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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Live?
Text:LD 40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 6th Commandment (Murder)
 
Added:2022-05-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Luke 15:11-32

Lesson: Lord’s Day 40

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?

  1. We are to be Cautious with our Life

  2. We are to be Reckless with our Love

 

  1. Psalm 108: 1, 2

  2. Psalm 18: 1, 3, 4, 6

  3. Psalm 133: 1-2

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 23: 1, 2, 6

  6. Hymn 72: 1, 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: confession, gym, editors, Cory, fault-lines

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. When’s the last time you murdered?

  2. What does it mean to live recklessly?  Fearfully?  Which is worse?

  3. What does Prodigal mean?  How many prodigals are there in the story?

  4. What song might deserve a second chance?

  5. Are there any legitimate excuses for not loving?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters, loved by our Lord Jesus Christ,

What images fill your mind when you think of the sixth commandment?  You shall not murder.  What do you see?

Some of us may think of the horrors of the Middle East.  Over the last few weeks, many of us have watched in horror as the Taliban moved into the power vacuum created when the United States began pulling its troops from Afghanistan.  The sound of gunfire day and night, people chanting “death to America” in the streets, terrorists going house to house, murdering Afghanis who helped the Americans, blocking the airports as people try to flee.

This is a horrific and all too real picture of those who break the sixth commandment.

For others of us, maybe we think of something closer to home.  Our minds might go to the story from a few months ago of an out of control car killing a 2 year old child and severely wounding her father, with the mother looking on in horror.  And our horror turned to outrage when ICBC only gave compensation of $14 000.  THIS is the value of a life?  THIS is the value of the life of a toddler?

Still others might think of television shows or movies.  The Making of A Murderer, or How to Get Away With Murder, or Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: the Ted Bundy Story.

There has been a huge increase in media about serial killers in the last few years.

But whatever you think of when you think of breaking the sixth commandment, you probably don’t conjure up an image of yourself.  You aren’t picturing your own face right now, are you?

But the sad reality is...this is the picture we should have in our mind.  Before we get rightly outraged about the murders in society, whether in Afghanistan, Vancouver, or on our own TV screen, we should, first of all, be outraged at the murder in our own hearts.

For the catechism explains that this commandment is not just about physical murder.  It also speaks of “heart murder.”

It is forbidden for us to dishonour our neighbour.  This is murder.

It is forbidden for us to hate our neighbour by thoughts, words or gestures.  This is murder.

It is forbidden for us to have envy, hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge.  These are all murder.

And so, congregation, I confess to you that I murdered this past week.  I did not go out and stab someone with my body...but in my heart?  In my heart I am guilty.

But our catechism explains that it is EVEN MORE THAN THIS.  This commandment is not only about LIFE...it is not only about murder being forbidden (the negative)...there is also a positive aspect to this commandment.  This commandment isn’t only about LIFE, but it is also about LOVE.

We are to LOVE.  We are to LOVE our neighbours, showing patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness to them.  We are to protect them from harm, and do good to our enemies.

And so, congregation, I must confess again: I murdered this past week.  I did not show this kind of radical, and even reckless love that is commanded by our Lord and Saviour.

This past week, I murdered through inaction and a hard heart.  This is my confession.

What about you?  How many murders have you committed?  This past week?  This past day?  This past hour?

______________

We are all in desperate need of instruction...and more than that...we are all in desperate need of salvation.

Therefore, I preach to you the gospel of the sixth commandment under the following theme and points:

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?

  1. We are to Live Cautiously

  2. We are to Love Recklessly

 

We are to Live Cautiously

Now, right at the start, I should address a possible misinterpretation here.  It is very easy to misunderstand what I am saying when I use the word “cautiously.”

By living cautiously, I do not mean living fearfully.  I do not mean living in constant terror of what might happen.  Let me give you an example of the difference here.

Living cautiously would mean looking both ways before crossing the street...and then crossing the street.

Living fearfully would mean looking both ways, and then, even if there were no cars in sight, deciding that the risk was just too great, and deciding to go back home.

Living fearfully isn’t actually living, and this is not what this commandment would have us do.  There are certain risks that come with being alive, and we cannot avoid all of them.

On the one side, there is living in FEAR, which, as I just said, isn’t really living at all.

On the other side, there is living RECKLESSLY, which is expressly forbidden by the catechism in this commandment.

But in the middle...between reckless living and fearful living...there is cautious living.

In our reading, we saw the two extremes in stark contrast to each other.

We saw that the older brother lived in fear, and the younger brother lived recklessly.  Let’s begin with the younger brother, commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son.

Let’s get into his mindset.

There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’  And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

This is one extreme of how we can live our lives.

And one of you might say, “Yes, but this is about being WASTEFUL with MONEY.  It would fit better with the 8th commandment than the sixth.” but truly, the sixth commandment isn’t just about DEATH, but about how we spend our LIVES.

The younger son lived recklessly.  Although we do not know the details of his life in the far off country, we can be sure that it wasn’t spent looking both ways before crossing the street.  We can be sure that it wasn’t spent eating health food and going to the gym.  Instead, he would have surrounded himself with the greatest worldly pleasures, sacrificing body and soul on the altar of pleasure.

