Posts in "Sermons"
From Karma to Grace
Towards the end of yesterday’s sermon—“What the Law Isn’t . . . and Is”—I used the following excerpt from an recent interview with U2 front-man Bono on the difference between what many people call “karam” and grace. It really is a powerful and well-put illustration between how the law-as-principle operates (i.e., legalism) and how the gospel-as-principle operates.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

[Interviewer]: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

[Interviewer]: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. . . . It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

[Interviewer]: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way [you] are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humble. . . . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Christ and the Ten Commandments
Given the natural, human tendency to try and justify ourselves by our works (that is, by who we are and what we do) rather than depend fully upon Jesus Christ by faith (that is, on who He is and what He did), I thought it would be helpful to begin our study of the Ten Commandments by sharing a decidedly Christ-centered summary of the Decalogue from John Frame’s recent book The Doctrine of the Christian Life:

Christ is the substance of the law. . . . Jesus is not only a perfect law keeper, according to his humanity, but also the one we honor and worship, according to his deity, when we keep the law.

1. The first commandment teaches us to worship Jesus as the one and only Lord, Savior and mediator (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).

2. In the second commandment, Jesus is the one perfect image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Our devotion to him precludes worship of any other image.

3. In the third commandment, Jesus is the name of God, that name to which every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Isa. 45:23).

4. In the fourth commandment, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In his presence, we cease our daily duties and hear his voice (Luke 10:38-42). His is Lord of the Sabbath as well (Matt. 12:8), who makes the Sabbath his own Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).

5. In the fifth commandment, we honor Jesus, who restores us to the divine family as he submits himself entirely to the will of the Father (John 5:19-24).

6. In the sixth commandment, we honor him as our life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4), the Lord of life (Acts 3:15), the one who gave his life that we might live (Mark 10:45).

7. In the seventh commandment, we honor him as our bridegroom, who gave himself to cleanse us, to make us his pure, spotless bride (Eph. 5:22-33). We love him as no other.

8. In the eighth commandment, we honor Jesus as the source of our inheritance (Eph. 1:11), as the one who provides everything that his people need in the world and beyond.

9. In the ninth commandment, we honor him as God’s truth (John 1:17; 14:6), in whom all the promises of God as Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

10. In the tenth commandment, we honor him as our complete sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9) to meet both our eternal needs and the renewed desires of our hearts. In him we can be content with what we have, thankful for his present and future gifts.

10Words in Twenty10

Exodus 20:1
, “And God spoke all these words, saying . . .”

Exodus 34:28, “So [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Words.”

This coming Sunday—January 10th, 2010—we’ll be launching into a new sermon series picking up where we left off in the book of Exodus before Christmas. This new series—“10Words in Twenty10”—will focus on the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17, known traditionally as the “Decalogue,” a compound term which literally means the ten (deca-) words (-logos). Each week we’ll work our way through one of God’s covenant “words,” fleshing out first how that law applied to the people of Israel when it was originally received and then examining its relevance for us today.

It should come as no surprise that the key danger in devoting ourselves to series of sermons focused on the law is, of course, legalism—what has sometimes been called “works-righteousness.” Legalism is a way of relating to God that places the determinative factor in our relationship squarely on our (make-it-or-break-it) shoulders.

Every system of philosophy and major world religion operates on this straight-forward, “legal” principle. Sometimes people call it “karma” instead of “law,” but whatever the particular name, it always boils down to the same, simple equation: “Obedience means acceptance.” In other words: “You reap what you sow.” The Beatles encapsulated it like this: “And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.”

The gospel, on the other hand, operates on a principle of grace: “In the end, the love you get is insanely out of proportion to the love you actually give.” Over-and-against the principle of law, the gospel says: “In Christ, God has already accepted you (fully and unconditionally), therefore obedience is an act of gratitude—the powerful outworking of the new, spiritual life God has imparted to you through His Spirit.”

In light of this danger, we’ll begin by focusing first on what the law isn’t—the law is not a rulebook that if we keep God will save us and reward us with heaven—and then on what the law is—the law is God’s perfect and soul-reviving revelation (Ps. 19:7) given to guide his redeemed people for the good of both themselves and the nations (i.e., the lost people) around them.

If you’re interested in studying along with the series here are a few recommendations: