Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School -- September 8, 2015

Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School, Westland, MI


Take My Hand and Lead Me
to be Faithful to God's Commands.  

In the name + of Jesus. 

     The Lord had appeared to Israel at Mt. Sinai to personally establish a covenant with them.  The Israelites did not have to wonder what God thought or wanted or did.  God revealed it to them so that they would know.  God gave his commands so that his people could serve him faithfully.  They were not allowed to serve the way they thought God should be served.  No one was allowed to say, “Well, I think these choices or this behavior is right for me.  If I think my actions are good, you should not judge.” But that is not faithful service, because it is not being faithful to what God has commanded.  God sets the standard for good and evil.  God reveals this to you so that you can do the good and flee from the evil.
     You are still early in the school year, so this has probably happened to one of you.  Your teacher tells you not to blast ahead on some worksheet handed out to you, but to read or listen to the instructions before beginning your assignment.  But you brush it off, thinking, “Ah, I know what I'm doing.”  And you plunge in—only to discover that you messed something up.  You have failed because you did not listen to your instructor.  And the plea, “I thought I knew what I was doing,” will not save your grade.  Likewise, God does not tell you to serve him as you think best.  He tells you what is good and right.  God gave his word so that his people could serve him faithfully, doing what God has commanded.
     God has revealed his commandments so that you will know what is good and what is evil.  He does not tell you to try to do them.  No Commandment begins with the word, “Try.”  He tells you to obey, and to be holy.  God's commands not only reveal God's will, they also reveal our sinfulness.  No matter how hard we try, we do not do the good God demands.  No matter how much we try to avoid it, we still do the evil God forbids.  That is why we are tempted to change God's word.  We think that by changing his word, we will find wiggle room to disobey him.  But if we change God's word, they we are abandoning the God who has revealed it.
     That is why Moses commanded, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)  To change the word of the Lord is to change the God who revealed himself by that word.  It is to abandon God's truth and, therefore, his salvation.  Because God takes your salvation very seriously, he takes his word very seriously.
     God gave his word to Israel so that they would be faithful to him.  But God did not merely give his commandments from Mt. Sinai and then abandon the Israelites, saying, “Good luck with those!”  The covenant which God made with Israel also proclaimed how God would be with them and would bless them.  God made his dwelling with Israel, hiding himself under earthly things.  God told Israel he would dwell with them at the tabernacle.  That is where the blood sacrifices were made by which God assured Israel that they were his people and under his grace.  Being faithful to God's commands also meant faithfully trusting that God forgives the sins of his people through the blood of the sacrifices.  The blood and the sacrifices reminded the Israelites that they were God's children and heirs of God's promises.
     That is why God was serious about his commands.  He is serious about our obedience.  He is serious about punishing the wrong-doer.  And he is serious about our salvation.  To tamper with God's word is to mess with all of these things.
     Just as God dwelt with the Israelites under his old covenant, so also he dwells with you under the new covenant.  Our Immanuel came to reveal salvation to us.  God veiled himself again in earthly things.  He became flesh to keep the commands we have.  He came to bleed and die, taking our punishment for our disobedience.  Jesus did not try to find wiggle room to dodge the curse of God for sinners.  Instead, he took the curse and bore all of it for you.  That is why you do not have to be spiritual to figure out how to get right with God.  Jesus has made you right with God—in fact, righteous before God.
     God continues to dwell with us.  He came to you in baptism where he marked you as his children and cleansed you of all your sin.  He continues to give you his body and blood in order to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith.  Where the word is preached, there Jesus speaks to his people.  That is where God dwells with you and where God continues to pour our his grace upon you.  That is where God faithfully reminds you that you are children of God and heirs of his promise.
     And since you are children of God, you get to live like children of God.  You strive for what is good and flee from what is evil, for you have been set apart from a world which is dying.  By adhering faithfully to God's word, you spare yourself the scandals and scars that are inflicted upon those who indulge in sins.
     Remember who you are: You are children of God, not because you hope so or guess it must be so, but because God said so.  He gave you his word so that you can be sure of it.  And he adds to this new status a new nature which delights in what is good and hates what is evil, just as God does.  The children take after their Father, and are eager to serve him faithfully and please him.
     Still, when it is the end of the day and you wonder if your life has been enough to please God, remember who you are: You are children of God.  You are cleansed by the blood of Christ.  Your sins are covered.  Your place in the kingdom is secure.  Therefore, you don't have to wonder if God is pleased with you.  He plainly tells you that he is.  You are not ruled by guilt, but by grace.  For as much as you strive to faithfully keep God's commands, your confidence is that God faithfully serves you with his grace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.