12/13/2015 – Advent 3 – Matthew 2:26-56 – “Seeking Faithful Obedience”

Click this link for an audio version of this message: http://ppl.ug/f9XMxdizIug/

 

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 2:1-26-56

December 13, 2015

“Advent 3: God’s Grace Revealed: Seeking Faithful Obedience”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

God of grace, God of glory, how we praise You and thank You for sending us Your gift of eternal life. Glory to God in the highest! Amen. 

About a month ago Paris, France, and a number of French Parisian suburbs were shot-up and bombed. And the world, including America, surrounded France with love and support – and prayers. Ten days ago a very similar thing happened in a Los Angeles suburb and while support and love went their way, at least from American society the social media was filled with criticism and words even of hatred about how worthless it is to pray for these people.

It was a fascinating cultural flip from our response to France and our reaction to San Bernardino.

 

As we move another week closer to our celebration of Immanuel, God with us, divinity in humanity, the birth of Jesus the Messiah, I wonder how our prayers change. We’re told to pray without ceasing, but with all the holiday hoopla it can be hard to obey that command. In fact, it’s hard to obey almost any of the biblical commands for justice and love and peace and joy when we’re fighting traffic to get the last of this year’s special toy, or imbibing at the office “holiday party” with a little too much enthusiasm.

As we recognize the nearness of Christmas (just 11 shopping days away), what does it mean to obey God?

 

I had a doctor appointment last Wednesday, and my doc reminded me that he has told me for several months to join a gym. And then he said, “With January 1 just a few weeks away, maybe this can be one of your New Year’s Resolutions.”

But even as he was talking I remembered that I’ve told him before that I would join a gym; and I also remember my 8th Grade Sunday School teacher, John Winterling, telling me that “delayed obedience is disobedience.” When I find an excuse to delay obeying God, I am merely disobeying God today.

What is it in your life that you “delay obedience” until a more convenient time? Is there an area of faith/life that we tell God, “Maybe tomorrow,” or “I will when <something> happens?

 

We are now on our 3rd Sunday in the season which prepares us for Christmas. We have been invited, along with Zechariah the nearly retired priest and his post-menopausal wife Elizabeth, to keep our eyes and our faith open to see what God is already doing all around us. We watched as another couple, Joseph, a carpenter, and Mary, a barely pubescent girl, from a backwoods village, willingly listened to and believed God.

Today we watch Joseph and Mary from a different angle – we have been using Luke’s Gospel, today we read from Matthew’s Gospel – and see what they teach us about seeking faithful obedience.

 

Listen to how Matthew 1:18-25 enters into the Christmas narrative: 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Let me stop there for a second. Pretend this was the first time you ever heard this story. You know it’s about Jesus, because Matthew says so right up front: this is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. But — what? Before they came together she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit? How many unplanned teenaged pregnancies have been announced like this before?

So, because Joseph was both law-abiding and decent, he planned to divorce her quietly. Yeah, they weren’t even truly married yet, but in their culture by the time the couple got to this point in their wedding plans, they were as good as married, so “divorceis the right word. But Joseph wasn’t gonna make a big fuss, he’d just divorce her “quietly. I don’t know how one does that. The wedding day is planned, the guests are invited, the party is already underway, the DJ is hired, the church is reserved … and somehow he’s gonna make all that disappear without drawing attention to that fact. But let’s give him credit for trying.

Joseph shows us the value of Facing Unexpected Events GRACEFULLY!

Are we able to meet these upsetting, disappointing, expensive surprises with GRACE? I have watched Jack Berry do that time after time. One time, about 10 years ago, our Mariner’s Fellowship group went up to Hwy 16, near Sacheen Lake for a dinner theater production, and Jack missed the driveway entrance to the parking lot and his SUV went into the snow covered ditch. And what did Jack do? He got Jean out of the truck, went into the theater, called AAA, and had a very enjoyable evening. Jack reached Sainthood in my book that evening. And he showed me what it means to Face Unexpected Events GRACEFULLY.

