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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:The God of Life
Text:Matthew 5:21-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Matthew 5. 21-22; (Romans 13: 8-14 secondary text
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, clearly the sixth commandment is directed against the unlawful killing of people. It's designed to protect human life. But why does God really care whether we kill one another? Why does He bother to make this stipulation? The main reason is that God is the sovereign Creator of life, and man is God's image bearer, designed to bring Him glory. It is God's sole privilege to give life and take life away.

But God's care and concern for life is in no way limited to just human beings. Boys and girls, God created all things for His glory, did He not? Not just man. He created the trees and plants, the animals in the forests, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the ants and insects that crawl along the ground. God is not pleased when those things are needlessly destroyed.

Right within God's Word, we see evidence of God's care and concern over His creation. In Exodus 20 and 23, we read that even the oxen and the donkey are to be given a rest on the 7th day. In fact, even the ground--the farmer's fields was to be given a Sabbath (rest) every 7 years.

In Exodus 23: 5 it says if your enemy's donkey stumbles under it's heavy load, you are not to stand there watching. You are to show mercy. In Deut. 25. 4 we read how the ox is not to be muzzled when treading out the grain. In Jonah 4.11 the Lord rebukes Jonah for his anger and lack of compassion towards the Ninevah, making this very unusual comment, Ninevah has more than a 120,000 men and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?

God even demonstrates concern for birds and for trees. Leviticus mentions that if a man comes across a bird's nest fallen on the path, he may take the young, but must leave the mother. In Deuteronomy 20, Israel is told that when they besiege a city and capture it, they are not to put an ax to all the trees, are the trees of the field people that you should besiege them. Save the trees which can bear you fruit, whereas the other may be cut down.
Clearly, man is not free to simply do what he wants with God's creation. These things also have a function to perform, these things also exist to give God glory (not to mention that the things of creation are often used as an object lesson for man--Proverbs 6 calls man to consider that ways of the ant!). So God created all these things and He gave to man the responsibility of being the steward, the caretaker, so that man might manage these resources wisely.

Now, this does not mean that we are called to go out and hug a tree, or stop hunting, or stop eating meat, or go and join Green Peace. No. But this command does alert us to the fact that everything that lives has been given a life and a purpose by God. That fact in itself gives us reason to carefully and thoughtfully reflect on how we treat God's wonderful creation.
I believe that this broader perspective helps us understand even more the significance of the sixth commandment in regards to human life. Because if God cares so much for the life of the sparrow and the donkey, how much more does He not care for the life of those who are made in His image? And it makes no difference whether a man behaves like he's made in God's image or not. God's law strictly forbids the unlawful, unjust killing of another.
And as David found out when he killed Uriah, not even kings have the right or authority to unjustly dispose of human life, for God said, whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed (Gen. 9.6). As a result, the sword never departed from David's household.

So this evening we consider a command that lies very close to the heart of God. Here in LD 40, God's will concerning the 6th commandment is revealed. We see that The God of Life Calls us to Love Life. In this Lord's Day, we will notice two aspects of God's call to love.
1) God Calls us to Love our Neighbor's Life;
2) God Calls us to Love our Own Life.

1) God Calls us to Love our Neighbor's Life

People of God, as we know, this commandment does not merely address cold blooded murderers-the criminals who have taken a life and should be doing time, or those who have already been caught and convicted and are on death row. No. God is speaking to ministers, elders, and deacons here. He is speaking to soccer moms and hard working dads. He is speaking to Sunday school teachers, young boys and girls, and to senior citizens in His church.
You see, we don't have to spill any blood or plan the perfect crime to be guilty of murder. That's exactly the point Jesus made in Matthew 5. As we said this morning, Jesus makes the law transparent for us, so we can see the width and breadth of this commandment. Jesus exposes its very core, the true intention and meaning of this command.
That full meaning begins to come into focus in q. & a. 105: What is God's will for us in the 6th Commandment? I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor-not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds-and I am not to be party to this in others; rather I am to put away all desire for revenge.

