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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The Lord of life shows the way of life in the sixth commandment
Text:LD 40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 6th Commandment (Murder)
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-06-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 3:1-2
Psalm 11
Psalm 133
Hymn 1
Hymn 3:3-5

Reading:  1 John 4:19-5:21
Text:  Lord's Day 40
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

Some say we live in a culture of death.  Our world seems to take special pleasure in death and violence.  Examples are readily at hand. We can think of the many unborn children who are murdered every year in Canada and elsewhere.  Or we can think of how television and movies portray death so vividly, shoving it in our face.  There is some truth to the idea that ours is a culture of death. 

But there’s also some irony in it.  Because for all that, in our world, we’re actually far removed most of the time from the actual phenomenon of death.  The culture is mostly okay with death on the flat-screen and the big screen, but it tries to keep death away from the real world.  Think about it.  Today people don’t have funerals anymore, they have “celebrations of life” or “memorial services.”  We don’t have cemeteries.  Instead, we have “memorial gardens.”  They’re not located next to churches where you’re going to see them every Sunday as you go to worship with your family.  Instead, they’re in park-like settings and preferably out of the way.  You could say our culture has a love-hate relationship with death.

For that we can be thankful.  We can be thankful that God restrains the wickedness in our culture so that there’s not a full-on love affair with death.  That would be ugly and potentially dangerous.  Yet in that love-hate relationship, there is so much that is twisted and wrong and sinful.  As Christians we need to have a proper perspective on life and death:  God’s perspective.  That’s what the sixth commandment provides for us.

Lord’s Day 40 of the Catechism summarizes the biblical teaching on the sixth commandment.  It’s interesting that the previous two Lord’s Days only have one question and answer each.  But here in Lord’s Day 40, there are three questions and answers.  Why?  I think the answer has to do with what we just noted.  Not only our culture, but also our old nature is in this tangled affair with death.  Our old nature both loves death and can’t stand it.  It loves death and everything connected with it; it loves death as rebellion against God, but at the same time can’t stand it because it knows that death is part of God’s judgment on sin.  The Bible says that human beings in unbelief are spiritually dead and that impacts how we look at death in general.  It’s all connected.  Part of repentance, the coming to life of the new nature and the dying of the old, involves a shift in our thinking about death itself and about our attitudes and affections with regard to life. 

The one who works this repentance in us is the Holy Spirit.  He uses the instrument of the Word of God to do that.  In the Nicene Creed we confess that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.  That’s a remarkable expression that we don’t often think about.  The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.  All life is somehow connected to the Holy Spirit.  Psalm 104:30 speaks of how God sends his Spirit to create life among all creatures.  Then we shouldn’t be surprised that the same Spirit, the Lord of life, also teaches us in the Word of God the way of life.  That’s not only a way to live, but also a way to treasure, protect, and promote life itself.  So, this afternoon I preach to you on the sixth commandment with this theme:  The Lord of life shows the way of life in the sixth commandment.  We’ll see how:

1.      Christ put death to death for us

2.      We put death to death in him

The Puritan John Owen was a prolific author.  He had and still has many valuable things to offer Christian readers.  Unfortunately, Owen is not the most readable of the Puritans.  He was known for being exhaustive and exhausting.  But for one of his books John Owen did come up with a most memorable title.  It was a book dealing with the atonement of Christ.  In this book he argues for the Reformed view that Christ died only for the elect.  The name of the book is “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”  That’s a great title.  It’s a biblical truth.  When he died, Christ put death to death for us. 

This is taught in the Bible in a number of places.  For instance, in Colossians 2, Paul speaks of Christians as those who have been crucified with Christ.  We have died with him.  When he died, we died too.  What he means is that our old nature, which is characterized by spiritual death, was put to death with Christ.  As a result, the curse which stood against us has been taken away.  We are forgiven all our sins.

1 John 5 speaks in a similar way.  God has given us eternal life in his Son.  How did that happen?  Through water and blood.  That refers to Jesus’ earthly ministry from its beginning at his baptism to his death on the cross at the end.  The blood refers to his death.  Through his death, we have been delivered from death and have passed over into eternal life.  In his death, Christ put death to death for all who believe in him. 

You see, the sixth commandment doesn’t come to us here as a naked commandment, as a bare imperative standing all by itself.  We can’t afford to forget that we are God’s children because someone broke the sixth commandment.  Our Lord Jesus was an innocent man.  He had always kept God’s law perfectly.  Yet the Jewish religious leaders collaborating with the Romans decided to kill him.  That was unjust and wrong.  The sixth commandment said “You shall not kill,” and part of that means that governments too have no business putting innocent people to death.  God’s law said, “You shall not kill,” but when it came to Jesus, the Jews and the Romans said, “We shall kill.  We must kill.”

Yet this was part of God’s plan for our redemption.  A true human being had to die in our place.  He had to be a perfect human being.  As Isaiah said, it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.  He poured out his life unto death and in so doing bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors, for you and me. 

