From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - September 14, 2022

Dear Friends,

“Take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste except you ravish me.” ~John Donne

 Some Guidelines for Reading the Ten Commandments

 One of the helpful parts of the Larger Catechism is the way it lays out how we ought to read the Ten Commandments. Here is a modern English version: ( Check out question 99. You can find Scripture references for each phrase.

 So to get ready for our sermon series, let’s walk through each of the eight guidelines. Each one is helpful. Don’t be ashamed if you have to read through each statement more than once. I do too! 

1. The law is perfect and binds the whole person to observe it completely and, according to its standard, to be completely righteous, and perfectly obey every one of its obligations forever. On the negative side, the law forbids even the slightest or partial commission of any sin.

 One of the responses I’ve heard and want to give, when I hear the extent of my obligations to my Creator and Redeemer is this: I’m trying, isn’t that good enough?

 Or we love to compare our obedience to someone who is sucking at the commandment worse than us.

Let the wisdom of James 2:10 do it’s humbling work on your heart. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

2. Since it is spiritual, the law involves our understanding, our will, our emotions and all the other faculties of the soul, as well as our words, actions, and self-expressions.

 It’s tempting to make law keeping external only. “Hey, I haven’t killed anyone lately!” Jesus would disagree. You’ve gotten angry and called people names. That’s the seed of the “do not murder” commandment.

The law is legislating our behavior, our beliefs, and our hearts.

 3. Different aspects of one and the same thing may be required or forbidden in several different commandments.

 It’s been said that if you want to keep all 10 commandments – keep the first one perfectly. If you had no other gods before the LORD Jesus and loved Him as we ought, everything else would fall in line.

 The commandments often cross categories. E.g. Don’t steal human beings. Kidnapping another human being is also opposed to the flourishing of the life of my neighbor. That particular sin covers 6th and 8th commandments)

 4. When something is required, the opposite is forbidden, and where a specific sin is forbidden, its opposite is required. In the same way, when a requirement of the law adds a promise of some blessing for obeying it, that promise also includes a threat for disobeying it, and when a threat is added, an opposite promise is included.

 This one is really important. I plan to use this principle repeatedly throughout our series.

 Take the time to go through each of the 10 commandments and write down what the opposite command would be. E.g. Don’t steal includes a positive command: thou shall work to be generous. Don’t kill. Love and protect all human life.

 5. What God forbids must never be done at any time or under any circumstances. What he commands always remains an obligation, although every particular obligation of the law does not apply in all circumstances or at all times.

 Sometimes it’s helpful to state the obvious. We are always obligated to keep God’s commandments, but we there are situations where mercy applies and is necessary. (Matthew 12:7)

6. The prohibitions against specific sins and the commandments to observe specific obligations are typical and so cover not just those particular sins or obligations but all others of the same kind. They similarly include all the contributory causes, means, opportunities, and appearances related to these sins and obligations.

 Immorality has corrupt family trees. Sins are related. So we have the commandment to not kill. Suppose someone comes and asks for a jacket for they are cold and don’t have one. There is no commandment that says I should give. But if I refuse to give and they get seriously ill or even worse, to death freeze in February, then I have contributed to the loss of life.

It’s similar to the argument that if you don’t have a fence around your pool and someone drowns while using your pool without your consent. Your neglect is connected to their loss of life, which is a type of the 6th commandment. It's a contributory cause and means of a loss of life.

7. Since the provisions of the law apply not only to us but to everyone else, we must try to help others keep those provisions, in the context of our own position in life and theirs.

 This is interesting. We must help others keep God’s commandments. It’s a lack of love for our neighbor if we let them continue in some kind of sin. This one is really uncomfortable in our postmodern context where the push back is something like, “Don’t force your truth on me.”

 Notice the qualifier. It depends on your position in life. My role as a pastor comes with the strictest obligation to make God’s laws clear to you. Parents have an obligation to teach their children. We have spheres of influence and authority. Use that wisely.

8. Similarly, we must support others in keeping what the law commands them to do or not to do and particularly by not joining them in doing what is forbidden to them.

 Lastly, we have the principle that requires courage and commitment. It’s an act of love to live lawfully, according to God’s commands. But it’s also a lawful act, to not join in the sin party.

 Augustine gives a famous example from his childhood. With a bunch of friends, he broke into a neighbor’s yard and stole some pears. He didn’t even like pears. They threw them away and didn’t eat them. The thrill was in the law-breaking, together.

 Swim upstream against ungodliness in the culture and community and workplace.

 How do you feel after that? Like you need a Savior? If so, you are reading them correctly!

 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 There is therefore right now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 7:25-8:3)

Bible Project – Love the Lord your God

These are 6 beautiful visual meditations on Deuteronomy 6:4. I used them in our leadership training. They’d be great supplement to our studies on the Ten Commandments.

Sunday School – 9:00am – Join ruling elder John Van Voorhis as he leads “A Method for Prayer”

Worship 10:15am – Deuteronomy 5:6-7 - “Love the Lord your God – Have No Other Gods” – As we kick off with the 1st commandment this Sunday, we want to remember the gospel motivations for keeping the law. WE obey because we are grateful for grace. And we obey in order to represent God well in the world. The 1st commandment is calling us to believe that a fierce commitment and trust in the LORD Jesus Christ is good for our neighbors. We can only do that if we hear the grace given in the commandment.

See you Sunday!

Posted by Nate Thompson with

Following Jesus Together - September 7, 2022

Dear Friends,

 Reflection for this Week:

“Just as the character of God is the foundation of physical laws, so his character is the foundation of moral law. The one true God defines in his own being what is holy, good, just, merciful, and right. Behind the laws that God gives to the human race stands the character of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 


~Jerram Barrs, Delighting in the Law of the Lord

 Who are the Ten Commandments Good For? Part 1

 Perhaps you’ve heard or said something like this, “Our country would be better off if we had the Ten Commandments and Prayer allowed in schools again.”  Do you think so?

