Friday, September 11, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The First Commandment)

On Fridays, the devotional thought comes from The Lutheran Confessions, from Martin Luther, or from another Church Father. I thought it might be helpful to have a series of devotions that follow along and unpack the rich teachings of the Confessions.

So...welcome to the first in a series of Friday Devotions on the Ten Commandments.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

What is the First Commandment?
You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Well, that was simple enough. In fact, it's simple enough for young children to learn from their fathers. That's what Luther wrote the Small Catechism for. But he also wrote the Large Catechism, which unpacks this meaning for those who teach, and for those who desire to dig deeper. Like an appetizer, the Small Catechism introduces the meat of the Large Catechism.

So, what exactly does it mean to have a god? Or, what is a god?
A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart (LC, I 2).

It's easy to think we are keeping this commandment when the economy is booming, the bank accounts are full, gas prices are low, and the garage is filled with all sorts of toys.
He who has money and possessions feels secure and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise (LC, I 7).

But what happens when the stock market crashes, when taxes rise, when savings accounts are drying up, and the toys in the garage are sold to pay the bills?
Very few people can be found who are of good cheer and who neither mourn nor complain if they lack Mammon (i.e., money and possessions). This care and desire for money sticks and clings to our nature, right up to the grave (LC, I 9).

Luther goes on to talk about people who trust in their "skills, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor." All of these become gods for many.

Here, Luther gets to the heart of the command:
A person's entire heart and all his confidence must be placed in God alone and in no one else. For to "have" God, you can easily see, is not to take hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag like money or to lock Him in a chest like silver vessels. Instead, to "have" Him means that the heart takes hold of Him and clings to Him. To cling to Him with the heart is nothing else that to trust in Him entirely. ...It is as though He would say, "Whatever you have previously sought from the saints, or for whatever things you have trusted in money or anything else, expect it from Me. Think of Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things" (LC, I 13-15).

So, how does one know if he fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things? Ask yourself these questions:

· What or whom do I fear most?

· In what or whom do I trust most for financial security, physical safety, or emotional support?

· Do I fear God’s wrath and therefore avoid every sin?

· Is my love of God evident in my daily life?

· Do I expect only good from God in every situation, or do I worry, doubt, complain, or feel unfairly treated when things go wrong?

· In all things am I self-centered and selfish?

· Do I see my worry and fretting as sin against trusting God?

· Do I complain about the troubles, people, work, and suffering God lays on me?

· Do I love the things God gives more than I love Him? And do I cling to what God takes away, even though He gives me Himself?

And now you know why this is the first commandment, and now somewhere else down the list. Because we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all else, we also fail to love and serve our neighbors as ourselves (Commandments 4-10).

Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God will tolerate no overconfidence nor any trust in any other object. We will see how He requires nothing greater from us than confidence from the heart for everything good. Then we may live right and straight-forward and use all the blessings that God gives, just as a shoemaker uses his needle, awl, and thread for work and then lays them aside (LC, I 47).

Taught properly and understood rightly, the First Commandment reveals the unbelief that exists within the heart, so that the children of God might turn, and fix their eyes on Jesus--the author and perfecter of their faith. Sin is shown, so that the Savior might be known.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: