Trinity Six Sermon
ďThe Life Worth LivingĒ
July 3, 2005
If you could describe the good life, how would you do
it? What kind of life is
the best life that can be lived? If
all the wise men from every corner of the world and every era of human
history were to gather together to distill all their wisdom into ten
statements describing the kind of lives we should be living they could
not produce anything approaching the wisdom of the Ten Commandments.
These words from God describe the life that is worth living.
If we all obeyed the Ten Commandments from the heart we would be
living in a paradise on earth.
Imagine a world in which everyone gave honor and
praise and glory solely to our God and Father in heaven.
Everyone would be united in perfect love, receiving true love
from God and revering His name. We
would pray in perfect unity and never misuse Godís name to promote
lies. We would find
spiritual rest together by receiving Godís word in simple and pure
faith, unfettered by doubts of any kind.
Fathers and mothers would be respected, obeyed, honored, and
loved. No oneís life
would be treated as unimportant. There
would be no fighting, no murdering, no abortion, no euthanasia, and no
hatred. Marriage would be
between one man and one woman and would indeed be lifelong.
Everyone would respect marriage and remain faithful to their
vows. Theft would be
unknown as everyone saw fit to protect the property of his neighbor.
Nobody would deal in lies. Gossip
would consist solely in pleasant recounting of the many good and
wonderful things others have done and nobodyís reputation would be
damaged in any way. Everyone
would be content with what he had and would not try to take advantage of
his neighbor. This would
indeed be a wonderful world. If
everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments from the heart, everyone would live
the good life.
donít need to be a Christian to see this.
People who donít know Christ do know that virtue is its own
reward and that the good life is a life of humility, mercy, purity,
generosity, self-control, and faithfulness.
People have by nature a basic understanding of Godís
law. We call this the
conscience. The Ten
Commandments resonate with people of every religion. They know that these commandments are just and that if we
obeyed them we would be living righteous lives.
God gave the Ten Commandments to
the ancient people of Israel. He
gave them to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had been
enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years.
Listen to what God said: ďI am the LORD your God, who brought
you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before Me.Ē
God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel after He had set them
free from slavery.
Israel did nothing to entice God
to choose her to be His people. God
called Abraham out of idolatry to faith.
He did not choose Abraham because Abraham deserved to be chosen.
He chose him by grace alone.
Likewise, God chose Isaac by grace alone.
He chose Jacob by grace alone.
God does not choose His children because they obey Him.
He chooses His children by His grace alone. God chooses us and sets us free to be His people on the basis
of gospel, not on the basis of the law.
The law and the gospel are the two main teachings of
Godís Word. The law is
summarized in the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount
Sinai. It tells us what we must do if we are to enjoy Godís
blessings. The gospel is
revealed in Christ alone. It
tells us what Christ has done for us to win for us Godís eternal
blessings. The law shows us
our sins and condemns us for them. The gospel shows us our Savior and gives us forgiveness of
sins. The law issues
threats. The gospel
threatens no one. The law
kills. The gospel gives life. The
law must be preached to sinners who hold on to their sins and refuse to
repent. The gospel must be
preached to those who admit their sins, want to be rid of them, and are
afraid of Godís judgment against them.
The law always accuses. It
always condemns. The gospel
always forgives and saves. The
law promises blessing to all who obey it.
The gospel promises blessing to all who believe it.
We need to hear both the law and the gospel. We need to hear the law because without the law we cannot
learn of our need for a Savior. The
law must do its work. It
must judge us. It must
condemn us. It must destroy
our confidence in our sinful flesh.
Only when our sins have been exposed to our conscience can we
receive through faith the forgiveness of sins that God gives us in
Christ. The work of the law
is to destroy false faith. By
nature we hold to a false faith. It
is a faith in our own sinful flesh.
The main purpose of Godís law is to show us that we cannot
trust in ourselves. We
cannot trust in our humility, mercy, purity, generosity, self-control,
The law that God gave to Israel
is not what set Israel free. As
we have seen, God freed Israel from slavery before He gave them the Ten
Commandments. When men set
out to create their own religions they invariably teach the law as a
means of obtaining spiritual freedom.