Dropping down to q. & a. 106 we read Does this commandment refer only to killing? By forbidding murder God teaches us that He hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger and vindictiveness. In God's sight all such are murder.

So we see how extensive and exhaustive this command is-how the sin of murder is given birth in our hearts. Go back to A. 105, it says 'we are not to belittle someone'-that word literally means what it says-we are not to make someone small, we are not to humiliate them or make disparaging remarks to them or about them (or even think in ways which belittle them).

Sadly, we learn to kill at a very young age, don't we. It seems like our sons and daughters, you boys and girls, have a natural ability to belittle someone. Kids at church and at school poke fun of other kids simply because they may have made a mistake, or because they may talk or look or dress a little differently. I know kids who were mercilessly picked-on because they wore glasses, or had pimples, or wore brightly colored snow boots.
The catechism also says we are not to insult someone. An insult is more of a direct attack against someone. It's a word or thought or gesture or a sneer on our face (or a saying on our T-Shirt or Bumper Sticker) which causes offense in the other person. We treat flippantly someone who is worthy of honor and respect. (Teens to parents, adults, teachers).

In Matthew 5, Jesus gives an example which could really serve either category. Jesus says, anyone who says Raca (NIV footnote: "empty-head") is answerable to the Sanhedrin. That is a serious enough offense to be punished by the Jewish authorities. But Jesus proclaims, anyone who says, "Your fool!", will be in danger of hell fire. So even the most petty remark, even the slightest insult, even a brief belittling thought, or even the most subtle display of anger or resentment towards a neighbor, and we are guilty of violating the sixth commandment.

This answer also forbids hatred (again as expressed in thoughts, words, looks and gestures). Hatred can spring forth from many different sources. Hatred can be fed and fueled by our envy of others. We can be fairly well off, but if we've never learned to be happy and content in our circumstances, if we've never learned to be secure with ourselves, to be satisfied with what God has given us, then we could be tempted to hate someone who is better-off than we are.

We also have a natural tendency to hate those who excel where we fail. We have a tendency to hate someone who is popular and well liked. We have a tendency to hate someone just because they have different colored skin than we have, or just because they're not 'our people' or they have a much different tastes and styles than we do. It's easy to love all that which is familiar and friendly, and it's easy to hate all that which is unfamiliar and foreign.

Clearly, from what we read here, we are all indicted. Who of us has not broken this commandment? Who of us has even gone for an entire day, or even an entire hour, even a drive home on the Interstate, without breaking the 6th commandment? This may come off sounding odd, but it's true, whenever we deal with people, we find it extremely challenging not to hate them, not to think little of them, not to kill them in some way, shape, or fashion. That's because hating comes easy to our sinful nature. Whereas love.that's the part that requires real effort!

This is all the more reason all of us-young and old alike, need to look to Jesus and His Word everyday for our forgiveness, for our strength, for grace to stand even after we've fallen so many times. Even in the face of failure, we need pick up and strive again and again. From here, I want to go directly to q. & a. 107 where the catechism makes the transition from telling us what God forbids in this command, to telling us what He requires.

The catechism asks, Is it enough, then, that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way? The question is really getting at this: Is it possible to keep this command by simply not murdering someone in thought, word, or deed? Is it enough for us simply to avoid all manner of evil? The answer is no. The heart of the command is a call to love. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to him, to protect him from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies!

So right now, as far as this question is concerned, there are two different sets of people in view. Our neighbors and our enemies. For the moment, family and friends is set aside, because it's assumed we all love and do good to those closest to us. These words are aimed at our relationship with the rest of the people with whom we have contact on a daily basis.

And just who is our neighbor? Do you remember how Jesus answered that question? He was asked that question by an expert in the law, and Jesus went on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan-to a bunch of Samaritan hating Jews. Your boys and girls know the story. A band of robbers beat up a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stole his possessions, stripped his clothes from off his back, and left him for dead.

