The Seventh Commandment

The Seventh Commandment:

7th Commandment

This is one of those commandments that all people get. Without needing to be told, people know that it is wrong to steal. I don’t have to convince you that it is wrong to break into someone’s house and walk out with their flat screen TV. I don’t have to convince you that it is wrong to walk into a store and walk out with your pockets full of unpaid-for merchandise.

So I’ll ask the all-important question: have you kept this commandment?

Did you ever take your brothers toy? Did you succumb to teen pressures, and steal from a store as you sowed your wild oats? Have you ever taken something that did not rightfully belong to you? Perhaps there are some out there who can honestly say that they have never taken an object that was not theirs. My hat comes off to you, but that does not mean you have kept this commandment.

You may have noticed a trend with these Commandment blogs. God is just as interested in the attitudes of our hearts as in he is in our keeping the letter of these laws. You may not have murdered, but that does not mean you have kept the 5th Commandment. You may not have had sex with anyone but your spouse, but that does not mean you have kept the 6th Commandment. The same is true for the 7th Commandment.

Have you ever, even just once, had an off day and slacked off a little at work? You realize that you are stealing from your employer when you fail to apply yourself fully to your job, don’t you?

Have you always given your first and best to God in the offering plate on Sunday? Do you realize that everything is from God and belongs to God, so a failure to give back to him what he deserves is stealing from God? Did you know that a misuse of our gifts from God (that includes even our ability to walk, talk and think) is stealing from God, because he expects us to use his possessions for his glory at all times and in all places?

And just like that, this commandment carries out one of its purposes. We see in this command a clear reflection of who we are by nature. We look in the mirror of this law and we see a sinner. A sinner who, try as he might, is incapable of keeping the Seventh Commandment.

But, you know, I’m more than just a sinner. I look in that mirror and I see the face of a sinner, yes, but I also see the face of one forgiven. Instead of the word “Thief” carved into my forehead as I deserve, God’s word shows me the cross, the mark of Jesus made over my head and heart when the waters of baptism washed my sins away.

Wow. I am forgiven for stealing that pack of gum a child. I am forgiven for all my sins of theft, so are you! So where do we go from here? We are forgiven… now what? I will share with you what Paul shared with some early Christians in Ephesus. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” And just like that, this commandment carries out another of its purposes. It shows me how I can live my life to honor God for all he has done for me!

You shall not steal.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not take our neighbor’s money or property, or get it by dishonest dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and means of income.

The Tale of the Curse and the Tree (Revelation 22:1-5)

Text: Revelation 22:1-5

Theme: The Tale of the Curse and the Tree

           Today I am going to tell you a story. It is a story that many of you are familiar with, but it’s one of those stories that never gets old.. The title of this story is: The Tale of the Curse and the Tree.

Chapter One: Eden Continue reading

The Sixth Commandment

The Sixth Commandment

6th Commandment

Where to start?

The “oldest profession” in the world… prostitution

The base desire of almost every human… sex

The way to sell anything from soap to chicken wings… sex

The human sex drive is an incredibly powerful motivator. Sex is an inescapable facet of our culture. Watch ten minutes of television and count how many sexual references are made. Movies, TV shows, commercials, books, and the internet make it almost impossible to live even one day without coming face to face with sex in one way or another.

In the face of such an overwhelming cultural trend, God says, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus says, “I tell you anyone who looks at another woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

It’s just not fair! How in the world can God expect us to obey this commandment? He created us. If he expected us to remain completely monogamous why did he put such a powerful sexual desire inside of us? This is such an old fashioned idea! This generation is so much more sexually “enlightened” than our grandparent’s generation.

The list of complaints goes on and on. The list of excuses goes on and on. “There is nothing new under the sun.” That is what Solomon said.

Is God really unfair when he demands that we be perfectly holy? Isn’t he perfectly holy? Didn’t he create us? Shouldn’t that give him the right to tell us how to live?

Is this generation really more “sexually enlightened” than previous generations? Is this generation really more enlightened than the ancient Greeks whose men regularly had many sexual partners: women, men, and boys? Do we really think that our grandparent’s generation was free of the sexual promiscuity that runs rampant today? Is it really “enlightening” to regard sex (the most personal relationship you can have) as nothing more than a moment of pleasure that means nothing?

There is nothing new under the sun. Since the fall into sin sex has been getting people into trouble. Since the fall into sin people have been looking for a way to commit their sexual sins without feeling guilty.

God’s message is clear and damning. It is impossible to live by this commandment. Instead of blaming God for that, instead of trying to minimize what God says about sex, why don’t we reflect on our hopelessly sinful hearts and let that underscore our need for a savior?

This is what the law does. It makes us fall to our knees and beg for forgiveness.

Guess what? God offers forgiveness. God’s love for us compelled him to find a way to save us. As a just God he could not simply turn the other way and pretend that our sins of adultery were no big deal. Someone had to be punished for our wandering eyes and lustful thoughts. That someone was Jesus.

In no way is this an easy commandment to keep. This sex filled world makes this commandment that much harder to keep. One can’t even do a simple Google search without running the risk of seeing something that shouldn’t be seen, but that is no excuse. Our sins are great. Our sins of adultery are inevitable. Our Savior is greater. Forgiveness is ours. In thanksgiving we can face the struggle every day to live as God would have us live; not because we “have to” (spoken with a pouty face and crossed arms), but because God’s tremendous love for me makes me want to treat human love and sexuality as gift from God, to be used as he directs.

