making promises that they can’t keep. They are clean, but they keep sinning. They keep stepping in the same old sins, but their whole being is already clean.

We can’t get our minds around this reality that Jesus presents unless it is about sin, and even then, it is hard to grasp.

Christian, Jesus has died on the cross and absorbed the entire wrath of God against your sin. As Jesus said, “It is finished.”God isn’t holding a charge, a sin, or an accusation against you to judge you on the Last Day. There is no dirt or anything left to do for you to be cleansed by Christ. You are already clean.

Baptism 2In your Baptism, Jesus has sprinkled clean water on you thus cleansing you from all your uncleannesses (Ezk. 36:25). In your Baptism, God has given you the new birth (Jn. 3:5), He has connected you to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ro. 6:3-5), He has given you the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5).

And yet, though you have been cleaned by God in this way, you still get dirty feet all the time. Even since this service started, you have had evil and bitter thoughts, you have let your mind wander from the Word of God, etc. You are clean, but you need to be cleaned again.

That is why you are here tonight. You are a saint and a sinner at the same time. You are holy and righteous in God’s sight, yet you have sinned. And you need mercy and cleansing again.

Well, sinner and saint, Jesus has the answer. After He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus served the disciples again. Christ took bread and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat. This is My Body.”Then, He took the cup and gave it to them saying, “Take, drink. This is My Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

Christ gives this cleaning to Christians who are clean and pleasing to God but need cleaning again.

Dear saint, you are declared by Jesus to be clean. Your Lord and Savior is here to be your servant and clean you again. Come and receive what He gives you for your comfort, for your strengthening, for your cleaning. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments: Truth & Contentment

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Just a heads up: Tonight, we will not consider these Commandments in order. I’ll start with the 9th and 10th Commandments since they go together and are only slightly different (I’ll explain why they are different later). Then, we’ll close with the 8th Commandment.

Though it has been corrupted by sin, your conscience is an important gift from God. Imagine your conscience like a radar that picks up all sorts of sins. Blip, there’s anger violating the 5th Commandment. Blip, there’s laziness violating the 7th. Blip, there’s lust violating the 6th. Blip, there’s disrespecting authority violating the 4th. But your conscience probably doesn’t even register sins against the 9th and 10th Commandments about coveting. Coveting is, in a sense, the stealth bomber of sin. Paul mentions this in Romans 7[:7-8] where he says, “I wouldn’t even have known what it was to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

I preached on training and softening your conscience a couple of weeks ago, and if you missed that sermon, I would encourage you to go back and read or listen to it (March 24th on Luke 11:14-28 titled “The Last State”). Tonight’s sermon will, hopefully, help to soften your conscience when it comes to the 9th and 10th Commandments. And softening your conscience to violations of the 9th and 10th Commandments will, I promise you, help you battle against your sins with regard to all the other Commandments.

Now, as we have gone through this series, I have tried to show you how God is giving and protecting His good gifts to you in each of the Commandments. If is helpful for you to see the whole Commandment, turn to p. 23 of the hymnal for the whole list.

In the 1st Command, “Have no other gods,” God gives you the gift of Himself. In the 2nd, “Don’t misuse God’s name,” God gives you the gift of prayer. In the 3rd, “Keep the Sabbath holy,” God gives you the gift of His Word. In the 4th, “Honor your parents,” God gives you the gift of order. In the 5th, “Don’t kill,” God gives you the gift of life. In the 6th, “Don’t commit adultery,” God gives you the gift of marriage. In the 7th, “Don’t steal,” God gives you the gift of stuff. In the 8th, “Don’t lie,” God gives you the gift of truth and a good name. You get the idea.

So, in the 9th and 10th Commandments about coveting, what gift is God giving you? Any guesses? I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t something that we usually recognize or rest in. Contentment. God is giving you and protecting His gift of contentment.

Everything around us screams at us that we shouldn’t be content. Open a paper, see a billboard, scroll through social media, surf the internet, turn on the radio or television and everything there will tempt you to break these Commandments of coveting. All marketing campaigns and advertisements are built around getting us to break these last two Commandments. Now, we can’t blame advertisers for our sins of coveting. And even if you cut out all media from your life, you would still break these Commands.

Now, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. You never break only one Commandment. We’ve already seen how breaking the 6th Commandment about adultery is often followed by breaking the 5th Commandment about murder. But you never break Commandments 2-8 without first breaking the 9th or 10th Commandment. Sin, all sin, starts down in the 9th or 10th Commandment with coveting or, another way to put it, false desire. Scripture teaches this. James 1:13-15 says that God tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire, referring 9th and 10th Commandments. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

In tonight’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 21:1-29), we heard how King Ahab broke the 9th Commandment and then broke the 5th, 4th, 8th, and 7thCommandments.

