7/26 Message “The Lawmaker, Heartbreaker: You!”

As usual, we will be meeting in person on Sunday at 11 am, and also offer this recording and text for those joining from home.

Call to Worship; James 2:8-13

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Tithe, Offering, and Prayer Concerns; Father in Heaven in the Universe that you created and beyond. Thank you Lord for your steadfast kindness and generosity to our family and families in this room. Your Living room in your house. Father please accept our gifts and prayers as we offer our whole selves to you to be in you. Please teach us to further your kingdom in this hurting world.

Amen!

Message Reading; Matthew 5:17-20

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Message: The Lawmaker, Heartbreaker; You!

Today I am excited to talk with you on something I am very experienced in. In fact, I have been working on perfecting this topic for 59 years. Keeping close at hand the work ethic that practice makes perfect. At this point I have enough practice at the genera, that most of the time I am able to keep it going on auto pilot.

Yes today, our message topic “Lawmakin and heartbreakin, sounds like a Blues ballad. And really, it is sad when you look at the fact that we people continue down the same old path over and then all over again.

I guess to cut to the chase, I would say in explaining this kind of behavior (our actions), we are talking about sinning and then looking for ways to justify ourselves. Sometimes by creating even more rules, to cover the rules we were initially breaking. That way we can still feel good about ourselves, attack someone else, and deflect any criticism our way.

Speaking of rules, what are the rules that I am talking about? I am speaking today about the binding rules we generally refer to in scripture as the Law. The reason I am trying not to use the term Law, is that you would probable just flick the switch in your head and tune me out, and then start compiling the shopping list for the store after church, compile mentally your top ten muscle car rankings, ruminate on your favorite three dental extractions and or drillings in your life, or a personal favorite of mine when I am stuck in church and trying to pay attention, and behave, reflection on just how much I love puppies.

All of this leads me to ask a few questions about this rule business. This is in no way an all-inclusive list, it only begins to ask questions that you need to build upon as you explore your thoughts about the life God has given you, and your role in it.

  1. Do we really need any rules?
  2. Who makes the rules in our Faithwalk?
  3. Who tries to make rules for us to follow?
  4. Which rules are binding?

There are so many questions that I could site for you right now, but for today, this is my stab at a list. Feel free to build your own list as you begin to do the heavy lifting through prayer, scripture study, and real deep thinking as you build your beautiful lives in the Lord.

Beginning with the first obvious question;

  1. Do we really need any rules?

What do you think? On a general note, you don’t need me on this one. But for form and style purposes, let’s explore. The Laws in scripture come down to us through the children of Israel. Going way back to Moses, God instructed all of humanity what right and wrong is from the laws given to Israel at Sini. Making Israel a blessing to all the peoples of the world.

God gave Israel the Ten Commandments in Genesis 20, or Deuteronomy 5.

  1. You will have No other God before God
  2. You will have No craven images
  3. You will not misuse God’s name
  4. You will Keep the Sabbath
  5. You will Honor your parents
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not Covet (scheme to get) your neighbors’ stuff, including their spouse

God provides more instruction throughout the scripture known as Old Testament originally called the Torah or instruction.

Look hard and you will see basically two ideas here; Love God with all you have, and love other people. That’s a codified approach to life from God. Leading us to the second question:

  1. Who makes the rules in our Faithwalk?

All rules, obligations, and laws must originate from God. This is such an important concept, because it is so easy to get carried away when we are in God’s service.

We may at the time have the perfect motives in serving the Lord, but if we are not staying in step with the Lord 10 Commandments quickly becomes 613 Mitzvah (laws) 365 negative, and 248 positive (one for each bone and organ in the body) Add another 7 from the Pharisees because they were Pharisees, and you begin to see how worshipping the law might start to replace worshipping God.

Meaning me as a Pastor must not invent new rules, say they are mandated from God to control you. If I do, I am;

  1. Taking God’s name in vain by manipulating it.
  2. Guilty of idolatry by replacing God with me.
  3. Acting as a stumbling block between people and God.

This was the whole reason for the Reaffirmation taking place in the 1500s. Where Martin Luther, John Calvin, and a host of both Catholic and breakaway Christians recognized that the church had gone too far in advancing man mad rules on an overburdened Christian church. Things at one point were so bad that it was considered a greater sin not to follow clerical direction, than to outright abusing or even murdering somebody.

Which begins to answer the third question;

  1. Who tries to make rules for us to follow?

All of us do. Many times without even realizing that we are doing it we are inventing new rules to force our own way on other people and in fact ourselves.

I know this person that every time they experience something fun or good, or receive something nice; immediately that person begins by creating new rules on use or conduct, thinking this will make the joy from this happy event last forever.

  • If they get a new used car, you will see rules like, no one dirty may ride in the car, and we will wash the care before doing anything enjoying anything on every Saturday morning.
  • I they get new pots and pans for Christmas; they must be washed by hand and not the dishwasher. So now the people are serving the pots instead of the other way around. In the end they’re not used or enjoyed because it isn’t worth the effort.
  • How about your grandparents that had the plastic covers on the sofa? Who wanted to sit on it?

My thought is we do these kinds of things with and to human beings in the House of the Lord sometimes. Here are some random thoughts, which are for you to answer for and to yourself;

  • What’s more important, the church building or God’s people?
  • Is God a fashion design coordinator, or are his representatives in church leadership?
  • Does a hungry person care if the food they are eating came from the Catholics, Methodist, or the Baptists?
  • Is it right to have favorite people to talk with at the expense of greeting visitors in life?

All of this leads me back to our call to worship reading today from James 2:8-13

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The Royal Law going all the way back to our Israelite forefathers in faith, to Love your neighbor as yourself. James quoting Jesus, quoting Leviticus, meaning, God is consistent. Especially God’s command to love others.