 

Let’s continue this story, starting now in Matthew 1:20: 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” …

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Joseph heard from Mary already, but now an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him the same thing. He might still say, “No way! I’m outa here!” But he doesn’t. Instead he demonstrates how to Trust God’s Word COURAGEOUSLY! Why do I say “courageously”? Because he and Mary still had all the town talking. The village gossips were still yakking at the supermarket. The men were still speculating at the barber. The school kids were still asking questions on the playground. And they all had their judgmental opinions!

Are we able to trust God with COURAGE? Anyone who has been in this church family for long has seen person after person trust God through scary life circumstances. I’ll bet most of us can think of someone, maybe the person sitting right across from you this morning, who trusted God through financial struggles, through marital difficulties, through health scares. // And, we’ve all not trusted God at all.

Can we put that COURAGEOUS Trust in God’s Word into practice this season?

 

After the baby Jesus was born, Luke tells us, in the manger in Bethlehem, we come to the next Christmas narrative in Matthew’s Gospel. Look with me starting in Matthew 2:13: 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. …

This story is related to the last in that, once again, Joseph trust’s God’s Word; but this story of trust involves obedient action. Joseph exhibits how he Heeds God’s Warnings IMMEDIATELY!

He might have figured he could buy a gun, or take a Karate class, or just hunker down in a bunker and hide – those are the things I might have done. But Joseph wastes no time in Heeding God’s Warning. This is trusting God’s Word, but it is doing that with active obedience, right now!

 

The last part of this Christmas narrative, which is actually several months, maybe three years later, is told starting in verse 19. Listen to God’s Word: 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. …

Joseph does the admirable thing – he Follows God’s Word CONSISTENTLY. We are told that after King Herod died an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take his family back home. He left for Egypt IMMEDIATELY; and now he again hears God’s Word and obeys it without any delay leaving from Egypt! But, even better than merely having an IMMEDIATE and COURAGEOUS trust that results in Faithful Obedience, Joseph also listens to God’s Word in Scripture, for Matthew reminds us that the Old Testament prophets allude to the Messiah being from a place like Nazareth (which was the actual home of Joseph and Mary before they went to Bethlehem for the census)!

It is important to Follow God’s Word CONSISTENTLYnot just when it’s convenient, or seems like a good idea, or won’t be too much of a change in my lifestyle, but CONSISTENTLYday in and day out, Monday through Saturday as well as Sunday.

This, of course, means Faithful Obedience, notdelayed obedience”, notpartial obedience” (I’ll go only so far; I’ll trust God with my check book but not my retirement account!), not disobedience in any fashion! Faithful Obedience!

 

How well do you obey God when unexpected events bring disappointment or pain?

 

How well do you obey God when God calls you to do something that is far bigger than you can achieve without His miraculous power?

 

How well do you obey God when God calls you to act with courage in a dangerous situation?

 

How well do you obey God when God calls you to do something urgent?

 

This is why, on this Sunday, we Seek Faithful Obedience above all else. Glory to God in the highest!

 

Pray with me the prayer on the bottom of your Sermon Notes page, and let’s live into this prayer:

“Lord, help me to obey You with grace, trust, courage, urgency, and consistency. Amen.”

 

Resources:

Family Bible Study; “Advanced Bible Study Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 15-32.

Family Bible Study; “The Herschel Hobbs Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 27-36.

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11/26/2015 – I Thessalonians 5:17-19 – “Now Thank We All Our God”

Thanksgiving 2015

 

Now Thank We All Our God

 

We all know what we’re supposed to today – thank we all our God!  Even un-believers and non-church-goers, even the most base and crass TV families stop for Thanksgiving and offer a word of gratitude to some oft-times-unnamed Higher Power.

Really we don’t believe there’s anyone to thank for most of what we have – we earned it, we deserve it, and we deserve more!

But, we’ll stop one day a year and say Thank You to God.

 

This year, perhaps more than many, we say Thank you to God and to neighbors and to our effervescent electric company. Right? Thank we all our God!