As we look at the sixth commandment and our life of love and thankfulness, we can’t forget the cross and the awful price that was paid for our redemption.  We can’t forget the gospel and pretend that it has nothing to do with the sixth commandment.  It has everything to do with the sixth commandment.   Our breaking of this commandment is what brought Jesus to the cross in the first place.  When he hung on the cross, he was there because people (including God’s covenant people) were continuing to break this commandment.  We are saved from the wrath of God through this death of our Saviour. 

You can look at all the biblical teaching in Lord’s Day 40 through the lens of failure.  As an example, think of all the times that you’ve dishonoured or hated others with your thoughts, words and gestures.  Or the times that you’ve recklessly endangered yourself by doing something stupid.  Examples are not hard to find in my life, and I’m sure you can find them in yours too.  But here’s the encouraging thing:  the gospel revealed by the Lord of life promises you that, as you cling to Christ, all is forgiven through his death.  God will no more remember all those things.  All those sins against the sixth commandment have been tossed into the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the world’s oceans.  They are out of the way as far as God is concerned.  He’ll never hold them against you.  Your debts have been paid in full.

There is more, because all the positive requirements of this commandment have been met in Christ.  To be received in fellowship with him, God requires two things.  He not only requires you to have your sins forgiven, he also requires that you be perfectly obedient to every aspect of his law.  The Lord Jesus gives that to you as well.  His love, patience, gentleness, mercy, friendliness, and so on are all imputed to you, credited to your account.  You not only have your slate wiped clean, but also that slate is taken and filled with all the perfect and righteous deeds of Jesus your Saviour.  Loved ones, I really hope and pray you get that.  It’s so important.  It’s so comforting to know it and believe it.  As God looks at you now, he sees Jesus.  And that is how you are loved and accepted by God, treasured by him as his child.  All because of everything that Jesus has done for you.  Because of the gospel, because Christ put death to death for us.  Because of that, the Lord of life assures that we have passed over into life.  We are living children of the light as far as God is concerned.                    

Now those realities bear fruit in our lives.  As we cling to this gospel of free grace, our lives are to be conformed to the law of God.  This happens because recognizing our great salvation, we’re filled with love for our God.  We earnestly want to thank him and live in a way that shows we’re committed to him.  We want to live out of union with our Saviour Jesus Christ.  We’re alive in him and we want to more and more show we’re alive.  We put death to death in him, out of union with him. 

That’s what John says in 1 John 5:20.  He says, “And we are in him who is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.”  We are in Jesus Christ.  That’s one of the ways that the Bible speaks about union with Christ.  Being in him.  How are we in him?  Through faith and through the Holy Spirit.  Those two things are closely related because the Holy Spirit is the one who lives in us and he creates and sustains faith in us.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and so if we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are part of Christ.  Faith is also in there as part of that.  The faith generated by the Spirit also joins our hearts to Christ.  This union with Christ is an amazing spiritual reality and it’s at the heart of how we live as Christians here and now. 

We live as people joined to someone who is eternal life.  What does that look like?  Well, out of love for God and for our Saviour, the Lord of life instructs us to steer a clear course away from the roots of murder.  The roots of murder are in such things as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge.  Dishonouring and hating, whether in thoughts, words or deeds, those things have no place in the life of someone united to Christ.  We are to be people who recognize that all these things are associated with death and the breaking down of life.  They ultimately go against God’s command to not kill.

That brings us back to the culture of death.  As Christians, we have to be thoughtful about what is going on around us, and be critical and discerning.  There can be a place for violence or death in literature, in movies, and so on.  Even the Bible contains such things, sometimes the accounts are even rather vivid.  Anyone read about Ehud and Eglon lately?  But oftentimes in our culture these things become gratuitous.  Violence and death for the sake of violence and death.  Violence and death become the means by which we’re titillated and entertained.  That’s a problem in view of the sixth commandment. 

Let me give one example of what we’re talking about here.  Recently I saw a review of the latest Call of Duty game, Black Ops.  I’ll quote from the review:

...frantic running and gunning is a big part of the game’s appeal.  But it also means lots of high-def mess.  Gamers work their trigger fingers into spasms with a wide array of firearms including pistols, machine guns, RPGs, and flamethrowers—all of which are used to realistically rip, bloody, sizzle, and dismember scores and scores of enemies.  And when you want to change tack you can quickly shift to obliterating grenades or up-close-and-gory knife slashes to a victim’s throat. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Besides all the violence, the game is riddled with profanity and blasphemy.  Do you think that Call of Duty: Black Ops has a place in a Christian’s home or life? 

I’ll admit that I used to enjoy first-person shooters a lot.  I have an interest in things military and this goes back a long ways to when I was a teenager.  But you know what changed my mind?  It was the Word of God.  We sang from Psalm 11 before the sermon.  I was reading Psalm 11.  I came across verse 5, “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.”  People sometimes say that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.  Or that God hates no one.  Well, Psalm 11:5 doesn’t agree with that.  God hates those who love violence.  That’s what the Word of God says.  When I read that, I had to think hard about my love for first-person shooters.  If you love them and enjoy them, you need to think about it too.  “Those who love violence, his soul hates.”  If you are united to Christ, how can you love violence?  If you love violence and blood-shed, even if it is virtual, are you living out of union with Christ?  Especially those of us with testosterone raging in our bodies need to be thinking about those questions. We put death to death because we are in Christ.        