Now, this is why the 9th and 10th Commandments are so important. In these Commands, God gives us the gift of contentment and protects us from false desire. Colossians 3:5 says that coveting is idolatry. Hear that again: Coveting is idolatry. At its core, coveting is idolizing yourself and making yourself a (little ‘g’) god by saying, “God, You messed up. That thing my neighbor has over there should be mine over here.”

So, when you are struggling with sin, notice where it starts – coveting. If you are full of lust (which is adultery [Mt. 5:28]), you have the false desire to have a spouse that is attractive in a different way than your spouse. If you are angry (which is the same as murder [Mt. 5:21-22], you have a false desire for someone to act differently than they act. If you are lazy (which is thievery), you have a false desire there too.

Repent. Recognize that false desire and cut it off at the roots. Fight against the sin of coveting. Now, listen to these Commandments and see if you can tell the difference between the two…

The 9th Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor obtain them under pretense of a legal right, but assist and serve him in keeping the same.

The 10th Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not estrange or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but seek to have them remain and fulfill their duty to him.

Did you catch the difference? It’s so simple, it’s silly. It has to do with whether the thing you covet has legs or not. The spouse, servants, and animals outlined in the 10th Commandment could conceivably end up in your possession in a way that would appear to be righteous. You could make your neighbor’s dog love you more than your neighbor by giving it treats or something and steal it. Don’t covet it and steal it. Don’t falsely desire what your neighbor has that can’t move, and don’t falsely desire what your neighbor has that can move.

Finally,

The 8th Commandment
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not deceitfully lie about, betray, backbite, nor slander our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all that he does.

I’ll be brief here because I know I’ve gone long on the 9th and 10th Commandments.

We break this Commandment when we desire the truth to be different and lie. But we also break this Commandment when we desire the truth to make our neighbor look bad and spread gossip. I remember when I was in Confirmation and memorized this Commandment and meaning. That last phrase, “put the most charitable construction on all that he does,” that phrase cut me down.

Yes, lying is bad, and we often have our conscience pricked when we lie. But gossip and tearing others down is just as bad. Even when you are telling the truth about someone else’s sin, you are violating this Commandment. Don’t tell someone else about another’s sin if the person you are speaking to doesn’t need to know about it. You don’t like it when it happens to you. Repent. In this Commandment, God protects His gift of the truth.

And recognize that this is the truth. Christ has come. He has kept the Law, all of the Law, perfectly on your behalf. He never fell short of perfectly loving God or loving His neighbor. He perfectly loved you by laying down His life for you. And because of what He has done on the cross, He takes all of your sin against God’s Law and in exchange gives you His perfect obedience. Christ has removed your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. Yes, fight against your sin, but live in Christ’s grace now and forever. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Sixth and Seventh Commandments: Marriage & Stuff

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When Jesus is asked what is the great commandment in the law, He answers by giving a summary of all the Commandments (Mt. 22:34-40), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Commandments 1-3 are summarized as “Love God,” and Commandments 4-10 are summarized as, “Love your neighbor.” And Scripture boils down the law even further in Ro. 13:10 which says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” In other words, if you want to keep all the Commandments, love.

We think that the word ‘love’ is such a nice word and much easier to do than to keep all the Commandments. But the word ‘love,’ rightly understood, requires everything. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”(Jn. 15:13). If you keep a ‘to do’ list and included Christ’s requirements to love God and neighbor, you can never ever check them off as completed.

The devil is always working to tear apart what God has created. Satan is always trying to bring chaos where God has made order. We see this clearly in the 6thand 7thCommandments tonight.

With the 6thCommandment in particular (but with all the commandments really), the devil is trying to drive a wedge between the Ten Commandments and the summary of the law – love. Here is how the devil has worked to bring chaos and disorder to our lives and our society. Today, many people who claim to be Christians will say that we can just ignore the 6thCommandment about adultery. They claim that instead of calling people to repent of their sins (especially when it comes to homosexuality and fornication) we should just love them. That is not love. The devil tries to twist real love into something much less, tolerance or acceptance.

If someone is breaking the 5thCommandment about murder by ruining their life with destructive, harmful drugs, it is not loving to accept them for who they are. They need real love. They need to be called to repentance and the forgiveness that Christ freely gives.