 

Some of you have heard the story behind the song, “Now Thank We All Our God.”  Listen again:

 

This is from Catherine Winkworth’s “Christian Singers of Germany.” She is the one who translated the 17th century hymn into English in the 19th century. “This classic hymn was written by a pastor (Martin Rinkart) who suffered greatly through the 30 Years War in Germany during which (through war and famine) 4/5 of the population of Germany died. He himself was in extreme poverty and when the pastors of his 2 neighboring towns died he ended up having to do the work of 3 pastors, burying 4,000 people in 1637 (50 per day!) – including his wife – when the plague hit. This was followed by a famine so severe that 30-40 people could be seen in streets fighting to the death over the corpse of a dead cat. And then right after this the Swedes invaded and demanded a ridiculous amount of money in tribute. The story goes that he went to intercede with the Swedish commander to reduce the tribute and the commander refused. At this point Rinkart turned to the crowd that was with him and said “Come my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men. Let us take refuge with God.” he then fell to his knees and prayed with such pathos that the commander reduced the tribute from $30,000 to $2,000. He wrote this hymn in 1644, 4 years before the Peace of Westphalia that ended the War in 1648.”

“Now, thank, we all, our God!”

Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonika,

1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NIV)

17 Pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances – not for all circumstances, that might just be silly; but in all circumstances – for God’s power and presence, His grace and might, can be found in every situation.

 

So, today, we look at “HOW” thank we all our God.  If EVERYBODY says some sort of grace on Thanksgiving, if EVERYONE goes around their Thanksgiving dinner table and recites something they’re thankful for, then HOW ARE WE who claim to believe something with substance any DIFFERENT?

 

Among our Sunday studies on the Ten Commandments, we have heard, and today we are reminded, of two things that can make us different:

 

First,

Remember the Lord your God; for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Deuteronomy 8:18

In good and in bad, remember the Lord your God; always give credit to the One who deserves it.  Anything we have, everything we have, is because God has entrusted it to us.

 

Second,

Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

When God entrusts us, He hopes we will trust Him back.  We all know the “God loves a cheerful giver” verse, but it begins with an imperative to be honest and to have integrity.  To respond to God’s love with our STUFF.

 

We will be different from our neighbors this Thanksgiving by being generous and faithful.  And when life is hard, we will find refuge with God.  Now, thank we all our God, together.  Amen.

 

11/22/2015 – Ephesians 4 – “Christ the King Sunday”

[There will be no audio attached this week – no power at the church, everything was very acoustic this morning.]

Mark Wheeler

Mark 12:28-30; Matthew 28:20; John 14:15-24; Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 4

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: Is He King? Or Not?”

November 22, 2015 – Christ the King Sunday

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

We bow before You as our ultimate Ruler and Authority, dear Jesus. Thank You for the gift of the Ten Commandments, and Your simple and profound summary of them. Today, we listen again; and we promise again, to obey. Bend our ears to Your Word, and our wills to Your Commands, we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior. Amen. 

Ma and Pa made their annual visit to church for the Christmas Eve service.
As they were leaving, the minister said, “Pa, it sure would be nice to see you and ma here more than once a year!”
“I know,” replied Pa, “but at least we keep the Ten Commandments.”
“That’s great,” the minister said. “I’m glad to hear that you keep the Ten Commandments.”
“Yup,” Pa said proudly, “Ma keeps six of ’em and I keep the other four.”

 

Last week we finished our final lesson on the Ten Commandments, and today, Christ the King Sunday, we recommit ourselves to obedience.

 

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

That’s not too different from our world – it is, but there are similarities. While we are not under the thumb of a dictator tyrant we do live in a culture that demands we give up some fundamental Christian life-choices, all in the name of more tolerance. We live in a world where the 1% rule over the 99%, without even realizing it. We live in a time where prejudice surrounds us, and even dwells inside us. We, too, need escape from the injustice of dishonor and death and infidelity and greed and slander and even the heart disease of being pained by dissatisfaction.

So God rescues us, as He rescued the Israelites, and He gives us what we have come to know as the Ten Commandments, what James called the Law of Liberty (James 1:25, KJV) and what Paul describes as living a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1, NIV).

The three reasons for the Law – 1) to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ)

 

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them.

 

We all know that Jesus was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy.

