Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Name Above All Names.

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. ESV

In this “command” our Heavenly Father gives us the gift of his name. Not to use to curse our fellow humans as all of us do either out loud or in our hearts but rather as a family name. In Holy Baptism the Name Father, Son and Holy Spirit is invoked following the institution of Jesus. This is most certainly adoption just like a human man and woman give an infant their name in that legal process.

Prior to this adoption we are only the children of Adam. The only inheritance we have of our natural parents is hell. This damnation remains our lot until God in his mercy moves our lineage to his own through faith. We can know for certain that this is ours because of the sacrament. Unfortunately many Christians miss this assurance because of misinformation given them either by malicious religious teachers or those who know no better. Without this knowledge one is forever looking for inward feelings or outward works to know whether he or she is truly God’s child. What a pity.

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. ESV

To the Galatians, a church beset by false doctrine of works righteousness, St Paul did not point to the law as knowing whether a person was saved or not but rather his or her baptism into Christ. An outward, material and referable gift whereby one can know he or she is redeemed. No more measuring oneself against moral commands or level of good works to see evidence of ones identity.

This is also useful in defending us from our adversary the devil. Part of the game plan of the devil is to accuse a person and distract him from serving his neighbour by casting doubt and turning the attention inward. So good is he at plying that trade she may despair of even going to worship for fear others “know” these things which are in her life and will judge her harshly.

70] On the other hand, they should be constantly urged and incited to honor God's name, and to have it always upon their lips in everything that may happen to them or come to their notice. For that is the true honor of His name, to look to it and implore it for all consolation, so that (as we have heard above) first the heart by faith gives God the honor due Him, and afterwards the lips by confession.

71] This is also a blessed and useful habit and very effectual against the devil, who is ever about us, and lies in wait to bring us into sin and shame, calamity and trouble, but who is very loath to hear God's name, and cannot remain long where it is uttered and called upon from the heart. And, indeed, many a terrible and shocking calamity would befall us if, by our calling upon His name, God did not preserve us.

72] I have myself tried it, and learned by experience that often sudden great calamity was immediately averted and removed during such invocation. To vex the devil, I say, we should always have this holy name in our mouth, so that he may not be able to injure us as he wishes.

In the above sections from the Large Catechism of Martin Luther he has shown how having the blessed name of God on our lips is very useful way to defeat the devil’s ways. In my life I have learned to invoke the Name of the trinity daily and several times a day while making the sign of the Holy Cross. This works and is in no way superstitious as some would suppose and teach. This is not to be done to be seen of men but rather to be seen of the host of darkness round about us seeking to undo us in our daily activities.

Thanks be to God. Amen. †

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Returning the Favour

It has been said that in the beginning God created man since then man has the desire to return the favour. This takes many forms but the most common is to project ones desires and emotions, multiply them, attempt to perfect them and say “now that is the way God wants to be God and how he feels about things.”

Exodus 20:4 You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ESV

Any gods created by man is the devil. That god will want to be served, cared for and fed continually. It will never be satisfied nor will it be able to forgive. In the first “command” we are given the gift of God himself by saying those who are brought out of sin will have no other gods before him. The second part of this command we are told that because we were brought out of the house of bondage we will set aside our idolatries and no longer serve them.

In the modern mind it is inconceivable that one would have idols. I know that few people whom I know have statues in their houses of deities and light candles, make food offering or pray to them. However, it is easy to place the desire to fill this home with the latest toys and furniture as a matter of pride and give more attention to that then to our Saviour. This would make the house our false God. This can become a slave master if one is so consumed by the acquisition of these items one has an increasing load of debt which causes one to have to work harder and harder just to service it.

10] So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts.

This is from Martin Luther’s Large Catechism on the first commandment. Here he shows how that for a while trust in self or what one can obtain is a fleeting good. In today’s economy many are receiving this wake up call to how much trust in self and one’s employment have become a god to us.

Our Real God actually bows to us. What? Yes he comes to us to, on a daily basis, take away our sin. In dying on the cross Jesus became our servant king. That is unheard of in the religions of the world today where the god, if it has a personal god, demands to be served. The god of great wealth and possession demands serving as well and the want is never ending and is insatiable.

Jesus also comes to serve us in the Divine Service in the form of bread and wine. He promised that he would truly be present in this way for his people for the forgiveness of sin and to strengthen the wearied and worried heart burdened by petty idolatries. Too many Christians do not believe this wonderful truth and still await his coming to them in another way. To deny his presence in the holy meal is to attempt to have Jesus in one’s own way rather then in the way he has promised himself. What a blessing which is missed indeed by not believing his clear promise.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for [5] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [6] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. ESV

Thanks be to God. †