Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Devotional Meditation on the Second Commandment

You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain.

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, practice witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

God’s name cannot be more grievously abused than for purposes of falsehood and deceit.  To use God’s name in vain is to use it for useless purposes or more particularly to use it to support falsehood or wrong of any kind.

But how is God’s name used vainly?  How is it used for false pretenses?  It seems easy to understand the obvious implications of this commandment.  Don’t lie while using God’s name, because God will hold you accountable.  I’m not sure if in our everyday conversation when we say, “I swear to God such and such happened” that people even take notice, or actually are drawn to the image of God as witness to our foolish statements.  Nonetheless, God forbids us from using His name foolishly.

More often than not, there are so called pastors of Christian churches that claim, thus says the Lord.  Just because someone adds, God said it, many people often fall pray to trusting in these false prophets.  It is easy to see the decay of the Christian Church over the past hundred years and the ill effects false prophets have had on our society.  Yet, the false teachers can’t get all the blame.  Too often we let the pastor say whatever he wants and we rarely if ever go to the Source, God’s Word, to determine if what he said was correct.  We are just as guilty, for being negligent in our studies, and letting the pastor lead us wherever he feels like.

God instructs us through St. Paul to be prepared, For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. When churches begin falling down the slippery slope of false doctrine, there does not seem to be a bottom.  Like a large snowball rolling down a mountain, it continues picking up size as it moves faster and faster towards the bottom (hell).  The only real Guardian we have against false doctrine is God the Holy Spirit, working through His Word.

Just think of the countless number of Christians today who believe there is room in the account of Creation for millions of years.  Pastor’s have swallowed their parishioners inconsistencies and allowed God’s Word to stand along side of bad science.  Evolution cannot be proven…it is a theory.  Yet because it has been promoted as the most reasonable option for so long Christians have fallen pray to an atheistic worldview, that denies the existence of the God declared in Scripture.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for being so earthly minded by swallowing the wisdom of this world and hoping it can coincide with Your Word.  Forgive us for misusing Your Name and treating it as though it really doesn’t matter.  Give us the confidence to live in the forgiveness which Your Son has won for us and protect us from those who desire to silence Your Truth.  Amen.

Devotional Meditation on the First Commandment

You shall have no other gods.
A commandment that we have known since childhood.  It seems so simple, right?  There is only one God and we are to fear, love and trust in him above all things.  We may often forget how easy it is to fail in keeping this commandment.  When we hear it, we are often drawn to those false gods like Buddha and Allah, or maybe the multiplicity of gods included in the Hindu religion.  We easily dismiss thoughts of worshipping gods of that caliber because they often have no real appeal to us.

But if we really dig deeper into what it means to have another god, we may have to re-evaluate how easily we let ourselves off the hook.  In the Large Catechism Luther explains what a God is…A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart.  As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God.  On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.  For these two belong together, faith and God.  That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.

So in whom do you trust.  Do you really and truly rely on God for everything?  We like to think that we do, yet we are constantly drawn to trust in ourselves or the work which we do to earn us some money.  We trust in our car to keep us safe, our insurance to provide in case of an emergency, or even our government to bail us out when things go wrong.  While none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, we see how easy it is to be drawn to trust in them for the blessings which only come from God.

Over the next several months I will take portions from the catechism in order to give us an opportunity to review those teachings which we have learned from scripture regarding the basic teachings of God’s Word.  A review of the Catechism starts with the commandments because it offers to us a needed opportunity to reflect on God’s will for us in our lives.  The law tells us what we are to do and what not to do but it cannot save us.  More often than not, the law simply reveals to us our sinful condition and the inability of mankind to live according to God’s will.

The first commandment directs us to the source of all goodness and mercy.  Only in the one true God can we alone find comfort and joy.  Why?   Because as the psalmist says He forgives all our iniquities and heals all our diseases, He redeems our lives from destruction.  When God commands allegiance to Him and Him only, it is because if we place our trust in something else…we have no God at all and are doomed to eternal death.  But only in Him can there be full confidence, because God cannot fail.

He did not fail.  He sent His Son as promised and completed the way to make us right again before His eyes.  In the first commandment God intends to tell us: “Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me.  I am the one who will satisfy you and help you out of every need.  Only let your heart cling to no one else.”