Then there’s also the positive side of this commandment.  With each of the ten commandments, there is a negative (don’t do this), and then also a positive (do this).  With the sixth commandment, the positive has everything to do with love.  We are to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Who is your neighbour?  Jesus said that it is anyone brought across our path.   We are to show patience with our neighbours.  Be long-suffering.  Show gentleness, mercy and friendliness.  We are to show peace, to be peaceable people. 

William Ames was an English Puritan who lived and ministered in the Netherlands.  In his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism he said that we should study peace.  That’s a helpful concept.  Studying peace.  Thinking and reflecting long and hard on how we can live at peace with those around us.  There’s a helpful series of books on that published by Peacemaker Ministries.  Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is a good place to start.   

We’re also to protect people from harm.  In our context, this also means taking a stand against abortion.  Our Prime Minister has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to keeping the abortion debate closed.  He says that he will not reopen this question.  Now politicians can change their minds (remember the Liberal promise to scrap the GST?), so there is a sliver of hope.  Yet the government’s unwillingness to step in and make any kind of law with regard to the unborn might make us lose motivation to keep the fight going.  It seems we’re never going to win, so why bother trying?  Why bother?  Because we are united to Christ!  Because we are in him, we want to put death to death, including the death of the unborn.  This is an injustice, a terrible blight on our land, and we should not become jaded about it.  It takes place behind closed doors out of sight and so it’s easy to forget.  But think of Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald.  All those Nazi concentration camps were out of sight too.  The Lord of life would have us defend, promote, and protect life, including the life of the unborn.       

There’s a lot more that could be said.  We could look more closely at what the sixth commandment says about how we are to take care of ourselves.  The Catechism says that we are not to harm or recklessly endanger ourselves.  So, no, we don’t drive down the highway at 200 Km/h.  We also don’t endanger our health by abusing our bodies.  We don’t abuse them with substances (legal or not) that are unhealthy in any amount.  We don’t overindulge in legal substances that are only okay in moderate amounts.  The flip side of that is that we take care of ourselves.  We drive at decent and lawful speeds for the good of our neighbour and our own good.  We do things to maintain our health – good eating, exercise, and so on.  The key question to always ask is:  how is what I am doing reflective of my union with Christ? 

It could be that your union with Christ means that you’re called to struggle with certain ways in which you have been endangering yourself physically and/or spiritually.  But when you give up that struggle, and you say, “What’s the use? I always fail anyway,”  how does that reflect union with Christ?  Union with Jesus doesn’t mean perfection right now in your walk of life.  It means struggle.  Remember:  we have peace with God, but it is a peace which has started a war.  The war will be there as long as you live and breathe on this earth.  The war is only over when you are perfected and glorified in the hereafter.  But as you live here as one of God’s children united to Christ, the call is to fight.  Giving up is the way of death.            

Loved ones, the sixth commandment is where we find the way of life with the God of life.  He points us to a new and living obedience in Christ our Saviour.  Our Saviour has given us so many reasons to love him and to want to be thankful.  Let’s continue looking to him in faith, trusting his perfect work for us.  Let’s continue living in him and putting death to death in him and through the power of the Spirit, the Lord of life who lives in us.  AMEN.

Prayer:

O gracious God of life,

Jesus Christ is our life.  We’re so glad that he lived and died for us.  We’re thankful for his victory over death and the grave.  Father, please help us to remain rooted and grounded in him.  May we always look to him and rest and trust in his perfect obedience and sacrifice for us.  Please Father, shape and mould our lives in our union with this great Saviour.  Help us to put death to death in our lives.  Please help us to love your law and to follow it.  We want to love our neighbours and do good for them.  Sometimes the remnants of our old nature buck against this desire in our hearts.  Help us to put those remnants to death with your Word.  Help us to struggle against sin in our lives and to hate it.  Father, this is what we want to do right now.  Help us to want to do it tomorrow and every day in the week ahead and our whole life long. 

Father, we pray about the great injustice in our land with the killing of unborn children.  It grieves us so much.  We pray that this injustice will be seen for what it is.  Father, please bring a change.  We pray that you would open the eyes of our leaders so that they would see it as you do.  We ask that you would soften the heart of our Prime Minister so that he would put people above politics, that he would put your law above the pressures of lobby groups.  We pray that you would make this land glorious and free both for the born and the unborn.  Please use us as instruments in your hand to call attention to this tragedy and to address it whatever way we can.  We pray also for those who have had abortions and who struggle with guilt because of it.  We ask that you would help them to find forgiveness and healing in the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  We know that you can bring good out of the worst evil and we pray that in this case too.              




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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