In the course of the day, a priest and a Levite, two 'ordained servants' of the church, two men called to the ministry of mercy and love, both came upon this poor, helpless, beaten man, but they passed him by, not lending him help, not caring if he died. But along comes this Samaritan, and he takes pity of this poor man, he puts this man's needs before his own. He bandages his wounds, he takes him to an inn where he spends his own money to buy him a room and whatever else is needed for the inn-keeper to look after the man.

Then Jesus asks, which of these three do you think was the neighbor? The answer was no doubt given very reluctantly, "The one who had mercy on him". Then Jesus gave these proud Jews a very difficult command. Go, and do thou likewise. In other words Jesus told these Jews to Go and be like that Samaritan!

So, Jesus was teaching them that we are called by God to show pity, love, and mercy upon those whom God brings across our path on a daily basis. Now, it's not everyday we are going to find a helpless traveler alongside the road in need of help. But Jesus was also talking about someone at our office that may need a listening ear. Or an elderly neighbor on our block who may need help around the house, or just would like a visit a couple times a week.

And, being a loving neighbor means that we are gentle, and friendly, and patient, and peace-loving with the incompetent checker at the Wal-Mart, or with the MCI representative who has just called us for the 5th time in a month. In our age of technology, it means that when we're e-mailing messages, we must make every effort to be sure that our words are laced with love. Speaking from experience, I know that it's much easier to level criticism at someone, to write a (cold remarks) scathing rebuke to someone you don't have to speak to face to face.

So, the command not to kill our neighbor, actually requires that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Not only that, but it requires that we love our enemies, too. This was obviously the big rub for the Jews, when Jesus used a Samaritan as an example. But even there, Jesus was teaching them the meaning of this commandment. You are to love those you consider to be your enemy, and love those who treat you as an enemy.

Why would God ask this of us? Why can't we just love those who love us or love those who we meet along the way? Why must we love the very ones who intend to hurt us, who scorn us and mock us, and take pleasure in our sorrow and failures? Why must we love those who don't deserve our love? It's because of the fact that God loved us.

When it comes to God's love for us, we're tempted to think like an Arminian and say that the reason God loved us because we are His children, adopted by His grace. But the fact is, God loved while we were not yet children. God loved us while we were yet sinner and enemies of God, undeserving of His love, having neither love for God, nor love for our neighbor.

Yet because God is good, and merciful, and compassionate, and gracious, and forgiving, He extended His Love to us--in the person of His own beloved Son Jesus Christ. He sent His Son to die on Calvary's cross, a holy sacrifice for our sin. And by doing do, by showing undeserving sinners and enemies such wondrous love, God changed the hearts of His enemies. He changed us over from rebels to son, from those who hate, to those who love.

See, God's Love in Christ changes hearts. God's Love changes lives. God's Love breaks the cycle of hatred and envy and anger, and transforms relationships. God's Love breathes life back into a world that is content to go on killing and being killed. God's Love, as it is witnessed in us and through us, can be used by God to wins heart and souls into God's eternal Kingdom.

2) Our Love for our own Life

But congregation, while the 6th commandment is certainly designed to prevent us from murder and killing and hatred, and while it is intend to teach us to love our neighbor's life, and even the life of our enemies, we must remember that it also calls us to love our own life. The Bible even bases the love and care and concern that we show to our neighbor, upon the love and care and concern that we have for ourselves. (We are to love your neighbor as ourselves)

Basically, the Bible assumes self-love. In Ephesians 5. 28-29, the Apostle Paul draws upon the same principle when he says that husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and cares fit it.

It just seems logical and sensible that we would take care of ourselves, our basic needs, that we would take good care of the life and bodies that we have. However, sin warps our sensibilities doesn't it? Sin distorts logic, so that we don't give proper and diligent thought to taking care of our own bodies. As a result, we are even guilty of killing ourselves!