The devil tries to twist our understanding of the word ‘love’ and weaponize it against the Commandments. So, we need to recognize that the Commandments are a full description of what love looks like. The first three Commandments, the first table of the Law, tells us what love for God looks like. It is to have no other gods, to pray in God’s name, and to hear God’s Word. The 4-10thCommandments tell us what love for the neighbor looks like. It is to honor parents, to help our neighbor when he has any need, to lead a chaste and pure life, to assist our neighbor with his property, to defend our neighbor’s name, and to not covet what our neighbor has. So, let’s move to…

The 6th Commandment
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.

Our Old Testament text (2 Sam. 11:1-17) shows how we never break the Commandments in a singular way. It started when David broke the 10thCommandment and coveted Uriah’s wife. David’s sin then moved to committing adultery, breaking 6thCommandment. Then to breaking the 5thCommandment by murdering Uriah. David certainly was not truthful in his actions, so he broke the 8thCommandment. All of this was also breaking the 7thCommandment by stealing Uriah’s wife. It also broke all the first table of the Law as well. Today, breaking the 6thCommandment about adultery is still often followed by breaking the 5thCommandment about murder. Eighty-five percent of women getting abortions are single.

Our culture is almost completely numb to the accusations of the 6thCommandment, and that includes Christians. So, rather than simply detailing the sins of pornography, fornication, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc., I want you to see how greatly God honors marriage and wants to protect it.

First of all, marriage was a gift of God that came before God instituted either the church or the government. So, after life, marriage is the first thing God protects with a Commandment.

Couples, your marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-33says, “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

If you are married, let your marriage be a relationship of continual forgiveness, like Christ and the Church. If you are not married, know that the most precious gift that God will give you after your life is a spouse. Lead a chaste and pure life now to protect marriage in the future – even if it is not your marriage.

The 7th Commandment
Thou shalt not steal.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by unfair dealing or fraud, but help him to improve and protect his property and living.

In the 7thCommandment, God protects your stuff. God has given you everything you have, and He wants you to have it. God wants you to have stuff, though, not just so you can accumulate piles of wealth for yourself. Instead, God gives you stuff to serve your marriage, your family, your life, etc.

Don’t start patting yourself on the back if you haven’t shoplifted or broken into someone’s car and taken their purse. When you are at work, are you working and attentive to your tasks? When your boss pays you for an hour of work, have you worked that whole hour, or are you stealing from your employer? When you see that someone has a need, have you been greedy with what God has given you and stolen from the poor? Repent.

Repent and know that Jesus is the divine thief who has stolen from you. Jesus took what was yours – He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But in an amazing twist, Christ’s thievery is actually a keeping of the 7thCommandment. By becoming sin for you, Jesus has given you everything – mercy, forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life with Him.

As we sang earlier, “The world seeks after wealth and all that mammon offers yet never is content though gold should fill its coffers. I have a higher good, content with it I’ll be; my Jesus is my wealth. What is the world to me!” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth & Fifth Commandments: Order & Life

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To recap the first three Commandments: God has told us to have no other gods than Himself, to not misuse His name, and to keep the Sabbath holy. In those Commandments, God has given and protected for us the gift of Himself as our God, the gift of His name to use in prayer, and the gift of His holy Word which gives us rest in His mercy.

Tonight, we move to the second table of the Law which has to do with love for our neighbor. But before we dive into the Fourth Commandment, it is good for us to briefly consider the order God has given in these Commandments because it is no accident. Turn in your hymnal to p. 23 because it might be helpful for you to see these Commands since I won’t quote them verbatim. Notice, the order: #4 – Honor your parents. #5 – Don’t murder. #6 – Don’t commit adultery. #7 – Don’t steal. #8 – Don’t harm your neighbor’s name or reputation. And for tonight, I’m going to skip over #9 and #10 both for the sake of time and for the fact that the 9thand 10thCommandments bring us back to the 1stCommandment according to Colossians 3:5.

Again, these Commandments, this second table of the Law, have to do with love for our neighbor. If it were up to us to order the Commandments, we might think the most important Commandment about loving our neighbor is to not murder because that is the most unlovingthing we can think of, but God puts the honor of parents as the first Command when it comes to loving our neighbor. Here is why: The 4thCommandment is about setting up and protecting order in creation. Without the gift of order, life is filled with only chaos and anarchy, so the 4thCommandment comes first. The 4thCommandment is the link between our love for God and our love for our neighbor (more on that in a minute). Now, on to…

The 4th Commandment

Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

This Commandment is unique. Of all the Commandments, only two are positive Commands. By ‘positive’ here, I don’t mean that it makes us feel good or something. Instead, this Command is telling us, “Do this,” just like the 3rdCommand told us, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” All the others are negative, “Don’t do this.” But the main way this Command is unique is that it is the first Command with a promise (Eph. 6:2), “that your days may be long…” The first three Commands don’t contain a stated promise and blessing, but the 4thdoes.

