3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 2

Last time we talked about the requirements of the First Commandment. Today let’s dive into the other two categories and try and find a way to help us defeat the idols we fall for in our daily lives. But first, let’s read the rest of the text for the commandment:

For I am the Lord your God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me, and bestowing mercy on them that love me to thousands of them, and on them that keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:6 (LXX2012)

When children today are taught the commandments this portion of the text is sadly cut off in most cases. This portion contains, not only what we already know, that God judges those who worship any other than Him; but it also tells us that great mercy is given to 1,000 generations if only one would trust Him. This is the secret, I think, in keeping this command.

The Blessings of the First Commandment

For if you rest, you shall be undismayed; and if you sleep, you shall slumber sweetly.

Proverbs 3:24 (LXX2012)

The blessings of the first commandment are the greatest of all. God promises to be our God. He says He will govern and uphold us. He will keep us, protect us in our greatest fear, love us through our biggest messes, and provide for us whenever we have a need.

God will through means, that is, through the governing of creation, provide for us all that is necessary for both this life and the next. He will not rain down from heaven our food as for Israelites in the desert, but rather will enable us to gain what we must, to barter for what we need.

The Perversion of the First Commandment

Finally, we have the way in which Satan seeks to pervert the first commandment. Satan looks to bring evil upon us. In doing so, he is craftier than any other. Thrusting torments at us he tricks us into thinking it comes from God. We do not have enough money, or a big enough house, because God has not fulfilled his end of the bargain. We lose our job or fail in a venture because God did not prosper our way.

In doing so, Satan manipulates us into despising God and turning to other means to supply our want. We then make idols out of other ways to provide our needs. Abandoning the God that could save us from all this trouble.

Even worse, the evil one tricks us into thinking that now God owes us something and thus we make God out to be a debtor.

Keeping the Command

It is this great trick of the devil that hinders us from trusting fully in God. Because at the very root of our distrust is our firm belief that God either will not supply us our need or that He will instead meet out judgement on our heads.

Yet when we come to acknowledge that God is constantly providing us precisely what we need (though not in the manner we expect it) we begin the very long journey of trusting in Him whom we have not seen. Just as Jesus has taught:

Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.

John 20:29 (WEB)

Conclusion

What struggles do you face that keep you from believing? Let’s talk about them in the comments below. There is much that can prevent us from seeing God for Who He is. One job of the Church is to help one another see the One True God and realize His great love for us.

Next week, let’s take a look at the second commandment, how to use God’s name.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

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3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 1

Now that we have a firm idea of what to look for when studying the commandments (The Requirement, Blessing, and Perversion) we are ready to study in a little depth the first command.

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods beside me. You shall not make to yourself an idol, nor likeness of anything, whatever things are in the heaven above, and whatever are in the earth beneath, and whatever are in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them;

Exodus 20:3-5 (LXX2012)

The First Commandment is the most important of all. Fundamentally, the breaking of any of the other nine commandments is also a violation of this First Command. Also, The keeping of this commandment requires that the other nine follow suit.

Therefore, a strong understanding of what it means to have no other gods but God is critical to keeping and understanding all of the commands.

The Requirement of the First Commandment

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Luther’s Small Catechism

In this commandment, God forbids idolatry, that is, having any god before Him.

What is a god?

But what does it mean to have a god? In order to know that, we must know what a god is.

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I [Luther] have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.

LC I:2

In short, a god is that which we trust with our whole heart. Most of us would have to admit the thing we trust most is not god. In fact, I would bet that the thing we both trust more is wealth.

When we have money, we rest secure. Yet the moment we lack sufficient funds, we instantly enter into a panic. Why? Because without that money we cannot meet our needs. We cannot pay for food, rent, taxes, etc.

This alone should convict our souls of damnable idolatry. In our section on the Creed we learned that God “richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil”. So if we are looking to money to meet those needs, we do not look to God. We have made money our god.

A Subtle Idol

There is yet another, more subtle way to create an idol. We can be like the man from Jesus’ parables of the talents. We can make God into something He is not, most commonly a debtor. For has the servant in the parable made his master out to be a “hard man”, so he received a hard master. We, Who make God out to be a debtor, make Him into no god at all, but rather into a weaker figment of our imagination that cannot accomplish the things we need a God to do. This is even worse than to trust in money which is at least capable of some meager aid.