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.

Hell Is Unthinkable… So Is Forgiveness – Both Are Real (Ezekiel 9:1-11)

Text: Ezekiel 9:1-11

Theme: Hell Is Unthinkable… So Is Forgiveness

Both Are Real!

                I have to be honest, I’m not very happy with my sermon this morning… It’s not because I’m not prepared. And it’s not because I really struggled with writer’s block, like I sometimes do. It’s not because the reading from Ezekiel has nothing important to talk about. I’m not very happy with my sermon this morning because this morning I have to talk to you about hell…

Hell, a word that is easy enough to say, but an idea that is almost unfathomable. I mean, I get the idea of suffering for sins, but what I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around is what those first moments in hell must be like, what it means to wake up and realize that “this is never going to end.” I just can’t even imagine what it is like to realize that you are completely separated, forever, from comfort, and peace, and hope, and laughter.

Hell, a word that is easy enough to say, but an idea that makes me cringe, because I know people, I love people, who, if they died today, would find themselves suffering in hell forever. It physically makes me sick to think of all those babies being aborted across our country, knowing that the Bible makes no promises of salvation apart from baptism and faith in Jesus, those babies never had that chance! It’s enough to make me sick, thinking of the billions of atheists and pagans all around the world: mothers and daughters, old men and infants just living their lives diligently and peacefully, but all of them are marching straight down the path to hell.

Hell, a word that is easy enough to say, but an idea that’s so horrible, so unthinkable, that I can’t help but sympathize with the very common complaint, “How could a good God send people to hell?” I read in Ezekiel about a God commanding that his angels “kill without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children,” I read about a God calling for his temple courts to be “filled with the slain,” and I shudder. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to preach about this.

But let’s dig in this morning and see if this gut reaction to the idea of an eternal hell is justified. Let’s look at the record of Ezekiel and Jerusalem again… Continue reading

The Fifth Commandment

The Fifth Commandment:

5th Commandment

There are few people out there who have a strong complaint with the words of this commandment. Many people who take umbrage with the other commandments will stand outside a courtroom and demand punishment for murderers. Almost every person alive knows that it is wrong to take another human life.

Biblically we know the importance of life. Human years on this earth are called a “time of grace.” Now is the only time we can hear about our sins and repent. Now is the only time we can hear about Jesus and forgiveness. Once a person dies he is judged. What a tragedy it is when someone’s time of grace is cut short and he never gets the chance to hear the word, repent and receive forgiveness.

And on the surface it would seem that most of us have fulfilled this commandment. I have never taken the life of another human and neither have many of you. But that doesn’t mean we are off the hook. God is just as interested with the attitudes of the heart as he is with outward actions. Jesus was very clear when he said, “I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

Standing in the courtroom of heaven, the Devil is about to play before the world, and most importantly before God, the recording of your life, all those hurtful thoughts and actions. The blood rushes to your face, you would give anything to avoid those secret thoughts of yours becoming public knowledge.

There was that time as a child when your brother broke your favorite toy, and you swore to yourself that you would never talk to him again.

That time in high school when you dreamt of the day you would get even with that bully.

That memory of yours, when that thick co-worker increased your work load yet again, and you thought how nice it would feel to thwack him upside the head just once.

That time you could have strangled your husband when he failed to acknowledge your presence, or respond to your question because the football game was on.

That time when you lost your cool, and screamed at your little child for being the immature kid he is.

The Devil smiles because it seems an easy victory. Another soul he can torment for all eternity. After all just one of these sins he is about to put on display is enough to lock your soul in hell.

He hits the play button… you think to yourself “here we go…’ Suddenly the video feed is interrupted. Instead of all your sins you see something else. Nails are hammered into a pair of hands and feet. A cross is set upright in its hole. You see your sins sitting on the shoulders of this hanging man, making his crucifixion that much more painful. Your God bows his head and dies.

The judge looks at you, smiles and says, “Neither do I condemn you.” “Come and share your master’s happiness!”

May the forgiveness from Jesus strengthen you as you strive to live your life in grateful service to him!

 

You shall not murder.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.

Faith In Jesus = Freedom (John 8:31-36)

Text: John 8:31-36

Theme: Faith In Jesus = Freedom

            “You mean it is either abstinence for life or be stuck in a marriage to one person? You’re serious, aren’t you?” “You mean you honestly want to dictate what I can and can’t say? You honestly want to control what I can and can’t think?” “You want to critique how I spend my hard-earned money?”

A lot of people look at Christianity, they hear the endless gong of the Old Testament ringing out, “Do not lust, do not envy, do not slander,” and they cringe. They want freedom. They want to do what they want to do, they want to live however they please. This is 21st century America; they don’t want how they live their lives to be dictated for them. They don’t want to be forced to follow a set of rules they had no part in creating, a set of rules they didn’t choose.

A lot of people would look at the life of a Christian, like my Mother-in-law for example, and just feel sorry for her. A woman who gave up a career she always wanted to follow her husband, because it was her duty. A woman who gave birth to, changed diapers for, and tirelessly served eight children for decades because it was her duty. A woman who spent more time cooking in the kitchen than pursuing worldly success because it was her duty. They would look at her life and they would see something akin to slavery; slavery to an archaic set of rules and standards, slavery they want to be free from. Continue reading