Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sunday, Mar. 7, 2021

Hear again the first verses of our first reading from Exodus 20: Then God spoke all these words: I
am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall
have no other gods before me. ... Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

My messages the first two weeks of this season of Lent have been heavy, with the focus on the
Lenten theme of repentance. Last Sunday I pointed to the two sides of the repentance coin, with
the first involving “confession” of our sin, the process of recognizing the depth of our sinful
woundedness, leading to the experiencing of guilt and remorse. I have continued to urge us to
not shy away from this challenging and often painful process because of what it prepares us for:
experiencing the profound healing of grace and love, with the outcome promised by Jesus—that
those who’ve been forgiven much will love much. I hope and pray we all desire to love much!

The other side of the repentance coin has to do with “change.” *Remember, the Greek word for
“repent”, metanoia, literally means to “change the mind” and the result of this changing of our
mind is the changing of the direction of our lives. This involves our deciding to follow Jesus, our
hearing and responding to His call… a decision that, while dependent on the support of the Holy
Spirit of God, is one we need to make over and over and over again, day after day after day.

One more thing we touched on last week-- which I want to focus on this morning-- is the vitally
important truth that following Jesus is the path to the best life possible. As recorded in the tenth
chapter of John’s Gospel, right before Jesus described Himself as being the “good shepherd
[who] lays down his life for the sheep,” Jesus said this about His ‘sheep’: *“I came that they may
have life and have it abundantly.”

I closed last Sunday with this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship:
“Costly grace confronts us with a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the
broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of
Christ and follow Him; it is grace because Jesus says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’”

Here is the full quote of what Jesus said, from Matthew 1; Come to me, all you that are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light.

The Greek word translated here as “easy” is chréstos, which can also be understood as “good.”
One way of understanding this is to realize that the ‘yoke’ Jesus would have us take upon
ourselves is one which fits us well. Unlike other yokes, such as legalism, which drives us to try
to appease or avoid God’s wrath or earn His love and blessings, by obedience to the Law, the
yoke Jesus invites us to take upon ourselves is one which sees obedience as being based on
gratitude and love, and as being a way to live the best life possible.

The ‘yoke’ of serving self is another prevalent and powerful force, one which is fed in many
sophisticated and powerful ways in our culture. This yoke involves being motivated and driven
by the belief that the way to true happiness is through putting ourselves and our wants above all
other and through making and spending absolutely the most money possible on ourselves, and
surrounding ourselves increasing with luxuries, never satisfied with what we have, always
needing more and bigger and better.

These yokes are two of the greatest deceptions of the Great Deceiver, a.k.a. Satan. Another is
seeking to convince us that our Creator wants to make our lives less than they could be… less
fun and enjoyment, more work and rules to follow. My friends, Satan has been lying to humans
since the beginning! These are the biggest—and most harmful—deceptions of all time.

The absolute truth is that our Creator, our Abba Father, is described in the first letter of John
with one word: “Love.” God is love. Everything God does, and everything God has done and
continues to do in and through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is ultimately driven by His love for us.

Let’s seek to understand this in light of our text. It is very helpful to understand the historical
context of God’s giving of the gift of what has long been called the “Ten Commandments” or
“Ten Words” to Charlton Heston—I mean, Moses. The immediate context is provided in verses
1 and 2 of our text: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery.” Here God is calling His people to remember not only that He alone is their
Lord God and Savior, but also to remember what He has recently done for them, powerfully and
dramatically rescuing them from abusive slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.

Now God is going to teach them how to respond to Who He is and what He has done for them.
He lays it all out for them in the form of the Ten Commandments. Please note that the primary
motivation for obedience was and still is gratitude for God’s gracious rescue. But there’s more
motivation—the Creator/God is laying out for them a pathway to living the best life possible.

Here is where seeking to understand God’s purposes of giving the “Law” is both challenging
and very important. Yes, in the context of repentance, God’s Commandments do serve as a
‘mirror’ which helps us see how far we fall short of the perfect obedience God commands.
Without the Law, there would be no awareness of sin, and therefore no understanding of the
need for grace. As Jesus would say many years later, He came to seek and to save the lost.
Without the Law, we would have no awareness of our being lost.

At the same time, we must remember that God did not give the Commandments in order to
show the descendants of Abraham how to obey Him in order to earn His favor or merit the
salvation He provided. The Commandments showed them how to respond to God’s goodness.

Again… the Commandments are also a gift from the Creator/Savior. We are practicing true
wisdom when we freely seek to align our lives with God’s Commands. The absolute truth is
that by seeking—with the help of the Holy Spirit—to have no other gods and to foster an
awareness of God’s holiness by revering His name, we are better off! We are also better off
when we honor the need for Sabbath rest and worship, when we honor our parents, honor life,
and honor marriage, and when we tell the truth. And we are better off when we do not covet.

Jesus calls us to repent and to follow Him, turning from deception and toward truth. We are so
much better off (as is everyone around us!) when greed is replaced by generosity, when self-
serving is replaced by a desire to serve others, when a desire for retribution is replaced by grace
and forgiveness. When we learn to live for God and for others, which the Ten Commandments,
summarized later by Jesus as being a desire to love and serve God and love and serve others,
becomes what drives our lives, we discover the greatest joy and deepest meaning and purpose.

Don’t buy the lie! Living for God and others is the secret to the best life! Amen.