Law AND Gospel

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S (Scripture): Mark 10:17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19  You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”

20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25  It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

O (Observation): So the man coming before God claims that he has no problem keeping the Law. Turns out…his problem is with living out the Law. Sounds strange.

The Law was about giving God’s people boundary-markers, which in turn supports life for everyone. Over time, the Law became more and more about what someone could get away with and remain in good standing with God.

This rich man may very well have been keeping to the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law was completely missed. I blame the teachers of the Law.

The result of the teaching at the time: you could be rich, have no worries about the poor, and keep to the letter of the Law…all while avoiding one’s personal cross and corporate cross.

Who cares for the poor, then? We don’t have a commandment about that.

A (Application): So each of the 10 Commandments is a Law, but when explored through the lens of Law & Gospel, we see a bit more clearly how each commandment brings life!

For example: “You shall have no other gods.” Seems like a problem if we look at money or fame to bring us hope in this life. That is true. We will never get enough of those things. But what do we have? The ONE true God who brings life! Can’t get any better than that!

Or how about the commandment: “You shall not steal”? Martin Luther says this in his teaching regarding this commandment in “The Small Catechism”:

We are to fear and love God so that, we neither steal or take our neighbor’s property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.

So not only are we to “not steal” from someone, we are to do all we can to help improve and protect our neighbor’s property and financial status.

Law AND Gospel.

What to avoid AND how to engage.

Who is teaching the Law to you these days? Who is teaching the Gospel?

Seems to me that a bit of both is the way to go. Guess that’s what makes me a Lutheran Christian.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us on track and give us grace to keep moving. Thanks!


The Protestant Reformation & a Loving God

I mention Luther’s Small Catechism in this article.  Click here for information about the FREE Small Catechism app!!!  Nod to Augsburg Fortress for making this available to the public!

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Psalm 90
8 You put our sins right in front of you, set our hidden faults in the light from your face.

11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
The honor that is due you corresponds to your wrath.
12 Teach us to number our days
so we can have a wise heart.

13 Come back to us, Lord!
Please, quick!
Have some compassion for your servants!
14 Fill us full every morning with your faithful love
so we can rejoice and celebrate our whole life long.
15 Make us happy for the same amount of time that you afflicted us—

O (Observation): The psalmist recognizes that God has expectations of those who call on the Lord for hope and salvation.   When God-fearers disappoint God, the psalmist recognizes a type of wrath that comes from God.   

Whether this is a fear-motivation, or simply someone who doesn’t want to disappoint God…the pslamist recognizes that while God can be full of wrath, God also has the capacity for compassion and mercy.  

This combination fills God-fearers with both fear and great joy.   

A (Application):  2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   Martin Luther was one of the most famous leaders within this movement.    

In the early 1500’s, Luther travelled throughout the area of Saxony (in modern-day Germany).    He was greatly disappointed in his findings.  He was seeking to know what the common people knew of the God which they feared.    They knew very little about God and almost nothing of the Scriptures.   They paid their taxes to the Church, though.  All they knew of God was that they were to fear God.  

Luther helped to change this view of an angry God.  Luther discovered – through reading the scriptures, which was something very few clergy actually did! – that God was not only wrathful at times, but was also found to be full of mercy and compassion, as well!   

This psalm captures both fear and joy in being a follower of God.   The fear allows us to be respectful towards God and to follow God’s ways, however, the compassion God has for us brings us joy and mercy.  

As Luther saw the lack of Christian Education throughout his homeland of Saxony, he created a resource known as The Small Catechism.   The Small Catechism teaches about 5 fundamental elements of the Christian faith: The 10 Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion.   

As Luther creates explanations for the elements of The 10 Commandments, he begins each explanation of each commandment with “We are to fear and love God, so that…”  In this repeated phrase, Luther captures the elements of fear and compassion of our God seen here in Psalm 90.  

May you know that a healthy respect and awe of the Lord is good.  And just as good is the compassion and mercy given to us by our God!

P (Prayer): Lord, we fear and love you.   Help us to be okay with both…for you are mighty in power and love.  Amen.