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Posts Tagged ‘first commandment’

The other evening I watched a special on the Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, the “boy king”.  His name means “living image of Amun”.  Amun was one of the Egyptian gods.  King Tut’s father, Akhetaten introduced a new religion:  the worship of a sun god, Aten. He named his son Tutankhaten:  “living image of Aten”.  King Tut’s father even changed the center of religion from it’s ancient site, Thebes(present day Luxor ) to a new city and center of religion, Amarna up the Nile, which Akhetaten built.  It lasted as long as King Tut’s father Akhetaten was alive.  The priests of the traditional idols did not like the move, so when Akhetaten died, his son King Tut moved back to Luxor and the traditional gods and King Tut changed his name to the one history knows him.  

In Jeremiah 2: 11 we read,

Has a nation changed its gods,
    even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
    for that which does not profit.

Jeremiah is amazed that Israel had forsaken the Lord while the pagan idolaters would never throw over their false gods, nor think to do so!  Why?  Looking for a proof for the one true God is tricky business but I think the verse above points to a type of verification.  Man, apart from the one true God, will persist in their falsehood because of sheer pride.  Even when one nation, Egypt did change their gods, it was only by force of Pharoah and they quickly went back to their idols.The reason Israel (and us!) leave the one true God is our original sinful tendency to spurn the one who truly loves us and then commit adulteries.  This is the Lord put the words “adultery” and “whore”, as the only description possible, into His Word through the prophets to accurately describe Israel. We only leave the One who actually loves as He set His heart upon Israel and the whole world.  Israel could only and ever leave, change their glory, because the Lord is trueand truth and loves His people.  We crave our idols.  Unredeemed man insists on his idols because finally they are made in our own image:  all of fleshly  lusts and desires and aspirations writ large. For instance, Zeus, or Jupiter was constantly having affairs with humans as humans do. The Lord does not!  My opinion  of Roman and Greek mythology that it is nothing more than a divine soap opera writ large, but once hooked…it is like looking in the mirror or the image of lusts today:  the selfie. Like Narcissus we look at our image till we fall and drown. Old Adam does not want to overthrow himself!  The Lord does and has, as He did to Israel, as foretold by Jeremiah and the prophets.  Then He  gives us forgiveness in the only perfect image of Himself:  Jesus Christ. No nation has ever changed it’s gods, until the one true God comes into the picture. I do not know if this constitutes, “proof”, yet it does point us to the right direction, that is, away from our selves. This again proves our sin and maybe even show us again, we can not imagine any god who would actually love us enough to say No so we can know His forgiveness. The closest natural man has to the one true God are true fathers and mothers. The gods, that is the idols, love only to possess and control and brutally enslave, as man can and has. The Lord loves to set the captive free as He did Israel in Egypt and now the whole enslaved world through Christ that we believe the good news of our freedom.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY: Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace always precedes and follows us, help us to forsake all trust in earthly gain and to find in You our heavenly treasure;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

What is the largest congregation  or church in the world?  Maybe you think of a mega-church.  The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. Lutherans are the largest Protestant church in the world,  but none of them come close to encompassing almost all 6 billion people on earth.  This church calls for no conversion, no repentance. This god’s faith feels so natural. This church can do famously well and is quite powerful, influential and people die for it, or short of that, spending their whole lives in gaining this church’s god and this god’s altar is willingly erected in the heart.  Maybe each one of us has yearned for the god of this church. 

What is this church?  Answer:  The church of mammon, or money.  It does not love, care, die and rise for us and our salvation. This god does not make for love, but only loves what it makes. This god makes envy and jealously .  This god does not come from heaven, but comes from the lusts of the heart. There are no atheists in corporate boardrooms.  In fact, in this church, there are no atheists, no non-believers, as those who follow mammon are true believers and boast of their wealth and power.  In fact, there are no atheists, for, “…a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else that to trust and believe in him with our whole heart.”   Everyone has a god, as we were made for faith and love.  Faith and God go together.  False gods are dead ends, the true and living God and His Christ is eternal life.  No one ever on his death bed asked to hold his wallet one more time.  People save money but money cannot save. 

We can see that the rich young man was quite eager to talk with Jesus because the young man ran to Him and knelt before Him.  The young man ran and knelt before Jesus wanting to seal the deal on his goodness, cover all the bases, dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”:  What must I do to inherit eternal life?  The rich young man certainly knew how to “do”, gain stuff.  All religions, excepted true Christian faith, are about doing to gain God. 

The young man must have heard about Jesus’ fame.  It had spread like wildfire through out the region.  People were saying He preached with authority unlike the scribes.  He had healed so many.  The young man came looking for Jesus for he was earnestly seeking something from the Lord.  His question shows us what it was: eternal life.  The bright young man knew this Jesus must have had some insight on eternal life. Maybe Jesus had the road map to eternal life that the young man could follow? Some new teaching that the young man could do, accomplish some extra commandments in order to obtain the biggest goal of all: eternal life.

Can you imagine a son coming up to his father and asking that question? What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to be put into your last will and testament?  Either Dad puts you into his will or not.  Jesus loved the young man.  The young man saw something in Jesus as his question indicated. His question was definitely sincere and it was sincerely wrong.  