We ought to examine our heart as to whether we have the One True God or a false one. Does our heart look to God for only good and comfort? Or does it look elsewhere?

Conclusion

In my next post we will look at the blessings and perversions of the First Commandment, which will hopefully shed some light on how to overcome our failures in keeping the requirements we have just learned.

I would love to hear in the comments below what some of the biggest idols are that we struggle with every day.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Ways The Law Applies To Christians Today

Last week, we talked about how the doctrines of Law and Gospel have been horribly misused in the Church today. In order to help prevent further misunderstanding, and to prepare for our upcoming discussion on the Ten Commandments I would like to briefly cover the three uses for the Law today.

The Three Uses of the Law

We know now what the Law is, the teaching of what is pleasing to God and the rebuking of sin. This is a very necessary doctrine and most certainly has its place in the Christian Church. We can also know from the preaching of Jesus Christ, particularly from His Sermon on the Mount, that none of us can perfectly keep this Law. So how are we to use it correctly?

The three ways to use the Law are:

    1. To maintain external discipline in society

The Law serves to show us how to establish a just society. To outlaw and to punish justly certain crimes such as murder, theft, and rape(Deut. 16:20). It also serves to teach how to guard certain rights such as private property, right to justice, fair treatment for poor and rich alike (Isaiah 1:17). We are under no obligation to implement these laws exactly as they are found in Scripture. Only to learn from them the true definition of a just society.

    2. To reveal to us our sin

The second use is as a mirror. The Law reveals to us our sin. Showing us just how sick we truly are and how deep the infection goes (Romans 7:7). Without the Law, we could easily convince ourselves that we are relatively good people deserving of some good in this world and a comfortable place in the next. However, the Law will show us that we are eviler than we ever dreamed in our darkest nightmares. The mobs that run the streets would look like an old lady’s tea party compared to the wretchedness in our hearts (Romans 7:18-20).

The Law reveals this to us that we may be properly prepared for the Gospel. When a person has come to the revelation above, they are ready for the Gospel.

    3. To guide Christians (and only Christians) to the knowledge of what pleases God

The third use of the Law applies only to Christians. It reveals to them what things please God. This has no place in the discussion until a person has received their faith and is among the elect of God (Heb. 116). If you are not saved, the Law is nothing to you but threats. For the unregenerate will follow the Law only out of fear. Yet, even their obedience is a sin to God for it comes not through faith. To reject the sacrifice of the Son of God is so horrible, no good deed could erase it. However, the regenerate, the Christian, would follow the Law from pure love, out of a sole desire to please the God they love (Galatians 1:10). It has nothing at all to do with earning or deserving their salvation. That has already been given them freely. It has everything to do with love for their Savior.

Conclusion

Today we have finished up our mini-series on the doctrines of Law and Gospel by covering in brief the three correct ways to use the Law. Next time we will begin our series on the Ten Commandments.

As always I would love to read your comments below or through my Contact Page.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Methods To Misapply Law And Gospel

Last week, we introduced the two great doctrines of the Bible, Law, and Gospel. We also very briefly talked about the correct way to make use of these two doctrines. Unfortunately, most Christians today unintentionally confuse these doctrines, causing great harm. Today we will cover three general ways these doctrines are abused.

The Heresy of Confusion

The great heresy that I believe plagues today’s churches is the confusion of these two great doctrines in the following three ways:

  1. The preaching of the Law only apart from the Gospel
  2. The preaching of the Gospel only apart from the Law
  3. The improper mixing of Law and Gospel

Preaching Law Alone

Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! No, we establish the law.

Romans 3:31 WEB

When pastors only preach the Law, that is, only preach what pleases God and rebuke all sin they leave their congregation either in the depths of despair knowing they can never please God. This was the very state of Judas after betraying our Lord. Or, they leave them in the very hand of Satan, having puffed up their pride making them think they could actually please God by keeping perfectly the Law.

Preaching Gospel Alone

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?

Romans 6:1-2 WEB

When pastors only preach the Gospel, that is, teaching that Christ has paid for all sins, he leads his congregation into a life of debauchery and sin. For they become comfortable in their failings and believe that because Christ has paid their debt they may continue in their immoral ways for, surely salvation is free.

