Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sermon -- 6th Sunday after Trinity (July 27, 2014)

MATTHEW 5:17-26

In the name + of Jesus.

     Earlier, we offered the prayer of the day which said, “God of all power and might, you are the giver of all that is good.”  God is not only the giver of all that is good, God gives only good things.  So when you hear the Commandments, you should realize that they are all good.  God did not give his list of “Thou shalt’s” and “Thou shalt not’s” to suck the fun out of life.  They were given to make life good.
     You believe the Commandments are good when others obey them.  You believe that it is good when your auto mechanic does not lie to you to defraud you out of your money.  It is good that your wife’s co-worker does not try to seduce her away from you.  It is good that your children treat you with respect and obedience.  It is good when you are not the topic of nasty stories online.  Well, if it is good that others keep the Commandments, it is equally good that you keep them.  The Commandments call for a good and godly life.  The Commandments are good because the God who has given them is good.
     For that reason, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.” (Matthew 5:17)  Jesus does not come to abolish what is good.  The Ten Commandments are God’s will.  They will never be nullified, not even in eternity.  Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)  The Law of God is good and wise.  Whoever does them is great.  Jesus said that he has come to do them.  Jesus does what is good, and he fulfills the Law.
     How about you?  Do you keep the Commandments?  Or are you guilty of trying to relax the requirements of God’s Law?  Yes, we believe that others should treat us as the Commandments dictate, but we argue for extenuating circumstances that allow us to cheat here and there.  The office gossip deserves to have some stories told about her.  A man should be permitted to visit seedy websites because his spouse is so cold.  Stupid people deserve to be cut down with sarcasm.  Or maybe we relax them when they condemn a family member.  “You know, normally I would agree that this is wrong, but my kid means well.  And who are we to judge anyway?” 
     Listen to Jesus’ words again: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven...” (Matthew 5:19)  There is no lower place for people who tell God that is Commandments are not good, or that those who break God’s Commandments are good, or that we are still good if we defend people who break them.  Repent.
     You are God’s people.  You have been set apart to live as God’s people.  That means that the Ten Commandments matter.  They guide your life so that you do not copy the world in its rebellion against God’s will.  Even after he fulfilled the Commandments, Jesus did not abolish them.  They are still good.  They are still Commandments.
     Perhaps you think that there is no real difference between Christians and others.  After all, both are capable of doing nice things for other people.  And that is true.  Outwardly, almost anyone can look good and do good.  That is why Jesus declared: “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) 
     The Pharisees had their origin some 170 years before Jesus.  While many of the Jews had compromised their faith in order to curry favor with the Greeks, there were a band of Jews who were determined to remain faithful to God’s Law.  These were noble and godly desires.  The Pharisees did not allow themselves to become sloppy in their obedience, either.  Instead, they invented more laws to bolster their efforts in doing God’s will.  They were devout, and they appeared very moral, very upright, and very obedient.  Jesus says that you need to be better than that. 
     Jesus said, “Whoever does (these commandments) and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)  Jesus is the one who is great, for he does what is good by obeying the Commandments.  Jesus’ obedience was no mere show.  He loved the Lord his God and obeyed his father with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.  His motives were always pure, and his words and actions were perfect love.  Jesus kept every Commandment and by avoided every evil.  And so God is pleased with Jesus.
     More than doing what is good, Jesus does what is good for you.  Jesus’ obedient life was lived as a substitute for you.  Jesus makes sure that you have a righteousness which is greater than the Pharisees’ righteousness.  The Pharisees were good and noble in their outward appearance.  Likewise, you will find many people who don’t care about God can be very generous, patient, and understanding.  They will gain a lot of praise from a lot of people for their kindness.  But remember how judgment works: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) 
     Therefore, Jesus does what is good for you.  Jesus has cleansed your very heart.  This is what the Lord says: Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience… (1 Peter 3:21)  Jesus does what is good for you through your baptism.  He cleanses your conscience so that you are not ruled by sin or marked by guilt.  The blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin. (1 John 1:7)  It is certain because Jesus is the one who has supplied the cleansing.  You are baptized; therefore, you are forgiven and you are clean.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)  If you are in Christ, you have the very righteousness God demands of you.  You are holy and blameless in the sight of God.  Guilt does not cover you; the righteousness of Christ does.  Therefore, you have every reason to be confident of your salvation.
     Jesus does what is good for you.  And since you are God’s holy people, you get to live in joy as God’s holy people.  Jesus has cleansed your heart so that good may flow from it and be seen in words and actions.  You get to live according to the Ten Commandments and to seek the good of others.  You honor those in authority and benefit your community by being honest, law-abiding citizens.  You strengthen your marriage by honoring your spouse before others, and you strengthen the marriage of others by encouraging them to be faithful to each other.  You prevent the destruction of friendships and reputations by squashing malicious talk and rebuking careless Facebook posts.  You do these things to love God and love your neighbor, as the Commandments say.  You were set apart for doing these very things.  And you do not have to live under the stress of hoping that you will get it right this week and get better the next week.  For, the Lord has declared that you are righteous.  Through Jesus, God is pleased with you and, therefore also, your works.
     Jesus does what is good for you.  He has given you his Commandments in order to honor and serve him and your neighbor by them.  He has given you a clean heart and a right spirit so that godly words and works may flow out of them.  But mostly, he has given you himself as the sacrifice which covers your debt and the righteousness with covers your guilt.  Jesus has poured his blood upon you in baptism to cleanse you.  He pours his blood into you in the Supper to strengthen you for godly service and to console you with godly peace.  “God of all power and might, you are the giver of all that is good.”  Jesus seeks nothing but your good, and he continues to do what is good for you so that you will always remain in his good graces.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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