Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

What do you desire?  Plenty, am I right?  

Desire, in and of itself, is not sinful, but not all desires are right desires.  Often, it is when desire turns inward toward the self that our desires become false desires, and when we’re chasing down false desires it stands in the way of us seeking right desires.

Take, for example, Esau, who traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew to calm the desires of his hungry belly.  Dude traded away the promises of God for lunch!  Much later, he realises his error, but it is too late. The promises that were intended to be his, as first born, passed to his sneaky brother instead.  We tend to look at Esau and think, What a dumbass! I would NEVER do that!  

Think again.  If you don’t see yourself in Esau, look harder.  We ARE Esau, trading away right desires for false ones, exchanging God’s good promises for the momentary desires that reside within our hearts.  

I’m not sure why we are so inclined to trust the desires of our heart – the Bible is clear that the heart of man is deceitful and wicked above all things, that our desires are in opposition to God’s.  Follow your heart is horrible, horrible advice.  

In his Commandments, God encompasses for us what right desires ought to look like – a guidebook, if you will, to bring our desires into alignment with His own – but this conversion of our desires is only and and ever begun, never fully completed in this life.  Converting our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh is a lifelong process – we are ever in need of restraining the flesh –  therefore meditating on the Commandments and their meaning ought to be a lifelong habit as well.

This is the last video (or maybe second-to-last, I can’t remember for sure) of the “Introduction to the Commandments” in this series; then we’ll be moving onto looking at the text of the Commandments and their meanings.  Lots of insightful stuff, so stay tuned!

**If you haven’t seen the earlier videos, or you want to review them before moving on to the nitty gritty of the text, you can find them here.

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Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

“Teacher, which 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.”

The Pharisees come up and ask Jesus Which commandment is the greatest? and Jesus’ answer is interesting.  He doesn’t point to any one commandment – in fact, he doesn’t quote any single commandment at all; rather, he gives a summary of all the Commandments – love God and love people.  

His answer is instructive – the heart of the Commandments is to love; not as an emotional abstraction (“all we need is love!”) but that in the Commandments we find very specific, concrete principles of what love for God and neighbour ought to look like.  

God’s high, holy standard for us is encompassed within the Commandments as a whole.  You can’t pick out just one and elevate it above all the others – they are designed to work together as a complete ethical system, each commandment flowing out from the previous one all the way back to the first, and summarized into two tables – love for God (the first table) and love for neighbour (the second table).

Jesus also points out that our love for God and neighbour is never finished.  Love your God with ALL your heart and ALL your soul and ALL your mind.  How’s that working out for ya?  If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll find that under the Law there is always more to do.

When we confess our sins before God, we confess this very thing – We have not loved You with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.  We have sinned against God and neighbour in thought, word and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. 

Thanks be to God that we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, who left nothing undone; who is the beginning and end of love! His grace is sufficient and in Him all things are made complete.  

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

For me, this is where the study of the Commandments really starts to get interesting 😀

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I happen to believe that one can know what one should or should not do at any given moment and under all circumstances according to the Ten Commandments.  That is to say, we can confidently find God’s will for our entire lives in them.  (That provocative enough for ya?)   

If you object to this idea, it’s ok, I get it…just hang with me for a bit, alright?

If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall we looked at the Law as the primary means by which God confronts us with our unpayable debt of sin, and our desparate need for a Saviour who will rescue us from it.  The Law, however, shows us more than just what we ought not to do, it also shows us the virtues that we ought to strive after as Christians. Not virtues for the sake of our virtuousness (for we are already wholly righteous before God, in Christ) but virtues that reflect who we are under God, and how we are to live in service to one another.  Remember, the Commandments still apply, but our motivation for keeping them under Christ is radically shifted.  We no longer keep them out of fear for our own condemnation – because that has already been taken care of, dealt with at the Cross.  Now we keep them because in them we find who God created us to be.

In the Creation, God told us what man’s job is – to care for all of Creation.  And because God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, He created woman and then, in His wisdom, He allowed us to become participants in creation through the joining of man and woman together to create offspring.  In a very real sense, Creation was not fully completed until the first child was born.  We were created to create, and to care for the created.

We were originally created to know how to do that – the Law that is written on the hearts of all testifies to this – but sin has obscured our view.  We can no longer clearly see how it is that God created us to live in community together, under Him, caring for one another.  God said it is not good for man to be alone, and that is true for us too.  We’re all in this together. It’s not good for us to live in isolation of one another, nor to live as if we were, caring only for ourselves without regard for others.  

Jesus Himself told us how we ought to live in relation to one another – the first shall be last – and if we knew how to do that, we wouldn’t need the Commandments to tell us, would we?

There’s this lovely description of what the life of the faithful looks like from the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

He has told you what is good…  

God has informed the heart of every man that which is good, and when that was not enough, He spoke it to us as well; commanded that it be written down, preserved, and taught to all generations. Not for the sake of our own righteousness, but so that God’s righteousness – which looks very much like servanthood, like the first shall be last, like Jesus – may be made visible in the world.

He has told you what is good – and am I wrong to think that the “good” referred to here is God’s Word?  I don’t think so…God is good, and none other.  His Word, including His Commandments are the good that He has told us.  

The more I study the Commandments the more I am convinced that they are instructions for daily life; the broad principles by which we are to relate to God and to each other.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first?  Love your enemies?  I wouldn’t know how to do that, how to put “skin” on those exhortations and live them out apart from the Commandments.  

Grappling: The Law As Conscience Training

Grappling: The Law As Conscience Training

Always let your conscience be your guide.                                               -Jiminy Cricket 

It’s good advice, so long as your conscience is properly calibrated by God’s word.  