When we do this, we are breaking the sixth commandment.  Our God is the God of life, and when we fool around with things that belong to this earth, when we dive headlong into the worldly pleasures around us, we are binding ourselves to the prince of this world - Satan, the god of death.

The younger son broke the sixth commandment by how he abused his body with worldly pleasure.  And so many of us do the same, don’t we?

When we indulge ourselves in a second or third helping of dessert every night, or we lay on the couch day after day...we are breaking the sixth commandment.

When we have a drink when we’re happy, and a drink when we’re sad...when we have a drink when we’re frustrated, and another drink just because it’s Wednesday...when we have to make plans for how to get home from a party because we know that we will be drinking too much...we are breaking the sixth commandment.

Plug in whatever vice you want here...we all have them.  You are not properly treating the body God gave you, and you are not truly understanding the life He gave you to live.

Because life...life is precious.  Life is one of the most precious gifts God ever gave us.  Certainly it is one of the most intimate.

After hand-fashioning us out of the dust of the ground... the first thing He did...was to give us life.  Life was the first gift given to us by God, and perhaps the most direct and intimate gift.  Life was the gift literally breathed into the nostrils of the first man Adam.  Genesis 2 - the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Our life was literally breathed into us by the God of life - our life, therefore, is immensely valuable, and must be protected.

We cannot spend it recklessly, endangering ourselves for a bit of fun.

But the other side is there as a warning to us as well.

The older son does not get off scott-free, even though we don’t hear of his sins until the end of the story.

Now his older son was in the field and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back, safe and sound.  But he was angry and refused to go in.  

His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, “Look, these many years i have served you (some translations have SLAVED FOR YOU), and I have never disobeyed your command, yet your never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.

We see that the older son, even though he appeared to be doing the right thing, his heart was just as wayward.  He was just as lost as his brother.  He wasn’t living a cautious life, he was living no life at all.  He did not love his father, he did not serve out of love, but out of duty.  He did not avoid evil because it was right, but because of fear, and the resentment was building.

The younger son, he wasted his father’s possessions...but the older son wasted his father’s love.  He refused to see it, and instead saw his father as a slave-driver.

In this parable, both sons broke the sixth commandment.  Both the sons were lost, and neither properly used the gift of life that God had given them.

We must be cautious with the life God has given us, but at the same time, we can’t waste it.  Respect the gift, and use it properly, to its full potential.  We are to live cautiously, but our love should know no such limits.  We are to live cautiously, but we are to love recklessly.  Our second point.

We are to love RECKLESSLY.

“But Pastor Segstro, you just spent the first point telling us that being reckless is a breaking of the sixth commandment!”

But there’s nuance here.

LIVING recklessly violates the commandment, but LOVING recklessly fulfills it.

We see this demonstrated powerfully with our parable, sometimes called The Parable of the Lost Son, or, perhaps, more commonly, The Parable of the Prodigal Son.  “Prodigal” is probably the word in the heading in your Bible...and yet, there is something missing, there is something wrong, when we think about the parable this way.  Remember, these headings are not inspired, but simply added in later by editors.

And here is the problem.  Look at verse 11 - And He said, “There was a man who had two sons.”

Right away, in the first 8 words of the parable, Jesus introduces us to 3 characters - a father and two sons.

If we want to use the term “lost” to describe characters in this parable...this is the parable of the Two Lost Sons.  We saw that in our first point.  Both sons broke the commandment.  Both were sinful.  Both were lost.

But if we want to use the word “Prodigal” here, we need to up that number.  For there are 3 Prodigals in this story.

Each of the sons are prodigal…

And the Father is prodigal too.

Let me explain.

The word “Prodigal” does not mean lost.  The word “Prodigal” does not mean wayward … if it did, then it would be blasphemous for me to refer to the Father (the character representing God in this parable) as “Prodigal.”

But that’s not what prodigal means.  Instead, prodigal means recklessly spendthrift.  Essentially, spending until you have nothing left.

Do you see?

We saw in our first point that the younger son is Prodigal - He is recklessly spendthrift of his Father’s blessings.  His material possessions.

We saw how the older son is Prodigal - He is recklessly spendthrift of his Father’s love.

But the Father is also prodigal.  He is recklessly spendthrift...of BOTH His possessions AND His love...to BOTH of His Sons.

We see it at the beginning:  There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.”  And he divided his property between them.

The father gave in to his younger son’s demand for his inheritance, even though it was a sinful and insulting demand, essentially saying, “I don’t want to wait until you die for my inheritance, give it to me now!”  And the Father gave it.  He was prodigal with his possessions.

We see it when the younger son returns home: He arose and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

The father was waiting, looking out his window every day, hoping to see his son coming down that road, hoping beyond hope that his son would return to him.  The father was prodigal with his love.

And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and a put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. “  And they began to celebrate.

This son, having wasted so many of his father’s possessions in reckless living, receives even more.  He receives a robe of honour, a ring of authority, shoes of comfort, and a calf of celebration.  The father continues to be prodigal with his possessions.

