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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
July 12, 2015
Description

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

If when you hear the law of the Lord you think to yourself, “I could do better”: repent! Repent and believe the gospel.

The problem with the law – and actually it’s a problem with us – is that we think we can keep it. That’s why we’re not always wrought with guilt; even unbelievers. We think when we’re not actively doing something bad or thinking something bad that we’re keeping the law, that we’re not transgressing, not sinning. That’s why people – even so-called Christians – try and pit sodomy against eating shellfish. They think if that if we’re going to decry homosexuality as sinful then we should also regard eating shellfish as sinful since both are forbidden in the Old Testament. They think by eating shellfish we are breaking the law. But they do not understand the Scriptures or the power therein.

And sadly many Christians and Christian teachers get embroiled in arguments about why eating shellfish was lawless then and why it’s not now as much as they get into arguments about why circumcision was good. But it doesn’t matter. First of all, it doesn’t matter simply because God said it. Like when dad says, “You do it because I said ‘do it.’” It’s the law because he said it, not because of his reasons behind it. And although this sort of obedience is moral rather than spiritual, it is still better than no obedience at all. It is like the man who is not far from the kingdom of heaven. We like this kind of obedience because we can measure it and grow in it. We can hold it up and show it off. But this is merely the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees of which St. Paul says, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.”

The Christian is no longer under a guardian, we are no longer under the Law but under grace. The death Christ died He died to sin and the life He lives He lives to God. Therefore consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But where does this leave us? Where it doesn’t leave us is trying to keep the Law so as to please God through our own righteous. That sort of righteousness is of the Pharisees: those who think they can keep it and do better at keeping it. But if you would live by the Law, thinking that you keep the Law by some measure of righteousness, then you will likewise perish by the Law for your righteousness will not have exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees. Your righteousness in trying to be good and do good things is like dirty rags.

No, you must have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. You must have an inborn righteousness, a righteousness that comes from within rather than from without. For it is not what is outside the body that defiles it but what is inside. Therefore, we must have a true and holy righteousness within us so that what comes out does not defile us.

Thus it is written, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” And the one in me is the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, poured out on us and planted into our hearts through the ears by and through the word of Christ, which is forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for the sake and by the power of His blood.

Consider that it was at the baptism of our Lord when the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of the dove and the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” So it is with us as we are baptized into Christ and thus receive the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. The Father, being well-pleased with the Son, is now also well pleased with us. Why? Because we keep the Law? No. Because we are in Christ and His Spirit in us so that what He says is true: He and we are one just as He is in the Father and the Father in Him, so we are in Him.

Ah, but then the question we love to ask: how does this inform our behavior? This question actually reveals an underlying misconception of sin. Sin is not behavior, sin is unbelief. Before you ever lied or were greedy or defamed your neighbor with gossip; before you ever hated or rolled your eyes as someone in authority – be it your parents, the government, or your pastor – before you had such behavior you disbelieved and thus you sinned and sin gave birth to all manner of wickedness even as the apostle teaches: “Sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in my all manner of wickedness.”

So we truly see in our bodies two laws: the law of sin and the law of righteousness. But this isn’t the same as the law of good behavior and the law of bad behavior. We don’t suppress the law of sin by trying to do better; that produces in us either fear or pride. But rather we suppress the law of sin by focusing ourselves on the righteousness of Christ. When we thus think on things above – such as the blessed mysteries of Christ and His most holy incarnation – and not on earthly things – such as obedience to the Law and moral superiority – then our minds will be transformed by the wisdom of Christ. But so long as we think our righteousness is bound up in the Law then we will perish in unbelief.

The wisdom of Christ is not found in being morally superior. The wisdom of Christ is found in the cross of Christ: the suffering and dying of our Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the atoning blood of the Lamb of God. That is why the children of God, being made in His likeness, forgive our enemies and love those who persecute us; why we pray for those who hate us and do good to all, especially those of the household of faith, our fellow Christians. We do this because of the cross.

Moreover, and perhaps most of all, the wisdom of Christ – the cross of Christ – keeps us from profaning the name of the Lord and teaching falsely and thus leading others astray, which is a greater sin than any other as it is written, “Woe to the one through whom temptation comes,” and “When we lie we speak the devil’s native tongue.” What is false teaching but the lies of Satan?

So don’t get your theology from Facebook or Twitter or MSNBC or the History Channel. Don’t get your understanding of Christ and God from Hallmark and other arm-chair theologians who pontificate wildly and yet are never found in Christ, never gathering to Him, who are more enamored with angel’s wings than with the blood of Jesus. They are blind guides.

Rather learn from Christ by gathering to Him at His divine service and so participating in Him through His blessed and most holy mysteries: His Word for the ear, for the tongue, and for the eyes. Learn from Him by submitting yourself to His righteousness which is from above. Continue to submit to His rule as you are here doing, for He rules not through the Law or through earthly wisdom and knowledge, but by His cross, which is His mercy and heavenly wisdom. Learn heavenly wisdom from Him by gathering to His Body, the Church. Thus it is written:

He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven. (Colossians 1:18-23)

Good Christians are not so because they are morally superior; good Christians are so because they are found in Christ living the new life toward God in Christ Jesus our Lord, forgiving, loving, and having mercy on all, the Spirit of God flowing out of them like rivers of living water because we are untied to the Father in Christ through whom the Spirit comes to us.

+ In Nomine Iesu +