The Bible doesn’t speak a lot about the conscience – at least, not directly – but what it does tell is is that we all have one, and that apart from God’s word our consciences remain unsure.  

How’s your conscience?

A clean conscience, one that stands sure in the word of God, is a great gift of God. But how do you know if your conscience is right? 

Ten Commandments to the rescue!  

Note: I REALLY liked this video. So much so that I did a little digging and found a few more resources – both expandments upon this short video, taking a more in-depth look at a Christian theology of the conscience. One is in written format, the other is a series of three audio podcasts.  Both are long; both are excellent.  And both are quite accessible- you don’t have to be a theological geek to understand them!

Written format here

Audio Format: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
 

And the video

Grappling – Using The Law As A Mirror

Grappling – Using The Law As A Mirror

Way back in confirmation class, we learned the 3 functions of the Law (curb, mirror and guide).  We were given just the basics, really, and it was literally decades later before I was able to distinguish between the first use (curb) and the third use (guide) – they seemed almost interchangable to my mind.  But the second use of the Law, that one I fully understood.  We were taught that the second use of the Law is the primary use of the Law, that it functioned as a mirror to show us our sin and to show us our need for a Saviour.  We used the acronym “S.O.S.” to help us remember the two components of the second use, and how they are connected in the life of the Christian.

In this video, Pastor Wolfmueller discusses how he uses the 10 Commandments as a “diagnostic test” in his devotional life – he breaks the commandments down into a series of diagnostic questions to meditate on as a means of acknowledging our own sin. This is meant to be a devotional exercise, a way to prepare our hearts and focus our minds on what we ought to pray for.

Enjoy!

More Grappling – Ordering of the Commandments

More Grappling – Ordering of the Commandments

In my last post, I mentioned the fifth Commandment as You shall not murder and the eighth as You shall not bear false witness about your neighbour.  It occurred to me that you may be scratching your head over the “numbering” that I used for them.  Wait a second…I thought You shall not murder was the fourth commandment?   (Or maybe the sixth…I get confused!)

Well, you’re not wrong.  There’s like three different ways of ordering the Commandments amongst Christians.  I just used the ordering that I’m accustomed to when I referred to them.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s a difference, this video explains why.

Personally though, I don’t really think how the Commandments are numbered matters all that much – it’s the content of them that is important. 

More Grappling – Consider Your Station In Life

More Grappling – Consider Your Station In Life

We’re still on the “Introduction” to the Commandments and in this video, we consider how they function daily in the life of the Christian.

Something that we’re working towards here is the idea that the Commandments are not works done to display our righteousness before God or man.  No. Our righteousness is Christ’s righteousness, a perfect righteousness that He promises to clothe us in, an applied righteousness that is not our own and that we live out imperfectly here and now but that nonetheless we are called over and over again to live in.

Why?  If we’re already righteous in God’s eyes, and if keeping the Commandments adds nothing to our righteousness, our standing before God, what’s the point??

Our good works – that is, the keeping of the Commandments – are for our neighbour.  God doesn’t need our good works…but our neighbour does!

Grappling with The Ten Commandments – The Three Functions of the Law

Grappling with The Ten Commandments – The Three Functions of the Law

More Ten Commandment goodness today 😀

Parts 1 & 2 of the Introduction to the Commandments are here if you missed it, covering the biblical account of the giving of the Commandments to the people at Sinai, and the insight that the Commandments were given to both teach us about -as well as protect – the way that God has ordered to world we live in.

The Commandments are given for our good – not just our own good, but our neighbours’ as well.  They give shape to our Christian love towards others.

That’s one use of the Law – to teach us how we ought to live.  There are two more uses, and that’s what Part 3 covers.

Grappling with The Ten Commandment

Grappling with The Ten Commandment

I’m gonna take a break from our discussion on “What is the Gospel?” for a bit. I’m not nearly close to done yet with it (how could one ever be done talking the Gospel!?) and our discussions back and forth here have provoked some other thoughts for me…things that I’d like to digest a bit more before I move on with part 3.

In the meantime, I thought I’d move into God’s other great Word for us – the Law!

Lutherans are often accused of not preaching the Law, or at least not preaching it often enough.  I’m chuckling a bit here, partly because I’m sure one could easily find churches with the name Lutheran on them that do exactly that, but to that all I can say is, Have you ever read our stuff??  Or heard our sermons? Lol

Seriously, we do not exclude the Law. Not even close.  We just do not preach it in such a way that it steals away the promise of the Gospel, as if our salvation depended on the keeping of it.  I mentioned before that Lutherans have a dread of mixing Law and Gospel, that is, speaking either of them in such a way that it distorts the other Word.  We want to keep the Gospel straight, but we want to keep the Law in its proper place as well. We hold the Law alongside the Gospel as God’s true will for us, a will that he wants us to believe and make manifest in our lives of service.

Lutherans, in short, love the Law as all true Christians do!

For all that Luther loved to write about the Gospel – especially Justification by grace alone, through faith alone for the sake of Christ alone – he wrote extensively on the Law as well, the fullest treatment of which he gives in the Large Catechism.

Our human tendency is to view the Ten Commandments as just that – commands to be obeyed – but with magnificent insight, Luther understood the Comandments not just as commands for us but also as gifts, promises, and virtues for us as well.  It’s really quite beautiful.

It’s a bit of a different way to look at the Commandments, all that they encompass and teach us, and how they ought to function in our Christian life.  If you’re interested, the full text is here, but be warned, it’s long and the language is a bit difficult (it was written in the 16th century, after all).  If you’re more like me (aka lazy) and prefer just a summary that hits all the high points, then I have just the thing for you!  

Come, be blessed!