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A Devotion on the Third Commandment

Jesus' Invitation to You

This past Sunday we reflected on the Third Commandment:  "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."

At the outset of Christianity, the first disciples set aside Sunday to gather together for early Christian worship. This was a departure from the Old Testament practice of ending the week with the Sabbath on Saturday. Sunday stood out to these New Testament believers for two primary reasons. First and foremost, Jesus rose from the dead early on a Sunday morning, the first day of the week. Second, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised was sent upon the first disciples on another Sunday, fifty days later at the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Stemming from these two world-changing Sundays, the first Christians began keeping the Sabbath on Sunday.

They also kept the Sabbath differently than God's Old Testament people or their Jewish contemporaries. More than ceasing to work and taking a day to rest physically, New Testament Christians kept the Sabbath as a Christ-centered day. They gathered together in their homes and in the temple courts in Jerusalem and gave thanks for Jesus' life and ministry among them and for His death and resurrection for their salvation. They recalled and discussed Jesus' words, along with His ancient words through the pens of the Old Testament prophets. They sang the songs of Jesus as recorded in the Bible's songbook - the Psalms. They received Jesus' body and blood for their forgiveness in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In short, they sought to keep the Sabbath by gathering in remembrance of Jesus, trusting His promise that He was with them as they gathered in His name, and by receiving the gifts of His Word and Sacrament.

So how can you keep the Sabbath as a New Testament Christian 2,000 years after those first Christians?  In much the same way as they did - receive God's Word! Hear the voice of your Shepherd & Savior Jesus. As Martin Luther put it in his Small Catechism, God wants us to gladly hear and learn God's Word, both in public reading and preaching of the Word and in our personal and family devotional reading of Scripture. In that sense, keeping the Sabbath is not just something to be done on a set day of the week (such as Saturday or Sunday) but everyday! We keep the Sabbath "holy" when God's Holy Word is on our hearts and minds and lips.

Along with Sunday, the day most Christians have set aside for public worship services, every day, is a day to rest in God's Word and promises - to rest in Jesus Himself and His amazing grace and in the salvation He has already accomplished for you and which is yours as a baptized believer in Him.

Both every day and every Lord's Day (Sunday), Jesus invites us, as He does in the words of Matthew 11, "Come to Me ... and you will find rest for your souls."

A Devotion on the Second Commandment

Making a Name for Yourself?

The world pressures us to make a name for ourselves. Pad your resume. Show off your feats on social media. Climb the corporate ladder. Seek awards and accolades. 

But one episode in the Bible in which people were collectively working to make a name for themselves didn’t end so well. That happened at a place called Babel where people were building a great tower as a monument to their own achievement. But the Lord put a stop to it. He confused their languages and thwarted their designs at making a name for themselves apart from Him. (See the full story in Genesis 11:1-9.)

This past Sunday, we resumed our summer series on the Ten Commandments by focusing on God’s name. The Second Commandment teaches us, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7). This Commandment shows that God cares about how His name is used among us. After all, He’s both our Maker and our Savior! Why would we want to do anything to dishonor His great name?

God reveals Himself to us most personally by taking on our human flesh and assuming a human name, the name of Jesus. This name was revealed by angelic decree as the name which Mary and Joseph were to give to her son, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). 

The name Jesus means “the Lord saves.” Every time we hear that name, we’re meant to be reminded that that is why Jesus came for us – to save us from our sins, from hell, from hopelessness, and to save us for an eternity in the joy of His presence!

Because of Jesus, we don’t have to make a name for ourselves in the eyes of the world. He sets us free! We don’t need to live under the tyranny of what other people think of us and our achievements because we know what our God thinks of us!  In Jesus, God sees you as His new creation, bearing the name of His Son Jesus Christ to whom you now belong, by Baptism and belief in Him. 

God has made a new name for you! He makes you His Christian, calling you by the name that is above all names, that of His Son, your Savior Jesus Christ.

Don’t stress about making a name for yourself in this short life on earth. Instead, thank God for giving you access to Him through Jesus, so that you can call on His saving name, and joyfully bear His name as His beloved son or daughter in Christ.

A Devotion on the First Commandment

"The Hub"

What does a Ferris Wheel - much less any wheel - have to do with the Ten Commandments? 

This summer in our Sunday services, we're focusing on the meaning of God's commandments. The First Commandment gets the most detail in the original passage. The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17, but the First Commandment is the focus of the first six verses.

The First Commandment is this: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). Martin Luther offers this explanation of the meaning of the First Commandment: "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." This First Commandment is the foundation for each of the individual commandments that follow. Commandments 2-10 spell out the most important ways in which we are meant to fear, love, and trust in God in our daily lives. 

This is why I think about the First Commandment as the "hub" of the commandments. Looking at the Ferris Wheel above, you see a clear hub at the center. Connected to it are the spokes which form the connecting structure of the wheel. (You see the same structure on a bicycle wheel or other type of wheel.) A commandment such as the Eighth Commandment is one of those "spokes" among the Ten Commandments. By teaching us that we are not to speak falsely against our neighbors, God is first teaching us one of the ways in which we fear, love, and trust Him

The point is that the Lord our God is the center of the commandments, but more than that, He's the center of everything: our lives, the church, and the whole creation! 

However, an honest assessment of our lives reveals that we have treated God as anything but the center. The commandments are necessary and good in teaching us about the true God and His will for our lives, but they will always show our sins and shortcomings. 

Ultimately, our hope is not found in our level of obedience to God’s laws but in the One who fulfilled the whole Law of God in our place – His Son, Jesus Christ. Trusting Him for forgiveness and salvation, we make it our aim as Christians to fear, love, and trust our God who is much more than the Lawgiver. He is our Savior. God be praised for that!