Confusing Law and Gospel

In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:16b WEB

These two ways of preaching are usually easy to detect and, for the devout Christian, easy to abandon. However, the true danger lies in the improper mixing of the two. For when pastors mix incorrectly these two doctrines you will hear such things as if you are homosexual you will go to hell, if you commit suicide you are lost, if you do not produce good fruit you are not saved, and if you do not repent you are damned. It tells you that if you doubt your salvation look to your own worry and that alone tells you that you are elect.

I am deeply saddened when I think of how many souls have been robbed of the hope of Christ by these lies. How many people have been fed a false Christianity and therefore abandoned the faith because of this heresy. So I will lay out here what the proper use of the Law and the Gospel are. So that we may quickly recognize these lies and also that we may share the truth with those in desperate need of it.

Conclusion

Today we looked at the three general ways that the Law and the Gospel are misused in the Church today. Next week we will conclude our mini-series on Law an Gospel by discussing the three proper uses of the Law in preparation for talking about the final fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the Ten Commandments.

For now, I would love to hear from you. Are there ways you can see where this confusion of Law and Gospel has been used to confuse or hurt you in your Church? Please feel free to share your story and/or opinions in the comments below or to me directly through my Contact Page.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

2 Primary Doctrines of the Bible

Since beginning this blog I have attempted to cover, in brief detail, the fundamental building blocks of the Christian faith. However, I skipped over the traditional first section, the Ten Commandments. The reason for doing so is that the Ten Commandments are associated with, what I believe, is the biggest heresy plaguing the Christian Church today. I wanted to put as much focus as I could on the other doctrines that we may be well prepared to take on this heresy.

The true light of the Ten Commandments has been dimmed greatly in recent years, as many take on the role of a pastor without a thorough understanding of the two great doctrines of the Bible. Though the Bible contains many doctrinal, historical, and scientific facts, its primary purpose is to teach us these two great doctrines. These two great doctrines are the Law and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The Law

According to the Formula of Concord, the Law is defined as:

Teaching what is right and pleasing to God, and rebuking everything that is sin and contrary to God’s will. Everything that rebukes sin is, and belongs to, the Law.

(Ep V:3)

The Gospel

The Gospel is also defined in the Formula of Concord as:

The kind of teaching which shows what a person who has not kept the Law (and therefore is condemned by it) is to believe. It teaches that Christ has paid for and made satisfaction for all sins. Christ has gained for an individual – without any of his own merit – forgiveness of sins, righteousness that avails before God, and eternal life.

(Ep V:5)

Preaching of Repentance

As can be seen in many places in the Bible the Gospel often includes the preaching of repentance (see Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21). This is because the term ‘Gospel’ is often used in a general sense. The preaching of repentance properly belongs to the Law. Therefore, preaching the Gospel is often preceded by the preaching of repentance. It serves as a bridge between the Law and the Gospel.

To the Gospel belongs solely the preaching of consolation and comfort. It points away from our own works to those of Jesus Christ and saving faith which God bestows.

The Right use of Law and Gospel

Therefore true Biblical preaching would follow the general pattern below:

  1. Present the Law revealing the great sin that lies within us (which only the Law can reveal):

Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36 WEB (emphasis added)

2. Then give a call to repentance. For God, through His Word will work a sorrow unto repentance.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Acts 2:37 WEB

3. Finally, bring comfort to their souls, in its proper time, through the Gospel. Pointing only to the work of Christ.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”

Acts 2:38-39 WEB (empasis added)

Conclusion

Today we have introduced the two great doctrines of Law and Gospel along with a very general introduction to the proper use of these doctrines. In the next blog post, we will look into the abuses of these great doctrines and how they have harmed many Christians today.

Please feel free to comment below or send me a private email through my Contact Page. It is always a pleasure hearing from my readers.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Easy Ways To Make The Most Of Communion – Part 2

Sacrament of the Altar

Today we continue our series on the Sacrament of the Altar. Last week, we discussed the first way of getting the most out of communion by understanding just what communion is. This week we will talk about the second way, that is what benefits we derive from receiving communion. But first, let’s review the passage of scripture we are studying:

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread. He thanked God for it and broke it. He gave it to the disciples and said, `Take this bread and eat it. It is my body.’ He also took a cup. He thanked God for it. Then he gave it to the disciples and said, `All of you drink from this. This is my blood. My blood is the blood of the new agreement. It is given so that many people will be forgiven for the wrong things they did.