And in the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

This first Commandment sets the tone and the pace for all the Commandments which follow. If we can remember that the Lord our God, Yahweh, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all that is – if we can remember that He alone is entitled to supreme reverence and worship – and that anything else that we might cherish lessens, weakens, our trust and relationship with Him – if we can remember that, then the next 9 Commandments become easy.

 

Because this week has been a hard week, for some of us a lonely, cold, dark, week. Let me just walk you through some Bible verses, then I will briefly share a quick discovery I had this week; then we’ll open the floor as we gather in prayer for anyone to share your insights, wonderings, etc. Then we’ll move into our Congregational Meeting.

While we do not have heat here, we do have each other. Some of you might need to get back home, and others might need to linger together. All of that will be possible.

 

Let’s do this together. What are the Ten Commandments?

  1. You shall have No OTHER godsanything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
  2. You shall Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. Because the 3rd Commandment says to not use the Lord’s name in vain, we say: HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. And we’ve interpreted the 4th Commandment about remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy by saying: Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (love God above/before anything else), and our cares and concerns will be taken care of.” We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized. If we do not love God first, we misunderstand how to love our neighbors rightly.

 

After we learn how to love God first, He says to love our neighbors. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability – do not commit murder
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship – do not commit adultery
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us – no stealing
  5. We are to Speak HELPFULLY so that whatever we say has the chance of bringing blessingno giving false testimony
  6. And, we are to find CONTENTMENT whether we are empty-pocketed or overflowing with stuffno coveting

 

The very close of Matthew’s Gospel, after the resurrection, just before Jesus rises into the sky, into the heavens with His Father to sit on His throne as King of kings, in Matthew 28:20 Jesus tells us who follow Him, “18  ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [as King of kings]. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

 

In John’s Gospel, in the scene just before the Lord’s Supper is instituted, Jesus gives this command to His followers: “If you love me, KEEP my commands.” (John 14:15) Whether or not we decide to obey reveals our decision to put no other gods before Him! If Christ truly is “King of all kings and Lord of all lords”, how do we tell Him that that is true? We keep His commands!

 

How do we tell that to the world around us? Paul says in Romans 13, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to LOVE one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…. 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the LAW.

 

Here’s what I discovered this week – on Friday while at a cross-denominational prayer gathering, we read from Ephesians 4, just the opening verses, but then I read the whole chapter. This is Paul’s instructions to a Church in a very hostile environment and the whole chapter is about keeping the Ten Commandments, although he never uses those words. Listen to Ephesians 4:

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. …

 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live … separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives. Is Christ King of our lives? Or is He not?

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

As we move into our time of prayerwhat do you want to share with us about what you have learned in this study of God’s Word in these Ten Commandments?

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “The Law and the Gospel in Perfect Harmony”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 29-31.

10/25/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:18 – “Commandment #7: Be Faithful!”

Click this link to get the audio version: http://ppl.ug/3cef-tAGBJc/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #7 Be Faithful”

October 25, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

I read a story about a man who spent days looking for his new hat. Finally, he decided that he’d go to church on Sunday and sit at the back. During the service he would sneak out and grab a hat from the rack at the back door.

On Sunday, he went to church and sat at the back. The sermon was about the 10 commandments. He sat through the whole sermon and instead of sneaking out, he waited until the sermon was over and went to talk to the minister.

Pastor, I came here today to steal a hat to replace the one I lost. But after hearing your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I changed my mind.”

The minister said, “Bless you friend. Was it when I started to preach thou shall not steal, that changed your heart?

The man responded, “No, it was the one on adultery. When you started to preach on that, I remembered where I left my hat.”

 The only reason this is funny is because it stirs in us a nervous guilt. That’s my guess….

We have invested the last month-and-a-half looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’” And we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Can you name those first four?

  1. No OTHER godsall those other things that we allow to take first place in our lives are out of order!
  2. Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

These first four Commandments are all about that most important one! Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!

But Jesusgoes a little deeper: In the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

That’s what the next six Commandments are about. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Seven. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not commit adultery.”