And we see it at the end of the story with the older son: He said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

The father was prodigal with his love for his older son...he gave love upon love, and his son never believed it.  His son never accepted it, or knew who his father truly was.  But the father kept on giving.  The father kept on loving.

Reckless living is sinful...but reckless loving...this is what God does.  He loves RECKLESSLY.

______________

There is a song, a wonderful worship song that so many Reformed people shun because of one word.

The song?

Reckless Love by Cory Asbury.

Maybe you’ve heard it before.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh it chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the 99

I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

There are those who take great issue with this description of God.  They refuse to believe in a God who is reckless.

After all, isn’t the love of God carried out according to His good pleasure in Christ?  Doesn’t Ephesians 1 speak of God’s will, done in accordance with His purpose, a plan from before time, enacted in the fullness of time, uniting all things in heaven and on earth?

Isn’t the Old Testament a...testament, for lack of a better word...to God’s amazing, well-thought-out plan?

Yes!  Of course!

Of course it is, and this song doesn’t deny any of that.  In fact, it speaks powerfully of God singing over us before we spoke a word to him.

It speaks powerfully of our creation, with God breathing life into us.  It speaks of God fighting for us while we were still His enemies.

God’s salvation plan is well-planned.  The most amazing plan ever to be conceived of.

And yet...His LOVE for us is reckless.

God’s love for us is reckless - He is the true Prodigal Father.

Our God is not a miser when it comes to His blessings, or His love.  The Father in the parable didn’t make a single “business-savvy” decision.  He allowed his foolish younger son to waste so much of his money.  And then, he welcomed his son back in, and spent a lot more money to throw a lavish party.  He continued to love his older son who saw him as nothing more than a slave-driver.

And we read this parable, and we may wish that we could experience God’s love as directly as these two sons experienced their father’s love...but...open your eyes… you HAVE!  Each and every day, we experience God’s extravagant and reckless love.  He does not reckon our sins to us, but instead, He heaps up blessing after blessing.

We can’t earn it

We don’t deserve it

But still, day after day, God continues to give us Himself.

Our Holy God chooses to live in the sinful temple of our own body.

Our Powerful God chooses enemies to be His friends

Our Loving God chooses to die to give life to those who killed Him

The only word for this is RECKLESS.  This is RECKLESS love.  It doesn’t make any sense.  But it doesn’t have to.  We don’t have to GET IT...for we have already RECEIVED IT.

And in receiving it, we have to give it away.

God’s love is the example of the love that we ourselves must show.

We are, as the catechism says, 

to love our neighbour as ourselves

We are to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness towards him

We are to protect him from harm as much as we can,

And do good, even to our enemies.

This sounds reckless.  Loving our neighbour...sure...but loving our neighbour as we love ourselves?  That’s a lot.  But, after thinking about it for a while...maybe we can get on board.  Love our neighbour...okay.

But then the catechism, taking up Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 says that we are also to love our enemies.

Since we aren’t at war, so let me put this in clearer terms for you.

Those people that you see as so unlovable?  You have to love them.

Even those who are so unlovable to you in this very church.  I know that they exist.  I am under no illusion that everyone in here loves everyone else in here.  There are fault-lines, there are battle-lines drawn up from years past, and it saddens me.

Who are these unlovable people to you?

  • Maybe there are those who you liken to the older brother - you judge them as being hard-hearted.  Those who care more about policies then people.

    • You might be right about them, or you might be wrong...but I don’t care...YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM.

  • Maybe there are those who you liken to the younger brother - you judge them as being wayward, as being too taken in by the world, over-indulging in alcohol, drugs, pornography.

    • I DON’T CARE.  YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM.

  • Maybe it’s the oncers.  Or the maskers.  Or the anti-maskers.

    • I DON’T CARE.  YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM.

It’s extreme.

It’s reckless.

You might argue that by showing them love, you are encouraging them to continue on in their sinful ways.

They don’t DESERVE my love until their heart is softened.

          WRONG.

They don’t DESERVE my love until they’re 1 year sober

          WRONG

They don’t DESERVE my love because they’ve made an idol out of the health officials and will plunge this country into a dictatorship

          WRONG

They don’t DESERVE my love because they are conspiracy theorists who will fill the hospital emergency rooms

          WRONG.

You must love them because God loves them

AND you must love them because you have been loved

Love is not only in you to live, but also to give.  Let me say that once more, love is in you to live, and love is in you to give.

_____________

Let me end with a challenge.  I like to do this sometimes.  This is a simple challenge.  I call it the 3-word challenge.

There are 3 words that are said too much, and yet not enough.

In a few minutes, when we leave the sanctuary, and talk with our friends, our acquaintances, even our enemies...I want you to start every conversation off with these three words.  Just for today, just for this afternoon.

Start off every conversation with the words: I LOVE YOU.  It might feel weird, you may never have told your friends here, or anywhere else that you love them...but I challenge you to start off every conversation with the words: I LOVE YOU.

Whether you FEEL IT or not...this is what you are called to.  You are called to love both the lovable and the unlovable.  The law commands you:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

Love your neighbour as yourself.

This is the fulfillment of the Law.

 

This is how you must live

This is how you must love

AMEN.




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

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