Matthew 26:26-28 WEB

What are its benefits?

The above description of Communion is likely shocking or offensive to most Christians. But that is likely because they have not thought through the reason for Communion.

Many Christians in America today believe Communion to be nothing more than a sign, a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. This is not entirely wrong. For that is one of the reasons we ought to go to receive the Sacrament often (every week if possible).

The benefits of the sacrament are:

  1. So that God may teach us to believe that Christ died for my particular sins due solely to His great love for us
  2. So that we may recall the death and the shedding of Jesus’ blood in order to understand that no creature but the God-man Jesus Christ could make satisfaction for our sins
  3. So that we may learn to look with terror on our sins which caused Jesus to suffer as He did
  4. So that our faith may be strengthened against the onslaught of the evil one

The devil, our enemy seeks to ruin the faith of everyone that he can. Even if he cannot remove our faith, he will not stop until he has worn us out so completely that we renounce or become indifferent to our faith just to escape his attention. God knowing this, leaves us this great gift to strengthen us in the fight for faith. That all of the benefits of faith may become our own in us as a sure pledge from Christ refreshing us for the coming battles.

The saving faith the devil seeks to rob us of, God seeks to build and strengthen in Communion that we may not be lost, for He loves us so much that He not only sent Christ to die for us but commanded that His body and blood be given to us to strengthen us while we are in this world.

Keep awake! Watch! Your enemy the devil is walking around like a growling lion. He is looking for someone to catch.

1 Peter 5:8 WEB

Conclusion

Today we looked at the benefits that Christ gives us every time we partake of Communion in faith. We know from scripture the devil seeks every day to rob believers of their saving faith. Thankfully our loving Lord has not left us without a means to strengthen ourselves against his assaults. How can knowing this encourage Christians to receive Communion more often in their worship together?

I would love to hear from all of my readers either in the comments below or through email on my Contact Page. Also feel free to share a link to this post on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else where content is shared.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Easy Ways To Make The Most Of Communion – Part 1

Sacrament of the Altar

The Sacrament of the Altar, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist, is one of the most observed and misunderstood of all of the sacraments. In Communion Jesus Christ gives us Himself to strengthen and preserve us in our journey that we may never have to “walk in darkness” for we have “seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). Over the next few posts we will look at the three easy ways we can make the most out of Communion:

  1. We will examine what is Communion
  2. What benefits we have from receiving it
  3. Who is to receive it

What is Communion?

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:26-28 WEB

The Sacrament of the Altar is nothing less than the body and blood of Jesus Christ given to us in, with, and under the species of bread and wine.

Let us be very clear. We are not talking about the Roman Catholic belief of Transubstantiation saying that the bread and wine are somehow transformed in its substance. The bread and wine remain exactly what they are, bread and wine. What we mean is that when receiving the elements we also receive the true and very real body and blood of Jesus, not spiritually, but supernaturally. Beyond our ability to perceive or fully understand it.

The reason for this has nothing to do with a special power or righteousness of the priest or pastor, nor anything to do with the faith we bring to the sacrament. It has everything to do with God’s ordinance and command. It is true because, as with baptism and the forgiveness of sins God has promised that it is so. Jesus said in the scriptures that the bread and wine are His body and blood so we may know it to be true:

  • Whether we have an unworthy minister, for what minister could ever be worthy
  • Whether our faith is weak, for this is the very purpose of Communion to strengthen such faith
  • Whether we understand it for even the theologians cannot fully grasp this mystery

Jesus is faithful and His Word will never fail, so the Sacrament is exactly what He promises.

We ask God to bless the cup at the Lord’s supper. When we drink from this cup it means that the blood of Christ is for us all. We break the bread. When we eat this bread, it means that the body of Christ is for us all.

1 Corinthians 10:16 WEB

His gift has been given to us, let us be eager to receive Him.

Conclusion

Today we talked about the first of the three ways we may get the most out of our communion experience. By knowing exactly what it is that we are receiving when we eat the bread and drink from the cup we may appreciate more fully just what Jesus gave up to save us. How can this biblical perspective help Christians today embrace the true consequences of their sin and help them stay away from it?

I would love to hear from all of my readers either in the comments below or through email on my Contact Page. Also feel free to share a link to this post on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else where content is shared.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.