Also, if you are feeling good about how good you are doing in following God’s laws and rules, and you are showing favoritism and a lack of love for other people, you not only break one piece of the law, you are breaking all of the law. This is a classic case of when the lawmaker, becomes the lawbreaker. And we are all guilty, which is why we need to be in the forgiving business, if we are expecting God to forgive us.

At the end of the day, mercy triumphs over judgment, and I need a lot, so I better be willing to give a lot myself. Not as an insurance plan for getting out of trouble with God, but as a new way of life. A life style that liberates and leads to faithful participation, instead of consigning people to rules. That’s the Good News of the Gospel.

So now that I have identified that I am a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, and an all-around fallen person, for a variety of reason too lengthy for us to cover today. We only have 5 hours till sundown. Suffice to say, far be it from me to either judge others, show favoritism, or to create even more rules that in the end have a way of separating people from God instead of uniting them with their Lord. This is not a call for lawlessness! But maybe we need to be about the next several ideas:

  • Following God’s Law on loving Him with everything you’ve got, and other people He places in your life.
  • Not showing favoritism. Ever. In our faith family, that extends beyond just the people you are used to seeing on a Sunday morning.
  • Being in the forgiving business, because what you sow, you will reap. And I mean forgiving even those you really think have wronged you!

This is a lot of stuff. Which of all of the rules in our church are binding? Before I give you a scriptural answer, I want to address something about church outside of specific scripture.

  • When you are a Latter Day Saint, there are rules about nicotine and alcohol, and marriage.
  • If you are a Roman Catholic, you have rules for marriage and the priesthood, or women’s roles.
  • Southern Baptist, women’s roles, and stances on marriage.
  • Lutherans, have specific ideas of Baptism for children.
  • Our church congregation is in the American Baptist grouping, and has an old rule on no dancing in church.

Here’s my thought; if you are a member of a church you owe your church family first to know what you believe, then you owe compliance with their rules if you want to be one of them.

If you are wanting to change the rules in your church, you need to follow your church’s rules on change or confront the fact that maybe you are not really a member, or that you really don’t want to be a member of that denomination or congregation. Maybe you are not a Christian. And if not, why? What I am saying is that you owe it to yourself, and the people you worship with, to know your faith and what it proclaims as truth.

If you are wanting to change the rules in your church, or force change. If so, are you really following Christ or your desires? I don’t know the answers to these questions only you can winnow out your feelings and state of mind, but this does lead us to the fourth big question today:

  1. Which rules are binding?

If you said to yourself, rules that comes from God, you win the gin-sue knife collection. Please see your attendant as you file through the Gates Devine to your right.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself; How do I know if something is coming from God, or just from someone trying to manipulate me and who is using God to get their own way? There is just so much to learn and if I really wanted to master the Bible and all of its tenants, I would have gone to Seminary School.

  • First; let me address the last part first. You do not have to go to seminary to have a grasp of what God want’s for you in this life. Find a church you can flourish in, grow and mature in to serve our Lord and His people with.
  • Second; you don’t have to live in scripture to get to a point that you know enough not to be pray to a charlatan (a Phony) trying to manipulate you and your church. But you do need to get into the habit of Bible study, both alone and with people you trust to learn with.
  • Third; and perhaps most importantly as a general rule of thumb; follow the teachings of your Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord streamlines not cancels 10 commandments, and 620 mitzvahs (laws) into one overall idea with two arms folded into each other.

Again, Jesus essentially fulfills all of the Law by simplifying God’s message by teaching in Matthew 22:36-40;

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 (The Schema “Listen Israel”), and Leviticus 19:18 (The Royal Law)

When we begin with genuine love, for God with all we have, and for other people (our neighbors) as ourselves, before ourselves, our love will anticipate all of those rules and laws both within and outside the scope of scripture.

Now, when society or government writes a law saying don’t cheat other people, don’t lie in court, don’t steel; we have already determined that we are not going to harm, hurt, cheat, or abuse other people because of the love God has given us, we in turn give to other people. We have already anticipated and have risen beyond the law of scripture and society through God’s love. Not cancelled out, anticipated and fulfilled what others, our neighbors needed.

In place of just following rules that people want to break. Now it’s more about, this is how our family (in Christ) acts and behaves. This is who we are instead of, if you break that rule you are in trouble. Love eclipses that kind of thinking every time.

Indeed, if we base our approach to life through the Lord’s teaching in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount”, we are conscious of not imposing and overburdening other people to our own standards. Especially if we are just freelancing, speaking for ourselves and not scripture, because that is what keeps a lot of people away from the Lord instead of leading people to God.

Those of you who have heard me before know the passage I am going to repeat again, because it’s that important. The Lord teaches us in Matthew 5:21-22;

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

That’s how important your relationships with other people are to God! Even before you prove to yourself your love for God by offering to Him, He is saying patch up your relationship with the person that you just;

  • dumped on
  • trashed
  • insulted
  • cheated
  • ignored
  • gossiped about
  • abandoned

Life is so much more that than living and reliving Jr. High recess over and over again, like the Pharisees of old. And we know from today’s message reading in Matthew 5:17-20, that the Lord did not come to cancel out the law but to fulfill all of it. Additionally the Lord stressed:

20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

But for those of you working on your attitudes, behaviors, and trying. The Lord will walk with you in your faithwalk in Him.

So, who is lawmakin? Me, when I place my unfair rules & roadblocks before the Lord’s teaching. Who is heartbreakin? Me when I go my own way instead of walkin with the Lord. Whose heart is broken when I sin? You know this!

May you find your stride in this wonderful beautiful life we have been given!

Amen!

Benediction: Numbers 6:24-26