And notice that God does not command that we love our parents; He commands that we honorthem. To honor someone is a higher command than to love because honor includes love but it also includes service, obedience or submission (more on that word in a minute), and respect. In the 4thCommandment, God puts parents right next to Himself as the most important thing in all creation because parents are a manifestation of God on earth.

Think about it this way: Where does your life come from? It comes from God; He is the Author and Giver of life (Act. 3:15; Ps. 139). But through whom does God give you life? Through your parents – through the role, the office, the vocation of father and mother. In that office and vocation, God has hidden Himself.

When you are (or were) a child God gives you protection, food, clothing, shelter, and education, but He did all of that through your parents. When you grow up (or now that you have grown up), God continues to give you all of those things through your boss and through the authorities over you. No one is ever free from being under authority. Even if both of your parents have died, you are still not free from the requirements of this Commandment because there are still parent figures over you either in your workplace or in the government.Romans 13:1connects the civil authorities to the 4thCommandment when it clearly states that everyone is to be subject to the authorities over us because there is no authority except what God has established.

The home is the foundation of all order in all society. Unfortunately, today we have largely lost sight of this, and cultures around the world are suffering because of that. It is from the home that other institutions get their authority. Parents, God gave your children to you, and your children are your responsibility. It is your responsibility as parents to raise your children in the faith, to educate them, to feed and clothe them, etc. There are times when it is good and right to delegate those responsibilities to someone else. But do not think that because you have delegated those responsibilities that you are free from them either. The further you delegate your responsibilities, the more likely it is that those responsibilities will not be carried out well. I don’t want to get too political here, but this is why socialism will never work. Socialism upends the way God created because it tries to replace the government as the source of order and authority instead of father and mother as the source of order and authority.

So, kids listen up, you are to honor your parents simply because they are your parents. It doesn’t matter if they are good parents or not. Their role or vocation as parents demands honor because God has given you life through them. So, if you want to show love for God, listen to God when He says, “Honor your father and mother.” And parents, listen up. You are to serve in your office as a parent in an honorable way because you are the visible, tangible, manifestation of God for your children to protect and enrich their lives which brings us to…

The 5th Commandment

Thou shalt not kill.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do our neighbor no bodily harm nor cause him any suffering, but help and befriend him in every need.

God has given you a body and life, and in this Command God protects that body and life because after the order that God established in the 4thCommandment, your body and life are the most important gift God has given you.

I’m going to be brief on this one because I spent so much time on the 4thCommandment (and I could have gone on for hours on the 4thCommandment). The devil has done a very good job of diminishing God’s gift of life in our society. From abortion to euthanasia and assisted suicide in between, the sanctity of life has been lowered.

Because God created human life by joining body and soul to make a living being, all life from womb to tomb is sacred – period. Jesus tells us how serious God is in this Commandment by saying that anger toward another is the same as murder (Mt. 5:21-22).

With regard to both of these Commandments, we see how we have not lived up to God’s requirements of us. We have not honored our parents and the other authorities over us as we should. We have not helped our neighbor when we have had the opportunity to do so. Repent.

Repent and remember that is why the Son of God became flesh. Jesus had parents and was submissive to them (Lk. 2:51). Jesus loved you perfectly by taking on a body just like yours. In that body, Jesus perfectly loved you by taking all your sin into Himself as He suffered the wrath of God against your sin on the cross. Christ has given you His obedience and taken all your sin. Because of His righteousness and His self-sacrifice, you are made right with God. And know that when He returns, He raise up you and all the dead. And He will grant everlasting life – body and soul joined perfectly together – to you and to all who believe in Him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Second & Third Commandments: God’s Name and Word

Listen here.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Last week, we began our journey through the Ten Commandments with the 1stCommandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” It is important for us to remember there that God is giving us the gift of Himself as our God. He wants us to fear, love, and trust Him above all things. He wants us to let Him, and Him alone, be our God because He has promised and given us His steadfast love and mercy.

Tonight, we consider the 2nd and 3rd Commandments which completes what is usually called the “first table” of the Law.