 In our country, would there be less divorce? More respect for authority? Would there be less abuse of power? Less sex outside of marriage, and therefore less children born into single parent homes? Would violent crime go down? Would racism die? Would generous care for the poor go up?

Alternatively, in the aftermath of the undoing of Roe V. Wade, there’s been some anxiety that Christians will start legislating more of their morality. Some of our neighbors fear that Christians want to return America to something that resembles the Handmaid’s Tale. In other words, they do not want to see Biblical morality legislated, much less see those laws hanging in our courthouses.

 So who is God’s moral law for? Christians? The world? If so, how?

 Before starting an answer, remember last week’s sermon. At minimum, obedience to Gods’ moral law in the Ten Commandments is designed to get the attention of our neighbors. Israel’s obedience was for their good. (Obey and you will live!) AND Israel’s obedience would also be for the good of their unbelieving neighbors, in that the incomparable justice in God’s laws would get their attention. Israel could be a light to the nations! (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6)…if they obey.

 Notice a key distinction. Israel alone, was in a covenant relationship with the Lord. Part of God’s gracious gift to them was God speaking to them! So they had a greater obligation to obey. That’s what Psalm 147:19-20 sings:

             He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the LORD!

 So, in a general way, God’s moral law is great for everyone. It’s a gift to know what we are here for and how God is taming the chaos of our selfish hearts. But we who know the LORD, who know Jesus, have a greater obligation to keep and care about God’s law, because our unbelieving neighbors do not know the LORD or His laws!

Let’s add another way the moral law is good for every human being, in every tribe, tongue and nation. This comes from the wisdom of the Westminster Larger Catechism. I plan to use the Larger Catechism in our studies of the Ten Commandments.

 People in the 17th century were asking the same questions we are:

 94. Is there any use of the moral law to mankind since the fall?

 Although no person, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law, yet there is great use of it, in a way common to all people, and also as it particularly applies either to the unregenerate or the regenerate.

 95. What is the use of the moral law to all people?

 The moral law is of use to all people

  • to inform them of the holy nature and the will of God and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly;
  • and to convince them of their inability to keep it and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives.

This can humble them in the sense of their sin and misery and thus help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and of the perfection of his obedience.

 Did you hear the answer? The moral law is good for all people, regenerate or unregenerate. The unregenerate are those NOT in a new covenant relationship with Jesus. The regenerate would be all who believe the gospel of Jesus: Christians. Jesus-followers have been made new creations through faith in Jesus, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26-28).

 Take some time to meditate on what you have in common with your unbelieving family members, co-workers and neighbors. Together, we all benefit from seeing God’s nature and will in His commandments! Because everyone needs the gospel of grace!

 Here’s one example of how to do this: 

 In discussions over human sexuality, ask questions like, “Why do you think the God of the Bible honors sex and marriage more than our culture does? What is that commandment showing you about God’s character?

 It turns out that  sex and marriage is to be a reflection of the Lord’s unfailing, never ending commitment to His people. He is faithful, therefore be faithful.

 Then add Jesus’ words to the conversation – “Whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart.”

 Jesus just turned up the flames of our guilt and shame, by showing the kind of person the law is forming. But that means every person should find themselves convinced of this, “I can’t love one human with that level of intense internal passionate commitment!

 God’s moral law demonstrates that every human heart is polluted by sin.

 But it is from that place of sin and misery, produced by Gods’ moral law, we then can again see Jesus with clearer eyes. He is the perfect bridegroom, who loves His bride, the church. He loves us without a wandering adulterous heart. AND, on the cross we see Jesus experience the pain of a marriage covenant falling apart. For there, as He is forsaken by the Father, He feels the pain of an eternal lover turning His back on him.

 As Tim Keller eloquently put it, Jesus went through a cosmic divorce on the cross for His beloved unfaithful bride, the church, who broke His heart with their rule-breaking. He did that to forgive His bride and betroth Himself to her forever.

 See it? God’s commandments show every human being His character and our duty. We see that most clearly in the person of Jesus, who loved us faithfully, even to death on a cross. That news is good for everyone!

 For as we see the law by Christ fulfilled, and we hear His pardoning voice, we are changed from a slave into a beloved child, and our duty into choice.*

 * William Cowper’s hymn, “Love Constraining to Obedience”

 Sunday School – 9:00am – Learning to Pray with Ruling Elder John Van Voorhis. The apostle Paul helpfully declares in Romans 8:26 that Christians do not know how we ought to pray. It’s not just you. So come and grow in art and skill of talking with our Heavenly Father in Prayer!

 Worship 10:15am – Deuteronomy 4:32-40, 5:1-6 -  “Grace, Therefore Obey” – We are working through some questions and misconceptions about the relationship Christians have with God’s Old Testament law. One of the distortions Christians can give the Old Testament is to say something like this,

 “In the Old Testament God was all about the law. But now in the New Testament, because of Jesus, God is all about grace.”

Our passage on Sunday pushes back against that caricature. There are 163 words in Moses sermon in Deut. 4:32-40. Guess how many of those words are about law and what God’s people must do.

            26. That’s about 16%.

 109 of the words are used to describe Israel’s experience with the grace of the LORD. 26 are used explain the theological and covenantal reasons God saved them by grace. 84% of the speech is good news and an explanation of why God cares. And then, briefly, we have the, “Therefore obey.” (Daniel Block, NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy)

Perhaps we need to hear more of the story of God’s grace before we are told to obey.

Come and see Jesus with us!

See you Sunday! Grace and peace,


Posted by Nate Thompson with

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