If you look at the fist part of this LD once again, right in the middle of Answer 105, one sentence stands by itself. It says, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. First and foremost that speaks to the act of suicide--the sin of taking one's own life. But congregation, God's Word also speaks to those activities and habits in which we engage that are harmful to our bodies, that stand as a potential threat, or a real danger to our health, to our lives.

As far as habits are concerned, I think of smoking in particular. I know a lot of people who smoke, and I've never heard any of them argue that their smoking habit was good for their bodies. In fact, most people who smoke, do so out of necessity. They're hooked on a pack (or 2) a day habit (not only is it an unhealthy habit, it's expensive!). And I know very few people, if any, who occasionally smoke just for the pleasure of it.

There are some who smoke a cigar or pipe upon occasion. But by far and away, people who smoke do so out of habit. Yet, given when we know today about the long-term affects of smoking upon the heart and lungs (the disease and cancer), it's a wonder that anyone still smokes today, and a mystery why it is still an attractive habit among young people.

Perhaps there are some young men and young ladies here tonight who have tried smoking already, maybe you sneak in a few smokes with your friends. I'd like to remind you that not only it is illegal, but it's one of the poorest choices you can make for the health of your body.

I'll guarantee you there's not a single adult here who smokes that would encourage their children to smoke. They'll tell you, it's a filthy habit, don't start. And for those who are addicted to smoking, it's wise to make every effort to cut back, or at best, to stop altogether.

But congregation, smoking isn't the only harmful habit we know of. In fact, there's a problem that our nation in particular is struggling with, and it's costing insurance companies billions of dollars a year. It's called obesity, being over-weight.

As any doctor or over-weight person can tell you, obesity is the cause of any number of health complications. It causes high blood pressure, it's frequently accompanied by high cholesterol, it can bring about diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks, and overall, being over-weight is just a relentless burden on the body to perform even the simplest of functions.

I realize that some cases of obesity are brought on by over active thyroid glands, but by and large, obesity is brought about by gluttony, by habitually over-eating, by stuffing ourselves at the dinner table, between meals, and before bed. It's brought about by eating too many sweets, the wrong kind of foods, eating food that has no nutritional value at all.

Now, I realize this makes me sound more like a dietian or physician, than Pastor, but answer this for yourself, is this not also in view here in God's Word? Are we not called to be good stewards of all that God has given to us-especially our bodies? No, there's nothing wrong with eating sweets. There's nothing wrong with sitting down and eating a hearty meal. There's nothing wrong with enjoying our wife's cooking or our mother's cooking.

But the Bible calls for moderation--moderation in all things! We have no problem telling the alcoholic that he has a problem, that is addicted to alcohol, and that unless he stops he's going to kill himself. That is a vice we easily recognize. But we forget that God not only condemns drunkenness, he also condemns gluttony, those who live with their stomach as their god. There's real harm involved in both excess drinking and excess eating.

Again, the real problem lies in the excess, in the lack of proper and adequate self-control, in our inability to restrain ourselves, for our own good. So that clues us in as to the type of battle we're fighting. Self-control is a gift of the Spirit. So that brings our over-eating right into the spiritual battle field doesn't it. Sure, the cravings we have are physical, but the battle can be fought and it can be won, with prayer (and what may seem like fasting! :) and self-control.

As we said at the outset of the sermon, God is a God of life, and the life He gives is a great blessing. We are not to think that it's our life, it's our body, so we can do with it what we want. No, in this commandment God requires that we care for these tents, these physical bodies.

Besides, God's design and purpose for us in this life is to live for his name's honor and glory. By simply taking care of our bodies, by showing wise restraint, by adhering to the simple rule of moderation, we might live long and healthy lives, and be better equipped and enabled, to actively serve our loving God. This beloved, is God's will for us in the 6th commandment.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Pastor Keith Davis

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