EPIPHANY 6, A –February 16, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Deut.30:15-20; 1 Cor. 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

 

“See,I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” (Deut. 30)

 

Whatkind of a God do we have? What is He like? Well, consider what Jesus says in Matthew5. Heaven is God’s throne, or chair, and the earth is the stool where He restsHis feet. He is in heaven and on earth; His presence fills them both. And so,we have a present God, a God who is among us and sees us and knows us!

 

Sometimesthis is comforting. At other times it is unsettling. God is inscrutable, yousee. We can’t figure Him out. The big storm that roared through here just a fewdays ago is an example of this.

 

Imean, God is all powerful and can do anything, right? He can control storms! Hewouldn’t be God if this were not true. Well, then: why does God allow and evensend such terrible storms? And I do mean terrible. For most of us Thursday’sstorm was an inconvenience. The snow was heavy and difficult to shovel, but we didn’thave a lot of ice. We didn’t lose power. How difficult for those down south whodid! There was also the tragic accident in NYC in which a woman who was eightmonths pregnant was hit and killed by a plow (her baby was delivered byC-section and hospitalized). Where is God in such things? There are no easyanswers.

 

Thisis why we must always, and above all, look upon Jesus. God has come to us inour flesh and in great humility! He humbly served and gave His life for us!Jesus’ presence and ministry show that God is utterly loving and desires tohelp and bless us. There is much we can’t understand about God, but He issurely love! The presence of Jesus, God in the flesh, shouts out this message.

 

KeepJesus before you also when you consider how God wants you to live your life. IfGod’s love for you is so great that He would become a man and die for you, wouldHe then lay demands upon you that are harmful for you or others? Never! Holdonto this as you hear and learn and strive to obey God’s Ten Commandments –which you must do. God’s commands are ignored, or changed to make them moreacceptable, to your great harm. God’s Word declares (Deut. 30):

“If you obey thecommandments of the Lord your God by loving the Lord your God, by walking inhis ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his just decreesthen you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you. But ifyour heart turns away, and you will not hear, you shall surely perish.”

Jesus also doesn’tmince words. He takes God’s commandments so seriously that He makes themstronger. He applies them not only to our actions, but also to our thoughts anddesires and intentions:

“You have heardthat it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you thateveryone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committedadultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5)

For this reason, “Ifyour right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it isbetter that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be throwninto hell.” How strong are Christ’s words! The end of disobedience, ofignoring or changing or turning away from God’s commands, is eternal damnationin hell. We must learn God’s commands and live them, embracing them in ourhearts and fulfilling them with our words and our actions. We must, because ourgood and loving God says so. We must, because as God Himself is our life andgood they are our life and good. They will bless our lives and others lives.

 

            Last week I told you that God doesnot need Sunday morning Christians, people who show evidence of their faith onlyat church, but Christians whose lives shine forth in extraordinary ways everyday of the week. God’s world needs extraordinary husbands and wives,extraordinary employees, extraordinary friends and neighbors – this is true,especially today when so many people are living for themselves and putting theirdesires first. But, in emphasizing the extraordinary, I fear that I may have notmade clear that it is especially in lowliness that obedience to God’scommandments is seen, to the glory and honor of God.

 

“Blessedare the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” With these wordsJesus began His Sermon on the Mount, of which today’s Gospel reading is acontinuation. Who are the poor in spirit? They are those who believe in Jesusand want to follow God’s commands but are sad because of how weak they are indoing so. They are those who struggle with questions because they do notunderstand what God is doing. They are believers who are weighed down withillness or financial worries or other sorrows, and wonder where God’s help isfor them. They feel very unworthy of being witnesses for Christ and think theyhave little opportunity to do so. And yet, they often witness to God in ways theydo not realize.

 

It iseasy to believe that God is good and His ways are good and right when life isgoing well and your problems are few. But, when times are tough and you arestruggling financially and yet do not attempt to hide your wages and not reportthem to avoid taxes; or, do not work Sunday after Sunday to get ahead and skiphearing God’s Word and worshiping Him – this is a witness to your belief thatGod is to be trusted and honored. Remember how Jesus commended the poor widowwho put into the offering at the temple two small coins, far less than what thewealthy contributed? “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put inmore than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they allcontributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put ineverything she had.” (Mark 12:43-44) When you are willing to be made funof by others because you do not wish to join in looking at the SportsIllustrated Swimsuit Edition because Jesus said, “everyone who looks at a womanwith lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,”you are bearing witness that God’s ways are right. When you set aside your desireto be right and seek reconciliation with one with whom you have been arguing,even to the point of apologizing first, you are bearing witness to thesacrifice Christ made for you and the forgiveness He freely gives you. In suchways God’s will for us, and especially His love for us in Christ, is honoredand proclaimed. Life and good are chosen, for the blessing of many.

 

In HisSon Jesus Christ – who perfectly kept all of God’s commandments, proclaimingthem to be good and fulfilling them for us; who took upon Himself the guilt ofour sins and on the cross bore for us God’s punishment of them; who rose from thedead and brought forth a new and eternal life for us – God has set before useternal life. In His Ten Commandments God sets before us how that life canbring blessing to us and others now. Choose life! Choose Jesus Christ and God’sgood Commandments. The Lord your God will surely bless you, even in the midstof hardships, and will fill you forever with the joy of His life!