This is not, especially in a traditional American mostly Caucasian senior-citizen church, [not] a comfortable subject to talk about from the pulpit! But – it’s in the Bible – and it still applies to us. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do not commit adultery!

And, let me add, because of the way Jesus talks about this commandment, and what Paul says in a few places, and what is in the Old Testament Torah-books, and elsewhere in Scripture, I think we can define “adultery as any kind of sexual ethic beyond what the Bible states as “giving honor” and “respecting life”.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, [you have this in your Sermon Notes page if you would like to easily read along – I read a paraphrase this week, by a Bible scholar named John Sartelle, that I think states this so plainly and perfectly; so listen to this paraphrase as you follow along: “‘Jesus is talking, and He says, “By the way, when you attempt to redefine the Law and use it to throw away a wife or a husband at your convenience so you can marry someone more appealing to you – that is nothing but out-and-out adultery. Your effort to legalize it does not make it something moral.” This scholar goes on to say, “Jesus was not setting forth a full treatise on marriage and divorce. He was talking about adultery – that was His subject. The Pharisees were saying, ‘We would never commit adultery. We simply divorce our wives and then we are free to marry more desirable women.’ Jesus was saying ‘That is still adultery! You tried to make it look right through a formal divorce, but it still adultery.’ (Matthew 5:27-32) He even says that just “lusting” after a woman commits your heart to adultery.

Why? Because the two had become one! You can’t, willy-nilly, tear that apart! Not without damaging both halves!

Let’s take a few more steps back – in time and in Scripture: Eve stood before Adam, and he stood before her. God had made them for each other. As they observed each other, there must have been wonder. She saw that he was the same, and yet different. He saw that she was the same, and yet different. However, in their differences they fit each other. Their differences actually enhanced their relationship. They reveled in the Creator’s design for their bodily union. And in short time they would discover that there were other differences as wellemotional differences, personality differences, etc. Daily they would discover that the other contributed something to the marriage that the first could not. Each of these differences made them better as a couple.

And because of these differences, God’s design was that, the two would become one. That was God’s plan. “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder.”

Now, let’s be honest. Adam and Eve had way fewer extramarital options or temptations than we have today! Whom would they have “cheatedwith? Right?

But let’s be just as honest as we look at what is right and what is wrong. The beauty of God’s plan is not made ugly just because we are given more responsibility to be faithful!

Is divorce ever permitted? Ever acceptable? Ever the best choice? Yes. It is not God’s hoped-for plan, but in this very passage, Jesus gives permission to make it right when there has been infidelity! The Command, therefore, is Be Faithful!

And infidelity comes in many forms, including “good, old-fashioned adultery”, but being unfaithful happens with abuse, with estrangement, with “lust”, with pornography, with lack of affection. With all the biblical pictures of “faithfulness”, we are not lacking understanding of unfaithfulness.

It is sometimes the wisest choice to leave an abusive spouse – the right choice for both the victim and the children! When lives are being ruined, by any understanding of infidelity, divorce might be the only right option.

But it should not be willy-nilly simple! God has revealed Himself as the Bridegroom, and Israel and the Church, the fulfilled people of Israel, as His Bride. And He stays with us even though we have strayed away from being faithful! Thanks be to God.

How should we then live? How do we make decisions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage? We must return to the truth and beauty of God’s original design. We must set before the world the wonder and majesty of that physical, emotional, spiritual union that our Creator gave to be an immutable and indescribable blessing to His creation.

Yes, we are still sinners. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of infidelity to our spouse, we give glory to God, we honor our spouse, and we respect the life that our marriage represents.

For those in the room who are not married – you are not left out in this Command. Be Faithful, like Brelyn Bowman was.

Did you see the story this week of the bride who, at her wedding, gave to her father a certificate, signed by her physician, that she was still a virgin? This couple, and this family, was celebrating their pledge to be faithful to God’s purposes (no sex outside of marriage). And the uproar across this nation has been incredible!

Living with a Biblical standard of sexual ethics might be hard work. That is why God gave us this commandment:

  • To reveal to us how much we need a Savior
  • To reel in our selfish desires to mistreat each other
  • To remind us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We might argue and debate over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.

Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:105 tells us: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Amen.

Resources:

Bowman, Brelyn; ABC Good Morning America; 10/23/2015.

Table Talk: The Christian Sexual Ethic; “What God Has Joined Together”; John P. Sartelle; November 2015; Pp. 4-9.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 6.

10/04/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:12-15 – “Take a Sabbatical”

For an audio version of this message, click on this link: http://ppl.ug/a-jwBBm1NH8/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: Take a Sabbatical”

October 4, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

So, this man comes into the synagogue on a Sabbath Day to call the doctor about his sick child. “Do you have a ticket to get in?” asks the usher at the door.

“No I don’t. I just need to speak to Dr. Schwartz.”

“Sorry, I can’t let you in without a ticket.”

“But you don’t understand – my child is sick and I may need to take him to the hospital. This is a matter of life and death.”

The usher finally relents – “OK, I’ll let you in. But don’t let me catch you praying!”

In today’s passage from Deuteronomy 5 (and from Exodus 20) we hear a Commandment about remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy. Remember how and why God gave us these Ten Commandments? ·

Israel in Egypt for 400 years·

Egyptian kings forgot how valuable Israelites had been to Egypt’s economy·

New Pharaoh, out of fear of the large number of these immigrant people, becomes a tyrannical power player and puts the Israelites in poverty·

God gives the Israelites Moses as a deliverer·

Moses meets God in a burning bush, and God tells him His name is YHWHI am who I am (whenever we read the word Lord in all caps, that means the Bible actually says YHWH [or Jehovah], but God’s name is too holy for the Jews to actually utter, so they say Adonai which means Lord

Moses rescues them from Egypt and they wander for 40 years in the Wilderness on their way to the Land God had Promised their forefathers

While in the Wilderness God gives these delivered Israelites a new way of living from what they had known under the power-broker Pharaoh – the Ten Commandments

Listen to the Word of the Lord from Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 12-15…. —-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

(1 – no other gods

2 – make no images

3 – Do not misuse God’s name ,,, 4)

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. the Lord your God has commanded you to take a Sabbatical! – You were slaves in Egypt with no weekend and no paid vacation – Now – I say – take a weekly Sabbatical!

 

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving, of His Word, which never fails! This Fall as we have been examining these Ten Commandments, we have noted three main reasons why God gave His people these Laws:

  1. to show us how badly we need a Savior (just like the Israelites needed a savior from Pharaoh),
  2. to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3.                to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God, and as followers of Jesus, what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification How does this Commandment do any of these things? We have been asking, what exactly does this Commandment mean? And how do we apply it in Spokane in 2015?!

We could look at Paul’s words in Romans 14 (:5-8) where he says: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

And I could create a 25 minute sermon on what that means for us. But today we are going to do this sermon-time a little differently.

On your Sermon Notes page you will find a Gospel story from Mark 2 (so, very early in Jesus’ ministry). Today we will invest some time “dwelling” in this Word from God.

I am asking for two volunteers, one female and one male, to read this passage out loud. The rest of us, I want us just to listen (and follow along) as it is read.

But, today, instead of us examining the Scripture and digging into what it says (with us intently looking down on God’s Word), I invite you to allow the Scripture to examine us, and dig into our lives (as if we are sitting under God’s Word, and He is looking into our lives).

After the readings we will sit in silence and reflect on what was read. Maybe thinking through the questions on the bottom of the page.

Then, when I signal you, turn to someone near you, in groups of two to four, and share your answers with each other. This is putting into practice the belief in the priesthood of all believers. After a few minutes of sharing, I will ask for a few of you to share what you heard from those in your group.

And then, we’ll close in prayer. Are you ready? Who would like to be one of our readers?

Mark 2 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

 

Where did your imagination stop?

 

Are there words, phrases, ideas that grasp you?

 

What are you hearing in this text (where might the Holy Spirit be nudging you?)?

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever.

Psalm 119:34 declares: “Give me understanding, and I will keep Your Law; yes, I will observe it with my whole heart.” Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.

