Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of September 9, 2018

Sermon: “The Law, the Whole Law, and Nothing But the Law…So Help Me God!”
Text: James 2:10

Since almost the advent of Television, courtroom shows have graced the airwaves and filled the cable channels giving us a window into the legal system of our great country. 

I’m not sure what show comes to your mind when you think of courtroom or legal shows on TV.  Perhaps it is the classic Perry Mason, or the intrepid Matlock.  Perhaps you spent time watching the exploits of LA Law or the cases played out on Law and Order or JAG.  Some of you might be up to speed on Suits or Goliath.  If courtroom drama is not your speed, perhaps you have caught an episode of Judge Judy, the Peoples Court or Judge Joe Brown. 

For me, the best courtroom TV show by far, and the one I look back on for teaching me the most about the legal system was Night Court.   Some of you may chuckle because you know the show, for those who don’t let me set the stage.

The storyline, goes like this, “In this situation comedy, the honorable Judge Harold T. Stone presides over ‘Night Court’, a court which deals with petty crimes which can be dealt with in a dime-a-dozen manner. Invariably, the cases appearing before the court are bizarre, but that's ok because Judge Stone is not your regular judge, he’s a hip, jeans-wearing eccentric judge whose views on various cases isn’t always normal, nor is his judgments. He's assisted by a motley crew of clerks, bailiffs and lawyers who often create as much chaos as the criminals they bring in for trial.”

This show was hilarious and every episode something crazy happened.  It ran from 1984 to 1992 and really catered to my young adult sense of humor.  Do me a favor when you get home and look up some Night Court clips on YouTube, or better yet, download a season or two for your next trip, you won’t be disappointed. 

So, why all the talk about courtrooms?  In our epistle lesson for today we come face to face with the Law. 

As I spent time with the second chapter of James this week I couldn’t get the law out of my mind.  

When reading God’s Word or hearing the proclamation of it here in God’s house it would be easy to come to the conclusion that to be a follower of Jesus you have to adhere to a strict collection of guidelines, behaviors and yes, even laws. 

Quite often it is believed that one must follow said guidelines in order to be received into the community. Fortunately this is not the case. 
Reception into the body of Christ is not dependent upon what we do, but upon what Christ has done…but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

From the Epistle of James, the 2nd chapter verse 10, “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

It would have been a whole lot easier for Perry Mason or Judge Harry Stone to operate in a courtroom that had those regulations; one slip up and you are done for!

The Jewish people were so focused on not transgressing the law that they not only tried to follow the ones instituted by God, but they made up even more to keep themselves distanced from even the chance that they may disobey. 

In the 3rd Century Jewish Rabbis enumerated 613 laws they found directly from the Old Testament Scriptures.  On top of that they added more regulations and requirements for every one of the 613 laws just to make sure they didn’t break them.

Let me give you an example.  The 10 commandments would be part of the 613 laws.  Let’s take the 3rd commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  First of all, good job to you all for keeping that one today.  But the Pharisees added another 39 regulations onto this one commandment.  Additional requirements would include how many steps you can take on the Sabbath, what specific activities constituted as work and many, many more.  

In modern times it has been expanded even greater.  Have you ever visited a Jewish hospital on a Saturday?  All of the elevators stop at every floor without the need to press a button, because that would be doing work on the Sabbath.  And this is just with one commandment! 

It is the belief that as long as you follow all of the laws, you will get into heaven. 

But it’s not just those in the Jewish faith.  It’s the secular world too.  As long as I am a good person, or take care of others or do right, then everything is going to be OK. 

And let’s be serious for a moment, in the Christian world we have this mixed up too.

If you took inventory of your life with just the 10 commandments, would you be declared innocent or guilty?
  • Have you ever put your trust into something other than God? 
  • Have you ever misused God’s name, even once? 
  • Have you always kept the Sabbath Day and the importance of worship in your life? 
  • Have you always honored your father and your mother? 
  • I would hope you have kept the commandment not to murder but as we learn in Luther’s Small Catechism this is more than just taking a life, it’s defending life too.  Have you ever not stood up for the life of another, or have you harbored hatred for another in your heart? 
  • Have you been faithful in both actions and thoughts in your relationships at all times? 
  • Have you ever taken what is not rightfully yours? 
  • Have your words always given a faithful witness to others? 
  • Have you desired to take or get that which does not belong to you? 
  • Are you innocent or guilty?  What does our text say?

“If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”  (James 2:10)

If we followed the Law, the whole Law and nothing but the Law, the only thing we could do is cry out, “So help me God!”

Those who look to the Law for salvation are missing the point.  There is no escape from the consequences of sin. 

As English poet and writer GK Chesterton once wrote, “Lawlessness in many modern matters seems to be the principal effect of law.”

Like a condemned criminal there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor or turn away His wrath.  The judge has ruled and you are guilty! But God's love and mercy for us moved Him to provide a Substitute. Jesus became human to take our sins upon Himself, and He received the full punishment for those sins in His suffering and death on the cross.

Watching the brutality Jesus suffered in movies like The Passion of the Christ helps us realize how serious God is about His Law and holiness. But it also reminds us that God completely satisfied His holiness and justice by laying our sins on Jesus, who paid for each one in full.   Listen to the comforting words of Scripture:
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

This is Grace!  When we cry out, “So help me God!” He provides just what we need.  In our Psalm for today we encountered these words, Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (Psalm 146:5)

The drama of your court case was settled on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where the God of the universe willingly changed places with you.  He took your punishment and gave you his righteousness. Blessed is he who help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

This grace comes to you free of charge. 

As the popular song by Christian artists Casting Crowns correctly states when singing out to God, “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are.”

While the Law may make some sense to our human minds, Grace is hard to understand.  Why would God do such a thing as to take our sin upon himself? 

The only answer we find in the pages of Scripture is Love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  It’s the only thing that could satisfy the requirements of the Law.  We might try to fight against the Law, but Jesus won the victory. 
The unconditional, irrational, undeserved and totally amazing love of God has granted you grace, has pardoned your sin and on account of Jesus you are forgiven…so help us God.   Amen!

-Pr. Seth Moorman


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