As we continue our review of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism our study has taken us to the 10 Commandments. During the coming summer months, we are going to look at each of the Commandments 1-10 in a Sermon Series entitled "Foundation For A Strong Family". The Ten Commandments are so rich and meaningful to us.
As we begin this study there is one thing that we all have to keep in mind, God’s definition of sin has never changed. 1 John 3:4 says, “Sin is the transgression of the law.”Luther wrote; “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin. Why? Because it will act as a schoolmaster and bring him to everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ”. Thus, knowing the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is the essence of Lutheran Doctrine and preaching.
We are living in a society in the 21st Century that has little or no respect for anything. For other’s property, for keeping the sanctity of the marriage vows, for life, respecting the life of the unborn or the life of anyone else other than oneself. Finally,many are not recognizing God as the author and protector of life. As all of us sitting here realize that the biggest problem is the fact that families, maybe even your children simply do not prioritize the need for taking time to worship God and attend Sunday School. For me growing up nothing took precedent or the place of Sunday School and Church on Sunday Morning, NOTHING!
People look around our congregation and say, “where are all the younger people?” Well, ask yourself,“Are my kids, great-grandkids going to church this morning in the towns where they live?”
“If not why not?” and when you come to that answer then you have the answer to your first question, “where, are all the younger people?”There is no easy answer to this question. There are a wide variety of reasons. We all try to justify those reasons, we offer excuses and defend our lack of attendance or interest.
Many Pastor’s and professional church workers are being accused of not doing enough to bring people into the church or teaching members how to bring people into church.
The Commandments offer to all of us what the expectations of God are of ALL believers. Not just a selected few or someone else, but all who claim to be believers in Christ. Although we live under and in the covenant of Grace, the Commandments still apply as a rule, guide and curb for our actions this side of heaven. Why were the commandments were given in the first place?
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 40 years. Finally, through a burning bush on the “Mountain of God” where Moses was herding sheep, God called him to lead Israel to the Promised Land. Once the Israelites were finally released as a result of the 10 plagues the Nation of Israelites were finally released Moses led the people back to the “mountain of God,” Mount Sinai, and there God gave him the two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were engraved. In this way, God made a covenant with Israel. He said quite clearly in this act, “I will be YOUR God, and YOU shall be my people.” The Ten Commandments became part of the laws that indicated how God expected his people to live. Yet, as someone has pointed out, these are the “Ten Commandments” not “Ten Suggestions”.
I read recently of one Pastor reflected recently was having a parents night for Confirmation classes. The topic was “The Christian Attitude toward Sexuality.” In the opening Bible Study the Pastor presented the Commandment “Thou Shalt not commit Adultery.” Then he asked, “Why do you think it is wrong to commit adultery?” He was expecting to get a discussion on how harmful premarital sex is emotionally and physically. Instead one of the parents said, “Why is it wrong? Just because God said so?” And his response was as mine would be Absolutely. Somewhere in our society we need some form of absolutes before the entire moral fabric of our society is eroded and no really cares about anything. As Christians, Parents, grandparents and young people alike we need to take a stand for what is right and a good place to start is right here in and with the 10 commandments. So today we are not only speaking about the life-lines of God but an anchor, to give us a spiritual center for our lives.
God said to Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” He says to you and to me: “I am the Lord your God, who loved you so much that I sent my one and only son, I am the Lord your God, who loves so much that I went to the cross to pay the price for your sins. I love you so much I make you mine at your Baptism, fill you with spiritual gifts, come to you often in the Word and Sacrament, and keep you in the faith unto life everlasting.”
Luther begins each of his explanations to the commandments with these words: “We should fear and love God that we may not …” If we fear and love God, we will obey him. At times the Israelites were tempted away to worship Baal Gods. If they didn’t have the anchor to teach them, the 10 commandments they would have taken up the ways of the Canaanites and their Gods.
I will let you in on a little secret about the first Commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before you” is one of the reasons why you see no banner, symbols, or even crosses in many protestant churches. The walls will be barren, because there should be no idol or graven images.
Luther was against this movement in the Reformation. In fact, he risked his life to preach against it. When Prince Frederick hid him in the castle at Wartburg because he was banned by the emperor, Luther heard that the reformers left in Wittenberg were preaching against graven images. They advocated removing the destroying all statues of saints and all crucifixes in churches because they were objects of superstition and would cause people to trust in the image instead of trusting in God.
Luther’s reaction was fierce and immediate. Despite the ban that was on him not to preach and anyone could kill him as an outlaw, he bolted from the Wartburg Castle and stormed the pulpit in Wittenberg. He said the Reformation was not about changing church architecture. He said in essence, “there is only one idol that must be broken. That is the idol in the human heart. Once that idol is broken, the statues will be seen for what they are – remembrances of inspiring saints from the past. If we destroy those statues, though, we’ll think that is the Reformation, and we’ll never get to the point of it, a change of heart.” Which is at the very center of all teaching of Scripture. It is about the heart and the 10 Commandment are teaching of the heart.
Today was just a taste of the richness of the Ten Commandments. Just when you think you know them, or maybe forgot them, they keep coming back. The great reformer Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians about the new relationship between the Christian believer and the moral law of God, the Ten Commandments. Here is what he said: “…When Paul declares that we are delivered from the curse of the Law he means the whole Law, particularly the moral law which more than the other laws accuses, curses, and condemns the conscience.The Ten Commandments have no right to condemn that conscience in which Jesus dwells, for Jesus has taken from the Ten Commandments the right and power to curse us.Not as if the conscience is now insensitive to the terrors of the Law, but the Law cannot drive the conscience to despair.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “If the Son shall make you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36)
You will complain: “But I am not doing anything.” That is right. You cannot do a thing to be delivered from the tyranny of the Law. But listen to the glad tidings which the Holy Ghost brings to you in the words of the prophet: “Rejoice, thou barren.” “As Christ is greater than the Law, so much more excellent is the righteousness of Christ than the righteousness of the Law.”