09/20/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:8-10 – Ten Rules for Faithful Living: #2 “No Icons on the Desktop”

http://ppl.ug/_kx6cz4h314/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:4-63; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Icons on the Desktop”

September 20, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

A Sunday School student was asked to list the 10 Commandments in any order.

His answer? “3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7.”

 

Martin Luther once said that “anyone who knows the Ten Commandments perfectly knows the entire Scripture.” (The Larger Catechism)

We all know that Jesus agreed with Martin Luther when He was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy (look again at your Call to Worship from Deuteronomy 6). Love the Lord your God with all that’s in you, with all you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification

Here are the opening words, and then the second of the Big 10 Commandments from the book of Deuteronomy – the second reading of the Law of God. Hear the Word of God….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image … [to] bow down [to] or worship ….”

We got the First Commandment last week pretty clear – but what does this Second Commandment mean?

It seems straightforward – no idols, no icons, no things, that you might worship as more essential than God Himself.

This is really a Command about our inner-desires, isn’t it? Desire Goddo not desire whatever it is that might take God’s place.

There have been debates and church splits over how to define and obey this Commandment – does it mean no art work of any kind? Churches have been vandalized and torn apart and destroyed because of a statue or a painting in it. It does say, after all, “do not make any image of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the water ….” But the Commandment adds the phrase about bowing down and worshiping. When the artwork becomes more important than that which it depicts, it becomes a sin. I think the issue here is about when our desires become disordered by yearning for what is enticing us as if God does not exist!

Why is there a Commandment about not making forms and images? Let’s ask this question another way: What are God’s physical characteristics? God is Spirit, right? So how do we accurately depict that with an icon? How would one appropriately make something that looks like God?How do we meet God in the Old Testament? ·

Fire … burning bush, pillar of fire·

Smoke … pillar of smoke·

Wind … hovered over creation – no way to precisely depict something that is ever changing shape·

Voice … God speaks with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with Jesus! (with Paul.)

God reveals Himself through voice – sometimes spoken, sometimes written. So, God forbids the worship of the true God by way of any images or resemblances – there are to be none. In the time of Moses many nations claimed that their images were gods, others that their images were mere reflections of gods; but the God of the Bible says, NO IMAGES.

This Commandment includes some harsh wordsI, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. The sins of one generation often have consequences that fall on the next. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrong – take that role seriously.

But this Commandment also comes with amazing promiseI, the Lord your God, show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrongtake that role seriously.

 

But the real reasons why worshiping idols don’t work is that idolsicons on our desktops, figurines in our parks, flags on our poles, money in our banks, dreams and desires that pretend that God doesn’t really existidols cannot engage with us, cannot be in relationship with us.

Listen again to the voice of God remind us why He gives us the Ten Commandments: The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

God wants honest relationship with you, with us. If He is not in a living relationship with us, we might have an idol.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah tells us that idols are nothing more than extra baggage we carry around with us – made of stone or wood but with no more integrity or glory than vanity or a puff of wind. Can we name our idols? We can probably all name idols that our neighbors have, or our pastor….

But let me step on some toes this morning with some generalizations that are at least partly true.Generationally we all carry some idols in our lives, things we value and worship, sometimes more than we value and worship our relationship with God. Ready?

I’ll start with the newest generation – those that are in what is sometimes called Generation Z (born after 2000). People in this Generation value “Beauty”. Beauty, above all else, is what is important. Beauty is good, and important, but should it surpass receiving the relationship with the God of Beauty?

Millennials (born between 1985 and 2000). People in this generation value that which is Good. If it is Good, for the poor, for the environment, for those who need “good”, than it is valued as most important; but should “Good” go beyond the God who created Good from nothing and expects, demands Good from His followers?

Busters (born between 1964 and 1985), sometimes called Generation X. This generation values what is Real, authentic, transparent. If it is “Real” it is worth our attention and time. But is it better than the only Real God there is?

Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1963). This is my generation. We value that which we recognize as Truth. Truth trumps all else, but should concepts of Truth outshine the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life?

