July 10, 2016
Text: Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Making the ConnectionWhat is the law connection of the law and the gospel? What is the connection between works andfaith? What is the connection of God who gave us the Ten Commandments and God dying on thecross for you and I? Those questions can be difficult to understand sometimes- but before we canfully grasp the meaning and depth of the gospel in our daily life, we need to make theconnection. The whole law can be summarized in two simple laws- love God and love people-and the only way we can do that is knowing we are loved by God first. PrayWatching Colt around his family- you can tell he knows he is loved and loves them back. Buthow did he learn that? I found a mother’s day card that I had given my mom years ago that shehad kept. On the front was a picture of a baby and with it the words: “Mom- before I understoodyour words, I understood your love.” Babies learn they are loved when they make the connectionthat the care they receive from their mother is love.Then one day- the mother tells her toddler not to touch the hot stove. She is laying down the law.And if they touch it and get burned they begin to understand cause and effect. But moreimportantly, hopefully they begin to make the connection that whatever their mom tells them notto do- it is for their safety, spoken in love for them. Because of that, they should listen and obey-something that sometimes gets harder to do as a teenager.In the reading from Deuteronomy this morning we hear God laying out to the nation of Israel thelaw of cause and effect. “when you obey the Lord by observing the commandments- then youwill be blessed- in fact it is his delight to prosper you.” In contrast, he warns us of what willhappen when we rebel and leave the protection and blessing of God.It is important then, to not only listen, but obey God whenever He says something- even if wedon’t fully understand- because we know that it is always said out of love for us.We need to take the law seriously- we need to know it and obey it- and why? Not only becauseof cause and effect, but because we have made the connection that the law of God is anexpression of God’s love for us.But there is a danger of focusing only on God’s laws and principles as a way to be blessed- as ifwe can manipulate God into getting what we want. Every good and perfect gift comes downfrom God. Our Father takes delight in blessing us. At Christmas we take great delight in pickingout that perfect gift for our children and spouse. We want them to love the gifts we give them-but we want them to understand and make the connection that the gift we have given wasbecause of our love for them. And when they make the connection- they drop the gift and run
over to you to thank you- and shower you with hugs and kisses. It should be no different withGod.One day a lawyer stood up to test Jesus and asked him: “what must I do to be saved?” Here wasa man who took the law seriously. He had made it his life work to know the law and what wasrequired. He no doubt had studied the passage from Deuteronomy and understood cause andeffect- if I obey the law, I will be blessed- if I don’t, I will get punished. I’m not sure what hismotive was in testing Jesus- whether it was to see if Jesus knew as much as he- or to learn fromJesus. Either way- anytime we ask Jesus a question- it is we who learn.Jesus threw it back to him-“you are a student of the law- what does it say?” He knewimmediately. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, andwith all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied-that’s right- now all you have to do is do it and you will live.But the lawyer still had questions. The result of living by the law is that we want to know theleast we can do and still be legal. And so he asked Jesus to clarify who his neighbor was.Reminds me of siblings fighting. I don’t know about you- but my kids sometimes fought witheach other growing up. As parents we want and try to teach them to love each other and toforgive each other- and so we break up fights and demand they tell each other they are sorry- andthey go through the motions and hug and say they are sorry-even though we can tell they aren’t-and so we take it the next step further and tell them to say it like they mean it. No law can make aperson feel sorry. A contrite heart happens when our hearts make a connection with God’s heart.Writing to the Corinthians, Paul made the statement that the written code kills- but the Spiritgives life. Centuries before that, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying: “this is thecovenant I will make with the people of Israel- I will put my law in their minds and write it ontheir hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach theirneighbor, or say to one another- know the Lord-because they will all know me- from the least ofthem to the greatest.”And I’m wondering what would our attitudes be toward the law- towards God and others- if thedesires of God’s heart were written on our hearts? It would no longer be about the least we cando to get by- but stir in us an imagination of all the possibilities and opportunities we have forshowing our love for God and other people.And so Jesus told the man a parable about a man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead.Along comes a priest. Surely you would think a priest would help him- but instead he walked byon the other side. And then a Levite came along and did the same thing. They were respectedpeople in the community- learned people who supposedly knew the right thing to do- and yetthey rationalized their actions for not helping by reason of the law. They had not made theconnection between the law and what the law is summarized to be- that of loving God with allyour heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.
And then a Samaritan came along-seen as an outcast of the Jews- someone they thoughtunderstood and knew little of the law- and yet it was the Samaritan who saw the man lying thereand was compelled to help. And why? Because the law had been written on his heart-and seeingthe man lying alongside the road, he could not help but help him.God loved us first. He has always loved us. God sent Jesus to fulfill the law- not only theoutward requirements, but He came to show us what it meant to fulfill the law written on hisheart.We are not saved by the law. We are not saved by being good people or by helping others andbeing good citizens. We are saved by grace through faith-and we have nothing to boast about butChrist in us- the hope of glory. And then we read James telling us that faith without works isdead and the apostle Paul telling us that if we have all faith as to move mountains but have notlove, we are nothing- and why? Because we have failed to make the connection. Having receivedGod’s love and grace, with thankfulness we have been freed to be able to love back- both to Godand others.As redeemed, blessed children of God, we are able to share out of the abundance the things wehave first received from God. Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul said this- “blessed bethe God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, whocomforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in anyaffliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”The list is long- unending in fact. We are loved by God- and having made the connection that weare loved by God, we are moved to love others. Because we have received mercy from God- welearn to be merciful to others. Because we have been forgiven by God- we are able to forgiveothers. Because God has shown us His grace as a way of salvation, but also a way to live- we areable to share grace with others.Jesus said: “I am the vine and you are the branches- apart from me you can do nothing.” May wemake the connection of the truth of those words to our daily life. To God be the glory- Amen.