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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why We Need Jesus!

Jesus was once asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40) In this fascinating conversation, Jesus calls us to recall the Ten Commandments. These commandments, which we are receiving in our sermon series right now, flesh out exactly what Jesus is getting at here. The first three commandments (sometimes called, "the first table of the Law") teach us what our relationship with God ought to look like. The other seven commandments ("the second table of the Law") teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves.

To be sure, such commandments are impossible to keep perfectly for sinners, especially when we are to keep them according to God's standard. God's standard is that we keep them without fail. Love God perfectly and love your neighbor perfectly. Jesus says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Such words scare us because we know that we don't keep them in this way. But Jesus does!

Jesus comes, not just to clarify how we should keep the law, but to actually keep it for us. He came to fulfill the law. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17). This means Jesus came to do for us what we could not do. He came to keep the law perfectly for us. He came to be righteous where we are sinful. And by virtue of His death, His sacrifice in our place, His righteousness is counted toward us. That is, Jesus not only died our death, but He lived our life. He lived perfectly for us. We who are baptized into His name are declared righteous because He is righteous for us. We, because of Christ, are now free from the condemnation of the Law. What is more, we are now free to love God and our neighbor without fear of condemnation when we don't do it perfectly!

I have a pastor friend in Arizona who just so happens to be preaching on the Ten Commandments right now, too. He has called his series, "Freedom." I love this title for a series on the commandments. The commandments describe for us how, as Christians, we are FREE to live! In Romans, Paul says this, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) We are free FROM the condemning word of the law and we are free TO fulfill the law by loving God and our neighbor! What a joy it is to live in this life, free from condemnation, free from trying to earn God's love, and freed to love those around us with the love of God!

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus - Oct 2009

Coming off of our summer sermon series on 1 John, it struck me how John so often uses the metaphors of light and darkness. Light refers to truth, the will of God, and of course, Jesus. Then, obviously, darkness refers to those things which oppose all of these: falsehood, sin, and Satan. In the opening of John's Gospel, John says that in Jesus is life "and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:3-4) Jesus came to shed light on our sin and darkness and defeat that with his love and mercy. He shows us the way He has given us to get to heaven. Not by our works (which apart from Him are always in darkness), but through His mercy and grace.

And, as those who have come into the light of God's grace (1 John 1:7), Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world! (Matthew 5:14) In other words, we are to go around embracing people with the love of Jesus, bringing His light into their dark worlds. We do this by telling people the good news that Jesus has forgiven all of their sins by dying on the cross in their place and rising again. This news we shine into their lives will reveal a number of things that were previously hidden in darkness.

First, it will reveal sin and grace. Embracing people with the gospel means that we are giving our friends knowledge of their fallen condition as well as the knowledge of the mercy God has had on them through the cross of Jesus. Sometimes when you wake up at night and turn a light on, it hurts your eyes. But it is necessary to go through that so that you can see where you are going and avoid further danger. Sometimes, this light of knowledge can hurt to hear. But, such a message exposes sin in order to bring about faith and repentance and is ultimately a good thing!

Second, the light will provide security. Many people we know have a hard life or are facing seriously difficult issues. Enlightening them with the love of God in Jesus can provide security in this dark world. Just as it is easier to walk comfortably through a lighted alley than a dark alley, it is more comforting to live in this world knowing that, no matter how rough it is, there is a God whose tender mercy and love is always there for you.

Third, light provides growth. Many people are struggling through life with no hope and no future. Living in darkness makes them feel hopeless. But, just like when you give a dying plant sun, when you give a hopeless person the gospel of Jesus Christ, transformation and growth take place! To see God's purpose and plan for our lives through the light of Jesus Christ gives us excitement and joy amidst this dark world.

John says, "the darkness has not overcome [the light]." We who are in the light and called to be lights to the world cannot be overcome by the darkness that exists all around us. But we can agents of light in these dark places for those who, due to their lack of knowledge, have little comfort and little hope in this world. Let us embrace our loved ones with the light of Christ!

Pastor Bob


Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email