Theology for all!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

We Like The Law! It's Easier! Rev. Irvin Stapf

   An Observation: We like The Law. It’s easier!

In the last post I mentioned that I was delayed in uploading my post because “life happened and we had to comply”. Well the life that happened was a four day stay in the hospital for my wife who had some respiratory and related problems. We are home now and she is doing well. During that hiatus in other activities I was reading John chapters 14 & 15 where Jesus is preparing his disciples for his soon departure.
In the 13th chapter Jesus had washed the disciples feet with the instruction “If I your teacher and Lord washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Vs.14) The whole evening in that Upper Room was a very intense time for Jesus’ followers. Events were going in a direction they didn’t expect and weren’t sure they wanted. Jesus, seeking to comfort them, said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. ... I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself...” (14:1-3)
He continues on in verse 15, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” Ah! Commandments. Now there is something specific we can get our mind around! This is why I titled this section “We Like The Law.” Do this the way we were told and all will be fine. We will have done it, and we are good.
But then Jesus continues to speak of the coming reality of the Holy Spirit, The Helper, the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is the Spirit of truth who will be in them. (Vs.17) Jesus again speaks of His commandments. “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (vs.21) He goes on further about disciples who keep His word, (vs.23) and how He has kept the Father’s word and obeyed His commandments.(vs.31) “Okay Lord, tell us what the commandment is! We’ll do it.”
Then in Chapter 15 of St. John’s Gospel Jesus give the image of the vine and branches. How they have to be tended, pruned, and some parts discarded “so that it may bear more fruit.”(15:2) The whole picture shows us the necessity of the branch - the disciples and us - staying connected to the vine. It is only by abiding in the vine so that there is a continuous flow of nutrients that the vine “can bear much fruit”. “For apart from Me you can do nothing.”(vs.5)
The image of abiding in Jesus continues, coming down to verse 12 and 13 where Jesus specifically declares, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This comes to the depth of the Gospel. Jesus has loved us so much, each and every one of us, that He has laid down His life in atonement for our sins. We are justified and declared forgiven before Almighty God because Jesus has atoned for all of our sins. We, then, are called to abide in Him so continually that we are willing to lay down our life for others. Maybe that means dying to our own pride so we can get on our knees to wash another’s dirty feet. Maybe it does mean sacrificing our own life to save another person. There are all degrees of fruit bearing in between as guided by the abiding presence of God, the Holy Spirit. This is why I wrote of the death and resurrection of parts of our own nature in Christian Maturity - Part 2.
We see the Law as much easier. It is by the Law that we like to say, “I’m not a bad person. There are a lot of people worse than me. I followed the law. I do what I’m supposed to do.” But when we truly realize that we have been loved by God our Father, loved so deeply that He gave the life of His only begotten Son in atonement for all of our sins so that we might have a continuing life with Him, it is into that love that we are willing to abide and seek to do the same.
May God’s Spirit guide each of us day by day more deeply into Jesus’ love. Amen.
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472

What About Your Friends?


Amplified Bible.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity. Good people, good people! It's always a pleasure being with you! 

The Holy Spirit has been speaking to me a lot about Biblical friendship. Gonna podcast and YouTube about it.  And YES....the Spirit speaks directly to the church in Acts, in 1-2 Timothy (itching ears, etc) and in Rev (hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches), etc. 

I feel like I had to say that because I love my Lutherans and my other bros and sisters in the Lord, but y'all old money churches, Lutherans, y'all be trippin' sometimes when it comes to spiritual gifts, and the activity in the Holy Spirit in your lives. Yes, he works through the Word and Sacraments, but HE also works through the gifts HE has distributed to the church. But that's another podcast! This one is about let's pray.

Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to do this podcast and this YouTube channel. I ask that as we discuss friendship, and what it should look like in your church, that you would enlighten us, and give us your gifts of wisdom, and discernment. In fact, I pray Isaiah 11 verse 2 over all who would watch or listen to this show, that Isaiah 11:2

English Standard Version

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and might,

    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

I work part-time for a Veterans Affairs Hospital as a chaplain assistant which I'm extremely grateful for! So while I'm here helping out the chaplains, I attend a Bible study on Wednesday nights. We are going through the entire book of Proverbs, line by line, but arranged by topics. Well, the topic last night was on friendship, and it hit me hard, because I'm going through things concerning who I call my friends, and defining relationships, boundaries, etc. The first thing that came to mind for me was this passage in 1 Timothy: 

1 Timothy 5:1-2

English Standard Version

Instructions for the Church

5 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 

Wow. That's great advice. Treat older men like fathers, younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters, in all purity. You know, that kills a lot of the theology I see now in some churches, where some 30 year old dude claims to be an apostle or a spiritual father. Man that's just crazy! But I want to highlight the instructions for younger men and women. They are to be treated like brothers and sisters. Well what's the glue that holds natural brothers and sisters together? It's love, man! Love and respect go together, it's impossible to separate the two! Man I can argue with my natural siblings all day, but at the end of the day, we will always squash our beefs. Why? Because we're family! But in the body of Christ, sometimes I feel like it's hit or me if brothers and sisters truly wanna fellowship or not. It's just, just be cool. If we're cool, then we're cool. Why all the extra drama and stress? We don't need it! Life is already hard enough. The church should be where we can go to exhale, relax, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people have our backs. Lately, I've just been going through some things in that area. Let's look at some of these verses: 

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

A friend loves at ALL times! A brother (or a sister) is born for adversity. It's like maaaan, I'm soooo loyal, y'all. I'm loyal to a fault. I think it's how I grew up, fatherless and in a dsyfunctional family, but then I learned comradery in the military. We are loyal to each other. We come from different cities, countries, etc., but at the end of the day, when bullets are flying, we come together. Why? Because we see the bigger picture. Luther said this: For we are so corrupted by original sin that [by ourselves] we are unable to discern the magnitude of our sin. For our flesh, the devil, and the world are at hand, who persuade us otherwise and obscure the Law of God written on our minds [cf. Rom. 2:15]

We come together because there is a BIGGER picture! There is a LARGER story. We wrestle not against flesh and blood....Ephesians 6. My battle is not against my brother, or my sister. My battle is against the Enemy of Our Souls. The devil wants us divided, throwing shade at each other, being deceptive, being in the dark, in the shadows, etc. But Christ said that the things we do in secret will come to light.  

Proverbs 18:24

The man of too many friends [chosen indiscriminately] will be broken in pieces and come to ruin, But there is a [true, loving] friend who [is reliable and] sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 27:6

Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda].

Proverbs 27:9

Oil and perfume make the heart glad; So does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.