The young man wanted to talk Torah, the Law of God, what must I do?  Jesus knew the routine.  Jesus answered with the Torah; He begins with the 2nd Table of the Law, runs through those commandments, which the Lord summed up on another occasion:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These I have done since I was a youth.  As if the second table of the law is a snap.  It is when it is only external actions. I am sure the young man had not murdered, stolen, committed adultery, and he did what Father and Mother told him to do.  However, internally, in heart, soul, and mind, I can barely make it through an hour without sinning.  Anger, covetousness, lust come to mind very easy.  You joyously do as Mother and Father command?  No wandering eye?  No anger?

When the Evangelist tells us the sterling fact that Jesus loved the young man, that’s when Jesus responded to the young man with the 1st Table of the Law:  Leave behind everything, sell all that you have which is all that has you, come follow Me. The rich young man went away disheartened, sorrowful, grieving. A man usually is sorrowful when someone one loves dies. Money is most common idol, Luther observed.  It is not money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil as it is written in the Scripture.. You cannot serve God and mammon.  He went away sorrowful because he finally knew he could not keep the Law of God to gain eternal life. None of us can.  The only way is Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved the young man so that he might die and live by faith alone in His grace alone. The young man would know Jesus’ love eventually…for sinners, like him, like me, like thee, like Paul, like Peter, like Moses, like David, like James. Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who came  to these blessed shores was for capitalism and against the totalitarian state and wrote novels about capitalism.  When she died her floral tributes were in the shape of dollar signs. Too many Christians these days are more concerned with dollar signs rather than the sign of the cross.  Dollars are for saving but they are not saving.  I have never seen a woman wearing a dollar sign necklace around her neck given by her husband. There is no love portrayed by a dollar sign, but upon the Cross…The young man and us all would know Jesus said tough things and did the toughest thing of all: crucified.  He died for sinners including the nice young man. The sign of His cross is traced upon our bodies and was sunk deep into the soil of His earth, like a treasure hidden in a field.

 Jesus put the full spiritual weight of God’s Law on the kneeling rich young man and the crush of the debt overwhelmed him. Jesus responded with the 1st Table of the Law. He loved him to do that. He did not choose the easy part, the part that won Him a popularity contest and votes. We are told He looked at the man, all the focus of heaven upon the young man. He loved him to do that.  Jesus knew the burden the young man had on his heart with his wealth.  For all our wealth as a nation or as individuals, we become quite disheartened when even a bit of it is lost. Martin Luther: “He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise.  On the other hand, he who has nothing doubts and despairs as if he never heard of God.” The Lord killed the young man so that the young man might live, so he leave behind the desire of his heart, his possessions, and cling to the One who loved him, who left  behind everything and took upon Himself everyone and everyone’s sin, and the sin of the entire world.  Jesus loved him and would love him and you to death, His death upon the cross.  Jesus had no pockets on the Cross.  He loved the rich young man to do that for him, for us all. 

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. This is the sharp retort by Jesus to the rich young man. At first it can take the Christian aback: I thought Jesus is God.  He is 100% God and 100% man.  When Jesus asks him if he has kept the law, in the young man next response, he began, “Teacher…” He learned quickly but probably did not understand.  Jesus gave it all up. … he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Philippians 2) As it is written in Scripture.  And in a few more verses, at 10: 34, Jesus will prophesy for a third time:  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.  Only by bearing the full weight of the Law and our sin, He has reconciled the crushing debt of the sin of the world, stamped it forgiven, all of us so that by faith we daily die and rise in Him, in His love by which He has loved us even when we have loved Him not.

The only way to inherit anything is for the testator to put you into the will and then die.  Beloved in the Lord!  He has written you into His will and testament, His last will and testament, not because we deserved, but we need it, no, more:  Him. Eventually all earthly inheritances run out.  Not the Lord’s:   He is risen, so, “…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eternal life is not a good, a thing be had, eternal life is a Person, as in “I am the resurrection and life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11: 25)   Eternal life has a Name:  Jesus Christ, as He is risen, we too shall rise.

It is written Hebrews says that we are to encourage one another…so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin’s deceits are our flesh’s conceits to look to man-made gods, like Mammon or money to save, and so retreat from Him who alone has saved us.  And hardening here means absolutely every thing that makes it difficult to believe (Martin Luther).  The church of mammon is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of money to lure the Christian with its siren song to the rocky shoals of shipwreck. When the dollar sign lures and the signs of these dark times attract, only the sign of His Cross reminds us of His unconquerable love, we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us. So encourage:

From today’s Epistle Reading:

“…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 1 4 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

  • Exhort and Encourage each other to serve our neighbor in live and we soon discover in serving our neighbor that it is not a snap!  And I find out that I am not eminently lovable!  We will learn the truth of Jesus’ Word:  “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.”
  • Encourage each other in our prayers and to pray, as in Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Hold on to Him who has taken hold of you.
  • Encourage each other and others to come and hear the Word of God and receive His body and blood.
  • Encourage each other so our hearts are not hardened, sclerosis of the heart, turned into you self in desires that are never satisfied by the goods of this world, but opened up by His Word to us all.
  • Encourage each other to true repentance. We are to encourage each other daily every time we pray at table together.

Good encouragement is read in the prophet Amos. Seek good, not evil. The rich young man knew Jesus was actually good, so good Jesus did not hold onto it for our sake.  Seek the immeasurable good of God and His will for you always in Jesus Christ.  Seek good, do not seek goods…seek the Kingdom of God and as Jesus said regarding food, shelter and clothing, all these things will be yours as well.  But they perish but the Word of God endures for ever. He is risen.

The Word says:  Love good, hate evil… not love goods and so court with evil, and love and desire it.   We need a full-hearted and full throated love of the Gospel  in these dark days by the only sign by which we are all saved and will be, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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