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Pentecost 4, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 28, 2020
Jeremiah 28:5-9, Romans 7:1-13, Matthew 10:34-42

 

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itunes:                          bit.ly/pastorjud
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Ever since Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from the Lord, people have had a difficult relationship with God’s Law. What is the purpose of the Law?  How does God’s law function?  What does it mean to me?

When we study Luther’s Small Catechism we learn that God’s Law shows us our sin.  We think S.O.S.;  “Shows our sin.”  The Gospel is also S.O.S. “shows our savior”.  This seems simple enough, but we have a complex relationship with the law as we learn in today’s reading from Romans 7.

Sort of strangely, one thing the Law can do is awaken sinful desire.  You have an inbred, rebellious nature, and when you hear that you should not do something it can make you want to do it more.  The joke is that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, or forbid your kids from doing it.  “Whatever you do, don’t cut the grass.”  Forbidden fruit is sweet.  There is something in us to varying degrees that makes us just want to be mischievous.  I think school kids often can get involved in sex or vaping or drinking or smoking weed because they are attracted to the secretive naughtiness of it all.  The feeling that you are breaking the rules and getting away with it is, for many, a powerful attraction.  There is something in us that causes us to want to be bad.  That something is original sin, inherited from Great-Grandpa Adam.  Due to your sinful nature, God’s law can awaken sinful desire.  God’s law also shows your sin.

Have you ever cleaned your house by the light of a single candle?  Wouldn’t that be great?  Things look pretty good in the dark.  But when you turn on some lights you see what you were missing.  The hallway downstairs here by the boiler room used to have a single light bulb and the carpet in the hall looked okay.  Years ago, when we installed a new drop ceiling with 2×4 light fixtures suddenly the carpet did not look very good. God’s law functions this way.

The Law of God shines light on your life.  The more you study the Law, the more light shines and the more sinful you realize that you are.  The Law serves to curb bad behavior and it serves as a guide as to how to live, but it also serves as a mirror showing you the ugly truth about your sinfulness. The Law shows sin to be sin and shows you to be sinful beyond measure – and this is good.  This is a good function of God’s law.

Why is it good to know that you are sinful beyond measure?  It is good, because you want to be in charge.  Because, like a young child, you want to point to your own actions and say, “Look what I have done.”  But the Law takes that away from you.  The Law shows your sinfulness beyond measure.  The Law strips away from you any thought that you can be good enough.

When a child gets caught doing something wrong and is facing punishment and is negotiating for mercy what does he say?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  How many times have you said these same things to God when you are negotiating after sinful behavior?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  But for how long are your promises good?  The Law has made it clear, you are sinful beyond measure.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step program of recovery, step one is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Knowing you are sinful beyond measure leads you to admit that you are powerless against sin and your life has become unmanageable.  Admit you are powerless.  That’s how we begin worship each Sunday; by admitting we are powerless. “I, a poor, miserable sinner.”  “We are by nature sinful and unclean…”  We “first consider our unworthiness and confess before God and one another that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”

The Law is a brutal taskmaster making demands that you cannot accomplish.  You so much want to believe that you can be good enough, but the Law lets you know that you cannot.  This can lead to despair in which you just give up trying because you know you can’t do it.  Or it can lead to self-righteousness in which you start to believe that you are good enough because you are better than others. But these are both tricks of the devil. The law shows you that sin is sin, and you are sinful beyond measure.  Is there any hope?

AA step two is “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  For Christians convicted by the Law and knowing you are sinful beyond measure you also turn to a higher power, and you can declare who the higher power is.  “For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.”  “…For the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me.”  “Together as His people let us take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

 In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

You cannot free yourself from sin but Jesus can and Jesus does.  “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”  The Law shows your sin and shows you your need for Jesus.  The Gospel shows you your savior.

The great Good News of the Gospel is that you have been released from the Law.  You have died to the Law.  You have died to the Law in your baptismal death and rebirth.  You no longer live under the tyrannical demands of the Law, but you live in the new life of the Spirit.  Romans 7:4 (ESV) 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.[1]

In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

So many view the Law of God as if God is pointing a gun at your head demanding, “behave or else.”  Folks think that in order to be saved they need to be good enough.  They need to conquer sin in their life.  But the Law shows that you cannot be good enough.

In Christ, it is not about being good enough.  Jesus is good enough.  Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who paid the penalty for your sin.  In Christ you have died to the law.

The struggle against sin is intense and ongoing.  The struggle becomes easier knowing that your salvation does not hang in the balance.  It is easier to battle sin when you know the war is already won.  It is difficult to believe that it is not about what you have done, and that is a wonderful, freeing truth.  Your salvation is not based on what you do, but based on what Jesus has done for you.

No longer do you obey God in order to be saved.  Now you obey God because you are saved.  This is a huge difference.  Obedience to earn salvation leads to despair or self-righteousness.  Obedience because you are saved is done in the peace of God and in the joy of salvation. Knowing you are already saved by the blood of Jesus frees you to live in love for God and love for one another. Knowing God does not have a gun to your head demanding obedience, but instead He died in your place, frees you to live for God.

God’s Law still serves you as a curb, a mirror and a guide.  It helps you to live the Christian life.  The Law serves you, but it is not the source of your salvation.  You have died to the Law and now you live in Christ in the new life of the Spirit.

Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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