But the very opposite is true.
When I was a boy I used to play
with Chinese handcuffs. You
would attach one end to a finger on one hand and the other end to a
finger on the other hand. The harder you pulled the tighter they gripped your fingers.
Thatís how it is with those who depend on the law to bring them
spiritual freedom. The more
they try to gain it by themselves the more tightly bound in spiritual
slavery they become. The
most religious people are most firmly bound in spiritual slavery.
The reason is their false faith.
They trust in a false god. By
trying to gain spiritual freedom by obeying the Commandments they find
themselves in defiance of the First Commandment: ďYou shall have no
other gods before Me.Ē
The most popular idols are not
those made with human hands. They
are those made by the human mind. Idolatry
begins by setting aside the true God for an idol of human invention.
The true God is the God who sets His people free before they
worship Him or obey Him. ďI
am the LORD your God.Ē This
is the foundation for all that follows.
First God becomes our God and makes us His children.
This is the beginning of faith, worship, obedience, and the life
worth living. God makes
Himself our God. God makes
us His children.
This is why St. Paul calls us
back to our baptism in order to call us to live holy lives.
We live holy lives only as we are joined to the death and
resurrection of Christ in Holy Baptism.
God washes away our sins. This
is how He sets us free. He
places His name upon us in Holy Baptism.
He kills our sinful flesh by forgiving us all our sins.
This is precisely the opposite of how the religions of the world
work. They try to kill the
flesh by means of laying down the law.
But all that will do is strengthen the fleshís resistance to
God. The law is powerless to give anything to anybody who
doesnít obey it. And you
cannot obey any commandment of Godís law unless you obey the First
Commandment: ďYou shall have no other gods before Me.Ē
And you cannot obey the Fist Commandment apart from trusting in
Christ alone for your salvation. If
you are trusting in your obedience to the law, the law you trust will
condemn you as an impenitent idolater.
You cannot simultaneously have the LORD as your God while you
depend for eternal life on your own obedience to Godís law.
It is precisely when you set
aside all reliance on Godís law and trust instead in the crucifixion
and resurrection of Jesus that you begin to do what the Ten Commandments
tell you to do. Christians obey the Ten Commandments. They worship the Triune God and reject as idols all other
gods. They do not misuse
Godís name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give
thanks. They do not despise preaching and Godís word, but hold it
sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
They love and honor their parents.
They help and befriend their neighbor in his bodily needs.
They live chaste lives. They
protect their neighborís property and good name. They live content with what God has given to them.
They do this because they have been set free from the curse of
I am describing the life Ė the
good life Ė that God has given us to live.
The Ten Commandments do not impose misery upon us.
Our misery comes from our failure to obey them.
If we obeyed them we would be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied.
It is not Godís fault that we donít love him above all
things. It is not our
neighborís fault that we donít love him as much as we love
ourselves. It is our own
fault. The law wonít stop
telling us this. Should we
succeed in silencing the law we will only succeed in destroying
ourselves because it is only in humble penitence that our faith can be
born, nourished and sustained.
So we look at these commandments
that God has given to us. Does
your life correspond to what God says in these commandments?
It does not. So
repent. Return to your
baptism. There you will
find the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and
Pharisees. It is the
righteousness of Christ. It
is reckoned to you. Jesus
is your God and your brother and your Redeemer.
He obeyed the law you disobeyed and He suffered for your sins.
This is the gospel truth and this gospel is Godís word to you.
It is His word to you when your heart condemns you because the
law judges you as a sinner. The gospel silences the judgment of the law.
You canít do it. Christ did it.
Listen to the gospel and live
your Christian life. God
sees none of your sins. Christ
has covered them with His blood. God
sees His dear child who pleases Him in body and soul.
Thatís the life of the Christian.
Itís the life God has given us to live and itís a life worth
Rev. Rolf D. Preus