Before I get into the 2nd and 3rd Commandments, I want to mention something about how the Ten Commandments are numbered. Scripture gives us the Commandments twice (Ex. 20:1-17and Dt. 5:6-21). If you simply took all the things that God said in those texts, you would probably come up with at least eleven commandments (if not twelve commandments). But in Exodus 34:18and a couple other verses (Dt. 4:13& 10:4), you see that God calls them the Ten Commandments (lit. ‘Ten Words’). When God gives the Commandments in Deuteronomy, the commandments about coveting – house; wife, workers, cattle, etc. – are reversed, so we know that the way we number them doesn’t matter too much.

The most important thing is to have ten of them and make sure all God’s words are included. The way we Lutherans have them ordered works nice because the first three deal with our love for God and the last seven deal with our love for our neighbor.

One more thing before we get into the 2ndCommandment: When we think of sin, we think some sins are greater than others. Our conscience (which is good, but we have to remember that our conscience is fallen and doesn’t always work the way it should), our conscience will tell us lying isn’t as bad as stealing which isn’t as bad as murdering. A lot of times, our conscience doesn’t even register sins against the first three Commandments – even though it should. Hopefully, this sermon will convict us and help us to be more mindful of our sins against God so that we cry out to Him for His mercy and forgiveness won for us by Jesus on the cross. And I pray that this sermon will show us what great gifts we are given in the 2ndand 3rdCommandments.

The 2nd Commandment
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, conjure, lie, or deceive by His Name, but call upon Him in every time of need and worship Him with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.

In the 2ndCommandment, God gives us the gift of His name to use in prayer.

God does not want us to misuse His name this is very true. The Jews were so careful about God’s name that they wouldn’t even speak His name. And too often we think that if we don’t go around saying, “Oh my God,” all the time that we have kept this Commandment. We are wrong.

God does not want us to misuse His name, but He does, in fact, want us to use His name properly.

When I was in Bible school, I somehow got the responsibility of keeping the pop machine in the men’s dorm stocked. The year was coming to a close, and I was asked to teach another student how to do it so he could take over the following year after I graduated. The pop was stored in a closet that was locked and had a sliding door. As I was showing him the process, we went to get more pop, but the door had gotten jammed in the tracks. I hefted and jerked and pulled, but I couldn’t get the door to open. I was getting really frustrated.

This little guy (he was from a foreign country) stepped in between me and the door and said, “In the name of Jesus,” right before he yanked on the handle. I remember thinking to myself, “This poor guy. God doesn’t care about a door that is guarding pop.” But do you know what? The door opened. And I was convicted. Here was a need, minor as it was, and his little prayer was answered.

Here’s the point. God wants you to use His name. God wants you to call on Him whenever you face trouble, and He wants you to use His name to praise Him whenever you have joy.

I would encourage you to make it a habit that when you have a need – no matter how big or small it is – to at least pray, “Lord, have mercy.” God hears that prayer and answers it. And whenever something good happens, pray, “Thanks be to God.” Both of these help you use God’s name correctly.

The 3rd Commandment
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the preaching of the same, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.

In the 3rdCommandment, God gives us the gift of His Word which makes us holy.

Sabbath means ‘rest.’ That is why that day is called the Sabbath because God rested from His work in creation. And holy means ‘set apart.’

The main word, the main focus, in this Commandment is ‘holy.’ If simply resting was the main thing in this Command, then taking a nap makes you holy or sleeping in on Sundays and missing church would be a good work. Some Christians will take this Commandment to mean that you shouldn’t put gas in your car on Sunday so businesses will stay closed, or some will say that you should not mow your lawn on Sunday because you are doing work. But resting and not working is not the point of this Commandment. If it is, pastors are constantly breaking this Commandment because, of course, they only work on Sundays.

The main point of this Commandment is rather to set apart a day for holy things. As Christians, we keep this Commandment on Sundays instead of Saturdays (when it originally was) because we weekly celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

The most holy thing we have is God’s Word. 1 Timothy 4:4-5says that everything is made holy by the Word of God and prayer. So in this Commandment, God wants you to set apart, to make holy, a day where He makes you holy through His Word.

Jesus did many miracles on the Sabbath day because He came to restore what sin has broken in this world. He made people holy and whole by a simple Word from His mouth. Jesus still does this today. He invites you to come here and hear His Word which makes you holy.

As His people, may we repent of our lack of prayer and our indifference toward His Word. And may we honor His name by receiving what He freely gives us – His mercy and forgiveness won on the cross. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.