Builders (born between 1924 and 1944), most of us in this room. This generation is known more for their religious fidelity than the younger generations (as is evidenced by attendance in churches like ours across this land); and so they have come up with sayings like “I stand for God and Country”, “God and Flag”, “God and Duty”. But sometimes the tendency is to place Country, Flag and Duty as co-equal with, even out-doing, God.

This Second Commandment, along with the First, tells us that God does not want, does not need, and shuns these icons on our desktops – the God-ands we proclaim, the Truths we preach, our Real feelings, our Moral judgments, and even our Beauty admirations. These all become “forms” of a god. What God wants is our desireabove and before our desire of anything else, God deserves to be at the head.

How do we possibly gain victory over any of these idols that call our names, how are we successful over whole generational ideologies of value?

Let me give you two simple strategies: worship and prayer.

When we worship the only True God, when we gather together to sing His praises and when we come before His throne all on our own, we put God first – and all the idols of prestige and importance, the icons of philosophy and valued perspective, the forms of want and fancy become desire for God Himself!

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:11 tells us: “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Amen.

Resources:

Hauerwas, Stanley; William Willimon; The truth About God: The 10 Commandments in the Christian Life; Abingdon Press; NY, NY; 1999.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.

Wilson, Tobin; “No Eikons on the Desktop”; sermon preached at Placentia Presbyterian Church; 08/16/2015.

09/13/2015 – Exodus 20:1-3 – 10 Rules for Faithful Living: “No Other”

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:1-7; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Other”

September 13, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, on this weekend when we remember the devastations of 9/11/2001, and we are humbled by the gift we have – the gift of freedom and the opportunities to live into that freedom. Help us, right now, to put away any lingering anger or fear, any prejudice or hate, even any thoughts or wonderings about those who perpetrated such evil or the direct victims of that evil. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Ma and Pa made their annual visit to church for the Christmas Eve service.
As they were leaving, the minster said, “Pa, it sure would be nice to see you and ma here more than once a year!”
“I know,” replied Pa, “but at least we keep the Ten Commandments.”
“That’s great,” the minister said. “I’m glad to hear that you keep the Ten Commandments.”
“Yup,” Pa said proudly, “Ma keeps six of ’em and I keep the other four.”

 

7 habits of,  3 steps to,  10 rules for …

Too simple to be real, but often offer something of substance …

The right place of order/law – keeps us in line (speed limit, good neighbors=good fences)

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ)

Page 2 of The Law of Liberty – “O How I Love Thy Law”

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

Here are the opening words, and the first of the Big 10 Commandments. Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

 

And from Deuteronomy 5 (Latin or Greek majors? What does “deuteros” mean? Second – that’s what this whole book is about – the 2nd time Moses tells us about the Law.) Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. Let’s do this sermon a little differently today – turn to someone near you and tell that person what this Commandment means. Both Exodus and Deuteronomy tell it in exactly the same way: You shall have no other gods before me. What does that mean? Now, let’s hear what some of you said – anyone? Would anyone like to yell out a god that maybe threatens this Commandment? What gods in our culture seem to come before the Lord our God?·       Money·       Success·       Education·       Being right·       Fun·       Stuff·       Worry·       Fear·       FOMO

How do we have victory over these “other gods”?

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

And the second time Moses said this, when he reminded the Israelites, and you and me, of these Commandments, he said it like this:

Deuteronomy 5: Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

How do we have victory over these “other gods”? Trust in the Lord our God! He is the One who rescues, redeems, saves, and secures us in His presence!

We all know that Jesus was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy.

In Luke’s Gospel some lawyer who wants to be a follower of Jesus asks Jesus how to follow Him, so Jesus asks the lawyer what the greatest Commandment is – and this lawyer gives this exact same answer (Luke 10:27).

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

 

This first Commandment sets the tone and the pace for all the Commandments which follow. If we can remember that the Lord our God, Yahweh, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all that is – if we can remember that He alone is entitled to supreme reverence and worship – and that anything else that we might cherish lessens, weakens, our trust and relationship with Him – if we can remember that, then the next 9 Commandments become easy.

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives. If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:2 tells us: “Blessed are they that keep God’s testimonies, and they that seek Him with their whole heart.” Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “O How I Love Thy Law”, “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 2-4.